June 2016 | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Jun 29, 2016

7 Dishes to Try in Din Tai Fung Dubai

I guess Din Tai Fung needs no introduction. The Taiwanese restaurant rocked Dubai's dining scene last year and this blog post is very much long overdue. At one point, I have actually decided not to write about it as it has already been getting the rave it deserves. I felt that my little voice in the blogosphere wouldn't give justice to this world-renowned dumpling place. 

But every after meal in Din Tai Fung in Mall of the Emirates - the first branch in the UAE, I always get the itch to share its goodness! So, today, while looking at a photo of the yummy XiaoLongBao on my phone, I decided to finally sit in front of the computer, gather all the photos that I took in DTF, and choose 7 dishes that I can recommend (based in my humble point of view) for your next visit.   

Din Tai Fung Dubai

Jun 24, 2016

Island Hopping in Koh Phi Phi

It was a beautiful sunny day in Thailand when I ticked off Wish #8 in our 20 Before 2020 list. It is the wish that I have wrongly written as "island hopping in Phuket" when I meant "island hopping in Phi Phi". Shame, I wasn't that familiar with Thailand's geography when I wrote down the travel bucket list. :) 

The breathtaking islands of Phi Phi administratively belong to Krabi Province, not to Phuket like I initially thought.  Full-day excursion can be arranged as it is located only 40 km away from Phuket. There are plenty of travel agencies offering the island hopping tour, lots of package options to choose from as well. After much thought (and email conversations), I settled with Phuket SRC's Phi Phi Maya Khai Island Premium Service.      

Phi Phi day tour

Here's how our day in Phi Phi went:

8:00 AM - Pick up
Our tour came with  pick up and drop off from our budget accommodation in Patong. The shuttle arrived a few minutes late than expected, probably because we were the last four passengers to be picked up.

8:30 AM - Royal Phuket Marina
We were taken to Royal Phuket Marina where most boat tours commence. We signed a trip document and the staff gave us wristbands to wear. The color of the band corresponds to the tour package booked. Ours were blue while others had orange and pink.

After the registration, we helped ourselves in the breakfast table. Bread, cookies, coffee and Thai Iced Tea (Yay! I LOVE!) were served. Pre-tour briefing followed. Dos and don'ts were said and anti-seasick tabs were handed out.    

tour briefing in SeaStar office in Royal Phuket Marina
tour briefing in SeaStar office in Royal Phuket Marina

9:00 AM - Departure to Phi Phi
Day trippers were gathered according to the color of the wristbands. We followed the staff, there were six of them if I remember correctly, assigned for our "blue" group. They led us to the quay where a speedboat is waiting to whisk us to Phi Phi.     

Royal Phuket Marina
Royal Phuket Marina
Phuket island hopping via speedboat
So, this is what the premium tour looks like. Just a little space to wiggle around, still it was comfy ride. 

10:00 AM - Maya Bay
After almost an hour speedboat ride, we entered the semi-enclosed lagoon of the world-famous Maya Bay. It is a stunning beach cove made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio's movie The Beach. It is actually the main reason why I wrote down Phi Phi on my travel list. Blame Leo! Hahah! The towering limestone karst surrounding it seems to protect a mystical paradise, just like what it portrays in the Hollywood film. 

But... yes there's a but, a big one in this case. The moment our speedboat docked on the shore, I noticed the harsh reality. The beach is too crowded. There's no way a couple can have a Richard and Francoise moment here! It is also not the quiet hideaway that I expected. Sal wouldn't like to stay for good if she saw the island this way. Sorry, only those who have seen the film would understand me right now. If you haven't, please watch and I bet you'll agree with me. :) 

Okay, enough with the expectations. In reality, Maya Bay is a sight to behold despite the crowd. It has the finest white sand that I have ever stepped on, clear blue waters and impressive rock formations.  

