Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Doha, Qatar top 5 places to visit when you are on transit

Recently, my parents came for a visit. Not until then that I realized 'Man how I have missed out a lot in Qatar's development'. She's a true beauty now, with lots and more attraction, building each days. Well that's what people always say right, the grass will always look greener from the other side of the hill. We often admire other places, on how beautiful and how nice they look like, but not really bother to appreciate our surrounding. Well, I am guilty of that too, until I took on the tourist hat - seeing Qatar, Doha in particular, blooming to something amazing, comparing how I started here, back in 2006.

For that reason, I wanted to share my personal favourite of top 10 things to do in Doha, Qatar for those considering a transit or even a day or two stay over here, but know this, half-a-day transit will no longer works for Doha, because there are too many in the bucket list! But, if you are really short on time, for half-a-day, you can do below top 3 or 4 comfortably as they are quite near to the airport and to each other. Here goes;

1. Souk Wakif 

Yes, this is a must-visit. A souk is actually kinda like a market where you can get almost anything you could think of, from bedak arab, shawl, perfume, all sort of souvenirs to even tools and hardware. Here, you can either enjoy a stroll along the souk eyeing for stuff or chillax by the many choice of restaurant and cafes that serves traditional to modern food, from all over the world.

The must take photo-opportunity is of course at the entrance, where you'll be welcomed by friendly doves and the spiral Al-Fanar as a background. If you are lucky, you'll pass by donkey ride, and sometime camel-back policemen on guard. Souk Wakif is only 20 minutes from the airport, so if you have plenty of time to spare, might want to make it as the last place to visit just before heading back to the airport.

And oh, the opening hours is a bit weird, most shop open from 8 or 9am then close from 12-4pm, then open back till 10pm or so. I suggest a couple of hours as a minimum visit here. And don't forget to try the magnificent crepe! But it usually starts late after 4pm. Try it with the cheese spread, yummy!

Recent transit visit to Souk Wakif from x-uni friends - trying out the Arab's crepe :)

2. Corniche 

I love the corniche in Doha, I have been to few of corniche around gulf countries, and I must say, I love Doha's the most. The background was sculptured for a picturesque opportunity from all angle. You can also go for a short Dhow ride for a traditional experience :)

The corniche here are mostly used for recreational activities, where you can see people walk, jog or run from one end to another. And when there's a slight green, you will definitely find people gathering for a nice family picnic.

During recent farewell dinner of a friend in Al-Mourjan restaurant
If you have spare budget to spend, try Al-Mourjan restaurant, it's perfectly located in the middle of Corniche, which have the most spectacular view of Doha city center skyline, and not forgetting a giant sculpture of Oryx the Qatar's mascot. You can also chill with many flavours of shishas. But I have to warn you, the restaurant recently put on a QR100 minimum order per head! So it's a nice experience for a price :P

3. Museum of Islamic Art and MIA park

Seriously, I can't remember when was my last visit to MIA park or the museum of islamic art. I think it was few years back when I just had my third child and became a temporary stay-at-home mom. It was then I discovered the MIA park bazaar or weekend market, where anybody can come and sell stuff for free, but with a free pre-registration. I used to have so much fun selling a homemade baby headband-lace back then. But then the bazaar got famous, and more people are interested to sell, so they became very picky of their sellers, so that's the end of it.

Now, when I went back to MIA park, it has opened up another section, kinda like another mini corniche. If you walk along till the end, you will end up to a beautiful setup of cafe and another magnificent view of Doha city center skyline. We went at night, to a very romantic ambience, to the point even my parents felt the urge to hug each other in the photo.. sweet ;)
Romantic background of Doha city center

Museum of Islamic Art

Museum of Islamic Art open daily from 10am-5pm except on Tuesday. If the museum close, so is the parking area, so avoid the place that day to avoid disappointment. 

4. Katara 

Katara is a cultural center that organized festivals, exhibitions and seminars. It also has many unique sculptures and building waiting for appreciation. If you are short for time, just go for a 1-2 hour stroll and back to Karak & Chapati for a nice break.

On the way from the corniche to Katara, make sure to pass by City Center route, where you can admire the beautiful streaks of modern architecture. Picture below is taken from Qatar grand Masjid.

