About Lena

Retired, enjoy travels, photography, cooking.

Globetrotting: UAE in Abu Dhabi


(This is part 3 of the series about our Globetrotting for 4-weeks using Miles & Points, from Oct. 12 to Nov. 6, 2015. Destinations included on this trip: Madrid, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, Maldive, Hong Kong & Macau, India’s Golden Triangle (New Delhi, Jaipur & Agra).

ARRIVING IN ABU DHABI in style

We flew 1st class on Etihad’s A380 jetliner apartment cabins. Impressive, indeed, and thrilled to experience this luxury. Spacious cabin with room to move around, a long, comfortable leather sofa that converts to almost a twin size bed for sleeping, two more leather chairs (one a recliner), dresser mirror, mini-fridge filled with sodas, bottled water & snacks  Amenities which includes cosmetic bag filled with travel sized lotion, lip balm, socks; a comfortable set of pajama, socks & eye mask. Dining was on demand, with a dedicated Chef on board to prepare our meals. One flight attendant pampered us with great attention. The 1st class apartment cabins (8 total) was only half full during our flight.

Etihad A380 jetliner

Etihad A380 jetliner

Fine dining in the air.

Fine dining in the air.

My only complaint, our flight was too short. After about six hours, we landed in Abu Dhabi, and were whisked away by Etihad Chauffeur service (complimentary to 1st and business class passengers) to our hotel in about a 20 minutes.

Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel

From a distance, I saw a leaning, tall building which is UAE’s answer to Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, the Hyatt Capital Gate hotel where we stayed for two nights. The architecture of this hotel is quite unique and very modern. The lobby has a huge and impressive crystal lighting and modern furniture, but reception desk for check in is on the 18th floor.

The Hyatt Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi

The Hyatt Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi

The inside view of the hotel.

The inside view of the hotel.

Our suite on 29th floor has a large living room with full view windows overlooking the waters, a separate bedroom, and a beautiful bathroom with separate shower & bath tub. There were plenty of bottled waters everywhere (bedroom, living room and bathroom), a tray with fresh fruits provided a healthy snack on our late arrival.

View from our suite

View from our suite

Sightseeing Highlights

Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque: the number one attraction when visiting Abu Dhabi; impressive, beautiful, amazing, etc. Everything about this temple is spectacular, very impressive outside and inside. Admission is free and they give free tours which lasts an hour. We came at 4:30 pm for the sunset and to join the 5:00 pm tour. Our volunteer guide Ali was very entertaining and informative.

Outside view of the Grand Mosque

Outside view of the Grand Mosque

Women are required to wear Abaya to cover hair, arm and legs before entering the mosque, and are provided free of charge. Men are not allowed to wear shorts. And we had to take off our shoes when going inside the temple.

The abaya women have to wear before entering the mosque

The abaya women have to wear before entering the mosque

The mosque is spectacular and very beautiful, both inside and out.  Outside has rows of pillars with flowers and marble floors decorated with flowers.

Grand Mosque (41)

Grand Mosque (12)

The inside is decorated with intricate designs; walls with flowers, floor covered with hand-woven carpet and seven chandeliers (one shown below, the biggest in the world).

Inside the Grand Mosque

Inside the Grand Mosque

Attention to details thruout the Mosque

Attention to details thruout the Mosque

One of the 7 chandeliers, and the largest in the world, found inside the mosque.

One of the 7 chandeliers, and the largest in the world, found inside the mosque.

Emirate Palace Hotel: if you are into gold, you’ll love this place. It is a luxurious hotel decorated with gold and marble.  I made reservation for lunch at Le Café  to insure entry, although per TripAdvisor visitors are usually without any dining reservations. The security guard asked to see our reservations at the gate. So I guess situations vary.

Emirate Palace Hotel lobby

Emirate Palace Hotel, lobby

I kid you not, everything here is glittered with gold. We went for ala carte menu instead of afternoon tea since we planned on doing it in Dubai. A minimum spend of 200 AED is required at Le Café. We ordered a camel burger, served with hummus fries and their famous cappuccino. Look closely at the photos below, can you see the specks of gold sprinkled on our food and cappuccino? The camel burger was so moist and flavorful; but could not taste the gold.

If you are longing to have a gold bar, there is a Gold Vending machine in the lobby with a money back.guarantee if you’re not satisfied with its quality.

The Gold Vending Mach

The Gold Vending Mach

Heritage Village: is trying to give you a glimpse into the old Arabian days. There are small houses or structures with displays of arts & crafts, a history of past presidents of UAE, a shopping area, a camel farm, and a museum. Getting inside these houses or structures give a respite from heat as they are air-conditioned.. Interesting place and admission is free. Nearby are restaurants where you can enjoy the view of waters while dining.

Heritage Village

Heritage Village

Women engaged in arts and crafts.

Marina Mall: we came not to shop, but only to get local currency, Durham or AED. Exchange rates at the airport is the worst, at the hotel a little better, but malls gave the best exchange rates for our US dollars.

Lebanese Flower restaurant was on my list to try after reading good reviews on TripAdvisor. Their food is great, reasonable and served in great portions. We ordered a platter of mixed grilled meat for 2 people for take away (they won’t understand if you say to GO); to eat for dinner at our hotel as we just had lunch at the Emirate Palace hotel. Oh my gosh, our platter was filled with so much food and there was enough to feed 4 people…kebabs, rice, grilled veggies, hummus, chunks of chicken & beef. Every morsel was moist and delicious! Highly recommend to include this on your list to visit.

Mixed meat platter from Lebanese Flower restaurant

Mixed meat platter from Lebanese Flower restaurant

There are other attractions in Abu Dhabi we decided to skip. The beach, for we are going to Maldive later on our trip; the Yas Island for we are not into car racing, the Souks (markets) for lack of space in our carry on luggage.. If your flight lands in Dubai, it is definitely worth taking a day trip to Abu Dhabi, either by taxi or a public bus.

Part 4, Globetrotting: UAE in Dubai to follow.

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Globetrotting: Madrid in 4N/5D


(This blog is part 2 of the series I’m writing about Globetrotting for 4-weeks using Miles & Points, from Oct. 12 to Nov. 6, 2015. Destinations included on our trip are: Madrid, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, Maldive, Hong Kong & Macau, India’s Golden Triangle (New Delhi, Jaipur & Agra).

Tapas, Bullfighting, Flamenco shows, these are things that come to mind when I looked back to our brief visit to Madrid. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go on a bullfight, perhaps a good reason to come back.

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Madrid is one destination that I had no itinerary planned in advance. All I knew was we will be taking the Madrid City bus tour (Hop On/Off, HOHO) to get a feel for the city. It turned out to be the easiest, least expensive way for us to get around. The bus tour has two routes: Old Madrid and Modern Madrid and equipped with audio guide in several languages. It cost E12 euros per person for seniors good for 48 hours.

