ChowKing

 
ChowKing is another Filipino affordable eatery offering mainly Filipino cuisine and some Chinese fare. I sampled Chowking near Ramada (another one in Al Sadd) one fine day on 20 May 2011. I like the interior: clean, simple, and bright although the exterior is not so inviting. Parking might be a problem although you may want to park near The Centre and walk up from there. ChowKing Ramada is right behind new Ramada Hotel on the same 4-storey building with Mashreq Bank so if you drive from Ramada Junction towards Jaidah Flyover, it is on your first right small turn after Ramada.
 
The food is reasonably good if it can be tastier. I tried Spicy Beef Wanton Noodle Soup. Although it is served hot and fresh  I found that it needed little more spices; probably just a spoon tip. My kids ordered Spring Roll Lauriat which is a combination of beef noodle, rice, spring rolls, and Indonesian onde-onde (fried glutinuous rice ball with sesame seeds). The beef noodle was as if prepared a long time ago; but the onde-onde was good.
 
We also ordered Chicken Supreme. Different with the regular fried chicken, it seems like the chicken is boiled and seasoned and deep fried. Chicken supreme is served with a sweet dunking sauce. I don’t like the sweet sauce though and prefer the chili sauce.
 
Not to be missed perhaps Chowking’s Naicha (milk tea): its sour and sweet tastes were racing each other on my tounge. I didn’t try “halo-halo” but heard that it is very popular. Halo-halo (like Indonesian Es Campur) is a popular Filipino dessert that is a mixture of shaved ice and evaporated milk to which are added various boiled sweet beans and fruits, and served in a tall glass or bowl. 
 
Total Damage in QR (for 2 Adults 2 Children)
1 Chx Sup Half    18
1 Chopsuey W/R  16
1 Spicy Beef Wanton Noodle Soup  22
1 Spring Roll Lauriat 25
2 Naicha @10  20
1 leche Flan     5
2 Iced Lemon Tea @8  16
 
Contact: 3362 3213    chowkingqatar@chowking.net
 
This milk tea (Naicha) is recommended!
 
 
Spring Roll Lauriat: a mix of all: noodle, rice, spring rolls and "onde-onde"
 
Spicy Beef Wanton Noodle Soup
 
ChowKing Chicken Supreme
 
ChowKing's interior
ChowKing strategic location ensures its accessibility
 
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Dubai Series 3 – PHA/HAZOP, Abra, At The Top and Malls

I had my third visit to Dubai during my 2.5 years working in Qatar two weeks ago from 7-12 May 2011. It has been a while since my last visit in summer 2009 and there are already some major changes. The most obvious ones are opening of Burj Khalifa in early 2010 and Dubai Metro on 9 Sep 2009. Those two became my focus of visit in addition to visit to Dubai Creek and its Abra, and several malls not previously visited.

PHA/HAZOP Leadership

That was the training title that I attended in this third visit. Process Hazard Analysis (PHA)/Hazard Operability (HAZOP) Leadership training provides participant with skills and knowledge to lead/facilitate and perform various techniques in analyzing hazards associated with process industry. Considered a must for those frequently leading a PHA/HAZOP session, this training gives me more technical capabilities in leading the study, one of the typical activities as a Loss Prevention Engineer.

Here is the view from our classroom, that occasionally distracted me from  lessons 😦 . Did you spot a layer of sand storm near the ground? Quite interesting.

Burj Khalifa, Sheikh Zayed Road, and Metro Line from 33rd Floor of Fairmont Hotel, Dubai, across World Trade Center

Dubai Metro

 I like to be benefiting from public transportation in any city I visited, and metro is my most favorite. Dubai Metro Red Line – known as Al Rashidiyah – Jebel Ali line –  is open to public for use starting from 09:09:09pm on 09-09-09 (hmm..). This line passes many point of interests for visitors/tourist such as: Airport Terminal 1/3, Deira City Center, Burjuman Mall, World Trade Center, Emirates Tower, Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Marina Mall, and Ibn Batuta Mall. At the time of writing, Green Line is still under construction (possibly open in August 2011). This line will pass among others Festival City, Duty Free, Deira, Dubai Creek, and Bur Dubai.

To use the metro, I bought Nol Card – Silver (20 AED with 14 AED) during my stay. This lasts for 2-3 days.