5. The Pearl

The Pearl Qatar is is the luxurious man-made island spanning nearly four million square metres. When you are there, especially in winter, you'll feel that as if you are somewhere in Europe. I love it there, especially for my occasional long bike ride. 

The beautiful surroundings somehow keeps my mind off the meter on my Garmin watch and let my tired legs moves further in peace. 
Last time when Mak and Abah came to Qatar, only some part of the Pearl is ready for visitors. Now they have opened up more section, making it more beautiful and just so nice for a visit. The pearl has many restaurants to suits your taste and enjoy the serene beauty. Especially the part that is facing the Marina with their luxurious yacht, which reminds me a lot of Monaco.
Mak posing near Medina Centrale

But I got to warn you if you are dining around Medina Centrale, be ready to have a slight headache from looking at luxurious cars roaming around the area (the same cars will roam like hundreds of time with their don't-really-care-attitude-as-long-as-people-are-impress-with-their-ride) which usually starts from after dusk till late. Well, that's some of my favourite spots in Doha that I think is suitable for a quick 4-6 hours transit visit. I will share more spots for a longer transit or stop over inside and outside of Doha, Qatar soon.

The Pearl

Best way to fly to Pulau Perhentian and save you time and energy!

Dah banyak minggu duk survey cara terbaik untuk ke Pulau Perhentian, tapi tak ramai yang berkongsi cara kalau nak menaiki kapal terbang. So, harini aku share pengalaman kitaorang menaiki kapal terbang. The best is to take flight ke Kota Bharu. So, misi pertama untuk ke sana, of course cari package penginapan dan sebagainya. Tapi sebab aku nak pergi semata-mata untuk ambik course open water diving, aku terus minta pihak ocean13scuba settlekan bab transport dari jeti ke pulau dan bab penginapan.

Why flying is the best option to go to Pulau Perhentian

First of all, there is no direct flight to Pulau Perhentian. So, the nearest option is to take a flight to Kota Bharu airport, which is 40-45 minutes to Kuala Besut jetty - the best gateway to Perhentian Island ;)
We opt for flying because, we are short of time and we wanted to save our energy. Travelling by road can be long and tiring, and we have very little time in our hand to waste it on recovering the kepenatan after haha. Flight to KB is only 50 minutes, memang cepat dan mudah.
Kalau nak naik bas pulak, ada budak-budak kecik, takut banyak pulak hal diaorang nanti nak ke tandas dan sebagainya.
Malindo Air sangat selesa dan luas

How to buy cheap flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu 

I have used skyscanner to compare ticket prices, and Malindo Air was the winner. But, when booking, I used as it offers the lowest price, and there is no hidden charge (unless if you want to add on stuff like free cancellation or insurance-like).  The flight that we've got is quite cheap, 4 adults and 3 kids, cost us RM 800 to and fro KL-KB. The flight was for Sunday-Khamis (We stayed a night in Besut just to berjalan raya around my mother-in-law's kampung).

We arrived Kota Bharu around 8:30am, we then have some breakfast in the airport lounge area, then only make our way to Jeti Kuala Besut.

From Kota Bahru airport you can easily buy a taxi coupon to Besut Jetty for RM78. Look for the taxi booth near the arrival hall. We were lucky that we find a big taxi that can fit us all, so we only needed one. The journey to jeti Besut took us about 40 minutes.

How to go from Besut Jetty to Perhentian Island

This part was not mine, since it was pre-arranged by ocean13scuba but I will just share our experience. The best part of this arrangement was, only 4 of us are going for the diving trip, but each family brought along their parents, kids, and some siblings too, so we became a big group of maybe 30-ish people, just enough to fit a speed boat!

There are plenty of things you can do while waiting at the jetty. There's food stalls, clean toilet that you can pay even to shower, souvenirs shops and many travel agents that offer over-the-counter deals, so if you don't want to pre-book your boat arrangement, you can also buy it there.

