Saturday, May 18, 2013

Koh Samui - Corona Malaysia, Let The World Wait

Thanks to Corona Malaysia, a total of 25 winners and their plus ones are invited for a trip to Koh Samui, Thailand in conjunction with the Corona, Let the World Wait contest.

Now, finding the 6 packs of Corona as the proof of purchase was not an easy feat, but alas I managed to get mine after hopping from one shopping center to another. After submitting the forms and such, one thing led to another and voila, the rep from Corona called and I managed to snag a spot to Thailand!

Thailand was actually the remaining closest neighboring country I've yet to visit (the other 3 would be Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia) and this is a great start though I least imagined that my first trip would be Koh Samui instead of Bangkok. C'est la Vie.

On the 10th of May, we gathered at Subang Airport to board the direct flight to Koh Samui via Firefly. The flight is one hour-ish and we arrived shortly at a resort looking airport of Koh Samui. After clearing immigration, we were transported to a tropical resort located at the beach of Chaweng, Chaweng Buri Resort. Navigating the labyrinth of rooms while in awe of the architecture of the resort was surreal.

There were 6 bottles of Corona waiting for us in the room, with the signature lime wedges that goes along with the beers. The absence of bottle opener was challenging for noobs like me, but we quickly learned how to remove the caps barehanded. Trade secret. Go figure how :) (Don't hurt your gums though)

It is well connected to the Chaweng beach alongside with other resorts that shares the long stretch of sand and sea. The resort is also alongside Chaweng road, a compendium of shops and eateries that caters much to foreigners. From McDonalds and Starbucks to local delis and restaurants, one thing for sure, we won't be able to starve here (with exception of being broke of course).

The street is lively during the night, from musics played at pubs to interesting 'Ah Guas' that are out to attract clients and street food, boredom is never an option.

The following morning, we chose a tour that brought us to the island of Tao and Nang Yuan. Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan are located an hour or so, boat ride, so be prepared to bring your sun tan out. I felt that the tour goes on a very fast phase, the boat ride to the islands takes about an hour from Koh Samui, having said that the boat ride itself could be tiring.

Le parents very happening, snorkeling and all.
Au Muong Resort at Koh Tao, with the burning sand. Really.
Having visited 2 locations, we spent only two hours or so on each islands, definitely not enough for snorkeling at your own phase. Never the less, the island themselves worth the long journey. Crystal clear water glistering with the sun light, these remote beaches are truly breathtaking.

Koh Nang Yuan
Food in Chaweng. What we had was of course traditional Thai cuisines for dinner on the first night and indulged in seafood barbeque on the second. McDonalds here serves pork burger, and being deprived of McDonalds pork burgers in Malaysia, we decided to give it a try. They do taste good, but heck, we have plenty of Pork Burgers joints in the Klang Valley, so I probably wouldn't miss it that much. :)

They do exist. LOL
Oh, King Prawn in Chaweng Buri, lovely place to have your breakfast. Facing the beach while indulging in hearty breakfast, with requests of bacon and eggs cooked to the style of your choice, I truly live the life in paradise. Yazaa!

Breakfast lady. Too bad can't tapao her back to Malaysia.
It was Mother's Day on the Sunday, and I was glad to bring the entire family here (it was our first family vacation overseas as well).

Time do passes by fast when we're having a good time, and before we know it, we are back to the Samui Airport. Thanks again Corona Malaysia for the memorable trip, and we look forward to creating more memories with them in the nearest future.

Female powerhouses - Kanmani, Florina, Not-a-female, Kelly and Crystal

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tips and Tricks : Dubai

I'll try to make it a point to go on a long haul trip every April, just to continue the tradition that inadvertently started in 2012. Dreams are dreams, and one can only keep wishing or work hard to reach that goal, and treasure the opportunity that comes when you least expected. That was exactly what happened to me :)

Anyhow, here's a few friendly things to share during my short stay there, 27 pointers for my 27th birthday recently.

1. Dubai, alongside Abu Dhabi and 5 other emirates forms a federation of emirates, known as UAE. General  difference between Saudi Arabia and UAE is that UAE in terms of Dubai are the city cleanliness, liberality and alcohol/pork sales.

City of Dubai
2. Dubai's cash cow are mainly tourism, real estate and financial services though traditionally built on oil industry. Emirati only form less than 20% of the population here, the rest are expats/'pendatangs'.

3. Average high temperature in Dubai can reach up to 34 °C, if you can survive the hot weather in Malaysia, you can darn well survive Dubai despite the misconception that countries with desert are constantly scorching hot. Breezy when I was there, rain and sandstorms are uncommon but just prepare yourself just in case you encounter them.

