My Korean Winter Lookbook 2017 (How to stay warm in style)

I love to dress up. Just the thought of putting up an ensemble makes me giddy already and honestly, it is what lures me to go to presumably uninteresting events. It makes me happy mixing and matching what’s available in my wardrobe. Not that I have the best ones or that I constantly shop but I like to keep pieces for years since fashion for me, is a rotating wheel. I also tend to overdo things or dress up according to my mood and on ordinary days, find comfort on shirts and jeans. It just goes to say that my style can be a hit or miss sometimes.

My interest in fashion must have rooted from my Mama. She is fabulous herself and has the best eye for the right fit and right color combination. She would dress me up and my sister lovingly and later on allowed us to embrace our own style. I still remember my childhood Christmas days when she would bring me to a boutique and let me pick what I would want to wear for Christmas and New Year.

Now, when this Korea Winter trip became feasible (after we got our visas, yay!), I knew that I have to prepare my outfits. Not just to be stylish but to survive the cold weather which I have very low tolerance to.

I took photos of each set so I won’t forget. A total time-saver!

K-world, pardon me for saying this, but I am not a K-pop or K-drama fan. Although, hands down, I adore Korean fashion. When we were in Gangnam and Itaewon, I have hearts in my eyes seeing slender women with flawless hair and poreless skin, walk the streets in very chic coats and boots. It was amazing! Like the street is a big fashion show! What’s more interesting is that they are not brand-conscious at all, which is perfect for me. I witnessed how the youngsters flood the flea market in Dongmyo and just to myself I exclaimed, “That’s me! I also love the flea markets in Dubai!”

If there’s one benchmark that I hold in my style, it is to wear cheaply bought items with great promise or be thrifty yet fab. I don’t even mind preloved items that is why, I love flea markets. Besides, I get more compliments from my flea picks and it is a great feeling being reminded that it is not always about the price tag.

Here are five outfits that I wore during our trip which you might find useful on your own winter wonderland.

The Comfy Traveler

This is a very basic ensemble. The main idea is to layer and start off with thermals. They are very helpful in fighting off the cold. I always had 4-5 layers on top and 3-4 layers on my bottom. Again, I am cold-intolerant so the layering might be too much. Just try out what works for you.

It was a chilly night in Seoul when I arrived, so my ear muffs (Daiso) and tube scarf (Brands for Less) were comfort pieces. Plus, they are cute too! On top of my oversized hooded sweater (The Wardrobe) is a quilted black jacket and I just wore my old brown boots. My touch screen gloves here is also from Daiso.

The Sophisticated Lass

I had hesitations on wearing thigh-high boots but they proved to be comfortable, warm, classy and they elongate the legs. I got this pair for only Aed25 at the flea market in JLT (this is around Aed100+) online. My Atmosphere coat is also from the flea for only Aed30, almost unused, and my scarf, for only Aed5. I’m so proud of my hauls!

Again, layering is essential and that’s where your old winter clothes come in. The knitted sweater underneath my coat for example, was given to me by my Aunt 7 years ago. It doesn’t matter much what you put underneath, after your thermals, as long as you are comfortable. Just pay more attention to your topmost pieces.

To break the dark colors a bit, I wore my cream bonnet and blue green touch screen gloves, both from Brands for Less.

It is also worth noting to wear an ensemble that would fit your itinerary. This was the day when I wore Hanbok (traditional Korean dress) so all I had to do in order to wear my pair was to remove my bonnet, scarf and coat. The coat was also a good match for my dress.

Our Hanbok are from They will really transform you into a Korean princess.

The Cute Sensation

Winter clothes can be very expensive but the good thing is, you don’t have to buy everything. This jacket I’m wearing was lent to me by my colleague. What’s also fun in traveling with a group is that you can switch items, such as this bonnet from my brother.

Other flea items on this ensemble is the cute winter dress and fur-lined, thick leggings which I believe achieved the K fashion. To match my scarf and to bring a pop of colour, I wore a thermal pair of socks of the same shade. This ensemble was perfect during our “kids for a day” trip to Everland.

The Street Gal

Have you noticed the coat? It is the same one I wore on The Sophisticated Lass. I just buttoned it down so it will look more like a dress paired with my black denim pants from flea. The boots is by Toms sold in a much cheaper price by Brands for Less. It is a brilliant store with lots of winter stuff. Got our heat packs from there too.

The Korean School Girl

I have envisioned this day, having my moment in this romantic tree-lined path in Nami Island. So if there’s one outfit that I really prepared for, this is it but I promise you, I would have worn my brown boots here instead of kicks. I had no choice though because my feet got so sore from all the previous days’ walks that I had to switch for comfort. Not so bad, eh? I felt younger, lol.

So let’s dissect the outfit. Bonnet and gloves are the same ones I wore in the previous looks. Now, this fur-hooded-dark orange-bubble jacket is the real deal! It is a jackpot item from the flea which I only got for Aed35, in very good condition and all. I also love the fur-lined hood. I’m like a husky.

I doubled my upper and lower thermals here knowing that the place, still with snow traces will be very cold. Next piece I wore is a pink sweater topped by a checkered coat (also from the flea last year), and a scarf at Aed5 from flea, where else?

After the bottom thermals, I wore thick leggings, leg warmers and my black basic skirt.

There goes my five looks which gave me a mountain of laundry, ugh! I enjoyed wearing each one of them, nonetheless.

Actually, to save you a lot of luggage space and kilos, you may just bring one or two sets of winter outfits and the rest you can buy in Seoul. The flea market in Dongmyo and retail shops in Dongdaemun offers a variety of affordable choices. From chic coats and jackets, hoodies, sweaters to pants, leggings, socks, boots, gloves, scarf, bonnets and masks, you name it and they have it all.

For guys, this outfit collection of my brother is also A+!

What’s your favorite look so far?

Bundling up has never been this fun. You can definitely stay warm in style without hurting your pockets.

Enjoy the process of experimenting, exploring and finalising your looks. The only person who can stop you from being you is you, so just express yourself and be happy!

I hope you enjoyed reading through and got some tips and inspiration for your own winter escapade. Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions below. Better yet, post your most favorite Winter OOTD!



How to budget-travel to Seychelles

A paradise with beaches surrounded by very fine white sand and gifted with turquoise water, lush jungles,  and laid-back tempo are just some of the many ways to describe Seychelles. Honestly,  six years ago, I would not have even imagined visiting this place because Seychelles belongs to the list of the most luxurious destinations around the globe. I will not lure you into believing that it is cheap because it is still expensive (especially the tours and excursions) but with the advent of holiday packages nowadays, travelling on a budget to one of Mother Nature’s favorites is possible.

Just look at that. How can you resist this?

Seychelles is an archipelago and country in the Indian Ocian, off East Africa. It is composed of 115 islands, three of which are the hub for tourists flocking the islands mostly in the peak months of July and August. Mahe is the biggest, housing the city capital Victoria, Praslin is next, and La Digue is the smallest.

Little La Digue’s gem, Anse Source d’Argent is a crowd favorite

I literally closed my eyes when I booked this holiday but we came home with no regrets. Having said that, this is how to fit Seychelles into your budget.