Speed boat ke Pulau Perhentian
From Jeti Kuala Besut, it is about 30 minutes by speed boat to Perhentian Island. We stayed in Shari-la Resort Perhentian Kecil, a very convenient resort as there is a cemented walkway from the jetty all the way to the resort and through their individual chalet too. So you can use the typical roller bag to bring all your stuff over! No sand will be in your way :)

The speed boat that we got was not as luxurious, but it is ok, as long as it takes us safely to Perhentian, and most importantly, FAST! But when returning to Besut, we got a better looking boat, complete with cover, I really don't understand why the big difference :D

Oh yeah, the price is typically the same for any agent, speed boat to and fro will cost you RM70 per adult and RM60 per child.

Mesmerizing view welcoming us upon our arrival

The walkway to Shari-la resort - roller bag friendly

The Shari-la resort entrance

The resort is individual chalet like - complete with air conditioner (suitable for mat-salleh like children of mine haha)

3M enjoying the trip to Pulau Perhentian 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Travel and Run: Doha-London - New York - Los Angeles - Las Vegas - Grand Canyon in 8 days

New York, New York.. I have dreamed about it for sooooo long. And many of my attempts to visit it failed.. until 2015, when I tried my luck to enter the TCS New York marathon draw... I didn't thought I'd get in! And to make it more fun, so was my husband! So off we went, both of us.

New York captured from the top of Empire State building
Well I'm not gonna explain all about the marathon part, as I have explained it in our other blog. But I will share our journey through Unites State of America, crossing from Qatar - London - New York - Los Angeles - Las Vegas - Grand Canyon and backin 8 days. Man, it was super awesome.. but surely it depends on what type of travellers are you. If you are the kind that need a good night sleep with a long relaxing dinner and a scroll on every corner, then this itinerary is not for you.

Travelling to New York (29th Oct - 2nd Nov 2015)

We've booked our flights all through, where you can choose multi-city option and it will give you plenty of choice that can suit your budget and time. I took below flight;

Oct 29 2015 Doha - London (3 hours transit) then London to New York (arriving at the same day at 6PM)

The reason that I took a transit flight is because I can't even stand thinking of the longggg direct flight to New York for 13-14 hours without some fresh air! But I then regretted the decision, our flight got delayed and we nearly missed our connecting flight from London to New York, because of the security process in London airport, plus, the change of terminals. And can you believe that, for every time you change a terminal (even if you didn't go out from passport control), you have to scan your hand carry all over again. So yeah, we've done that - long queue and everything.

Once we arrived New York using British Airways, the minute we step out of the flight, there was already a longggg queue for the passport control! Man.. I can't breathe! and I was kinda lucky for being slightly mabuk, I gotta cut some queue to go to the loo. I seriously recommends that you try Etihad Airlines, as they do the passport control in Abu Dhabi, so once you arrived New York, you simply go out and pick your luggage! No more queuing!

From JFK Airport, New York we took GoAirLink transfer to our hotel. First 2 night we are staying in Edison Hotel - right in the middle of Time Square. So you can guess how much it had cost us! But, anything for the sake of my dream city, New York aye?

So, as I told you, we are there for the TCS New York Marathon. So, as per training plan, we had to do a short run, so that basically what we did first thing in the morning! Run straight from our hotel to the Central Park! Man.. I just can't believe that I'm typing this up. The experience is exquisite. I still felt the cold breeze of New York city air that very day.

Ok, to cut the story shorts, whilst we are in marathon mode in New York, pre race, we basically didn't walk much, but opt for hop on hop off bus, which is the best option to see the city for few days (believe me it's not enough to do it in a day!). Then the night before the race, we moved to Staten Island, where the running starts. And we finished the race together awesomely in Central Park hand in hand (despite my near mental break-down because of the lack of training! thanks to mr.hubby who sweetly run along to ensure I reached the finish line :).

That night, we moved to an apartment near Perry Street, just so I can have the feel of being Carrie from SNTC, hiks. The apartment was soooo pretty, and it was owned by a guy! man.. he can decorate. I love every little corner of it.

Konon2 cari idea for my next post

Berangan depan entrance

Berangan lagi
So, that morning, we continue to stroll around New York, this time bringing our medal out and about! Including flashing it off on top of Empire State buildings :D. With our limited time, we still managed to take the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. Ok I've seen what I've always wanted. Even got to go to the spot where they shoot 'Friends' infamous opening song!
Look.. is it familiar? It should be familiar if you are as a crazy fan like me. haha.

