Monthly Archives: April 2014

Hello Hong Kong ! Jul ’13

So If you have seen previous posts, you know that I made a “blink and miss” visit to Macau city in May 2013 to attend a wedding. The reason the trip was a short one besides the considerable travel time , was that we were heading back to Hong Kong in a month’s time for a wedding within our family.

My mother-in-law grew up in Hong Kong, and most of her family still resides there. So Hong Kong it was for a 10 day vacation, inclusive of a 2 day Chinese wedding festivity.

Travel: Cathay Pacific offers one of the easiest non-stop flights to get to Hong Kong from the Middle East (GCC) and has quite comfortable aircrafts.

Now since this was my  first trip to Hong Kong, my family made a special effort in terms of sight-seeing,eateries,shopping etc.

MUST-VISITS :

1) The Peak : If you want to get fabulous, mind-boggling views of this beautiful modern city, make your way to the peak. The Victoria Peak offers stunning panoramic views of Hong Kong and leaves you mesmerised. There are lots of excursions on offer to have the perfect “Peak” experience. Hiking trails, trams that will give you spectacular views and the illusion of a slanted city,or just driving up  to the Peak by Taxi/Cab and enjoying the restaurants, coffee shops and shopping all encompassed in a complex at the very top .Not one to miss !

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2) Landmark Mall (Central Hong Kong) and Elements Mall :  Growing up in Dubai as a 90’s child, you tend to get a bit big-headed about the infrastructure and how spectacular all these huge malls are etc etc. Hong  Kong’s infrastructure and the sheer size and complexity  of its structures and malls , that were built wayy before the world knew what “Dubai” was will plant your feet firmly back into the ground. The Landmark Mall in Central Hong Kong and Elements in the Kowloon side  are both monstrosities with every kind of shop you might want all under one roof. A shopper’s paradise, enough to leave even the most relentless person tired and make the pickiest shopper , grab a few things.

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Landmark Mall ( Central Hong Kong)

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Elements Mall ( Kowloon)

3) Tsim Sha Tsui: Situated in Kowloon, Tsim Sha Tsui is a bustling area with streets packed with shops and restaurants. None of the high-end brand business. But for those who love exploring a culture and their tit-bits by roaming the streets and discovering, this is the perfect place for you. Some great street-side shopping and street food while roaming around this area.Also the streets lead up to a beautiful promenade with spectacular views of the city skyline at night.

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4) Repulse Bay: After all the city life and hustle- bustle you might crave some picturesque  quiet and this is  when you should head to one of the more naturally beautiful parts of Hong-Kong. With stunning views and a scenic drive, on roads woven through the mountains, Repulse bay is a great retreat from the city and also offers a nice stretch of beach, for enthusiasts.

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5) Lang Kwai Fong: Like any other commercial city, the night life in Hong Kong is booming, and to enjoy it,there is no better place to head to than Lang Kwai Fong. Overflowing with clubs,lounges,pubs and bars,all plush with different tunes bursting through a unique ambience/setting. Lang Kwai Fong has a night-life experience for everyone.

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MUST TASTE:

1) Yum Cha ( Afternoon Tea) at Lei Garden:  Yum Cha is a Chinese tradition, where the family gets together for Dim-Sims and tea in the afternoon, usually on a weekend. Our choice of of restaurant was Lei Garden, located at the Elements Mall (Kowloon),with a mind-boggling variety of authentic dim-sums and other treats the Yum Cha experience at Lei Garden was a memorable one.

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2)Gai Mei Bao (Cocktail Bun) at Maxim’s : The Chinese are very popular for their breads both sweet and savoury, and one that stole my heart and had me gorging on it at least twice  a day was the famous “Gai Mei Bao” , a soft delicious bread with a sweet buttery coconut concoction in the centre, had me wanting it for breakfast and evening tea non-stop for 10 days. Of course if sweet isn’t your thing there are several other options at this amazing bakery, and there is a Maxim’s branch within your reach at any populated area in Hong Kong. Must Try !

