Notes by Nectar

Your destiny lies in your own hands

Dubai 2015: Weeks 52/53

I got back from Bali on the 23rd morning. Similar to when I left, the passengers had to get on a bus after leaving the plane and were then taken to the terminal. I stood at the top of the stairway at 5am and was hit by a blast of cold air. I got on the bus, found a seat and sat down because I was feeling tired and lazy. Just as well, because the bus ride to the airport took forever. It felt like we were going around the airport in circles. I felt like one of the hostages in the movie Speed. We finally got to the terminal, I went through the e-Gate, collected my luggage, bought five bottles of champagne at Duty Free and went home. I was so happy to be home, and back in my own bed. I’d missed my pillows! I passed out for a few hours until lunch.

That evening, a friend had invited a few people over for mulled wine and mince pies. We got to her place in The Springs at about 7pm. It was nice to see everyone after my trip, and we sat out in the garden, sipping wine and chatting. I left at around 9.30pm – I was exhausted and a bit jet-lagged.

On Thursday, I went to the Dubai Mall – I needed a Secret Santa present for Christmas lunch the next day. Once I’d picked that up I went back home. I had a load of work to do and was starting to panic about how I was going to get it all done before the deadlines. I stayed in that night.

I spent Christmas Day with some friends at their flat in Business Bay. I got there at around 2pm and we had lunch at 4pm. It was also my fourth anniversary of being in Dubai – I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone!

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There was so much food! Prawn cocktail to start with, and then turkey, pork shoulder, roast potatoes, stuffing, brussel sprouts, pigs in blankets, and I’m sure there was more that I can’t remember. There was Christmas pudding and cheese for dessert. Not to mention the prosecco, champagne and wine that we all enjoyed. The weather was lovely too – and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening sitting on their balcony, watching the full moon move across the sky (and watching random YouTube music videos).

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I got home at around 11pm. It was a long day, but it was really fun.

I went to the Dubai Mall on Saturday as I was meeting some friends at Vogue Cafe in the Shoe District for tea.

On Sunday, I decided to try out a new yoga studio at Village Mall. It was really nice and I ended up buying a package for 15 classes.

I had my usual piano lesson on Monday, but that was all I did that day. All I’d been doing otherwise was working. I’d hoped that as my UK clients were closed for the holidays, there’d be no more work coming in over the holidays and I could catch up properly, but I didn’t realise that their Indian offices would still be open and send me things to work on! It was good though – I kept my head down and got on with it.

I’d been invited out for lunch on Tuesday. I wasn’t keen on going but I had some friends visiting Dubai who would be at lunch so I went anyway. Lunch was at Apres in Mall of the Emirates. I got there at 1pm (which was the time on the invitation) and there was nobody there, not even the two hosts. There was also no table set up for 10-12 people so I asked the waitress at the door whether they had a booking under either of the hosts’ names. ‘For today, ma’am?’ Well, yes, I’m here, aren’t I? She looked in her diary. ‘Oh yes, 1pm for 12 people.’ So, where is the table? ‘Oh, we didn’t know if they wanted smoking or non-smoking.’ You have the number there so why didn’t you call to confirm? ‘Yes, ma’am.’ The woman was irritating. But what irritated me more was that the hosts should have been dealing with the lack of a table and not me. I got the table sorted and sat down. I asked the waiter for a bottle of water (which never arrived). At about 1.15pm one of the hosts arrived – she’d had errands to run in the mall which was why she was late. Good grief – couldn’t she have done that later? Anyway, people started arriving – we were nine girls in the end – and lunch seemed to go on forever. The service was awful. I would never go back there. At 4pm I made my excuses and left – the others seemed quite happy to sit there for longer but I had s*** to do!

I had a session with Pete on Wednesday and spent the rest of the day working.

On Thursday morning I went back to Eco Yoga Sanctuary for a Hatha Flow class. After that I decided to get my  hair done as I looked like a homeless person after the yoga class. It was also New Year’s Eve and I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do that night. My number one choice was to stay home. I’d been invited to a few places but I couldn’t face the thought of the traffic going Downtown and then getting stuck there until 4am. I could see it building up from the afternoon onwards.

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I ended up staying home. And I’m glad I did because soon after I’d had dinner, I saw a post on Facebook that said the Address Downtown was on fire. What?? I’d been hearing sirens for the last 10 minutes but assumed it was regular New Year’s Eve police controlling the traffic. I thought it was a hoax and then I checked Twitter. I couldn’t believe the pictures I was seeing.

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

I felt sick – there were hundreds of thousands of people in that small area – and I couldn’t imagine how many people would be injured. I kept reading that there were no injuries but I just couldn’t believe that. Eventually, it was reported that there were 14 minor injuries – a bit more realistic, but still unbelievable in a way. I hoped everyone had managed to get out of that building in time. And then I heard that they were planning to go ahead with the fireworks Downtown. Next to a burning building? It seemed ludicrous. And people were still heading Downtown. Friends called from London and other places to see if I was OK – WhatsApp had stopped working!

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At about 10 minutes before midnight I made my way to the pool area of my building to watch the fireworks. The crazy thing I’ve noticed about people on New Year’s Eve is that wherever they are on Sheikh Zayed Road, they’ll abandon their cars and run to where they can see the Burj Khalifa and watch the fireworks. It’s like watching a disaster movie, although instead of running from disaster, they’re running towards the fireworks!

23:55 on New Year's Eve

23:55 on New Year’s Eve

And then it was midnight. The Address Downtown was still on fire (but under control, they said) and the Burj Khalifa lit up.

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It was bizarre. The fireworks went on for about 5 minutes – I brought in the New Year watching the smoke from the fireworks drift off into the night like dancing skeletons, with the smoke from the Address Downtown streaming behind it.

I’m so glad I stayed in.

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.

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Bali 2015: Days 18 and 19

My sister and I were up early on Monday as I’d booked Pak Wayan to take us to Seminyak (yes, again). We were ready by 9.30 but by the time we’d said goodbye to our grandmother and some other relatives who were leaving straight after the wedding, it was closer to 10.30 by the time we left.

