Oct 24, 2013

Travel with Baby: Emirates

From Dubai, we flew to Oman on Emirates. Since the baby had an infant ticket, they gave us bulkhead seats which we found out about the night before our flight. However, since it was only an hour's flight time, there was really no need for a bassinet.

Upon boarding, they gave us a bunch of baby knick knacks -- baby food, a plush toy, and a baby care pack that had wipes, lotion, bib, spoon, toy, etc. All this for an hour's flight... I'm impressed!

The plane also had an on demand entertainment system that I didn't get to check out because sleep was calling my name!

Note: if you're pregnant and showing, it's probably best to get a doctor's letter... just in case. They will ask how far along you are and if you're over 29 weeks, they do want a doctor's letter. I'm only mentioning this because I was asked twice - once at the boarding gate and the other by a flight attendant.

Baby knick knacks

Another great thing by Emirates and Dubai airport!
Strollers are available throughout the airport for arrival
and transit passengers.

Travel with Baby: Dubai

We went to Dubai for a couple of nights because my husband had a business meeting there. It was a quick stop before we continued on to Oman for our mini Eid holiday. 

Gulf Air

From Bahrain, we flew to Dubai on Gulf Air. I was a bit weary at first since I've never heard of the airline before but, I soon found out it's the national airline of Bahrain and it flies not only regionally but, to Europe and the UK as well. And because of that, it's not a budget airline that nickle and dime its passengers for baggage weight. One look at their website, turns out they offer Sky Nanny services on their long haul flights similar to Etihad Airways. Can I say, yay, for Middle East airlines?!

Since it was only an hour flight, we bought the baby an infant ticket. We brought his car seat along for our Oman trip but since we didn't need it for the flight, we checked it in as baggage. The airport in Bahrain plastic wrapped it for us for BD 2. 

On-demand entertainment system on board despite being
an hour's flight. The Hollywood movie section wasn't
available though.

Note: if you're pregnant and showing, it's probably best to get a doctor's letter... just in case. I wasn't asked to provide anything in Bahrain but, on our way back from Oman, the gate agent wouldn't let me board without a doctor's note. So, we had to wait until they called a doctor to clear me for flying.

Hotel Novotel World Trade Centre Dubai

We stayed here because it was right next to my husband's office. However, after being spoiled staying at Fraser Suites Bahrain, the room here is tiny! That's the downside about French hotel chains -- apparently they don't make the rooms any bigger even if it's in the Middle East. I was glad we only stayed here for two nights because I was getting a bit claustrophobic.

Due to it's location, the hotel is definitely catered towards business people. There are no kids playroom or pool in this hotel.

Tiny room

Tiny bed

Tiny closet

Tiny bathroom

European style bathtub

At least it had a decent coffee maker!

Ground Transportation

We took a taxi everywhere we went. Unfortunately, since we were in the process of moving and I didn't really know what our travel itinerary was going to be, I didn't have time to plan or research anything like, how to safely transport our baby around Dubai. We brought his convertible car seat with us so, he had that on the taxi ride to the hotel. But, getting around Dubai... I haven't figured out what to do with his bulky car seat while we wandered around. As spacious as his stroller basket is, it won't fit the car seat. So yes, we resorted to the old fashioned unsafe way of holding the baby on our lap. One of things on my to do list is to research a travel friendly car seats... stat!

Dubai taxis can be rather crazy. I definitely prefer the taxi company the hotel uses. I think it's called Al Salam. They're a bit pricier (not by much) but so worth it. They all drive in brand new Lexus sedans and the drivers are more helpful than your average taxi drivers. 

Al Khobar - First Impressions

After a couple of weeks roaming around other countries in the Middle East, we finally crossed the bridge between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia Tuesday evening. Immigration wasn't bad at all despite being first entry for me -- usually it takes a while. From here on out, any back and forth trip to Bahrain should be a breeze for us (traffic permitting).

We got into Al Khobar in the dark so, I couldn't see a whole lot. What I saw was a typical city with huge highways like Houston. I heard the drivers are crazy here but, having lived and drove in Indonesia, this is nothing! By the way, I (as a woman) can't drive here so, I'll have to rely on my husband or one of his company drivers to shuttle me around. 