Madcid City Bus Hop On/Off tour

Madcid City Bus Hop On/Off tour

Where we stayed

We split our stay between New Apartment hotel ($97 US per night) for 1st two nights and our last 2 nights at Hotel Preciados ($225 per night). The largest Pharmaceutical Convention was scheduled at the time of our arrival in Oct. 2015. The cost to stay at Hotel Preciados were marked up to E1,200 euros per night during our 1st two nights, so I had no choice but find a cheaper place.

New Point Hotel Apartment is on a pedestrian street, very convenient and very lively place.  Literally out the door, we are in the middle of action…restaurants, small shops, street vendors. II is close and walking distance to bus stops for HOHO, to Puerto Del Sol and metro station.

This is literally just outside the door of New Point Apartment hotel

This is literally just outside the door of New Point Apartment hotel

Hotel Preciados was also a good choice. Our room is nicer, newer and modern. Located on a pedestrian street lined with restaurants and tapa bars, made it very convenient for us to go for late night tapas.  Breakfast which was included, was very good and offered many selections we were able to skip lunch.

Hotel Preciado on a pedestrian street lined with restaurants & tapa bars.

Hotel Preciado on a pedestrian street lined with restaurants & tapa bars.

It is very near to Plaza Callao which turned crowded and lively, esp. when night falls. People lined up at the Cinema theater, several vendors display their merchandise on the ground ( shoes, handbags, toys, etc ).  Nearby is El Corte Ingles,  a huge, multi level dept. store where you’ll find  on 9th floor, the Gourmet Experience that is opened until midnight. Not only does it offer a good range of gourmet products, but eating establishments, both international and local.

The Callao Gourmet Experience at Corte de Ingles

The Callao Gourmet Experience at Corte de Ingles

Gran Via is a major street and became our reference point wherever we went, either from New Point Apartment Hotel or from Hotel Preciados.

Gran Via a major street in Madrid

Gran Via a major street in Madrid

HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR TRIP.

As food lovers, food and tapas were top on our list.

Museo de Jamon:  was the very 1st place we went upon arrival in Madrid, only a 10 min walk from New Point Apartment Hotel. The display of hams, and meats on display were overwhelming. The place was crowded and had no space on their stand-only eating counter. We waited for few minutes, then squeezed ourselves in. We looked around what people were eating and pointed to the guy taking order, we want that.You could either order from the take out or eat at the standing only counter. We waited until a space became available and squeezed in. The menu is listed on a big board, and most items are reasonably priced between E200 -E350 euros, the most expensive being Jamon Iberico sold at E9.99 euros per gram.

Montaditos 100: less than 50 meters away right outside of New Point Apt. hotel. This place is a chain, fast food kind of eatery, and very popular among locals and tourist alike.The place gets packed on Wednesday when everything on the menu sells for only E1.00 euros, with exception of few items (chicken wings, salads, etc. E250 -E300 euros). The menu is extensive with 100 items on the list, with small sandwiches being its specialty. Their foods are good, fast service and very inexpensive, including drinks.

Montaditos 100 gets packed on Wednesdays

Montaditos 100 gets packed on Wednesdaya

You bet we ate here a few times. Our favorites are their sangria (Pinto Tinto), green olives which are not very salty, chicken wings and some sandwiches I can’t remember what they’re called. A place not to be missed when visiting Madrid.

Sangria & green olives, our favorite from 100 Montaditos.

Sangria & green olives, our favorite from 100 Montaditos.

Mercado San Miguel: is where you’ll find all kinds of tapas, a dizzying array of choices for one bite-sized tapas, seafood, paella, sweets and many more. Very popular among tourist, thus prices a bit higher, always crowded and hard to find tables to eat.  A must see, even only to look, or sample few tapas.

Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel

There are all kinds of tapas at San Miguel Mercado.

There are all kinds of tapas at San Miguel Mercado.

We decided to eat at a nearby restaurant to take advantage of the “menu of the day”, a 3-course meal priced at only E10 euros per person. Their paella was one of the best. The Madrilenos eat their heaviest meal at lunch, usually around 3:00 pm  to 4:00 pm., then eat tapas at night until midnight.

Mercado San Anton: their choice of tapas is only about a third of what’s available in Mercado San Miguel. Prices are a bit cheaper, less crowded and therefore, easier to find table. It is a true market in the sense that it sells fruits & vegetables and fresh meat.

Tapas at San Anton Mercado

Tapas at San Anton Mercado

Heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes

Chocolate & Churros: Oh my gosh, they were sooo good, simply the best churros and  the best chocolate. Unlike what’s served in California, these churros are very light, crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside. The chocolate is so thick, deep and richly flavored… perfect for dunking the churros. Madrilenos typically eat this for breakfast, but we had it for afternoon snack. I could still taste it in my mouth…so yummy . Another place to add to your must do list in Madrid.

Absolutely the best churros & chocolate drink

Absolutely the best churros & chocolate drink

Lavapies Festival: every October for 10 days, dozens of restaurants and bars in Lavapies district join forces and serve beer and specialty tapas for just E2 euros.This neighborhood is where Chinese, Africans, Indians and Arabics concentrate. Thus, you can expect restaurants that offer typical foods from these cultures; as well as creative fusion from different cultures.

Photo courtesy of The Gannett

Photo courtesy of The Gannett

Take a day trip to Toledo or go to Lavapies Tapa festival? Being food lovers, the choice came easy. Armed with google map directions, we went on foot instead of taking a taxi. We struggled getting here, asked locals  a few times for directions but finally found the place. But getting lost and discovering local places along the way was part of the fun, and with added bonus of getting our exercise for the day. This is a good way to spend a whole or half day if your visit coincides with the festival.

CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS

Corral de Moreira: is one of the top places for tablao flamenco in Madrid, and had been visited by many celebrities:Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Richard Gere, Demi Moore, to name a few. The show lasted a little over an hour and was electrifying!  The dancers have mastered their craft, were extremely good, danced with passion and intense emotions! We were not allowed to take pictures during the show, but I managed to steal a shot or two. Simply the best tablao flamenco, and worth its price!

The Flamenco dancers at Corral de Moreira

The Flamenco dancers at Corral de Moreira

We booked an early dinner show at 7:30 pm (2nd dinner show at 10:30 pm, late dinner more popular in Madrid). You can go for the show only, show & cocktails, or show & dinner (the latter giving you a chance to get better seats). We chose the 5-course tasting menu, and each course was very good and served before & during the show, which made it difficult to focus on your food or the stage.

Corral de Moreira, put on a top notch flamenco show.

Corral de Moreira, put on a top notch flamenco show.

Retiro Park and Crystal Palace: a huge park, popular with tourists and locals who come here to ride their bikes, jog, to relax and enjoy the lake and its scenery. Such a beautiful sight to see trees turning the colors of autumn; tourists & mostly couples renting a boat to row around the lake; listen to various performers playing musical instruments.

