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A Riviera on the Pacific

30 January 2015 | comments (0) | Travel & Leisure | by

Kudos to whoever coined the term “The Mexican Riviera.” Any Aramcon past or present yearning for a perfect tonic for chasing away the winter blues needs look no further than Mexico’s Pacific coast for escape and revitalization. From mid-October through the end of April, the weather couldn’t be better than along this sun-drenched stretch of coastline for curing whatever seasonal maladies ails you.

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No doubt the best way to sample this paradise in luxurious comfort is by cruise ship. Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Acapulco—the fabled names of possible destinations beckon you: “Come visit. We’re waiting!” Perhaps this is the year you finally heed their call. And why not? After all, who deserves a treat like this more than you? Think of it not as an indulgence but as a reward.

The Mexican Riviera is one of the Top-5 cruise destinations in the world, surely proof of the power of its attractions. Major cruise lines offer West Coast sailings from both San Diego and Los Angeles. Your length of time at sea can be as short as three days or as long as a week or two or more. Some of the longer cruises venture through the Panama Canal into the Gulf of Mexico and may even call on the Mexican Riviera’s east coast alter ego, the Maya Riviera.

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More manageable time-wise are the shorter cruises, such as the 7-day packages offered by Princess Cruises sailing from Los Angeles in October and calling at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. On-board amenities include numerous specialty restaurants, lounges, a casino, spas, fitness center, movies under the stars, theaters, pools and much more.

The list of possible on-shore activities is extensive, and includes something for everyone: fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sight-seeing, arts and crafts, para-sailing, wine tasting, fine dining, whale-watching, shopping and much more.

There’s far more worth knowing about cruising the Mexican Riviera than the few tidbits offered here. Look for more stories and information pieces in future newsletters.

For those of you afflicted with wanderlust, come join the AramcoExPats Travel Club for a magnificent Mexican Riviera Cruise October 25 – November 1, 2015; what fun we will have!

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Dawn of a new era under King Salman

28 January 2015 | comments (0) | Special Interest | by

King Salman

A new era dawned in Saudi Arabia on Monday under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman as citizens across the country expressed their confidence in the new king’s ability to take the Kingdom to new heights of progress and prosperity.

The three-day mourning period for the late King Abdullah ended Sunday. King Salman, Crown Prince Muqrin, Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif and other royal family members had received condolences from world leaders and citizens on Saturday and Sunday.

Saudis in the Kingdom and abroad have pledged their allegiance to the country’s new leaders, in personal meetings or through regional governors and ambassadors abroad.

On Sunday, thousands of citizens stood in line in front of Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh to meet King Salman. According to a report carried by Asharq Al-Awsat, there was no blockade in front of the palace to restrict entry.

“There was no discrimination. Everybody, including princes, ministers, Shoura members and ordinary citizens were allowed to meet the king without following any protocol,” the report said.

Citizens from across the Kingdom came in their traditional attire. Sheikh Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al-Khereiji, an elderly man who was imam of the big mosque in Al-Kharj, made his way to the palace in a wheelchair.

The man’s son, Abdul Aziz, said his father had met all the previous six kings. “He was a member of the delegation set up by King Abdul Aziz to receive King Farouk of Egypt when the latter visited the Kingdom on Jan. 24, 1945,” the son said.

Al-Khereiji was appointed by King Abdul Aziz as a secretary in Al-Kharj and was in charge of distributing land among citizens. He established contact with King Salman when he was appointed the governor of Riyadh in 1955, the son said.

The smooth transition in Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah has won applause from Saudis and foreign leaders. Saudi Ambassador to Egypt Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Qattan said the smooth transition has strengthened citizens’ confidence in the new leadership.

Speaking to the Saudi Press Agency after receiving citizens who came to express their condolences and pledge their allegiance to the new leadership, Qattan said Saudis have been impressed by King Salman’s wisdom and administrative expertise.

“King Salman has been in the government for the last 60 years, dedicating his life to the service of the Kingdom and its people. All Saudis will definitely rally behind their wise leadership as usual,” the ambassador said.

In his keynote speech after ascending the throne, King Salman said that his government would follow the straight path, based on the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, without deviating from the policies of his predecessors.

