Saigon & the Muddy Mekong

Day 2 in Saigon

Today we tour the famous Mekong River Delta in Vietnamese: the Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long “Nine Dragon river delta”.

Lengthy bus ride through HCMC and over the river …

Pit stop for refreshments again… Roadside fresh coconut water!! I had so much fresh coconut water in Vietnam… but it was definitely the best in Saigon where the weather was the hottest and it was most refreshing!

Our first stop, we visited a little village where we sampled various local fruits and honey, and a Vietnamese group sang for us.

Carrying on… we wandered through some “farmland” near the river while our guide spoke a bit about the history of the area and some of the cultures and traditions… beautiful area for sure!

And then, the highlight of the day… traditional conical Vietnamese hats, called nón lá, and a traditional Mekong row boat  ride down one of the many little channels of the Mekong River… It was amazing just meandering along that muddy chanel, surrounded by tall foliage on either side… So relaxing actually. (Not for the poor woman rowing/pushing the boat around though!)

We landed at a little factory on the edge of the river where fresh coconut candies were made. They demonstrated how the treats were made… and then we got to sample the still warm and gooey and totally delectable coconut candy… made from everything coconut! Coconut milk, coconut sugar… so yum!!!!

And… there just happened to be a big ol python?? there. Some type of snake anyways. It was our lucky day. we could hold it! Initially I was kind of excited to hold it. It looked like it was sleeping anyways as it was super relaxed. A bunch of people held it. It started waking up. By the time snakey got to Amelia… it was definitely starting to wake up and squirm a little more… so I started getting pretty freaked out about my turn next. Would it be fully awake by then?!! It took me a bit to talk myself into have the snake placed around my neck, and when I finally said yes, the snakes handler just tossed the darn thing around my neck. I jumped! Pretty sure it jumped too and started winding its snakey large self up and around my neck!!!! I was freaking!! And everyone was telling me to smile for the pic. I managed a grimace before totally freaking out. Never again feel the need to ever ever ever hold a snake again. I still get the heebie jeebies thinking bout that thing snaking around my neck!! Entertaining photos tho! :S

Next up on our tour: we took a bigger boat down a main portion of the Mekong River to a little island where we had some lunch.

And finally… headed back to the bus and on to our last stop… a Vietnamese Pagoda… Vinh Trang Pagoda, My Tho…

And that was it for our Ho Chi Minh tour plans. One night to go out with our hostel crew and in the morning we were catching a quick flight up to Hoi An!

Saigon nightlife for us started with a few drinks at the hostel bar where I met a ton of Canadian backpackers!!! A giant game of sidewalk Jenga evolved into a very loud and exuberant and very touching edition of “Oh Canada”. JT would be proud (Justin Trudeau…).

oh and… Canadians dominated the Hideout hostel Hand Grenade Challenge (a shot of tequila followed immediately by a Jager Bomb) as we obviously completed the most challenges 🙂

Hostel life isn’t complete without a rambunctious pub crawl through Saigon (Saigon nightlife is supposed to be fantastic btw)… so we joined a whole group from the hostel and headed out to a couple different places in District 1 in Pham Ngu Lao.. definitely a seedy district, nothing classy at all. But a whole lot of fun!! Saigon is crazy by day… and at night is only a fraction quieter and less crazy but equally as bright!

And that was it for us in Saigon… potentially will hit up a museum when we return to Saigon in a couple weeks before we fly back home.

Cam on Saigon!

Dubai Weekend Getaway

January 2016

What do you get when you combine a British Couple about to get married, living in the Middle East, with their friends from various other British Commonwealth countries?? A Dubai Hen-do/Stag-do party weekend!!

A close friend of mine from Riyadh got engaged last year, and with her nuptials coming up quickly… we wanted to get out and celebrate her last few months as a single lady. Plus… I’d been in Saudi for nearly 3 months already now without leaving once… I was definitely in need of a time out! And… a few of us had plans to leave Saudi Arabia for good at some point in the coming year. So, ultimately it was a combination of masalama parties (a couple of the crew were leaving Riyadh soon…and I was starting to consider handing in my resignation also), birthday celebrations, but largely a hen do/jack n’ jill/ bachelorette party.