Retiro Park Lake

Retiro Park Lake

Leaves starting to show autumn colors

Leaves starting to show autumn colors

Took a while to find the Crystal Palace, but was worth the hunt. It was built in 1887 to exhibit flora and fauna from the Philippines. The architect was Ricardo Velasquez Bosco, and its design was influenced by the glass and iron structural techniques of Joseph Paxton who built London’s Crystal palace. It’s stunning right next to a small lake with a fountain in front of it. The structure has been restored and is now used for art exhibits. It is definitely worth your time to see this palace.

The Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace

Prado Museum: is the main Spanish national art museum and features one of world’s finest European art collections dating from 12th century to the early 19th, and the best single collection of Spanish art. Definitely a haven for art lovers and enthusiasts, one day is not enough to explore this museum.

The Prado Museum

The Prado Museum

Admission costs E12 euros per person, but learned Monday to Friday from 6:00pm to 8:00pm admission is free for all. So after our visit to Retiro park, we  came to Prado Museum as they are in the same area, and took advantage of free admission. The line was already long at 5:30 pm, and got even longer but it moved rather quickly. With free admission, we only had access to art collections on the 1st floor of the main building. If you only have time or want to visit only one museum in Madrid, this is it.

Plaza Mayor: is the city’s main square, and a popular attraction for tourists and local’s alike. It’s a good place to rest our weary legs and tired feet while admiring the impressive architecture of the surrounding buildings; and watched street performers, or simply people-watched.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

 Plaza de Cibeles: a landmark of Madrid and famous for the Palacio Cibeles (City Hall) and the fountain with same name. The fountain depicts the goddess, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions.

Palace de Cibeles

Palace de Cibeles

Admission to the palace is free, but if you want to go all the way to the top and get an outstanding view of the city of Madrid, for a small fee get your ticket from the ticket counter (to the right) of the main entrance. On each floor of the palace are several interesting art exhibits, and a café where you can dine while enjoying the view of the city.

Taken from top of the palace affording a great view of the city.

Taken from top of the palace affording a great view of the city.

Palacio de Real: is one of the top tourist attractions in Madrid. It is the official residence for the Royal family, but these days they only use it for state ceremonies. King Felipe VI and the Royal Family do not live in the palace, choosing instead to reside in the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.

Palacio de Real

Palacio de Real

Final Thoughts: Madrid left its mark in our tummies. We love to eat, and love tapas.  We prefer eating these small portions so we can sample a variety of foods. Normally, you have tapas with drinks but we don’t drink much. A beer or glass of wine is tops for me, double that for my hubby. For our last night in Madrid, we stepped out of Hotel Preciados and joined the big crowd on one of the tapa bars on our street. This was on a weeknight, and at almost midnight the place was full of young and mature adults. Such is their way of enjoying life!

Part 3 Globetrotting: UAE in Abu Dhabi to follow.

Globetrotting: Using Our Points and Miles


(This is part 1 of the series I’m writing on about our Globetrotting for 4 weeks using Miles & Points, from Oct.12 to Nov. 6, 2015. Destinations included on this trip: Madrid, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, Maldive, Hong Kong & Macau, India’s Golden Triangle (New Delhi, Jaipur & Agra).

Have miles will travel

Etihad A380 jetliner

Etihad A380 jetliner

Last year we took our very 1st big trip using miles & points, a 3-week Tour of Asia and visited Japan, Hong Kong, Bali and Singapore. It was also our first taste of flying in 1st class and business class. I never thought it was possible, but we did it. It was certainly an awesome experience, and now we are addicted to travel hacking (the art of collecting points and miles to get free or at lowest cost for flights, hotels, tours)..

We just came back from a 4-week globetrotting half way round the world trip, and stopped for few days in Madrid, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Maldive, Hong Kong, Macau, Golden Triangle in India (New Delhi, Jaipur & Agra). To get more bang for our points & miles, we prefer to travel in luxury choosing to fly either 1st or business class and stay at 4 or 5* hotels.

Planning where to go

I wanted to experience flying on Etihad’s A380 jet , and designed our itinerary based on where we can fly from on this jet. Currently, Etihad does not have A380 jet flying from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi, but it does from London to Abu Dhabi. From London, I worked backward and forward to see where else we can fly to..

Madrid had been on my radar, so it made sense to start our itinerary by flying to Madrid from Los Angeles.

bullfighting[1]

After few days we left Madrid for London (LHR} to catch our flight on Etihad’s A380 to Abu Dhabi, (AUH). Dubai was only about an hour and a half by taxi. We saw Dubai featured on a Travel TV show, and added it to our bucket list.

Camel Racing in Dubai

Camel Racing in Dubai

My hubby has Hyatt 2 nights award certificate after completing the minimum spend requirement of $1,000 on their credit card within 90 days. The two most expensive Hyatt properties are in Paris ($800-$900 per night) and Park Hyatt Maldive ($1200- $1300 per night). From AUH, it’s only about 4-hour flight to Maldive, and we’ll get the most return for his award certificates.

Park Hyatt Maldive

Park Hyatt Maldive

Last year, we flew 1st class on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, had an amazing time and had wanted to do it again. I booked our flight from Maldive to Hong Kong, but could not find  1st class award seats on Cathay Pacific to LAX. . Uhmm, let’s see where else can we go?  I chose Korea, for we could fly from Hong Kong and have a free stopover in Korea for several days before flying to Los Angeles…all for 80,000 Skyvisa miles per person one way. I applied for Skymiles Visa card to help us reached the required miles for 1st class, and was going to transfer more points from Chase UR. I reserved  2 1st class seats, and Korean airlines will hold our reservations until a week before departure date. I did not need to transfer UR pts right away, which worked out to our advantage as my miles would have been stuck with them. I ended up cancelling our plan for Korea due to increasing incidence of MERS (a deadly type of flu).

Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Taj Mahal has been a popular tourist attraction, and unofficially been considered the 8th wonder of the world. It was recently officially declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. We could fly 1st class on Etihad’s Boeing 77-300L from New Delhi , to LAX connecting in AUH, giving us the chance to travel in luxury for 16 hours, so the choice to go to India and do the Golden Triangle tour(New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur) became easy. There you have it, the reasons or logic behind in choosing the itinerary for this grand trip.

The majestic Taj Mahal in Agra

The majestic Taj Mahal in Agra

Breakdown of  Cost

Airfare:  We used American Airlines AA points, British Airways BA Avios, Chase Ultimate Reward UR points and SPG points. Best use of BA Avios points are for inter Europe flights/regional flights, since number of Avios required for award booking is distance based and much less compared to using other frequent flyer miles. Chase UR points are very useful for its flexibility allowing us to transfer to certain airlines (BA) and hotel (Hyatt) as needed. Starwood SPG points allowed us to transfer points to AA at increments of 20,000, converted to 25,000 AA points to meet required number of AA points for our 1st class flight from New Delhi to LAX.

Cost as shown below was the total for two people.