Maya Bay tour via speedboat
Oh hello there Maya Bay!
crowd at Maya Bay
And so, The Beach has been discovered! 
Family at Maya Bay
Family photo at the beautiful and TOURISTY Maya Bay
Longtail boat in Koh Phi Phi
Longtail boats are used by visitors coming from the nearby islands.
Day trippers from Phuket can only go to Maya Bay via speedboat or cruiser.
Lady in Maya Bay
Sing with me? I've crossed the desert for miles. Swam water for time...
The Beach in the The Beach movie
...Searching places to find. A piece of something to call mine.  :)  - Pure Shores (The Beach soundtrack)
Maya Bay snorkeling area
at the other side of Maya Bay lies this snorkeling area

11:00 AM - Viking Cave 
Our speedboat sailed to the northwest tip of Phi Phi Leh where the Viking Cave is located. It is also known as the Birds Nest Cave because it is inhabited by swiftlets, the type of bird that makes edible nests popularly used in Chinese soup. The boat simply passed by the mouth of the cave, just for us to see bamboo scaffolding that the locals climb on to during harvest. 

en route to Viking Cave
en route to Viking Cave
Birds Nest Cave in Phi Phi
scaffolding used during harvest of bird's nest at the mouth of Viking Cave

11:30 AM - Monkey Beach
Next stop was at the Monkey Beach. It is called as such because it is literally a home to a colony of monkeys. We were not allowed to walk in the shore, not allowed to give food or play with the monkeys while in the boat either. The staff were kinda overprotective of us... or maybe of the monkeys. Hahah! I heard some stories of monkey bites, so I guess staying in the boat was for our own good. 

quick stop at Monkey Beach
quick stop at Monkey Beach
monkeys in Monkey Beach Phi Phi
Kings of the Island

12:00 NN - Lunch at Phi Phi Don
We never went hungry in Phi Phi. Fruits, biscuits and drinks were overflowing on board the speedboat. And during lunch time, we were taken to a beach in Phi Phi Don for a delicious lunch buffet. 

Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi Don
Phi Phi island hopping lunch
my lunch: some of the choices in the buffet, not in the photo are the pasta dish and some mains
the lunch area in Phi Phi Don
the lunch area in Phi Phi Don

2:00 PM - Snorkeling
After lunch, we headed to a snorkeling area. We took out the snorkeling gears which were given to us earlier at the marina and dived into the deep blue ocean! I wore my life vest of course! I am a weak swimmer, but it was the activity that I enjoyed the most during our Phi Phi island tour. The water is so clear! I could see the fishes and corals without even diving deep down the sea.  

snorkeling in Koh Phi Phi
Snorkeling time!
Lady in Phi Phi island
me and my Mama treading in the turquoise water of Phi Phi 

3:00 PM - Khai Nok
Our last stop was at Khai Nok. It is a lovely little island with white sand beach and huge granite rocks. But I must say, this island is completely swallowed by commercialism. There are souvenir shops, food stalls and vibrant parasols for rent. Ed and I attempted to sit in the sun loungers and we were asked to pay 150 Baht. Nooo way. I laid out my sarong by the shore and sat there instead. 

Thankfully, we didn't have to buy food as the tour agency has a stall in the island where we can have snacks and drinks for free.    

Beach life in Khai Nok
Beach life in Khai Nok 
huge rocks in Khai Nok
I sought refuge from the sun in the huge rocks by the shore.
white sand beach in Khai Nok
white sand beach in Khai Nok
Parasols in Khai Nok
the very inviting parasols, but resting under the shade comes with a price

4:30 PM - Back to Royal Phuket Marina
We called it a day in Koh Phi Phi and sailed back to Royal Phuket Marina. It was a long fun day. Despite the case of expectation vs reality in Maya Bay, I did not regret having Koh Phi Phi in my 20 Before 2020 list.

5:30 PM - Drop off at the hotel
This day trip, just like all the other options I found, have highs and lows. A disadvantage is that I didn't get to enjoy the powdery sands of Maya Bay that much because of the limited time. But, looking at our travel schedule, seeing several islands in one day is the best option that I have. We were back in the hotel at 5:30 PM. I had time for a quick shower before we rushed to Patong Beach to catch the sunset.