1. Go for holiday packages

Holiday Factory is legit. I initially wanted to book airfares and accommodation separately (DIY), but when I was checking the ticket prices four months ago, it was already skyrocketing high. Thankfully, Holiday Factory launched a package deal which included roundtrip Air Seychelles tickets, transfers, and a hotel in Praslin – Chateau Sans Souci, with free breakfast. We loved our stay in Chateau. The staff is very nice and helpful. Wifi though is tricky as it is only strongest within the reception area but other than that, it is a quiet place to stay just a few minutes from the airport and Anse Kerlan beach.

The fleet of small planes that fly from Mahe to Praslin and back. I call this, “tora-tora” ride

Each room has a balcony overlooking the pool

Breakfast by the pool

2. Pick one base island

One way to cut cost is if you stay at least three days in one of the islands and transfer to other islands as you wish. Prices tend to get high if you only stay for one night and if you are renting a car, two or three days are required as minimum. We stayed three nights in Praslin (plus one night with free hotel booking when our original flight was cancelled due to bad weather), and a day trip to La Digue. Temperament and culture-wise, Praslin is somewhere in between busy Mahe and very laid-back La Digue so we got a very good deal.

Three days to gaze upon this beauty, why not?

3. Stay in self-catering houses/villas or Airbnb accommodation

If I have not booked a package, we probably would have used Airbnb. It is way cheaper than hotels. The good thing about self-catering is you can cook your own food especially if you are staying there for a week or so. Most goods in Seychelles are imported so expect that they are priced higher but are still cheaper than if you dine in buffet restaurants and hotels. It is also smart to bring along with you non-perishable food. Tucked in our luggage were cup noodles, loaf bread, sandwhich spread, chips, cookies, coffee and tea. We never got hungry.

Here is a detailed price list of goods and meals in Seychelles for your reference.

Fruits are abundant in Seychelles which I sooo love!

4. Rent a car

Taxis in Seychelles are eyed as the last option for transport because they are insanely expensive. Our hotel is 30-45 mins. by car from the best beaches in Praslin so we hired a Kia Picanto for 120 Euros/530 Dhs.,  for three days (40 Euros/day) from Bliss Car Hire. I highly recommend them because their cars are well-maintained, with comprehensive insurance, free GPS and very professional staff. You may pay in cash or credit card onsite and they deliver and pick up your car at your preferred location. Aside from the rent, we only paid a full tank of fuel at Rs 270/70 Dhs for our whole stay. Bear in mind though that it is right-hand driving in Seychelles and the roads are curvy, steep, narrow and dark at night time so be very careful. Still, we’re glad about renting a car because we owned our time and it is very convenient. We named her “Prassy” and we miss her already.

If you don’t fancy renting a car, buses are also available but be prepared to wait and it is better to choose staying in locations closest to the bus stops and main attractions so you will have the option to walk just in case.

5. Eat in takeaway restaurants

I believe that buying our meals from takeaway restaurants saved us a great deal of our money. I budgeted 75 Dhs per meal for two but as it turned out, we only paid Rs 100/30 Dhs per meal for the both of us. Awesome, right? They have delicious Creole food served with rice and salad.

Our personal favorite is the Happiness Take Away Restaurant, just a few steps away from our hotel. They serve a variety of chicken, fish, beef and pork dishes and are open from 12pm to 10pm.

The mother-and-son tandem

On our last night, we thought of having a celebratory dinner so we requested from them a whole Creole grilled fish with sauce for Rs 220/60 Dhs. This was served with rice and salad. A fresh catch, the fish is so yummy!

6. Marvel in the splendid beaches

Undeniably, the beaches in Seychelles are the magnets for tourists. We would have done island hopping too (Cousin, Curieuse, St. Pierre) but unfortunately, it is out of our budget. Thinking about it now, I’m glad that we didn’t push through with the tours because it gave us plenty of time to laze around the beaches and gave us a slow-paced itinerary. We are not water babies or good swimmers at that but we love to spend time at the beach. Nothing is more rewarding than the feel of sand on my feet, the calming ocean breeze on my skin, hearing the rhythmic sound of the waves and looking at the changing shades of blue water in front of me. Divine, mesmerizing and priceless moments like this are my kind of luxury.

Let me share with you our top favorites:

Anse Lazio, Praslin

Even though this beach is 30-45 mins. away by car from our hotel, it is worth every visit. Anse Lazio is definitely a “must-see” in Praslin and often regarded as one of the best beaches in the world. The moment I laid eyes on this beach bordered by granite boulder formations on both ends, I was blown away.

Since it is the best in Praslin, it tends to be crowded so make sure to come early by sunrise and before 9am to have enough time to cherish the beach for yourself and to find your perfect spot.

More information about the beach can be found here.

Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue

Just wow. In all angles, the beach is gorgeous! No wonder this is tagged as one of the best in the world and was in the film ‘Castaway’. We came here after a treacherous trek in another part of the island so seeing this heavenly sight is truly a reward for us. I felt like I’m in a Flintstone plot because the granite rock formations are more abundant and seemingly placed at just the perfect spot.

Access to the beach is through L’Union Estate where we paid Rs 100/30 Dhs per person to also explore the entire property. The beach is protected by a coral reef from the open ocean making the water shallow and the waves small which is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Again, you have to be early as this beauty is a La Digue favorite for tourists.

There is also another stretch of the beach which is free of rock formations and is more private. The scenery is just equally beautiful.

To know more about the beach and how to get there, please click here.

Anse Georgette, Praslin

If you have been to Anse Lazio first, the beach might not fascinate you as much considering the effort and preparation needed to get there. The beach is housed by Constance Lemuria Resort and offers a more private hangout for resort guests and visitors. Hotel guests are transported to the beach by a golf cart but for outside guests, a 20 to 30-minute walk from the gate along the golf course awaits. Don’t worry though because you will be entertained by the vast expanse of the property.

The resort only allows a limited number of visitors per day and it is a must to book your visit through phone or email at least a week before. You may also ask your hotel/guesthouse to do this for you.

Swimming in the beach is not so much encouraged because of the strong current. You will sign a waiver at the gate so anything you do inside is at your own risk. Most guests go there for tanning and I heard that sunset here is glorious.

Here are more inputs about the beach.

Anse Volbert (Cote d’Or), Praslin

The beach area has a festive feel to it which was just about right for our first beach experience in Seychelles. The water is calm with peaceful waves offering a great swimming spot for families. You will also notice more locals around the area selling fruits, fresh fishes, or just hanging out. The Anse Volbert village is home to various restaurants, supermarkets, accommodations and other shops.

There’s more about the beach here.

7. Visit Vallee De Mai Nature Reserve

A Unesco World Heritage, the rich palm forest or nature park which is often referred to as the “Garden of Eden” is home to the endemic Coco de Mer (bearer of the largest seed in the plant kingdom) as well as five other endemic palms.

The female specie

The male specie

Also unique to the forest is the Black Parrot which usually fly in pairs. We were blessed to have spotted a pair during our tour and some other interesting species too.

Whether it is sunny or rainy, it is a good thing that the forest is shaded. Thanks to the fan-shaped palm trees that serve as natural roof.

The park is maintained by Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF). You may explore the park by yourself or avail of their free guided tours twice daily at 9am and 2pm (be there at least 30 mins. before your chosen time). There is however a park entrance fee of 25 Euros/Rs 350/110 Dhs per person to maintain the park and for the preservation of Aldabra Atoll.

I love that the forest is untouched and left as it is. I suggest that you take the guided tour which is about 30 mins. and finish off the circular path to reach the peak. As long as you follow the pathway, you won’t get lost. Allot at least two hours of your itinerary here and if you enjoy exploring nature’s flora and fauna, this one is for you.