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LET DOWN:

1) Citygate Outlet Mall: By now you probably know that one of the pleasures of my travels are my shopping expeditions, and locating outlet malls in a nation known for their love of brands was icing on the cake.  So unfortunately, for me I was massively let down by the Citygate Outlet Mall which is a good couple of hours away from Kowloon (where I was staying). Although the mall is well built and spacious, it lacks most high – end designers ( Which is the whole point of an outlet mall) and even the selected choice of stores, won’t leave you with that smug satisfactory feeling of having saved a fortune, or landed an amazing deal. This one was a miss for me.

MISSED BUT MUST SEE:

Due to the lack of time and probably just having a lazy/good time. We missed going to two places that I have been assured are worth your time and money.

Disneyland – Hong Kong: This is a no-brainer for a fun filled day at a theme park, however, having visited Orlando (2012) , Disneyland was not my to-visit list for the Hong Kong trip.

Tian Tan Buddha:  This enormous beautiful statue of the Big Buddha has thousands of tourists visiting each year. One of the largest structures of the Big Buddha ever built in bronze, and can actually be seen from miles away ! Some say even from Macau on a clear day !

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Loving a Local : Mikyajy

You may be 17 or 70 … or perhaps in between both,but your love for lip products  is almost certain if you are a woman who likes to take care of herself. I for one was not quick to venture into make-up,thanks to my mum there were rules and some of them included “Nothing but Johnson’s baby cream for the face” for quite some time.

Today of course….things are VERY different.I love my lip products with a passion and have quite ahem the “collection”. Also the cosmetic industry, perhaps is not what it was a decade ago,with new product releases/launches by the second ! each trying to up the other’s claim, the choices are innumerable and sometimes can be very overwhelming.

Now Mikyajy is not a brand that is new to my knowledge. In fact it is one of those stores that sadly you just  pass by, because oh well I want to get something a bit more MAC or Bobbi Brown (snob alert) or  run to the drugstore/pharmacy to look at the new L’Oréal or Maybelline displays.

Mikyajy was brought to my attention about a year ago by my niece, who was wearing a beautiful lip colour. Matte, yet not dry and flaky and it stayed put through the night,withstanding food,drink,chatter and all ! So without a doubt I had to pop the question….What do you have on your lips???

Being women….there began our excited conversation about this Mikyajy lip-liner and how it was a favourite amongst many women from this region,prices were affordable….yet the product was great etc etc.

On the particular day that I sauntered into a Mikyajy store,I was looking to find the perfect “nude” lipstick.    Note : Having yellow undertones means  this a task and a half.

Also they had a “Buy 2 get 1 free” on their Sabaya moisture lip colour range,which is one of their most comfortable lipstick formula to wear.

PURCHASES

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Lip-Liners –

1) Sabaya Line and Define Pencil (No3)

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2) Sabaya Line and Define Pencil (No1)

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Verdict – Smooth and creamy, these liners glide right on and are comfortable enough to wear all over the lip ( as pictured above) without the uncomfortable “crayon on my mouth” feeling. The staying power is great too although they will fade a bit if in contact with a lot of liquids. Over all good product for the price and there are quite a few shades to choose from.

Beauty Tip : If you are planning to wear these all over your lips, make sure your lips are exfoliated as the lip liner will cling on to any dry bits making the wear a bit rough and uneven.

Lipsticks –

1) Sabaya Moisture Lip Colour (No4) – The Brown(y) Nude

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2) Sabaya Moisture Lip Colour (No11) – The Pink (y) Nude

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3) Sabaya Moisture Lip Colour (No14) – The Pretty Pink

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Verdict : With a rich formula these lipsticks go on beautifully and stay true to their name of being a “moisture” lip colour. However, if you are looking for a good long wear for hours at a stretch without a touch-up, these formulations are not the one for you. But the colour pay-off is good and they fade nicely and don’t leave that awkward residue on the lips. Also since these are lighter formulas the colour will vary according to the pigmentation of your natural lip colour.

