A Jam-packed January

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I can’t believe January is already over! My memories of travelling are slipping further and further away and I am getting back into the swing of life in Dubai. I still have many travel stories to write and hope I will find the time this month. Although I am embracing being back in Dubai I am missing South America a lot. I am grateful for January’s array of events and being able to catch up with old friends as well as meeting many new people. I also had my grandma in town so it was nice to spend time with her, she loves flowers so I took her to Dubai’s miracle gardens which was lovely! There are lots of new venues opening up and it was a great but busy month here are my highlights:

New Years fireworks in Dubai are always fantastic but this year they outdid themselves by placing the worlds largest LED screen on the Burj Khalifa, they had a wonderful light show combined with the fireworks, the lightshow remained on until January the 8th. I booked a table on the balcony at the Rivington Grill in Souk al Bahar so that I could have a delicious dinner accompanied by a fantastic show:

I was happy to be back in the sunshine so enjoyed Market OTB which was a daytime event in Southridge park. Another nice family day out was Dubai’s Miracle Gardens, It takes about an hour and a half to see it all with stopping for pictures and they have little restaurants and cafés. The flowers are all the same but beautiful nonetheless and its incredible how they have made monuments out of them such as the Burj Khalifa, beautiful peacocks, houses and cars.

Theres a fantastic new restaurant in town called Tribeca Kitchen & Grill in JA Oceanview hotel in JBR. It was a really cool venue, huge and artsy and had a real cool loungy feel. They provide a platform for local entertainment – I loved the band they had for the launch. They have healthy and organic food, I tried a couple of the salads…they were ok, the cheesecake was pretty good. Will have to go back and sample some of the food, it serves Mediterranean and American contemporary cuisine. I think its definitely got a great vibe and is a nice place to hang out, it fills a gap in the market with it being a lounge that is also a creative space, it felt unpretentious despite the launch crowd which was full of Dubai’s socialites.

Another great restaurant that has opened up is the Delphine Restaurant at the H hotel. It has a chic art deco inspired venue with marble floors and crystals fringing the bar. The original restaurant is a popular celebrity haunt in West Hollywood, California. It certainly was a fine dining experience, the service was perfect and the food was delicious, I enjoyed everything…even a raw meat “kibbeh” dish which I was apprehensive to try. Afterwards we headed up to the 40th floor to check out 40 Kong, it is a beautiful venue but was very crowded as anticipated. I think its somewhere you can fully enjoy with a table reservation.

40 kong

40 Kong

It was V-Cloud’s one year anniversary party,  V-Cloud offers a world of unique opportunities, refined tastes and unparalleled exclusivity. It is a one of its kind rewards and privileges program designed to enhance your experience in the lap of luxury. We had a wonderful night at their lavish birthday party.

My most anticipated event was the Latin American festival, it was the first of its kind in Dubai and I was really excited to see what it would be like. I think they underestimated the turnout as it was jam packed but it was a really fun event. It was in an alley in Al Quoz, the street was lined with stalls selling Art, South American food and there were crowds around the salsa dancers who were performing. I picked up a few trinkets and was happy to practice my Spanish. I hope they have more events like that, it was a great night!

Guayaquil

My first stop in Ecuador was Guayaquil, I had heard that it wasn’t worth going there and that it was really dangerous but I actually thought it was a really nice city. I hadn’t really planned any of my trip, I just had a hit-list of places I wanted to see which meant that I had nowhere to stay in Guayaquil. I walked around with my backpack in the heat wandering from hostel to hostel completely shocked by the prices they were quoting me. Simple rooms were anywhere between $50 to $150 and the cheapest dorm I could find was $20 and it was horrible. As I walked around I saw a cute looking place called Manso Boutique Hostel and it was the one. They had dorm space and it was right on the malecon and very chic so that was to be my home for the night.