Our company provided house is not ready, yet so we're having to stay in a hotel for the time being. The bad news: still living out of a suitcase after leaving Houston over 2 weeks ago. The good news: at least I don't have to iron my clothes since I have to cover up everywhere I go (except in the compounds and at women only events). 

Here are my initial observations of my new home town:
1. Welcome to Saudi - or is it America? I can't tell when McD's is the first thing I see on the Saudi side, after we cleared customs. 
2. The bellman at the hotel was honest! My husband accidentally overtipped him with Bahraini Dinar instead of Saudi Riyal, and he came back to return his tip!
3. I haven't seen any women working anywhere! Not in hotels, restaurants or malls. My husband said they work in the lingerie stores now but, I haven't checked it out for myself. 
4. Most restaurant have separate entrances for "families" and "singles".
5. I have to be aware of prayer times now. They actually close all the shops during prayer times. This wasn't so in Bahrain or Oman.
6. I have to wear a clothing cover called an abaya. Yes, it's nice that I don't have to dress up inside but, let me tell you what a pain it is otherwise. It's a pain to get in an SUV -- there's just no graceful way to get in with this thing on. It's a pain to walk in -- I keep tripping on it.  And then at meal time, the sleeves just gets in the way. I'm sure in time I'll get used to it. 
7. Everyone calls Al Khobar a sandbox. Really?! Not from this hotel balcony view...

Oct 20, 2013

Eats: Friday Brunch at The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain

Friday brunch is a big thing here, similar to Sunday brunch in the States. The only difference, they don't start until after noon and they're usually held at hotel restaurants. The good thing about brunch in Bahrain... they serve alcohol :-)

So, we figured for our first brunch in the Bahrain, why not go to the best... at The Ritz-Carlton! Below are sample pictures of the spread. Note: this is just a sample. That's how massive the buffet is. Unfortunately, there's so many delicious looking things I couldn't eat because I'm pregnant at the moment but, don't you worry... I'll be back to indulge!

Our bill for two came to BD 58 (including tax and service charge) which is about $150. Mind you everything in Bahrain is expensive but, considering some of the items on the buffet line and that alcohol was included, I found the price to be reasonable.

There's not a lot on the buffet line that's baby friendly so I asked them to make scrambled eggs with cheese for our baby. It came out delicious, our baby loved it. He also ate bits of the waffles, some cheese and fresh fruit.

To go to any Friday brunch, reservations is highly recommended. We lucked out in getting a table despite not having a reservation, partly because we went early.

La Med
The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain

Travel with Baby: Bahrain's Fraser Suites

Fraser Suites was the first hotel we stayed at when we landed in Bahrain. This hotel is perfect for staying with a baby. It has all the amenities of a hotel plus the convenience of an apartment. Our suite was equipped with dinnerware, silverware, pots and pans, a good size fridge and freezer, even a washer and dryer. They also supplied us with a bottle of dish soap and sponge. All this allowed us to go to the grocery store and buy our own food supplies for the duration of our stay. In addition to that, the hotel itself offers a pretty good breakfast buffet in the morning and room service until 2am. We never got the chance to take advantage of the breakfast buffet since our baby was jetlagged but, we did order room service several times. Side note: they have the best hummus I've had... ever!

The living room and dining room - plenty of space for a 9-month old to crawl around

Spacious bedroom


Washer/ dryer and fridge/ freezer hidden behind the cabinets.


The only downside - shower only. No bathtub for the baby.

Baby and kids pool


The hotel is located adjacent to Seef Mall, which was convenient for us since we didn't have a car at the beginning of our stay in Bahrain. This allowed us to eat at the mall and browse around. The mall also has an "activity center" called PLAY that has a soft play area for babies. We took advantage of it one afternoon. It cost BD 2 (approximately $5.50) for 2 hours.

