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Postcards from our first desert safari in UAE

It was my second time visiting the desert and our first desert safari. The early spring weather was good, and I highly recommend you to experience a desert safari at least once in a lifetime.


I hope our future generations will be able to see almost extinct Arabian Oryx.
desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

“The next time that boy pursues you, he better do it like a dying man looking for water in a desert. When it’s the right guy, you’ll know, because he’ll cherish you.” ~ Karen Kingsbury
desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

Desert is one of the extreme, harsh and unforgiving environments on our mother earth. I always put my hat off to those who are brave enough to live in the desert; but after experiencing desert myself, I respect them more than ever.

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

Some people have no choice; they were born in the land of desert, they must adapt to survive. To quote Sir Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

The second journey to the desert reminded me on the article about Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger, that I first read during our first business class flight with Etihad Airways .

Thesiger (19100603-20030824), also known as Mubarak bin London, was a British explorer and travel writer. His classic travel book Arabian Sands was dubbed by the National Geography as one of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time. It describes both his travels in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula (between 1945-1950) and the traditional life of the Bedu (Bedouin) people whose “spirit once lit the desert like a flame.” Such an approach of living is perhaps now lost forever, in accordance to Michael Asher.

Few hours before my first trip to the desert in 2014, Professor L who also loves photography, enthusiastically showed me the book, with many beautiful black-and-white photographs of the desert.

I deeply like the following paragraph written by Thesiger, affirming my choice of minimalist lifestyle and striving to give more than what I have received in this life.

“In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance. I had found, too, a comradeship inherent in the circumstances, and the belief that tranquility was to be found there. I had learnt the satisfaction which comes from hardship and the pleasure which derives from abstinence; the contentment of a full belly; the richness of meat; the taste of clean water; the ecstasy of surrender when the craving of sleep becomes a torment; the warmth of a fire in the chill of dawn.”

His writing in crystal-clear prose echoes some interesting phenomena that I experience or observe.

Human beings often do not cherish what they get too easily, these include a lover, a talent, a friend, a career or a prize. In the age of grade inflation, students often think that they deserve an A or A+, when they have not put sufficient efforts to achieve what they desire. After they graduate, some if not many, think that they are entitled to a well-paid job. In reality, it is not our education certificates that will open doors, but our passion and commitment in whatever we do, that will bring life satisfaction.

It is harmonious to remind ourselves that satisfaction in attaining a goal was directly proportional to the hardship and challenge involved in getting there, as Thesiger had realized many decades ago.

The desert experience also reminds me on a senior friend of mine, who shared that our first desert trip is reminiscent of the song Olive Tree (橄榄树). The lyrics were written in 1978 by San Mao (三毛), when she was wandering in the Western Sahara desert. San Mao’s husband, Jose Maria Quero y Ruiz hailed from Spain, where there are abundant of olive trees, that San Mao dearly loves.

My favorite Chinese version of the song Olive Tree is sung by Chyi Yu (齐豫).

橄榄树

不要问我从哪里来 我的故乡在远方
为什么流浪 流浪远方 流浪
为了天空飞翔的小鸟 为了山间轻流的小溪
为了宽阔的草原 流浪远方 流浪
还有还有 为了梦中的橄榄树橄榄树
不要问我从哪里来 我的故乡在远方
为什么流浪 为什么流浪 远方
为了我 梦中的橄榄树

I also love the English version of the song Olive Tree, sung by Sally Yeh (叶蒨文)

There is a farmer,who walks on the road,
Stranger,why do you wander?
Don’t ask from where I have come,
My home is far,far away
Why do you wander so far,
Wander so far,wander so far?
For the little bird free I wander,
For the medow green and wide,
For the mountain high and blue
I wander,wander so far
Then,is there more?
Yes,for the olive tree of my dream.
Don’t ask from where I have come,
My home is far,far away.
Why do you wander,
Why do you wander so far,far away?
For the Olive tree of my dream.
Don’t ask from where I have come,
My home is far,far away,
Why do you wander so far,
Wander so far,wander so far

Our gratitude list:
♥ people who have made our trip memorable and pleasant
♥ dune bashing
♥ sand boarding (an item of my bucket list was checked)
♥ camel riding
♥ saw the Arabian Oryx
♥ good value of money (each of us paid AED50 for the entire event)

desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart
desert safari arabian nights village UAE servicefromheart

With love,
ServicefromHeart
20150306
20150508

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Postcards from Chinese Heritage Centre and the inspiring stories of the Yunnan Garden campus

Every graduate (and even dropout) feels something special about his/her alma mater. It is where one spent his/her youth, formed lifelong friends, and undertook intellectual challenges to prepare oneself for serving the society. Herein, I write about Chinese Heritage Centre at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where I pursued my undergraduate study.

Schools and universities, especially those with history, are among places to visit wherever I travel. On the open house day of the Chinese Heritage Centre, I was very grateful that I could bring baby Ren to visit his mother’s alma mater.

NTU is the first university that baby Ren visited, and I deeply hope that he would visit and learn from a number of great institutes worldwide as time goes.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

If there are public transports to reach a destination and I am not short of time, I prefer to take public transports. Yes, I am concerned about sustainability and frugality. Experiencing public transports allow me to sense the feelings and the attitudes of people who commute to a particular destination.