The new leadership has taken over at a time when Saudi Arabia faces several challenges including falling oil prices — the Kingdom depends on oil for about 90 percent of its revenue — and the threat posed by the so-called Islamic State terrorist group in the north and the Houthis in the south.

“It is no secret that there has been no major change for several decades in Saudi foreign policy. It has always been based on certain basic principles and various geographic, historical, religious, economic, security and political factors,” said Salman Aldossary, editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries, establishing strong relations with Gulf, Arab and Islamic countries, supporting Arab and Islamic causes and cooperation with other friendly countries, are the hallmarks of Saudi foreign policy. This included the Kingdom’s continuous efforts to ensure stability in the international oil market because it is one of the world’s largest oil producers, he said.

Mohammed bin Daqqas, a former employee at the royal court, said King Salman has always insisted on punctuality and hard work. “When he was the governor of Riyadh, he used to look into the matters of citizens himself. One day when he was outside the Kingdom, he contacted an official at the governorate to attend to the case of a citizen.

The official had left the office 30 minutes before the end of the working day. He then asked the official to return to the office and complete the work for that citizen.”

 

Reprinted with permission of Arab News.

King Abdullah Dies, New Ruler is Salman

22 January 2015 | comments (1) | Special Interest | by

Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah

RIYADH — Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah died early on Friday and his brother Prince Salman became king, the royal court said in a statement carried by state television.

King Salman has named his Prince Muqrin as his crown prince and heir.

“His Highness Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning,” said the statement.

King Salman has been crown prince and defense minister since 2012. He was governor of Riyadh province for five decades before that.

Reprint by permission of Saudi Gazette.

Chinese New Year, Hong Kong Style

21 January 2015 | comments (1) | Travel & Leisure | by

Four weeks hence, on the 19th of February, Hong Kong will celebrate Chinese New Year, welcoming in the Year of the Sheep with another eye-popping pyrotechnic display guaranteed to equal, if not surpass, their recent light show marking the arrival of 2015—an account of which recently appeared in these pages.

Any excuse to visit Hong Kong is a good one, and few excuses are better than Chinese New Year. For any reader contemplating a visit there, be it this February or some other time of the year, here are a few suggestions you might find useful.

In the previous article, air travel was discussed. Once you’ve chosen an airline and flight, you must decide where to stay. There are two obvious geographical choices needing mention: the Hong Kong Island side and the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor and a third, less-traditional choice also worth noting—Sha Tin in the New Territories. All three serve up a worthy plate of travel-related morsels.

In general, Hong Kong Island in its central areas is more business-oriented and offers a greater range of choices specifically tailored to appeal to the resident ex-pat community and to overseas visitors from the West preferring a more familiar ambiance to their surroundings and offerings. There are pockets of night life on the Island side where significant numbers of the people enjoying the food and beverages and bonhomie nightly are ex-pats or visitors from afar. You may find the comfort of that scenario appealing.

Kowloon, in contrast, is more focused on good old-fashioned shopping, shopping and more shopping with a far-stronger, far-more-visible Chinese presence. At nights its narrow streets are ablaze in the neon splendor for which Hong Kong is famous. Significantly, Nathan Road on the Kowloon side is home to the Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center.

Sha Tin in the New Territories, in contrast, is far greener and noticeably less crowded overall, offering easy access to outdoor activities such as tennis, golf, boating and horse racing.

Admittedly, there is much shopping to be done on Hong Kong Island, and much business to be done in Kowloon, and both sides are Chinese to the core. They just have nuanced differences in emphasis and character. No visit to Hong Kong is truly complete without quality time spent on both sides of the harbor. Sha Tin, on the other hand, demands a metro or cab ride to get you back and forth between your lodgings and the principal shopping and business action.

You have a plethora of options for accommodations in Hong Kong. At the top of my list of recommendations are the Peninsula and the Hong Kong Intercontinental (both in Kowloon) and the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin (in the New Territories).