  • Virgin Atlantic: LAX to London Heathrow (LHR) economy 42,500 miles plus $269.20 for taxes & fees vs. cash price $1308 pp x 2 = $2616. Transferred from Chase Ultimate Reward (UR)
  • British Airways: LHR-to Madrid, business 25,000 BA Avios points plus $80.00 for taxes & fees. vs. cash price $545 pp x 2 = $1,090. Transferred 13,000 UR pts to BA avios. I did not mind flying economy on this short flight (about 2 hrs), but only business class was available for booking award flight.
  • British Airways : Madrid to LHR, economy 13,000 BA avios plus $46.64 vs cash price 273.30 pp x 2 = $546.60
  • Etihad Airways; LHR to Abu Dhabi (AUH) 1st class 80,000 AAdvantage points plus $576 for taxes & fees vs cash price $4,620 pp x 2 = $9,240.
  • Etihad Airways: AUH to Male (Maldive) business class 50,000 AA pts plus $23.60 for taxes & fees vs cash price $1396.68 pp x 2 = $2,793.
  • Cathay Pacific :Male to Hong Kong (HKG) economy 25,000 Avios plus $106.60 for taxes & fees vs cash price average app $500 pp x 2 = $1000
  • Cathay Pacific : HKG to New Delhi (DEL) business 75,000 Avios plus $118.52 for taxes & fees. vs lowest cash price $2,202 pp x 2 = $4,404. Transferred Chase UR points to BA Avios
  • Etihad Airways : DEL to AUH, AUH to LAX; 1st class 180,000 AAdvantage points plus $97.35 for taxes & fees vs cash price $5739 pp x 2 = $11, 478.  Transferred some Starwood points to AA.

Total savings on airfare: The total costs for these flights in cash would have been $33,110 vs  $1,415.26 our actual out-of-pocket cost, combined with 490,500 points from various frequent flyer, as indicated above;  and a whopping savings of $31, 695 or a discount of 95%.

Cost of flying one way is almost same as round trip fares, but we used just 1/2 of   required miles for a round trip. Booking one way award flights gave us flexibility to fly into one place and fly out from a different place; giving us opportunity to visit more places using BA avios points. Of course, if we were paying all cash out of our pockets,, we would have planned our itinerary differently to be more cost-effective.

Review of Etihad A380 jet

Right from the start you are treated like VIP when you fly 1st class or business class. A complimentary chauffeur service is provided for airport transport round trip on a black sedan from your home or hotel. This can be arranged online up to 24 hr before your flight departure. Another perk of flying 1st or business class is having access to their Premier Lounge in Heathrow. The lounge has plenty of comfortable leather chairs & sofas, plenty of food served buffet-style or made to order, free wifi, complimentary 15 min treatment at Six Sense Spa {body massage, facial, shave & cut for men), shower facilities. I arranged an early chauffeur service to get to the airport 3 hours before our flight departure. to take advantage of the amenities at the lounge.

It was finally time to board our plane, and was excited to see our apartment cabin. I’ve seen photos of it, but being on one is something else, “We have arrived”!  There was no way I’d pay out of my pocket at least $8,000 to $9,000 per person for this experience, but certainly worth it using points & miles. There are a total of six apartment cabins separated by a wide aisle and with doors for privacy.

The 6 1st class apartment cabin on Ethihad A380.

The six 1st class apartment cabins on Etihad’s A380.jet.

There is one cabin called the Residence which has a separate living room, bedroom, 2 TV’s and their own shower and a dedicated flight attendant.The rest of us has to share one shower facility. I had wanted to use the shower (just to brag about it) but our flight was only 6 1/2 hours and did not have time to do it.

Our cabin is truly spacious, with a separate long sofa like which converts to a twin-size bed for sleeping, 2 more chairs (one a recliner), a large TV, a mini fridge filled with water & sodas, a large dresser mirror filled with toothbrush, tooth paste, mini bottles of lotions, etc. There’s even a make-up /cosmetic bag included, one suited for a man and a woman. We were also given pajamas, slippers , socks and mask to feel very comfortable and homey for the duration of our flight.

As soon as we were seated, we were offered a drink of our choice. We felt pampered and constantly attended to. Our flight attendant prepared our bed, constantly asked if she could bring us more drinks or would like to order anything from the menu.  Dining was on demand (order & eat when you want), and the Chef will prepare it fresh. Those that enjoy libations, you can drink all you want to your heart’s delight…the finest champagne, wines, liquors, etc.

Fine dining in the air.

Fine dining in the air.

Review of Etihad EY 171 AUH to LAX

Our flight to head home departed from New Delhi, connected in Abu Dhabi, for the final leg flying on Boeing 777-300 for ½ hours flight. I would normally dread such a long flight duration, esp. on economy, But flying in luxury made a world of difference. I must admit, we are getting spoiled and getting addicted to it.

We flew on a Boeing 777-300ERs jetliner. Its configuration and design is totally different from A380.  Our cabin is not as spacious as the apartment on A380 jet, and it does not have a shower facility (not a big deal for me). Nevertheless, our seats are very comfortable, reclined and converts into a flat-bed for sleeping. The 1-2-1 seat configurations makes seating on the middle perfect for couples as you get to see and talk to your companion.  There are sliding doors to our cabin if you want privacy. Amenities are the same; pajamas, socks & mask, cosmetic bags for and dining on demand.

This long flight in luxury was a perfect way to end our 4 week-long trip. It gave us time to relax, sleep comfortably, fine dined, wake up, watch TV, listen to music, eat again.

With plenty of time on hand, I can’t help but reflect on the events which transpired during the last 4 weeks.  They were great, enjoyable and have enriched our lives, in many ways. It was humbling and made me think how fortunate we are, when we saw the poverty in India. At the same time, impressed with its culture, history and incredibly beautiful architectures.  .

Accommodation

I really like Hyatt properties and stay with them whenever, as we did  on this trip using cash & points. With my Diamond status, we took advantage of its perks: upgrade to a suite or better room location, complimentary access to Club Lounge for breakfast, snacks & beverages throughout the day, afternoon cocktails & hor’s  d oeuvres, free internet & late checkout. However, Hyatt properties presence worldwide is limited. So in Madrid we stayed at other properties and in India, at Starwood properties using points and cash.

Cost listed does not include taxes & fees which are added whether you paid all cash on listed rate or with cash & points.