I have been grateful that an NTU student volunteered to help carrying Ren’s folded stroller while we boarded the bus. I was alone, carrying Ren in front of me with a baby carrier, a backpack of his milk, hot water, diapers, toys at my back; my hands were to carry the stroller and tap the EZ-link card.

I really admire single parents, and people in the past had succeeded to raise many children. My thought went that, if these people can do it, so can we!

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

We just need to be more strategic, such as anticipating possible scenarios and preparing for them. When I travel without Ren, tapping the EZ-link card is as smooth as waving a good bye. However, that day I had to plan carefully, so that the bus would not wait too long for me boarding and getting down from the bus.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

Ren’s uncle waited for us at the 179 bus stop. When I was an undergraduate of NTU, I brought Ren’s uncle – then a primary school boy to NTU and he posed for a photograph at the Lee Wee Nam library, one of my favorite places in NTU. Now, he ends up as an engineering student of NTU after studying hard in his high school. Perhaps, bringing young children to campus early can help them to define their dreams.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

On our arrival at the Chinese Heritage Centre, opposite the lush Yunnan Garden, two kind volunteers rushed down the main staircases to help us. Thank you very much! I did not know that there was a wheelchair access behind the building.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

Baby Ren was given a Doraemon (ドラえもん) balloon. Like many parents who aspire their children to be creative, I hope that Ren would have a lot of creative ideas that flow incessantly out of his mind, just like how Doraemon can always produce futuristic gadgets, medicines and tools from his 4D pocket.

We were fortunate to have a guided tour on two exhibitions: The Nantah Pictorial Exhibition and Chinese more or less (an exhibition of overseas Chinese identity).

I knew about Nantah (Nanyang University) since I was in high school. My chemistry teacher, Madam Yong Mu Lin, graduated from Nantah. She taught us not only chemistry, but also the virtues of hard work and commitment.

I remember clearly how Madam Yong willingly stayed two-day-per-week after school hours, to help weak students with more detailed explanation and to help me preparing myself to compete* in a national chemistry competition. I always think that emerging as one of the winners of that competition, helped me to win a Nanyang Scholarship** that has positively changed the trajectory of my life.

*In the initial stage, there were other students invited to join the training. But I ended up as the last who continued practising using China GaoKao 高考 materials. Grit matters. The psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth highlights that grit plays more significant roles than IQ, social intelligence, good looks or physical health for success.

**I am forever grateful to Nanyang Technological University, especially because my parents told me that I had to figure out the finance myself should I be interested in pursuing a tertiary education.

Perhaps, it was partly because of the tremendous dedication of Madam Yong, that I wanted to study at Nanyang Technological University, even though National University of Singapore has been more established and of higher ranking .

Perhaps, it is the Nantah Spirit and the story behind the founding and the demise of Nanyang University that allured me and many others to the Yunnan Garden.

I wonder if it is human nature to take for granted what we have and only long for things (and people) once they are gone forever. What we can do is to remind ourselves everyday (yes, every morning and every night) the importance of being grateful, as the thankful hearts are always closer to the riches of the universe, so that we can do more meaningful things in our limited hours, days and years.

♥ ♥ ♥

At The Nantah Pictorial Exhibition, we learned more about the history of universities @ Yunnan Garden, Singapore.

In 1953, the Chinese communities in Singapore, Malaya and other parts of Southeast Asia responded enthusiastically on the proposal to form a Chinese language university by Tan Lark Sye 陈六使 (1897-1972), a rubber entrepreneur and philanthropist who firmly believed in the value of education.

People from all walks of life in Singapore as well as other regions of South East Asia, from rich tycoons to poor hawkers and trishaw pullers, had made generous donations and rendered tremendous assistance.

I especially appreciate the contributions from the poor. For example, $1 may not mean a lot to the rich, but one who earns less than $2 has to sacrifice largely to donate $1 away for a cause that he/she believes in. I know each $ equals sweats, tears and bloods, for I also worked as a part-time student being paid $6/hour in the 21st century NTU.

In 1954, William Goode (Colonial Secretary) visited the construction site of Nanyang University, acompanied by Tan Lark Sye and Lien Ying Chow.

In 1955, the arch of Nanyang University / Nantah — the first and only Chinese-medium institute of higher learning outside China, was built.

In 1956, Nanyang University started classes for courses in arts, sciences, and commerce. The certificates of the degrees of Nanyang University were written in three languages, from left to the right: traditional Chinese, Malay, and English.

In 1964, Nobel Laureate Professor Yang Chen Ning 杨振宁 visited Nantah. Professor Yang works on statistical mechanics and particle physics. In 1957, he and Tsung-dao Lee received the Nobel prize in physics for “for their penetrating investigation of the so-called parity laws which has led to important discoveries regarding the elementary particles.”

In quantum physics, a parity transformation is the (simultaneous) flip in the sign(s) of spatial coordinate(s). The conservation of parity states that the parity of the total wave function describing a system of elementary particles is conserved. Parity is conserved in electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear forces, and strong interactions, but violated in weak interactions.