8. Bike around La Digue

If ever I’ll get the chance to visit Seychelles again, I will definitely stay in La Digue. The island is so small that you can literally bike around or even walk. Cars are very few and they maintain it that way. No wonder this island is a favorite among tourists because it is a sweet escape from the busy and stressful outside world. Not to mention that it is also home to the magnificent beaches in Seychelles.

We really enjoyed our day trip here. Biking around is healthy and relaxing at the same time. Just imagine getting to anywhere with just your bike, the breeze on your face and the sound of birds as your tune. That spells a perfect, simple, quiet and laid-back holiday for us.

To get to La Digue from Praslin, take the Cat Rose Ferry. I booked our tickets from this site.

Since we only had a day to spend in La Digue, we took the first trip out and the last trip back.

Sunrise when we reached the jetty in Praslin.

It only takes 15 minutes to reach La Digue. The moment you reach the jetty, bikes for rent are already available for Rs 100/30 Dhs per person for a full day.

9. Hike to Nid d’Aigle (Eagle’s Nest)

This was our first activity in La Digue and it is the highest point of the island. We biked the first few meters but when the road was already ascending making it harder to pedal, we parked our bikes in an empty lot. We walked our way up and although the path is concrete towards the Snack Bellevue, it is not an easy hike.

Make sure to bring water and wear proper hiking shoes because after the restaurant, the path going to the mountain peak is challenging. Sadly, we did not reach the top as it was hard to climb up with our flip flops on (silly us, I know). We were able to capture this view though.

As we needed to rest and a fresh juice from the restaurant would have been just perfect to quench our thirst, we were disappointed to find out that it was still closed and under renovation. Nevertheless, this sweat-producing exercise was still fun.

Maybe they opened later during the day, I am not sure. We just chose to go down and find a take away restaurant for breakfast. Through kind locals, we found one just before reaching L’Union Estate. Gala Takeaway is popular in La Digue and they serve yummy snack and lunch dishes for an affordable price.

Another way to cut off the walk is to get a taxi until the restaurant and walk your way to the mountain. It will probably be expensive though.

10. Explore L’Union Estate

It is a former coconut and vanilla plantation in La Digue. With only Rs100 entrance fee and Anse Source d’Argent to reward you, it is worth going to.

Have fun biking at the property and say hello to the Aldabra giant tortoises.

There seems to be a showcase of giant rock formations in this place too.

There you go. So you see? Seychelles can be for budget travelers too. You just have to focus on what delights you most and be wise on your spending.

Here are more tips to help you out plan your trip.

  • As beaches have no changing stations, bring along sarongs, large towels or an easy dress for covering up. Bring your beach mats too and use waterproof bags.

  • Currencies accepted are Euros, USD and Rs. Almost all establishments accept these currencies along with credit cards but takeaway restaurants only accept Seychellois Rupees (Rs).
  • Souvenirs are cheaper in airports.

  • Visa is not required but make sure that you have proof of your accommodation and return ticket.
  • Bring an insect repellant especially if you are going to explore the forest.
  • Aqua shoes may be necessary in rocky beaches such as Anse Source d’ Argent.
  • Visit Tripadvisor forums for more tips.

Our Seychelles escapade is over but it is one holiday that I will treasure forever. I now understand why people travel. Experiences and memories are truly riches that are insurmountable by anything material.

I am also grateful that we did this trip against all odds because it is not every day that we experience living in paradise. You are amazing, God!

I hope you enjoyed reading this entry and may this inspire you to quit the “what-ifs” and just go.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” – Mark Twain

Please do share your comments and suggestions below and if you have traveled to Seychelles recently, I would love to know about your experience.

Thank you!


Gorgeous Georgia: Batumi and its vibrant Summer Vibe

We failed to see Okatse Canyon but that’s alright because in between keeping awake and falling asleep (I was seated in front), the Black Sea of Batumi was a welcoming sight.

The stony pathway to the beach.

Upon entry to the city, I felt that it was finally summerrrrr! (insert Olaf singing here)

Batumi is definitely Georgia’s summer holiday capital. It has a very relaxing atmosphere with a subtropical climate. Located in a convenient natural Black Sea bay in the region of Adjara, Batumi is not only an important seaport for the entire Georgia, but also a tourism capital of the country.

The streets are lined with Palm trees, vibrant flowers and rich fruit trees.

In contrast to the black long skirts worn by women in Kutaisi, shorts and mini skirts are the trend in Batumi. In my mind, I felt relieved knowing that we can finally get out of our jeans and blend with the rest of the tourists, which are mostly Europeans.

We booked an apartment just a walking distance from the famous Seaside Park-Boulevard. For the price we paid, it is a great place to stay. It is spacious (with living room and with complete amenities). The owner and his family are very nice too.

You may pick fruits from the tree behind us. We did and it was fresh and sweet!

The city has also embraced the modern civilization as around the area are high-end hotels and structures featuring European and Asian architecture. From the articles that I have read, it is apparent that over the last ten years, Batumi has changed a lot.

The perfect cover photo, shot at the Europe Square.

After settling in and a much needed shower, we headed out to the beach and had a cotton candy stop-over. Why not?

The beaches in Batumi and its vicinities are stony without sand. They also have a magnificent skyline.

No matter how tired, I loved our evening stroll. We dined at one of the sea-side restaurants with some local music and dancing too. There, we had our first Georgian Khinkali and it is worth trying.

“Khinkali is a very popular Georgian dumpling made of twisted knobs of dough, stuffed with meat and spices. It is considered to be one of the national dishes of Georgia.”

Batumi at night is very alive. Families, friends, tourists and locals are everywhere in the Boulevard gathered for tours, talks, bike rides, night life and more.The modest structures in the afternoon transform into majestic sights at night.

The Alphabetic Tower on the right symbolizes the uniqueness of Georgian alphabet and people. 

One amazing structure along the Boulevard is the moving sculpture of “Ali and Nino,” which is believed to be a “celebration of true love without boundaries and prejudices.” I felt the heartwarming slow movement of the steel figures towards each other, creating a dramatic union for a moment and the heartbreaking separation afterwards. It was amazing to witness such a story told without words and yet, creates a great impact on the viewers.

“The two figures represent a Muslim boy, Ali, and a Georgian princess, Nino, from a famous 1937 novel by Azerbaijani author Kurban Said. The tragic story ends with the lovers separated by the invasion of Soviet Russia.”

It was already getting cold and we were dead tired so we walked back to our apartment.

On our second day in Batumi, I woke up at 5am (as always) and since my friends were still asleep, I thought of heading out to the beach for a short walk and to witness the sunrise. It was lovely walking in the cool breeze and having the streets to myself except for occasional joggers and still-not-home ‘late nighters’.

Hello, Mr. Sun!

Summer + Beach = Barefoot Sandals

After a breakfast of coffee and leftover Khinkali, we headed out to another direction towards the Europe Square. The streets were still empty, to my delight.

The Europe Square is one of my favorite places in Georgia. It is centrally located in Batumi and around it are unique and exquisite buildings. Our photos here looked like we really traveled to Europe. For both tourists and locals, this is a popular site for relaxation.

The square, entirely ours for that moment.

It would have been nice if we lingered more in Batumi (there are really great shops around) but knowing that we would need six hours travel time back to Tbilisi to catch the free walking tour, we started walking back to the apartment. All we managed to buy were these pretty-looking cherries.

img_1934And guess what? They’re very cheap too.