We decided to go to Jalan Seminyak this time instead of Jalan Laksmana. We walked for a little while, tried on some shoes in Kat Sweet (a shoe shop we’d been to in 2012 – the shoes are the same!), and then decided to go to Warung Made for lunch. It was noon by this time and we were hungry! We ordered chicken satays, spring rolls and mie goreng.

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It was so good. The spring rolls were just average but the the other two dishes were yum.

We walked around a little longer but then I had to leave as I had another appointment with Jim in Umalas (I still think he’s amazing). While I was at my appointment, my sister had a massage at Kaiana Spa, in the same complex as Warung Made. When I got back to Seminyak, she was in a shop buying gifts and I ended up buying an incense holder and enough incense sticks to last me six months!

It was about 4.30pm by this time and we were feeling peckish again. We decided we couldn’t leave Seminyak and not go to our favourite place, Trattoria. We shared the beef carpaccio and a pizza David (mozzarella, mushrooms, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil-infused olive oil). Oh. My. God. I could have eaten that pizza twice.

We got back to the Sofitel at about 7pm and had to get ready as we were having dinner with Harry at 7.30. After much debating we ended up going to Bali Nikmat in Kuta – one of my favourites. We were back at the hotel by 11pm.

On Tuesday morning, my sister left for the airport at about 11.30am. I had lunch with my parents before they left for the airport a little while later. I had until 9pm to entertain myself. I was able to get a late checkout at 6pm (but had to pay for it). I decided to go back to the Ritz-Carlton to do the perfume workshop. I got there at around 2pm and was seated in front of dozens of little bottles.

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The lady explained base notes, middle notes and top notes to me and I then got to choosing the scents I liked. My eventual choices were: base notes – Oriental, Chypre, Smoky and Massoia; middle notes – Ylang-ylang, Champaka, Tuberose and Frangipani; and top notes – Herbaceous, Aquatic and Bergamot.

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I then got to play around with creating a perfume – I made three different samples, and then had to decide whether I preferred a light perfume or something a bit heavier. When I’d decided, they made me a bottle of perfume and packaged it for me.

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They also kept my perfume on file so that if I ever want to reorder it, they’ll know what to create.

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The lady told me I shouldn’t open the perfume for three weeks, to give the molecules time to settle.

After I was finished, I tried to find Harry (he works at the Ritz-Carlton) but it took ages to get hold of him, and by the time I managed he was just going into a meeting. In the 10 minutes that I waited in the lobby of the hotel trying to call him, I was bitten at least eight times on my lower legs by mosquitoes!

I got back to the Sofitel and finished off my packing, convinced that my suitcase weighed more than my luggage allowance of 30 kg. I checked out of my room at 6pm and went to sit with my aunt and uncle in their room.

I left for the airport at around 9pm. Luckily there was no traffic and I was there in about 20 minutes. I checked in – my bag weighed exactly 30 kg! And then I had time to kill and didn’t really know what to do with myself. So I went to the bookshop and browsed, and then decided to get some food at Last Wave – a restaurant/bar near the departure gates.

And finally it was time to board. I hoped the flight would be as empty as the one I flew in on, but no such luck. I couldn’t believe my holiday was already over and I was heading home to Dubai! I had an amazing time though – and Bali, I’ll be back 🙂

I love my life.

To read more about Bali, click here.

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Bali 2015: Days 15 to 17 (and a fairy tale wedding)

When I found out my cousin had decided to have her wedding in Bali, I decided to go a few days earlier and have some time to myself. I was on a yoga retreat for a week and then moved to the Sofitel in Nusa Dua for the wedding. So, I’d been in Bali for two weeks by the time the wedding started…

It was a fairy tale wedding, quite literally. The invitations, parties, do not disturb signs and even key holders all had a fairy tale theme to them!

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On Friday morning there were a couple of pujas (prayers) followed by lunch. After lunch we relaxed in our room for a while and then eventually had to get ready for the dinner.

The first night was a costume party where we had to go dressed as a fictional character. I’d ordered a ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ set from the USA, but by the time I left for Bali it still hadn’t arrived (and a month later, it still hasn’t). It would have been perfect – with long black gloves, tiara, cigarette holder, pearl necklace… but it would have also been perfect if the damn thing had arrived. Instead I wore a pink dress with butterflies on it (there actually is a Hans Christian Andersen story called ‘The Butterfly’, who knew?) but was amazed at the lengths other wedding guests had gone to. The bride and her fiance were Guinevere and Lancelot, there was a Storm Trooper, there was a V (from ‘V for Vendetta’), there were a couple of Maleficents, a Queen of Hearts, a few Tinkerbells, a Zorro and so many others. My dad said he saw someone in ‘just his hotel dressing gown’ but when I spotted the same person later on, I realised he was supposed to be Luke Skywalker. There was a Snow White, and a couple of Cruella de Vils too.

The entrance to the venue was stunning – it was like an enchanted forest. There were even little speakers in the trees with birds singing!

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Once dinner had been served, it was ‘Shots O’Clock’ every half an hour…

We left just before 3am, but I believe the party went on until breakfast was served.

On Saturday afternoon, there was pool party at Nikki Beach.

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We didn’t stay too long though.

On Saturday night was the sangeet. The way the hall was decorated was incredible. I have never seen anything like it before. It had an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme, and you even had to go through a maze to get into the ballroom.

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There were women on stilts with trays of shots, and there were even people dressed as pawns moving around the chessboard – and they joined in with the dancing later on in the night. It was basically like a very large zumba class, but a lot more fun! (Sorry, the sound quality in the video is terrible.)

I was back in my room before 3am, but again the party went on all night.

We were woken up at about 11am on Sunday as we had to attend another puja. I thought I could have a nap after that, but we were told that the bride couldn’t be on her own until the wedding at 4.30pm and that we had to be ready by 2.30pm to collect the groom and bring him to her. It was going to a be long day. So, my sister and I were ready by 2.30pm, but of course nobody else was. We eventually went to collect the groom and his friends and family, and they did the baraat (groom’s wedding procession) to where the bride was waiting. Luckily it had stopped raining, but they moved the wedding ceremony indoors just in case.

The ceremony seemed to go on forever. The bride’s family and the groom’s family had each brought their own priest, so they both were trying to conduct the ceremony.

