Dry-iet January

After all that eating and drinking over the holidays it was not surprising when we both stepped on the scale to see we had put on some pounds. So after New Year’s Day we went on a “Dry” month challenge (i.e. no alcohol with one agreed exception) and reverted to our trusty 17-day diet – hence Dry-iet January.

So much of the month was focused on healthy eats and ramping up the fitness. We joined a yoga workshop, yoga classes at Bodytree studio, TrainZSC Zayed Sports City free stairs sessions and Dan bought a new squash racket so he could play a few matches against his friend Laurie. On the weekends, there were also some fitness related events being hosted in the city. The Terry Fox Run was here again and being Canadian we had to participate. I entered the 5km run and Dan went for the biking (you can run, walk, bike or blade). It was a foggy morning but we enjoyed the chilly weather and exercise along the Corniche.

Bec running the Terry Fox 5km

Foggy Corniche

We also attended the Yas Family Fitness Festival which included free classes. We went for some yoga in the mornings and then a Les Mills class in the afternoons. I had been to Les Mills in Berlin but Dan hadn’t heard of it. We tried both Body Pump and Body Combat with Pump being Dan’s clear favourite (as he is now attending them at the Abu Dhabi Country Club). Dan also managed to get his hands on a “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) from our yoga teacher to start his own home brewed Kombucha. For those of our readers who have never heard of this, it is basically a living bacteria which is brewed into a fizzy tea that is great for the digestive system. A new experiment and something fun to try.

Dan participating in the fitfest challenge

About mid-month we also started casually looking at apartments throughout the city as our lease was coming up for renewal in February.

We also managed to squeeze in a few fun things on the weekends. We spent a day up in Dubai doing a bit of shopping at the Dubai Mall DSF (Dubai Shopping Festival), met some friends for lunch and then went to an afternoon Cirque du Soleil show called Toruk. On our way back from Dubai we stopped at the Last Exit Mad X, a highway gourmet food truck stop themed after Mad Max. This was our first time there but would not be our last.

Dubai Shopping Festival

Toruk Cirque du Soleil

Last Exit food truck stop

We also attended the HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club – another first for us. We followed McIlroy, Johnson and Fleetwood along the course. It was amazing how close you really were to the players. Our exception to Dry-iet January was for our friends 40th birthday party which was being hosted at Glo Bar. We met up with the birthday party and had a wonderful evening sitting outside enjoying the weather, having some champagne and celebrating this milestone birthday with our friends.

Tommy taking a shot

Birthday Party Celebrations

We ended the month off with a Full Moon Kundalini Yoga session out on Saadiyat Island on January 31st. Not only was it a full moon but a Super Blue Blood Moon. As per the experts from NASA, this full moon was special for 3 reasons  – being a supermoon, when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit, the 2nd full moon of the month (blue moon) and also a lunar eclipse (giving it a red tint known as a blood moon). Unfortunately for us the weather was too windy so they moved the class indoors however we did get a glimpse of the full moon rising.

Full moon rising

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2017 Year in Review

It’s that time of year again to take a look at our annual blogging stats. Bec and I have kept up the blog since 2011 and we still enjoy documenting our experiences and travels. We hope our followers (family, friends, and even strangers) still enjoy seeing a “New Post” email from Bec and Dan’s Overseas Adventure in their inboxes from time to time.

During 2017, the site received 3,939 views (average 11/day) and 2,262 visitors from all over the world. The most hits by country were:

  1. USA
  2. Canada
  3. UAE
  4. Germany
  5. United Kingdom

Views by Country

Overall, what did people enjoy reading the most throughout the year? It always seems to be some of our classics – those off the beaten path type blogs.

  1. Tave me Presh – Recipe #4
  2. Long Weekend Road Trip to Al Ain and Muscat
  3. Trekking in Leshan and Emeishan
  4. Albania
  5. Trekking Through the Borneo Rainforest

What about our 2017 specific posts? The blogs that received the most views were:

  1. Sofia, Bulgaria
  2. Weekend in Seattle
  3. Rendezvous in Varanasi
  4. Trekking with the Trekkers
  5. Bec’s Visit to AD

We have a total of 76 followers including fellow bloggers as well as the trusty email followers. 2017 was our highest record of comments with a whopping 151 in total though we believe this is mainly due to one regular commenter, Uncle Dale – who seems to comment on every single blog (and sometimes we get sad if he doesn’t).