Beauty Tips to Beat the Summer Heat

In a lot of places across the globe it is officially  spring time and people are out in the open enjoying warm sunshine , cool breezes and beautiful blooming flowers.  Meanwhile,in the Middle East , summer has  cheekily crept upon us  …… yesterday we could lounge and frolic outdoors  and today …. Kaboom !! its too humid and hot to even stand in non-airconditioned place for a few minutes !

Anyways, being someone who was born and brought up here (Dubai) I can withstand fairly warm temperatures and wont break a sweat even at 35 Degrees Celsius ! But I guess that’s just me and a lot of people get hot easily and find it difficult to deal with the immense heat especially those steamy afternoons !

Here are 5 very easy /inexpensive ways to combat the soaring temperatures ….. or atleast make them slightly more bearable.  Also these tips would work with anyone and can easily be integrated into any routine.

1) After Sun Recovery Creams/ Lotions: Now I know …. I can feel those  dubious eye-brows raising and all of that. BUT ! think about it objectively for a second, the temperatures that we in the GCC/Middle East have to bear in the hot summer months are no less than those you face on a beach holiday or those on a hot pool day. After sun creams/ lotions can help cool down the skin and that cooling sensation can help calm  that hot flustered feeling  you get after driving around in the morning/afternoon or even after a short (forced) walk.

My choice of product for this one are both from Boots Pharmacy. Simple yet effective !

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Face: Facial Recovery Aftersun by No 7

Body : Soltan Aftersun Hydrating Lotion (with aloe vera)

2) Fun Ways to Increase Water In-Take: Water …. the most useful yet the most boring thing to drink. But really the only true  thirst-quencher ! Find a way to make water more “attractive” to yourself (and your family). So all these fancy flavoured waters now available in stores can easily be duplicated at home … minus the harmful “hidden” sugars. Think of your favourite flavour and replicate ! For Instance : Lemon Mint ….. Get a Jug full of chilled water and throw in some freshly chopped mint and a few slices of lemon… maybe a few slices of cucumber and Voila !

Taste Tip: If you are one with a sweet tooth try a sweeter fruit … how ever leave the fruits sliced or whole. Do NOT squeeze them into your water. Also Honey is a great natural sweetener and has many health benefits.

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Image courtesy google.

3) Use a Face-mist: Now you might not have one lying around but these are very easily available at supermarkets/hypermarkets and even gas stations !. Ranging from larger bottles to small ones, this is a small treat in the hot months, especially when it comes to cooling your face. Spritz , on the go ! and let your face be cooled for a bit !

Beauty Tip : Face-mists are a great alternative to expensive Make-Up Setting sprays and Toners .

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My favourites are Evian Brumisateur Facial Spray and for when my skin is feeling more  sensitive , Avene Eau Thermale  ( Thermal Water). Both work wonders ! and can be purchased from any pharmacy or supermarket.

4) Change-up your work out Routine : So the heat has accelerated the amount you sweat everyday and your body is getting dehydrated by the second ! A hot sweaty work-out will only add to this leaving you feeling dizzy and sometimes a sufficient water in-take just is NOT enough. So …. switch out your workout ! try swimming or water aerobics in an indoor/ temperature controlled pool. Even just getting in without anything fancy and stationary jogging or cycling will give great results.

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5) Switch out your Shampoo: Now your scalp is one of the most sensitive area that gets exposed to the sun’s fury ( after your face of course) and in the GCC … unless you wear a Hijab, we don’t really make an effort to protect our scalp with Umbrellas/Hats. I know, Ive have this argument on several occasions with my dear mum…… I did NOT carry that darned umbrella to university ! No Sirree !

So to those stubborn ones like myself , switch to one of those refreshing/cooling formulas. Once or twice a week not only will this help leave that calming sensation behind on the scalp. But these kind of formulas are usually clarifying and will make your scalp feel new and rid of all the extra grit that accumulates from excessive sweating.

One of my personal favourites is the Palmolive “Clean and Fresh”. Enough to get the grit and oils out and yet leave your hair soft to the touch ! This budget friendly shampoo is a no-brainer. Easily available at any supermarket or pharmacy.

