Happy Birthday, Canada!

It’s Canada Day

July 1, 2013 is Canada’s 146th Birthday. Are you on a holiday mood?
Head out to Toronto ~ It's the place to be!

Canada Day Celebration in Toronto
There’s a lot to celebrate.  It’s a whole day-whole night Canada Day festivities all over the country. In Greater Toronto alone, there will be fireworks, barbeques and parties. Here is a list of this huge celebration.....


Trekking and Thrills in Laurel Batangas

Written by: Renante Arcillas

A particular place in Batangas made me enjoy nature to the fullest. Truly, it is worth a visit. If you are interested in trekking, thrill seeking, nature tripping and whatever activity you like to be doing, then consider a trip to San Gabriel.

San Gabriel is one of the 21 barangays in Laurel, Batangas in the Philippines. Its main source of livelihood is fish culture in Taal Lake and you will also see the rice fields on small paddies at the foothills of Taal canyon ridge.

Most of my friends like picnicking and having chit-chats in cool villas in a typical provincial setting. They are actually looking for the true meaning of the phrase "peace and quiet" and total relaxation away from the pressure of work.

In San Gabriel, most of the accommodations are run by Amansinaya Resort. A place for team-building activities and a resort that has a lot to offer to thrill seeker individuals.

In Amansinaya Resort, activities such as the obstacle course are prepared for the adventurous guests.  Not only you will climbed over the walls, jump on set of tires, swing over a mud hole, climb a challenging wall and play with the giant soccer ball.

But you will surely scream while hanging on the zipline. All these you will experience on your first day at the resort.  How about that for a thrill?

More and more excitement are building up on our second day in Laurel as we have to trek to Ambon-Ambon waterfalls. The way to this natural attraction is such an unexpected delight.

The clear and clean river that stretches along the road is fascinating. In barangays where electric power is not available,  green landscape, clean air and the sight of carabaos (water buffalo) feeding themselves freely for their veggie diet, is captivating.

No word can describe the refreshing ambiance of the scenic beauty of San Gabriel.

On our way to the falls, we greet and meet residents of Laurel. It's heart-warming to see the kids with ready smiles that shows the typical warm hospitality of the Batanguenos. As we reach Ambon-Ambon, there are other local tourists from the neighbouring Batangas towns, who, according to them, the falls is one of the most visited attractions in Batangas.

In the entirety of the challenging course, sliding on a giant mudslide is the most adrenalin-rush activity that literally, bring my blood to a boil. Splashing to the end of the slide makes you think that you are already beyond it.  The ride is scream and fun combined.  Oh, did I mention fun? I guess it is as exciting as skydiving and bungee jumping perhaps.

Barangay San Gabriel is an elevated place overlooking the view of the Taal Lake and Taal Volcano. This is an added attraction that nature lovers will appreciate. Meals are part of the package in Amansinaya Resort, obviously, your packed meals is not encouraged. I spent around 3000 pesos for the package tour. The food are prepared the Filipino way of cooking, so to me, it taste just fine.

I must say that my trip to Laurel, Batangas is just the tip of the iceberg.  A lot more beautiful places in Batangas is waiting to be explored but I have so little time.

If you are free on weekends or any holiday, head out to Southern Tagalog region and find Laurel which is near the historical smallest active Taal volcano... bursting with warm smiles and exploding with natural attractions.

Author Bio: 
Renante is a writer, director, blogger, municipal councilor and a TV show host based in Santo Tomas, Batangas. He writes and directs events and travel coverages to most part of the Philippine islands. Ante as he is fondly called is the creator of a character "Super Talipa" shown to the public of his hometown.


Why Toronto Travellers Prefer Furnished Apartments Over Hotels?

Written by Pamela Walker

In the global hotels and lodging industry, there is a new terminology being used these days called furnished serviced apartments.  These apartments are meant for both short-term and long-term stays.  In the past decade there has been a considerable rise in international travels and most travellers have shown their preference towards these furnished serviced apartments.  They have proven as to be the best options to the international travellers who are travelling for corporate meetings, for budget stays on long vacations, for those who are relocating and require temporary stays.

