New Memories Made in Lisbon, Portugal

Monday 28 August 2023

Lisbon is one of my favourite cities, and therefore on my list to revisit at some point in this lifetime. However, my friend Damaris kindly invited me to travel with her this year, and she is one of those friends I find difficult to say no to (please don't tell her). Besides, I have this trauma from travelling with friends in the past that until now I am still trying to overcome. Of course, I didn't tell Damaris this as I didn't want to put her off. But I'm glad that we both enjoyed the trip and made new memories together.

High on our agenda was to watch the famous sunrise in Lisbon, so we headed to Jardim Julio de Castilho to do this, however we were a little bit late. It didn't matter though as this part of Lisbon is the most beautiful early in the morning. 

A few metres away is the rather popular Miradouro de Santa Luzia where most people go to watch the sunrise, or listen to Fado music later in the day. I would prefer to go here early in the morning, before the rest of the world start to flock in. This viewpoint is famous for the stunning views of the Alfama district, however I also love the the beautiful bougainvilleas in the area- it's perfect for your instagram moment.

Not far from Miradouro de Santa Luzia is the Se de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral), one of the main sights in Lisbon. Unfortunately, the church was still closed when we got there, so I was not able to go in this time. 

One good thing about Lisbon is that you can walk from one place to another if you have the time and patience for it. This is exactly what we did during this trip. Seven minutes walk from the Se is the Arco da Rua Augusta, another famous spot for tourists and travellers alike, hence can be very busy. From here, we walked through Rua Augusta to check on the Elevador de Santa Justa, which I must say is a very busy place to go to and if you're planning to ride the elevator, be warned of the long queue.

In the afternoon, we took the tram 15E for a quick trip to Belem. I have been inside the Torre de Belem before so it was okay for me not to go in this time, and Damaris was not keen either. So, we had a rest on the grounds instead and admired the tower as we caught up on a few things in life. One thing that I must say is that don't be tempted to buy those pinacoladas because they are not worth your €15, even if they say it's unlimited refill as I'm sure you will not go back for more. 

One of the reasons why I also wanted to go back to Belem was the Pastel de nata from Pasteis de Belem. I could have gone anywhere for this, however nothing beats the original as they say. Their pastel de nata is always served warm and it's soft, creamy and perfectly sweet. I had take away this time, so I escaped the long queue.

Of course, a trip to Lisbon is not complete without a day trip to Sintra. This trip was my second visit to Sintra, however I still can't say that I have actually seen it. Admittedly, my trips to this very charming town was merely to visit the famous castles. Saying this, I still only have seen two of them. On my first visit, I went up to the Castelo dos Mouros. This time around, I made sure that I visited the most talked about castle, the Palacio da Pena (Pena Palace). Having only seen it from afar, it was quite surreal to have seen it up close and personal. The colours of the palace were mesmerising. I am glad I put this on top of our itinerary.

Whilst I never thought of watching the sunset in Lisbon, my friend Damaris was all for it, hence after we came back from Sintra, we headed to Ribeira das Naus for a glass of alcoholic drink and watched the sky and the sea. Er, unfortunately, the sun didn't set the way we were expecting it to. Regardless, it was a pleasure to have experienced the chilled atmosphere of Ribeira das Naus.

We capped off our last night by a late night walk to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for a night view of the beautiful city. Retrospectively, I think I might have put our safety at risk during this time as we took a very dodgy route. But, I blame it on the map. Not only that, as the viewpoint was on top of the hill, we had to climb up a very steep set of stairs to get there, much to Damaris's disappointment. I was afraid that she probably would not want to travel with me ever again. Haha.

As much as I was skeptical in travelling with a friend (again), this trip with Damaris was memorable. Perhaps I should have warned her before that I walk a lot on holidays, but let's leave that for next time.

This trip to Lisbon with Damaris put my mind at rest and helped me overcome my trauma. I'm grateful for her for giving me the opportunity to go back to Lisbon and make new memories. I'm sure this will not be our last trip together.

How Did I spend 16 hours in Dubai?!

Sunday 23 July 2023

After a few years of passing through Dubai, I finally decided to extend my layover so I can meet up with two special people, my niece Erlie and my nephew Moel. And it was one of the best travel decisions I've ever made, all because of those two who made sure that my first ever travel to Dubai was nothing but memorable.

I arrived at Dubai International Airport via Emirates (of course) just after midnight. My niece Erlie picked me up from the airport and we went straight back to her apartment. I haven't seen this beautiful lady for over a decade and seeing her in Dubai was so surreal. There was so much to catch up on and I can tell you now that the 16 hours I spent in Dubai was definitely not enough. As it was almost 1am, we decided to sleep as the following morning, we would meet up with Moel.

We picked up Moel from his apartment around 0730. And just like Erlie, I haven't seen Moel since he was a young boy. I am so blessed that despite the distance, we remained close and kept in contact all these years. It was a very sweet reunion and well, introduction for Erlie and Moel. After a short catch up in Moel's apartment, we headed out so I could see a bit of Dubai before I flew to Manila at 5pm on the same day. By this time, it was 8am. As I only had six hours left, we had to optimise our time. Luckily, both of my "tour guides" were very knowledgeable of Dubai, hence I saw most of the places I wanted to see and more, infact. Actually, I only wanted to see Burj Khalifa because you know, you've never really been to Dubai if you don't have a photo with the tallest tower in the world.Haha. And so, here's my Dubai itinerary, put together by Erlie and Moel:

1. Souk Madinat Jumeirah 
- From Moel's apartment, we took the taxi to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, one of Dubai's most famous shopping and dining destinations, only in traditional Arab market style. The market is located along a canal, near the Burj Al Arab. Unfortunately, it was still closed when we visited, hence I was unable to explore the Souk. This of course, is definitely one of the places I will go back to when I visit Dubai next time.