A picture-perfect spot in the park.

Although we had a very short stay in Batumi, this beautiful city treated as well. If you desire a resort-type ambiance, this is your best choice in Georgia. They have an international airport too!

Lasha then picked us up from the apartment and before we completely left Batumi, he took us to one last glimpse of the Black Sea.

A lunch stop-over introduced us to this very unique and tasty dish made of eggplant, walnut-garlic paste and spices (Badrijani Nigvzit). Again, this was a repeater in our every meal from then on.

Somebody got tipsy with the free Vodka and it was not me. Opppps!


It was past 5pm when we were almost at Tbilisi and just before we lavish its charm, Lasha made one more stop and tested our balancing skills. We looked silly here but we had a great laugh.

Synchronization at its best.

I still can’t believe how we managed to sit in the car for six hours. Maybe because the gorgeous mountain views entertained us in between naps or we were on tourist mode so we had to be flexible. Nevertheless, hurray to us for making it through!

Well, that’s about it for Batumi. Now, it is time to say Hello to the charming capital, Tbilisi.

Trip Details:

#marengsingeorgia – June 23-26, 2017

Gorgeous Georgia (the country)

I have been wracking my brain to accurately describe Georgia but no matter how I brush off this word, ‘gorgeous’ keeps on coming up. It is common, I know, but it has to be the perfect adjective for this little gem in the Caucasus region. Strategically located at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, Georgia has lush, green mountains taking center stage during summer, pretty wild flowers dancing in the breeze, vast bodies of water gushing peacefully, and rustic streets cradling interesting ancient Georgian-style architecture. If you adore nature and its rich, alluring beauty, this country is for you. My friends, Cristina and Mariecris, and I  knew that it was for us, no doubt.

Perched at the edge of Jvari Monastery.

We planned this trip for months, booked our tickets in January (so no one will back out), and had plenty of FB Messenger conversations about budget, outfits, weather, best places to go to, tours and guide, Georgian cuisine, matching bags, matching hats, matching passport holders, matching bag tags, and oh so many more. Yep, after six years of friendship, we are that deep haha. Nah, it pays to be organized for every trip. There were still mishaps of course, but to sum it up, we were prepared.

Chilling before our flight.

We flew with Fly Dubai and the moment we reached Tbilisi, it was a complete switch of scenery and temperature. Greens everywhere and even on an early morning of late June, it was still cold, the nice type of cold though. The excitement level at that point was already over the edge. You’ll see why.

The beautiful Ananuri Lake.

If there’s one great decision that we made for this trip, it is by booking a private tour guide (vehicle, airport pick up and drop off  included). We reached our wish list destinations and got to them at our own pace. Our four days became full-packed with adventures and that is also because of our guide’s input in the planning. If you fancy visiting Georgia soon, we strongly recommend Lasha of Tours in Georgia who definitely brought us not only to the best places, but also to the not-so-touristy-yet-picturesque ones. We got to try the most delectable local dishes also through Lasha’s recommendations. He knows his roots and is very capable of immersing you into the country’s splendor. Plus, he is kind and easy to talk to. We requested a few side trips with him and he willingly helped us through.

The jump for life shot with Lasha.

Our itinerary in truth, is hectic. We would be on the road for hours before we finally reach our destination. It is a good thing though that along the way, our eyes were filled with sights to behold.

Hello to farm life.

Georgia is rich in both scenery and activities that having only four days is quite tight if you want to cover everything. Since we only had this short amount of time, we picked the top spots and thankfully, managed to stick to our itinerary. Here is how we did it.

Day 1: Kutaisi and Batumi

Day 2: Batumi and Tbilisi

Day 3: Kazbegi and Tbilisi

Day 4: Signagi

There you go. This is our first international trip and I am looking forward to the next one. Solo travel is rewarding and refreshing but it is also fun and fulfilling to travel with friends. You get to share with them everything, which means that every expense comes cheaper. I even saved USD50 from this trip, yay!

There is a legend about Georgia that seemed fitting for its renowned charm.

“When the God divided the Earth among the people, Georgians were late because of their traditional feast, and by the moment of their arrival, the entire world had already been divided. When the God asked them to what they had drunk for, Georgians just answered: ”To you, oh Lord, to us, to peace”. The God liked their answer so He told them that although all lands were taken, he reserved a small plot for Himself and now He decided to give it to Georgians. According to the God, the land was incomparable in its beauty and all people would admire and cherish it forever “.

You be the judge.

The breathtaking view of Kazbegi.

Madloba Georgia! You are indeed gorgeous.

Trip Details:

#marengsingeorgia – June 23-26, 2017





Gorgeous Georgia: The Charming Tbilisi

Last April, on my first solo travel (how time flies!), I met seasoned travelers who crossed to Armenia from Georgia. They all have one common thing to say about Tbilisi, it is a very beautiful city.

A Lavender field in Rike Park. 

Indeed. As the largest city in Georgia and being the country’s capital, Tbilisi’s charm is very distinct. It lies on the banks of Kura River surrounded by hills and mountains and with a population of roughly 1.5 million. It is very calm and peaceful on early mornings, busy during the day, and very enchanting at night time.

I wish that we had more time to spend in Georgia’s capital. I felt like our stay there was hurried and short-lived, although, not missing the Tbilisi free walking tour is a great blessing. After the long travel from Batumi and the search for our apartment (thanks to Lasha for being so patient), we literally just dumped our bags, had a quick change and groggily left the apartment to find the group tour in the Freedom Square Park just across the street (where there is also a Tourist Information Center).

“The golden statue of Saint George on top of a pillar in the center of the square was erected after the Rose Revolution in 2005.”

Before I tell you about the walking tour, let me introduce you to our Airbnb apartment, Alicat home.

We have had a few bookings cancelled until we finally settled to book Alicat home. The interior is amazing, the location is great – just in front of Freedom Square, and it is fully furnished (with must-haves iron, hair dryer, kitchen stuff, etc.) except for one, A/C. Luckily, the period of our stay wasn’t too hot so we just opened the windows. It was dusty at times though so if you will ever stay in the same apartment, just make sure to request for a thorough dusting of the place before you check in.

Now, let’s get on with the tour. Silently praying that we can still catch the group, we searched the park for tour guides and we found Tamar. You could see right away that she is very enthusiastic and proud of her city which is admirable among Georgian youth. Along with Ali, an Omani blogger, Tamar brought us to the lovely streets and famous spots of the Old Town.

img_2068A quick snap before we start.

Old Town

Picture a scene where you cross narrow cobble-stone streets, surrounded by old houses covered with green vines that seem to find support from the brick structures. The wooden balconies and unique flights of stairs of these houses are just wonderfully preserved over time. This, for me, is classic beauty, the heart and soul of the city.

Entrance to one of the city churches. Women have to wear long skirts with head covered to enter the church.

A local artist lives here. She sells her art pieces for a very reasonable price.

Tamar mentioned that some of the houses are being renovated. They were still pretty but I marveled more at the ancient feel of the untouched and slightly renovated ones.

We went on and on to streets I wouldn’t be able to track by myself  until we reached this area where curiously, a crowd is gathered waiting for something.