I walked down the Malecon and then went to explore the markets, the markets didn’t feel very safe, I could feel a lot of eyes on me and decided not to go to deep inside. I headed back to the hostel after a few hours and I met a girl who had just moved into my dorm. We went for dinner and then decided to walk up the malecon to the lighthouse in Cerro Santa Ana.

We took the 444 stairs up and through Santa Ana, I found the juxtaposition of this place crazy but something that I was growing accustomed to. The rich and poor divide is very apparent in South America and this was a perfect example of how one small hill was inhabited by two different worlds. It was actually a slum that had been transformed into a prime tourist location with bars and souvenir shops located at every level. On the other side of the hill lived many people in what was still a slum, a place so dangerous taxi drivers refused to take you there but only a few hundred metres away. The views of Guayaquil were breathtaking and I enjoyed snapping away for a while. Then we headed back and heard some live music so popped into a bar to watch.

The next day I went to see the famous Cathedral, it was very ornate and grand and outside was a park where HUGE land iguanas roamed freely! I wandered around and came to a park, somebody came and warned me to hide my SLR, all kinds of shady characters sat around me on benches. I thought I should head back and so made my way to the main street, I loved taking pictures of all the colonial buildings. Guayaquil was very Americanised, it had a lot of franchises and I saw a lot of tourists. I found it very expensive and had seen everything I wanted to see so I went back to the hostel to plan my next location. I had decided on Cuenca!

Travelling With An Open Mind

The 13 hour bus journey ended up being 15 hours…at the border I queued up for an hour and when I was next to be served their was a powercut!! We had to wait another hour and then oh joy I had to sit back next to mr.chatty with cheesy feet.

He was unbelievably negative, telling me he missed good food and Peruvians cant prepare food as he can with the finest cuts of meat. He was asking me why young people come here when it’s so dirty and you can’t even find good coffee places. He then showed me his very expensive sailboat and million dollar house. I tried to explain that travel was about appreciating differences and that I didn’t come here for coffee plus I think the food is amazing!!

Before leaving I read several blogs about Ecuador, I was shocked at how negative they were. One girl wrote 5 pages on how she constantly thought she was going to be robbed and everywhere was terrible. I kept reading as I figured her recommendation for somewhere good must be amazing as she seemed to struggle with saying nice things but she ended by saying the only good thing about her trip was that she stayed at the Hilton and it reminded her of home.

I think it’s important to try and make negative experiences positive, sometimes it’s just a case of opening your mind. I know here a lot of people stop and stare, it’s not because they ALL want to rob us, they know we are foreign and are intrigued by us. They are so inquisitive about our countries and our views on theirs. Giving people time to speak to you allows you to have a sense of immersion and a much better travelling experience because you understand their culture more. Try to see the best in things, it will enrich your experience.

I purposely began this blog in a negative way because I wanted to show you that if you focus on the negatives you will miss out on all the great things right in front of you, yes it was probably one of the most annoying journeys of my trip as he was also heavily into politics and had VERY conflicting views to mine throwing around comments like “Arabs are disgusting people” and that was one of many.

When I look back on that journey what I remember most is the beautiful landscapes, how breathtakingly green Ecuador is and the way the mist settled at the foot of the mountains. I remember all the cute little towns with people sitting outside talking till the early hours of the morning. I remember the beautiful sunrise peaking through the mountains until it flooded the sky with light…And I remember meeting a 60 something negative man who I eventually couldn’t ignore anymore because I really felt he should be wiser then he actually was and after giving him a very large piece of my mind he shut up and then 20 minutes later told me I was right. So I remember opening someone’s mind and I know that he helped me grow too, maybe just my level of tolerence but that’s growth too.

Always travel with an open mind and the intention to understand a new culture. Stop comparing things to how they happen in your country, people do what they know, the western world has a different level of efficiency/cleanliness/safety because that’s what we know, we have the opportunity to travel not to judge but to learn and teach in some cases and most people here will never have that opportunity. Learn lessons that matter, how people can be so happy with nothing, how if you have love and gratitude in your life you don’t need much else and always remember you get out what you put in!