Another great year of blogging and we plan to continue on throughout 2018. Please keep viewing, referring, liking, following and commenting!

 

 

 

 

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Christmas in Abu Dhabi

With the last of our vacation days used to go home for a wedding in October, we knew we would not be coming home for Christmas this year. Thus, we decided to make the month of December as festive as possible. We started it off by getting a real tree (all the way from Quebec – it smelled soooo good), decorating the apartment, mixing Christmas cocktails, listening to Christmas tunes, working on our Christmas puzzle, writing Christmas cards, watching a few Christmas movies, and squeezing a few games in over the month.

Christmas cocktails

Puzzle complete

Dan was still in Taiwan the beginning of December so I attended a tree lighting ceremony at Jumeirah and then did some shopping at the Swiss Christmas Market with Rene and Nadia (they even had gluhwein and pork sausages on the grill). Reminded me slightly of Germany. I also went for the first time to the very popular Carols in the Desert with Jen, Spence, Amanda, Nat, Jerry, and their kids. It is a pretty amazing event with family and friends gathered in the desert, drinking hot chocolate, and singing Christmas Carols to a live band.

Girls in the desert

Boys getting ready to sing

Dan returned and we were busy getting ready for our annual Christmas party on the 15th. We baked shortbread, Nanaimo bars, butter tarts, and spiced nuts along with Tourtiere pies, pizza digger dip, a cheese and meat platter, as well as veggies and dip. We served homemade mulled wine as well as our Christmas feature cocktail the Vixen punch – which did pack a bit of a punch. Colleagues and friends came and went and a few remained at the end of the night for some singing and dancing.

Look at that spread

Why does the party always end up in the kitchen?

Dan and Spence enjoying some Xmas cheer

Group Xmas party selfie

We were soon getting ready for the big day. We worked on Christmas Eve and then had our close friends over for dinner. We started the evening off with a pre-dinner Ebenezer Scrooge cocktail and then sat down for the main feast of prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, brussel sprouts, baby rosemary potatoes, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. We enjoyed opening our Christmas crackers – Rene got a selfie stick and we figured out how to use it by the end of the night for some good group selfie pics. We finished off the night with some port and playing a boys vs. girls game of Catch Phrase.

Ebenezer scrooge pre-dinner cocktail

Prime rib Xmas Eve dinner

Selfie stick put to good use

Christmas morning was a bit nostalgic as we awoke to a thick fog which almost seemed like snow. We made a few calls home then dug into our stockings with a cup of coffee and Baileys. Dan was a bit nervous as this was his first year ever having to fill a stocking! He did well but his seemed to be a lot fuller than mine. We then had our morning breaky and started into the main gifts under the tree. We relaxed that afternoon and then headed to Rene and Nadia’s for Christmas dinner. They served us homemade eggnog (you can not get the real stuff here). Then the turkey and goose arrived with the fixings and we had cherry pie for dessert. We rushed home a bit early to make some calls back home.

Thick fog Christmas morning

Christmas morning

Goose and turkey? Oh my

We were back at work for the rest of the week and then it was the weekend. First up was going to watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi in the Gold Vox cinema and then the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Saturday, December 30th. Originally, Nadal and Djokovic were supposed to play but we found out, day of, that they would not be there due to injuries. We were a bit disappointed but were soon excited to learn that Serena Williams was coming. It was her first match back after her maternity leave.  We enjoyed watching both the men’s and women’s matches. It was then time for New Year’s Eve. We debated on what to do as we had a few different options but, in the end, we settled on having a fancy evening in. We picked up some oysters, bacon wrapped scallops, foie gras, caviar, and, of course, champagne. We made it to midnight and watched the fireworks over Emirates Palace. A great way to end off 2017!

Serena’s back hand

Bautista ready to serve

Oysters and chardonnay

Bacon wrapped scallops

Foie gras toasts

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Taitung Surf Trip

I said goodbye to Bec at the Phuket International Airport and then walked over to the domestic side.  I had a while to wait for my 23:55 flight to Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok so I found a quiet lounge to relax in.  It was a short flight to Bangkok and I soon connected on my 03:30 flight to Taiwan, arriving at the Taipei Taoyuan International Airport at 8:00 am on Monday, December 4th.  My journey still wasn’t complete yet.  I transferred airports via a 45 min bus ride to the domestic Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei.  My third and final flight wouldn’t be leaving until 13:20 so I did the best I could to entertain myself while I waited to board.