6 of us, including the bride and groom, headed out of Riyadh one Thursday… Dubai bound! We checked into a hotel in the JBR where we all shared a lovely suite with a full kitchen and sitting area… Not that we used the kitchen for anything more than storing champagne and OJ and making mimosas 👌🏼

The squad hit up Meat Co for dinner on our first night in Dubai, at Dubai Souq Madinat Jumeirah… a resort built to look like an authentic Arabian city with bazaars and traditional Middle Eastern shopping built between lovely waterways that allow the resort to be explored by boat also. The souq offers stunning views of the Burj Al Arab and is gorgeous during the day but also at night!

Meat Co might be one of my favourite restaurants… they always have a fabulous wine menu and the steak is always fantastic! So over a couple bottles of wine, looking out at the Burj al Arab, gloriously lit for the evening, watching boats pass in the waterway, gentle background music (a luxury we rarely have in Riyadh that always indicates freedom to me!), slightly humid and vaguely cool early February weather… we had a wonderful dinner of friendship and great conversation!

After dinner, we walked around the souq to Trader Vic’s for very large cocktails in super funky cups… and a little dancing of course. What’s a hen-do without a good dance party?!

Friday morning, I woke up super early, and I wasn’t the only one! The bride and groom to be were also up already with the sunrise, so we took in a little fresh air and morning sunshine along The Walk Dubai and even dipped our toes in the water as we walked along Jumeirah Beach also. The sun was blissful and the water perfectly refreshing… it always amuses me to see the camels on the beach… such a stark contrast between the very modern high rise hotels and apartments in the background and the camel as such a traditional Arabic symbol.

Then… champagne o’clock!!!! Standard Friday fun in Dubai is never complete without a boozy brunch!!!

On the menu… the Bubbalicious Brunch at the Westin Hotel Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina!

I don’t even know where to start, but I’ve never seen such an incredible display of food!!!! And booze!! The setup was beautiful… wine and and a huge assortment of cheeses and meats and breads set on wooden benches and wine barrels, a sushi bar, a taco stand complete with margaritas and mojitos, a full pig roast, a Pimms stand, plenty of vodka options including watermelons filled with vodka/run, and even a burger joint… and a gorgeous display for Hendricks gin!! There was even a dark room with all sorts of glow in the dark food and fun!! And our glasses were constantly being refilled with champagne… and I think we tried a few too many of the drinks options… but hey. It was fun!!! So much laughter and just relaxing in the sunshine, palms waving overhead, a view of the ocean in the distance…

And after our liquid lunch(I mean after we were sufficiently stuffed with food!) and brunch closed down, we headed to the disco at the Westin for some old school tunes and more fun. Singing and dancing with the girls… tequila shots for the girls back in Riyadh… it was so much fun!

Being the rookie bruncher that I am… I probably needed a little nap after brunch and the disco… and that nap might have turned into a full on snooze that lasted til the rest of the crew showed up back at the hotel at midnight!!! Not sure where they all went while I was sleeping but they clearly had a good time!  A couple of us headed back up to the hotel rooftop bar to finish the night with a last drink and beautiful view of Dubai!

The next morning… I didn’t have to leave Dubai on Saturday until quite a bit later in the day, so I woke up and went for a lengthy run/walk through the Dubai marina and along Jumeirah Beach. Spending so much time in Saudi, not having the freedom to get up and run out my door, only being able to run freely in compounds or in the Diplomatic Quarters, always means I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to run on vacation outside of Saudi!! And the Dubai Marina is always gorgeous… whether walking around and people watching, or actually seriously getting a sweat on and running it fast! Although I always seem to forget how much more humid Dubai is than I think it is!!!!! Doesn’t take much to work up a sweat!