Water view from the Hyatt Regency Sha TinWater view from the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin

Why the Hyatt Sha Tin, you wonder? To begin with, it’s a tasteful, modern hotel located in a lovely, serene setting sharply contrasting with Hong Kong and Kowloon’s crowds and noise and bustle. The rooms there are large and clean, the service impeccable, the food grand and room prices less than half of what you would pay for anything comparable in the heart of Kowloon or Hong Kong Island. For still less than you would pay elsewhere, you can upgrade to a Club-level room with many attendant perks. It’s a recommended Sha Tin extra if you’re determined to spoil yourself. You have two view choices—water or mountain view. A water view is another upgrade well worth the investment—again if you’re out to spoil yourself.

At Sha Tin, you can save a significant number of dollars on your room most times of the year while still enjoying 5-star luxury and comfort. (On New Years and Chinese New Year, however, the hotel’s room rates rise markedly, as do those of virtually all other hotels, be they 1-star or 5-star.) A 15-minute metro ride, or a 10-minute cab ride from Sha Tin is all it will take to reach the shops of Kowloon, where you can spend all of that money you just saved on your room on material things you can take home with you.

Horses galloping to the finish line at Sha Tin RacecourseHorses galloping to the finish line at Sha Tin Racecourse

Or, you can invest it during a visit to the nearby Sha Tin Racecourse, managed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and home to the Hong Kong Derby, the Champions Mile and a host of other world-class horse races.

Room rates at the Peninsula and Intercontinental are not for the fiscally weak-of-heart, but both deliver world-class 5-star luxury. It you’re going to do Hong Kong, and you want to do it right, both icons deliver rich rewards. If your travel budget is bottomless, you might even think about slumming it at the Riz-Carlton, where the hotel occupies the upper-most floors of a 1,000+ foot skyscraper on the southern edge of Kowloon.

Nightly light show over Victoria Harbor as seen from lobby of the Hong Kong Intercontinental HotelNightly light show over Victoria Harbor as seen from lobby of the Hong Kong Intercontinental Hotel

If your travel budget is that of a mere mortal, however, there are countless other hotels to choose from, including properties carrying all of the major brand names—Hilton, Sheraton, Shangri-La, Holiday Inn and all the rest. The Regal hotel group offers a number of attractive choices at moderate prices, including the Regal Airport Hotel, connected by an enclosed walkway to the International Arrival Lobby of Terminal 1 of Hong Kong International.

Daytime view of the lobby lounge of the Hong Kong Intercontinental, with Victoria Harbor in the backgroundDaytime view of the lobby lounge of the Hong Kong Intercontinental, with Victoria Harbor in the background

Regardless of where and how long you choose to sleep at night, you’ll doubtlessly want to see as much of the town as you can manage during your waking time there. An elaborate, clean, efficient metro system serves the region well and is an economical way to reach the major tourist and shopping destinations from either Hong Kong Island, Kowloon or Sha Tin. An all-day visitor’s pass costs 50 HKD (roughly 6 USD) and will give you full, unlimited access to the system for 24 hours. Signage everywhere is in both Chinese and English. And, of course, taxis are everywhere, just waiting to be waved down. Remember, red taxis are for Kowloon and Hong Kong Island while green ones are for the New Territories.

Everyone has their own favorite places to visit in Hong Kong. Here are six of mine:

Avenue of the Stars, KowloonAvenue of the Stars, Kowloon

1.  Avenue of the Stars/Victoria Harbor (on the Kowloon side) – The promenade along the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbor offers the best view of the harbor itself and of the skyline of Hong Kong Island. It is Hong Kong’s equivalent to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Here you will find bronze stars and hand prints set in concrete recognizing Hong Kong cinema’s most famous actors. The most popular stop on the way is a life-size bronze statue of iconic martial arts superstar Bruce Lee. The Avenue of the Stars is the perfect place to watch the fireworks/light show, but be sure to arrive early if you want to assure yourself of a spot. Authorities will close down access by 8:00 p.m. at the latest. After that, a mere trickle of souls is allowed in, matching in number that of the people leaving.