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People were coming and going, getting tea and snacks, and I don’t think anyone would have noticed if I’d slipped out, but I was needed towards the end of the ceremony to shower the couple with rose petals as they walked around the fire.

That evening was the wedding reception. Once again, the ballroom had been completely transformed.

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I was really struggling with my dress though. I’d bought it over the summer when I was in London and thought I’d lose some weight before wearing it at the wedding, and I had, but it was SO tight. I put it on while I was getting ready, then realised that I couldn’t sit down to put my shoes on. So I took it off again, put my shoes on and then put the dress back on. I then realised that I wouldn’t be able to lift it up if I needed the loo and would have to take the whole thing off again! Good Lord. I decided that if I did need the loo later on, I’d just go back to my room and change before coming back to the reception…

Luckily, it didn’t get to that stage. My sister and I left when our parents did, as we intended to be up early the next morning to go into Seminyak.

So, congratulations to the beautiful bride and groom – and here’s hoping their marriage is every bit the fairy tale as their wedding was!

I love my life.

To read more about Bali, click here.

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Bali 2015: Days 10 to 14

I was up early on Sunday. I’d missed the swing yoga class but decided to go to the gym anyway. On my way back to my room I stopped in the restaurant, Kwee Zeen, for breakfast. I have to say I hate the name of the restaurant! I just wanted some eggs so I didn’t go for the whole buffet breakfast. I was seated next to some screaming children and the restaurant felt like a zoo. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I had my book but couldn’t focus on it and left as soon as I’d eaten.

I went to the concierge to find out about renting a car and driver, but in the end decided to use the driver who had brought me to the Sofitel the day before. His rate was much more reasonable and he seemed like a decent guy.

I did a bit of work and then went to Nikki Beach, which is at the Sofitel itself. It was before noon when I got there so it was quite empty. I didn’t sit right inside the restaurant, but out on the beach.

I ordered some coconut water and started to read.

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And then it started to rain. Thankfully, it was just a light drizzle, nothing like the day before, so I stayed under my umbrella and continued reading. It cleared up pretty quickly but I could see the clouds heading over to Kuta and Seminyak. There was such a distinct line between the grey clouds and the blue sky!

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I had a massage that afternoon at 4pm – the hotel were offering 50% off massages between 1 and 4pm so I booked a 90-minute massage! I was feeling really lazy after that so I went back to my room and got into bed. I ordered room service that evening and passed out.

I was up early on Monday morning and went to the 7am floating/swing yoga class at the gym.

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I had a pretty busy day ahead of me, with two appointments – one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so I hired the car and driver for the day. Pak Wayan picked me up at 9.15am and I left for my 10.30 appointment near Seminyak. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there and I got there shortly after 10. The lady I was seeing was busy with her client to I told her I’d come back in a little while. The driver took me to get a fresh juice (I hadn’t had breakfast) and by the time we did that and braved the traffic again, I was on time.

The lady I was seeing was called Dafne and she works with flower essences to heal people. The leaders at the Bali Goddess Retreat highly recommended her and one of the girls had been to see her last week but was fully booked after that. Dafne was a lovely woman from Chile – I couldn’t tell how old she was, but she’s been in Bali for many years. So what does she do? We made small talk for a little while as she prepared her work space, organising boxes of flower essences, and then she closed her eyes and took out a crystal which was on a chain. She circled it over her head several times and then explained she was getting in touch with my spirit guides. She then told me to do whatever I wanted while she carried on (I had my book). She continued swinging the crystal over each box one at a time, pulling out various bottles of essences and putting them on one side. By the time she had finished, she had put aside nine bottles.

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She explained what each one represented and how they would help various aspects of my life. I hadn’t told her anything about me before she’d started but when she told me about all the things I was experiencing or needed, she was on the money. She then took out a little bottle with a dropper, filled half of it with vodka (I had been wondering why there was an open bottle of vodka on the table at 10.30am!) and then proceeded to put drops of each of the essences into the bottle. She told me that I was doing well on my journey as some people need as many as twenty to thirty different essences the first time they go see her, and I only needed nine. When she was done, she blessed the bottle and gave it to me. She told me to take a few drops right then, so I did. She told me to take four drops four times a day to start with and then see how I feel as time goes on.

After I left Dafne’s, I had a few hours to kill so I went to Seminyak Square, had an early lunch at Bali Bakery and then walked around for a while.

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I then went to Galleria Mall – I really didn’t know what else to do with myself for two hours. I looked at the bookshop and organised SIM cards for my parents and sister who would be arriving the next day. I then headed to my appointment with Jim in Umalas.

The other three girls on the yoga retreat had all been to Jim and they all said it should be compulsory to see him for anyone visiting the island. So I was curious to see what he was about. I got there on time (one hour in traffic!) and we talked for about 20 minutes – he told me what he did, that he pinpoints areas of pain/tension in the body and links them to emotional situations from the past and present. I knew this was going to hurt – physically and emotionally. I’d made a list beforehand of all the areas on my body that hurt – toes, soles of my feet, knees, left inner thigh, left shoulder, nosebleeds from my left nostril – because I was bound to forget something when he asked. We talked about a few things, some very personal, and then he told me to get undressed and lie on the massage table. I had no idea how much it would hurt when he pressed various pressure points and when he told me what each one was connected to emotionally, it all made sense. When he pressed my right ankle, I almost kicked him. My left hip – Jesus. He said our bodies are like hard drives – you think you’ve erased all the old files and emptied the wastepaper basket, but there’s still a trace of something left behind. He told me that because I was so sensitive to my environment I should protect my chakras when I’m around negative people/situations by putting my tongue on the roof of my mouth – this would close off my throat chakra and the others below it. I’m sure that will come in useful! When he was finished, I felt so much… lighter. And I felt happier than I’d felt in a long time. I asked him how often people go to him and he said he sees some people once a week and others he never sees again. I’d definitely see him again if I had the time!

I went back to the hotel after that (which took another hour) and really fancied a cup of tea.

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I did a bit of work and went to the restaurant for dinner. I was working till after 1am and slept really badly.