We finished off the morning with a little shopping and wander through the Walk again… checking out the little market held at the end of the walk every weekend… the outdoor gym… and the seriously awesome whips parked curbside along the walk…

And… last order of business before we all headed out to the airport… a trip to Dubai is never complete without a stop at Barasti… and we all needed lunch and pre-Riyadh drinks!!!

Anyways… that was pretty much the last of my big Dubai weekend… Last thought, is that I will never fly Flynas again. (sorry friends who work for Flynas!) Here is my little review of Flynas. Not worth the cheaper flight… the lines are SUPER long and completely unorganized!! Rather than line up by destination, its just a bulk line for all Flynas flights with airline agents constantly coming along and calling out for people still waiting to check in for flights leaving too soon for them to make it though the whole line! And those of you who life/have lived in the middle East know the frustration and ridiculousness of queues(that really aren’t queues at all) here! Plus… no booze in the Flynas terminal! couldn’t even get a drink to relax after the frustration of dealing with the check-in lines. Not cool.

Fortunately… I had a flying pal so it wasn’t so bad 🙂 And made it to Riyadh just dandily in time to get home for a decent sleep before heading back to work for 5 days before 2 weeks vacation in Vietnam with my bestie!!!!!

And… super excited for my friends to get married in May! Vacation time is booked off to attend the wedding!!

xx. Vietnam adventures upcoming. Stay tuned.

Expat Holiday Season #2

 

Christmas and New Year 2015

Holiday Season #2 away from home… A year ago, I didn’t really expect that I’d be spending another Christmas and New Years in Saudi Arabia… But here I am. And it’s not so bad at all again.

This Christmas, I think what I appreciated the most, was the response from some of my patients and colleagues. Even though many of them do not celebrate Christmas, many of my patients who spoke English, wished me a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. I had several conversations with patients who shared with me how they celebrate with their children (from a non-religious perspective), and how they really appreciate the joy and cheerfulness of the season and of their nurses who are celebrating the special day.

Despite being far from home, again I was surrounded by people I love and care deeply for… my Saudi family… the group of amazing friends I’ve been blessed to get to know over the past year…

I think being completely removed from the commercialism of the holiday season in North America actually gives us a much more natural and real holiday experience! There is absolutely no evidence that Christmas is near in Saudi Arabia… Starbucks doesn’t sell Christmas drinks… the shops aren’t filled with overwhelming rows of toys and candy canes and all sorts of goodies (not more than they usually are anyways)… there’s no tacky holiday music playing in the shops/malls… and life is generally just proceeding as is usually does. We have to look so hard to find simple decorations and ways to celebrate.

But we, being deprived of all the typical Christmas atmosphere, appreciate the little bits we do have and manage to commercialize our Christmases pretty well actually. The terribly tacky plastic Christmas trees that pop up in some remote little corner in a grocery store… the thin little string of lights someone manages to rummage up and string around their room…

And then there’s the compound Christmas markets… where everyone visiting the compound was in full holiday spirit and I LOVED walking around the booths finding saudi versions of Christmas cards… (comical camels with tinsel and lights)… fridge magnets… camel tree ornaments, etc.

And there are always plenty of events to celebrate the season…

The US Marines held an ugly Christmas sweater party…  (which I don’t have any pics of unfortuantely due to no cellphones at embassy rules…)

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And of course… Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a red and green run… so we ran in full holiday spirit… red/green clothing if we could find it… jingle bells on our shoes… even got the crew (the running lemons and associates) together for a Christmas tree red/green run photo…

Another pre-Christmas party… With more excitement over finding Christmas decorations in play…

And then finally… It was Christmas weekend and Christmas eve at work… it was Thursday afternoon… and when our shift ended, we all tucked ourselves into a back room where we set up a massive international cuisine potluck and a secret santa gift exchange… it was so amazing to be able to celebrate with all my beautiful colleagues from around the world… New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, the UK, Spain, Canada, America…

When we finally finished work for the day, and for the week, Amelia and I set off to a friends compound to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning together with the people we love most in Saudi. It was a super chill evening of hurried present wrapping, tucking presents under the tree, and finally getting cozy on couches to fill our bellies with cheesy pizza and watch the ultimate Christmas movie… Home Alone (can you believe I’d actually never seen it yet?!!!)