The funicular rising toward The PeakThe funicular rising toward The Peak

2.  The Peak (on the Hong Kong Island side) – They say if you visit only one place during your stay in Hong Kong, that place must be The Peak. The view from the top is breathtaking and the ride up on the funicular railroad unforgettable. There are restaurants and shops galore layered across its heights and along “the world’s longest escalator” on the lower slopes leading up to the bottom entrance to the funicular. You could easily spend the better part of a day exploring them all and still not finish the job.

3.  The Ladies Market (on the Kowloon side) – Here you will find a closely-packed street market overflowing with vendors offering clothing, crafts, giftware, souvenirs, accessories and more. Be sure to bargain. Whatever price they ask, offer them half and see what happens. Remember always, competition between vendors is fierce. Take advantage of it.

4.  Temple Street Night Market (on the Kowloon side) – In the words of Hong Kong tourism promoters, here you will find “trinkets, tea ware, electronics, watches, menswear, jade and antiques” aplenty to empty your pocketbook and “claypot rice, seafood, noodles and other treats” to fill your stomach.

Lunchtime in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, KowloonLunchtime in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon

5.  The Peninsula (on the Kowloon side) – Arguably Hong Kong’s most famous hotel and still its grandest in the eyes of many, the Peninsula ranks along with the Raffles in Singapore and the Savoy and Ritz in London as one of the grand dames of traditional English-style hostelry. Try the afternoon high tea for a trip into nostalgia. At night, for a laugh, try visiting a powder room atop the Peninsula’s modern tower annex. (You’ll understand why when you get there. Hint: Your positioning while attending to your bodily functions affords a stunning view.) For a stout shock to the pocketbook, take time to browse through the offerings of a veritable Who’s Who of jewelry stores located in the hotel’s Arcades, including branches of Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels and Tiffany & Co.

View of entrance to Baron Kay’s Tailor Mody Road locationView of entrance to Baron Kay’s Tailor Mody Road location

6.  Hong Kong Tailors (everywhere) – You can’t walk 50 feet down a major street like Nathan or Canton roads in Kowloon without encountering somebody imploring you to visit the shop of some tailor. If you come to Hong Kong, YOU MUST leave with at least one custom-tailored article of clothing, if for no other reason than to impress your friends back home with your savoir-faire. The question is, How do you find a good tailor, one worthy of clothing a past or present Aramcon? The good news is, there are many good ones. The bad news is, there are some bad ones and a number of not-so-good ones.

I have a personal story to share about how i found a tailor in Kowloon to whom I have eternally plighted my sartorial troth.

On my first trip to Hong Kong, I was hounded by street hustlers trying to sell me tailored clothes, or copy handbags or, my personal favorite, “genuine fake Rolexes.” For guidance through so much dissonance, I decided to seek the advice of someone knowledgable and trustworthy. Striding up to the concierge desk of the Hong Kong Intercontinental, I confronted the gentleman manning the desk that morning with my problem, asking for his best recommendations for a tailor. He gave me a list of three names. First on the list was Baron Kay’s Tailors at 43, Mody Street, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, a 10 minute walk from the hotel. “You won’t go wrong there,” he assured me.

Heeding his words, I sauntered over to Baron Kay’s no-frills, unassuming shop located on the second floor of a non-descript building not far from the Shangli-La. No glitz or glitter here and, even better from my viewpoint, nobody outside on the street passing out business cards and handbills and twisting my arm. Entering the shop, the first thing I noticed was a framed photograph hanging on the wall of Charlie Royer, former mayor of Seattle and at one time a casual acquaintance. Hanging on the wall next to Charlie were three photos of actor Nicholas Cage, another of the cast of The Love Boat, and another of Johnny Carson’s one-time sidekick, Ed McMahon. Within minutes I was sold. In the years since I’ve made a pilgrimage back to Baron Kay’s every time I’ve visited Hong Kong. Sometimes I’ve picked up a shirt or two, or a pair of slacks or custom-made shoes, or another sports coat. Often I’ve just stopped by to chat with Jimmy Gai, the shop’s major domo, Mike Li, his sales manager, and other members of their staff. They have become old friends.

I know I can have clothes tailor made for me in Hong Kong for less than at Baron Kay’s; I am certain I cannot have clothes tailor made for me better, not anywhere else in Hong Kong nor anywhere else in the world I’ve tried (including London, Bangkok and Taipei).