That evening 2nd of Nov 2015, we went to the airport for our next flight leg, New York - Los Angeles. With a heavy heart, I bid New York good bye. It's ok.. I have 10 years visa now.. I could come and visit anytime!

2nd Nov 2015: Flying from New York to Los Angeles

We flown, it was almost 7 hours, but we gain few hours ahead, so it's as if we haven't travelled long. Stayed near to the airport, woke up to variety of choice of pancakes! Yumm. Ok I will continue this entry later.. below is for my reference.. tunggguuuu...

3rd Nov 2015: Los Angeles must visit

4th Nov 2015: LA to Las Vegas

5th Nov 2015: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon

6th Nov 2015: Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to London to Doha

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kepulanganku dari Malaysia

Aku baru balik dari KL, memang satu minggu lebih yang penuh dengan aktiviti ilmiah! Tepu otak! Harapnya masih bagus untuk diestrak keluar untuk di jadikan action plan hehehe.

2 hari sebelum berangkat pulang, badan tiba-tiba jadi lemah, terus demam panas yang dah lama tak kena. Badan mengigil kesejukan, tapi temperature tinggi.. sampai sakit telinga. Masa balik naik flight dengan Mishel pun, still naik temperature. Hmm.. adakah ini rezeki untuk menghapuskan dosa-dosa kecil? :)

Setibanya di Qatar, petang itu, aku gagahkan diri untuk sama-sama berlari.. tetapi kerana Maqeel yang agak cranky, aku tidak dapat meneruskan larian dengan jarak yang betul. Sekadar berlari disekitar dia, yang sedang syok bermain di tempat senaman.

Pagi tadi pula, aku cuba untuk ke ofis, bekerja dari jam 7 sampai 12, akhirnya aku mengalah juga, setelah di yakinkan beberapa kali oleh sahabatku di ofis, agar aku pulang berehat. Ya, sebenarnya demamku masih belom kebah. Batuk dan selsema pula takyah cakaplah, memang mengganggu!

Jadi mungkin aku akan ambil cuti rehat sampai hujung minggu, kalau masih tak rasa demam kebah. Hmm.. rasa bersalah untuk ponteng kerja lagi, tetapi, apakan daya, inilah lumrah kehidupan.

Doakan kesihatanku kembali! :)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

South Korea break

Hanasayor.. sayoran.

Korea was a great break, although we have 3plus days, it is enough to make us feel like coming back but during much nicer weather... say autumn? We can't survive the winter there! It was horribly freezing and we can only manage to walk not more than 30 minutes outdoor before feeling numb on our toes.. gosh.. i do not know how i survived living my life throughout winter in London last time! Some more going out wearing sock on top of a pair of crocs! haha.. ancient history.. i miss that day  though :)

We took AirAsia X to fly off to South Korea, upgraded ourselve to Premium using the Option Town offer, only paid like RM100++ for the upgrade, which is sooo worthy of the 6 hours journey with the super comfy fully reclined seat (more like a single bed to me). And yeah.. the steward/ess are much nicer to you too. So, that's how it feels traveling on Business class huh? Bilelah nak dapat rase tu..

2nd day, we felt like a bit adventurous, checking in to Korean traditional home stay, which by expectation is some nice home owner that will serve you breakfast and make your bed for the night in a spacious yet traditional woody room. AND how wrong was I. The room is not only small, literally fits 2 people lying on the floor flat with some room to stretch and to make it worst, the bulky traditional furniture take up most of the space.AND the worst is finding that the floor heater is not really circuling the air, so in order to feel warm, one have to lay flat on the floor. Gosh.. memang saje desing untuk org masuk tido terus ni!! Mengecewakan! :(

Here's our souvenirs to kill 2 minutes of your precious time.. hopefully you enjoy it, (kutuk dalam diam je la k..hiks)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Summary of our summer break in Malaysia

Holiday has never been enough, especially if you are spending it in your own home country. Being expats for nearly 8 years, we have always treasured our moment when we are back, squeezing as many things-to-do and things-we-wanna-do all in the little time that we have. It is tiring, yet satisfying! Even the kids love it.

