Posts tagged ‘Dubai’

Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai…

Before I went to Dubai, the only thing I know about  Islam is that they don’t eat pork and that Moslem men can have many wives. That’s all I know about Islam. I was born in a Catholic family and attended a Catholic school from primary to highschool. All I know is how to be Catholic. Lol. My first encounter with a Moslem was in University. That school have no requirements other than passing the entrance exam, so any person of any religion from any part of the country or even the world can go to that school, as long as you pass their entrance exam. I had a blocmate (person of the same course) who’s a Moslem from Mindanao. Let’s call him by the name Yusof. He didn’t tell us much about Islam, aside from the fact that he don’t eat pork. My knowledge of the Moslem world didn’t improve at all because of him. Hahahah

Anyway, so there I was, 2006, in Dubai and it’s my 2nd month there. We were in our shuttle to work (our office is in the middle of the desert) and our Administration Lady reminded us that it’s the start of Ramadan and it will be polite of us if we just stay inside the office pantry when we have our coffee, eat our snack and lunch or even drink water.  This is to show respect to our Moslem officemates who are observing Ramadan. She then explained to us, the so called “new employees” who just arrived in Dubai, that Ramadan is a month-long fasting during daylight hours, around 6am to 6pm for the Moslems. During fasting, they are not allowed to eat, drink and even have sexual intercourse. That act is to redirect them from worldly activities and cleanse their souls. She didn’t explain much but I was able to get the gist of the concept of Ramadan. (I read more about it later on.)

Anyway, came lunch time. Everyone was hungry and everyone went into the pantry to eat lunch. We were all huddled together in the pantry that wasn’t even enough to fit half of the Filipino employees in our office. Now, all non-Moslems are inside it. Its quite a funny scenario. It was like a crime to eat and anyone seen eating will be executed. But it was entertaining too. Some were eating while standing. Those who were fast enough to go to the pantry first get seats and table to eat. Those who are slow, either wait in vain or just eat while standing, leaning on the wall. Even when some of us are done eating we still stay inside the pantry but give the seat to another person. But yeah, we still stay there just for the fun of staying there.

Lunch time!!! 🙂

It was during this time too that I was able to really observe our Japanese bosses. They don’t really talk to us much. They just stay in their seats and still work while eating their lunch. Some of the crazy Filipinos leave the pantry when the Japanese bosses arrive and want to eat their lunch. I stayed and chat with the others just to observe them. One of them, he always take a photo of his lunch before he eats it. I found out later on that his wife makes his lunch and he loves his wife so much he takes a picture of it before he eat the food. I had a weird theory about this, what I was thinking that time was that maybe, when he gets home, his wife asks if he liked his lunch and there was an instance he forgot what it was and the wife became sad. So for him not to forget, he takes a picture of it before he eats and so when he gets asked, he knows. Almost everyone in out office thought this theory is crazy. LOL… The other Japanese boss, he eats very quick, without talking, chews fast like there’s a time limit. Another was very organized when he eats, always in poise. These Japanese bosses of ours are really interesting. You will think since they are all Japanese, they have the same manners, but no, they each have their own uniqueness that entertains us a lot. My favorite is the one who talks a lot while eating. Well he talks more than he eats. He’s often left by himself in the pantry. Well, that’s during the Ramadan period.

Another observation was the foodcourt situation at the big malls like IBN Battuta and Mall of Emirates. There was this one time we went to the mall during Ramadan and we went past the foodcourt and it was covered with some black cloth. LOL… Imagine a huge piece or whatever of black cloth attached to the ceiling covering all those tourists and non-moslems eating so that the moslems won’t see them. We can hear the clattering of spoons and forks!

Most foodcourts and restaurants are just closed and don’t serve food until after 6pm, when the Moslems are allowed to eat too. If you’re on the road during this time, you will see like a gathering of Moslems at a park sharing food and eating together after praying.