Do you think that Chien-Shiung Wu 吴健雄, who performed the decisive experiment verifying parity violation, should also be awarded the 1957 Nobel Price in physics, in a similar way that Rosalind Franklin (whose work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, led to the discovery of the DNA double helix) should be awarded the 1962 Nobel Price for Physiology / Medicine? Sadly, Franklin passed away in 1958 at age 37.

Sorry, I digress. Let’s return to the history of Nantah.

In 1972, Queen Elizabeth II visited Nantah. Photographs of the Queen – wearing an aristocratic hat and sleeveless knee-length dress, at the same staircases where we just climbed with the assistance of the volunteers, made me imagine the campus atmosphere and the feelings of the students at that time.

At the era of Nanyang University (1956-1980), being a Nantah student was a very prestigious accolade. Not all young people had the opportunities to present the required intellectual requisites to be admitted, i.e. to pass the admission test.

I am curious if financial difficulties would hinder one’s aspiration to pursue study in Nantah.

A piece of story from a former staff serving the Nantah registrar, appears to highlight that financial challenges should not entirely thwart a dream to pursue a higher education in Nantah.

While a staff, he fell in love with a female Nantah student, who was as precious as panda. The power of love can be so great that he ended up realizing his university dream. He secretively prepared himself for the admission test to surprise her, was successfully admitted with flying colors, and worked hard to support himself financially. The only regret that he has is that he did not join as much student activities as he wished.

I recalled how my friends in the 21st century NTU enthusiastically dragged me to attend events, from VIPs talks to concerts. Honestly, I was a struggling student. I realized that to succeed academically, I need to spend more time studying than other students. I also had to do tasks for extracurricular activites (ECA), so that I had sufficient ECA points to stay on campus as off-campus accommodation has always been more expensive. I also worked part-time as a student assistance. When a friend managed to get a Fish Leong / Liang Jingru 梁靜茹 concert ticket for me, I was deeply touched. When a senior walked half the campus to my hall, to brought me a supper of nasi lemak on my birthday, I was tremendously grateful. There are many great memories on the Yunnan Garden Campus.

The friendships formed during our school years are among the most beautiful ones. The relationships of the young people, full of idealism, aspirations, excitements, hope and commitment, in the face of life challenges, will never fail as the themes of any drama, simply because every one is the actor / actress of his / her life, as the saying goes 人生如戏,戏如人生.

I personally know many friends who found the following treasures on campus: their lifelong and close friends (知心朋友), soul mate, wive, husband. All these people have become the support they have for the rest of their life.

In 1980, Nanyang University was merged with the University of Singapore, to form National University of Singapore. If you google to find out why, you will learn different perspectives explaining the destiny of Nantah, and it is up to you to make your own conclusion. The old Nantah administration building  of a beautiful Chinese-style architecture, now houses the Chinese Heritage Centre.

For a quarter of century Nanyang University, affectionately called Nantah, was a hope for the supporters of Chinese medium education and culture in Southeast Asia. Students hailed from not only Singapore, but also Malaya, Thailand, Indonesia, and the alumni are now all over the world.

In comparison with other universities, especially another alma mater of mine that celebrated 800-year anniversary recently, Nantah was indeed short-lived. However, the story behind the founding of Nantah and her development, growth and demise, will evoke strong emotions among many people today.

In 1981, Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) took over the ground of former Nantah. NTI was an English medium engineering college.

In 1991, NTI was promoted to Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and merged with with the National Institute of Education (NIE).

In the 21st century, on a summer day I arrived at NTU, where the former Nantah was. The writing 自强不息 (continuous self-improvement) stroke me forever. Some places are especially magical because of people who had been there. Places where people have prayed for years and centuries, such as churches, temples and mosques are very sacred. Similarly, places where people have studied with their heart and hoped for the best, have that kind of spiritual forces that will never fail to encourage the future generations.

Every time I listen to the song Chuan Deng 传灯, I will remember Nantah. Perhaps, it is also the Nantah Spirit that has sustained me and my pursue of knowledge across oceans and continents, and now in the desert.

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah spirit Yunnan Garden servicefromheart
Nantah Spirit that I pasted on my study desk in my NTU hall room to remind myself to work hard.

♥ ♥ ♥

In 2001, NTU established School of Biological Sciences.

In 2004, NTU established School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

In 2005, NTU established School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

In 2009, NTU established School of Art, Design and Media.

In 2013, NTU and Imperial College London jointly established a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

In 2014, QS World University Rankings rank NTU first for Top 50 Under 50, 39th globally, and 6th in Asia, placing it in the top 1% of universities globally.

I am grateful that NTU is rocketing in the global competition. Based on the experience of many people whom I have encountered and mine, a good degree helps one to secure a good job and a good business contracts.

However, we need to remember that eventually it is the substances of the people that make a university strong and sustainable. Modern facilities or historical architectures alone are insufficient to create and sustain a good university, only when her graduates make significant contributions to the society and the world, the university is successful.

♥ ♥ ♥

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden hostel Hall 1 servicefromheart
My (transient) room in the oldest hall of residence in NTU: Hall 1 (established 1957). Looking back at this photograph, I realized that I am still using the same bed sheet of bears and pink stars. Wow!

Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart heart love
There is something magical about the heart shape! A student committee posed in a heart shape on my request. Yes, I have been inspired by love and servicefromheart, since many years ago. I admire people who self-sacrifice themselves for others, like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mandela, and the list goes on…

 cupid love Chinese Heritage Centre Nanyang Technological University Nantah Yunnan Garden servicefromheart

An angel or a cupid on campus (thank you our dear volunteer!) brightened the days of many women.

More:

Jurong West Nantah Arch by Remember Singapore
Childhood Memories at Nantah 南大 by Apple, a cancer survivor and a mother to a daughter with Down syndrome

With love,
ServicefromHeart
2014

Last updated 20141115

Postcards from Dubai Mall, United Arab Emirates

Inspired by Americans who love superlatives, I am grateful for a visit to the Dubai Mall (迪拜购物中心) of UAE – the world’s largest shopping mall (based on total area).

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates the butterflies

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates the butterflies fashion

Dubai Mall was developed by Emaar Properties, that also own Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world as of today).

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates burj khalifa

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates burj khalifa

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates burj khalifa

Visiting Dubai Mall on almost on her sixth anniversary (it first opened on 20081104) was a blessing for me. I always love birthdays, not only of mine but also of others. Birthday = a reason to celebrate the miracles of being alive and continuous growth.

We drove from Abu Dhabi to Dubai on a morning of sand storm. We could not see very far, but I managed to catch a glimpse of Burj Al Arab from far far away. Our petite beautiful driver was hungry, so we stopped at a gas station with a McDonald.

servicefromheart uae best coffee ADNOC
Fabrice said the most delicious coffee in UAE is the one sold by ADNOC. For me, I still love South East Asian roasted coffee the most.
Although I grew up as a child in Jakarta, where malls are ubiquitous, I had also called Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, UK my home. In a town like Cambridge, malls (not to mention malls with inspiring design) are not common, though I appreciate the convenience of shopping in small supermarkets and shops.

Dubai Mall has more than 1,200 stores. We had a lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, which I had heard about while living in La Jolla, California but had not have a chance to visit until today. I ordered (1) fresh kale salad and (2) portabella mushroom avocado and zucchini fries. i also sampled (3) beets with goat cheese comprises fresh beets, apples, baby arugula & pecans, (4) burger (5) salmon (6) chicken. Consequently, I had no more space left for the dessert. I will be back for trying the cheesecake!

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  cheesecake factory

The Dubai Mall implements courtesy policy: shoulders and knees should be covered, no kissing or overt display of affection in the mall, no smoking in the mall, no dangerous activities (e.g. sport games, rollerblading, skateboarding), no pets are allowed in the mall.
servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates aquarium

My impromptu tour guide once worked in the construction of a nearby hotel. He told me that when things were challenging, they de-stressed by gazing the fish swimming in a carefree manner, without worrying about the burden of life and work.

Herein, may I please suggest a must-do list in @TheDubaiMall:

Visit the Dubai Aquarium and Discovery Centre. Admission fees range from AED 80-110. Dubai Aquarium Underwater Zoo reminds me on a night sleepover in the Underwater World, Sentosa Island Singapore; thank you Luke How!<

Cage snorkeling with the sharks (AED 290)@ the Dubai Aquarium.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates

In Dubai Ice Rink in Dubai Mall, imagine the romance of ice-skating as described by the ballet-loving and warm-hearted Veronica Weston of the Sadler Wells by Lorna Hills. Remember to bring a pair of socks.Appreciate candies and chocolates in the 2010 world’s largest sweet shopCandylicious” spanning over 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) inside Dubai Mall. I bought a Belgian dark chocolate for our driver simply because the cover girls remind me on her. Thank you for driving us safely! I also bought a 70%-cacao Mucha-covered chocolate by Chocolate Amatller for myself.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates candylicious belgium chocolate

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates candylicious

Imagine yourself as an Alibaba being surrounded with the glitters in Dubai Mall’s Gold Souk. Caveats: (1) unlike Alibaba, you must pay the price before taking any gold out of the souk (2) “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  gold souk

At The Emirates Official Store in Dubai Mall, be a captain of the Emirates A380 – the world’s largest aircraft. A 30-minute session of simulator flight costs AED 350. I am also grateful for my past experience of flying A380 with Singapore Airlines and Qantas, and look forward to flying A380 with Emirates.

Experience the Dubai Fountain – the world’s largest dancing fountain, designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. I recommend the daily evening shows every 30 minutes from 6:00pm to 11:00pm.

Enjoy bird view of the Arabian Gulf and desert from level 124 of the world’s tallest tower, At the Top, Burj Khalifa (first inaugurated 20100104). Dated & Timed Adult ticket costs AED 125, < 12 years old AED 95, < 3 years old free. Fast track ticket costs AED 400.