I fell asleep feeling so content… Listening to the rain patter on the roof… Making it seem so much cozier and winterier… So that it hardly even seemed like we were in Saudi Arabia.

I was bounced out of bed by my excited bestie for Merry Christmas morning hugs… Wearing the reindeer onesie I got her so we could be twinsies in our onesies on Christmas morning 🙂  I baked scones with cream and jam for breakfast… And together we all opened all the presents we’d set under the tree.  My heart was so happy. I couldn’t ask for better people to spend a Christmas away from home with. So blessed!!

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a big Christmas lunch with the same fabulous “family” we shared Christmas with last year… We all contributed to a massive feast with all the usual Christmas fixings (aside from ham :S)… Christmas cupcakes… A whole lot more presents to open thanks to Secret Santa… And time spent just hanging out, catching up, and singing Karoke…

And finally… A Boxing Day dinner with my flat mate and a couple other dear friends… (I feel like all I did was eat Christmas weekend!!! But isn’t that just like Christmas in North America?! :S) And I must say… It sure felt cold enough to be Christmas too!!! The pool might look lovely… But really it’s frigid!! (And frigid does mean less than 10 degrees mid-winter in Saudi!!)

And then… About a week after Christmas… It was New Years Eve… I rang in the New Year with singing and joy, confetti, and a whole lot of happiness and laughter with my flat mate!!! Way different, much more peaceful vibes for my New Years celebration this year… But my heart was so content to spend it in a meaningful way!!

And to start off the New Year… I ended up waking up relatively early and going for a run with a couple friends… In the cool morning air around the Diplomatic Quarters… Finishing at Pancake House for coffee and omelets and pancakes. All in good company. And starting off our New Years resolutions right on the first of January yet too??!! (Don’t think I actually made any fitness resolutions but if I did… What a great way to start!!!!)

The Last Week

July 26, 2015

My last week in Saudi Arabia was quite possibly the best week I’ve had so far in KSA!!!! Of course… I was off work all week so I just relaxed, finished up the last of my paperwork, packed up all my belongings and spent a fair bit of time shopping, relaxing poolside and hitting the gym during the day. Nights were filled with dinners and hanging out with friends… my Saudi family.

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My friend Amelia and I met up for dinner one night… at her apartment at the hospital. We realized when I came over that we’ve known each other for an entire year, but have never once been to each other’s apartments! Whenever we hang out, it tends to be outside of the hospital, never at our homes. And it was a beautiful night! We teamed up and cooked dinner… a full Canadian beef steak dinner!!! But the best part was sitting and chatting with her for hours outside of work…about mostly non-work related stuff!!! I’m going to miss these long talks with her and just hanging out with someone who understands me and my experiences here and just a lot of what drives me in life!! I’m blessed to have met her here and my life is going to be so empty in Saudi once she moves on!!

I hit the spa one day for a bit of relaxation… Al Manahil Center in the Diplomatic Quarters… not necessarily the best spa services I’ve had… definitely prefer Yibreen in terms of services… but the setting was beautiful! It’s quite a lot more open and airy inside than Yibreen… But also noiser and not quite as relaxing of a setting…

 So.. nights were spent playing games of Jenga, Mafi and Saboteur with friends… or shopping with friends… stuffing our faces with delicious food and deserts… macaroon sessions…

One night I went for dinner with a few girlfriends… and when we got back, one of the girls and I, who both happen to live in the same complex, but rarely see each other or hang out, for some completely nonsensical reason, ended up making cups of tea and going to sit outside on the roof. We ended up sitting there in the dark, looking over our city… for about 3 hours!! It was gorgeous! I love moments like that!! Thanks for the blissful evening Jess… always gonna treasure that one!!