This was my first Ramadan in Dubai. The following year, I was more prepared for it, was not much of a shock anymore. Only the second time, I was dating  a Moslem guy and he won’t even talk to me during the day! Fasting to its extreme sense! LOL 🙂

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Desert Safari in Dubai

Almost every person I know who lived and still live or visited Dubai has done the Desert Safari Trip. It’s a good trip and is also cheap. The package includes pick-up from any point in Dubai, Dune Bashing (drive through the desert with a 4-wheel drive),  20-30 mins Dune Driving, Sunset Photography, Camel Rides, Belly Dancing show, Henna Painting, Hubbllee Bubblee (Shisha), Buffet and BBQ Dinner, Bar and Drinks and Photo op wearing the traditional costumes. The pick up time is between 3-4pm and drive back to Dubai City Centre is 9:30pm. Sand Skiing is an optional add and you have to pay extra if you want try this. There are a lot of tour businesses at City Centre who can arrange this.

Dune Bashing

I did this together with my Dubai Metro office mates as one of our ‘Office Shenanigans’ a.k.a. bonding moments. Hahahaha Most of those who joined were of course, the HAPPY HAPPY Filipino Crew! 🙂 Such fun times and one of the really good memories of my life in Dubai.

Desert along Al Awir Road

It was my first time to ride a camel. I don’t seem to look too happy on this photo. LOL.. It always seem like I’m gonna fall over.

Camel Ride with Ate Dorie

This trip, I reckon, is reasonably priced between 120-140 AED, around $32-40 USD.  For all the stuff included in the package. Dinner and Belly dancing on a camp somewhere in the desert was quite a treat too! 🙂

Belly Dancing Show


This is one of the funny things, the photo op wearing abaya! LOL Most of my friends told me it suits me quite well. I can be mistaken to be a local. Hahahaha

Tin as an Emarati 🙂

So all of you who’s planning to visit Dubai, this can be one of the things you can add on your list! 😉 Happy Travels!

36 Hours in Hongkong and my LUGGAGE! :)

So we landed, a heart-pounding landing! After the clapping and rejoicing that we’re still alive and luckily, no one puked inside the plane, passengers started getting their stuff from the compartments. Everyone’s in a hurry to go out. It’s like there’s a time limit and when you’re still inside the plane when the time expires, they won’t let you out. I just sat on my seat trying not to be dizzy.

It was horrendously windy outside with some very serious raining. There’s a storm in Hongkong. I thought since I have a 3-hour stop-over, the rain would probably stop and that in my flight toDubai, the take-off won’t be as “challenging” as the landing in Hongkong. So I searched for the gate number on my boarding pass where my connecting flight carrier will be. It was so crowded in the airport that moving and seeing where I’m exactly going was another challenge, given my height. LOL  🙂 As expected, I got lost and instead of going to the right end where the gate I’m looking for is, I went to the other end. I checked the screen showing all the flights going out of Hongkong to check the boarding time of my flight. My flight wasn’t there. And all those flights shown said it’s all delayed! OK, so I had no idea what to do. I eventually found the gate number I was looking for and found some familiar faces, Filipinos on my flight from Manila. They were all waiting, some people ranting that they need assistance and they want to fly soon! One of them was the woman with the kid (lady who looked like she was having seizures during the landing attempts of our plane!). I thought, woman, you’re scared to death with our first flight and now you want to fly again with this weather?? You gotta be kidding me!

Some hours passed, 1… 2… 3 hours… our flight still wasn’t on the screen. I started to get hungry. I felt so tired sitting there, thinking what if the rain won’t stop? How long am I gonna be here in Hongkong? Are the heavens not happy that I left The Philippines? Then all of a sudden, some Cathay Pacific staff went to the gate and announced that we won’t be flying anytime soon. They gave us call cards to call the people we need to call. I got 2 and searched for the phone booths. I found it but there were hundreds of people in line to make their calls. Ok, I waited again.

After an hour or so, another announcement was made by a Cathay Pacific Staff. They weren’t sure when the flights will resume, they have no clue when the rain would stop and due to all flights since that morning being delayed, it’s guaranteed that we’ll be there overnight. They asked us to fall in line and have our boarding pass out. They handed us $500 HKD each for food for the night. They also gave us some blankets and tiny pillows. They said that there was not enough space in the airport hotel to accommodate everyone stranded and only those in business class were accommodated there. I was so exhausted and tired and hungry that I didn’t have the energy to say anything; I just accepted the money and the blanket and tiny pillow. Again, the lady with the kid was the first one to rant. She said that we all deserve to be accommodated somewhere comfortable to sleep. Others followed with complaints. The CP Staff said that they’re not in control of the weather and that’s the most they can do, give us money and blankets.

