Muscat, Oman – Day3[08.04.2017]

Last day in Muscat… we hadn’t visited must places to visit in Muscat, Royal Opera House and Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. We would have breakfast but we realised we don’t have enough time, so we skipped it and left hotel.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is only opened between 8 to 11am for non-Muslim. We reached there before 10am. Since this is mosque, women are required to cover head and all body. You may be able to rent abaya and Sheila but I’m sure this is not like Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, so I recommend bring them with you.

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Huge mosque with beautiful chandelier
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Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The admission was free. We walked around this beautiful mosque and spent an hour.

Next, we headed to Royal Opera House that we were waiting for 1 day to visit. The opera house is also opened for limited hours, 8.30am to 2.30pm. It would be nice if we could see opera in the opera house but we couldn’t find any play in our schedule, so we just joined house tour to see inside. The house tour was with group of people and a guide for 15 minutes that allowed us to visit auditorium.

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Inside of Opera House
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House tour

The interior was very beautiful of Omani and German Architecture. The admission was OMR3.

We were starving by the time and hadn’t tried Omani food here yet, so we went to Omani restaurant, called Al Angham Oman, located next to Opera house. This restaurant was supposed to be opened from 12 noon but the door was still closed. Then, I tried to open it and someone from inside opened the door for us. We couldn’t see the interior from outside but the place looked fancy…  We noticed the food a bit pricey when we had look menu and also all cutlery are made of silver..

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Beautiful table set represents all about this restaurant

My friend talked to the waiter and learned that this restaurant is a very special place requested by Sultan Qaboos and the staffs working here like chef, waiter are all Omani. We ordered a starter and two mains.

The food was very good and the way of their services was awesome. In addition, they gave us complementary dessert plate for each, has small portion of many kinds of sweets including halwa and frankincense ice cream.

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Complementary dessert

The total bill was approximately AED450 for two but it deserves to pay. Last supper in this restaurant became a highlight of our Muscat trip.

After lunch, we drove around the city a bit and headed to the airport as we have done all. We returned the car once arrived at the airport. We had time so that we waited around boarding area. There are shops to buy souvenirs but I recommend buying in Mutrah souq since the price is a bit more reasonable and they have many varieties.

We left Muscat at 18.05pm and arrived at Abu Dhabi at 7pm. Our journey was not finished till reaching Dubai…We took a taxi to go back home from the airport and it costed AED 190.

Oman was completely different from other GCC such UAE and Qatar which is very interesting and also easy to travel. Omanis are working for many sectors though this is the way of which country supposed to be, life in Oman could be simple, city has a great combination of ocean and wadi that is not much developed, etc… In terms of travelling, it is nearby and only one hour flight from UAE. There are many nice places to visit in Oman although we didn’t have time to visit outside of Muscat such as Nizwa this time. Hence, most places (or I would say all places I visited) including petrol station accept AED and give changes in OMR…

I wish to come back to Oman to explore  more and hopefully travel again with my travel buddy.

 

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Muscat, Oman – Day2[07.04.2017]

In the morning, we went to Grand Mall, connected with our hotel, to have breakfast. We had a big breakfast at Paul and left hotel for sightseeing.

We were not sure where to go because it seemed most places were closed in the morning on Friday. Hotel staff told us Royal Opera House can be opened, so we went there as our first stop in  Muscat. However, it was closed on Friday…

We had no idea about places we can visit… so just started driving to the way to Mutrah. We passed through Mutrah souq which would open at 4 pm… then reached old Muscat. There are some forts around the sea and we could tell from them that Oman was an Ocean Kingdom.

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Beautiful combination of fort and mosque

We left our car and walked around the area. There was Al Alam Palace which we are not allowed to go in and some government offices in Old Muscat.

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Al Alam Palace

We took some photos and went back to car. We still had 3 hours….

We had nothing to do… so went back to Mutrah. On the way, we found a big rock which people climbing up. Later we learned it is an old watch tower. It was around 1pm, so it was a bit hot in the sun but there was a nice breeze on the top and great place to see the view of Muscat port, Mutrah and sea.

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View from old watch tower

We could see the monument of incense burner in front of this place although we didn’t know it at that time.

We still had plenty of time.. then we drove around along the sea and around the city. There were not many places to see to be honest.

We came back to Mutrah around 3pm. There is Mutrah fort and we saw some people are trying to go up. We followed and tried to reach… it was like a rock climbing on the way and the best activity we have done in Muscat trip.

Although we did our best and went up, unfortunately the fort was closed and we could not go in.

After the activity, we were so tired. We took rest near Mutrah souq while having refreshments and waited for them to open.

Around 4 pm, many people were heading to inside of the souq and we also followed. There were many shops selling Omani souvenirs such as frankincense, khanjah, silvers that reminded me “Sindbad”. I bought frankincense and a small incense burner for myself.