Meet and Pose with the DubaiDino, the original skeleton of a long-necked, whip-tailed vegetarian sauropod (Amphicoelias brontodiplodocus) member of the family

Diplodocidae

) that is over 155 million years old, and of 80 ft (24.4 metres) long and 25 ft (7.6 metre) high. When it was alive, it weighted as heavy as five elephants. The dinosaur could have died during drought in a natural trap – Dana Quarry, Wyoming, USA. I love to imagine arriving at a world we have heard of only in stories such as Jurrasic Park.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  dinosaur dubaidino

Pose with the Dubai Mall Waterfall, designed by Singapore-based DP Architects. This is my favorite artwork.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates waterfall

Visit Kinokuniya bookstore and forget the time.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  kinokuniya

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates kinokuniya

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates kinokuniya

A mango lemonade with some Spanish and Belgium chocolate appear to be ideal companions for a happy reading session. ” Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is. ” ~ The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

Do shopping and window-shopping.
servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  mickey mouse
Mickey Mouse with its iconic ears always bring back the happy memory in Disneyland Paris.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  pinocchio
Since I could remember, I have loved stories, and Pinocchio was among the first few stories that I read. I appreciate how Jiminy Cricket reminded Pinocchio (and us), “remember always let your conscience be your guide.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  vogue
Once, I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer and a fashion model. Everything starts with a dream. I have created handmade dresses for my (only) Barbie girl. Though I am not a professional model, I have done some catwalks in Vancouver and Singapore, to promote the causes that I believe in. Thank you for the opportunities to do so! “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” I always admire beauty, as I do for truth and kindness. I think … I am highly sensitive to beauty, especially of people and nature that I grow loving more than ever. Beautiful things make me happy.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates  keep calm
The design of postcards sold in the Souk Al Bahar (Market of the Sailor) reminds us to “keep calm we still have oil.” In 2013, petroleum engineering is the most lucrative college major. Will the situation be still the same several years and decades down the road? I am concerned for our children and grandchildren. I believe in the importance of research and development for alternative renewable energies, because eventually the non-renewable fossil fuels are going to be used up.

servicefromheart travelxp dubai mall uae emirates spinneys
This is the first Spinneys market that I visited in Dubai. It is situated in the Souk Al Bahar (Market of the Sailor).

What’s next?
♥ visit Abu Dhabi Yas Mall, the second largest mall in UAE after Dubai Mall. Like Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld, Yas Mall is situated on the Yas Island.
♥ I am grateful to be able to view the world’s tallest building hitherto. I also look forward to appreciating the next world’s tallest building. I imagine that the future world’s tallest building will reach the outer space (perhaps anchored by a satellite for stability) and ordinary people like me, can fulfill our dreams to visit the outer space.
♥ re-visiting postcards from our other #travelxp always evokes special feelings of contentment and excitement.

♥♥♥

Many thanks
ServicefromHeart
20141101

Postcards from Abu Dhabi with some tips from Ask Ali

Saying Marhaba (Hello) or As salamu alyakum is a way to greet local people here, so please allow me to greet you with a Marhaba!

This is the first post from our adventures in Middle East, starting from United Arab Emirates (UAE) where we arrived in the scorching and highly humid summer 2014.

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Corniche
Our first summer in Abu Dhabi: admiring 123-m flagpole on Marina Island across from Marina Mall. 
Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Grand Millennium Al Wahda Hotel
A bird view of Abu Dhabi City from Grand Millennium Al Wahda Hotel, where we lived happily for almost 4% of our days this year.

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque where we learned from a funny tour guide who is also a civil engineer.
Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Madinat Zayed
Madinat Zayed

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Abu Dhabi Mall
Abu Dhabi Mall

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Marina Mall
Marina Mall has a Carrefour.

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Khalidiyah Mall
Khalidiyah Mall where I attended a worship in a cinema for the first time of my life.

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Reem Island Sun Sky sea Gate Towers
A bird view of Reem Island, where we live in 2014.
Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Gate Towers like Marina Bay Sands
The Gate Towers reminds us on Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Gate Towers like Marina Bay Sands
Another view of the Gate Towers and their reflections on the Arc Towers.

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Reem Island
Dramatic reflection of sunrise as viewed in Reem Island is always inspiring. 

 

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart Reem Island
Night view of Reem Island.

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart public bus
Public buses e.g. bus 54 of Abu Dhabi cost only 2 dirhams / passenger.

Travel Journal to Abu Dhabi UAE by ServicefromHeart St Joseph's Cathedral Catholics
St Joseph’s Cathedral of Abu Dhabi.

Hand shakes
Remember to shake firmly. If you are a man, it is impolite to offer your hand to a local woman. If a local woman offers her hand, it is then OK to reciprocate. Some Arab men will shake non-local women’s hands, some will not (it is ok too)!

Learn some Arabic words. Based on my experience living in Abu Dhabi, one can survive in Abu Dhabi without knowing Arabic, but it is always wonderful to learn some Arabic words.
Yes : Na’am / Aywah
No : Laa
Bon appetit : Bel Aaafiya
My name is : Ana esmi
Congratulation : Mabrook
Thank you : Shukran
Sorry : Asif / Asifa

Respect – a universal value – for each other’s differences requires open-mindedness, tolerance, adaptability and obedience. Although I have not lived long enough to give wise advice, I have found that respecting yourself and other people (regardless of their social, economic, education status) is among the best policies. Ask Ali also highlights that it is “illegal to defame any member of the ruling families of any of the emirates.”