So I got my blanket and pillow and money. I searched for a place to eat and I ate. After that, I went back to where the other Filipinos were and got myself a place to sleep. The tiny pillow was of no use so I used my hand-carry bag as pillow. I got the blanket out of the plastic but it was damp and it smelled like feet. I threw it away and got my hoodie and used it as some sort of blanket. I was starting to fall asleep when a baby started to cry; then another toddler, then a kid screamed, then the mother trying to make the baby stop crying started to talk baby talk that was annoyingly loud enough to be heard. I wasn’t able to sleep. I just lied there staring at the airport ceiling, hoping I was dreaming and that when I wake up, I’m in Dubai already. It was still raining outside, thought not as hard as it was that morning. I checked the time on my watch, it’s almost midnight. I managed to get a couple hours nap though it can’t be really called one as I tend to get up everytime I hear a baby’s cry or people ranting. I checked my watch again, almost 6am and the sun was about to rise. The rain got tired and it already stopped. I looked around and people, looking like zombies due to lack of proper rest, were starting to get up and gather their stuff. Some were already looking on the screen to check if there’s any progress on the flights.

I was feeling so queasy and dirty and muggy and I really needed to change my underwear and wash my face. I was tired and hungry and lost at what’s gonna happen or when we’re gonna fly. It was after lunch time that Cathay Pacific started to gather all of its passengers again and released new boarding passes. It indicated that we’re flying around 7pm and hopefully the weather stays calm. It was only 1:30pm that time. Another 5.5 hours to wait.

Eventually, time to fly again came. The take off was smooth and I slept almost throughout the whole flight. I was so tired. The flight attendant woke me up when it was time to eat and when we were about to land to Dubai. I looked out the window and saw some very bright lights. At that time, a big smile was formed on my face again. This is it! I am on the airspace of Dubai and we’re about to land.

We landed smoothly. The plane finally came to a stop and again, people got overly excited on going out of the plane and everyone hurriedly reached for their luggage in the compartments.

It was my turn to step out of the plane, I took a step and this very warm gush of wind welcomed me. (it felt like a hairdryer was directly in front of my face!) It was the warmest welcome from Dubai! 😉

So I walked towards the airport together with my now flying buddies and headed to the immigration counter where we got our passports stamped. Next was to get our checked-in luggage. Another announcement from Cathay Pacific, (they really loved us!), our luggages were accidentally placed in another plane and that plane is still in Hongkong! They asked us to leave a contact number and that they will contact us once it arrives.

It was almost 1 week since I arrived when they called our office and informed me that I can pick up my luggage from the airport. I had to buy some clothes when I arrived as I don’t have anything to wear to work. I was quite happy to see my luggage, sealed with packaging tape. My name on every space available wasn’t there anymore as water washed it all off. (apparently due to raining in Hongkong). My luggage was kind of dripping with water when I picked it up. I opened it at our flat and it wasn’t a very good sight to behold! All of my clothes were soaked in water. The food, specially the rice cake that I was supposed to give to a fellow Filipino was already spoiled and soaked in water too. Everything was just mixed inside my luggage. No one stole my bag or tried to put some lethal weapon or drugs inside, but the rain water found its way. 🙂 How lucky can someone be? Hahahaha

So there you go guys, my unforgettable journey to Dubai in 2006 that I don’t think I will ever forget. EVER! 😉

My next posts will be mostly about my work there and touristy things to do when in UAE! 😉

Hope you enjoyed reading! 😉

The day I left The Philippines and the memorable ‘FIRST FLIGHT’!

Soon enough, the day I fly to Dubai came. My e-ticket from the company who employed me indicated that I’m flying with Cathay Pacific and that there’s a 3-hour stopover in Hongkong. I was so excited and also nervous! I’ve never been inside an airplane before, more off, never been inside it, FLYING! 🙂