And finally… my last weekend in Saudi Arabia for a while… an epic birthday party for one of my good friends! The place was lit up with disco lights… decked out with palms and lei’s to go with the Hawaiian theme… a little tropical music to start out the night. And the evening was filled amazing moments with a lot of my closest and dearest friends in Saudi!!! We danced the night away… laughing… sharing great conversation when we could find a quieter spot… and just blissful moments of happiness!! I absolutely adore these people I call friends and my heart is overflowing with love for them all!    IMG_2928And finally… for the last picture of the night… I have to quote Michael the birthday boy who originally posted this picture… with the caption “Turn up the love!” Mike’s birthday cake came out and we turned the love up!!!! With sparklers and cheers and hugs and happiness and a rousing DJ Magdy version of Happy Birthday!

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When the night ended and I had to say goodbye to everyone, I was absolutely crushed. I’m so happy to go home to my family… but not at all ready to say goodbye to these lovely people yet!!!The night didn’t end on the most positive of notes either as I was the last girl to go and all the abayas were gone!! Mine was missing… While it may not seem like a big deal to lose your abaya… it is!!! I’d have to walk from the compound to the taxi outside the compound in regular clothes… which happened to be a little shorts and a tank top… which is equivalent to being naked in public in Saudi… big mushkela!!!! Thankfully my friend had a large black Georgetown university blanket which he lent to me so I could wrap myself up and be fit to leave. Go figure… my last night out in Saudi… I lose my abaya. It happens to us all at some point I guess. Part of Saudi life…

And then my last epic dinner in Riyadh for a while… at Pampa Grill. I’d been wanting to try it out for a while so when a friend planned a birthday party there on my last night in Saudi, I was all in!!!!

It’s an amazing Argentinian restaurant located at the top of the Narcissus hotel in Riyadh, a gorgeous hotel by the way. The restaurant is outside on a terrace that overlooks the city… beautiful views!! With a pool in the center and the gorgeous views… a bit of Argentinian guitar music playing… you’d never ever guess that you were in the middle of Riyadh actually!!! The food was pretty fabulous and it was really really wonderful to spend my last night with friends!! Especially these girls… they’re the best. Seriously. 

  
  
  
  
 And finally… Sunday the 26th of July came around… I scrambled to pack all the rest of my belongings. Squash everything into my suitcases… and still go say goodbye to all my favorite people in the hospital yet. I felt so much love from everyone… I went around the unit to say goodbye on my last day and got hugs from absolutely everyone… my emotional reservoir was completely refilled from all that!!!

So when I left in the evening… it was on a peaceful note. I thought I’d be very teary and ridiculously emotional but I wasn’t. I think it would be harder if I knew I wasn’t coming back. But I know that hopefully, most likely, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be back in 6-8 weeks… and I’ll be seeing everyone again. Now I get to look forward to seeing my family and focus on them for a while!!! So this temporary goodbye really isn’t so bad. I had a beautiful last week in Saudi Arabia to remind me how much I love it here and all the absolutely incredible people the people in my life here… so we part briefly on good terms.


Saying goodbye to my first ever home away from home. It’s kind of a big deal actually!! I’m gonna miss it!!!

Anyways… That’s it for now… More to come on my thoughts on a full year in Saudi and the future!!

Thanks for following!!!