This is the unique clock tower next to Marionette Theatre built by Rezo Gabriadze in 2010. Every hour, an angel comes out with a small hammer to ring the bell and we witnessed that. With adults comprising a majority of the crowd, it just proves that puppets are not just for children. There is also a small puppet theatre inside the tower and twice a day at noon, and at 7pm, you can see a show – “The Circle of Life”. This can be one of your must-see attractions when you visit Tbilisi.

The biggest clock and the smallest one in the Old Town.

I like how the tour made us stop, admire, take snaps, walk and repeat. I guess that it is the most fitting if not the best way to view the city.

On our way to the last stop, we also passed by interesting sights.

The Bridge of Peace is actually a pedestrian bridge opened to the public in 2010. It connects the district of Tbilisi Old town with Rike Park over the river of Mtkvari. From here, the Narikala Fortress, cable car and Mother Georgia can be seen from a distance.

On top of a hill, Kartvlis Deda, meaning “Mother of a Georgian“, monument holds a sword on her right hand and a glass of wine on her left. This is the Georgian way of saying that they welcome friends with wine and enemies with a sword. It’s a very amusing metaphor.

Her dream come true moment in Rike Park.

If you want to buy souvenirs and you only have very limited time, the Meidan Bazaar is the best place to go. This underground-tunnel shop underneath the Meidan Square has interesting pieces.

The prices are reasonable too (I bought a magnet and key chain here) but if you love to wander around and have enough time to spend for shopping, there are still other shops around the area that have cheaper items.

The Georgian traditional candy, Churchkhela in different colors and flavors.

Visit the Dry Bridge Flea Market as well (which, sadly, we missed) for antiques, paintings, soviet time relics and more.

In the Abanotubani neighborhood, the sulfur baths are a prominent landmark.

“The sulfur baths are intimately connected with Tbilisi. It is said that the hot springs are why the city was built here. High in sulfurs and other minerals, with a constant temperature of 38C to 40C, the waters have long been used as a therapeutic aid for a range of ailments including skin conditions and arthritis. Alexander Pushkin was just one of many famous people to have taken the waters, and he certainly enjoyed the experience: ‘I have never encountered anything more luxurious than this Tbilisi bath’, he wrote.”

An old channel leading to the falls.

Love locks on the bridge.

Do you fancy living in this blue house?

The tour lasted for nearly three hours with Tamar constantly feeding us with useful tips on which souvenir shops to go, restaurants to try, which street to cross, the best ice cream in town, how to ride the cable car, which time it is best to go to the Funicular, and more.

I can’t think of a better way to end the tour with this stunning waterfall.

We highly recommend you booking a tour with Tbilisi Free Walking Tours. They don’t ask for a fee but tips are greatly appreciated.

After the tour, we explored the skies by riding the cable car from Rike Park towards Narikala Fortress. The queue to the tickets can be long so just be prepared. While waiting, we were able to access the “Tbilisi loves you” free Wifi. Great! It is a very catchy and sweet name for a public Wifi, don’t you think? Well, this is my reply:

Upon Tamar’s recommendation, we dined in a restaurant around Abanotubani neighborhood (we forgot the name, sorry!) with our favorite Georgian dishes.

A different presentation of the eggplant dish.

img_1994Their own version of Mushroom Soup. It almost tastes like my beloved Batchoy (an Ilonggo specialty).

Oh, and while at the restaurant, don’t forget to look up!


What about an ice cream stop? Luca Polare ice cream is another must-try in the city.


On our second night in Tbilisi and our last night in Georgia, we had a taste of an overpriced taxi fare from Freedom Square to Mt. Mtatsminda where the famous Funicular train and amusement park are. We would have walked going to the station but it was getting late so we opted to take the taxi ride. Don’t get me wrong, Georgians are very hospitable and friendly people, even the taxi driver was chatty, but I guess the tourist halo among us reflected a different price tag. Just be careful when taking a taxi in the city. Walk as much as you can or if you’ll ever need a taxi, make sure to have the meter on. He charged us 40 GEL, we only gave him 30 GEL / 46 Dhs. so we’re even.

The dinner in the Funicular Restaurant Complex was our grandest and celebratory dinner for a very fun trip that was about to end. Mind you, it is very cold being on top so make sure that you are clothed enough.

We took the Funicular train ride (steep but comfortable) back down and just walked from the end station to our apartment. Thanks to random strangers for showing us where to go. See? They are very nice.

For a very constricted time, I believe that we explored the most of Tbilisi. If you have visited the city recently, please share your experience in the comment section below. I would love to know about your story too.

There are cities that you won’t even notice but there are ones that will please altogether, your sight, your palate, and your heart. Tbilisi is definitely the latter.

Thank you and we love you Tbilisi!

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Gorgeous Georgia: Kutaisi and the West – of caves, canyons and unexpected stops

It was a gloomy and cold Friday morning when, from Tbilisi Airport, we started our journey to Kutaisi (a drive of more than three hours). Although very sleepy from our early morning flight, we agreed that whoever is in charge to sit in front must stay awake until the next person’s turn. It was a long drive to the western side of the country, so we had to make sure that our tour guide  is awake too. That pretty much proved to be a good system during our entire stay.

The mesmerizing Martvili Canyon.

Kutaisi is one of the largest cities in Georgia and is the main city of the region of Imereti. Honestly, all I knew about this place is that nearby are caves and canyons. I barely did my research (shame!) but you know what’s good about it though? Having no expectations. Just like how we ended up on this semi-ruined bridge which totally perked us up. Lasha, our tour guide, must have noticed that we were sleeping a lot in the car and so he made a stop and led us to our first adventure.

Laughing our shaking knees out while Lasha leads the way.

As if it was not hard enough to balance walking on the metal railings, Lasha decided to make it harder by shaking the ropes. We were laughing trying to get our grip while he was having good fun taking awkward photos of us. Did I not tell you that he is nice?

Seroiusly, we couldn’t afford falling.  Not on the first day!

It was a hilarious experience. That totally woke us up better than caffeine would. Great job, Lasha!

Along the road, we passed by local sellers of bread, corn, fruits and souvenir products. This particular odd-looking bread caught our attention (as we were also hungry). It is huge and looked so yummy!

It is served hot so be careful.

We found out later that it is called, Nazuki or Georgian spicy sweet bread. It has raisins inside making it more palatable. Interestingly, this bread can only be bought in a few areas, predominantly along the highway.

Before we reached our destination, we made another stop at Chishura falls/river. It must have rained earlier as the grass pathway gave our shoes a mud bath. Nevertheless, this picture-perfect spot is Instagram worthy.

A few more minutes’ drive and we finally reached one of the region’s most visited spots, the Prometheus or Kumistavi Cave. It is located near the town of Tskhaltubo (20 km away from Kutaisi) and is the largest cave in Georgia. Entrance to the cave costs 7 GEL / 11 Dhs. Boat ride is another fee but there was no ride that day because of the high level of water inside the cave. We went with a group in an English-Russian walking tour.

The downhill steps going to the cave entrance.

If my memory serves me right, this is my first real cave experience. I was a bit worried of the 14c temperature inside but it was okay. Being underground surrounded by amazing formations of stalactites, stalagmites and stalacto-stalagmites is a brand new insight. I have not spotted bats during the entire walk, probably because of the spectacular illumination coming from the light system filled with LED lights.

Just few of the many wonders inside the cave.

The walking tour can last up to an hour and be ready to hone your imagination. The tour guide will test it for sure and will reveal amusing structures out of the cave formations.