Our summer break this time starts few days before Eid Al-Fitr. Breaks for Eid are always big in Malaysia. The norm for Muslim is to celebrate Eid for a day or two, but we'd do it for the full month! And of course, the best is the first few days, where everybody is usually available for family gathering.

Myself and hubby is quite lucky that our families lived nearby, so most of us are there to celebrate together. Everybody are looking lovely in their new 'baju raya' we call it which means new clothes/garments for Eid. And the tradition is to shake hands asking for forgiveness from each other, then giving away 'duit raya' to children which means money slipped in colorful envelope. After some photos we'll then dine together to enjoy the traditional food such as lemang, ketupat, rendang and lodeh.

The activities will continue as such for the whole day, going from houses to houses of family and friends. It is not just the food that we are after, but it's to continue and strengthen our siratulrahim (bonding). So for a month, we've been enjoying this 'datang beraya' (visiting) to so many places whilst taking some holiday breaks.
We have been up and down the peninsula, from Semenyih to Seremban, Kajang, Tampin and then to Cameron Highlands for 'Raya' gathering. Cameron Highlands is slightly higher thus chiller than other parts of Malaysia. Being there with my siblings and their family giving me back my childhood memories. Everyone enjoyed their time there. At night, we even lighten up the place with some fire crackers and 'bunga api'. In Cameron you can experience some strawberries plucking and having a cool break in tea plantation area, at least slightly away from the hot Khatulistiwa.

We've also been to Kedah for a friend's wedding. The special thing about this friend of my husband's is, he was best man for 13th friends before finally tying the knot himself.
After few days, we continue with some more of 'raya' activities and went for day-trip to Singapore, visiting the Merlion and Singapore Flyers. We then travel back to Johor Bahru for a night over. The next day, we spent the whole day in Legoland and overnight at its super fun hotel. The kids especially were thrill. It was our second trip to Legoland Malaysia, it was never dissapointing. Maybe I'll write up a special review for it next time, pray for my 'rajiness' k haha.

Packed with activities, we even flown to east coast of Malaysia and spent 4 days and 3 nights in Kuching, mainly for marathon run that I have shared in my previous post. 
There's an end to every story, and I am truly sad to part with my home country again. I can't believe our 6 weeks or so holiday is finally over. It was not enough.. never will. But hey, we have to go back to reality. :(

Till we meet again Malaysia.. lots of love from afar.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kuching Marathon Aku datang!