On Tuesday my alarm went off at 6am and I thought about cancelling the floating yoga class and sleeping in. I felt like I hadn’t slept at all. But I dragged myself out of bed and went anyway. I couldn’t face breakfast in the restaurant again so I ordered room service. I don’t know what I was thinking but I ordered an American breakfast – which was far too much for me to eat. In the end, I didn’t even touch the cereal or the croissants, just the omelette – and the coffee was delicious.

I did some work in the lobby bar, overlooking the lush greenery while my room was being cleaned.

That afternoon, my parents, sister and grandmother all arrived together. A little while later, some cousins and their mum arrived. The relaxing part of my trip was definitely over as everyone had started arriving for my cousin’s wedding. That evening, we all went to Bumbu Bali in Nusa Dua for dinner. I was tired as I’d slept badly the night before, everyone else was jetlagged and hungry. We ordered loads of food – satays, ribs, prawns. It was an early night for everyone.

The next day my sister and I were up early. I’d asked Pak Wayan to pick us up at 9.30am and take us to Seminyak. I wanted to leave early to avoid the traffic – and we were there by 10.15 or so. We went to Sisterfields for breakfast. I ordered a juice and the eggs Benedict with smoked salmon – it was delicious!

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My sister had the brioche French toast and said that was amazing too.

We walked around Seminyak Village and Seminyak Square and to Indigo Kids, where I bought this T-shirt for one of my nephews:

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We then went to the other end of Jalan Laksmana and walked back down to the Seminyak Square end. I picked up a dress, two handbags, two pairs of Havaianas… I think that was it? After walking around Seminyak for a while we went to Galleria Mall, but that was just a waste of time.

We were both peckish on the way home and got stuck in terrible traffic. We stopped at McDonald’s for a quick bite and in the end it took us almost two hours to get back to the hotel. The roundabout at the airport had been closed (no idea why), and the traffic on the toll road was out of control!

That evening a few of my cousins wanted to go out for dinner and suggested a couple of places in Seminyak, but there was no way I was heading back there again. In the end, my sister, cousin and I had dinner at Kwee Zeen (ugh) and then met up with the others in the Lobby Bar – it turned out that they didn’t go out either in the end. I sat with them until about 11pm and then went to my room.

On Thursday, my parents, sister and grandmother were going to Discovery Mall in Kuta while I stayed behind to do some work. That evening there was an ‘early bird’ dinner at Bejana at the Ritz-Carlton. It’s a huge property which has only been open a few months, but it was pretty quiet. On the way to the restaurant, we passed a Perfume Workshop where you could make your own perfume.

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It wasn’t a late night as we knew the next three days would be hectic with the wedding and family, etc.

I love my life.

To read more about Bali, click here.

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The final few

I spent the week at Bali Goddess Retreats in Seminyak (Sunday to Saturday). I’d booked it several months earlier while I was in Jamaica and had really hoped to progress in my yoga practice before going, but that didn’t happen. Instead I’d been getting more and more fed up of yoga and my teacher in Dubai, knowing exactly what each class would entail and I was getting bored. So in the end, this retreat was going to make or break my relationship with yoga.

I was a bit nervous – I wasn’t even sure what kind of yoga we’d be doing or if I’d be able to keep up with the rest of the class. It turned out that there were only four of us on the retreat this week (they usually have between eight and fifteen women each retreat) so we all got a lot of attention in class. We had two teachers for the week – Ailise (pronounced ‘Aleesha’ – it’s Irish but she’s English) and Santi (an Indonesian from Java). They were both excellent teachers and after just two classes at the retreat I realised I was going to have to look for a new teacher (or yoga studio) when I got back to Dubai.

On Day 1, we had our first yoga class at 4pm. The yoga shala was outdoors (it had a roof but no walls) so it was pretty hot. Ailise explained that she was going to take us through one chakra in each class, starting with the root chakra or muladhara. I enjoyed the pace of the class and was able to keep up although ten minutes into the class I had to spray myself with mosquito repellent as I was being eaten alive. I really liked Ailise’s style of teaching – she explained what certain poses did for us physically and emotionally – it was nice to have some explanation rather than moving from one pose to the next without knowing why. The only drawback to the insect repellent was that it made my limbs slippery! Trying to twist one arm over the other, or one leg over the other, or even clasp my hands together was twice as hard as I kept slipping out of the poses!

On Day 2, we had our first class with Santi at 6.30am. The first thing that struck me was how ridiculously toned her body was! Her arms were so defined. It was almost intimidating actually – seeing as I’ve given up on having anything toned! It was a vinyasa flow class and it was tough. There was a lot of moving from one pose straight into the next, which I’m not used to – but it was good to do it. At one point she said, ‘Just kick up your legs and float back’. Erm, floating implies a certain amount of strength (and grace) which I don’t have!

Our afternoon class was at 5pm with Ailise. She covered the second chakra or swadisthana. It was a 90-minute class and we went through many hip opening sequences and several poses involving lunges. I had sprayed my arms and legs and exposed areas with mosquito repellent before the class, but by the time we’d finished I had three mosquito bites on my left hip/butt cheek and one on the right. The little f***ers had bitten me right through my clothes! Damn nyamuk!

On Day 3, we had an hour of yoga at 7.30am with Ailise. She went through the third chakra or manipura (solar plexus). We did some breathing exercises, including kapalabati breathing, to get that fire raging in our bellies. She also didn’t switch on the fan so we were really feeling the heat and were all sweaty by the end of the class.

That afternoon we had a class with Santi at 5pm. We told her we were all quite tired so she went a little easier on us (I still found it difficult). It was a 90-minute class – after a warmup of stretching, we did two rounds of sun salutation and then the rest of the class was active stretching. The second half of the class was so relaxing that I even dozed off during savasana.

On Day 4 we were supposed to have yoga at 7am – and we were all ready – but Ailise thought our class was at 7.30am and so we started late. We ended up having a 45-minute class focusing on the heart chakra or anahata. It was mostly a gentle class but I got really sweaty during garudasana (not to mention slippery from the insect repellent while trying to twist my limbs)!

That afternoon we had a yin yoga class at 5pm. I’d never done yin yoga before but I loved it. It was a very slow, relaxing class. It’s definitely not something you would do if you wanted a workout but for deep stretching it’s amazing as you hold each pose for about 5 minutes, if not longer.