Be thoughtful. “Even if you must compromise, don’t embarrass your Arab colleagues in public.”
Depending on the context, the opposites may be right.
In Arabic culture, it is impolite not to answer a phone call during meetings.
In Western culture, it is impolite to answer a phone call during meetings.
What if you are in a meeting with both Arabic and Western colleagues?
I remember a meeting that I attended in my first week working in Abu Dhabi. Half-way through the meeting, a phone rang. The most important person (who was originally from USA) said, “I’m glad it’s not mine.”

Arab people may raise their voices when they speak, not out of anger, but to emphasize a point.

Trust Arab people like to do business with those they trust (those whom they know or wit whom they have friends in common). Arab people don’t like to do business over the phone or without initially meeting you.

Local values that I hope to learn more:
respect
generosity / ikramiya
modesty / humility
trust

***

Social media that I follow:
www.emiratweet.com : a virtual majlis of events, news, street talk about Emirati individuals and society.
www.sailemagazine.com : about successful entrepreneurial Emiratis.
The National : an English newspaper of UAE

***

Things that I add to the bucket list:

    1. visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the UAE and the eighth largest mosque in the world. It also has a Center library. Gently step on the wool carpet (the most comfortable one I have ever had the blessing to walk on) in the main prayer hall. Admire the Swarovski crystals-decorated chandeliers.
    2. learn Arabic calligraphy as a way of learning Arabic culture.
    3. enjoy a cup of coffee sprinkled with gold leaves @ Emirates Palace with classic luxurious stairwell.
    4. attend exhibitions (and if possible, weddings) @ Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC).
    5. desert safari / dune bashing @ Liwa Oasis ~ 2 hours drive from Abu Dhabi. Imagine a roller-coaster ride over sand dunes accompanied by sunset.
    6. ride a camel.
***

First and finally, please remember the followings:

  1. Stand up when someone approaches you to say hello.
  2. Use your right hand to pick things up or accept things.
  3. Reshuffle your position (at an elevator, a doorway) to place an important person / guest to your right.
  4. Dress modestly.
  5. Remove your shoes before entering your host’s home.
  6. Refer the gulf as Arabian Gulf (not Persian gulf!)
  7. Send a Ramadan Kareem (Blessed Ramadan) card at the beginning of the Ramadan month or an Eid Mubarak (Happy Mubarak) at the end of Ramadan, to your Muslim friends.
  8. Wait until after Ramadan to approach Muslim businessmen with new ideas.
  9. Offer local friends food – a symbol of goodwill and friendship, especially home-cooked food if you know how to cook. Remember to exclude pork or alcohol (even in chocolates)!
  10. Do not touch anyone of the opposite sex. No gentle pat.
  11. Do not schedule any meeting / gathering / sport event on Fridays, at least not until after 4 pm because, to respect people’s need of praying.
  12. Do not leave your host’s home before coffee and Arabic sweets are served (or else they may feel that they have not completed their hospitality duties; hospitality is an important value here, rooted in the harsh desert conditions).
  13. Do not point your soles / the bottom of your fee towards anyone, especially someone’s face.
  14. Do not say Mashallah when praising something beautiful to an Arab.
  15. Do not say swear words.
  16. Do not post sexually suggesting, politically / religiously controversial material.
  17. Do not take photographs of a local person (especially women and families) without asking for a permission.
  18. Do not take photographs of Muslims praying.
  19. Do not take photographs of military sites, the royal family’s palaces, government buildings (e.g. airports, police headquarters).
  20. Do not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public during Ramadan.
  21. Women traveling alone in taxi should sit in the back and not make conversation with the cabbies, as drivers may misinterpret friendliness.

With love,
ServicefromHeart
201410
Last updated 20141026

Postcards from Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Thanks to MRT Downtown Line (coded in blue), the first visit of baby Ren to Marina Bay Sands (MBS / 滨海湾金沙) was a realization. Except for the transport fare, the visit to The Shoppes (shopping mall) in MBS – the world’s most expensive building at US$ 5.5 – 5.7 billion (as of 2010) – is free.

“Everyday is a journey in our lives, and an MRT ride can be an interesting journey.”

每天是一个旅程;乘坐地铁可以是一个有趣的旅程!

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Spacious seats of MRT serving Downtown Line make us happy! Thank you MRT.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

We took the MRT Downtown Line from Bugis via Promenade to Bayfront station.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

♥ ♥ ♥

Designed by Moshe Safdie (an Israeli/Canadian architect) with an inspiration from card decks, MBS is a unique icon of Singapore. “Does it look like ancestral tablets (tombstones)?” a taxi driver once asked me. To me, it looks like an ancient Chinese scholar’s hat (古老的中国学者的帽子).

A canal inside the Marina Bay Sands reminds us on the Venice (Italy) and River Cambridge (England).

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A tea break by the water side beneath the Rain Oculus created by Ned Kahn – famous for transforming an invisible aspect of nature into visible, is pleasing and relaxing. That day, I had a snack leftover that I bought from near Lavender MRT station whereas baby Ren had grape cuts and a bottle of breast milk.

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

♥ ♥ ♥

Luxurious brands … offer a pleasant opportunity for window shopping! They are sources of inspirations: the creative designs (创意设计), the careful attention to details (精心细节) and exquisite craftsmanship (精湛的工艺).