15 August 2014.. Me, my husband, 3 kiddos and their nanny together with Tok Mi, Tok Di and cousin Arif flewn to Kuching via AirAsia. Our short trip there mainly for the Kuching Marathon on 17th of Aug, which happen to be my husband's birthday. 
When we first arrived in KLIA2, our expectation from all the negative comments received from friends went up once we entered departure area. Nothing fit their comments. Everything is new, clean and excellent. There are walkalator too. In overall, we love it. The flight took off and arrived safely on time despite a slight bad weather that the captain professionally managed to re-route and avoid.
Once we came out from the immigration, we went straight to get car rent. Driving was no problem at all. We checked into Hilton, and lucky enough being given the waterfront view.  
We then went to collect our marathon pack in Plaza Merdeka, where we ate our dinner. The price of foods were slightly expensive in compare to Peninsular. 
The kids are all exausted and already asleep. So we (my husband and I) left them with the nanny and go for a walk near waterfront. Amazingly Hilton hotel is strategically located.. everything is very near and within walking distance. Our first destination is to cross the Santubong river to check out the other side's food court. We took the 1 ringgit boat and crossed it within less than 5 minutes. At 9 pm, the crowds seems plenty. We just browse around to seek for special and interesting food to try. Frustrated with the food court, we head back to Waterfront, as we have past by people who are enjoying set of crispy banana fritters cheese being served by one of the stall there.
We too decided to try the banana set. And the looks and smell are as delicious as the taste! We called Tok Di and co to join us, and within minutes they arrived. We even ordered sate set.. Which cleverly came with green lemang and few pieces of breads. The sate even taste better than in Semenanjung! There's no burn on the beef at all, and it is very soft. So like you've guess it, we ordered our second set. Full tummy and happy, we head back to our hotel to rest.
Kuching special sate
Next morning, we head to Kuching Cultural Village. The entry ticket for adult is RM60 and kids is RM30. But you can get a cheaper bargain if you took van transportation along with the ticket. You can ask the hotel you're staying with.
There are cultural performance twice daily at 1130 and 4pm. The performance is worth your time, funny.. And entertaining. It also plays like a short course history lesson, where they introduced all different races of Sarawak in musical. After we've done with the performance, it's time to walk around the village. Oh yes, I almost forgot.. When entered, you'll be given individual passport that you can stamp from one long houses to another. In each longhouse, you got to learn more of each culture from the place they live, clothes and activities. 
An interesting bridge to try
We ended our tour with lunch at the restaurant. I for once braving myself to try the local dish. The lunch set consist of Umai, Assam ikan, Manok Pasoy, pumpkins and rice folded in banana leaf. Honestly I can stomach Manok & pumpkin dish and not the other two. Not my kind of taste I guess. 
Rent out costume for Rm10.
At night, we went to try seafood dish in Top Spot food court. The place is crowded, but there are plenty of tables around. The services is fast and the taste is delicious. When it comes to the price, I was shock that off all our order consist of big prawn, squid, kerapu, crabs, veges, rice for 9, It didn't even reach RM200! Maybe becoz I was used to Qatar's price, which are all super expensive. Hehehe. Overall, we are all very satisfied with Top Spot. A must-go place to dine! We head back for an early rest, as the next day we'll join the marathon as scheduled to start from as early as 3am for full marathon. My hubby took half marathon which starts at 5am. I just signed up for 10km which starts at 6am. Overall, we love the event, race starts on time, water station every few kilometres and the route took us through friendly neighbourhood. Many makcik2 came out from their house and stand by the road cheering all the runners sportingly. And whilst running through the transition from dark to light.. we were welcomed by rooster's loud and proud calling. It is simply amazing. 
As expected, I did my worst this time. With no training for almost 2 months (I blame Hari Raya the most), my body was not ready. I couldn't go as steady as I could before, but thanks to coQhealth Shaklee, I could still finish the race, it could have been worst! I told myself, this is like training.. Walk run all i can, until I reached the finish line.
There were 6 of us from Qatar who came to Kuching just for this event. All of us are actually together in this small group of Malay runners in Qatar that we called PelariStyloYo. The founder and captain, Syafie Ahmad did his 7th Full Marathon there in Kuching. I am nowhere half of his achievement. Everyone was happy and satisfied to run our first Malaysian run together, even it is during holiday season, where everyone is still in the mood for ketupat and rendang, with none or minimum training. At least we've done it and not backing out :). 
Qatar PSY: Running Kuching Marathon 2014
After breakfast, my family and I heads to some adventure.. Seeking to watch Orang Utan. But unfortunately, we arrived during the break hours. And the note also said it is not recommended to see during this fruit season. So we opt for second best - Jong's Crocodile farm & Zoo. It was amazingly big, with lots an lots of crocs! I think it is actually a much better activities than looking for the Orang Utan to be honest. What make Jong's Crocodile and Zoo farm special are the way they landscaped the area, you will pass by some big lakes, then going through jungle using hanging bridge made out-of wood whilst the crocs waiting patiently right underneath. Just imagine when the bridge breaks! :D
After our accidental-yet-amazing tour around the place we head back to Kuching for lunch. Restaurant Nusajaya is simply the best in town! Had nasik goreng ayam masak merah and I literary licked the plate! heh..
That night, was my husband's 33rd birthday. I have planned to make a simple surprise celebration for him with whoever available in Kuching, and of course, the running buddies are all there to celebrate. Our plan worked out perfectly, with Mr Ai, looking touched and slightly red hehehe. After the small celebration at our hotel room, we head to cross the Santubong River (i:e Waterfront) to chill at Barok Cafe, which is a cool surrounding to be at. The slight raining adds to the amazing atmosphere.  
The next day, its time to head back, making one final stop at the Kek Lapis factory then we go straight to airport. Flewn safely with Airasia with thousands of happy memories. 
Kuching.. will we come back? 
Yes of course!

-Yeen -