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pro tip: sit at the sushi bar and ask the sushi chefs for their recommendations – our guy made us a lot of delicious rolls that weren’t even on the menu! pair your meal with cold sake served from a silver tea cup.

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sparkling hills: a day in the life

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8 am – get out of bed (after almost nine hours of sleep) and go to breakfast in my robe. request a table next to the window and enjoy a free buffet breakfast of meats & cheeses, scones, a spinach salad with strawberries & a ton of goat cheese, veggies & hummus, potatoes, slow-roasted glazed ham, sausages, and coffee.

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8:30 am – go back to the room, open the sliding window, and tan in the sun while digesting the meal that could have fed the entire country of china.

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9 am – transfer to the pool (despite the weather network telling me it’s only 12 degrees outside) because it’s too hot in the room. grab the only lounge chair in the sun at this hour, and resume “beached whale” position.

11 am – contemplate running away and living here forever. look up property while laying by the pool. find out that you can buy a two-bedroom/two-bath (plus den), 1,475 sq. ft. property on the golf course for the price of a one-bedroom 500 sq. ft. condo in vancouver.

11:30 am – take a sip of ice-cold water from my swell waterbottlehow is it still so cold?! it’s been sitting in the direct sunlight for the past two hours! amazing. feel pleased with myself for making good life decisions.

12 pm – i wonder what the temperature is, this is perfect. check temperature: 18 degrees. yup, that’s my perfect temperature.

1 pm – go for a dip in the pool, because it’s starting to get a little too hot. get out and resume “beached whale” position, and enjoy temperature reset.

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1:45 pm – fill up water bottle with cucumber water from the tea lounge, and enjoy a cup of tea.

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2 pm – return to pool area, because life is better outside.

3 pm – the sun has fully disappeared. maybe i should go to the gym…

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3:45 pm – gym time. am i voluntarily doing dumbbell thrusters??

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4:30 pm – i need a snack. i should probably also wish my dad a “happy father’s day” because of the time difference.

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5:30 pm – join a semi-private yoga class in the most beautiful studio.

6:45 pm – pour a glass of wine, turn the music on, put this blog post together, and make my way around all the steam and sauna rooms before bed. set my alarm so that i have time for breakfast before my massage tomorrow morning.

i can’t even explain the type of serenity that comes over me every time i stay at this place. it’s as if nothing in my life actually matters and i’m just so content sitting here, staring at these views. i’m not missing anyone, i’m not longing for anything, i’m not replaying the past, i’m not planning for the future or running through to-do lists in my head… i’m literally just sitting here, soaking in the view and just breathing. it’s relaxation at its finest.

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“sometimes, you just need a break. in a beautiful place. alone. to figure everything out.”

dubai: no taxes and no cold weather, what’s not to love?

visitng dubai has always been on my bucket-list and recently, i finally got a chance to go. what an incredible city: warm weather, an abundance of nice rooftop lounges, and beach clubs everywhere. my perfect city! definitely a bit excessive at times (aka the indoor snowboarding hill found inside a mall, plus the huge aquarium complete with sharks and diving cages, also found at a mall) but this city has it all. if north america and asia had a baby, they’d name it dubai. it was surprisingly clean, which was a shock to me because most cities in the world that i visit usually aren’t (i’m looking at you new york). it’s an expensive city, but with good reason, and at least the salaries people make there match up. friends that live there are making much more than they would doing the same jobs here in canada, and no one gets taxed on what they earn, which makes a massive difference! there’s also an extensive expatriate community there, which i found really refreshing and comforting, probably because of the way i grew up as a tck. amina, one of my best friends that currently lives there, put together the perfect itinerary for my vacation.

bliss lounge at the sheraton on jbr

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bliss was one of the first places i went to during my trip, and i fell in love immediately. i couldn’t believe that such a place was just a short walk from my friend’s apartment! it reminded me of beach clubs in bali and embodied the definition of “vacation” perfectly. beds right on the beach, waiters coming right up to your bed to serve you food and drinks, deep, chill, house music (accompanied by a live saxophonist), and the softest sand beneath your feet. i know the sand is technically “fake”, but it felt as real as the softest, whitest sand i’ve stepped on in tropical islands in asia. i ordered the rainbow roll and the sushi was surprisingly decent, i was not expecting to find quality sushi in dubai.

barasti

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barasti is another beach club that we went to – not quite as classy as bliss, but still relaxing and fun nonetheless. how casual it is was actually quite refreshing, because most places in dubai won’t let you in without proper footwear (aka no flipflops) and a reservation. great drink and food specials during happy hour, and turns into quite the outdoor beach club at night – there’s nothing like dancing to awesome house music while being barefoot on the sand.

shades at the address hotel (dubai marina)

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the address hotels are a huge chain of upscale hotels in dubai, and one of amina’s clients for work. a rocket pesto linguini with prawns from shades makes the perfect lunch. paired with a drink, on a bed, poolside with a view… you can’t really ask for more.

the palace (address hotel downtown)

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the palace is also part of the address hotel chain, and another place we went for poolside drinks… but this time in tents.