  • Holiday Inn LHR T5: IHG hotel breakpoints 5,000 pts total for 1 night (cash price $180). Stayed one night to catch early morning flight to AUH.
  • New Point Apartment, Madrid: paid all cash $196 total for 2 nights
  • Hotel Preciados, Madrid: paid all cash $428.73 total for 2 nights
  • Hyatt Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi: 12000 Hyatt pts plus $172.17 total for 2 nights, Used one of my suite upgrade certificates. (cash price for deluxe room $247.92 x 2 = $495.04)
  • Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dubai : 22,500 Hyatt pts plus $442.45 total for 3 nights. Used a suite upgrade certificate. (cash price for Creekview room $528.19 x3 = $1584)
  • Park Hyatt Maldive (4 nights) used hubby’s award certificate for 2 nights, and 25,000 Hyatt pts per night for the addt’l 2 nights. NOTE: We stayed for 3 nights at a Pool villa which normally costs extra $200 per night; and paid $500 on our last night to be upgraded to water villa, which was worth every penny I might add for we can snorkel right below our villa. (cash price of Pool Villa $1200 per night x 3= $3,600; cash price of water villa $1,448 per night)
  • Hyatt Regency, Tsim Tsa Shui, HKG 15,000 Hyatt pts. plus $219 for 2 nights  (cash price $318 x 2 = $636)
  • Hyatt Regency, Gurgaon India (1 night) 2,500 pts plus $67.85 (cash price $105.65)
  • ITC Rajputana Sheraton : 6,000 Starpoints plus $74 for 2 nights (cash price $169.88 x 2= $339.76) 
  • ITC Sheraton Mughal Agra; paid all cash $146.00 points or cash & pts booking not available
  • Hyatt Regency New Delhi ( 1 night) : 6,000 Hyatt pts plus $124 per night (cash price for Club King room $215)

Total savings on our accommodation: Actual out-of-pocket cost for 21 nights hotel stay using points and cash was $1870.20 vs $9373.76 had we paid all cash, for a whopping savings of $7,503 which translates to 80% savings..

But of course, we ordinarily would not even consider staying at Park Hyatt Maldive for its cost is out of our league.  Our points definitely took us places we normally would just be wishing and dreaming of.                                                                                    

Review of Hotels

Holiday Inn London Heathrow at T5: the hotel itself is nice and clean, but the front desk receptionist (forgot his name) sucks. He did not give detailed instructions on how to use the room key for the elevator and how to use the hot water kettle was tricky. He acknowledged other guests have same problems, yet he did nothing and became very defensive when I tried to make suggestions. I panicked when I thought I was stuck and emergency button did nothing when pressed. It definitely was a hotel from hell because of the incompetent, laisidaisical staff, and my thrill on booking this room for only 5,000 IHG points quickly dissipated.

Madrid Properties

New Point Apartment Hotel: I loved the site of this apartment. It is on a pedestrian street and lined with lots of restaurants and small shops; tapa bars, and walking distance to Puerto Del Sol and bus stops for the Madrid City Bus tour. Room is adequate, with a small bathroom and shower.

This is literally just outside the door of New Point Apartment hotel

This is literally just outside the door of New Point Apartment hotel

Hotel Preciados: A nice modern ,mid-range hotel also on a pedestrian street lined with many restaurants that serve tapas. It near Plaza Callao where you’ll find many shops, cinema theater, and the multi-level Ingles department store that has a 24 hour opened top floor with many choices to eat & drink.

Hyatt Properties

Hyatt Capital gate in Abu Dhabi: the unusual architecture of this hotel is quite striking, esp. from a distance. It is AD’s equivalent to leaning tower of Pisa. It is quite modern, have impressive crystal lighting on the receiving lobby, but real reception desk for checking in is on the 18th I used my suite upgrade certificate for this stay and we stayed on a very spacious, suite with modern decor and wall to wall glass window with sweeping views of the water. The bathroom is huge, with a separate shower and tub. Just have a look at the photos below.

Location is midway between the airport and downtown Abu Dhabi. The chauffeur           service was immediately available after my reservation was confirmed and it took           about 15-20 min drive to our hotel. It is about 10 min by taxi to the Grand Mosque and about 30 min drive by taxi to downtown and Emirate Palace, Heritage Village and the     Marina Mall.

Grand Hyatt in Dubai: lives up to its name, it is really grand, in every way. It’s lobby is very impressive, the grounds are huge and have to walk a distance to get to the pool. Our suite is more traditional, with huge bedroom, and bathroom with separate shower & tub, did not even realized we had an extra half bathroom, a walk in closet. We have a nice view overlooking the Dubai Creek. Housekeeping service was outstanding and our request delivered promptly (adaptors & ice). The Asst. Manager of Housekeeping even sent us a lovely bouquet of flowers, made us feel very special!

A lovely bouquet of flowers from the Housekeeping Asst. Mgr

A lovely bouquet of flowers from the Housekeeping Asst. Mgr

Hyatt Place in Gurgaon, India: the hotel is new, very nice and modern which is very different from Hyatt Place we had stayed in California. The restaurant which serves breakfast (included the room rate) is big and offered a variety of foods: hot Indian food items, cook to order eggs, cereals & yogurt, fresh fruit, breads & sweet rolls. The staff was very helpful in describing and making recommendations which Indian food to try that was not too spicy. The same thing goes for the Staff at the reception desk.

Hyatt Regency New Delhi: Not impressed at all, the front desk took a long time to check us in (granted she was trying to give us a room on better floor. Their club lounge served very limited breakfast buffet of mostly yogurt, cereals and rolls. No help yourself counter for coffee, tea and fruit juice, and service a bit slow. No variety of sliced fresh fruits, instead they have a fruit bowl  of pears & apples. Our room was also very small, made to look bigger by one wall of mirror.

Luxury Collection Sheraton Properties

ITC Rajputana in Jaipur: is a very nice hotel and elegant lobby. The staff was friendly. We requested sliced fresh fruits and took advantage of free laundry for 2 garments as part of our room rate, and the free wi-fi in our room.

My only complaint was they made an error on our bill and was overcharged for about $100 for our 2-night stay. I always asked to be billed in local currency as the credit card bank will always give a better exchange rate than the hotel. I knew my rate was points plus $30 per night, but we also ate at their famous Peshawari restaurant which was added to our bill. Our tour driver was late picking us up, so I had the chance to check our bill and discovered the error. I presented a copy of my hotel reservation with confirmation of the rate, so they made the adjustments.

ITC Sheraton Mughal in Agra, India: has an impressive, beautiful lobby with modern look. However, the staff with the exception of doormen seemed unfriendly. They also charged for wi-fi (i think $12 US per 24 hr), unless you are a Gold or Platinum with SPG. I don’t, so ended up using their free internet access using computers at their business center. Breakfast was included in our room, but altho’ the selections were plenty including Indian & Asian hot dishes, the taste did not impress me.

ITC Mughal in Agra, hotel lobby

ITC Mughal in Agra, hotel lobby

Conclusion: Whether you wish to travel to visit family and friends, take a once in a lifetime vacation, take frequent family vacation, or treat yourself to luxury travel, they are doable with your limited budget. You just need to learn about travel hacking, and be willing to learn as much as you can from reading blogs of many experts. Things and opportunities kept changing, so I subscribed to few bloggers to keep in the loop..Some of my favorites are Million Mile Secrets, MileValue, View From The Wing.

This could be a lucrative hobby, but certainly not for everyone. It requires patience, being organized and disciplined so you don’t end up spending more than you do just to earn miles or points. Best strategy is to decide what you want to do or where to go, then work on earning points & miles you need to get there

Good luck and Happy Travels.

 

Singapore, Here We Come


Marina Bay & Singapore Skyline on the background.

Marina Bay & Singapore Skyline on the background.

Singapore here we are! 