I got my stuff ready in my medium-sized luggage that weighed almost 5 kgs already by itself (this luggage was donated by my mother’s friend, but then, I eventually paid for it). It’s funny everytime I remember this luggage. It was covered with packaging tape all over and got my name and work address in Dubai in every space available. Reason for this, according to my mother, was that in case someone wants to get or steal something from my luggage or put something inside it, like drugs or lethal weapons, it will take that person ages to open it and that my name was for no one to accidentally take it and think it was theirs. I was not aware of the chances of these things happening but I gave in to what my mother wanted as I know it will make her calm. She was more nervous than I was. I thought that if someone wants to steal it, that person won’t even attempt to take all the packing tape off, he will just take it and run away. Besides, anyone who takes it, either by accident or not will probably try to return it to me or just dump it somewhere. Only 1/4 of the contents of that luggage were my stuff, like clothes and the rest were stuff for some Filipinos in Dubai who’s relatives asked me to bring them. I remember one that asked me to give some sweet peanut preserves and carefully packed and sealed home-made Filipino rice cakes to her son. (what actually happened to these, including my clothes will be on my next post! LOL) These and many other things you won’t imagine being in my luggage to Dubai. Mind you, nothing illegal! Just a bit unusual! 🙂 Hahahhaha… The “JOYS” of being a Filipino! 🙂

So there I was that morning in 2006 at NAIA Internatiol airport, about to fly for the first time! My mother was quite emotional as she hugged me goodbye before I entered the entrance to the Terminal. She shed some tears and uttered her last minute panic if I had all the documentation I needed. (I actually had a plastic envelope with my name printed in humongous capital letters containing multiple copies of documents and papers I need and won’t even need!) My father hugged me too and told me to look after myself. I had my last wave and entered the terminal.

Upon entering the terminal, all excitement vanished and fear occupied my whole system. What if the immigration questions my papers? What if they won’t allow me to exit the Philippines? What if they question all those food and stuff that’s inside my check-in luggage? Would I make it to my flight if they ask me to remove all the packaging tape around my luggage and take out all the stuff in there? What if I did get in and be inside the airplane and then something wrong happens? What will I do now that I am officially in charge of my self??? I was extremely scared but I continued walking  towards the check-in counter.

So I checked-in my stuff, got no questions, got my passport stamped and passed the immigration. Oh yeah! Haha. 🙂 Everything went well and I waited for boarding time at Cathay Pacific Lounge. (I never imagined that it would be that easy! I, together with my mother, definitely over-reacted, on everything!)

All my excitement went back when it was time to board our flight. This is it Tin. I hid my big plastic envelope with my name in humongous capital letters (hahaha, this still makes me laugh!) inside my handcarry bag and marched my way to the plane. I found my seat, placed my bag on the compartment, sat and put on my seat belt. Ok, Mr. Pilot, I’m ready to fly! ~ That’s what I murmured! 🙂

It’s just a little over an hour from Philippines to Hongkong. The second the plane started to move, I sort of pressed my faced towards the window. I don’t want to miss a second of the plane’s take off.  The plane started to move and there was that BIG SMILE on my face, but then all of a sudden, my ears started to buzz  (sh*t what’s happening to me???!!!). My ears felt like it was about to explode, I thought it was gonna bleed. I was about to call on the flight attendant when it started to ease and return to how it feels normally. Geeezzz… (I eventually found out, it’s normal to feel like that, esp. when it’s your first time to fly; would have been embarrassing if I freaked out! LOL) The view of Manila from the plane was quite nice, it was my first time to see it like that.

Some minutes passed and there suddenly came an announcement from the captain that we’re gonna experience a bit of turbulence as it’s raining quite hard in the area to Hongkong. I was still relaxed. He said ‘just a bit’, so I thought it will just be a little shake or some wee movement. Then after a while, I heard thunder, then there came the wee movement, then the sudden gush, then (sh*t!) that’s not just a bit of turbulence! I thought the plane’s in trouble! There came the pilot’s voice again, for us to stay calm and be sure to have our seatbelts on. Now, it’s a storm, not just some heavy raining! I felt the plane moving up and down and I suddenly got hold of my seatmate’s hand. It was like a rollercoaster ride (I hate rollercoasters!) I looked on the screen infront of me, it showed last 5 minutes till we reach Hongkong Airport. “OK, relax Tin. It will be like this for less than 5 minutes. Relax”, that’s what i told myself that time.  More shakes, more turbulence, lots of screams from passengers. I heard someone said, “Guys, let’s pray. Our Father…”. No one followed, someone answered it with another scream, “Eeeeekkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!”. I saw a woman who looks like she’s in convulsion, her whole body shaking and her face terrified; beside her, her kid who looked like he was having the time of his life, all smiles and happily screaming (he must like rollercoasters!) The next time I looked on the screen, it showed last 2 minutes. Time was freakin’ SLOWWWW!!!