One of the forbidden caves. Hmmm… I wonder what’s inside?

The tour ended with us riding the bus back to the main hall. Oh and I must not forget that there was joyful dancing and singing in the bus on our way back. I immediately felt grateful being able to be with free-spirited travelers.

He is sad that we are leaving.

Where did we go next? But of course, to make our tummies happy! Yay, we were so ready for a Georgian meal.

Lasha brought us to this lovely restaurant just a few minutes away from the cave. It is called Stalactida and we can’t help but take photos of the captivating landscape and structures.

The food did not disappoint, too. Their fried pork with potatoes and onions (Ojakhuri) is to die for. That must have fueled us to order the same dish every meal during the entire trip (Cholesterol alert!).

We also tried Khachapuri, their traditional bread filled with cheese and egg. Surprisingly, it was not boat-shaped but instead, triangular.

Our cucumber and tomato salad with walnut is interestingly delicious. I am not a vegetable salad person so it had to be very good for me to praise it. You have to try Georgian lemonade too. It has a variety of flavors but Peach and Grapes are our favorites.img_1992.jpg

For a full meal in a grand restaurant, we thought that it will come expensive. Just one more to love about Georgia is that food is cheap but very delicious. We only paid around 35 GEL /  53 Dhs. for four people. That’s thrifty, isn’t it?

We also had a grand sleep in the car (haha) except for the one seated in front, on our way to Martvili Canyon. It is located in the Samegrelo region.

Entrance fee is also 7 GEL / 11 Dhs. and sightseeing can also be done by boat. Unfortunately, the weather was not ideal for a ride so we just walked around, surrounded by lush trees and plants along the concrete pathway and wooden bridges. The feeling of being very close to nature while hearing the gush of water from the falls is very calming. Just what we needed.

We were supposed to explore Okatse Canyon as well, but the heavy rainfall made it impossible for us to go. After convening hard on what to do next, we decided to just head out to Batumi as it was also getting late. It is a good thing we did, or else, we would have missed the vibrant summer vibe of Batumi.

Trip Details:

#marengsingeorgia – June 23-26, 2017




 DIY Barefoot Sandals


It can not be more obvious that it is already summer in Dubai. The screaming 40C temperature signals that it is not good to camp out anymore (boooo!). But hey, there is no reason to sulk because hot days are synonymous to beach season! Having this in mind must have tickled my imagination to awaken my longtime obsession for beads crafting. I salivate when I see beads in different shapes and colors. My happiest day would be waking up one day and discovering that beside the house is Divisoria, Daiso, Day to Day, Satwa and Dragonmart. I just go frenzy over beads, period.

How can I not? Just look at these beauties.

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I started making beaded accessories and sold them with the help of my Auntie and friends. I was really having good fun back then while earning at the same time. School got me hooked up though, so I was not able to sustain it. For years, I have been wanting to revive my passion for this craft but to procure materials here is not easy and a little bit costly. Until one evening, when I just quit the “what ifs” and started making barefoot sandals out of the meager materials that I have. This is my first finished product.

In two weeks after I started, I must say that I have been productive. Although this project has shortened my sleep hours and even makes me want to skip meals (opppps!), there is no denying that I am ecstatic with every pair that I create and get even more thrilled on starting a new pattern.

If you are hitting the beach soon, planning on a beach wedding or you just want to go barefoot (who cares?), these sandals are lovely and pretty adornment for your feet.

A combination of pearls, sequins and a touch of blue is perfect for the lovely bride. You may also make a few for your bridesmaids.

Here is how to make a basic single pattern:


  • Beads of your own choice
  • String or cord
  • Scissors


Warning: Too much feet exposure below.☺️

  1. Measure the string by looping it around your second toe and pulling both sides around your ankle. Leave a good extra length for tying later on. Make two pieces of this.
  2. Fold the string into half, make a loop ( just the right size for your second toe) and seal the loop with a knot.
  3. Hold the ends of the strings together and begin adding on your beads until you reach your desired length (as shown below). Tie the ends to secure the beads.
  4. Wrap the remaining strings around your ankle, add more beads on both sides, tie into a knot and ribbon.

What’s good about this project is that, you are free to create your patterns. Just play along with your imagination and you will be surprised by the many ways your end result will come out amazing. It can be a great gift for your friends and loved ones too! Caution though, this is addictive.

Here is what I made for my friends on our upcoming adventure. I can’t wait!

For twinning moms and daughters, this is an adorable gem for your OOTD collection.


For the little one, all you need is an elastic (I used a headband), then sew or glue on top a pretty patch. It is very comfortable and chic for that yummy feet. My goddaughter loves it!

For couples, an anklet for him is just the right match.


  • Look out for your old accessories. Usually, they are the best ones to recycle. I found my treasured colorful necklace, cut one loop and voila!

The pair goes well with white. Photo taken by my love who is always patient and supportive of my craft and sometimes, eccentricities. 

These beads on the other hand, are from my old bracelet.


  • The choice for materials are just endless (to my delight). You may also experiment on laces, bling-blings and wooden ornaments.

  • Make sure that your string is smaller than the hole of your beads. For ease in adding beads to your chosen string, use a soft wire, bend it into half and put your string at the middle so it can slide easily through your beads.

  • Rest your eyes and hands from time to time. A good amount of sunlight makes it easier to thread through the beads.
  • Do not limit your options to beads. You may also use buttons, sequins, shells and a lot more!
  • The tie and knot method looks more natural and cute but I have discovered  that using these locks is more convenient for securing the strings around your ankle.

  • Although they are primarily worn barefoot, they are also gorgeous when worn with your favorite flip-flops. Go mix and match!

Through this project, I have learned that if God has blessed you with a gift, a skill or even just a desire, no amount of time can completely bury it. It may just sleep for a while but it will resurface no matter what. I guess, this is one of mine. This maybe one of yours too.

I hope that you will try out this tutorial. If you like it or you have questions and suggestions, please leave a comment below or send me an email at

Happy crafting and keep on creating!





 DIY Pippi Longstocking Costume

I was looking for an easy character to portray for our Book Character Dress Up Day when through Google, I stumbled upon Pippi Longstocking or originally written as Pippi Langstrump (Swedish). Based on my brief research, she is a quirky, supernaturally strong, nine-year-old girl created by Astrid Lindgren in 1945. The children’s books have been translated into 70 languages and made into several films and television series.


Having known Pippi’s interesting background, I decided to dress up as Her.  After all, as Pippi said, “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”

Here is my take on how to make a Pippi Longstocking costume:

The Outfit

What I love about the outfit is its thrift factor. All you need to do is rummage your closet for a denim jumper, a similar dress, or shorts with suspender. Stitch or pin some patches on them (I used Felt, which I bought for AED7 at Daiso), to create a more rugged look. Next, is to look for a bright-colored, checkered or stripes undershirt. Go on and improvise, the sky is the limit!

The key here is to mismatch every item, so throw in a bright stocking (mine is retro orange) and two different socks. I bought my purple and black knee-high for only AED10 from Brands for Less and the green one is an old favorite. Finish off your ensemble with boots or sneakers and a pet monkey.

Hair and Make-up

What makes Pippi stand out is her red, braided, firm and standing pigtails. It was hilarious seeing parents and children burst into laughter when they saw me in my super cool wig. I am always in my Nurse uniform so you can imagine the drastic change.