After a quick hop, I found myself in the south-eastern Taiwan city of Taitung.  I was there to meet my friend Zack who had arrived in the country a few days earlier.  He was on his annual surf trip with a couple of other guys from Australia.  When a Luxgen 7 minivan came around the corner with a half-dozen surfboards strapped to the roof, I knew my lift had arrived.  I met Zack, our Taiwanese guide TK Yang, and the other guys, Wade, Dane, and Ben.

We jumped into the van and headed north through Taitung City and up the coastal road.  The guys had surfed the previous 2 days in Hualien and made the drive south that day.  We arrived at the Wishing Well B&B in the late afternoon and everyone wanted to get in another surfing session before sundown.  We drove down to the local beach and the size of the waves threw me back a little.  I was able to get out, have a swim, and get back in while the guys surfed without getting crushed by the huge beach break.  That night, TK took us over to the local restaurant, Low Pressure Surfers Kitchen, owned by a Japanese expat surfer and his wife.  The food was absolutely amazing.  It was nice to finally hit the sheets after such a long overnight travel day.

Delicious shrimp at Low Pressure Surfers Kitchen

Sesame chicken

On Tuesday, I slept late and was sure the guys were off on a morning surf so I had some breakfast and went for a walk in the Taitung countryside.  In comparison to the west side of the island, the east is much less populated.  A narrow strip of land between the central mountains and the Philippine Sea runs down the entire coast.  It is here that the largely indigenous people make their living from the land and sea.  I walked through some cow pasture and fruit farms and down to the beach before turning back to the B&B.  We transferred to a more permanent accommodation that afternoon so, while we waited to check-in to our new digs, TK took us on a drive into the mountains to see the Formosan rock macaques.  That afternoon, I did a little surf photography however I hadn’t brought my zoom lens, so I couldn’t get those nice tight shots.  We also enjoyed watching a couple fishing boats come in and unload the day’s catch onto the jetty.  That evening, we couldn’t resist another meal at Low Pressure and, having called ahead, were treated to an even larger feast with the highlight being the salted fish on the charcoal grill.

Taitung County countryside

Dane with the catch

Salted fish on charcoal grill

I was up early for the morning surf.  We stopped in at a nearby restaurant where the locals were chowing down on the breakfast bao buns, so we sat down and followed suit.  That morning’s surf session was at a spot called River Mouth and the fellas finally convinced our guide, TK, to get in the water.  We popped into Donghe village for another lunch feast of beef noodles and countless other sides.  We did a little shopping at the central market as Zack was keen on finding a hoodie or light jacket.  I think we all thought it would be a little warmer in Taiwan.  19-20C sounds OK, right?  Well, couple that with a constant 20 knot wind and occasional drizzling rain and you might re-think your answer.  That night, TK took us into Taitung for a real treat…the Bawei Ginger Duck restaurant.  Zack recently posted about our meal on his blog, Tacks On A Map.  Have a look, I won’t even try to top his description of our dinner…

http://www.tacksonamap.com/hot-pot-spot/

Go Surf Taiwan Crew – Zack, Ben, Dan, Wade, Dane

Ginger Duck Feast

Hot Pot Spot indeed

After dinner, we rolled over to another Taitung gem, the karaoke bar.  TK got us all set up and we were soon bolting out rock ballads from a limited, but indeed eclectic, collection of English songs.

Thursday morning was sunny and warm, so I cut across the highway to the East Coast National Scenic Area Administration. The large grounds are home to the aboriginal Douli Visitor Center and Amis Folk Center as well as a natural science museum.  On the way home I ran into the surf wagon coming back from the morning surf session.  Ben, Zack, and I popped into Donghe and had another heavy TK lunch before wandering around the market.  That afternoon, TK ran me up to Sanxiantai.  I walked across the 8-arch bridge to San-hsien-t’ai Island and back.  That night, we made another drive into Taitung and hit up a seafood restaurant.