On Day 5, we had yoga at 7.30am again. Ailise took us through a meditation for love and kindness, and we then covered the throat chakra or vishuddha. We did some chanting, fish pose, plough pose and shoulderstand (and other poses).

Our class with Santi was at 2.30pm that afternoon as we were all heading out early that evening. We did a vinyasa flow class and it was bloody hard. By the end of it I looked like I’d taken a shower with my clothes on. I suppose having the class at the height of the afternoon heat didn’t help matters much. Even though her classes were hard, she was an excellent teacher.

On Day 6, our yoga class was at 5.30am as two of the girls were leaving for their SUP class at 7.30am. Ailise covered the third eye chakra or ajna. I can’t even remember what we covered during this class – probably because I was so tired! I ended up going back to bed after breakfast for a couple of hours.

In our evening class, Ailise covered the crown chakra or sahasrara. We began with a meditation and a gentle warmup and were then put in pairs. I was paired with SS, who is only 5 feet tall. When I had to sit on her while she was in child’s pose, I was really worried I’d crush the poor girl! That was our last class with Ailise – she was such a good teacher and I really learned a lot from her.

On Day 7, our last day, we had yoga with Santi at 8am. It was a really good class. She taught us about nauli – an internal cleansing technique which tones your abs. She didn’t think her English was good enough to explain it (her English was fine!), so she showed us this video:

She said that nauli is what gives yogis their six-packs. We then tried to do it ourselves – it’s so hard! I can only do the first part – and not for very long… It’s like creating a vacuum in your stomach. I’ve been doing it every morning since I got back to Dubai but no sign of a six-pack yet (I think that’s a long way away)!

Santi also gave us tips about what we were doing wrong and what to focus on while we were practising yoga. I know that when I’m in chaturanga, my elbows come out like I’m doing a pushup rather than staying close to my sides. She picked up on this and gave me tips on how to correct it. Now why couldn’t my regular yoga teacher point this out to me? I feel like I’ve wasted time with her as my teacher.

Once I’d moved to the Sofitel, on the Saturday, I wanted to carry on doing yoga (or anything) and found out that the gym at the hotel had yoga classes every morning at 7am. I intended to go on Sunday morning but was so tired and I felt like having a lie in. I did make it to the gym though – and spent 30 minutes on the treadmill and then did Week 3 Day 1 of the Great Butt app:

  • Reverse leg lifts x 7 on each side
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Reverse leg lifts x 7 on each side
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Reverse leg lifts x 7 on each side
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Reverse kicks x 6 on each side
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Reverse kicks x 6 on each side
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Butt raises x 7
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Butt raises x 6
  • Rest

I also did Week 3 Day 1 of the Great Abs app:

  • Crunches x 7
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Crunches x 6
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Crunches x 6
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Side obliques x 8 on each side
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Side obliques x 7 on each side
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Reverse crunches x 6
  • Rest x 30 s
  • Reverse crunches x 6
  • Rest

On Monday morning I made to to the yoga class – the yoga teacher was called Mustika. The first half of the class was hatha yoga and the second half was swing yoga!

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Even though I’d tried it once before in Dubai, I still found it difficult. Also, there were three people in the class and only two hammocks so we had to take it in turns which interrupted the flow of the class.

At the end of the class I asked Mustika what kind of yoga they’d be doing on Tuesday. He said they usually did hatha yoga but someone had requested a swing yoga class – I asked him if I could join that class and he said it was fine.

I’m glad I tried it again, because I really managed to do some of the things I couldn’t do the day before! The other girl in the class and I were quite enjoying it – although the friction of the hammock against my skin really hurt at one point (and I later had bruises under my arms!). It was an extra long class – we didn’t finish until 8.30am as nobody was keeping track of time (in true Balinese style)!

And then once my parents and sister and grandmother arrived, I didn’t make it to the gym for the rest of my trip!

Low point of the two weeks? Once my cousin’s wedding started, there was a lot of eating and drinking. Not as much drinking as you might think – I hadn’t had a drink for two weeks before the wedding and was quite proud of myself. I stuck to vodka and soda during the wedding – no wine or champagne – and no hangovers!

High point of the two weeks? It was all amazing. I only felt sore one morning during the yoga retreat – and that was on Day 3. I really learnt a lot while I was there too…

Weight loss? I didn’t weigh myself while I was away, but I’d put on 1 kg by the time I’d come back home, even after all that yoga!

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Read more updates here.

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Bali 2015: Days 3 to 9

I woke up on Sunday and made it down to breakfast at about 10.45. Again, I was the only person in the restaurant. I ordered a cappuccino, a coconut water and the nasi goreng. The portion was huge and I couldn’t finish it. I asked for a 1pm checkout and went to my room to sort out my packing and read on the balcony for a while, waiting to be picked up for my yoga retreat. When I was in Jamaica, I was looking for yoga retreats in Bali as I was going to be there for my cousin’s wedding in December. And I found one – Bali Goddess Retreats in Seminyak.

I was collected from Luna2 Studiotel at about 1 pm and spent the whole week at the retreat. We were there for most of the time although Wednesday and Thursday were free evenings – dinner wasn’t provided at the villa and we were able to eat out on those two nights.

I’ve learned that people who live in Bali (and many of those visiting) are really into the healing side of the island – there are a lot of healers here and the retreat leaders had a list of all their favourites and offered to make appointments for us if we wanted them. I decided to see a psychic healer/tarot reader called Sam so on Tuesday morning, one of the girls (C) and I were taken to  Canggu where she lives for our appointments. My appointment was at noon so I was dropped off while C went to have a coffee or a wander around the town.

Before I’d even started shuffling the cards, she said to me, ‘I’m picking up that you’re quite psychic yourself’. It always interests me when people pick up on this because I don’t feel psychic most of the time. I told her that my intuition only works when I don’t have a vested interest in the outcome of a situation – the more important the outcome is to me, the less I can hear my intuition. She told me I really needed to focus on developing my psychic abilities because I had the power to be a great healer. Something to think about! She told me I needed to write as that’s how I express myself. She told me that my work wasn’t very challenging (it isn’t – meeting deadlines is the most challenging part of it) but that I’d be offered a new contract soon. I told her that I’d already been speaking to a new company based in the UK (and they’ve now told me I’d be a ‘valuable asset’ to their work). She also told me I’d been thinking about moving – and I had been thinking about it over the summer, but then Dad had a heart attack and now I don’t think I can leave. She said a lot of things which were relevant to me and I was glad I went to see her.

