Refined Elegance Built on Strong Traditions – The Qatar Experience

Refined and Culturally Rich – Qatar

A refined and culturally sophisticated destination is an apt way to describe Qatar to travellers contemplating a visit. Just over ten years ago, Qatar was described by Lonely Planet as one of the most boring places on Earth. Since then, this tiny Persian Gulf state has transformed itself. The city of Doha has become its showcase and has developed into a world-class city with a great deal to offer discerning visitors.

Doha’s Rapidly Growing Skyline

During my stay in Doha, a sandstorm engulfed the city and gave the skyline a surreal apocalyptic look. As sundown approached, the sun turned an almost white colour and the sky became a beautiful warm yellow. Through the haze, and in every direction, the construction cranes were prominent and bore testament to the unprecedented building boom. By the morning the dust had settled and the sky was clear once more.

What I love about Doha is that, despite a burgeoning number modern skyscrapers, heritage and culture remain strong. The relevant authorities have insisted that traditional Qatari and Persian architecture continues to thrive and forms an integral part of the rapid expansion.

Refined City - Doha, Qatar

Refined Global Leader – Qatar Airways

Even before arriving at Doha’s Hamad International Airport, you are given a taste of the quality of service that is to follow. I have never been disappointed when I have flown on Qatar’s national carrier. Qatar Airways has once again been voted the World’s top airline by SKYTRAX. The service, quality of aircraft and food are always exemplary.

Refined Dining - Qatar Airways

Refined Modern Airport – Hamad International

Hamad International Airport was opened in mid 2014 and has continued to develop and improve facilities ever since. It is the first airport in the Middle East to achieve the SKYTRAX’s prestigious 5-Star Airport rating. Positive changes to visitor visa requirements has made customs and immigration a seamless exercise.

Refined Airport - Hamad International

Refined World Class Hotels – Mondrian Doha

World class hotels have been sprouting up everywhere in Qatar’s capital Doha. International chains have been encouraged to showcase their latest and most luxurious creations and this is clearly evident when driving through the city. A recent addition to the line-up is the luxurious Mondrian Doha. The hotel is situated in the West Bay Lagoon area and opened its doors in October 2017.

Refined Hotels - Mondrian Doha

Both the exterior and interior of the Mondrian Doha are works of art. The hotel features a unique interior by renowned Dutchman Marcel Wanders. His whimsical designs are fascinating and the effect is very much like being in the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland.  The facilities are outstanding, modern and state of the art.

Mondrian Doha Interior

Refined Cultural Attractions

Qatar is committed to becoming a world-class centre of culture. The kingdom has been pursuing this ambition at breakneck speed and already has the following to offer to art and culture buffs:

1) The Museum of Islamic Art

2) Arab Museum of Modern Art

3) Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum

4) The Fire Station Artist in Residence

5)  Orientalist Museum

6) National Museum of Qatar – This state of the art museum is currently under construction.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Classical Outdoor Adventures

Visiting Qatar would not be complete without a trip to the desert. A safari to the Khor Al Adaid (or Inland Sea) is both exhilarating and beautiful. Riding though the dunes is thrilling but the drivers are highly skilled and experienced and at no time did I feel as if we were in any danger.

Doha Bus Dune Safari

Quality Shopping in State of the Art Traditionally Designed Malls

New shopping malls are opening on a regular basis in Qatar. Souq Waqif, Villagio Mall, Lagoona and Katara Plaza are gaining in reputation with discerning shoppers. I particularly enjoyed the Katara Plaza. It comprises of shops, departmental stores, office spaces, service apartments, and a unique mall for children.

Katara Plaza, Doha

Refined Internationally Renowned Restaurants

Doha has attracted some of the most celebrated restaurateurs on the planet. I visited a number of outstanding eateries during my visit. However, the pick of the bunch was Morimoto, Doha. The Mondrian Hotel is home to Iron Chef Morimoto’s first restaurant in the middle East and it is a winner. Before you even sit down for a meal you will be dazzled by the restaurants interior design. The journey starts at the entrance, where you will be amazed by a golden hall of mirrors. This leads through to the kitchen area which serves to tantalize your taste buds with a multitude of sumptuous aromas. Finally, you arrive at the exquisitely designed dining section which is both elegant and cosy.

This is just a start of a delightful journey exploring fine Japanese cuisine!

Refined Restaurants of Doha

Morimoto – Mondrian Doha

One of a number of sumptuous platters shared by my group.

Refined Restaurants of Doha

 

Tadoussac – Whale Watching Heaven

Tadoussac

Tadoussac is a village in eastern Quebec, situated at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Saguenay rivers. There are less than a thousand permanent residents living in this quaint little hamlet. However, from May to November hordes of tourists arrive with the principle objective of whale watching. A wide variety of different whales can spotted during this period. These include Blue whales, humpbacks, finn, minkes and belugas.

During my recent visit to Canada, I chose Tadoussac as the stopover for my journey between Montreal and Perce on the east coast. I am glad I did as the whale watching was out of this world and the town-folk were warm and friendly.

Saguenay Fjord

Visitors to Tadoussac who are travelling from Montreal, generally take the Trans Canadienne To Quebec City and then route QC138 to the ferry crossing on the Sagueney Fjord. It is just a few hundred metres drive from where the ferry docks to the village itself. Whilst waiting for the ferry to arrive, I took in the views down the fjord with its rugged steep sides and dark mysterious waters. Adding to the beauty were a number of small white Beluga whales that meandered lazily up and down the mouth of the river. A deep excitement was building within me as I was about to visit one of the whale watching Meccas of the world.

