Wednesday, March 29, 2017

STAY: Jumeirah Beach Hotel • Dubai

Thinking about where to stay in a city is always a difficult decision to make.

"Where is it located? What amenities does it have? Does it have good food?" - These are just a couple questions that I know many of you ask when deciding on where to stay.

If you're picking a hotel in Dubai, it doesn't help that Dubai has a hotel situated at almost every single street corner of the city! My priorities when picking a hotel is the location, the view, the food, and the amenities.

With that said, staying at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel was a no-brainer.

Meant to be shaped like a wave, it is located right next on the coast of the Arabian Gulf. With 618 rooms with the view of the sea & the Burj Al Arab, over 20 restaurants on site, and numerous amenities for the beach lovin' vacationers, there really isn't anything more I could have asked for.

If you didn't know, Dubai is also home to the world's only 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, which is owned by the Jumeirah International as well. Although the security for the Burj Al Arab is super intense - you can't even drive up to the hotel without showing a reservation at a restaurant inside or unless you book a room there - I actually got a chance to take a tour of the Burj Al Arab and dine at one of their new restaurants, Scape Restaurant. You can find photos on my Instagram here.

Read on for a full review of my stay at Jumeirah Beach Hotel during my trip to Dubai early March 2017.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017 / Dubai - United Arab Emirates

8 Interesting Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Dubai

If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen that I recently visited Dubai on a press trip with Dubai Tourism. But before I do a recap of my trip in its entirety, I thought that I would share with you 8 lesser known facts I learned about Dubai that I found interesting.

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Camel Racing & Robot Jockeys

Did you know camel racing is a thing? Me neither. Camel racing is a traditional sport in the UAE, and one of the most talked about days of the year for the city. I mean, the winning camel being able to take home $3 million - what?!

And as technology advances, Dubai has started to replace human jockeys with robot jockeys (as shown in the photo below). The robots even have small hinged arms that can move to control the reins!

Racing camels on break at the Dubai Camel Racing Club • Source: Karen Ng
Income Tax, What is That?

You may or may not know that anyone living in Dubai doesn't have to pay income taxes to the government. The catch? If you own a business, the government owns at least 51% of it.

Tea & Dates

As a part of their culture here in Dubai, it is customary to offer guests with tea and dates. One thing I found interesting is that if someone gives you a full cup of tea, that is a subtle way of saying "gtfo of my house" - no lie. The traditional way to greet your guests is to pour half a cup of tea and offer them a date.

The reason for pouring half a cup is because (1) the cups do not have handles, and (2) the tea is pipin' hot! They don't want you to burn your fingers as you hold the cup of tea - hence, if they give you a full cup, they don't care for your well-being LOL So. Savage.

Having traditional tea @ Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding • Source: Karen Ng
Bigger the Better
(That's what she said, haha)

You may know that the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world at 828 metres. To put this into perspective for you fellow Torontonians, the CN Tower is 457 metres, which makes the Burj Khalifa 1.5x taller than the CN Tower.

Dubai is also home to the largest mall in the world, largest water fountain, & grandest indoor snow facility (you can ski / snowboard / snow tube / bobsled / PET PENGUINS / etc indoors). And speaking of construction, Dubai is also known for The Palm Islands, the world's largest man-made island built on The Persian Gulf. It actually took around 94 billion litres of sand!

View of the Burj Khalifa from a suite in the Taj Dubai • Source: Karen Ng
Crazy for Construction

Speaking of which, did you know that Dubai has the most active cranes in the world? Good luck trying to take a picture of Dubai's skyline without getting a crane in your photo. With all the construction going on, Dubai is also planning to build another tower that will be even taller than the Burj Khalifa by 2020!

License Plates

When you're on the roads, take notice of the license plates of the cars around you. The lower the license plate number, the wealthier the owner of the car is. A good example of this would be last year when someone spent $9 million USD during a government auction for the "5" license plate.

Also, if you ever see a car with the license plate number 1... That's the Sheikh's car (the ruler of Dubai & VP of the UAE).

Sheikh driving in his favourite car in Dubai • Source:
No Security, No Problem

As someone who would go to a coffee shop, and then pack up to go home instead of leave my personal belongings unattended for a mere 3 minutes to go to the washroom... Believe me when I say I was appalled to hear this.

Security is not an issue in Dubai. In fact, the level of crime is 17.38 in Dubai - half of the level of crime in Toronto (35.98). Dubai is so safe that even the Sheikh goes out and about in Dubai without security guards!