We planned on staying here for 4 days before we head home to California, and thereby ending our 3 weeks Tour of Asia. I wondered how our experience here would compare to  other destinations we’ve visited, namely; Japan, Hong Kong and Bali. All have been wonderful, fascinating places and quite memorable for many unique and first-time experiences.

No loitering, no chewing gums. We were mindful that these are strictly prohibited and could result in fine, public humiliation and jail if caught in violation. It’s no wonder, Singapore is one of the cleanest city in the world.

We stayed at Grand Hyatt Singapore, to help meet the Hyatt Diamond Challenge which required 12 nights stay within 60 days of enrollment. It normally takes 25 stays or 50 nights to earn a Diamond status, but on this promo you’ll earn it after just 12 nights of stay within 60 days of enrollment. FYI, I met the challenge successfully and have Diamond status until February, 2016.

OVERVIEW OF GRAND HYATT SINGAPORE

Our suite has 2 floors, with a living room and dining table for 6 people on the 1st floor. There were snacks left on the table, a coffee machine and half bath.

Up on 2nd floor is our bedroom, a full bathroom and separate area with a dresser. To say we were overwhelmed with its size was an understatement.

We loved their Club Lounge, decorated simply but looks elegant. It offered a variety and wide selections of food during breakfast and cocktail hours. There were hot & cold appetizers, salads, variety of cheese and cold meat, desserts…gourmet & high quality Plenty of choice for drinks as well.

Our favorite attractions are listed below, in no particular order.

THE GARDENS BY THE BAY

The Gardens by the Bay is a massive project that used reclaimed land to build a 183-acre botanical garden next to the more iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel. It’s main attraction is the “Super trees” — 10- to 15-floor steel frames with vines and other plants growing over them. Access to the outdoor garden is free, but there’s a charge to get inside the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest Dome.

The Super Trees: In the evening, there’s a sky show of choreographed lights and sounds amidst the super trees, which we missed unfortunately.

The Super-sized trees at Gardens By The Bay

Cloud Forest Dome: Within the enclosed compound is a 35-metre tall mountain veiled in mist and covered with lush vegetation with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

The tallest indoor waterfall in the Cloud Forest.

The tallest indoor waterfall in the Cloud Forest.

Vegetation and flowers that completely cover the mountain.

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Small openings with view of the Marina Bay Sands.

Small openings with view of the Marina Bay Sands.

A small opening with view of the Super trees.

A small opening with view of the Super trees.

The Flower Dome:  Any garden lover would enjoy a visit to this dome. It replicates the cool-dry climate of the Mediterranean regions and houses collection of plants, some familiar flowers such as roses, geraniums and hibiscus. Unusual plants and trees. On a separate area, there is a display of various animals completely covered with plants & flower petals.

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A birds-eye view of the Flower dome.

A "sea of flowers".

A “sea of flowers”.

A sample of unusual plant found at the flower dome.

A sample of unusual plant found at the flower dome.

SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENThe only garden in the world that is opened daily from 5:00am until midnight every single day of the year. Admission is free except at the Nat’l. Orchid Garden. Founded in 1859, it showcases the best and spectacular tropical flora in a stunning verdant landscape. It is the country’s 1st UNESCO Heritage site, joining the ranks of the iconic landmarks of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and The Great Wall of China.

Taken at the Botanic Garden.

Taken at the Botanic Garden.

The Ginger Garden

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Camia flower, also known as butterfly lily has fragrant smell.

Camia flower, also known as butterfly lily has fragrant smell.

The National Orchid Garden: Boast to have the world’s largest orchid display with over 60,000 plants and over 1,000 species of orchids.

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The Marina Bay Sands (MBS): The unique building of MBS has become an iconic symbol of Singapore. It’s popular for its infinity pool and breathtaking view of the city’s skyline and Marina Bay from the top floor. There’s a fee (S$20) to get up to the Skypark Observation deck, but only hotel guests are allowed in the infinity pool area. Or, you can get up for free by having cocktails (S$20) or dinner at the restaurant on top, The Ku De Ta, and get a similar view.

The iconic Marina Bay Sands Resort

The iconic Marina Bay Sands Resort

Lobby of Marina Bay Sands Resort.

Lobby of Marina Bay Sands Resort.

MOST ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE

Eating at Hawker Food Center: If you want to eat like a local in Singapore, you need to go to Hawker food centers and street foods where you’ll find a diverse range of authentic flavors and options with influence of Indian, Malay and Chinese. You’ll find here the best Southeast Asian cuisines at the lowest price. We visited a few, and choosing what to eat was mind boggling, but all were tasty and good.

Maxwell Food center

At Maxwell Food Center

At Maxwell Food Center

Marina Bay Sand (MBS) Food Court

Lau Pa Sat Market

Breathtaking Skyline views of the city atop MBS: Up on 57th floor, people who paid to go to the Skypark Observation deck, while we got our view from the Ku De Ta restaurant.

Crowd waiting for sunset while having cocktails at Ku De Ta.

Crowd waiting for sunset while having cocktails at Ku De Ta.

Enjoying our cocktails.

Enjoying our cocktails.

Skyline city view at night.

Skyline city view at night.

Dining at Ku De Ta: Perhaps the most coveted dining address jn Singapore, this place is not for fine dining, but more casual where you get a nice cocktail and order few dishes to share as you enjoy the panoramic view of Singapore’s skyline. Eating here is not cheap, but worth splurging on. We got to try Wagyu beef which costs $110 US per 100g, melt in your mouth, along with 2 other dishes.

Bar at the top on Ku De Ta.

Bar at the top on Ku De Ta.

Lucky Plaza:  We were surprised to discover that this multi-level shopping mall is comprised of shops mostly owned by Filipinos from various provinces or cities of the Philippines: Pampanga, Iloilo, Cebu, Manila, Cavite, etc. The sounds of my native language (Tagalog) resonating in my ears felt like I was back home. It was so surreal esp.I have not gone back home to my native land for more than 30 years.

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Exploring the City:  It was easy enough to explore the city as our hotel is walking distance to bus stop, metro station, and to Orchard street, a shopper’s paradise to those seeking high-end and known-designer brands.

The popular shopping street in Singapore.

The popular shopping street in Singapore.

It was fun getting lost in the city and discover impressive structures.

The Helix Bridge

The Helix Bridge

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The Singapore Flyer

The Singapore Flyer

ETHNIC NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE CITY

Chinatown: A sharp contrast to the rest of the city, with low rise buildings and rich with cultures, from fragrant smells of traditional cuisines to the bold red and gold tones that run through the streets; stringed lanterns adorning the streets. Good place to eat and shop for souvenirs.

Chinatown in Singapore

Chinatown in Singapore

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Little India: One of the most vibrant and culturally authentic districts of Singapore. It’s a sanitized version of the real thing, and flavors found here are not watered down for Western palates. We ventured into their food court, walked the streets and saw gold shops. It was during the “Festival of Lights” or “Deepavali”, celebrated by Hindus across the world to mark the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness….so the streets were transformed into a fantasyland of colorful arches and magnificent lights.

The Festival of Lights in Little India.