If you have long hair, you are good to go. Since I cut my hair very short recently, I needed to wear a wig, which is a first. I could not find a red wig though, so I opted for a brown one instead from Daiso, priced at AED32. The wig as I found out, turned out too long for what I needed. I had to cut the bangs and shorten the back a bit. Now, to make that standing U-shape effect, you will need a wire (I used a hanger wire) or a thick pipe cleaner and insert it inside your braids. Shape them as you like, and accessorize with colorful ribbons, to make your look more youthful and vibrant.

Here is a useful Youtube link (from Jamie Pettito of ) for a more detailed procedure.

You can play around with the make-up. For my look, I just applied a pink blusher on my cheeks and dotted them with pencil eyeliner to create freckles. Piece of cake, isn’t it?

Pippi may be an orphan but she has plenty of friends!

I really enjoyed being Pippi Longstocking for a day. It is a very economical and an awesome costume idea for Book Character Dress Up Days and Halloweens, fit for both children and adults.

If you have other ideas on how to make the costume or if you have done the Pippi look before, please leave a comment below.

Meanwhile, here is Pippi with another Pippi.

Have fun in your Pippi Longstocking transformation!

Falling in love with Armenia

I can not begin to imagine how and when, but I have fallen into a love affair with Armenia. You know how it is in fairy tales? It comes as a dream, and then suddenly, it is real! Whatever the reason is and however it started, I am so glad that when I joined the solo travel bandwagon, I did it in this beautiful country. Yes, solo in a foreign country and I survived!

Why Armenia?

 A picturesque view of the city and Mt. Ararat from Victory Park.

Armenia as part of the Caucasus Region boasts of breathtaking mountain views, historical monasteries, a very rich culture, lovely people, and a city to love. Having lived most of my life in Asia (The Philippines) and moved to the Middle East (Dubai) six years ago, the combination of  European and Asian ambiance is totally new and revitalizing to me. Somehow, I have romanticized the idea of walking in the streets of Yerevan (capital city) in a chilly April weather, clad in my backpack and just absorbing the interesting sights along the way.

park4Yerevan streets are almost empty in early mornings.

My hostel is along Mashtots Avenue, which is a perfect spot and is just 18 minutes away from the Republic Square, the heart of Yerevan.

The fountains are alive! They dance to songs at night giving more life to the square.

If you are planning a trip to Armenia sooner or later, here is a walk through of my adventure, with travel guide and tips along the way which you might find handy.

Do your research. Believe me,  this is vital in every country that you are about to visit. Reading blog posts about Armenia, which more likely will reveal travel guides on visa information, weather, flights, accommodation, and everything else you are curious of, will save you a lot of unwanted stress. I did my research three months before my travel because at times, I am an organized freak and I was very excited to say the least. It also helped a lot that I have friends who have traveled to Armenia and an Armenian colleague (lovely!) who fed me with firsthand and reliable information about the country. There are lots of nice reads online too. Google is my best friend when it comes to that and Youtube has interesting documentary videos. I also realized that the more I read about Armenia, the more I was mesmerized by its beauty. That was like my stress-reliever after a hard day’s work.

Keep a Travel Journal. I like to organize things and so a travel journal made me  keep track of my itinerary, budget, checklist and gave me a good excuse to be creative again!

My DIY travel journal.

Check for airfare and accommodation that fit your budget. My first consideration on pushing on with this travel was the budget. This may not be a problem to some but I always want to keep my finances intact–to have the time of my life while traveling and still have something to live by when I come back.  It pays to look out for cheap ticket fares online (I use Cleartrip to compare prices) and searched for good hostels/hotels via There are package tours which are really cheap for airfare and hotel accommodation combined so you might want to check on those too. Always read your chosen accommodation’s reviews as it will give you 80% of what you are going to experience once you are there. Honestly, if you are looking for an adventure, you will be out all day so a clean room with a comfortable bed is all you need.

I booked my flight with Fly Dubai three months before my travel (it was even cheaper a week before I booked) and stayed in Domino Yerevan Hostel and Tours. The Hostel owner, Mr. Arthur, and his staff are a lovely bunch. Mr. Arthur loves to offer his homemade wine to his guests and I must say that the Cherry Wine best suits my taste buds!

Mr. Arthur with two other guests. Those two empty glasses were mine. I skipped the Vodka.  Errr..

Make an itinerary. This is probably the most exhausting part, but you must make one anyhow. After thorough research, I realized that it was difficult to squeeze all the amazing sights in Armenia in just five days. For an ideal travel, I think a week in Armenia would be lovely as that will give you two days in Yerevan, four days in the outskirts, and a day to just wander, relax and catch up. Three to five days is a fair, good enough length of stay in Armenia as long as you know what you’re after. I am the type that would “conquer it all” and so in five days, by God’s grace, I was able to reach as many places as I can. I would come home at 10pm (thankfully, Yerevan is safe) sleep late, and wake up early, still able and excited. I guess that is what Armenia makes of you – a gentle conqueror.

Plan your tours. Yerevan can be explored on foot. Come on, stretch out those legs! For other destinations, you may take a taxi. Usually, if it is just within Yerevan, they won’t charge you more than AMD1,000. There are also regular group tours outside of Yerevan, which is way cheaper than going for a private tour. Check out, Hyur Service, Envoy Tours and Domino Yerevan Hostel and Tours for their daily tour schedule.

Make a packing checklist and double or triple check it. This is where I half failed. I made a packing checklist but my aging brain (ouch!) managed to leave my engagement ring, lotion, and sunscreen in Dubai. Nevertheless, my super excited aura did not let this mishap ruin my trip. My mantra, “Nothing will go wrong if you don’t allow it” worked. So as to make sure that you don’t forget any essentials, only tick items off your checklist when they are already physically inside your luggage or carry-on. Also, make sure to pack clothes appropriate for the weather. I was constantly checking the weather forecast in Yerevan through Accuweather and it gave me a good idea to pack layered clothing because. true enough, it was still chilly in Armenia during my stay.

Lake Sevan, still icy in April.

Apply for a visa. For Filipinos and most nationalities, it is visa-on-arrival. Finally! You can even obtain a visa online. I wanted a sticker on my passport though so I opted to acquire visa upon arrival. Applying online is highly recommended during peak months to avoid long queues. As you arrive at Zvartnots Airport, go where the flow is and either head straight to fill up the visa form (make sure to write legibly bearing in mind your passport details and address in Armenia) or exchange your USD (US Dollar) to AMD (Armenian Dram) first. You may download the XE Currency Converter app for live conversion rates. Remember, you must exchange your AED (Emirati Dirham) to USD before you fly out because they don’t accept AED for conversion. It is also wise to consider exchanging only USD 50-100 at the airport to cover the visa cost (AMD 3000/AED 23/USD 7) for a short stay and exchange the rest in Yerevan where the exchange rate is much higher. There are numerous money changer stalls/shops in the city. A few steps from where I stayed is a 24/7 supermarket called Pak Shuka, where a money changer stall operates. After filling out the visa form and obtaining drams, head next to the visa section, present your passport without the passport holder, pay the visa fee, and marvel at your visa sticker! You are good to explore Armenia. Congratulations!

Arrange your airport transfer. There are taxis in the airport but you may also arrange pick-up and drop-off  with your hostel/hotel. You will easily see their representative as he would be beaming at you while holding an A4 paper printed with the name of your accommodation. Feeling like a tourist already? For a planner like me, that is tasty security. The ride from the airport to Yerevan takes approximately 15 minutes. Transportation cost would be around AMD2,000-5,000.