helio

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helio is a place i discovered on my own, while amina was at work one day. it was right on the marina, which looks similar to vancouver’s seawall because it was designed by the same guy. i ordered besara (a traditional egyptian recipe made with puree of skinless foul blended with dill, herbs and garlic, topped with crispy fried onions) that came with pita bread, and my own personal shisha (which is very common there, i swear the air just permanently smells like shisha).

barracuda (on jumeirah road)

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my friend mace took me to this amazing seafood restaurant where we were able to pick our own fresh items and have them cooked. it reminded me a lot of jimbaran in bali. we ordered an assortment of prawns, fish, and clams, along with the side salads and pita bread. i was wondering where the alcohol was on the menu, and mace informed me that no restaurants in dubai could serve alcohol since it was illegal, and that the only places that were allowed to serve alcohol were the ones in hotels. ohhhhh that’s why we were always drinking in hotels! 

tom & serg

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cute contemporary brunch place that originated in australia. i ordered the smoked salmon and poached eggs on zucchini fritters, with hollandaise a side of avocado. it was delicious, gluten-free, and they served great coffee there too.

atmosphere at the burj khalifa

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atmosphere is the lounge on top of the burj khalifa, the tallest building in the world. i can’t even explain how incredible it feels to be up that high. there’s something so calming about being so far from the rest of the world. the lounge has a wooden interior, and i felt like i was on a private jet or a high-class yacht. we had window seats and made it right in time to watch the sunset. these stuffed olives (one of the better bar olives i’ve had in my life) and smoked almonds (they almost tasted like meat) were served with our drinks, and both were incredible tasting.

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also located inside the burj was the armani lounge. your dubai experience isn’t complete until you’ve had a glass of champagne here.

i went to a few more places that aren’t pictured here: mall of the emirates, the dubai mall (the biggest mall in the world), a “dive bar” (which was still really nice and located in a hotel) to watch the hockey game, the le meridien for poolside drinks to the sunset (where we also saw peacocks just randomly roaming around), and also to eat at maya, the mexican restaurant there (we sneakily got in without having proper reservations), and some restaurant next to the burj, which had a great view of the fountain show. one week in dubai definitely wasn’t enough time and there’s so much more i want to do (like the all you can eat and drink brunch at atlantis, the palm) but not to worry… dubai, i’ll be back.

jakarta: bakmi gm and the marriott buffet

when we landed in jakarta, nothing felt familiar anymore. i know a lot can change in a decade and i knew about all the ongoing developments throughout the years, but i just couldn’t believe how different everything was! it was like i landed in a city that i’ve never been to before, not a city that i’ve spent nine years of my life in (which, to-date, is the longest time i’ve ever lived in one city). i’m so glad one thing was still exactly the same: the food. especially at two of my favourite places in jakarta, bakmi gm and the buffet at the marriott.

bakmi gm

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i can’t even put into words how happy it made me to have bakmi ayam again, after craving it for ten years and not being able to find this dish anywhere else in the world. it tasted exactly how i remembered it – it’s funny how food and the way it tastes can elicit so many memories. bakmi gm was still in its same spot in pondok indah mall, and had the exact same menu. pangsit goreng + bakmi ayam + teh bottle = a perfect first meal in jakarta and the first thing that felt like home.

sailendra, the buffet at the marriott hotel

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despite being bombed twice, this place is exactly the same – from the layout to all the food served. i was pleasantly surprised and incredibly glad that this was one of the few places in jakarta that didn’t change a bit. it is seriously the BEST BUFFET IN THE WORLD. the sections of food available are as follows: seafood (oysters, crab legs, lobster, shrimp, etc.), japanese (sashimi and various sushi rolls), indian (all types of traditional curries with basmati rice and naan), chinese (different strains of noodles soaked in soup, with meat and other garnishes), indonesian (traditional indonesian dishes like nasi goreng and mie goreng), italian (pizza cooked in a wood-oven and pasta made right in front of your face), cheese (all types served with crackers, bread, and slices of meat), desserts (all kinds of decadent cakes, slices of fruit, and a chocolate fondue fountain), and a section of miscellaneous dishes that can’t be categorized by country, but includes items like roast duck and racks of lamb. oh and i think there’s a salad bar somewhere there too, but this is not the time to waste precious stomach space on a salad.

if you ever find yourself in jakarta, these would be two places i highly recommend checking out for food.

bali: my personal travel recommendations

after almost a decade, i returned back to one of my favourite places on earth this december – bali. boy has it changed. first of all… traffic?! secondly, wow has it become expensive! this isn’t the cheap asia i used to know and love. pitchers of sangria at potato head were $50! i wouldn’t even pay those prices here in vancouver, which is allegedly, the most expensive city to live in north america. also, “the place to be” has changed from kuta to seminyak (although it was nice to see apache, bounty, and paddys still all there on the streets of kuta). but despite the traffic, the inflated prices, and all the rain that happened in the two weeks we were there, beautiful bali still remains on my list as one of my favourite places in this world. there’s just something inexplicably magical about it that will always remain close to my heart.

here are some of my personal travel recommendations taken from my recent trip back:

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have a bintang – you’re in bali, it’s obligatory to make this beer your first drink. it might also be the only thing you drink, since it is significantly cheaper than all the other drinks on any menu. it was even cheaper than the mocktails (cocktails without the alcohol aka JUICE) my mom drank.

