48 HOURS IN SINGAPORE

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Location: Singapore 
Wearing / Aldo booties, romper from JC, belt from Topshop, Prada Bag

Originally, our plan is head straight to Bali from Dubai, however when given the option to do a stopover in Singapore, the beau and I didn’t think twice because we both have friends who lives in the Garden City.

It was five years ago when I last visited the country and I remember feeling so safe. The place is clean and organized, I would say it’s like a tiny and greener Dubai. It is also very cosmopolitan.

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THE CONRAD MALDIVES

The Maldives is the original ‘wish you were here’ postcard setting and I’m sure just like me, you saw pictures of the breath-taking beaches when you were a kid and dreamed about strolling along the endless white sands sipping from a coconut one day. Well that dream recently became a reality for me and suffice to say this place is absolute heaven on earth!  Whilst the Maldives is considered by some to be an ultra-luxurious honeymoon destination, I can honestly say that it’s a perfect piece of paradise that’s accessible to everyone from solo travellers, to water sports fanatics, so I wanted to take some time to write about what treasures you can expect to find.

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Located in the Indian Ocean to the South West of Sri Lanka, the Maldives are a collection of approximately 1,200 beautiful islands, of which only around 200 are actually inhabited. Flying there from Dubai takes around 4 and a half hours so it’s just a short trip to reach this stunning location. We took the overnight flight which meant we were lucky enough to be coming in to land as the sun was blossoming over the horizon, unveiling a jaw-dropping vista below, adorned with exquisite turquoise & white jewels in a sea of shimmering gold.       

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We landed in the capital town of Male where we then waited for the sea plane to take us to our resort, this is standard practice when going to the Maldives so if you’ve never had a ride in a sea plane then you’re in for a treat! It’s also worth mentioning that although this collection of islands is grouped relatively close together, Male is actually 1 hour behind most of the other islands so keep this in mind if you’ve booked something special for your arrival. 

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 We were staying at the Conrad hotel and they actually have their own lounge area in the airport itself meaning you can relax and unwind there whilst waiting for your connecting sea plane. They have a delicious complimentary buffet & spacious cabana style loungers to relax on, there is even a wonderful masseuse who offers you a complimentary massage just in case you weren’t feeling relaxed enough… I’ve never been so happy to wait for a connecting flight in my life!

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Upon arriving at our hotel, we were given a quick tour of the island by our wonderful hosts before heading to our villa. The Conrad complex itself is spread across 2 luxury islands which are interconnected by a short wooden bridge, with convenient golf buggies available 24/7 to whisk you effortlessly to wherever you want to go.

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I was interested to know that the Maldives is officially the world’s lowest country, elevated just 1.5m above sea level, in fact the highest natural point amongst this group of islands is just 2.4m in height. What this means however, is that each island has comes complete with its own immaculate white sand beach with the signature aquamarine halo that forms in the surrounding waters. Because the waters are so shallow, the sun is able to bathe the sea floor in nourishing light which gives life to a flourishing rich coral reef, this in turn attracts a stunning community of aquatic creatures from sea turtles to dolphins & manta rays.

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 Our villa was quite simply breath-taking, with the bedroom doors opening out onto a private terrace with a swimming pool and steps leading down into the beautiful turquoise waters below. Some of the villas on the island also come with their own outdoor toilet overlooking the ocean so you can watch the dolphins jumping whilst you answering your very own ‘call of nature’… (don’t worry, the neighbours can’t see in!)

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 As stunning as the room was, we were only there for 4 days so we wanted to experience as much of the place as possible. We’d crammed our schedule with all the wonders our island had to offer and we were lucky enough to spend our days sailing, diving and trying out some weird and wonderful water sports in nature’s secret paradise. There’s even an underwater restaurant where you can enjoy champagne & cocktails whilst dining with the mesmerising the sea-life swimming all around you.

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In the evening we enjoyed the glorious sunset from a yacht & experienced some the world-class alfresco dining venues dotted across the island, each with their own unique themes, menus and styling.

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This really has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited when it comes to raw nature in its very purest state. Its proximity to Dubai, climate and the warmth of the local Maldivian people make this the perfect place to escape for a long weekend to recharge your batteries and unwind!

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There are a wide range of luxury resorts for you to pamper yourself in but the all-round quality of staff service and experience offered at the Conrad takes the concept of world-class hospitality to the next level. So if you’ve not yet experienced the Maldives and were worried it might just be a haven for honeymooners (as I myself once thought) then please try it out for yourself as I really can’t recommend this place enough!

Here’s a short video I made from our trip, enjoy!