xx

Maasalama and More

July 16, 2015

I can’t believe I’m writing these words… my year in Saudi Arabia is nearly complete!!!! A little more than a year ago when I first signed up to come to Saudi, a year seemed like quite a long time and I hesitated to sign for two years… but this year has gone by so fast!!! My last day of work was July 12… a Sunday morning… a very relaxed day in the clinic as it was still Ramadan. I wasn’t on the schedule, so I begged to be able to work in the Oncology floor female treatment area with all my girlfriends. Thankfully the head nurse was very thoughtful and allowed me to.       We had hardly any patients throughout the shift so there was so much time to sit and relax and chit chat… and I’m pretty sure I took a million pictures with all my coworkers in the area… but I love having the photographic evidence of the memories created! I returned a day or two later for a meeting with my head nurse, only to find out that it was really just a “meeting” for them to give me a beautiful bouquet of Thankyou and goodbye flowers. So thoughtful! My first “goodbye” party was a birthday party for a friend… and I had to officially say goodbye to many friends that I wouldn’t be seeing the next weekend at my official goodbye party. One of my closest and dearest friends in Saudi Arabia was leaving on vacation for a week and would be missing my official goodbye party, so I had to say goodbye to her this night… it nearly broke my heart. I realized how many goodbyes I’d be saying over the course of the next few week… some would be permanent goodbyes as those friends would also be leaving saudi for good, and some of the goodbyes were only temporary as I’d be coming back and see them again. But still… there’s that bit of uncertainty as I don’t know for sure when I’m coming back… and what if things didn’t quite work out the way I wanted them too… scary thought!!!!! Anyways… it was honestly the loveliest night filled with laughter and music and good friends… like the majority of Saudi nights actually…                    The very next day was yet another goodbye party… Not for me… But for a few other friends who were leaving… Another pool party 😄 loving this summer weather for all the pool parties!!!     Another day another pool party… with my former colleagues in the Radiation Clinic… We sat out by the pool and had delicious lamb biryani rice… And spent as much time in the water cuz it was ridiculously hot out in the sun!!!    My second and semi-official maasalama party was actually a birthday party for a friend that we had planned ages in advance, because we needed to have something to look forward to. I might have hijacked the party a little and turned it into a maasalama for myself and Vivian, as well as a birthday party. About 50 people showed up for our party… and that’s not even half the good friends I’ve made in Saudi Arabia. Honestly… so blessed!!!!! I have many different friend groups here in Riyadh, and I don’t often hang out with the different groups at the same time, accept at maybe an embassy event… but it always amazes me how many of my friends know each other and how much they all mingle and enjoy meeting each other… It’s awesome!!                At one point I had to say goodbye to the lemons… The running lemons… The loveliest group of girls who I run with… When it’s not 4000 degrees outside!!! A couple of them are leaving and moving out of Saudi for good while I’m away… So it’s an official goodbye to them 😢 we had a great night out at Riyadh village compound one night… And then the famous Bastille day celebrations at the French embassy…

Honestly, m Honestly… My last couple weeks in Saudi were amazing… Thanks to the absolutely gorgeous people I’ve met in my year here!!!!! So…

Dubai World Cup: 20th Anniversary

March 28, 2015

The day is here. The 20th Anniversary celebration of the Dubai World Cup, the richest horse race in the world! The Dubai World Cup is technically the last race of a series of races for the Dubai World Cup Night. There are nine races in total, 8 Thoroughbred contests and 1 purebred Arabian contest.

The Dubai World Cup is known as the richest horse race in the world as the purse is 10 million USD!!!!!!

It is held at the Meydan Racecourse (Meydan meaning, a place where people congregate and compete, in Arabic). The Meydan Grandstand is absolutely massive!!! It’s 1-mile long… honestly… and holds 60,000 spectators.

I actually can’t believe I’m here… in the Middle East… in Dubai… about to go watch horses race around a track!! But let’s be real… I’m not really going to watch the races. I’m going for the chance to get really dressed up.

A big part of the race is that everyone dresses up in their best outfits… hats for the ladies… dapper gentlemen all suited up… and there’s even a competition for best dressed!

Obviously… we had to have some champagne to celebrate before leaving… and it’s a good thing we did cuz it put us in a better mood to deal with the heavy traffic on our way to the Meydan Racecourse!image

When we arrived, the party was in full swing! So many people everywhere… and so many gorgeous people!! The hats… the shoes.. the dresses… and even the men in their suits… The fashion “show” was definitely amazing!!!

Click this link to see some of the amazing outfits on display at the 2015 Dubai World Cup… A few of the beautiful people… the hats… the fireworks, etc.
We found our friends sitting on couches down near the track, in between a beer garden and the Moet tent! Quite the ideal location actually!! 

