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