The Festival of Lights in Little India.

Streets hanged with lights during Deepavali.

Streets hanged with lights during Deepavali.

Klam Glampong or Arab Street: True to its name, it epitomizes the Arabian way of life. Here, you’ll find conservatively dressed Muslims on their way to Sultan Mosque,  illuminated at night giving it a magical glow. Shop for vibrant fabrics and order custom-made gowns. Bargain for Oriental carpets, ornate lamps. Savor ethnic cuisines. If you want “Middle Eastern Exposure”, you’ve come to the right place.

The Sultan Mosque

The Sultan Mosq

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In Summary: Singapore did not disappoint, it was everything I had anticipated and more. Fun, exciting and vibrant. Many attractions to see and enjoy. So much diversity, and its ethnic neighborhoods offers interesting cultural experience.

Finally, our 3 weeks Tour of Asia is over and a trip I will remember for the many 1st time and unique experiences during our trip. Flying 1st class aboard Cathay Pacific. Riding the bullet train in Tokyo. Walking the streets of Kyoto dressed in Kimonos. Taking the tram to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Unforgettable and amazing stay at St. Regis in Bali. Over the top Sunday Brunch at Kayuputi. Frangipani bath and spa treatments for 3 1/2 hours in Nusa Dua. Dinner Ku De Ta on 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore. Seeing the most beautiful Nat’l. Orchid Center.

A trip of a lifetime made possible by my new hobby, collecting miles and points.

 

 

 

 

 

Patience, a Virtue For Success


Patience, is a virtue one must have for there’s a reward to those who wait. I have to admit I’m still learning to be patient.  I’m always in a hurry and often get irritated when I have to wait…in line to pay, at the bank, downloading things in my computer, when placed on hold on the phone. I like to have instant reward, and see immediate results. Patience, or lack there of, could very well be the reason I have a compulsive, addictive behaviour or tendencies. When I start a project, I won’t stop until it’s completed or achieved the result. I work continuously for long hours, often , skipping  lunch or dinner; even refusing to take a bathroom break holding my bladder so full, it hurts and ready to burst. As I get older and with constant change in life’s priorities it became a bit easier to be patient. Being retired, I have the luxury of time  and it no longer is an issue. However, I sometimes become impatient hubby takes too long to answer a simple question. Oh well, that’s an integral part of me that I cannot completely changed.

Patience is good for your health. When you are impatient, you get easily irritated and feel stressed which makes your blood pressure, sugar cholesterol go up. You suffer from headaches, get tummy aches and other ailments.

Patience, or lack of it leads to hasty decisions. When you are impatient, you take actions or decisions without carefully thinking thru the pros and cons. As the saying goes, “haste makes waste”. Patience is key to success in life. You set goals, make plans, take action, then you wait. You’ve done your best, so let things take its course. When you’re not rushed, you think more clearly, and tend to make better choice or right decision.

Patience has its reward. When you plant a tree. It starts as a small plant, but over time, with proper care and nurturing it grows and mature. It then starts bearing fruits and rewarded with a bounty harvest.

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Life, in general, is a waiting game…for the right time, the right place, the perfect partner, the perfect job.  

Bali’s Best Attractions


Bali offers a variety of landscapes that include sandy beaches, lush rice terraces, volcanic hillsides, rugged coastline, cliffs, mountains, and waterfalls.

In addition, Spirituality is deeply rooted among its people. The main religion here is Balinese Hinduism, and a Hindu temple is called a pura. The island dotted with many temples is known as the “island of a thousand temples.

“A little bit of spirituality, little bit of beauty, and a whole lot of wonder: The essence of Bali. There can be fewer experiences as fulfilling as enjoying the sights, smells, sound and many hues of the wonderful island of Bali.” –author unknown.

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With careful planning and reading about what to see or do in Bali,  you can come up and organized your itinerary according to your interest. You’ll be amazed how much we saw and did during our short visit (4N/4D).

Day 1: Sanur (south Bali): A coastal stretch of beach of Denpasar city in southeast Bali, about 30 min drive from Ngurah Rai International airport. Despite the abundance of restaurants and accommodations, it has a quiet and relaxed feel to it.  A good place to consider if you are tired of the party atmosphere of Kuta or of the sleepy Nusa Dua.

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Lounge set up by one of the hotels along  Sanur beach.

Lounge set up by one of the hotels along Sanur beach.

 DAY 2 : Explore Bedugul Attractions (northern part of Bali)

Bedugul and it’s surrounding areas are in the mountains north of Kuta and Ubud. The attractions and sites we visited are near to each other, and can easily be done in one day.

Tanah Lot Temple: A Hindu Temple set on a big rock surrounded by seawater on the west side of Bali. It is a popular and most photographed landmark of Bali. We visited in the morning to avoid big crowds who prefer coming at sunset to witness the breathtaking view of the temple at sunset.

Tanah Lot Temple, visitors are not allowed inside.

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Tanah Lot Temple, during low tides visitor can get very close and walk around.

Pura Ulun Danu Temple: The temple sits on the edge of Lake Bratan and gives illusion of floating in water.  It is significant, especially to rice farmers for its subak irrigation system.  Built in 1633, the temple is devoted to Ida Batara Dewi Ulun Danu, goddess of the lake.

Colorful garden leading to Pura Ulun Danu Temple.

Colorful garden leading to Pura Ulun Danu Temple.

Part of the temple that gets all the attention is the 11-roof meru, situated on a point of land, jutting out into the lake.

Pura Ulun Danu, also known as “The Floating Temple”

Pura Ulun Danum

Pura Ulun Danum

Taken at the play area of the temple, this amusing posed caused two little boys  playing laughed so hard.

Jetiluwih Rice Terraces: The best of the 3 rice-field terraces found in Bali. 

Jetiluwih Rice Terrace

Jetiluwih Rice Terrace

Munduk Fall: Located in Munduk, to reach the fall get off the main road and trekked down to a heavy forested steep hill, avoiding motorbikes using the same path. Going down is manageable but climbing back up maybe difficult for people who have heart or breathing problems.

A cacao tree we spotted on the way to the falls.

A cacao tree we spotted on the way to the falls.

We also saw men (dangerously) climbing up tall trees to harvest cloves, used commonly to impart aroma and flavor when baking ham.

Did not know cloves (an herb) are harvested like this.

Did not know cloves (an herb) are harvested like this.

After about 30 min or so of walking, there it is the Munduk falls!

The Mundok Falls

The Mundok Falls

Getting into the water after working out a sweat to get here must be so refreshing, which was exactly what these guys had in mind.

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Candikuning Market: Prices of herbs here are higher than what I paid for at Munduk. Be sure and bargain. I did, and got a shop owner to accept my offer which was 20% of her original price, using prices at Munduk as basis for my bargaining.

Lake Buyan & Lake Tamblingan: Also known as “The Twin Lakes”, the two crater lakes are located within the caldera of Bedugul volcano. They used to be a single lake until 1800 when a landslide separated the lake into two. A narrow strip of land, less than a mile in width, divides the two lakes.

