Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Star City, Riyadh

It's the start of Gabby and Sunday's vacation! And I'm back to the things that I always take for granted: reading and blogging. I've always looked forward to posting here but life has been a whirlwind for the past months. Gabby graduated from primary school and will be in high school this June. Yes, you heard it right. I now have a high school kid. How time flies! I got so sick after that and was rushed to the ER and was given antibacterial medicines intravenously. But now, I'm back and raring to blog again.

Before I post another event or place, let me just finish Sunday's field trip. Before their  visit to Prince Salman Science Oasis, the kids went to Star City in Exit 9 first.

We've been passing by this amusement park for the longest time and I am really curious as to what is inside it. Of course, I know there are rides. But what kind of rides? Are abayas taken off or women ride wearing it? These were the questions I had before entering the park.

Star City Amusement Park

And those questions were answered bit by bit. I realized at the start of the field trip that the trip was intended for girls aged nine and above only. So understandably, only the female teachers and staff accompanied the girls and only mothers and female guardians joined. So, that's the reason Gabby's field trip was scheduled the day after.

Star City on a weekday

I believe Star City is an old amusement park There were rides that weren't operational and there were areas that are neglected. The only open food station was a small cafeteria manned by a lady who tried her best to speak to us in English. From the exasperated look on the kids' faces who asked her things the store didn't have or maybe she just didn't understand, I knew she needed help.

While I feel for that lady's dilemma, I felt relieved and happy that Sunday was having so much fun! She didn't want to leave the park.

Entrance to Wild Wadi

So, women wear abayas on rides!

Orbit: the only ride I didn't let Sunday try

Stage and  Seats for events and parties

Star City's roller coaster isn't too high so I let Sunday try it. But did you know that I almost stopped riding roller coasters and included it on my self-imposed amusement park rides ban forever? Here's why. It was just a few months before my wedding when I rode the Space Shuttle in Enchanted Kingdom. I vomited in public and almost fainted after that ride. How embarassing, right? I didn't expect that would happen because I've always enjoyed the adrenaline rush that goes with riding it. Maybe I was just too tired and hungry because my officemates and I came there for work. So what made me try it again? I had kids, what else? I think that's how mothers should be. Brave enough to try new things especially those that their kids enjoy doing. But honestly, I just tried to appear brave when I rode that roller coaster again. But thanks to my kids, really.

I don't always post my verdict on places we've gone to. But I just feel like it so please let me. The park is clean. The hamam or the toilets are clean and well-maintained. The staff were kind and very accommodating. I just noticed that there were rides that aren't operational and there are those that I didn't like Sunday to try - not for fear that she might fall but for fear of what's inside it, as in the case of the 3D Dark Ride where they have to enter a dark room. Would I or would I let my kids go there again? Definitely, yes. But not in the near future.

Star City
Eastern Ring Branch Rd, Al Hamra, Riyadh 13216, Saudi Arabia
Google Coordinates: 24.773590, 46.733065
Tel.: +966 11 2781010
Wednesday - Friday: 4:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Open on mornings for field trips / private reservations.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Prince Salman Science Oasis, Riyadh

Don't think that I don't like my job when I tell you that I took a leave of absence just to accompany my daughter to her field trip. I do love my job. But my daughter is growing up fast and I don't want to miss the chances of being with her on times she asks me to.

Ever read or heard about the famous deathbed regret quote? It says, “No man ever said on his deathbed, ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office.'” That thought reminds me to always have time for my family, no matter how busy I am at work. So on times I need to choose between being a mom and an office employee, I always choose the former. And I haven't regretted that choice since I started making it.

Prince Salman Science Oasis' eight planets
Let me be honest here. One of the reasons I went to that field trip was to check out places that aren't included in my must-go-to list here in Riyadh. I am so sure museums and exhibition centers are way below your list too, if they're there at all.

The visitors are free to try these simple machines

Echo tubes
View of the machines from the upper deck

*Prince Salman Science Oasis (PSSO) is a non-profit organization charged with developing an interactive science center. Through the science center, and associated activities PSSO aims to improve public awareness of science, and to promote scientific knowledge and its practical application for peace and benefit of mankind as a whole. Our hope is to inspire people with the noble purpose of advancing scientific knowledge and technology in ways that respect cultural diversity and freedom. - *source

Motion Machine

Pulleys and simple gears

Stuffed and mounted animals on display

I didn't hear what the patient PSSO staff explained to students here.

The electrostatic generator tried by kids

Entrance to PSSO.

The kids, especially Sunday, enjoyed the visit to PSSO. I didn't. I wasn't too impressed with the machines on display and with the Science Center as a whole. But then again, just remembering that my main intention for checking it out is to be with daughter erased all those thoughts of unmet expectations.Besides, who wouldn't appreciate an entrance fee of just SR5?

Prince Salman Science Oasis
P.O. Box 92141 Riyadh 11653
Phone: +966 11 4830404 Ext. 11
Fax: +966 11 4828276 Ext. 12

Schools and Group, by reservation: Saturday - Friday, 8 AM - 4 PM
Families: Saturday - Monday / Wednesday - Thursday, 4 PM - 8 PM
Men: Tuesdays, 4 PM - 8 PM

Entrance fee: SR5, Free for children aged >6, SR150 for schools and groups

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Winter Afternoon at Wadi Namar

I always try to seize the moment, especially when it spells t-r-a-v-e-l.

No one knows how long one stays in one place or how long a place stays for us. Take two of my dream destinations for example: Bohol and Samar. Natural calamities and manmade disasters have destroyed some attractions in these places. But here in Riyadh, the government is busy restoring and developing places that were neglected or taken for granted. I just hope we'll stay a little longer to enjoy these places.