There are many other factors which have led people towards the preference of serviced apartments, as when compared there were many vital benefits of furnished serviced apartments over hotels.


Living the Alpine Dream

Written by Olivia Kane

Have you always secretly fancied a trip to the Alps, but dismissed the idea because you're not into skiing or snow sports?

Have you ever wished you could witness a spectacular sunset without having to climb a mountain?

What about that old cliche' about log cabins in the snow ~ ever wanted to take a trip to one, but dismissed the idea because well, it's just not for you?

Alpine Cottage
You're wrong!

A holiday in the Alps can be so many different things, to so many different people.

It's not all snow sports or mountain climbing - there's staggering range of things to see and do in this region of the world. The Alps stretch proudly across no less than 8 different countries.

That's potential holiday destinations - 8 invigorating and potentially life changing visits.


Saudi Arabia: The Untold Story

As I have been writing about less travelled places, I am blogging this time about cities and towns that you almost never heard of. I am certain you are reading many articles about Europe, Asia and the Caribbean so I guess it is time to read and be informed of the Middle East.

Sand Dunes in Saudi Arabia
You must have read my travelogues about Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and the 1000 islands in Kingston, Ontario in Canada.  These are the first two of the places I am giving you details and interesting photos. Kampung Ayer in BSB and the small and big islands in 1000 Islands in Kingston are just amazing.

Now, I am writing about a country that you seldom see and read in magazines and on the web.  A Kingdom that I live and work for a couple of years; a sophisticated high rise office surrounded by cities and towns next to the desert, beaches, camels and what have you.

What you see around my office in Saudi Aramco-Dhahran is entirely different from what you see beyond. I mean, it has modern office facilities in a world-class environment in the middle of the desert.

It is very comfortable working with dynamic and talented Saudi co-employees and expatriates coming from all over the globe who contributes combined skills.

Across the street are 16-storey high rise buildings provided for bachelors at Al-Munirah where I occupy a studio-type unit furnished, with all the amenities.  It is, indeed, a comfortable life doing my daily activities from 7 a.m. work in the office, off at 3 p.m. and proceed to downtown Al-Khobar to dine and shop. Then, back to my flat to watch television or go to the only one movie house within the housing facilities, or reading in a huge library or swimming in the pools just beside it.

There is no boring moment in Saudi Aramco because there is so much to do, contrary to what you must be hearing.

View of Saudi Aramco-Dhahran in the background

Air-conditioned buses are readily available to employees and their families to shop, to visit and do personal and business commitments. Saudi Aramco has its own fleet of aircrafts all over the Kingdom. It has its own airports and airline crews in every site as with other airlines. A very convenient and stress-free environment that is.

Going to the Saudi Aramco Beach at Half-Moon Bay for a picnic are what most of us, expats and local employees do. This normally happens on a Thursday or Friday, our weekend in the Kingdom. Otherwise, you will see us strolling in the Cornish area in Al-Khobar.
Chefs preparing for the Event
My friends wonder why I like the weather in Saudi Arabia, Dhahran's climate in particular. It is extremely hot in summer which can rise as high as 50 degrees Celsius and as low as 4 degrees in winter.  The sandstorm in the early months of summer does not bother me at all. Surprisingly, I enjoy all these matter what.

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, popularly known in Saudi Arabia as KFUPM, is our neighbour. Literally, just a stone throw.  I visit the university very often as many of my expat friends work in various departments.  No events and parties within the university that I am not invited.  It's been part of my work and life.  I miss my friends and some of the university students who also become my friends. I also miss the university campus that is part of my comfortable and enjoyable stay in the Kingdom.

There are pros and cons in all countries of the world, and Saudi Arabia is not an exception.  We never talk and possess forbidden items here.  Some of which are alcohol, narcotics, weapons, ammunitions, religion, pork and pornography.  All these are strictly prohibited. Don't even think about it.

Ramadan is a holy month in the Moslem world. Fasting from dawn to dusk is an obligation that has to be followed.  Local people do not eat, drink and smoke and work only six hours a day. Expatriates and non-Moslems are not required to fast. However, eating, drinking, smoking and chewing gum are never allowed in common places.