4. Malaysian passport holders who visit Dubai will not require a visa prior entering the country, will be given to you upon arrival for 30 days. If you're caught working here with a visiting visa, you can be fined AED 50,000 and banned from entering UAE, according to Ministry of Foreign Website.

5. If you're using the British standard 3 pin plugs, you don't need a universal adapter in Dubai.
6. Dubai driver seats are on the left, and they drive on the right side on the road.

7. Brace yourself, locals/workers over here aren't exactly that friendly like many of the Asian countries. But at least they're not snobbish.

8. Personal and Income Tax in Dubai? No need to pay. Gahhhh!!!!
9. The white robe wore by men here is known as kandura, whereas the ladies will conventionally wear the black garment over their clothes known as abaya.

10. Be wary of taking pictures of the local women here as it may be offensive for some of them.
11. Islam is the main religion here with Arabic as the main language.

12. If you have a full day or two to spare, you can opt for the Big Bus Tour, a hop on/off bus tour that gives you an insight of the City (Red Route) and Beach (Blue Route) areas of Dubai. The 48 hours tour if purchased online will cost you US$ 68 and the 24 hours tour for US$ 54 for adults. More pricing info can be found at their website.

13. You can get the Big Bus Tour on your smart devices, not limited to BB Tour Dubai but includes London, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Washington among others.
14. The current rate for AED sells at average 82.5922 for RM100, check your local money exchange centers for the best rates.

15. Burj Al Arab (Arabic: برج العرب‎,Tower of the Arabs), the fourth tallest hotel in the world and its designed to resemble the sail of the dhow. It is built on an artificial island, and it is accessible by a private curving bridge. Low budgeted people like me might not opt for a stay there, but there is always option like high tea and lunch which costs say around DHS 250, depending on the current rate offered by the site.
Oh yeah, their lobby is taller than the Statue of Liberty. LOL.

Dubai Mall
16. Best locations for shutter bugs would be around Jumeirah Beach of the Souk Madinat Jumeirah mall. Alternatively you can get as close as the entrance for a picture.

In front of Burj Al Arab
17. Indoor snow park and ski - Mall of the Emirates. Mall aquarium - Dubai Mall. Attractions to note.

18. Dubai Mall, though regarded as one of the largest mall in the Middle East, it is still behind (in terms of Gross Leasable Area) of 1 Utama, Mid Valley and Sunway Pyramid. But it is so worth it to see the huge arse aquarium here (have not compared to Aquaria KLCC) as well as Dubai Fountain show.

19. Do check on the Dubai Fountain schedule, 2-5 minutes show every 30 minutes.

20. Burj Khalifa is within a few minutes walk from Dubai Mall. If you plan to enter, do purchase your tickets in advance as walk in will cost you 3.2 times from the online purchase price. Alternatively, do camwhore near Dubai Fountain area for this iconic tower.

Burj Khalifa

21. Dhow and Abra are conventional/traditional transportation along the Dubai Creek. Nothing much to see really for me, just that you can view the city from the creek view.

The Dhow

22. Merchants in the spice and gold souk is aggressive in sales, do haggle furiously if you see something you like and politely walk away if you're not interested in purchase. Of course, once they detect that you have no interest, they will eventually let you go. Some of them furiously don the kandura for me, and asked me to take my picture. LOL

Lots of bling bling gold. Wouldn't bank on such display in Malaysia haha.

23. Most of the shops will not be open early on Friday as Friday is regarded like their weekend and prayers day.

Dubai Metro
24. Dubai Metro can only get you so far and from what I experienced, it is not as close as I know from famous tourist spots like Jumeirah beach etc. Just do your homework and you should be fine. And oh, the locals may not give you accurate information on where to go on foot. I alighted at Dubai Marina area and asked the locals if the Jumeirah beach is of walking distance, and it is not.

Dune Bashing

Meet my new pet :)
Had a good chat with Champagne the Camel
25. Do join the Desert Safari (either purchasing the tour online or from your hotel), and experience dune bashing, camel ride, arabic belly dancing shows, and barbeque in the desert. Valued experience I may add.
And oh, dune bashing is not as adrenaline rush as roller coaster rides of course, so you'll be fine :)

26. Alcohol are found sparingly at areas like hotels and certain higher end dining area. Food mostly of served of halal status, if you are comfortable with the mainstream restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, you would be able to survive eating in Dubai.

Within Dubai Airport
27. Dubai Airport. I still like Changi Airport and our own KLIA. Kudos to Emirates Airlines for their Business Class and First Class service. Probably the only time I would be able to experience these atas seats. Haha.

From Business in A380
To First in Boeing 777, prefer A380 though despite Business. LOL