2.  Burj Al Arab
- We were conscious we didn't have much time to linger around in one place, hence we headed to Burj Al Arab which is just a few minutes walk from the Souk. Again, as this is a "taster" trip, I was happy with a photo with Burj Al Arab from afar. And I did exactly that.

3. Museum of the Future
- From Burj Al Arab, we took the taxi to the Museum of the Future. It was still closed when we got there, but I was very happy to see this incredibly unique building in person. I will definitely go inside next time.

4. Dubai Mall
- Of course I wasn't in Dubai to shop, however it was almost mandatory to visit the Dubai Mall as everyone who has been to Dubai talks about it all the time. So, from Museum of the Future, we walked to nearby Emirates Tower to take the train to Dubai Mall. I was happy to see the Patchi shop and of course, the Dubai Mall Waterfall. The waterfall runs from the 4th floor to the ground floor and has sculptures of men diving in, which I read, represent pearl divers in Dubai. Whilst at the mall, we decided to have a quick coffee then headed to our next destination.

5. Burj Khalifa
- Just outside Dubai Mall is The Dubai Fountain, overlooking Burj Khalifa. I know you can go up to the 148th floor for stunning views of Dubai, however this will (hopefully) for next time. I also would like to watch the light show.

Where we ate:
1. Papparoti - 1st Floor, Dubai Mall
- As I didn't have a list of restaurants and cafes to try in Dubai, I left it for Erlie and Moel to surprise me. For breakfast, they took me to a cafe inside the Dubai Mall called Papparoti. I read about it afterwards and found out that this is actually a Malaysian cafe. I must say that their butter buns were really good. I had the Lotus Biscoff as topping which was very rich. Overall, it was a good choice of cafe.

2. Observatory Bar and Grill- Marriot Hotel, Dubai Marina
- Lunch at the Observatory Bar and Grill was a surprise from Moel and this is probably one of the most unforgettable restaurant experiences I've ever had. Everything was outstanding.  The restaurant has a breathtaking 360  panoramic views of the Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah. Whilst I am not that keen on restaurants with a view because in my  experience, they're often loud and food is mediocre, I really, really enjoyed our lunch at The Observatory. Everything was outstanding in my opinion and I would certainly recommend lunch here.

And that's how I spent my 16 hours in Dubai. I am most grateful for Erlie and Moel for going above and beyond in ensuring that I had the best experience in Dubai. This was my first trip and I am definitely going back. 

Finding My Purpose at 47

Tuesday 11 July 2023

I love birthdays and I always look forward to mine. This year though,it feels kinda different. The excitement seemed to have been overshadowed by feelings of regret, inadequacy and overall melancholy. These feelings have been building up for the last three months and yesterday, it finally blew up. For the first time since my 39th birthday, I was honest with myself and accepted that perhaps I was and still am having a birthday depression, or commonly known as birthday blues. I remember one of my good friends reminding me on Friday that it was soon my birthday weekend. My reply was, "I am not even thinking about it." The weekend went, and then Monday came. I started becoming an emotional wreck. I was feeling very down and cried a few times throughout the day. J tried his best to comfort me, but that even made me feel worse. I felt a complete failure. And then I started asking myself why. Why was I feeling that way? 

Then I reflected on the last year, most especially the last six months. I think a lot of the negative feelings that I have right now is due to the fact that I have been confused and have lost my focus in the last six months. All of a sudden, I couldn't find my purpose. I was overwhelmed by the thought that I have made a (very) wrong decision and now I am screwed. Someone actually asked me if I had any regrets. I was in denial then and said no. But in reality, and deep inside my heart, I knew I probably made the wrong decision. Or perhaps I didn't. Until now, I still don't know. God only knows and time can only tell. Although things are better now, I am still looking for that purpose.

That was yesterday. Today is a different story.

I woke up singing "It's A Beautiful Day" in my head. I heard myself humming to the lyrics of this beautiful and uplifting song, "Lord, I thank you for sunshine, Thank you for rain". Then I whispered to myself, it's a good day to be alive. I checked my mobile phone and saw messages from my immediate family and close friends. I felt a lot better after reading their heartfelt messages. As the day progressed, I received more messages. Then one of my good friends sent me a message saying, " In your lowest moments, always remember you have had a good year and you are going to have even better years. I'm so grateful for all the good lessons and counselling sessions and to many more." I couldn't help but cry. Then heartwarming messages continued to pour in, reminding me how blessed I am. One saying, " Continue to be a leader, continue to share kindness, good advice and loving words to those who need it most." I am not one to seek affirmation from other people, but I guess I am quite lost that I now need other people to remind me of what I am? Whilst I had a clear purpose a year ago, I now feel like I have no purpose in this life. Then one of Keith's friends greeted me and said, " So grateful to have met a person like you. There's a reason for it." And so perhaps, there is a reason for my existence after all.

From that moment, I decided to stop being miserable and enjoy my day instead. I got ready for lunch with J at our favourite restaurant. I was edgy to begin with, really quite unfair to J who was trying to give me a good birthday. But then I calmed down when he said something funny. We had a good lunch and when we got home, I opend my gifts and  read the best birthday card I received this year- from 9-year old Poppy who said that I always put a smile on her face. If this is one of my purposes in life, then I would gladly take it.

I know this is quite a negative birthday blog, but I don't know how to express myself any other way. For reassurance,  I am definitely feeling better now after a very good day, thanks to J and my family and friends who added value to my day.

As my birthday draws to a close, I look forward to another year of finding my purpose in this life. For now, I thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon me the last year. I pray for nothing but good health and inner peace this year.

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