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eat nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles), and satay ayam (chicken satay) from a warung. “warung murah” was the best warung we ate at on this trip. “warung” is a stall on the side of the road that serves food and “murah” means “cheap” in indonesian. warung murah can be found down the street from seminyak square and serves legitimate indonesian food for very cheap prices (especially considering it’s located in seminyak). a plate of nasi goreng or mie goreng was around $3 (or less, i can’t remember the exact prices). the satay ayam (pictured above) was my favourite.

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grab a bed at potato head and watch the sunset. despite the $50 pitchers of sangria, potato head still served $4 bintangs (our beer of choice not necessarily out of choice, but more out of cost). the beds have a minimum spend of 500,000 rupiah (around $50), which is not hard to do with drinks and sunset snacks. there’s an infinity pool that overlooks the beach and is equipped with a swim-up bar. deep house music + the views + good company + a drink in your hand = ultimate relaxation.

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watch the sunset at kudeta and order from their “grazing” menu. they actually have a grazing menu. kudeta is very similar to potato head (in prices and vibes), and another great place to go to relax and catch the sunset. we even went for a dip in the ocean and came right back. their moroccan eggplant house made dip served with pita bread (pictured above) is so tasty, and their no kisses for you tonight (confit garlic puree, parmesan, parsley and mozzarella) pizza (also pictured above) is simple, yet so delicious.

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experience the best seafood in the world at jjimbaran. i’ve been to a few of the restaurants lined up along the beach, and all have been spectacular. you can pick out what you want to eat (crab, lobster, fish, etc.) and you can literally pick the specific live pieces you want to eat from the tanks out front of each of the restaurants. they will then prepare your meal for you fresh, and serve it with a side of rice and kangkong (water spinach) stir-fried with chili and spices. a little fresh fruit platter is also served for dessert. there are tables and chairs set up right on the beach where you can enjoy a nice meal by the ocean. heinekens were actually the same price as bintangs at the restaurant we ate at during christmas eve, which was a welcomed change.

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stay in a poolside room at the vansanti, create a makeshift swim-up bar, and eat breakfast overlooking rice-terraces. for around $60 a night (expedia deal) we lucked out by getting a room that was literally connected to the pool. i thought the concierge was speaking metaphorically when he said that the room was so close to the pool that you could jump in… but it was meant in a literal sense, because you could just jump into the pool from your room since the patio (equipped with lounge chairs) is connected to the pool. the staff is extremely friendly and so accommodating. the free buffet breakfast that’s included is amazing – the food in general at the restaurant was great, which was surprising for a hotel. there’s a rooftop lounge located on the sixth floor with impeccable bali sunset views.

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chill on a beanbag along jalan double six. this was, hands down, my favourite part about bali that didn’t exist ten years ago. this strip of the beach is quiet and lined with restaurants that lay out beanbags right on the beach. servers come right up to you to take your order and serve you beer and food on the beach. there are also women who walk around randomly offering spa-services, such as mani/pedis.

what are your favourite things to do in bali and favourite places to go to? please leave me a note in the comments, i’d love to hear your own personal travel recommendations!

sisig and san mig

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sisig is a filipino dish made from pork (parts of the pig’s head and liver) that’s seasoned with calamansi and chili peppers. it was one of the first full meals i had in the philippines, paired with a san mig at the republ1c wakepark. definitely a great way to start my vacation.

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the burnt toast cafe, whitehorse

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i was flown out to white horse a couple of months ago to run this promo for pedigree, who partnered up with the animal shelter for this event – it was one of the best promos i’ve ever done, and so hard not to take a puppy home with me! it was my first (and potentially last) time in whitehorse – the people were really nice, but the town was extremely small and surprisingly expensive. the buildings were old and worn down – it was like the town was built in the 1950’s and was just never touched or updated again. my $170 a night “hotel” room was on the first floor, didn’t come with air-conditioning (it came with an electric-fan standing in the corner), had 20 channels on the tv (half of them were static), and had this sign sitting in the bathroom:

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i arrived late at night, realized i didn’t have cellphone service (apparently there are no rogers towers in whitehorse), checked-in, and was terrified that someone was hiding in the closet ready to murder me.

the sun came out the next morning though, and i’m pretty sure i discovered one of the best things about whitehorse – the burnt toast cafe. it was located right across the street from my hotel, and served a phenomenal breakfast. i sat right by the window, and the sun shined directly on me while i ate my delicious meal (here’s their brunch menu) and drank my coffee. the waitresses were so friendly (i found that everyone i met in whitehorse was generally quite nice) and the place itself was super cute.

would i ever come back to whitehorse? probably for this cafe, to see the northern lights (but i’d stay at this resort next time), and to see this face again:

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