Dior 

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A different kind of worlds …

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Are you interested to hire baby Ren as your little model?

Travel Journal to world most expensive building Marina Bay Sands Singapore by ServicefromHeart

♥ ♥ ♥

I remember …

When baby Ren was in my belly, my maternal grandmother, Dad, Mom and I had a memorable early dinner at Ding Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), Marina Bay Sands. It was a good decision so that we did not have to queue for a table. I did not feel significantly inflated prices as compared to other outlets of Ding Tai Fung, given the posh location.

My family encouraged me to eat more xiaolongbao (小笼包) – my favorite dish. I also like the chilli oil dumplings.

Xiaolongbao was originally from Shanghai and Wuxi, China. Their mini sizes made them so delicate and cherishable to savor.

It is not only about the food, but also the people whom you dine with and the people who transform our food into food art.

“I choose to collect memories instead of things.” ~ Elena Levon

我选择收集回忆,而不是东西。

♥ ♥ ♥

What’s next?

1. visit Sands SkyPark that connects the 2 hotel towers and is large enough (1.2 hectare) to park four-and-a-half Airbus A380 jumbo jets. Plan your visit at the end of the afternoon before dusk to enjoy the view during daytime and at night. It costs a visitor SG$23 to get to the Skypark by high speed elevator of the middle tower. The ticketing office is not accessible by lift, and a friendly staff kindly offered to carry my pram / stroller, but in the end I decided to visit Sands SkyPark next time.

2. Alternatively, you can take the free elevator (Tower 3) to Ku DÉ Ta Lounge to enjoy some drinks and scenery of Singapore’s cityscape and skyline. PS: casual dress is not allowed, no shorts, slippers, singlets and tank tops plese.

3. swim @ The Infinite Pool on the 57th floor – the largest elevated pool in the world, which is only accessible to the hotel guests.

4. watch Wonder Full: Light Show and Water Show. Each show starts daily at 8pm and 9.30pm. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is another show at 11pm.
To watch the Water Show, be at the Marina Bay Sands side.
To watch the Light Show, cross the Bay.
Please remember to bring your tripod for taking blur-free photography / video.

Address: 10 Bayfront Ave Marina Bay Sands, Singapore 018956


Other travel posts that I love:
♥ Ku De Ta by Journeys of the Fabulist
♥ SkyPark Infinity Pool by Escape with Style
♥ Light and Water Show by Rosie and Edmund Tay
♥ our #travelxp posts

With love,
ServicefromHeart
2014

Postcards from Parkview Square Singapore (百威广场, 新加坡)

Standing tall and firm along North Bridge Road in the Downtown of Singapore, Parkview Square – a commercial building designed by James Adams Design and DP Architects – houses offices and embassies.

Opposite to the Raffles Hospital (private), Parkview Square is referred to as ‘Gotham City building‘ (of Batman) locally. The design is of the classic Art Deco style, which is characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and lavish ornamentation.
Travel Journal to art deco Parkview Square Singapore by ServicefromHeart

A friendly taxi driver uncle* shared with me in Chinese Mandarin, that he remembers the Parkview Square well because of the statues of bony men holding up heavy things. Can you see them in the picture above?

* We call men who are older than us ‘uncle’ in Singapore or Malaysia.

In his words, “they look very struggling, perhaps they represent Life.” He finished in accepting yet optimistic tone, “We struggle in lives.”

***

The lift from street level to the square level was locked. I took an escalator up without realizing that I would need to go down few steps of staircase. A Cantonese-accented lady in an elegant above-knee dress helped me to carry baby Ren and his pram down. I am grateful to my heroine of the day!

Travel Journal to Parkview Square Singapore by ServicefromHeart

At the plaza before entering the building, a signature crane sculpture is ready to fly towards the direction of Mainland China. The graceful golden crane – a symbol of wealth bringer – is supported by a pedestal with a Chinese poem that goes

黄鹤楼

故国旧有黄鹤楼

北望神州几千秋

黄鹤展翅飞万里

伟哉狮城见鹤楼

Yellow Crane Tower

In my old country once stood a Yellow Crane Tower

how many autumns have I gazed north, homewards?

A yellow crane spreads its wings to fly ten thousand miles

Alas! In the Lion City I see a Crane Tower!

This home-longing poem reminds us on a poem by Li Bai from the Tang Dynasty:

黄鹤楼送孟浩然之广陵

故人西辞黄鹤楼,烟花三月下扬州。

孤帆远影碧空尽,唯见长江天际流。


Sending Meng Haoran Off at Yellow Crane Tower to Yangzhou

My old friend bids farewell to me at Yellow Crane Tower,

he is going down to Yangzhou in the third month of spring misty blooms.

The image of his lonely sail fades into a jade-green void of sky;

now all I see is the mighty Yangztze River flowing to the horizon.

Note: Guanglin (广陵) is the classic name for Yangzhou (扬州).

Travel Journal to crane art deco Parkview Square Singapore by ServicefromHeart
Plato, Lincoln, Churchill, Sun Yat-Sen, Newton, Chopin, and Dali (standing tall in bronze statues) welcome everyone at the plaza. Physically dead yet spiritually alive in souls whom they have inspired over generations, I tried to introduce baby Ren to them but the noon sun was perhaps too strong for us.