The Dubai Metro is driverless, fully-automated metro network using five-car trains. Unlike others, Dubai Metro trains have three different classes of accommodation: Gold Class, Women and Children and standard economy class.  The design of all elevated and at-grade Dubai Metro stations has been modelled on the shape of seashell, inspired from the diving and pearl-fishing heritage of the UAE, while the interior design depicts the four elements of nature – water, air, earth and fire.  

Consult Dubai Road Transport Authority website for how to use metro and metro map.

Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station

 Abra

Abra is a traditional boat made of wood, used to transport people across Dubai Creek in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A medium-sized single-engine craft with a capacity of about 20 passengers, it is driven by a single operator from a cockpit stepped in the center of the hull. The short platform around the cockpit, sheltered by a canopy, is where the passengers are seated, all facing outwards, 10 on each side.

Abra passing Dubai Creek near Al Fahidi/Bur Dubai area

 Abras used to be the primary means of transportation between the two sides of the creek before cars could cross it via the several bridges or the Al Shindagha Tunnel. It is now mostly used by tourists, common folk and nostalgics. They still ferry up to 20 million passengers annually. It takes under 10 minutes to cross between Deira and the other side of the creek, Bur Dubai

Inside Water Taxt. Money talks. With fee 2-4 times normal Abra, water taxi lost its bottom line. Probably the situation is the other way around in summer 🙂

 The abras charge 1 AED per direct crossing per person, or about 100 AED for exclusive hire per hour.

Abra Construction

 Malls

In 2009, I had visited Dubai Malls, Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Batuta Malls. Just want to get another feel to other malls in Dubai, I visited BurJuman, Deira City Center, Times Square and Dubai Marina Mall. All of these malls except Times Square are at very vicinity of metro station.

Dubai Marina Mall is a new mall (open in 2008) in Dubai Marina area, off Sheikh Zayed Road. The mall is accesible from Jumeirah Lake Tower or Dubai Marina metro stations. It is a small mall, only 170 stores or something. Go to the backside or promenade side of the mall to have an excellent marina with towers surrounding it.

 

Dubai Marina Mall (promenade side)

 Burjuman Mall entrance is just in front of underground metro exit (Khalid bin Al Waleed). BurJuman is considered to be one of the oldest malls in the country.

Burjuman Mall

Times Square is located at Sheikh Zayed Road at equal distance between metro station First Gulf Bank and Noor Islamic Bank. Visit this center if you happen in this area. Times Square is famous for its Dubai’s first and only ice lounge, Chillout. Sharaf DG and ToysRus are also here.

Times Square

 Deira City Center is accesible through a metro station bearing its name. This is a one-stop shopping malls with major tenants like Debenhams, Virgin MEgastore, Carrefour, Zara, and other international high street brands.

Deira City Center

 Burj Khalifa and At The Top

Burj Khalifa to Dubai is Eiffel Tower to Paris.Currently the tallest structure in the world, Burj Khalifa measures at 828 m.  At The Top is an outdoor observation deck on the its 124th floor (428m). 

Burj Khalifa is accesible from Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall metro station. From here you can walk 10-15 minutes or take a shuttle bus. If you opt to walk you can see an interesting art work by Lutfi Romhein featuring Emirate man and woman.

Burj Khalifa and "Together" by Lutfi Romhein

At The Top 

To manage the daily rush of visitors, they are able to purchase tickets in advance through online purchase for a specific date and time and at a 75% discount over tickets purchased on the spot (I bought a 100AED ticket online versus 400AED on the spot). If you buy online, bring yourprinted confirmation and exchange for a ticket at Bag Deposit counter.

Entrance to At The Top is located at Lower Ground, Dubai Mall. I was advised to be here 10 minutes before the slot time – though you can enter 15-20 minutes before. After exchanging printed confirmation with a ticket I was entering a foyer or reception hall (picture below). From here, we were taken to elevator after passing security check, photo stop and a long corridor featuring UAE/Dubai. The elevator is said to be the fastest in the world with its 10m/s speed. Later, during your exit you will be passing a corridor leading to souvenir shop featuring the history of Burj Khalifa including the design changes, and architectural and engineering models.

Entrance to At The Top at Lower Ground - Dubai Mall

 

Reception Hall prior to go to elevator

I recommend that you take a time slot 30 minutes before sunset as it will give you the best of both world: bright view and illuminated city after sunset. No wonder, from 5pm to 7.30pm they are prime time and they can easily be fully booked.

I also recommend that you take picture from a gap between windows at outdoor observation deck. Picture quality from indoor observation floor is weakened by tinted glass.

