January 21, 2017

S&H Chocolate Lounge, Muscat



There are some things I learn when I travel. I learned that no matter how much you expected for things to happen, some things are just not meant to be.

Just like when I looked forward to dining at a well-known restaurant in Muscat to experience authentic Omani cuisine, ambience and all. But things didn't work out my way. When my hosts brought us to S&H Chocolate Lounge for lunch instead, I was a bit disappointed because it wasn't in our itinerary. I wanted authentic Omani food, even if it meant eating street food.

Honestly,  I don't know S&H Chocolate Lounge. I think they don't have a franchise yet in Riyadh. In its Shatti Al Qurom branch, we were welcomed by the Indian manager and two Filipino waiters who immediately asked for our orders.






They served Broccoli Soup as appetizers. It was a good introduction to a hearty lunch.  I ordered Salmon with Risotto – which was a very delicious combo – but I wasn't able to finish for lack of time! So sad. We had to come back to the hotel to prepare for the launch – which I talked about here. We also decided to bring home the Tiramisu, but because we also rushed while at the hotel, I totally forgot about it. I brought it from the hotel because I might not like the inflight meal but I lost my appetite while up there, then I ended up bringing it all the way to Riyadh! It was still so delicious!




A photo posted by beth26 (@pixelsforfour) on









I took advantage of the presence of the Filipino waiters and asked them if I can take pictures of the other dining areas. And they immediately accompanied me and even turned on the lights on some areas. One thing I noticed though – they were extra-friendly and helpful. Was it just the proverbial Filipino hospitality? Or maybe, they haven't seen a Kabayan (fellow-Filipino) come to their restaurant that often. I don't know which. But it surely encouraged me to blog about S&H Chocolate Lounge.





I didn't expect that I would enjoy my lunch at S&H Chocolate Lounge. I had the best lunch – though rushed – in months! I had a good time talking with people who share my love for telling stories. With Jonathan, a PR Manager, who can choose to talk to other managers but took the time to talk to us. And with D, another blogger, who patiently taught me tips on instagram and blogging. Or with that Indian manager who was very attentive to our orders and requests. Or with those two Filipino waiters whose enthusiasm on their work reflected on their smiles and gestures.

Yes, there are some things I learn when I travel. I learned that no matter how much you expected for things to happen, some things just surprise you. Just like how S&H Chocolate did.

S&H CHOCOLATE LOUNGE
Branches:
Al Khuwair, Behind IBIS Hotel, G/F ONIEC Bldg., Muscat
+968 97182201

Shatti Al Qurom, Omnivest Bldg, Opposite Grand Hyatt Hotel, Muscat, Oman
+968 90175555

For store hours, visit them online at www.snhchoco.com
Follow them on:
Instagram: sh_chocolounge
Facebook: S&H Chocolate

January 14, 2017

Muttrah Souq in Muscat, Oman


An expat friend once told me, if you want to explore a place deeply, go to its markets, or souq in Arabic. In markets, you will find the heartbeat of the community that lives there.

And I was reminded of that when I went to Oman last November. On the landing page of my search for the list of top things to do in Muscat is a visit to Muttrah Souq suggestions.


*Al Dhalam (Darkness in Arabic) Souq is the local name for the Muttrah Souq. It has been named after darkness because of the crowded stalls and lanes where the sunrays do not infiltrate during the day and the shoppers needed lamps to know their destinations.

As one of the Arab nations' oldest souqs, Muttrah Souq plays an important role in the preservation and presentation of time-treasured customs and history. You will see khanjars (daggers), vases and jars, kumas (Omani headgears), sandals, and even frankincense, myrrh and gold. If you check out my instagram posts, you will read bits of my experiences there. The time I was mistaken as a Japanese tourist. Or the time I haggled for pashminas. Or the time a vendor asked why I was taking pictures of his items.





A photo posted by beth26 (@pixelsforfour) on





A photo posted by beth26 (@pixelsforfour) on





Before the launch of Mina Al Sultan Qaboos Waterfont, the Omran Group brought us to Muttrah Souq. I admit I didn't enjoy the brief stroll that much because I didn't want to tire myself for a big event ahead. I immediately took pictures of the items and went back to a waiting service driver. 

Alone and excited the following day, I commissioned a taxi driver to bring me to Muttrah Souq. Reading online that Muscat is one safe place, I went there without informing anyone. And that's one thing I will never do again. Because that's the time I got a bit lost. After a lot of picture-taking on stalls and items, I got so curious why it was called Darkness Souq. I decided to wander a bit from the wave of tourists, and headed on to a narrow alley which led to narrower ones. Imagine you're in a maze!


These alleys have stalls that offer items at much lower prices than those offered in the main souq. And before I went in, an Indian vendor who was in a rush to leave his stall, asked me what I needed. I asked him where that alley will lead me. He might have heard me wrong because he answered, "Just go straight, then turn right then you will find it..." Huh? Again, my curiosity got the better of me so I followed his directions and after about two turns, I noticed that as I went farther, the less people and closed stalls I see. Products in big plastic bags and boxes were scattered on the floor, momentarily left by owners for a brief lunch. When I turned my head back, I saw that the long alley was empty! I took a few steps farther to look for people I can ask directions for but I saw no one! I immediately turned around, and ran my way back to the main souq. On the way out, I again bumped into that vendor, and asked me, "Did you find it?" "Uh, no." I answered and quietly blended with the crowd.




A photo posted by beth26 (@pixelsforfour) on


So, are souqs or markets a heartbeat of a place? Yes, definitely — Muttrah Souq made my heart skip a beat, but in an unforgettable way!

*source here

January 1, 2017

Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre


It's 2017! Happy New Year to us all!

More than a month has passed since I came back from Oman, when I attended the momentous launch of Mina Al Sultan Qaboos Waterfront. It was one of my most unforgettable moments as an expat here in the Middle East. It's one thing that doesn't happen everyday. And until now, the experience hasn't left me. I still cannot believe I went there alone. Or that I was able to interact with strangers who turned out to be some of the friendliest people I know.

I wanted to post the other places I've been to after the launch, but I decided it would be best to present my experience and the places chronologically — except for the Plaza Premium Lounge in Muscat International Airport — which I will tell you about on my last post about Oman.