Fraser Suites Seef Bahrain
Road 2825, Block Al Seef 428, Building 2109
Kingdom of Bahrain

Travel with Baby: Flying to the Middle East with Lufthansa via Frankfurt Airport

Lufthansa Airlines

Our latest long haul trip with the baby was to Bahrain. He is now 9 months old and very active! Because of that, I thought it would be best if we broke up the journey. Sure, we could've gone with Emirates via Dubai or Qatar Airways via Doha but, I thought a 14-hour flight for him might be too long. So we decided to fly with Lufthansa to Frankfurt (about 9-hour flight) and continue to Bahrain (about another 5 hours) with a 4-hour layover in Frankfurt. I figured the flight to Frankfurt is an overnight flight, he could sleep most of the way there. Once we land, he can crawl around and burn some energy so he can nap during the second leg of our journey. Luckily the plan worked and he did just that.

It also gave me an excuse to fly on Lufthansa's A380 that's been flying to/from Houston since last year. I've never flown with Lufthansa or in an A380 before and I have to say, they're pretty good! The plane itself was massive. The seats were quite spacious, especially if you're sitting in a window seat. There's actually some elbow room between the seat and the window however, if you're like me who likes to sleep leaning against the window, that gap kinda sucks!

The food was ok, very typical airline food. And just like any other European airline, they offer free wine with the meals and came around with some night cap after. When I went to check out the snacks in the galley, I was excited to see a box full of  Toblerone lying around. Unfortunately, that and pretzels were the only snacks available.

The entertainment system on board was on-demand however, the little time I got the browse, I noticed the movie selection wasn't very vast. I say "little time to browse" because our entertainment system froze just moments after take-off. They rebooted it several time but, it didn't work and the flight was pretty full so, they couldn't really move us to another row. Instead, they gave us a gift voucher to compensate.

Are they a baby-friendly airline? I'd say they are! Our baby was given a couple of baby gifts when we boarded and during the flight. We gate-checked his stroller and we got it when we landed in Frankfurt. Not so much in Bahrain but, I think that's more airport management than anything else. Overall, I was quite pleased with how we were treated during our flight.

Our massive bird at Frankfurt airport

Typical economy seat

Drinks available in the galley

Unlimited Toblerone!!

Car Seat

On this trip, since it's paid for by my husband's company to move us to Saudi Arabia, the baby got his own seat and because of that, we brought his car seat along with us to the plane. He's now graduated to a convertible car seat. I inherited a Britax car seat from a dear friend and it has (to my knowledge) received glowing reviews. However, as a travel car seat it is a pain! It's bulky and not easy to carry around the airport. Basically, every chance we get we're trying to find a trolley to wheel it around. We're planning to go back Stateside for the holidays, in the meantime, I'm going to have to find another car seat more suitable for travel.

Frankfurt Airport

This is the first time I've been to Frankfurt Airport. For transiting with a baby, it's not my favorite airport! I'm glad we had 4 hours between flights. First of all, it was a long walk from the gate just to get to main terminal. Then we had to take a train to another terminal. It was just a pain to get around with a stroller trying to figure out which elevator goes where plus, we were lugging the car seat entering one nontrolley zone to another. At least they have a little play area in each terminal. And plenty of baby changing room around.

Play area for kids

Baby changing room

Oct 3, 2013

Eats: Cloud 10 Creamery - Grand Opening

This is going to be a quick post as I'm currently in the middle of moving and putting my house up for sale. This is my five minute break while I eat my midnight snack :-)

While running errands I quickly popped into Cloud 10 Creamery in Rice Village. Today (ok, technically yesterday) was their grand opening. Pre-grand opening, they only served ice cream and sundaes. Now, as you can see from the pictures, they have other desserts like tarts, ice cream sandwich, macaroon ice cream sandwich (not pictured), etc.

Chris Leung is the talented pastry chef behind Cloud 10. It's truly a nice treat when someone with his talent opens his own dessert shop.

Menu at Grand Opening day

Ice cream and sorbet

Waffle cones

Ice cream toppings -- all made in house

Other desserts

Nutella marshmallow
I was expecting a very heavy nutella flavor but I found it
tasting more like regular chocolate ice cream. Still yums though!

(L): almond cake (R): lemon tart
I liked them both but of the two, the lemon tart was my favorite -- it wasn't
overly sweet and the coconut in the crust really complimented the tart.
Beware when you bring the almond cake home. It does melt, as you can see
here in the picture.

Cloud 10 Creamery
5216  Morningside (Hanover Rice Village)
Houston, TX