July 20, 2017

Christmas Weekend in Bahrain

It was the Christmas weekend when we visited Bahrain by road. Coming from Riyadh, we drove for around five hours and spent almost an hour for the passport and immigration processes in King Fahd Causeway Authority. The queue of vehicles going through the processes in the border were long that weekend, or maybe, it's always long during weekends due to the influx of both citizens and residents wanting some time out of the country. The processes were fairly fast anyway since almost all of the gates were operating that time.

What were the documents needed?
Before visiting any places, we first read on about what we needed to prepare. For this specific travel, we had to be sure that we didn't forget anything since we were crossing border control to get to Bahrain. In our case, we did not need to apply for visa beforehand since visa-on-arrival are granted for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) residents if traveling by road. 

You can check your eligibility for a Bahrain visa in their visa service website here. Just fill out the information needed and the website will show you if you are eligible or not. Furhermore, we got the following visa conditions if travelling through the causeway:

Conditions for Causeway Visit Visa (Saudi Resident)
We brought our passport, original iqama (residence permit), and printed exit re-entry visa (for assurance). We then paid for the car insurance and visa-on-arrival fee of BD 5 per person which allows for a 7-day stay in Bahrain. After the checking processes went smoothly, we were welcomed into the country with the remaining length of the causeway.
Welcome to Bahrain!
Where did we stay?
We looked for affordable hotels that fit into our budget using different hotel search engines, comparing the location, rates, and amenities of each. When we found a reasonable place to stay in, we called the hotel to reserve a room but it turned out that they were not fully-booked that weekend so reservations were not necessary.

We chose to stay in Windsor Tower Hotel for a night. We were greeted by the reception and they asked for our passport (which they kept during our stay) and marriage certificate. We paid BD 25 for a night stay with buffet breakfast for two. 

Queen-sized bed, comfort room, and a small entertainment space
It was also our wedding anniversary getaway!
Michael, claiming our passports and receipt when we checked out

We did not encounter any problem staying in Windsor Tower Hotel. We loved our stay though the room would be much better if it were cleaner. The breakfast buffet were good and there were enough parking spaces. We believed we got a good deal with our stay.

What did we do/ Where did we go?
Since we only had limited time to explore, we only went to a few places. Despite the lack of sleep, we managed to attend the last misa del gallo in Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The mass was jam-packed with Filipinos and we definitely felt that it's Christmas for the first time in the middle east. There were Christmas decorations all over, bibingka and puto bumbong were sold right outside the church, and there was a beautiful nativity scene for everyone to see. Attending the Catholic mass was one of our reasons for visiting Bahrain and it was worth it.
Filipinos waiting, one after another, to take a photo in front
We were interested to visit the souq but since it was the weekend, the narrow streets were crowded with people and we had no idea where to park safely. Instead, we just drove around while looking at some stores and found our way out of the crowd after going 'round and 'round.
Where were we gain?!
Next, we came to see the Bahrain National Museum. Entrance fee is BD 1 per person. It was huge; we spent around two hours checking out all the displays and exhibitions there. We pretty much enjoyed exploring and reading the history and cultures of the country.
Michael, posing outside the museum
One of the displays inside the museum
We also had the opportunity to meet a friend and her family, who we haven't seen in years. We had our brunch together and caught up with what's going on in our lives. We only spent a few hours with them and we're definitely happy to see them.
Michael, cute Zach (their little boy) and me at the back; Lira and Miguel in front
Our weekend visit in Bahrain wouldn't be complete without going to one of the places that's missing in Saudi Arabia - movie houses. We do not always go to cinema, unless we really like a foreign movie or a really good independent Philippine film would be screened and probably wouldn't be distributed. Anyway, since it was December and a plenty of movies were screening that time, we went to the movie house - twice. We watched Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them in City Center, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in Seef Mall. We enjoyed the two movies, even if I'm not (yet) a fan of both wizards and jedis.
Took a photo before it got crowded
Lastly, we dropped by an old fort called Sheikh Salman bin Ahmed Al-Fateh. It was built in 1812 and well-preserved until now. I wished that there were tour guides here to tell the history of the fort. Nevertheless, the architecture, facade, and the overlooking valley were worth checking out.
Inside the fort
It was winter when we came to Bahrain
We might have a short time to experience Bahrain, but at least we still have a good list of more places to see if we ever find ourselves wanting to visit Bahrain again. Though we loved spending our Christmas there, nothing still beats spending the season of love in the Philippines with family and loved ones.


Few more months and it's Christmas again, listen to (and maybe download) this amazing Christmas album by Donewaiting and Each Note Secure:

June 28, 2017

Eid al-Fitr in Riyadh

This year's Eid al-Fitr, my husband and I chose to just stay in Riyadh throughout the holiday, except for that day-trip to Al-Khobar. Maybe some other time (if we are still here), we'll go to other cities like Jeddah, Makkah, or Abha.