Newton Travel Journal to Parkview Square Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Built at a cost of SGD$87.93 million and completed in 2002, rents of offices in Parkview Square (D07) cost tenants ~ SGD$8 psf (hence beyond  6 digits of monthly rents for a unit greater than 12,500 sqft / 1160 sqm) as of March 2014 (CommercialGuru).

The interior of the lobby is also opulently decorated in the classic Art Deco style like a Western palace.

Travel Journal to art deco Parkview Square Singapore by ServicefromHeart

Perhaps one day we would be able to have a sip of coffee or wine at the Divine Wine Extraordinaire bar of Divine Society but now I am inspired to re-visit the Art Nouveau works by Mucha.

***

Address: 600, North Bridge Road, 188778 Singapore.

From Bugis MRT, the fastest way to reach Parkview Square is through walking the side of Raffles Hospital.

Other travel posts that I love:
♥ Leonard Ng’s Yellow Crane Tower @ Rainy Blue Dawn
♥ Jotterboard’s visit to the Divine Wine Extraordinaire bar of Divine Society @ Parkview Square
♥ our #travelxp posts

Postcards from St George’s Church, Tanglin, Singapore (圣乔治教堂,新加坡)

Discovering St George’s Church – while walking to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – was a pleasure to me. The Romanesque red bricks captured my attention and I made a mental note to visit this simply beautiful church.

当走向外交部的时候,
很高兴发现圣乔治教堂。 它的罗马式红砖捕获了我的注意,我在心里记下访问这个简单美丽的教堂。

圣乔治教堂外,三角梅 (九重葛花) 点缀 宁静的环境。

Numerous strollers parked outside the church made me wondered if there was a service going on for babies and toddlers. Perhaps mothers’ pray-together session.

许多婴儿车 停在教堂外。

The church was quiet and empty. It offers peaceful moments for a visitor like me.

这座教堂很安静。可能为了像我这样的游客, 提供宁静的时刻。
Walking down the open arched windows of the east side aisle, a middle age man politely inquired me, “are you here for the Japanese fellowship?”

走在东侧通道的开放式拱形窗户,一个中年男人有礼貌地问我,“你在这里参加日本的团契?”

“No, I happened to pass by here. Just visiting,” I replied with a smile.

“不,我碰巧路过这里,只要访问,”我微笑着回答。

Built for the British troops quartered at Tanglin Barracks, St George’s was constructed between 1910 and 1913 from materials imported from England.

专为驻扎在Tanglin军营的英军,圣乔治是1910年和1913年之间从英国进口的材料建造。

St George’s church was gazetted as a monument on 10 November 1978.

1978年11月10日,圣乔治教堂被宪报公布为丰碑。

The timber roof trusses of St. George’s Church are so England to me.

圣乔治教堂的木材屋架给我的感解是如此英格兰风味。

Without air-conditioning, the high ceiling offers huge space to breathe, especially in humid Singapore.

虽然没有空调,高天花板提供了巨大的空间让我们呼吸,尤其是在热和潮湿新加坡。

Beneath the pews, the soft knee-protecting pillows, each uniquely decorated, brought our imaginations to years and decades of prayers said while kneeling on them.

下方的长椅,保护膝枕,独特的装饰。

我们想像几年和几十年跪在枕身上的祷告。

“Illumine the darkness of my intellect with a ray of Thy heavenly light and inflame my heart with the fire of Thy divine love.”

Beautiful white wooden windows adorning the red brick wall of this barn-shaped church. The beauty of simplicity.

美丽的白色木窗装饰这个谷仓形教堂的红砖墙。简约之美。

Curious about the books and publications. In St George’s newsletter (March/April 2014 issue 20), Sam Blakey introduces a book Raising Children in a Digital Age by Bex Lewis. I added the book into my to-read list simply because I want to focus on making the internet a positive experience for our children.

At the back of the church, I saw many children playing inside glass-covered hall. The voices of two tall women conversing in British English sounded very familiar during a period of my life. Happy Filipino maids were chatting at a corner.

在教堂的后面,我看见许多孩子玩玻璃覆盖的大厅里面玩。

两个高大的女人以英式英语聊天。

在一个角落里,菲佣在快乐地聊天。

The visit reminded me on England, the people and beautiful churches there. In particular, OLEM with its adjacent kindergarten. Little children in red sweater playing and running around are beautiful memories imprinted on my mind.

这次参观使我想起英格兰,那里的人们和美丽的教堂。特别是,OLEM与其相邻的幼儿园。穿着红色的毛衣 的小孩子们正在跑来跑去。美丽的回忆印在我的脑海里。

Before I left, I waived “Bye” to the middle age man, who was sweeping the church floor.

在我离开之前,我向那中年男子挥手“再见” 。


Address: Saint George’s Church, 44 Minden Road, Singapore 248816
Fee: free
Website: www.stgeorges.org.sg

Other travel posts that I love:
♥ Jazz Carols for all @ St. George’s Church (which I first learned through Sassy Mama)
♥ Stephanie Ho’s faith stops @ St George’s Church
♥ our #travelxp posts