Enjoy the following pictures.

Dubai Mall, The Address, Souk Al Bahar and Dubai Fountain Lake from At The Top

 

Dubai Mall, The Address, Souk Al Bahar and Dubai Fountain Lake at night
 
Sunset with "The World" as a foreground
 
Sheikh Zayed Road (and Exit 51) from At The Top

So I don’t need a company letter then ya?

Good move! Thanks! But I already have my driving license though 🙂
 
To be honest I just don’t like to obtain a company letter for any personal business like i.e. driving license application, buying a car. It seems to me that company is too intervening into personal life. Additionally I am feeling a bit of being scrutinized on personal businesses –  why must company bother with I am buying a car?
 
I believe that more and more types of those practices will be abandoned as Qatar is under the spotlight now.
 
Next? Exit permit, then no NOC to move to another company….finger crossed 🙂
——
Driving licence rules to be eased

 

SANTHOSH CHANDRANDOHA

THERE is some good news for people seeking driving licence in Qatar.

The Traffic Department at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) is likely to relax the rules currently needed to apply for a driving licence.

At present, people seeking a driving licence need to go through a lengthy process.

They are required to provide a letter from the employer and a copy of sponsor’s Company Registration, among other documents, to their respective driving centres to apply for a licence.

However, the new rules would require the individual to furnish only the personal ID card and an eye-test certificate.

The Traffic Department is likely to announce the relaxation of rule this month.

According to a high-ranking official at Mowasalat’s Karwa Transportation Training & Development Centre (KTTDC), a large number of people have started enrolling their names in anticipation to the relaxation of the licence rule.

“The new regulation to apply for a driving licence will be announced shortly.

Anyone carrying a resident permit in the country will be allowed to enroll in the driving schools to learn driving,” he said.

“Earlier, one had to furnish documents such as letter from employer, copy of sponsor’s Company Registration (RC), along with other personal IDs to apply for a driving licence.

If the new rule comes into effect, it will become much easier for people who have difficulty in getting documents from their sponsors.

We are now waiting for a final confirmation from the MoI,” the source added.

Welcoming the possible change in rules, Rafeekh Ahamed, an Indian expatriate said, “Getting documents from employers, which is required to apply for a driving licence, is not easy at all.” Meanwhile, some people have already received messages from driving schools like AlKebra DS on the new application rule.

The message read, “No need of sponsor’s letter for driving licence.

Enroll your name with ID card, eye-test certificate and five photographs.” A Mowasalat official said that over 250 people had approached KTTDC on Wednesday to enroll their names.

 

Expats barred from driving car out of Qatar unless fully repaid

Some questions still remain for this major move i.e. what if the vehicle is obtained through company via salary deduction. Like mine, istimarah shows my name on the front page although it is financed through company. My friend said that what matter most is what is written at the lower right section on the rear side of istimarah. If it says something like “belongs to/financed by Bank XYZ” or “belongs to/financed by company ABC” in Arabic, then this rule applies. But once the owner has a chance to fully repay he needs to make sure that he obtains loan clearance certificate and transfer its vehicle’s istimarah to under his name to be able to cross the border.

In addition to this, the circular from Qatar Central Bank also noted some important changes:

1. Total vehicle financed should not exceed 80% of the value of the vehicle (including interest rate and all charges). So, down payment to be made in the region of 20-30% 

2. Maximum term of loan is now only 4 years

3. To get vehicle finance, salary must be transferred to respective loan-issuing bank.

4. Max loan value for expat 400,000 QAR (even if expats own salary of 100,000 QR per month, 400K applies (including personal loan etc should not exceed 400K)

5. Expired credit card issued by a bank with whom card holder doesn’t transfer his/her salary to will not be extended.

6. All credit card outstanding is also included in 400K max loan value.

7. Maximum monthly payment should not exceed 1/3 of salary (minus all liabilities)

—–

DOHA: In a major move, expatriates have been barred from driving private cars out of Qatar and they could cross the country’s borders only if they prove that loans taken to buy vehicles have been fully repaid.

So, expatriate motorists need to produce loan clearance certificates from a bank or a financial services company to be able to cross the border through Abu Samra land customs check point.

The Department of Traffic at the Ministry of Interior has issued a circular to the land customs authorities at Abu Samra asking them not to allow any expatriate to leave the country in a private car unless he or she produces a loan clearance certificate.

The certificate must say that loan taken for the car being driven out of Qatar has been fully repaid.