Sanxiantai Bridge to San-hsien-t’ai Island

So many dinner choices

Friday morning was blowing an absolute gale, but the guys were keen on getting in one last surf.  We headed for the beach, but only Dane and Ben were brave enough to paddle out.  I got some great shots of the guys with Dane’s Nikon and 250 mm telephoto lens.  We got back to the house, packed-up, and headed into Taitung.  Our first stop was for some more hotpot, this time it was incredibly spicy.  TK tricked us all by sneaking in some stinky tofu, a fermented and foul-smelling Taiwanese culinary delight.  We did a little shopping in the centre and ended up in the Victory Bar and got on the electronic darts machines.  We were then dropped off at the airport and said goodbye to TK.  He really did an excellent job for us and ensured the betel nut supply never dipped too low.  His company name is Go Surf Taiwan and I’d highly recommend it.  Our 20:40 flight got us into Taipei at 22:00.  It was a quick jaunt to the hotel where we quickly dropped our bags and hit the town.  We caught the metro and headed for the Taipei 101 district.  We wanted to see one of the famous street markets, so we jumped off the train and headed for the Linjiang Street Night Market.  Things were winding down around midnight, but we still managed to find some eats.  Our night didn’t stop there.  The bartender tipped us off to a club she likes to go to, so we caught 2 taxis and hit the Roxy Rocker.  We really weren’t feeling it, so Dane found another for us on Google.  The Wave was huge and a little more like what we had in mind.  It must have been 3:00 or 4:00 am before we called it a night and said our goodbyes as I was heading out the next morning.  All top notch blokes which made for an excellent vacation.

Ben catching a nice wave

Dane trying his best to get barreled

Bye Bye TK Yang! We’re off to Taipei.

I slept till about 10, packed up, and walked to the metro.  The train took me to Taipei Taoyuan Airport where I boarded my 13:45 flight to Manila.  Unfortunately, the flight was delayed 1.5 h, so I missed my 17:55 connection to Abu Dhabi…D’oh!!!  I knew there was another flight leaving at midnight, so I re-listed for that one.  I killed some time until the check-in desk opened and found a lounge to chill in before the flight back to Abu Dhabi.

For someone who doesn’t surf, I’ve been on more than a couple surf trips.  Maybe I should consider taking it up some day?

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Phuket Getaway

On November 30th, we flew to the island of Phuket for a relaxing 4 day weekend. It was a public holiday in the UAE and we had Thursday and Sunday off. We arrived in the evening and took our airport transfer to Point Yamu by Como, located on the eastern tip of Cape Yamu, overlooking the Andaman Sea. We had previously stayed at a Como Hotel in Bali and were looking forward to another experience. Luckily, we made it in time for happy hour before digging into some Thai food for dinner.

The next morning, we joined the Hatha yoga class, enjoyed a beautiful breakfast, and then relaxed by the pool reading our books. It was a bit overcast so we decided to go for a walk around the resort and found some secret stairs down to the beach. We walked for a ways, finding some interesting critters along the way, and then turned back before the tide came in. Plus we did not want to miss the afternoon yoga class. We soon realized that even though it was cloudy, the intense sun rays still found us as we got a bit burnt on our walk. We figured we had better pick up some sun screen (not sure how we forgot this – rookie mistake I know) and some cash so we grabbed a taxi into town to the local 7-eleven where we grabbed some SPF 30, singha beers, lays chips, and some Thai baht.

Fish ball soup for breakfast

Dan leading the beach walk

Iridescent green bug

Agamid lizard

We made it back in time for happy hour at the Breeze Bar down the road which had some interesting cocktail concoctions with a Thai twist – the Thai Basilito and Thai Tini being our fav’s. We continued walking to find Lay Yamu in town for an authentic Thai dining experience. We ordered the papaya salad, grilled squid, and pad thai (which we could not resist).

Breeze Bar Thai cocktails

Pad Thai – who can resist?

The next morning, we were up early for another 8:00 am yoga session before hopping on the bus to take us to Como Beach, sunscreen in hand. We arrived at the boat terminal about 30 minutes later and then jumped on the traditional Thai boat which took us to the private beach. We read, lounged, swam, ate, and kayaked (well Dan did anyways). It was a nice day so we decided to take the last boat back at 4:00 pm. At around 3:30, we could hear thunder and the clouds turned dark … a storm was definitely brewing. We hightailed it to the boat and decided to take a chance and sit in the front. So far no rain, but that didn’t last long and all of a sudden we were on the open water and getting absolutely drenched. We soon disembarked, hopped on the trolly and ran to the bus.

