Our second and last day in Bahrain was full of adrenaline pumping, mind boggling and tummy-filling experiences. We’ve had our fair share of the educational and historical aspect of Bahrain the day before and today was about getting all physical and adventurous! But before that, we started our day with a light breakfast at the Residence Inn’s breakfast buffet.
The buffet area of Residence Inn is located just beside the lobby with adequate space for its bustling guests. The selection wasn’t as extensive as the Skywalk Café at the Marriott Executive Apartments but there were enough food options to choose from.
Mr. Hossein Garan, General Manager of Marriott Hotels in Manama, joined us during breakfast and we gladly exchanged stories of his life in Bahrain, our story in Riyadh as bloggers and how the Marriott brand is thriving in the GCC countries in general. It was lovely to meet him and knowing that he spent some real time with us was such a privilege.
With our first meal of the day done, it was now time for the “real” adventure to commence. Our first order of business: heading over to Gravity Indoor Skydiving. Yes, you read that right! S-K-Y-D-I-V-I-N-G. Yes, it’s indoors but compared to outdoor skydiving, this activity doesn’t require you to board a plane and is done without a parachute (but with an instructor alongside you of course). Bahrain’s first ever, indoor skydiving facility is its newest tourist attraction and is located right beside the Formula 1 Circuit in the Zallaq District.
It was a 30-minute drive from the Residence Inn at Juffair and we had a bubbly, young-at-heart gentleman named Mr. Sundoush to drive us all the way there. As we arrived at the lobby of the Gravity Indoor Skydiving center, Janelle and I were open-mouthed upon seeing the video presentations all around of what’s about to happen. There were large TV screens showing clips of the skydive and it dawned on us that THAT is what we’re going to be doing. When we got to the reception, the lady asked us to sign a waiver form about what we were getting ourselves into. We intently read the fine print and signed our fates, and was later led into the changing room to get into our skydiving uniforms.
We caught a glimpse of the 12-meter wind tunnel (the tallest of its kind in the world) and kids waaay younger than us seem to be enjoying anti-gravity experience. Deep breathing, we said. We can do diz. We. Are. Not. Old. LOL.
Before we’re even allowed to step into the wind tunnel, we had to undergo a 30-minute classroom demonstration about what to expect, what to do and how to stay safe throughout the entire activity. First, we were shown a video presentation about how the wind tunnel works and what we could expect. Afterwards, our certified-skydiving instructor named Marko, taught us about the different hand signals that we would be using while inside the tunnel. He said that it’s going to be really noisy there and we would be wearing helmets and ear plugs so we basically wouldn’t hear anything audible in there. The hand signals are in place to remind us to A) put our chin up B) bend our legs C) stretch our legs and most importantly, D) to chill, relax and enjoy the experience (which as a hand signal for rock n’ roll and the logo of Gravity Indoor Skydiving). He also showed us the proper posture in entering the wind tunnel, in lying flat on our tummies and in getting out of the tunnel as well. After we repeat the hand signals and postures for memory retention, Marko went and got us our helmets, goggles and ear plugs and fitted them accordingly to each one of us. It had to be tight because the wind was going to be really strong.
Here we goooo!
We signed up for the “Rush” experience, which gave us 2 minutes of flight time (it costs 19.5 BD). Each of us entered the wind tunnel one at a time and Marko would assist us and correct our posture for a while until he sees that we are performing the task properly for a full minute. I stepped out after this initial trial and Janelle followed to do the same thing. I come back inside the tunnel for the second minute and this time around, we go to flight mode with Marko guiding me up and down through the middle of the tunnel. IT WAS AMAZEBALLS!
I was screaming in joy and excitement as we “flew” up and then back down. I could feel the strong winds pushing through my chubby cheeks and chin(s) but I didn’t care…I was flying! The winds could reach a maximum of 250 kph but for beginners, the wind strength was at only 70%. There were built in cameras inside the tunnel but making sure you’d strike a decent pose is close to impossible, especially if you’re a newbie. The entire experience is videotaped by the way (for an additional fee), so you can recount your experience over and over again on screen. After my flight time, it was Janelle’s turn and I was able to see her conquer her fears and fly away with delight. From the outside, it looks so easy! She said later on that the experience was overwhelming and that by the time you get a grip of what’s going on, the flight time is over. So I guess next time, we should try the 4-minute flight time, eh?