One of the Twin Lakes.

One of the Twin Lakes

One of the Twin Lakes

One of the Twin Lakes

DAY 3: Attractions near Ubud (Kintamani & surrounding areas)

Penglipuran Village: I highly recommend visiting this village on your way to Kintamani. It is a traditional countryside village that takes you back in time to experience how the locals lived. What I love the most is the well maintained, beautiful gardens featuring tropical plants and unusual, unique flowers.

The Penglipuran Village

The Penglipuran Village

A girl from the village selling some souvenirs.

Pura Tirta Empul Temple: Dates back to 926AD and known for its sacred spring water with healing properties. Many people climb up to the temple for a bath and meditation in the long main pool believed to bring good fortune and health.

The temple Includes the traditional Balinese split gate along with shrines to Shiva, Vishnu, Braham, Mt. Batur and Indra.

The entrance to the temple.

The entrance to the temple.

We had to wear sarongs to cover our legs.

We had to wear sarongs to cover our legs.

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Worshippers first make an offering to the temple then climb into the main pool to bathe and pray.

Offerings to the temple.

Offerings to the temple.

This Hindu Temple is famous for its holy water where Hindu Bali people go for purification of body, mind and soul. Visitors can bathe here as well.

The Holy Spring Water

The Holy Spring Water

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Mt Batur Volcano and Lake Batur:

Mt Batur, as seen today, was formed by an eruption in 1917 and is still an active secondary volcanic cone. Since 1917, Mt Batur has erupted three times (1926,1974, 1994).

Mt Batur

Mt Batur

Lake Batur is the largest lake of Bali. It is crescent-shaped and found in the smaller, secondary caldera of the Batur volcano, right at the foot of Mt. Abang.

Lake Batur

Lake Batur

A Visit to a Batik Gallery: Before visiting here, I thought batik fabric is made by dying a fabric using wax to create patterns and designs. I learned there are two other methods: weaving and by hand-painting (a very meticulous and labor intensive method). At their shop, cost of hand painted scarves starts from $100 US and up.

Batik by weaving.

Batik by weaving

Bali’s Cultural Festival

In the words of Surya, our tour guide “Bali likes to party and there seemed to be one going on from every other village almost everyday”. We saw at least 3 festivals just in one day while in Ubud.

A way of life for Balinese. Festivals and events are celebrations which are part of the social landscape of the island. They showcase its rich art and cultures and have become part of Bali’s attraction. The days of celebration are determined by Balinese calendar from long ago, while others are highlighted schedules that take place on specific dates each year

One of the many festivals we saw just in one day in Ubud.

One of the many festivals we saw just in one day in Ubud.

Another festival we spotted.

Another festival we spotted.

It was fascinating to see the women parading in their colorful outfits. They carried baskets on their heads filled with flowers and foods to bring to the temple as offerings.

Fascinating colorful outfits.

Fascinating colorful outfits.

DAY 4 : NUSA DUA

Pura Luhur Uluwatu:  A famous Balinese sea temple, and one of the nine directional temples of Bali meant to protect it from the evil spirits. A spectacular temple perched at the edge of the rock overlooking the raging sea. The word Luhur means “something of divine origin” and ulu means “land’s end” while watu means “rock” in the old language, and as you can see aptly described this temple. There is Kecak dance performed everyday at the adjacent cliff-top stage at 18:00 to 19:00, and charged a nominal fee. We did not go due to lack of time.

To be honest, it took a long drive to get here and was little disappointed for there was not much to see. Beware of the monkeys roaming around that can be aggressive at times. Our tour guide carried a stick to shoo them away. You can’t get into the temple unless you’re a Hindu. Best you come in the morning to beat the heat.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu

Pura Luhur Uluwatu

Luhur Uluwatu atop a cliff overlooking Indian ocean.

Luhur Uluwatu atop a cliff overlooking Indian ocean.

Enjoying the ocean view.

Enjoying the ocean view.

Conclusion: So glad we included Bali in our Tour of Asia, It turned out to be a most enjoyable, exciting, fantastic sensory and cultural experience. The wonders and essence of Bali is fascinating, and the warmth and hospitality of Balinese people, endearing.

Please let me know how you like this blog and leave your comments. Thank you.

 

Bali: Review of Komaneka at Bisma in Ubud


I sought recommendations from Tripadvisor where to stay in Ubud, and Komaneka at Bisma came up highly recommended with many positive reviews. Glad I heed their advice for this place did not disappoint. In fact, without hesitation, I give this hotel a perfect score of 10, and here are my reasons why.

1) Warm hospitality and friendly staff, always calling us by our names, saying hello & good morning and asking how our day was. Excellent service from everyone we came in contact with.

Every staff we met are so friendly and provided excellent service.

Every staff we met are so friendly and provided excellent service.

2. Beautiful, quiet location, affording great views yet close to town about 20 min walk or use their complimentary shuttle. A comfortable and welcoming lounge at the lobby to hang out, have a drink, listen to local music or watch the sunset. And inviting infinity pool to cool off on a very hot day.

Great view of the surrounding mountains and hills.

Great view of the surrounding mountains and hills.

Infinity pool

Infinity pool

A comfortable lounge in the lobby.

A comfortable lounge in the lobby.

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3) Beautifully appointed, spacious and luxurious accommodation

Our suite with a separate living room.

Our suite with a separate living room

Spacious bathroom with a separate tub and shower.

Spacious bathroom with a separate tub and shower

4) Amenities galore in our room daily: freshly-baked cookies, tropical fresh fruits, coffee & tea, plenty of bottled water, a hat & big bag to carry around to the pool or while shopping, comfortable gown to wear, etc.

Wearing the provided comfortable  gown for us while lounging in our room.

Wearing the provided comfortable gown for us while lounging in our room.

5) Excellent daily breakfast included, either set up in our private balcony or at their restaurant.

Breakfast set up in the  balcony of our suite.

Breakfast set up in the balcony of our suite.

6) Afternoon tea with sampling of local sweets, complimentary.

Afternoon tea with sampling of local delicacies.

Afternoon tea with sampling of local delicacies.

7) Plenty of complimentary activities: flower and/or basket making for temple offerings, yoga, free pass to a local museum, nature walks.

8) Reasonably priced package deals include 2 nights in a suite, welcome drink, 1-hour Balinese massage for one and a candle light dinner at their restaurant, so romantic. Our dinner was delicious. In fact, we like all our meals during our stay here.

A romantic candle light dinner at their restaurant.

A romantic candle light dinner at their restaurant.

9) Discounted rate by booking direct on their website, I think they gave us either 5 or 15% off (can’t remember for sure).

10) Recognition of our wedding anniversary and thoughtful parting gifts of shawl and cookies in special tin containers. How sweet!

There you have it, my 10 reasons why this place earned a perfect score. Our stay here was special, memorable and very enjoyable.  We were sad when we left and said goodbye to our very hospitable hosts that made our stay truly special.

You bet, we’ll come back to stay here again if we return to Bali.