Saguenay Fjord, Tadoussac

Tadoussac, The Village

When returning from a whale watching cruise, visitors get an picturesque view of the village. The skyline is dominated by the Tadoussac Hotel, the Chapel in the foreground and the Sainte-Croix church further back.

Tadoussac, The Village

Haut-Fond Prince Lighthouse

The Haut-Fond Prince lighthouse was built in 1964 and is shaped like a spinning top. The tapered base helps it resist the seven metre tides that are common to the area. It is named after a boat that sank in this location after striking the submerged shoal.

Haut-Fond Prince Lighthouse, Tadoussac

Tadoussac Whale Watching

During a single whale watching cruise lasting an afternoon, I saw dozens of whales spanning a number of different species. These included the distant spouting by a giant Blue whale, a Minke breaching and a close up encounter with a Finn whale.

Tadoussac Whale Watching

Chauvin Trading Post

Tadoussac became the first fur-trading post in European North America in 1600. The climate is extremely harsh in this region and two thirds of the first band of settlers died in the first winter. From that time, the extreme weather has always been a deterrent to growth in the community.

The Chauvin Trading Post recreates the first cabin that was constructed by Pierre Chauvin de Tonnetuit in 1600. It has been set up as a museum, with information on the history of the First Nations of the surrounding region, whale hunting and the fur-trade.

Chauvin Trading Post

Tadoussac Chapel & Sainte-Croix Church

Tadoussac Chapel was built in 1747 and is Canada’s oldest wooden church. A new building was constructed in the mid 1900s as tourism flourished and the village population grew. The original building has been preserved as an historical monument.

Tadoussac Chapel & Sainte-Croix Church

Tadoussac Hotel

Hotel Tadoussac is an iconic building that is the heart of the resort town. This important landmark was chosen for the film ‘The Hotel New Hampshire’.

Tadoussac Hotel

Saguenay Fjord Sunset

The steep sides of the Saguenay Fjord provide a superb background to the setting sun and a perfect end to the day.

Saguenay Fjord Sunset

Images of Bali

Bali – An Island Packed With Attractions

Bali is a volcanic island which forms part of the Indonesian archipelago. It covers a land area of 5,780 square kilometres and is approximately 110 kilometres in length by 150 kilometres in width. Although it is small in size it is packed with attractions that are guaranteed to keep any visitor busy. Bali is Indonesia’s favourite tourist destination, renowned for its natural attractions, warm tropical climate and relaxed atmosphere. It is also home to many interesting religious sites and has been called the land of a thousand temples.

This week’s post recognises some of the natural and man made attractions that make this island such a popular tourist destination.

Banyan Tree – Pura Kehen Temple

Pura Kehen is the principal temple of the Bangli Kingdom in East Bali. This stunning religious monument was built in the eleventh century to worship the supremacy of the Siwa God. It features eight terraces and a huge ancient Banyan tree that is estimated to be 700 years old. The banyan is situated in the first courtyard and has an amazing wooden hut built into its upper reaches.

Kehen Temple Banyan Tree

Taman Ujung Water Palace, Karangasem Regency

The Ujung Water Palace is located approximately 5 kilometres from Amlapura in the Karangasem Regency. It is one of my favourite attractions, with sprawling architecture, pretty ponds and beautiful terraced gardens.

Taman Ujung Water Palace, Bali

Penglipuran Bamboo Forest – Bangli

Penglipuran village is situated in the Bangli regency, just over forty five kilometres from Denpasar. It is reputed to be the cleanest village in Indonesia and is renowned for the attractive traditional architecture. At the northern end of the village lies a peaceful seventy five hectare bamboo forest.

Penglipuran Bamboo Forest - Bangli, Bali

Juvenile Macaque Monkey – Padang Padang, Bali

The Macaque monkeys of Bali have deceptively cute faces. In reality, they can be real terrors. They are well known for jumping on unsuspecting tourists to steal their food and belongings.

Macaque Monkey – Padang Padang, Bali

Lily Pond – Padangbai, East Bali

Padangbai Lily Pond - Bali

Lake Batur Floating Restaurant – Kintamani

The Kedisan floating restaurant in Lake Batur provides superb views of the volcanic lake and surrounding mountains. It serves mostly traditional fare and serves meals throughout the day.

Lake Batur Floating Restaurant – Kintamani, Bali

Batur Lakeside Bungalow

The Kedisan lakeside restaurant has reasonably priced authentic Balinese accommodation with sweeping views of the Batur reservoir.

Batur Lakeside Bungalow, Bali

Pura Kehen Temple – Bali

The inner courtyard of the Kehen Temple features an eleven roof  shrine as well as thrones dedicated to the Hindu gods Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.

Pura Kehen Temple - Bali

Traditional Bali Outrigger Boat – Candidasa

Tourists can tour the coastal waters and rocky islands around Candidasa on a traditional outrigger boat.

Traditional Bali Outrigger Boat

Delivery Motorbike – Bali Temple

Scooters and motor bikes are the most common form of transport in Bali. They are also used extensively as delivery vehicles.

Delivery Motorbike – Bali Temple