If you have lived in Saudi Arabia, you must have witnessed the uniqueness of the Kingdom as compared to the rest of the world.

Some people have been asking me what it is like to live in such a different environment. It is not easy at first but as I go along, I learn to adapt myself to every situation.  I can say that people are the same in every country. Respecting traditions and beliefs are equally important to the locals.

Expatriates during an Event
I have not read and heard good news and facts about the Kingdom for a long time. Up until now, the news on the outbreak of respiratory illness in the Middle East is all over. It is so sad to hear only the negative side of the Kingdom.

I can still remember buying jewelries in the gold market where buyers consider the weight of the gold and not the design or workmanship. It is indeed very true, though I have collected designs that I do not see anywhere in the world.

Gold shops are almost always segregated from other stores. They are lined up all in one place. You will not miss the place or get lost as is so bright and sparkling and impossible not to notice them.

Al Rashid Mall Gate 1 - Photo by Al Rashid Mall

The first big shopping mall in Al-Khobar, is the al-Rashid Mall as far as I can remember. Perfumes, brand items and other luxuries can be bought here. Find your choices of carpet, antique and other inexpensive items in the souq or local market as this is the place where you can haggle the price. You may want to buy the Sheesha or Hubbly Bubbly, a smoking pipe that is very famous and widely used by the adult male population.

Carpeted Venue of the Event
Strange as it may seem, there are customs and traditions in Saudi Arabia that one may not see and experience in other part of the world.

Men shake hands and good friends greet with a handshake and kiss on both cheeks. You will see boys and young men holding hands, assume that they are the best of friends and it is a norm. You will never see men and women together in public unless they are husband and wife. If you do, you will not see them displaying affection in public, or anything of that sort.

I was once invited to a wedding celebration of my Saudi co-employee and friend where I enjoyed the reception and witnessed the manner it is being held.  I did not see the bride. Men are separate from the female guests. The groom was with the male guests and the bride was with the women.

At the Saudi Wedding Reception

There was live music entertainment in the open-air big area. There are no tables as the reception area is covered with carpets. The food was served on huge plates while we were seated cross-legged using our right hand only in eating, and almost no conversation. The groom went around and made us feel comfortable. It is, indeed, an experience that I will always remember.

More stories can be told about Saudi Arabia, and you will continue reading them here in our travel blog.  

I can tell you about the white thobes that Saudi men wear during summer and changed at winter season to a darker colour like brown, grey or navy blue.  I can also tell you about the Abaya that is required for women and the traditional dresses that they wear in public places.

Has anyone of you travelled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

Do you have a story that you are willing to share with us?  Drop me some lines....send me a message.

Thank You Note: 

Some photos courtesy of a friend, MoAmine of KFUPM, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

From the desk of: 
Freddie Miranda
A blogger and a Canada-based freelance writer. He shares the value of his travel experiences and discoveries with his friends and fellow travellers. Share your passion, join and visit him. Send a message @ fromatravellersdesk(at)gmail(dot)com.


Top 5 Resorts in Singapore

Written by: Amna Alam
Singapore is one of the most popular luxury travel destinations in the world. The luminous city is home to several 7-star hotels and in recent times developed integrated resorts with built-in attractions for the entire family. With unlimited entertainment including casinos, restaurants, shopping boutiques and rooftop pools, everything seems to be larger than life in Singapore.
Lookout Points at Sentosa - Courtesy of William Cho

If you're looking for the ultimate urban retreat, here are 5 of the best resorts to explore in the island.

Shangri-La Rasa Resort & Spa
Guests at the Shangri-La Resort & Spa have access to a private white beach and can enjoy a variety of Singaporean and international cuisine. Both onsite and offsite restaurants include live cooking stations, indoor and outdoor seating. Try the famous Singaporean noodles at 8 Noodles, fresh seafood on the beachfront at Barnacles Restaurant and Bar, or enjoy Italian food at the alfresco-style Trapizza.