A large number of expatriates who were travelling overseas through Abu Samra customs check point on Thursday were sent back by the customs authorities due to the new directives of the Traffic Department, Al Sharq reported yesterday.

The daily said that within hours after the diktat of the traffic authorities was issued a number of expatriates, some of them travelling with their families, had to return from the customs check point disappointed.

Expatriates from countries like Syria, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, among others, will be hit hard by the decision since they mostly travel to their home countries in their cars.

Non-Arab expatriates traveling in their cars to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage or those going to the UAE, Bahrain or Oman by road will also be affected.

It is understood that the move by the traffic authorities is aimed at making sure that expatriates who take car loans do not leave the country for good with the vehicles (bought through such loans) unless they have fully repaid the loan.

Source: The Peninsula

A Walk on the Soft Sand

It’s been a while since I last went for dune bashing. Fortunately I have with me, those addited-to-dune friends who is going for a dune trip every weekend. This night and morning dune trip was with one theme: “Porridge”. Literally means rice porridge that became our supper – thanks to Bro Angga our Qatar Airways pilot for the delicious Indonesian porridge. “Porridge” is also our term to mean very soft sand that can easily trap and make you stuck. We are not for side sloping or other extreme dune activities. “Let’s be safe, respect the desert, enjoy the night and sky and our warm and fun friendship”, said our marshall – Willy who without GPS know where to go in Inland Sea.

Thursday. 28 April 2011. 10pm. Sealine Beach Resort. A quiet, tranquil, a bit cold nigh was soon warmed with the arrival of our special supper – Hummer H2 chicken rice porridge.

Our night dune safari theme: chicken rice porridge

Soon after our stomach was full, we departed, at around 11pm. It’s totally dark. No lights excepts ours. Slowly we were strolling the back of dunes, aiming for a soft part of the routes.

Driving in the dunes at night is not without risk and that’s why we were driving slowly. Unfortunately, our British prince – Land Rover LR3 – nose dived from unexpected shallow slope. A bit shaky thanks God no one hurt. But the British was overheat, bleeding, vomitting its radiator coolant.

Overheat

Good thing was we have two LNG train mechanics – not sure how they are related :). Later in the morning our mechanics could fix the problem which was a non-rotating fan.

If we can maintain the largest LNG train in the world, why can't we fix this British steel

 Then about few kilometers from our intended camping site, one of the car had its front tire out of place. This was normally due to low tire pressure and side driving.

Out of place

 

 

In the darkness I seek your light
 
Around 3am we arrived at camping site, one of the porridge location. Not long it caused a problem. Two cars stuck. Our marshall advised us to take a rest and let the morning break before heading for car recovery. But, one friend was just so curious to get out. He tried any possible ways despite advised to take a rest. His never give up attitude became our “punk” plan. We were standing still, made jokes instead of helping him…poor he was.
Stuck in the "porridge"

 

Tug of war? Javanese puppet show? No, just our funny part of trip - "punk" our friend

 When the morning break, we continue our trip. Passing several porridges, sliding down the steep dunes. Really a nice morning walk on the soft sand.

Sliding down the dune is one of the interesting trip activity

 

Solitude
 
Commemorating last year's massal bogged down. And you know, we stuck again.

 

Out of my way

 

Thank you guys!

 Ah, thank you brother for the trip. It can never be more memorable than making a trip with you. See you then. Be safe.

Beach Club

I feel ashamed to admit that it is after about 2.5 years that I visited QG/RG Beach Club for the first time. Beach Club is privately owned by QG/RG and to be used only by QG/RG employees and their families. However, employee is allowed to bring one guest at a time. Access verified by showing QG/RG ID.

Beach Club is a piece of land at the shore end of breakwater belong to N-KOM shipyard at Ras Laffan Industrial City. Measured only 200m by 250m probably, the club offers 11 small huts, BBQ facilities, playground, and sandy beach. A main building at the center provides canteen, prayer room, TV room and toilet/changing room. A volleyball court is also available at the north side. All facilities are on first come first serve basis. The club closes at 9pm weekday or 10pm weekend.

Access to the club is through beach road or Ras Laffan Highway (Route 77) and then taking a turn to Ras Mulaiji.

Coordinate: 25°51’33″N   51°35’1″E

Welcome to Beach Club

 

Beach Club - shown here Main Building at the background
Playground is available at the Beach Club for children

 

Sandy beach at Beach Club