An example I witnessed was when I was at a Dubai Food Festival event on a bumpin' Friday night. One of the organizers that was walking around with us left her purse and laptop on a table right next to the door IN A BAR. Yup, no one touched it lol.

Quality of the Food Industry

Did you know that in order to enter the food industry, business owners are required by the government to obtain a number of licenses that cost over $200,000? So trust me when I say everyone in the food industry knows what they are doing, has a well-thought out business plan! They know what they're doing, and they're pretty good at it.

A display of the chocolate from Mirzam Chocolate Maker • Source: Karen Ng
Something else to know is that since Dubai is that because they strive to be the best at what they do, many restaurants fly in ingredients to ensure that they are serving people the best - especially when it comes to seafood and meat! If you see ceviche on a menu, be sure to order it ;)

Ceviche Platter at Scape Restaurant & Bar in the Burj Al Arab • Source: Karen Ng

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Dubai was all the different ethnicities and accents. Did you know that only 8% of the people living in Dubai are Emirati? 92% of the population are expats from all around the world.

Because of this, the first question people typically ask is "Where are you from?" - and it isn't because they're being rude. Trust me, I've got my fair share of "You're from Canada? No, but where are you really from?" *rolls eyes* But not seriously, everyone is honestly just genuinely curious because they are also not from the area. It's also an easy way to make new friends!

We're not expats per se, but we could be ;) Here is the Dubai press crew! • @ Coya for Friday Champagne Brunch
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And that's that! Did anything surprise you, or did you already know these facts? If you have any other facts that you think are interesting, please let me know! I honestly find Dubai such an cool city and cannot wait to share more about my experience with you!

Check out my stash of Dubai photos from Instagram here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

3 Reasons to Dine at Oretta Toronto

I have been meaning to visit Oretta ever since it opened late last year in 2016. This spot on King West was "inspired by the Italian way of life, and designed for any time of day. Oretta presents authentic Italian fare with modern day classics."

I'm very easy to please, but give me the combination of the below three & I will be in heaven. Keep reading to see why you need to bump Oretta up on your list of restaurants to visit next.

1. The Interior

Can we just talk about how Instagram-able this place is?! If you haven't seen the wall decor, the plush booths outlining the restaurant, or the pretty designed tiled on the floor on Instagram... You aren't following the right people.

With the floor to ceiling windows in the dining area, it is a blogger's dream. I've heard that bloggers actually wait for Oretta to open so that they can have their own mini photoshoot in the empty venue haha. Do it for the 'gram, amirite?

2. The Food

Think of a classic Italian meal - comprising of pizza, pasta, cheese, and espresso. You can bet Oretta has it, and you can bet that's what Istiana & I ordered. We started off with mozzarella di bufala, which came on a bed of heirloom carrot agrodolce and pickled peppers, and topped with pistachios. I loved how all the textures blended well together, especially the lil crunch from the pistachios.

For the mains, we went with the capricciosa pizza, which had a tomato base and came with procscuitto cotto, white mushrooms, artichokes, fior di latte, and basil. I actually saw pictures of this one pasta on Instagram & thought it looked super cute (lol, only I would call pasta cute). The tortelloni with a heirloom carrot and ricotta filling were the little cuties that we decided to order. It came in a brown butter sauce with hazelnuts and sage. My oh my, were these little pockets of goodness absolutely delicious! I'd highly recommend ordering the tortelloni - even our waiter said it was her favourite dish!

3. The Café

With all the hearty dishes above, you're bound to be feeling a little tired from such a good meal. I would suggest heading over to the café at the back of the restaurant. Oretta Café also has a door from an alleyway off of King West, but we walked through the dining area and by the kitchen to get there. They have two small tables, and two long tables for you to sit at. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon, and I'd say it was quite packed with people working away on their lappys or just a group of friends meeting up to chat.

They have a variety of pastries to choose from (as if you needed more food after your meal, but why not?) and the cutest saucers for their coffee cups. Should you want to take your coffee to go, their to-go cups are also a thing of beauty.

And if those three reasons don't make you want to visit Oretta still... Girl, BAI.


Friday, March 03, 2017

First Trip of 2017

I have some exciting news for you.

I just want to let you know that I will be heading out of the country tomorrow on a press trip to the city with the tallest building in the world. This city is also home to the world's only 7-star hotel, which I will be dining at and obviously doing a full review of.

Photo credit:

If you haven't guessed already, I am heading to

To say I am excited is an understatement, but stay tuned for a travel guide of Dubai when I am back!
And in the meantime, follow along on my Instagram for some real time posts while I am there :)

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