Bec slurping up the coconut water

Como Beach

Beach crab

Dan going for a swing

After freshening up, we enjoyed our 7-eleven beers and snacks on the patio before heading for an early dinner at the hotel’s Thai restaurant once again. We got some local recommendations including the pork neck salad, spinach in coconut milk and a noodle dish. All totally delicious.

Thai dinner

Our last day, we hung at the pool and then went for a massage before our afternoon yoga session. We were able to sneak in one more happy hour (which included banana chips and deep fried anchovies) before heading up to the airport. I would be flying back to Abu Dhabi and Dan was continuing on to Taiwan to meet his friend Zack for a boys surf vacation.

Dan & Bec heading to the airport

 

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Birthday Weekend

Bec had arranged for us to attend a Wine Club event with our friends Rene and Nadia for my birthday at the Four Seasons Hotel.  A representative from the Riedel glass company led us through an interesting tasting which focused more on how the glassware compliments the wine as opposed to just the wine.  We even got to keep the cabernet, syrah, and pinot noir glasses.  The group headed down to Zsa Zsa Bar afterwards for a light bite and a few glasses of wine, of course.

Dan, Rene, and the General Lee on Dan’s B-day

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend kicked off on Thursday, November 23rd.  Bec and I had attended in 2012, but hadn’t been back since so we decided to get tickets.  One of the things we like best about the Grand Prix is the concerts held every night over the 4 days.  We met a couple of Bec’s colleagues at the Belgian Beer Cafe after work and then walked over to the du Arena to take in Calvin Harris.

Dan & Bec at Calvin Harris

On Friday, we met our friend Spence at the Eastern Mangroves and set out on one of the solar powered donut boats.  We enjoyed a coffee and a few munchies while we cruised around the shallows.

Bec cruising the Eastern Mangroves of Abu Dhabi

Dan and Spence co-piloting the donut boat

On Saturday afternoon, we headed back up to the track to watch some of the races from the hill and walk around the F1 village. Mumford & Sons was the concert that evening.  Bec had seen them before at Lollapalooza in Berlin in the summer.  I left work a bit early on Sunday to make it up to the Grand Prix on time.  The final race started at 5:00 pm and Bec joined me halfway through.  Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes won the race, but it wasn’t enough to knock Lewis Hamilton off the 2017 throne.  That night, P!nk put on an amazing show for the final concert.  There was a pole in front of where we had chosen to stand and we both wondered what the heck it was for.  We found out during the encore, it was a landing perch for her well known high flying acrobatics.  So the pole slightly obstructing our view paid off in the end.  All in all, a great birthday weekend.

P!nk doing her thing

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Casablanca Conference

It all came about very last minute but I was on my way to Casablanca to attend a conference with a number of my colleagues. We arrived in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 12th and checked into the Four Seasons Hotel along the beach. It was a 2.5 day long conference with social activities planned in the evenings. On Monday, we enjoyed a city bus tour to the Hassan II Mosque and then a late dinner at El Mechouar Palace. The next evening, I met a friend also there for the conference, and we nipped over to the Villa Blanca Hotel for a glass of Moroccan wine (Four Seasons happens to be a dry hotel) before returning to the gala dinner starting again around 9:00 pm which included some excellent entertainment with a mix of singers and Moroccan dancing. Our last day was a half day so we had time for a walk along the promenade and a dip in the pool before having an early dinner at sunset. The next morning, we flew back to Abu Dhabi. It was nice to visit Casablanca again. Next time though, I would hope to make some trips to visit other cities within Morocco.

Hassan II Mosque

Moroccan chicken

Casa beach

Upon my arrival back in Abu Dhabi, Dan had a busy weekend planned. We headed into the desert with two friends of his for an afternoon desert drive, barbeque and overnight camping. The drive was pretty relaxed and then we set up camp before the sun started to set. We had some drinks round the fire and soon started up the barbeque. We stayed up until all the firewood was burned and enjoyed gazing at the stars.

Dan tending the barbie

Desert camp fire

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