Tour Price as of March 2016: 1,800 Baht per person

What else did I do in Thailand? Check out these blog posts:

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Jun 18, 2016

10 Touristy Things I Did in Phuket

I went all out touristy in Phuket! 

Surely, there is an off-the-beaten way to enjoy Thailand's largest island, but I think it wasn't a good idea for a first-time visitor who's traveling with The Parents. :) For a limited time, only 2 full days to be exact, I wanted to experience a little bit of everything. I wanted to feel the local culture, have a glimpse of the beautiful scenery that the island is known for and see the famous attractions no matter how crowded or how overrated I heard they are!  

Sooo, I happily did these 10 things in Phuket: 

Things To Do in Phuket

Jun 16, 2016

The Frutta Boutique: Fruity, Budget-Friendly Hotel in Phuket

Whenever I plan for our trips, I'm always on the look-out for unique accommodations with the best value for money. That's why I chose to stay in a cave hotel in Cappadocia late last year and in a funky, fruity boutique hotel in Phuket early this year. 

I went to Thailand with my family last March. We spent 3 days in Patong and called The Frutta Boutique our colorful home away from home. I spotted the pocket-friendly accommodation in my trusted hotel booking site. Despite the rave reviews, I didn't expect much because the rate was less than half of the hotel I initially considered staying in. I guess it really pays to have low expectations as I truly adored the little fruity gem I found!

The Frutta Boutique Hotel Phuket

Jun 12, 2016

6 Interesting Iftars I Have Tried in Dubai

During Ramadan season, every sunset, our Muslim brothers and sisters break the fast with a meal known as Iftar. It is often taken with family and friends as the Holy Month is a time to celebrate togetherness. Dubai, being a modern city with Muslim traditions, has a lot options. The variety of choices range from traditional to unconventional, simple to lavish! 

I have been blessed with Iftar invitations this year. Although I wasn't able to be present in most pre-Iftar and Iftar events due to my busy work schedule, I am grateful for the opportunity to embrace the Ramadan season in 6 interesting Iftars shared with friends.  

Iftars in Dubai 2016

Jun 8, 2016

Desert Escape in Tilal Liwa Hotel

Last weekend, I slept in the midst of desert dunes! Oh yes I'm serious, but it is not what you think it is. Forget about the tent, the bonfire, and the sleeping bag. Think about a stunning hotel tucked on the edge of the Rub Al Khali desert with opulent Arabian chandeliers and a plush bed covered in crisp white linens. 

I was at Tilal Liwa Hotel.

Jun 3, 2016

7 Ramadan Reminders for Non-Muslim Expats

Ramadan is an important season. It begins when the waxing crescent moon is sighted at the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is observed by our Muslim brothers and sisters as a holy month of fasting, religious devotion and reflection.

While for non-Muslim expats, Ramadan serves as a beautiful reminder that the UAE, despite the cosmopolitan lifestyle, is still very much in touch with its roots. 

Here are some important things to remember during Ramadan:

1. Do not eat, drink, and smoke in public during fasting hours. Respect those who are fasting by taking food discreetly in a closed-off area. Some restaurants and food courts are open, but dining halls are hidden behind screens and closed doors. 

2. Dress modestly. Tight and revealing clothes are very much not appropriate this season. It is best to wear clothes that cover the knees and shoulders. 

3. No public display of affection. Just like any ordinary day in the UAE, kissing or even hugging the opposite sex should be avoided. 

4. Singing, dancing, and playing loud music in public are not allowed. These actions could offend or disturb those who are fasting. 

5. Ramadan is a season of finding spiritual tranquility. Picking fights and blasphemy are no-nos. Patience and respect must be kept in mind.

6. Ramadan is a time of giving back. Participate in charity events or simply do a good deed in your own little way.

7. It is the best time to experience Arabic Hospitality. Join your Muslim friends in Iftar or Suhoor. Don't forget to greet them "Ramadan Kareem" and at the end of the season wish them "Eid Mubarak".