Once we were done, Marko was gracious enough to show us some tricks of his own. He went inside the wind tunnel by himself and began to give us a superhero show, performing various stunts up in the air like Tony Stark in the Iron Man. He gave us all high-fives after our Gravity Indoor Skydiving experience and handed us our certificated of achievement. Should we consider going back, we would be eligible for intermediate classes of skydiving. Truth be told, after my experience with Gravity Indoor Skydiving, I thought….Oh hell yes, I’m so ready to Skydive! Haha. I hope they’ll provide that activity soon too. 😉
Exhilarated and still reeling from the adrenaline rush, we moved on to the next item in our itinerary, which was lunch at Café Lilou.
We have a branch of Café Lilou here in Riyadh but only for takeout of baked pastries. The visit to their dine-in restaurant in the Seef District of Bahrain is a memorable one because of its grandeur and bohemian flair. As you enter, you will be welcomed by lush colors of purple and gold, elaborate chandeliers, colossal arrays of library books and avant-garde face paintings of burlesque performers – one of them the namesake of the restaurant, a woman named ‘Lilou’.
It’s a fine dining establishment that is also known for their delicious baked goods. We adored their library décor and ogled at their artisan treats with my eye solely on the Pistachio Crème Brulee: my favorite pick when I first tried it here in Riyadh.
It was our first time to try their savory dishes so we went ahead with the recommendations of the staff.
The salad was fresh and indulgent with large chunks of avocado and sweet cherry tomatoes. Meanwhile, we were given a selection of deep fried risotto balls and kunafa-wrapped prawns and mozzarella.
After being stuffed with glorious risotto and fancy mocktails, the best was yet to come when we had THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER! It’s simply called The Chocolate Mug. Cafe Lilou, please bring this to Riyadh, PLEASEEEE!!!
After our unbelievably amazing desserts, we were on our way to catch our next activity: the Challenge Chambers!
Challenge Chambers is an escape room game that takes a group of two people (up to five) and locks them in a room for them to find clues and solve the mysteries within one hour. It’s similar to the trending Breakout KSA and Escape Arabia that’s here in Riyadh now.
We headed back to Al Raya Mall where the Challenge Chambers was located. It was a small area with chalkboard walls containing graffiti from past participants who have completed the task. The staff gave us an orientation about what to expect and told us that we were not allowed to bring any of our stuff, especially mobile phones, inside the room.
Our mystery was to solve a crime and find out who killed the victim. There were four of us who would work together to solve the clues using our mental skills and you know as they say, two heads are better than one…what more if we had four?
Of course, we can’t divulge the details of how we solved the case. What we can say is t hat we solved it in under 1 hour (luckily) and we had to really use our analytical skills once inside in order to eventually get out. Phew! It kind of reminded me of the Crystal Maze TV show when I was younger. It was a cool experience to feel somewhat like a CSI agent for a bit (making use of a UV ray flashlight, included).
For our last stop, we had a meet and greet with the Operations Manager of One Bahrain Hospitality, which handles Al Raya Mall and Residence Inn. We met Mr. Anthony Poulose at a nearby bread and chocolate shop just within the mall called “Troufa” where we were welcomed by the Head Chef of Troufa, Chef Alexoupolous Dimitrious. They asked us about how our trip has gone so far and we learned that Mr. Poulose was the one who had helped us get our visas on time. Meanwhile, Chef Alexoupolous told me more about the concept of Troufa and their main items.
Troufa specializes in chocolate truffles, made with chocolate ganache and rolled on to various toppings/flavors. We tried as many as we could along with some of their bread items. In fact, Troufa was also a part of our welcome basket at the Residence Inn wherein they gave us some chocolate and strawberry tarts. How lovely!
After taking home some Troufa items with us, our trip was finally drawing to a close. It was already 5pm and we had to rush back to our rooms to pack and leave for the airport by 6pm. What!? We can’t believe how short that was! Time really flies when we’re having fun!
Janelle and I went up to our suite and took one last look at the Bahrain skyline from our room’s balcony and couldn’t help but feel grateful for the whole experience. We headed down and to the lobby of Residence Inn where our gorgeous and hospitable hosts for the entire weekend, Ms. Joanna, Ms. Vanessa and Marriott’s Director of Sales, Ms. Rania Choukair waited for us to bid us goodbye. From the bottom our hearts, again we say “Thank you!” for trusting us with this project of a weekend travel blog and getting the word out about Bahrain, Marriott’s Residence Inn and the many activities that Riyadhizens can enjoy over there.
We headed back to the airport and into our FlyNas flight back to Riyadh filled with adventures, loads of photos (obviously) and an encouraging desire to come back to Bahrain again soon!
Gravity Indoor Skydiving
Tel: +973 13 10 00 00
Tel: +973-17714440, +973-17583939
Seef District, Bahrain
Al Raya Mall
Al Raya Mall
Tel: +973 1755 0840