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Mutrah Souq

We walked around the souq and noticed a lot of Omani people were enjoying shopping there. We spent one hour and left the souq.

One the way back to the hotel, we drove on Al Shati Street in Qurum which was like JBR in Dubai. There are restaurants and cafes along the street just in front of ocean, many people, especially fancy car drivers come. It was Friday evening and there was congestion around this area.

After that, we decided to visit Al Qurm Park just to see. We approached from Al Qurm Street but there was traffic and we were not able to find parking. We were about to give up and left. We drove on Bab Al Mathaib St while looking at Al Qurm Park on the right side and I found there is parking though I had no idea how to reach. We almost got lost due to my bad navigation but finally reached there after one hour. It was just normal park but we were happy as at lease we could come and see.

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Al Qurm Park

It was around 7pm after park visit and we were very hungry. We found people are selling mashakeeq and tried both chicken and beef. It was first time for me to try mashakeeq, like kebab in stick and I liked it. Our empty stomach was filled a bit and went to back to hotel to take rest.

After a short break at hotel, we headed to The Wave which is like very small version of Dubai Marina. We parked our car at The Walk, walked around and had dinner there.

We were exhausted due to long day and came back to hotel around 11pm.

 

 

 

Muscat, Oman – Day1[06.04.2017]

My friend and I decided to travel to Muscat in last minutes so we arranged flight and hotel one day before departure.

There are many flight options to Muscat such as Emirates, Flydubai and Etihad. Both fares of Emirates and Flydubai were pretty similar around AED 700 for return and we had to think of car park which costs AED 250 per day at the airport. In case of Etihad, I could get staff discount ticket which was AED 520. Then, we chose the best and reasonable option to take Etihad departing from Abu Dhabi.

We left Dubai after 5pm and headed to the airport by taxi. There is free shuttle bus from Etihad Mall, Dubai to the airport in Abu Dhabi and we first thought to take it. However, as it was staff discounts ticket, we were not able to book the bus we would like to take and our seats could be confirmed 20 minutes before departure. We didn’t like it and took a taxi from Dubai. The taxi we took was not Dubai taxi and didn’t have a meter system, so I negotiated it at AED 200. It was a crazy taxi since the driver was over speeding, so we reached airport within 1 hour.

As we aarived earlier than we expected, we had plenty of time at the airport. Then, we had small meal and coffee before boarding.

We left Abu Dhabi for Muscat at 9.35pm. The flight was full of people and we are assigned separate seat, so we moved to empty seats in back after took off. The actual duration was about 1 hour and we landed at 10.40 pm.

After arrival, I needed to get a visa on arrival. There are foreign exchanges which we can get visa from and 30 days tourist visa was for OMR 5. They accepted AED and I paid AED 60 for it. Anyway, I was entitled to get arrival visa since I’m a citizen of Japan and a resident in UAE. After that, I went to immigration counter and got stamp on my passport. My friend collected my luggage and waiting for me.

Next our mission was to rent a car. There were many rent-a-car companies opened even at midnight at arrival area. We rented Honda, Civic for OMR 29 (AED 285.23) for 2 days. Credit card is necessary to rent a car. Actually we wanted a bit fancy car as we wanted something better than Qatar trip but we compromised it since they only had basic cars.

We drove about 20 minutes and arrived at hotel around 12am. We booked Grand Millennium Muscat via Booking.com and the rate without breakfast was OMR 101.08 (AED 994.18) including TAX and service charge for 2 nights. The room wasn’t fancy but nice and comfortable.

 

 

Maldives – Day3 [06.02.2017]

We woke up early again to see sunrise. Even I saw it every day, it was beautiful and I would never be bored of the view.

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Today’s sunrise

We went out for breakfast and the restaurant staff prepared a table for us as it was our last day in the resort.

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Farewell message on breakfast table

However, we decided not to sit on that table since we wanted to sit where we can see outside view well although we felt bad for the staff. The breakfast was awesome.

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Today’s breakfast and view

We could rent sea kayak for an hour for free of charge, so we rented and tried to land at Moyo Island. This is an uninhabited island located between Veli and Dhigu Island. I really liked this island has wild natures and not developed. This is one of the best spot to take photo in this resort. Thus, I regretted I couldn’t bring any camera or mobile since there was a risk we fall into the water when kayaking.

We spent our time in the afternoon on the beach or on our balcony. Although we were in the resort, we were always active to do something.

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Lovely beach
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Overwater bungalow

Afterwards, I found the way to be landing on Mayo Island with camera. The staff told me I can take boat which is usually going to Dhigu Island and ask to drop us off on the island. I brought my sister with me that I needed a photographer to take photo of me though she preferred to stay on the beach. We took nice photos and went back to the beach on Veli Island.