I'm not sure how long we will be allowed to work here because labor laws are being drafted – and hopefully cancelled – regarding the maximum stay of expats here. For that and my love for travel, I decided to squeeze the most out of our time here and explore this wonderful city whenever we can.

the view of the valley from the mountain

Together with some friends, our family went to Prince Sattam Park one late Friday afternoon. The Wadi Namar Dam and the lake created from it is the main attraction of the park.

We wanted to go directly to the park but because getting lost is ALWAYS included in our travel itineraries, we reached the mountain overlooking the lake first. God must've maneuvered our car to this mountain because it led us to enjoy the breathtaking view of the lake and the warm hues of the sunset. Such a perfect combination for travel magazine-worthy pictures.

There were small caves on the mountains like the one on the right

My research says that this lake is 50 meters deep!

A big park signage presents the plans to put footpaths at the top of the dam and the mountains overlooking the lake– that’s where we were in the pictures - to serve as seating areas for visitors. These footpaths will enable the park goers to enjoy the majestic view of the valley, the lake and the sunset (or the sunrise if you prefer to come in the morning) from the dam.

Iphone shot of Wadi Namar > thanks for this, BJohn! 

This Iphone shot of Wadi Namar by BJohn made me want to buy an Iphone!

I wonder how that truck got there!

I am so clueless on the name of this plant. Maybe, it's called Lycium arabicum.
The Wadi Namar Dam

We knew it's time to change perspectives when we've taken pictures of the valley and the lake in all angles from where we were. So off we drove to the park and were greeted by long queues of cars looking for parking spaces. One tip here: if you can go there on weekdays, then do so. Reserve the park on Fridays for those who have all the time in the world to look for parking spaces. There will always be some but you can find them at the farthest part of the park.

Also, when you like peace and quiet, don't go there on a Friday. But if you are like us who enjoy the sight of kids running around the park in roller shoes, families gathering for barbecue dinners, and more people just enjoying walking and sitting near the lake, then Friday it is for you.

I would like to linger to enjoy this beautiful view but I didn't. Just couldn't.

I just told you, the water is 50 meters deep!

It's best to come here during winter months.

We left past 6 PM to buy groceries for another long week ahead with our friends and later brought them home. After a car mishap, we reached home past 11 PM. So what are we doing in Wadi Namar that fine afternoon when we've so much to do then? We just enjoyed the view and simply seized the moment.

View Larger Map

Wadi Namar Dam/Prince Sattam Park Google Map Coordinates:
24.573775, 46.682850

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Exploring the Al Heet Cave

There are some things that happen in life when you least expect them.

Just last week, our laptop fell accidentally and the result was something that taught me a lesson on file back ups: all the files and the pictures that I've saved in the hard drive were damaged. Most of the pictures were from my DSLR and most were trips to places here in Riyadh. Sigh. Next time, I would be mindful of the pictures I've taken and save them in my Dropbox account.

It's a good thing that I went to those places with friends. They're friends who like to photograph a lot, too. I've also some friends who've gone to those places either ahead of us or after we've informed them about the beauty of those sites. And the friends they brought with them like taking pictures, too! So although I lost most of my precious photos, I've some friends who lent me theirs to post here. The benefits of having friends, huh?

Sunday and Gabby outside the cave

Just before winter came last year, we decided to explore Ain Al Heet Cave. Although Fred was the first to know about this cave, we were the last to explore it because Fred has work on Saturdays. It was in Al Kharj, near Industrial City 2 where he works.

We went there on a fine, beautiful Saturday morning. I didn't intend to go down as I've heard from friends that the descent is a little dangerous, especially for women. For the record, I've explored only one cave in my life! That was when I spent a short vacation in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque and my college friend asked me to just "stroll along the country side". Being born and raised in the city, I didn't know that the countryside meant mountains and a cave!

Saudi families on the way to the mouth of the cave

Just a few steps before reaching the mouth of the cave.

Sunday and Gabby only reached this point (the mouth). I asked them to stay behind.

Whoever placed that rope that helped us on our way up and down the cave, thank you so much.

A female friend and I were having second thoughts if we would go down or not. But on the way to the mouth of the cave, we met two men and a woman looking exhausted and a little shivery. Upon knowing from them that the woman went down and even swam in the cave pool, we then knew that we can make it.

But it wasn't a walk in the park. It was a sweat-inducing and a little dangerous activity. Dangerous because I slipped and fell while we were only halfway through the cave. I will never forget the sight of those big rocks waiting to crush (err, catch) me when I was falling. It still haunts me. Until now, I am still thanking God for the big rock that He placed on the path to block my fall to the bottom.

It was my fault why that happened. I didn't listen to Fred when he told me to look for steady, flat rocks. And what made it more exhausting and dangerous is our restricted movement because we didn't take off our abaya for fear of being reprimanded (by Saudi locals) for not wearing it.

Blurry but I'm still happy I have this picture to prove that I've been there! Thank you, friends!

No one was swimming when we reached the cave pool. But we knew another batch was on its way when we heard voices from above. The water isn't clear and garbage was either lying on the rocks or tucked on their crevices. I wish people would protect this beautiful place.

Can you see Fred? Look for him!

Graffiti on the cave's walls

More visitors coming!

The ascent to the opening of the cave was more difficult. It took a lot of arm and leg flexes to reach for steady rocks I can grasp firmly. That was then I realized that I am so unfit!

The beautiful view outside the cave, on the way home

Would I go down the Ain Al Heet cave again? Tempting, but no thanks. Would I advise any woman to do it? Yes! Just be extra careful and take off your abaya!

View Larger Map

Al Heet Cave Google Map Coordinates: 24.485822, 46.997108

P.S. Special thanks to friends Rachel, Chito, Chad, and Chan for their photos.
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