STAYCAY: VIDA HOTEL DOWNTOWN

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Location: Vida Hotel Downtown Dubai

There’s nothing better than escaping to a new city for a weekend retreat, however the hassle of dealing with airport check-ins and the cost of flights can often mean it’s just not time or cost effective. Whilst most cities don’t offer much in the way of a solution to this, Dubai truly has it covered and has created an entire micro-economy from the ‘staycation’ market. Recognising that tourism in the UAE slows down somewhat over the summer months, Dubai has actively marketed the staycation concept to its resident expat community in order to drive up occupancy rates in the hotels during the quieter season. It’s safe to say this pioneering initiative has been a massive success, with residents choosing to spend their weekends with friends & family in the comfort of some of the world’s most luxurious resorts… and just a stone’s throw from home. The hotels themselves enjoy a boost in off-season occupancy, the consumer gets a discounted rate on their stay and Dubai itself benefits by keeping its residents spending in and around the city instead of flying off to other lands to spend their hard earned cash.

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ALILA HOTEL JABAL AKHDAR

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This was my birthday weekend so we wanted to go somewhere extra special and we’d been advised to visit this mysterious land by many friends throughout our time in Dubai who had all returned with incredible tales and pictures of their adventures there. Two things stood out for me immediately from looking through their snaps and listening to their experiences. Firstly, was the beauty and diversity of the country’s natural landscape from the lush green mountain plateaus, to the technicolor coral kingdom’s in the South which bustles with aquatic life. The second was of the warmth and humility of the locals who are rich in culture yet humble & gracious in their ways. It was almost peak summer in Dubai so we opted to head for the cooler mountain region of Oman….the prospect of a chilled breeze running through my hair was sheer bliss!

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THE CONRAD KOH SAMUI

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We arrived in Koh Samui late in the evening and went we straight to The Conrad and spent a good three days there. Prior to our trip if I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, to be close to nature was enough for me. When we arrive in The Conrad, we were immediately brought to our own pool villa after a quick check in and as I enter the villa, we were welcomed with a bottle of champagne and fruits.

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As I make my way through the sliding door onto the villa’s private pool, I could not believe my eyes – the sea was calm whilst the sun sets highlighting the existence of distant islands. It’s one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed so I immediately put on my bikini and soaked at the temperature controlled pool and could not stop staring the sun et.

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The hotel is a collection of small villas set along the hills and thus lots for height differences between the lobby, rooms and restaurants as well as main pool. Our’s is set higher than the rest and we have a great view of the whole place.

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Transportation around the hotel is through a buggy, luckily the closest Thai restaurant was close enough that we can walk, the choice of restaurant was quite limited, however the one close to our villa was a Thai restaurant and it was perfect because we love Thai food.

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Prior to our trip, I booked a full day tour of the islands and had to cancel it because the hotel was too beautiful to leave, the hotel has it’s own private jacuzzi too and common infinity pool area with live entertainment at night. 

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We opted to spend the whole day in our villa then we went straight lounging on the beach and again feasted our eyes on the stunning sunset.

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Stay in Paradise
Location | The Conrad Koh Samui

The whole experience has been fab, looking forward to the next one.

STAYCAY: SOFITEL DUBAI DOWNTOWN

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STAYCATION

Location | Sofitel Dubai Downtown

If there’s one thing that’s great about Dubai, it’s the availability of so many incredible hotels to spoil yourself in during the weekends. There’s always something exciting about the prospect of a new environment and a luxurious staycation.

Normally, we’d choose to stay around the Palm area due to the great selection of hotels, central location and the guarantee of a perfect sunset view for sundowners.

For a change however,  my beau & I decided to stay in Sofitel Dubai Downtown. It’s located close to Dubai Mall which was perfect for a weekend of shopping, a stroll through Souk al Bahar & the Boulevard before finishing off with dinner by the fountains.

During our two day stay, we spent most of our time by the spacious pool relaxing whilst attended by their friendly staff. Home was 15 minutes away from the hotel but with the experience we had, it felt like we were on a proper holiday.

Which is your favorite staycation destination in the UAE?

CAVE AT CONRAD HOTEL

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Cave: Noun – “a hollow in the earth, opening more or less horizontally into a hill, mountain”

Surely not something you’d find hidden amongst the glistening skyscrapers that fringe Sheikh Zayed Road? Think again… The Conrad Hotel is infamous as one of Dubai’s most glamourous hangouts and it’s dazzling terraces adds that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ to just about any evening. Dig a little deeper into this labyrinth of splendor however, and you may be lucky enough to stumble across one of Dubai’s best-kept secrets… Congratulations, you’ve discovered Cave.

As you walk into Cave, you’ll feel an ambiance of calm wash over you. As you stroll through the beautifully lit caverns, you’ll notice some simple yet ornately adorned features. Cave provides a cosy, oasis of tranquility in a high octane desert city but it also has a secret talent. Whether you’re here for a work event, relaxing with a few close friends or reclining with that special person, you’ll experience a uniquely blissful escape from the outside world here.