After my session, C was dropped off and I went to have a coffee at Kitchen Rustica, an Italian restaurant. While I was in there, a guy rode up on his scooter, no shirt, bare feet, just shorts – and ordered a pizza. Only in Bali!

On Wednesday night, we went to a restaurant in Jalan Petitenget called Sardine. I don’t remember it being there the last time I was in Bali three years ago. It’s a beautiful restaurant right next to a rice padi. Me and my fellow retreat-goers (four of us in total) shared a couple of starters: the bass and long-nosed emperor sashimi and the Papua crab tower. Both were interesting but I wouldn’t order either of them again. For my main course I ordered the barramundi steamed in banana leaf. Now that was excellent. For dessert we shared the black pepper ice cream – I’ve never tasted anything like that before! It started off a little sweet and then you could really taste the black pepper coming through.

On Thursday evening, we left the villa to see the sunset from Potato Head. I’ve never been a fan of Potato Head, much preferring Ku De Ta. Potato Head was crowded and we had to wait for a table even though we were there at 5.30pm. We sat at the bar and ordered some drinks (I had the Coco Loco mocktail).

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I’m sure the sunset was lovely but we couldn’t see it as a huge screen had been put up in front of the ocean. How ridiculous is that??

At 6.30pm we decided to go to Ku De Ta as we had a dinner reservation there for 8pm, but thought it would be more relaxing lounging around there for a while. We were right!

I was surprised to see that they’d installed a pool by the beach.

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It was so much nicer than Potato Head, much more sophisticated. And we were able to see what was left of the sunset.

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We decided to go to our table at 7.30pm as we were all quite hungry. Again, we shared two starters: the prawn and snapper tsiu mai dumplings and the grilled calamari. I loved the dumplings! I was tempted to order the barramundi again but I ended up sharing the roasted Balinese pork (for two people) with one of the other girls. It was fantastic – and such a huge portion that three of us could have eaten it (but we finished it!). I was so full by the end of our main course and couldn’t have dessert. The other three each ordered a homemade mini Magnum ice cream bar. I don’t know how they managed it!

Our retreat ended on Saturday and I was moving to the Sofitel Hotel in Nusa Dua. I had asked the hotel to arrange a car to collect me at 3pm but by 3.20pm there was no sign of the driver. And it had started pouring with rain – I’ve never heard thunder so loud! I called the hotel, they put me through to the transport department and I eventually got the mobile number for the driver who was totally lost (even though I’d send directions in Indonesian with the villa phone number to the hotel). Two minutes after speaking to him, a car pulled into the gang (lane). Finally! After much struggling with the umbrellas and the torrential rain and the luggage, I got into the car. ‘So, where are you going?’ the driver asked. That was weird. ‘To the Sofitel in Nusa Dua,’ I told him. ‘You booked the Uber?’ Erm. No, I didn’t. So, it turned out that a ‘Mr Nick’ had booked the Uber and was in Seminyak Square. So why the hell the car came to our villa I don’t know. A minute later, another car pulled into the gang and it was the car from the hotel. So we transferred the luggage (still in the pouring rain) from one car to the other and I was finally on my way to Nusa Dua.

The traffic in Bali is horrendous. I thought that once the underpass near Dijon Cafe had opened, the traffic would lessen considerably. If anything, it’s even worse now. And the fact that a part of Jalan Sunset Road has been reduced to one lane in each direction doesn’t help the situation. I eventually got to the Sofitel at about 4.30pm – thankfully the driver took the toll road over the water so we avoided some traffic. The driver had been hired by the hotel and gave me his business card in case I needed a car during my stay.

I checked in and went to my room.

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The rooms are spacious but the closet space is limited. There are only two drawers next to the wardrobe and my sister would be arriving in a few days so I had to make some space for her things too. I had a feeling this room was going to be very messy very soon! I unpacked my things and wedged my suitcase in between the sofa and the mini bar. I then called the spa to see if they could fit me in for a massage that evening.

According to the spa menu in the room, I could wear the gown in the bathroom to the spa so I did that, but then discovered I had to walk through either the crowded restaurant or the crowded lobby to get to the spa! I had a Balinese massage for one hour and stopped to check out the gym next door. I told them I’d join them for the 7am floating yoga class the next morning. From what the guy was saying I guessed that floating yoga is the same as swing yoga.

I had dinner in the Kwee Zeen restaurant that evening (and I’ve only just realised it’s pronounced ‘cuisine’). I ordered the pad thai with prawns and some water and went back to my room.

I love my life.

To read more about Bali, click here.

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Dubai 2015: Week 49

I spent all of Sunday at home, enjoying the last day of quiet before my parents got back from their trip.

They were home by 8am on Monday morning. I had a session with Pete on Monday morning and a piano lesson that afternoon. I went home after that and carried on with some work.

I had some errands to run at Mercato on Tuesday but apart from that, I was at home.

Wednesday was busy. I had another session with Pete. We had our session outside even though the gym is finally finished! That afternoon I had my hair coloured and cut, which seemed to take forever.

On Wednesday evening I had Christmas dinner at The Scene in Pier 7, behind Marina Mall. There were 12 of us seated at a long table. I think it was the first turkey dinner I’d had since I moved to Dubai almost four years ago. I started with the smoked salmon starter and then had the roast turkey and trimmings for my main course. I didn’t have dessert. After a few more drinks, everyone was planning where to go to next, but I decided to go home as I knew I had a busy day the next day and still had some work to finish off.

I think the concept of having seven different bars and restaurants in one place is great, but it could have been planned better. There are three lifts which stop at all seven floors and waiting for them is just annoying. Leaving Pier 7 is also pretty awful. We waited for a taxi and then eventually decided to walk up to the main road. It must have taken us almost 20 minutes to get a cab – there weren’t many around that evening, and those that were around and available weren’t even stopping.