Get connected. Don’t worry about your social media life or access to your emails. You can still be connected even if you didn’t buy a roaming pack. The first minute I arrived at Zvartnots Airport, I immediately checked my phone to see if I have a network signal. Surprise, surprise, there was none! So after I checked in at Domino, I purchased a local sim by Ucom (a mobile network operator and internet service provider) for AMD1,000. It already included voice calls and data. I was then a happy bee to have internet during my entire stay (300mb per day) which is good enough for Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and Google Maps (very helpful in my walking tours in Yerevan). For the price I paid,  it is very cheap, and convenient, too. If you are not keen on buying a local sim, wifi is easily accessible in public places, cafes, restaurants and hostels/hotels.

Gear up your gadgets. Whatever camera you are going to use, make sure that it is fully charged with extra batteries or power bank. You will not resist taking photos and feel free to take a lot! I used my mobile camera, and carried with me a power bank and a selfie stick, which I have not used for its main purpose other than serve as a stand whenever I’m taking timer shots. I am just no good with selfie sticks. Make sure also to bring adapters with rounded pins. The lifeline of your gadgets depends on them.

Meet Locals. Generally, Armenians are kind and helpful people. Many times, I asked for directions and instead of just being pointed to my destination, I ended up being escorted towards them. One taxi driver even accompanied me in my tour of the Genocide Museum and was very apologetic because he doesn’t speak English. Mr. Arthur, on the other hand, fed me with sumptuous Armenian delicacies while on our way to Tatev, all for free! English is quite alien to some but the youngsters are able to converse in the language confidently. They are also the technology-empowered group who would take out their phones and direct you through Google Maps. If you happen to be stared at a lot, don’t freak out. They just see you different but a warm smile always does the trick.

A selfie with the ladies of Tatev.

Indulge in local cuisine. I must say that when it comes to food, I am not very adventurous, but since this is my first solo travel, I tried as much degustation as I could have. I wish that I had explored more Armenian food though because they are delicious! Gata, an Armenian sweet bread is perfect for afternoon snack. Their Lavash (traditional Armenian bread made with flour, water, and salt) is made thin to perfection. Wait until you see how much effort and coordination are used to bake this bread and you will appreciate it more. I even brought some with their local cheese (yummy!) back to Dubai along with dried Apricot, Prunes, Grand Candy sweets, and Sujuk/Armenian Snickers (made from walnuts which are strung on long strings and thickly coated in fruit syrup).


On one tour, I experienced having lunch in a home in Noratus Village. The Ikra (Armenian dip made with eggplant and tomatoes) is my winner. It is so good with Lavash and also when eaten on its own. So we had fresh vegetables, salads, breads and dips as appetizers and Kofta with Pasta as main dish. How filling is that?!

Meanwhile, in this serene restaurant in Dilijan (sorry, I didn’t get the name), I opted for Beef Kebab with potatoes on the side.

If you want to experience traditional Armenian music while dining, I recommend Pandok Yerevan (Tavern Yerevan). They have four branches in Yerevan: Amiryan, Paronyan, Teryan and Khorenatsi. They tend to be fully booked so it is a must to reserve a table beforehand. I went to their Khorenatsi branch and after being late for an hour (I got lost walking, took a taxi in the end), I still have my table waiting for me and right in front the performing group. Sweet! They have delectable food choices, a great way to reward yourself after tours.

Take notice of the instruments, truly Armenian.

Explore the outskirts. You will never regret it. The drive may be long but the mountain views are amazing. At times, I felt very sleepy but I just couldn’t let the moment pass without basking in Armenia’s beautiful scenery. I have read blogs about how lovely Goris is and it is a good excuse for me to come back.

Dilijan, Armenia’s little Switzerland.

Learn their culture and tradition. For one, the centuries old monasteries are sights to behold. They are authentic, ancient, and filled with rich history. It is indeed a blessing being able to be inside these structures which have stood the test of time. Here are my favorites:

sevan2Sevanavank Monastery

Geghard Monastery

Khor Virap Monastery from afar

Noravank Monastery

Tatev Monastery

And Garni too, a Pagan Temple

Khachkar or Armenian cross-stone are everywhere, predominantly in churches and graveyards. It is a carved stone bearing a cross surmounting a rosette or a solar disc as its common feature. The remainder of the stone face is typically filled with elaborate patterns of leaves, grapes, pomegranates, and bands of interlace. Occasionally a khachkar is surmounted by a cornice sometimes containing biblical or saintly figures. Most early khachkars were erected for the salvation of the soul of either a living or a deceased person. Otherwise they were intended to commemorate a military victory, the construction of a church, or as a form of protection from natural disasters. (Wikipedia)

khachkar3Interestingly, no two Khachkars are alike. Armenians also believe that when you step on a Khachkar, whoever is inside will pull away all your sins.

casing2I even got one on my phone to mark my adventure in Armenia.

Walk around the city. A city to love, that is my personal definition of Yerevan. If I will have the chance to come back, I will definitely take slow walks around the city, sit on a bench in Republic Square, drink coffee, smile at people, and just admire the sights around me. I had a hurried last day so I was only able to visit Vernissage and Genocide Museum. There are more to see like Cafesjian Museum inside Cascade, Echmiadzin, Matenadaran Museum, Armenia History Museum, a show at the Opera Theatre, Ararat Brandy Factory and a lot more. They say that Kond is another interesting place to explore as it is one of the oldest quarters of Yerevan.

My glee on seeing the Pink city.

Side note: The water in Yerevan is safe to drink. Water fountains in public places are thirst-quenchers after long walks.

Visit the Vernissage. Vernissage is an open-air market in Yerevan that functions only on Saturdays and Sundays. For those looking for gifts and souvenirs, this is the best place to go. I really enjoyed my time going around as the Armenian culture and art are visible everywhere. Gotta love those preserved Pomegranate key chains and fridge magnets. The handmade accessories and carved wooden Armenian letters are precious too. Just make sure to bargain, and bargain hard!

The colorful world of Vernissage.

Bring home Armenian wine. I am no expert when it comes to wine–I rarely even drink alcohol, but I liked the white wine from Areni Factory. Unfortunately, they don’t export yet to UAE. It is also worth checking out the wines in supermarkets and the homemade wines in Areni as they really come cheap. Just make sure to pack them well in your check-in luggage. Check with your airlines too how many bottles you are allowed to bring.

wine2Wine tasting in Areni Wine Factory.

Did I already say take a lot of photos? If you are traveling with a group, having photographed is not going to be a problem. As a solo traveler, I had to be creative in my timer shots or just be bold in asking random strangers to take my photo.

cascade2Exercise, anybody? Timer shot at the top of Cascade

Taken by a Chinese solo traveler

Timer shot in Sevanavank

Don’t miss the Wings of Tatev ride, Guiness’ longest aerial tram. Photo taken by the crew.

Surprisingly, going on a group tour was a good way to meet other tourists and learn from them. Meeting seasoned travelers made me realize that at 35, I’m a late-bloomer when it comes to traveling. I wish that I started earlier but hey, God is always on-time and this is my time.

I believe that there is more to discover in Armenia and the stage is now yours. Please share it to the world. The country definitely deserves more attention as a tourist destination.

Here is my dreamy self trying to absorb it all.

I am looking forward to say “Barev Armenia” again soon!