After a warm reception by the staff, we were shown to our table and were offered a tour around the caves before being given the chance to explore the extensive wine furnished catacombs. If you’re a lover of fine wines, the cave is a must. With a vast collection of the finest grapes from across the globe, you can be assured even the most sophisticated taste buds will be delighted. Whilst you quaff your wine with great company, just remember that wonderful wines also require companionship. Cave has this all taken care and you’ll be introduced to an arrangement of the finest tapas imaginable. I’ve eaten in various Spanish & Latin American venues across Dubai and the quality of the cuisine in Cave is certainly up there with the finest. From the spicy, zest-fulled kick of the harissa marinated kalamata olives, to the tangy bite of the Spanish Cabrales cheeses, you’ll be taken on a journey through best that the rustic latin regions have to offer.

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After an evening of serious indulgence, it was time conclude an incredibly vibrant & relaxing experience. It’s a place I recommend to just about everyone I meet, from professional peers to loved ones. I always receive a thank you message a few days later and I think that speaks volumes about this sensational venue. Next time you’re passing along Sheik Zayed Road, I suggest you stop at Conrad and experience this incredible hidden treasure.

VANITAS – PALAZZO VERSACE

The Vanitas restaurant is located within the Palazzo Versace Hotel, the Renaissance-styled monolith that sits waterside within Dubai Creek’s up-and-coming Harbour district. The first thing you’ll notice when you enter The House of Versace’s latest extravaganza is the intricate & impeccable hand-crafted décor throughout. Within the lobby area itself rests a sprawling floor mosaic comprised of over 2 million hand-laid, marble fragments. These form an exact replica of the rug which sits in Gianni Versace’s Milan Villa… Now that’s quite the way to make an entrance!

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This neoclassical emporium is home to a collection of stylish boutique restaurants, each boasting a different creative theme from street food to experimental concept fusion. Vanitas however, follows a similar line of styling to the hotel itself & its interior walls are lavishly adorned in hand-crafted artworks spanning the opulent, yet tasteful dining area. Following a warm welcome by the host we are taken to our table, as we walk across the room we catch the gaze of joyful couples enjoying candlelit cuisine together. To my right stands large French Doors which open out to a terraced area overlooking the Creek itself, on this occasion it was a little chilly for al fresco dining. This dimly-lit terraced area plays stage to some beautiful Italian renaissance statues that elegantly pose before a backdrop of the Versace Hotel & Creek, providing all the right ingredients for a romantic evening with a loved one.

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Upon the recommendation of the host, we decided to try a selection of cuisines specially selected by the chef himself. Our first experience from the kitchen arrived in the elegant form of pan seared octopus, brimming with bright flamboyant Mediterranean colors. We were lucky enough to be graced with the presence of Head Chef – Andrea Gaea, who came from the kitchen to introduce himself and explain the imagination and history behind the vivacious dishes on display. Within a few moments of speaking with Andrea, it’s immediately apparent that his heart & soul, along with the heritage of Versace’s Italian homeland is lovingly reflected in each dish.

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TILAL LIWA HOTEL

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Tilal Liwa Hotel is nestled in Rub Al Khali Desert in abu Dhabi and a good three-hour drive away from Dubai. The hotel was originally built to accommodate people who joins the camel beauty contest that takes place every last quarter of every year. People all over the GCC region travels to compete in the said contest.

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SRI LANKA – TROPICAL ESCAPE ON A SHOESTRING

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Sri Lanka is a green jewel of an island which fuses together Western and Asian influences from throughout the ages.  Steeped in rich cultural and archaeological heritage, Sri Lankan’s are proud of their history and traditions. It bears the hallmarks of a country which has seen colonization and integrates some of the modern learnings and trades with their deep-rooted historical beliefs and practices.

Sri Lanka’s ancient artefacts and temples have been very well preserved throughout time by the peaceful inhabitants of this island. The amazing tea plantations which were founded during the British Empire are still a flourishing part of their economy and play a vital part to their bustling tourist trade. Sri Lanka is home to a varied mix of religions with Christians, Buddhists and Muslims able to coexist side-by-side within the same communities and praying in their respective places of worship.

The food has heavy Indian influences with ‘curry and rice’ on almost every menu across this land. The mountainous landscape provides a large variety of options for tourists who are keen to experience different things within a limited time frame. You can go trekking in the lush mountains and kite surfing one day, then elephant riding and sun-bathing the next. The locals are pleasant and the booming tourist based economy means that its safe to wander off the beaten track. As it’s only a short hop from the relentless summer sun in UAE, this low-cost tropical haven is the perfect destination for a long for anyone living in the UAE.

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TURKISH HAMMAM – JUMEIRAH ZABEEL SARAY

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Hammam is one of the things that I enjoy to do and this is no news to anyone, however it can be a daunting experience for first timers. Hammam is a steam room where Moroccans go religiously each week to cleanse themselves and it is famous across the Middle East.

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