If you ever make it to Hong Kong, I hope you find a tailor that suits your needs as well as Baron Kay’s suits mine.

Under the glass top of a table in their showroom are displayed scores of business cards from previous customers. On my most recent visit I spotted one belonging to a senior manager at Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurial Services in Dhahran. Apparently there’s at least one Aramcon that shares my feelings about Baron Kay’s.

For more information, visit the following websites:

http://hongkong.peninsula.com/en/default
http://www.hongkong.shatin.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html
http://www.ihg.com/intercontinental/hotels/gb/en/hong-kong/hkghc/hoteldetail
http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/HongKong/Default.htm
http://www.regalhotel.com/regal-hotels-international/en/home/home.html
http://entertainment.hkjc.com/entertainment/english/go-racing/shatin-racecourse.aspx
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294217-d593182-Reviews-Kowloon_Mosque_Islamic_Centre-Hong_Kong.html
http://gohongkong.about.com/od/travelplanner/ss/weatherbyseason.htm

 

Press Release – Ramee Grand

20 January 2015 | comments (0) | Special Interest | by

Press Release: January 20, 2015
Company: Ramee Grand Hotel and Spa, Seef
Contact Person: Cynthia Narvaez
Contact Details: pr@rameegrandbahrain.com
Telephone : +973 17111 999   |   Loc. : 3930   |   Fax : +973 17111 998

 

About Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa

Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa offers splendid 5-star hospitality in the heart of Manama. Located in the bustling corner of Seef opposite to Seef Mall, 4-minute drive from Bahrain City Centre and a short distance from many of the country’s tourist attractions. Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa boasts easy access to entertainment and recreational options whether traveling on business or simply on a mini weekend spree.

Featuring 166 stylish suites and rooms with the largest room size for any five-star hotel in Bahrain, Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa offers 12 two-bedroom Ambassador suites that are elegantly furnished with top-class amenities and designed with the utmost privacy and total relaxation of the guest in mind,18 one-bedroom contemporary Grand Suites, 26 Club Rooms with exclusive access to Club Lounge on the 21st floor with luxurious amenities,110 spacious Deluxe Rooms that are 54 sq. m in size and feature floor-to-ceiling windows.

With seven specialty dining outlets that offer memorable gastronomic experiences, Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa is one of Bahrain’s culinary destinations of choice with the best views of Manama’s stellar skyline.

For the ultimate relaxation, a 2000 sq. m spa fittingly named ‘Reborn, provides a selection of pampering treatments while the well-equipped fitness centre and health club offers a wide range of exercise and slimming options.

Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa provides all the facilities you may ask for under one roof with stylish rooms, various dining outlets and one of the best-late night venues for a perfect night out.

Hotel Highlights

A spectacular Location

  • Only 3 minutes from Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre
  • Only 15 minutes from Bahrain International Airport
  • A short distance from many of the country’s tourist attractions

Tasteful Comfort

  • 166 Suites and Rooms
  • Rooms start from 48 sq. m
  • Best view of the city and a fantastic sea view
  • Ramee Club Lounge
  • Airport pick-up service

Fitness & Leisure

  • 2000Sqm of Recreation and Spa
  • A state-of-the-art fitness center and infinity swimming pool

Gastronomic Delights

Home to some of the biggest F&B and entertainment venues in the kingdom:

  • Rialto, an authentic Italian restaurant;
  • Rasoi, the Indian restaurant with live Gazal music;
  • Ruka, the Japanese restaurant on the 24th floor with spectacular views of the Manama skyline;
  • Ibrida Club, the perfect venue for a perfect night out.
  • Red Lions Sports Lounge, unwind and recharge from early afternoon to midnight.
  • Lemon Tree, with wide variety of international tastes from the very best of Mediterranean, Indian, Arabic and Asian cuisines.
  • Tea Garden, Spend a leisurely afternoon with wide array of tea, coffee and pastries

Call 17 111 999 for more details or visit www.rameegrandbahrain.com

Email us at reservation@rameegrandbahrain.com

 

Ramee Grand Hotel & Spa

 

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