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Moyo Island

My sister went for yoga session as usual and I decided to try yoga on the board instead. It was first time for me to do it even for paddle surfing. I’ve been doing yoga for many years but it was difficult to keep balance on the board and I fell into the water. Though it was fun, I don’t think I will do yoga on the board again as I felt like getting seasick on the board. It was USD 60 for 1 hour session.

Since we already checked out though we could use out room till 4pm, my sister and I went to spa on Veli Island to take shower before we leave. The spa was different from the one on Dhigu Island which is ocean front and located in the middle of Veli Island that the atmosphere was also good.

After we’d done our refreshments, we would have dinner at hotel. However, we didn’t have time to eat. The boat came to pick us up at 8pm and we left beautiful island for airport. It took around 40 minutes to reach.

At the airport, we quickly had dinner at food court before we checked in. I had Thai soup with noddle that was Maldives price. There were shops selling souvenirs at departure area. In Maldives, the places we can buy souvenirs were very limited that it could be either shop at hotel or at the airport. So, you can do shopping in last minutes at the airport as the price was not much different.

We flew back to Dubai with Emirates Airline and took off at 10.55pm. We slept most of time on the board and arrived at 2 am, so that actual duration was about 4 hours. My sister transferred to another flight to Japan and I reached home in Dubai at 3am.

I really loved my trip to beautiful island, Maldives and wished to stay longer. I have been to several beach resorts such as Hawaii, Guam, etc. but Maldives was the “resort”. We only stayed on the island, so basically nothing else to do except doing some activities. Therefore, it was the best place to forget busy life in the city and focus on only beautiful natures.

Anantara Veli Maldives Resort where we stayed was awesome. Especially Anantara Veli was for adults and it was very quiet. The room was clean with amazing view, friendly staff and Wi-Fi was available anywhere in the resort. We had a concern before we visited that we may run out of drinking water in the room but they provided us plenty of water when room cleaning twice a day, so there was nothing to worry about. Thus, they have many activities for both chargeable and free of charge so that you will not be bored in the resort even if you would stay for a long time.

I guess there are so many resorts, from reasonable to super expensive, in Maldives and you could be able to choose your resort depending on your budget. I would recommend this resort, Atantara for couple, group of friends and (maybe Anantara Dhigu for) family since the price was affordable and I really enjoyed. I wish to come back to again in near future.

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I love Maldives

Maldives – Day2 [05.02.2017]

I woke up early at 6am to see sunrise that we could see from our bungalow.

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Sunrise

After that, I went back to sleep again till breakfast.

We slept in a bit and then we went to breakfast at main restaurant around 9.30am. The breakfast was very good that they had many variety of food such as Western, Middle Eastern, Asian.

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Breakfast

The venue of breakfast was very nice that it was opened air which we could hear the sound of waves and see green palm trees.

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View from the restaurant

There is another Anantara resort called Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort which is quite closed to Anantara Veli, and all guests at Anantara had free access to another island. We could take a boat anytime without additional cost and it was only few minutes ride.

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Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort
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Anantara Veli Maldives Resort

My sister found there is a complementary 15-minute massage at spa on Dhigu Island, so we both tried.

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Anantara Spa

I liked the massage and I decided to extend by taking 1 hour reflexology. As it was in Maldives, even spa was a bit pricy that 1 hour reflexology costed USD 110, but it was worth to pay. While I’m having a massage, my sister was waiting for me in the pool at spa.

After spa, we explored Dhigu Island. Dhigu Island was more family friendly place as there was playground for kids. I found later that kids are not allowed to stay at Veli Island where we stayed. That’s why it was very quiet.

Before I went to Maldives, I expected there are many couples on honeymoon. Of course there are some of them but the resort was opened for everybody and people are more likely family and group of friends.

Then, we joined free yoga session at 4pm again. Yoga was held at open-air place and in front of sea. It was very nice feeling that I could only hear the sound of waves and wind when I was doing yoga.

After yoga, my sister went for spa to try reflexology which I had earlier. I was waiting for her in the pool at spa. It was time for sunset and the pool was a great location to see it.

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Beautiful sunset

We went back to our bungalow to take rest. At night, they had a movie in the sky from 9pm. The movie was West Side Story on that day. The musical based movie made us sleepy and we fell asleep in the sky instead. When the movie had started, many people were there, but nobody else was left when we finished it.

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Movie in the sky

 

 

Maldives – Day1 [04.02.2017]

Maldives, resort island… I had wished to visit there but I was thinking of going there “one day” and it didn’t have to be this timing. However, my sister wanted to visit when she came to Dubai to visit me. So, I accepted to company her with her sponsorship.