A friend of mine (R) arrived from London on Thursday morning and was staying at the Fairmont on Sheikh Zayed Road. We’d arranged to meet at the sports bar just off the lobby of the Fairmont at noon, but I was running late and got there at 12.30pm. R had a pint and I had some water. He’d booked a table at Okku for lunch so we walked there from the Fairmont. It was empty – there were only two other tables apart from ours. We ordered some water and a bottle of cold sake (which I can’t believe we finished!). We shared two starters and two main courses: we had the spicy tuna on crispy rice and the beef tataki, and for our main course we had the Chilean sea bass and lamb cutlets with the truffle fried rice. All the food was excellent.

After lunch, R had a meeting and I had some errands to run but we arranged to meet at the sports bar at the Fairmont later on. I did my errands, packed my suitcase and was at the Fairmont by 6pm. A friend of R’s joined us as well and we had a few drinks. We started with a mojito, then switched to a vodka tonic, and then had a shot of whiskey for the road with a beer chaser. I’m so glad I went home after that. I was surprisingly sober and had dinner with my parents and finished off my packing.

I left for the airport at 6.45am on Friday morning. I checked in my bag, picked up a copy of The Economist and a book and went to the gate. Well, the gate consisted of a waiting room where we were then taken by bus to the plane. The journey on the bus took so long I wondered if we were being driven to Bali. I had a window seat and I didn’t think the flight would be crowded. Sure enough when they closed the doors, I had two empty seats next to me. After breakfast was served, I stretched out for the first half of the flight and managed to sleep, and then read and watched two movies for the rest of the flight.

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.

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Bali 2015: Days 1 and 2

My flight from Dubai landed at Denpasar airport about 20 minutes ahead of schedule (which was 10pm). We taxied down the runway and then we stopped. It was dark outside so there wasn’t much to see. About 10 minutes later there was an announcement to say that we’d stopped because there was a large snake blocking the runway – so they were waiting for someone to come and move it off the tarmac. So we waited. Another 10 minutes later there was another announcement to say that they’d only just managed to explain to the control tower what the problem was. The front view camera had been switched off so I couldn’t see what was going on. When we finally started moving again (we’d been stuck there for 30 minutes), I could see all the security personnel, police cars and even an ambulance involved in this situation – there were at least three emergency vehicles there. I wondered how big this snake was??

As I got into the new airport, there was a man waiting for me with my name on a signboard. I’d asked the hotel if they could arrange a car for me – they said they could and that they also offered a fast-track immigration service. Yes, please! So there he was. He took my passport and took me to the diplomatic queue (there was no queue at all). I didn’t know that UK passport holders no longer had to pay $25 – the 30-day visa on arrival is free now. He then took me to collect my luggage and through customs. I was stopped at customs – they opened my suitcase and rummaged around. I don’t even know what they were looking for as I had nothing even remotely interesting in there.

The immigration man then took me to my car and driver. I was offered a cold towel and some cold water. It took about half an hour to get to the hotel and on the drive I could see how many new hotels and restaurants had opened since my last trip three years ago.

I was spending two nights at the Luna2 Studiotel in Seminyak before heading to my yoga retreat, also in Seminyak. I checked in and was taken to my room on the first floor. All the rooms are named after places on the London Monopoly board – mine was called Picadilly on One:

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All the rooms are studios – and even the basic option (like mine) is pretty big.

While the curtains are pretty funky, they don’t really keep the light out – as I discovered in the morning. From my balcony I had a view of the pool:

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The sunbeds are covered as it was drizzling.

I made it to breakfast at the restaurant, Orbit, just before 11am – I had some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, fresh coconut water and a cappuccino. After that, I walked up to the main road, about 10 minutes away, dodging a couple of motorbikes, to change some money and get a SIM card for my phone. It was overcast and muggy and I went into the first Circle K and asked where I could get a SIM card. One of the guys said he’d take me to one of the shops nearby to get one. Once I’d sorted that out (and I’m pretty sure I got seriously ripped off), I started to walk back to the hotel – and it started raining again. I suppose it is the rainy season! But half an hour later, it had cleared up again.

I relaxed in my room for a while and then went down to the pool at about 2.30pm.

I read for a while and then ended up chatting to an Australian lady. She was using the sunbed next to mine and we just struck up a conversation. She was there with her husband and little girl so I ended up meeting them too. She went in at about 5pm and I couldn’t decide whether I was hungry or not – in the end I decided to go for a fresh juice.

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I had the Green Machine and then went back to my room. I ordered an in-room massage for 6.30pm which I thoroughly enjoyed! I felt like passing out after that but it wasn’t even 8pm.

I went down to Orbit for dinner. I was the only person there! Just as well I had my book with me. I skipped the starters and went straight for the ‘scaled’ gold band snapper with zucchini ribbons and cherry tomatoes.

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It was excellent. I decided to have dessert: truffled Brie with walnut crackers and truffle honey. Wow – it was amazing. The food and the service at this hotel are outstanding, I have to say.

I was back in my room by 10pm but didn’t get to sleep until much later.

I love my life.

To read more about Bali, click here.

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Dubai 2015: Week 2

After the craziness of the week before, this week was quite the opposite.

I woke up on Sunday with a scratchy throat. I knew I was going to get sick soon. I left home at about 1pm to deposit a cheque at the new bank where we have our business account. We used to be with Standard Chartered but they closed our account in November last year (but that’s a whole other story). I wasn’t sure how long it would take, and the queue was horrendous when I got there. The waiting area reminded me of an airport lounge – some people looked like they’d been there for hours. Fortunately, the lady at reception told me there was a separate desk for cheque deposits and I was at the bank for all of 5 minutes.

I was meeting my cousin for lunch at Jones the Grocer and I was about 30 minutes early. He was just visiting on his way back to New York and wanted to have a late lunch. I got a table, ordered a fresh orange juice and made myself comfortable with my book. When he arrived, we ordered our food – I had the Jones wagyu burger with truffle mayo (they’d run out of truffle-infused brie) and some fries. He ordered the chargrilled harissa chicken. I also ordered a flat white coffee when we’d finished. After lunch he came over for a while to meet my parents and then went back to his hotel.