The next announcement from the captain was that we’ll be circling round the airspace of Hongkong and attempt to land as safely and possibly as he and the plane can, else we’ll be flying back to the Philippines. He assured us that the plane has enough fuel and we shouldn’t worry too much. I looked again on the screen infront of me and saw that the time before landing was changed to 8 minutes… then 5 minutes… then 2 minutes… then back to 5 minutes… then 2 minutes again… (that was the longest 2 minutes of my life!) The plane was still going up and down, more turbulence, more screams, no one attempted to pray at that point anymore, even the flight attendant who was trying to still look composed and calm was already holding onto a seat.

And then the final dive, my stomach experienced a jump and the loudest scream from the woman with the kid… I saw the landing strip of Hongkong airport from my window as the plane was about to touchdown. We landed safely… Scared to death but safe!

When the plane finally came to a stop, I heard the captain screamed, “Woooahhh!!! Wooooohhhh!” I looked at the guy beside me, who’s hand I was still holding, we both smiled and then started to clap our hands, together with the other passengers in the plane. I had another look at the woman with the kid. She looked like she’s in shock and her kid, he looked like he just had the best time of his life!

I will never, ever forget this flight! My first flight, EVER! 🙂

 

my first ever boarding pass – flight from manila to hongkong. 🙂

The Dubai Surprise

The Dubai Surprise

Early 2006 and I thought that being a graduate of the Top School for Civil
Engineering in the Philippines, landing a good job will be easy.
But as it goes in the Philippines, it's not WHAT you know, it's WHO you
know.

It was like chasing shooting stars looking for a job in Manila together with
the 5,000 or so Civil Engineering Licensure Exam Passers. Of course, most of the
good positions, for fresh graduates, were already taken by those who
either graduated with honors, had their OJT (On the Job Training) in that company,
a relative of the Manager, a friend of a friend of the person who referred whoever or
someone who's just luckier than I am, perhaps. Haha

So not wanting to waste time and energy in the bustling streets of Manila, I
accepted a job offer (Haha, through a relative's referral) from a small private construction
company in our province and landed a job. They take projects from the Local
Government and construct and repair roads and bridges and public school rooms
and buildings. I was called "Project Engineer" and my job was just to oversee
the progress of the job and make sure our guys are working and following the plans.
But as the days passed, I was also asked to do stuff from bidding documents up to
collection of payment. The salary was extremely low, but hey, it's a job and everyone
needs to start somewhere. Ok, the salary was Php 6,000 per month with some
transport and food allowance, from time to time. At the rates that time
it's around $135 USD per month. Yes, you read it right, it's PER MONTH! :)

Most of it went to my mother. Being the eldest and the first University
Graduate of the family, it's like a thing that I was able to contribute
financially to our family - It's something quite normal in the Philippines,
especially to families who aren't really well-off.

At this time, I still had my dream of travelling the world, but I kind of
accepted that it will take quite a long time to do so. First and foremost, I
am not capable of it financially; even travelling around the 7,107 Islands
of the Philippines was highly improbable. The second reason, the limited
number of countries that my passport can take me, visa-free.

Then one day, after a tiring day at work, I arrived home and got welcomed by
my father's friend. He went to our humble home as he heard from someone in
our town (small talk can travel from end to end in small towns, haha) that I am a
Licensed and Certified Engineer and I haven't been successful yet in looking
for a good job. Well, I told him that I do have a job; it's just not that
flash. Still, I do learn something. Then there came his words that surprised me.
He told me that his brother just went to Dubai to work for a
big project and his boss asked him if he knows young engineers who are keen
to work overseas. I thought I was dreaming. I had no answer but "Yes!" He
gave me his brother's email and asked me to send him my CV. After 2 days, I
got a reply saying that his boss was interested in hiring me and
offered me a salary more than 10 times what I'm earning! I thought I was
still dreaming. With my couple of month's experience, he wanted to hire me
and work for a really big project, in DUBAI! And then the processing of the
work visa and documents took place. It wasn't really that much of a task as
the company did everything for me. All I had to do was provide them with my
personal information and some papers like my birth certificate and
University Diploma and my grades. They even paid for my airfare to Dubai!

At first I thought I was lucky. I was wrong. I am BLESSED! :)