Surprisingly, there were still a lot of amazing spots in Riyadh that we haven't been to. Most of these places were just an hour drive away from our home. We visited three new places that were recommended by locals and fellow expats. Here they are:

National Museum of Saudi Arabia
Entrance is only 10 SAR per person. If you enjoy museum visits and like learning through displays and artifacts, prepare to spend 2 to 3 hours reading about history and going around the exhibits. But if you're just passing the time and just want to check out the museum, an hour stay or less will do. The park outside the museum is good for picnics and to just chill out. I appreciated more the presentations and flow of this museum than the one we visited in Bahrain. They are both educational, anyway.
Rawdat Khuraim (The King's Forest)
There's a huge designated public area which can accommodate people who like to picnic and camp. The parking areas are also spacious.  We saw an herd of camels looking for food when we went. I think it's best to visit during winter or during the transition from winter to summer when the forest is booming with colors. During summer, the forest could be too dry, nevertheless, you would still enjoy it especially if love bird-watching.
  
Camel Trail 1
If you are into hiking, then Camel Trail 1 would be a good choice for you. You don't need a 4x4 car to come here, just be careful driving in the rocky roads. Trekking down and back the trail would take an hour if you're fast, and would leave you sweating especially in the heat of summer. Don't forget to bring your water and towel. The surrounding views are spectacular. We've been here twice and we usually met a group of two, who also hiked the trail.
  
We hope to see more places here while we have the opportunity. The circumstances for expat living in the kingdom are becoming more challenging every year. We hope to get as much as we can from the experiences of living here. :)

P.S. Sharing another nice song here. Have a listen!

May 28, 2017

In Jubail for a day

Maybe it was the lack of things to do or the thirst for some adventure that pushed us to visit Jubail for a day. We had been to Al Khobar a few times already but never had a glimpse of its neighboring city. So off we went one Friday morning.

Jubail is one of the cities in the eastern province of the kingdom. Since it is a host of industrial cities, I haven't imagined it to have a greener landscape. Upon entering the city, the landscapes were more inviting and relaxed.

We visited the Al Nakheel Beach. It's still summer here but we didn't care much (at first) about the humidity and the scorching heat. We didn't bring picnic mats because we thought that there would be cottages like in Half-moon beach, luckily we found a carpet tucked away near the palm hut that was available. We laid it down the sand, ate some snacks while looking at the clear sea and the people enjoying the beach.
View from the palm hut
Clear waters and palm trees in the distance
A family swimming at high noon
A man fishing in the no-swimming zone
It was almost noon when we decided to leave the palm hut because it was becoming too hot. We looked for a restroom and then found a better spot to just hang around. There were enough spaces for picnics and family get-together, and play pens for children. But since it was summer when we went, there were no children playing. I would imagine the place to be jam-packed when the climate gets cooler.
Trees providing shade to most benches
Swings in the play pen
After my husband took a short nap on one of the benches, we headed somewhere else and wished to visit the beach in the cooler months.

April 29, 2017

Pilipinas

Birds chirping, tricycle and motorcycle engines starting, people talking by the sidewalk, and trees swaying: these are some of the sounds that I miss in the Philippines.

We went home to the Philippines last April 2. My husband only spent a week and had to go back to work while I stayed for the rest of the month. I did enjoy my time in Naic but it would have been best if my husband didn't have to go back quickly; he needed the vacation more than I did.

What I love about coming home is the feeling of being present with nature. You can just go outside, take a short walk, and see God's vast creation. You don't need to go too far. I tried as much as I could to put in my memory the beauty of the fields and greenery, the sea, the clouds, the blue sky, and everything so that when it's time to go back to Saudi Arabia, I have them with me.

I took the following photos when I wanted the beautiful natural colors to be captured. They're best when seen with your own eyes. Hopefully, we can visit the Philippines again, soon. :)
Birds and the blue sky
Sunset in Ternate
Sand and palm trees
Visita iglesia in Inmaculada Concepcion
Clouds and tall buildings

March 28, 2017

Purchasing from iHerb

I was having bad breakouts when I decided that I should improve my skincare routine, therefore investing in good skincare products. I guess my breakout was caused by the treatment that was prescribed by my gynecologist; maybe my body was adjusting to the drugs at that time because my face was just doing fine before the treatment. Anyway, I was looking for affordable products with good reviews which do not contain harmful chemicals. Then I read about iHerb through this blog. It pretty much answered some questions I have about ordering from iHerb and having delivered the products to Riyadh.

I read about the reviews and the product information before deciding to finally purchase. I ordered the items below for an affordable price (inclusive of the shipping fee.) I chose DHL express since it seemed more convenient than the other options.
When the package was on the shipping process, DHL sent an email about the required documents such as the filled out form from the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), copy of identification, copy of prescription (if any), and copy of invoice. DHL sent a code to download the form below.
 
I found out in my succeeding orders after the first one that a clearance from SFDA was not asked anymore. Maybe the clearance was only required for first-time orders, I'm not really sure. It was also easy to track the parcel through the number iHerb sent me. In case that the DHL page does not show the update or progress of the delivery after a few days, I suggest contacting iHerb about it.
Finally, after four days, I received the parcel. I checked each product and they seemed to be in perfect condition. I'll leave some reviews of the product in the website soon. So far, I love all the products I ordered. Great buys!
Aside from these products, I also ordered supplements and had no problem with clearance. Vitamins and supplements in iHerb are way cheaper than those in stores here.

If you happen or like to order from iHerb, I definitely recommend it. For first-time orders, they give discount when you use the code WELCOME5, or you can also use my rewards code JIL5716 to get a discount! :) 
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