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Until you travel to a cooler country ! Here’s hoping these tips help you beat the heat this summer !

Macau Musings May ’13

Attending one our dear friend’s wedding was a promise we made to bribe the sweet “SR”  all the way to our own, from Hong Kong. Also Kudos to her not only for making the journey but staying for the entire .. ahem… WEEK long celebrations.

Boy oh boy …. did her wedding turn out to be one of the best promises I ever had to keep !  Attending the 3 day non-stop gala was a destination wedding at none other than Macau !

Macau (Macao) is a part of the Republic of China and is easily best described as the “Las Vegas” of the Far East. With an economy that is majorly based on gambling and tourism. Macau is a quick weekend destination for residents of China and Hong Kong, and is now also extremely popular as a destination for grand celeberations.

Our route to Macau (from Bahrain) was via Hong Kong, so Cathay Pacific is a fairly good bet for those flying from the Middle East to Macau, and then from Hong Kong Airport  it was on to a ferry (about an hour long) to Macau.

Traveller’s Tip : Please do NOT make the same dire mistake we made of leaving the airport after baggage claim to look for the ferry. There is a ferry that can be taken from within the airport itself, without visiting half of Hong Kong on the train.

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With an array of hotels and resorts to choose from, visitors are spoiled for choice, our hotel stay was kindly organised at the Galaxy Macau, one of the most breath-taking properties ever both in its sheer expanse and quality/array of services. The property is actually 3 hotels all attached from within, so at the Galaxy Macau you could choose to stay either at the main hotel or at the Hotel Okura or Banyan Tree Macau, all of which are inter-connected, yet are individually designed and have their own unique aesthetic.

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The hotel was vibrant and had enough colour to keep you ogling forever. The structure grand and built over a huge area leaves you wondering what this enormity may NOT have. The answer is of course almost nothing  that you can put your finger on immediately. Comprising of a spa, salon, cinemas, restaurants (fine and casual dining and a food court), coffee shops, a wide array of shops.. we are talking high-end designers and regular high street stores, drug stores, supermarkets, bars, lounges and of course the never-ending expanse of the casino floor.

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With a packed wedding schedule for 3 days continuous, there was not much of the Macau that we actually ventured out into. But by the second day when we had a break for a meal a couple of friends ventured across from the Galaxy to the Venetian to grab a bite and I was quick to realise that Macau pretty much had the same things throughout the city … Hotels and Resorts.

And each hotel has the same kind of things to offer just in a different layout/ambience.

Here are some of the wedding venues

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The Welcome Lunch Venue

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The Wedding Ceremony Venue

 

So who is Macau city suitable for ?

1) The Lounger: For those who need a few days to switch off and just have everything within an arm’s ( or an elevator’s in this case) reach, saunter into the lobby and find everything they desire within one property, I’m talking shopping, food, cinemas, spa and casinos. This would be a perfect 3 day break for you. Spend on your hotel and yourself , there is no sight-seeing as such that you are missing out on. Pick a good hotel/resort and enjoy it !

 

2) The Gambler: If you are one with a love for Casino’s and gambling , then you my friend are in the right place. Gambling is one of the main industry’s of Macau City and the expanse of the Casino floors can leave you dizzy. Several different arrays of slot-machines and other gambling (games?) is a vital part of each hotel. Take your pick ! Or saunter into different Casinos across hotels as you please !

Traveller’s Tip: If you are not a resident of Hong-Kong or China make your Macau trip a 2-3 day part of a longer vacation.

Asos Loves – The Basics

So  I love malls. Always have always will probably. Hence the idea of online shopping was one that never appealed to me personally. Looking at images and clicking on them to purchase….Pffffft.. What a bore ! Takes away from the complete store experience, the ambience, the trial room havoc etc etc.. you get the point.

However, these were all thoughts that changed when i stumbled across ASOS (www.asos.com). * Dramatic Drum Roll*

Now for most people who live in the GCC, the mall culture is very prevalent as the  temperatures are soaring most months of the year and it is difficult and uncomfortable to stay outdoors for a a considerable amount of time. Also thankfully for us the malls are bursting with options and one will usually find what they need and will not leave dissatisfied.