I made my way to the Moet tent with a couple girlfriends, wanting to celebrate this very special occasion with a glass of bubbles. But… I couldn’t get just a glass… I had to get a whole bottle. Mafi mushkela… They handed me the champagne along with a little plastic bag with ice… so I could keep it chilled. Obviously champagne is the perfect accessory to any outfit!!imageimageCheers to the Dubai World Cup!

The group I was with placed informal bets on all the races. It was great fun as it kept us all a little more focused on the races instead of the drinking… and it was fun to actually win the pot once!!imageIt was incredible to watch the horses run past… hooves thundering… people cheering… so much excitement in the air… The last race… the 10million USD purse… was one by Prince Bishop. We went down near to the track to get a good view of the horses running past… it was intense!!!

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IMG_0827I had so much fun meeting a bunch of new people… Hanging out with the rugby crew from Riyadh… The whole night was just filled with laughter and happiness and wonderful friends!!!   And… the best part of the whole event… the fireworks at the end of the show. I’ve seen some pretty amazing light shows in Vancouver during the celebration of lights… and some of the people we were there with have seen NYE fireworks in Dubai, or Sydney, but everyone said this was infinitely better than any fireworks display they’d ever seen! And I agree. It was absolutely EMOTIONAL!!! The music… the beautiful fireworks… just the fact that we were in Dubai at the World Cup… something a year a go I’d never have even thought I’d be doing… it was just a little mind blowing.

 After the fireworks show… the after party started… a concert by Kylie Minogue. Everyone was laughing and dancing and having a good time… so much fun!!!   Honestly… The entire experience was just unbelievable. I have to pinch myself somedays. I feel like I’m living a dream life!!! When I think about what my life was like a year ago as what it is like now, it’s so completely different and upside down and just so amazing! Not saying it’s necessarily better now, but definitely different and I’m loving this phase in my life now and the opportunities I’m being given! Like this experience!!!!

And essentially … that was the end of the celebration of the Dubai World Cup…

There were some silly moments on the way out the door… roses were handed out… someone in a thobe may have been chased around the grassy patch in front of the grandstand by one of the girls… many songs were sung very loudly on the bus on the way back to the hotel…

imageimageAnd that was the end of the 2015 Dubai World Cup. What an amazing experience… can’t wait to come back again next year!!!!! But before that… the Ruby 7s in Dubai and the Formula 1 races in Abu Dhabi?!!!! So much to look forward too!!!!

xo

Finally a Weekend Getaway

March 26 – March 30, 2015

Finally, after nearly 7 months in Riyadh, I’m off to Dubai for a weekend getaway. I’ve been on a bunch of trips and adventures so far, but this is technically my first weekend away! I was lucky enough to get an extra day off on Sunday so I have a bit more time to relax in Dubai.

This weekend was crazy!!! So many people flocking to Dubai for the Dubai World Cup. The airport was the busiest I’ve ever seen an airport in my life!!!! It wasn’t bad getting out of Riyadh… my flights left on time. I had a stopover in Doha in Hamad International Airport… one of the newest and definitely the most gorgeous airport I’ve ever been to… and landed in Dubai around midnight.

The queue to go through immigrations was absolutely horrific!! Thousands of people crowding a massive hall that smelled so strongly of paint… waiting to go through one of about 20 different immigration counters. It took me well over an hour to get through immigrations… and all I really wanted to do was hit the duty free and then collapse in bed in my hotel. I’d worked all day Thursday so I was exhausted!!!

Anyways… I finally got out of the airport and then was stuck in traffic for a considerable period of time… because the JBR is ridiculously busy at midnight!!! But I finally made it to the hotel… my friend had checked in earlier that day and they upgraded us to the top floor to an executive suite… winning!!!

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The next morning… I awoke to sunshine and beautiful blue skies and rich blue/turquoise water… white sand beaches… and bubbles!!! Bubbles for breakfast… every day. Because how else to you celebrate a weekend away in Dubai?!!!