That night my mum wanted the three of us to go out for dinner so we went to Madeleine Cafe at the Dubai Mall. As usual, there were several sports cars parked outside the main entrance.

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And once inside the main entrance, there was a Breitling promotion in the atrium.

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Only in Dubai!

I’d never eaten at Madeleine Cafe but my parents wanted us to go somewhere different instead of the usual Wafi Gourmet and PF Chang. I had the goat’s cheese salad to start with, Mum had the escargots and Dad ordered a French onion soup. For my main course I ordered the tagliatelle with salmon, Dad ordered the vegetarian pasta and Mum wanted the quiche Lorraine. While we were waiting for the main course, the Burj Khalifa LED show started. It was the same as the show on New Year’s Eve, but without the fireworks.

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Our main course arrived, but they’d forgotten my mum’s quiche. We were eventually told that they’d run out of quiche and had forgotten to tell us. Mum was actually relieved as the escargots had been quite filling. She had a bit of pasta from me and some from Dad. They also wanted dessert and ordered the Fraise Melba – vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce and whipped cream. I was so full I couldn’t even bear to look at it. We walked around for a while after dinner, trying to digest our food.

I had another friend in town from London. She was staying with other friends but we’d arranged to have a spa day together on Monday. I’d found an Entertainer 2-for-1 voucher for the spa at the Oberoi in Business Bay and booked two 1-hour massages for 4pm. I wasn’t feeling great – my throat still felt scratchy but I didn’t want to cancel. We met at 1pm at the hotel and went to the poolside. It wasn’t too busy and we were shown to two sunbeds. The weather was lovely and the pool area basked in the sunlight for the whole afternoon.

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After we sat down, the pool attendant came over to us with two bottles of complimentary water, two complimentary Evian facial sprays and even complimentary sunscreen (but we’d brought out own). We ordered some lunch. We decided to share the chicken wrap and the cold mezze platter.

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The food was delicious. After a while, the pool attendant offered us and the other sunbathers frozen fruit pieces served in large martini glasses – also complimentary. We went in for our massages – I opted for the Balinese massage and my massage therapist Ina was actually from Bali. I think she was surprised when I spoke to her in Indonesian… The massage was excellent and Ina gave me some ginger tea with honey for my throat when I was finished. I didn’t want to leave.

But I had to. I got home and got into my pajamas.

I woke up on Tuesday with a cough. I woke up on Wednesday with full-on flu. And I didn’t leave the house the rest of the week. I’d had lunch and dinner plans on Friday which I cancelled, and dinner plans on Saturday which I also cancelled. What a waste of a week! I’m just grateful I work from home and didn’t have to call in sick every day!

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.

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Dubai: Week 28

Wow, my last few days in Bali just flew by…

My parents and I left Bali on Sunday morning. We left the villa at 6am, before the sun had risen. It didn’t take long to get to the airport. Harry, his son and his mum met us there to say goodbye to us. He came in with us as we had so much luggage (eight pieces between us) and he had tried to arrange an excess luggage allowance for us. After we had checked in (which took forever) we said goodbye to Harry and went through passport control. Mum went to Gucci and Dad and I went to get coffee and something to eat. We ended up sitting in a cafe and chatting to an Australian couple on the next table. They lived in Bali – he was a Reiki master and she was in property. They were doing their visa run to Singapore and coming back the following day. They had to do this every couple of months. What a drag! Our flight was called then so we rushed off and met Mum at the gate.

The flight to Singapore was uneventful and we were in transit for just over an hour. As we were waiting at the departure gate, I suddenly thought of someone I knew (but not very well at all – we aren’t even in touch). She lives in Lagos but is originally from Singapore – and 5 minutes after her popping into my head, she walked into the departure lounge with her kids. Ha – I should have known! Coincidences like that used to happen to me a lot, but not so much in recent months.

The flight back to Dubai was turbulent. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. We eventually landed at 4pm and by the time we got home, I was shattered.

We opened the front door and were greeted by really dusty floors in the flat… On closer inspection, what seemed to be little black ‘things’ turned out to be the corpses of tiny flies. They were in every room, and only on the floor. We couldn’t figure out where they’d come in from. Luckily Mum had booked a maid for that evening to clean the rooms and change our sheets so they were all swept up. We were supposed to have dinner at my cousin’s place that evening but my parents went without me – I couldn’t keep my eyes open and had passed out by 9.30.

I woke up almost 12 hours later and couldn’t remember where I was! I unpacked that morning, taking the opportunity to clear out all the clothes that didn’t fit me any more (too big, yay!). I settled down to do some work and didn’t leave the flat until Tuesday night.

We went to Wafi Gourmet at the Dubai Mall for dinner on Tuesday. We hadn’t had Lebanese food in so long! I’d also forgotten how crowded the mall can get in the evening. There were people everywhere.

I had a session with Rama on Wednesday, after almost 2 months. That afternoon I went for a much-needed manicure and pedicure, especially after the trekking in Komodo. When I was done I finally felt human again! I met up with a friend at Zuma that night. We didn’t have a reservation and luckily got a table at the bar. It was packed. It may as well have been the weekend. Perhaps Wednesday is the new Thursday? The music was great, we had a few drinks, a couple of bar snacks and left just before 1am. It was a fun evening…

Thursday was not a fun morning. I could have done without that last vodka cranberry. I’ll have to remember that next time. I did a bit of work on Thursday afternoon and then met a friend for coffee at Tim Horton’s in the Dubai Mall. We hadn’t met since November so it was good to see her. I rushed home after that as I was meeting a couple of friends for drinks and then going on to a party for my friends who got married in Phuket.

I met the girls at Vintage in Wafi – they had a two-for-one offer on bottles of wine so we ordered two bottles of the Chenin Blanc and a cheese fondue. I was having such a laugh with them I really didn’t want to leave and go to the other party, but I’d told my cousin I’d pick her up on the way and really had to go. It was actually fun – and I didn’t get home until 4am.

Friday morning was painful. I stayed home all day and after lunch I started working and continued until midnight. I had so much to catch up on. I made it to the gym on Saturday morning and spent the rest of the day working. It was just what I needed to do – two solid days of focusing on work to get me back on track!

I love my life.

For more updates, click here.

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