That being said, the two kinds of people who I believe would benefit from a website like ASOS are :

1) The Fashionista : The shopper who does not want to wait until trends of the season filter their way down to the Middle East and reach the likes of Zara/ Massimo / Topshop. For these people online shopping is Paradise on earth with hundreds of websites to choose from and each website being updated with new products, the outfit equations are innumerable and can be custom made to suit any occasion under the sun.

 

2) The Basics Collector : The good old basic pieces in one’s wardrobe that can be worn with multiple  things and are staples that can take you through the seasons. These wardrobe staples are sometimes the most difficult to find and especially for those with a classic sensibility  hunting for the perfect “White Shirt ” or that classic pair of “Black Trousers” can be such a painful task.

 

Personally I  belong a bit to both the categories , probably like most people.

Sometimes not being the most proportionate person will leave me scavenging the stores for a basic pair of blue jeans. Or a white top that isn’t sheer but still wont suffocate me under the sun.  Anyway long story short, I always knew of Asos’s existence but was never bothered until I craved having the perfect pair of wide-legged black trousers and just could not find one anywhere ! Possibly  too late to jump on the band-wagon ( Hence the falling between both categories), I logged on to Asos typed in “Wide legged trousers and up popped 15 options !! No Kidding !!  And oh boy how I have utilized those trousers.

Find below the two basic wardrobe pieces that I purchased from the website and have worn on several different occasions.

The Wide-Legged Trouser

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The Midi-Skirt

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Turkish Delights Aug ’13

Travelling on the Turkish Airlines made Istanbul a quick stopover on our way to Croatia. While going to Croatia was a touch and go , on our way back home we stayed to enjoy the hustle bustle of this vibrant city.

A big Kudos to my brother-in-law for expertly fitting in all the main monumental sight seeing tours as well as accommodating our shopping cravings in such a short time frame.

With oodles of historical gems , a rich and colourful culture and the best Kebabs and Kunafah you have ever tasted . Istanbul is truly a Turkish Delight !

SIGHT-SEEING

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The Blue Mosque ( SultanAhmet Mosque)

An architectural treat and one of the most beautiful structures you have ever laid eyes on, the Blue Mosque truly is a divine structure.  With intricate marbling both on it’s exterior and interiors , beautifully coloured stain glass and mosaicked domes and walls and layered circular chandeliers the Blue Mosque can keep one mesmerised for hours, and even though the Mosque is bustling with tourists there is a certain sense of serenity and peace.

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Hagia Sofya ( Aya Sofya)

Probably the most popular Man-made structure in Turkey, is this beautiful structure has been re-built thrice and what we see today is the third and final structure. Originally a Greek orthodox church the Hagia Sofya was later converted into a Mosque without the complete destruction of the former, and is today open as a museum for public viewing. With constant restoration work to keep this one-of-a-kind monument in place , a visit to Hagya Sofya is a must !

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Model of the Topkapi Sarayi 

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Topkapi Palace Museum ( Topkapi Sarayi)

This  opulent palace was built to serve as the residence of the Ottoman royalty during the Ottoman Empire for about 400 years. Today open to the public, this museum holds thousands of important artefacts both cultural and religious and has some beautiful calligraphy within its walls as well. Although be warned with number of things to see and ponder over this could be a long tour and might leave you a bit hungry. Which is perfect if you love your kebabs and a scenic view !

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Konyali Cafe ( Topkapi Sarayi)

 

SHOPPING

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Istinye Park 

Yes yes i know … Istanbul is known for its bazaars and markets. However, this one of the most visually enticing malls I have ever been too and I grew up in Dubai ! (aka mall culture city) With everything you might want to purchase under the sun and every brand one can fancy this mall is ginormous with a gorgeous outdoor and indoor shopping expanse. Must visit !

P.S : I was too busy “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” over every store to have taken pictures. Hence images courtesy Google.