There are many options to take flights to Maldives from Dubai such as Emirates, Flydubai, Etihad, Qatar, etc. but I booked my flight at Emirates straight away since my sister flew with Emirates from Japan. The airfare was AED 3,740 although I booked in November. I realised that the fare would be cheaper like AED 2,470 if I stay in Maldives for 3 nights. But in case of 2 nights stay, at least AED 1,000 is higher even though I tried to search other schedule.

We were supposed to take off at 2.45am but the flight was delay and 3.30am. It was night flight, so we kept sleeping and woke up when just landed at Male. We arrived at Male at 8.20am. The flight duration was about 4 hours and there is one hour time difference between UAE and Maldives. We passed though immigration and headed to the exit. The staff from our hotel was waiting for us and welcomed us. The staff took us to the lounge at arrival hall to wait for other guests. The lounge was comfortable inclusive free Wi-Fi and drinks.

We would stay at Anantara Veli Maldives Resort for 2 nights. My sister booked overwater bungalow via Agoda.com and the rate was approximately JPY 160,000 (AED 5,300) including breakfast.

In Maldives, each island has one resort. So people usually access to the island by boat or plane. In case of Anantara, we reach the resort by boat and it costed USD 250 for return from the airport to resort which is excluded in room rate.

Once other guests arrived, we moved to private boat of Anantara and left for the resort.

It was a speed boat and quite fast but it took around 35 minutes. Sometimes it was shaken, so it’s better to take a medicine if you easily get seasickness.

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On the way to the resort

When we were approaching to the resort, many staffs welcomed us on berth while playing the instrument. Even from the boat, we could tell the sea is beautiful but island looked nicer with greenery. It was around just passed 10am and we checked in and could go to our bungalow.

Once I entered the room, I really fell in love with Maldives. The bungalow was great and the view from the room was superb!!!!!

The beautiful sea was just below our bungalow and we could see coral and fish. We went into water directly from our bungalow sometimes and took rest on the balcony.

After a while, we went out to explore Veli Island.

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The weather was perfect since it was dry season and the best season in Maldives when we visited in February. It was hot in the sun and it was pleasant if stayed in the shade.

We enjoyed walking around island and there are many wild natures on island as I found crabs, hermit crab, etc.

There was free yoga session from 4pm in the resort. Thus, we joined and did yoga for 45 minutes. It’s rare for me to do an activity on holiday, so I didn’t bring any yoga wear which I regretted. The class was pretty good although it was free.

After yoga, we went to infinity pool to see sunset. The sunset reflected on the surface of pool which was pretty.

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Beautiful sunset

At night, we went to Thai restaurant, Baan Huraa for dinner.

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Dinner

The taste was good but it was a bit pricy. We ordered 2 drinks, 1 salad and 2 mains, and then the bill was around USD 120.

 

Armenia – Day4 [11.12.2016]

Last day in Armenia

The city of Yerevan was covered with snow from previous night. I went out to explore the city in the morning before heading to airport.

First, I went to Cascade.

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Cascade

I needed to go up by stirs but it was very slippery and dangerous because of snow. Most likely it takes 5 minutes if there is no snow, but I took approximately 10-15 minutes to go up since I’m not used to walk on snow. I was expecting to see the view of Yerevan with Mt. Ararat. However, it was cloudy, visibility was poor and I could not see the nice view. Then, again I slowly took stirs to go down.

Although I planned to visit Matenadaran which is Armenian’s ancient manuscripts library, it was closed due to Sunday.

I took more time at Cascade than I expected and didn’t have enough time to go to museum or gallery, so I went to Vernissage Market. Vernissage Market is open-air market which selling Armenia’s souvenir, handcraft, painting, etc. It was a nice place to buy souvenir and even just to visit. Hence, the price was reasonable.

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Vernissage Market
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Nice place to buy souvenirs

Then, I went back to hotel, checked out and the driver picked me up to go to the airport. It took 20 mins to the airport by car.

The airport was quite new and duty free shop had many varieties of souvenir and was big enough to do last minutes shopping. I flew back to Dubai with Flydubai again and took off 4.15pm and I landed at Dubai around 7pm.

In general, I enjoyed Armenia and snow but I think I would enjoy more if it were in spring or summer since I don’t like cold weather that much. I recommend travelling in other seasons unless you want to go for ski resort or experience winter weather. Of course there are some benefits by travelling in this season that I could get discount and tourist sites were empty due to off-season.

Thus, I arranged the driver through travel agent to cover all places I would like to visit in limited schedule. Although my driver gave me some information of sites, it would be nicer to have a guide to explain me well. The driver was different from my driver which I experienced in Azerbaijan. I assume the difference came how I arranged it like through agent or by individually. The driver was not bad at all but it was no more or less than driver.

Armenia could be a good destination for someone who likes to visit UNESCO World Heritage Site and is foodie and naturalist.