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Friday… the first day in Dubai… was all about Gaelic football. This was actually the purpose of coming to Dubai, specifically for the Gaelic football tournament, run by the Middle East GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) It just happens to be on the weekend that coincides with the Dubai World Cup. Again… winning!!

Now, I know absolutely nothing at all about Gaelic football. I was meant to join the girl’s team in Riyadh but as it was so close to the end of the season, thought I might as well leave it for next season!

Basically, what wikipedia tells me is that Gaelic football is an Irish team sport, strictly amateur (none of the players are paid) played between 2 teams of 15 players each. The point is to score a goal by passing it through the other teams goal  (3 points) or score points by between the goal posts above the crossbar (1 point). The ball, a round ball similar to a volleyball, is advanced across the field by kicking, bouncing, carrying, hand passing or soleing which is when one drops the ball and toe kicks it into the hands… The ball can be continuously soled, but cannot be kicked or bounced more than once in a row, and one cannot run more than 4 steps without doing something with the ball. Tackling is allowed.

Anyways… it definitely looks like good craic!!

We watched the girls team from Riyadh kick some serious ass… they dominated the games!!!! The guys were fun to watch also and did pretty good too… although not as good as the girls 😛

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Sat up at the club bar and had some great drinks overlooking the pitch… So relaxing to just sit and sip an icy cold, refreshing G&T… or a nice cool beer… take in the sporting activities going on around me… grateful I don’t have to run around in the heat.

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After the tournament was over, I went to the Meydan Grandstand box office to go buy tickets for the Dubai World Cup.

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From the box office… the view of the city skyline, especially the Burj Khalifa, was amazing!!!! Finally a proper view of the Burj. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to visit it this trip… I guess it means I just need to make sure I go back to Dubai again!

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Our first night out in Dubai was to the Irish Village for the Middle East GAA tournament awards evening. I’ve never been to the Irish Village but it’s definitely a favorite amoung expats in Dubai… especially Europeans… and especially the Irish! We had a great dinner… a live band… awards were handed out… made new friends and hung out with old friends…

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Part two of the night: 360 club at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel… absolutely amazing!!! Set out in the water at the end of a long walkway out into the water… it has… obviously… 360 views of Jumeirah Beach and the Burj Al Arab… and the ocean around… city skyline… absolutely gorgeous!!! Beautiful way to finish the night!

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The next morning… well… when in Dubai in the Jumeirah Beach Residence… one must definitely go for a beach run!!! And that’s what I did. Out the door of my hotel, relatively bright and early in the morning and down to the beach. Thankfully I’ve got sandproof shoes… because i’m not keen on running in shoes on the beach unless I know I’m not going to be sandpapering my toes! And not sure how sanitary it is to walk down the street to the beach in barefeet???

Anyways… beautiful morning at the beach. Warm and sunny. Gentle waves. Blue/green water. White sand.

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And… so many parachutes dotting the sky from the many people jumping out of planes high in the sky above Dubai. The landing strip for Skydive Dubai was just down at the end of the beach near my hotel so I got to watch them slowly float down… so envious!!! I definitely want to skydive in Dubai!! One day soon! Maybe for my birthday next year?!!

So, after my beach run and breakfast, my friend and I headed out to the train station to take the train in to the Dubai Mall for some sightseeing and shopping. Don’t laugh… but this might be nearly the first time I’v ever taken public transit!!! Living more than an hour outside Vancouver, I’d actually have to drive 45min to the nearest sky train station, so I never take the train. Ever. So… new experience today! And I must say… it’s so convenient!!! Much cheaper than a taxi… and definitely more relaxing than driving and trying to find parking, etc!!!

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The Dubai mall is AMAZING!!! Unfortuantely, we didn’t have much time to stay there… a quick browse around for accessories and such for our outfits to the Dubai World Cup… but we did briefly hang out by the aquarium… and saw the fountains… etc. Next time I’m going to do some serious damage here!

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So… after checking out the Dubai Mall… we headed back to our hotel to get ready… wait for it… for the Dubai World Cup!!!!!!

You know what’s coming in the next post now!!!