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The Egyptian Bazaar ( Spice Bazaar)

The Egyptian Bazaar is one to tingle your sense of smell taste and sight. With spices , herbs , teas , dried fruits and much more the bazaar is bustling with colour and is a real treat to visit. My favourite picks from this bazaar were Iranian Saffron, rose flavored turkish delights and Amber Oud.

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The Grand Bazaar 

In my opinion the second most sought after place by the average tourist (First being the Hagia Sofya) this maze of gullies is filled with stores selling all sorts of things from Turkish tea sets to stained glass lanterns to evil-eye amulets. A real market filled with sounds of haggling and hustle the Grand Bazaar is an explosion of touristy purchases. Buy 10 things you probably don’t need…Check. Haggle for 50 % discounts….Check. Eat Kebabs and Kunafah …. Check !

 

EATERIES

Beyti-the-Restaurant

Although the food all over Istanbul is fairly good ( especially if you love your grilled meats as much as my family). However, a special mention must go to this beautiful restaurant with 11 separate dining rooms , each with a different feel but all within traditional Turkish elements. The food and service are both impeccable. My personal suggestion to those visiting Beyti is to go with a good appetite and space out your courses.What makes Beyti truly special is the sheer amount of memorabilia you will find here from the “Who’s who” globally. Kings, presidents, leaders and founders almost every person of importance that you can imagine from all over the world  has dined at the Beyti (while visiting Istanbul) and Beyti has very kindly put up all the gifts souvenirs, letters and photographs for all their guests to view and enjoy throughout the eatery.

 

Croatian Crusades : Aug’13

Had someone asked my take on Croatia earlier this year, my apt response would probably have been a shoulder shrug and a confused expression. However, 2 weeks in this beautiful ex Yugoslavian nation and I was left spell-bound.

The  5  places  that I felt made my trip  absolutely worthwhile were these :

Plitvice Lakes National Park (Zaghreb)

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This breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site is an absolute feast for the eyes. The Park consists of 16 lakes and is the largest in Croatia, also one of the oldest in the region.  Situated about 2 hours away from the main town of Zaghreb ( by road) it is fairly easy to visit and not one to miss !

The Island of Hvar (Split)

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For those visiting the city of Split in Croatia, a day trip to the Island of Hvar is a must. The scenic boat/yacht ride of approximately 2 hours is a fun experience all on its own. Also once you reach Hvar the  vast variety of delicious seafood available will leave you spoiled for choice. Hvar has something for everyone beaches, culture, stalls selling their famous lavender and olive oils and a lot more !

Sun Salutation And The Sea Organ (Zadar)

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A coastal town based in the Dalmation region of Croatia, which is best known for these two novelties. The Sea Organ, which is a series of pipes fitted on the city coast and as the waves from the Adriatic Sea fill the tubes, a harmony of tunes plays across the coast a truly unusual experience. The Sun Salutation shall leave visitors even more astounded as it is a sphere of solar panels installed near the coast that absorb energy during the day and at night light up with different bursts of colors and patterns. Both of these are designed by Croatian architect Nikola Basic, and are a unique wonder.

The Island of Korcula

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Off the coast of the city of Dubrovnik, lies a beautiful little island with a very rich history, with beautiful ruins and well preserved ancient architecture the Island is most fondly remembered  for being the birth place of the famous Marco Polo. ( Pictured above)

The Old Town of Dubrovnik

My favorite part of the entire trip was the old town of Dubrovnik, not something I would have ever imagined to be the way that it was, but this stunning Old town has been preserved by the city since the 1400’s. Although it is their Old town it is by far the most “happening” place in the enitre town. With all kinds of stores, eateries, coffee and gelato houses, the old town is a treat for and for all. Also what made this little town an absolute treat for me was that bits of my  favourite TV show were also shot here. Calling out to all “Game of Thrones” fans, you are most plausibly going to end up strolling around in awe of this real life set of the most amazing show ever !

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All said and done a very interesting trip both educational, fun, relaxing  and full of cross country coach rides with my amazing family !

 

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