Happy 2016 to everyone! I haven’t posted in forever, but it’s 4am, boredom strikes and I just remembered I actually owned a WordPress. 2015 was definitely an amazing years packed with an immense amount of traveling, so I decided to do a little series on my Eurotrip and take a trip down memory lane. First stop — Dubai.
Planning our trip to Dubai was an absolute headache. I’ve since learned that you do not have to stress out about the government warnings and guidelines per country, but the UAE had an incredible amount of nerve-wrecking rules. Women must wear clothing to cover their shoulders and knees? Yep, easy. No loud, obnoxious behaviour or PDA in public? Done! Only married couples are able to check into hotels? Wait, what!! I spent an entire night researching and googling this rule. It was a bit of a mixed bag really, nothing that made me feel that confident either.
We also happened to be traveling to Dubai during Ramadan, which meant there was no eating, drinking or smoking during the day until the sun went down. Since it was only a two night stay, I’d say it didn’t really affect us that much.
I flew allllll by myself. It was my first time on a long haul flight AND with Emirates, which was a pretty pleasant experience. I’d definitely recommend everyone to give Emirates a go! I wasn’t sure whether it was the extreme heat or my anxiety, but I stepped off the plane and already started sweating. My main concern was if I’d even see and meet Dwayne at the airport. With no data roaming, I frantically looked for free wifi and alas, contact with Dwayne! I vaguely remember Dubai airport being pretty damn extravagant (reminding me of the more luxurious casinos in Vegas), with plenty of open space and high ceilings.
Greeting me after baggage collection was my greasy ass boyfriend, holding a sign with my name sloppily written on it. I had only seen him a little over 24 hours before back in Sydney but being on a 12 hour flight alone was incredibly lonely. I was previously thinking of ways I’d arrive to our hotel alone, but thankfully I had my best friend by my side.
I must’ve arrived during peak hour because the traffic was nuts. Dwayne told me our hotel was only 10 minutes away from the airport but the ride literally felt like 45 minutes. The photos of our hotel on their website AND Google Maps looked nothing like how it was in real life. It was immersed within the busy streets surrounded by little shops and restaurants only locals would visit.
Our hotel room was one of the more upscale rooms of the trip, and had the best breakfast buffet overall. The room was of a decent size, the bathroom was quite large, however. I’ve also noticed in Dubai that all the bathrooms are equipped with a little side hose, a sort of do-it-yourself bidet, if you will. It was great compared to a tabo (if you’re Filipino, you’ll know exactly what I mean).
As usual, we bludged. We watched MTV play a compilation of the best love songs. We got hungry. It was Ramadan though, none of the food places around us were open for business. Luckily the mini bar had an assortment of snacks, so Dwayne and I stuffed ourselves with chips and nuts and fell asleep. As soon as we woke up, we decided to visit the Dubai Mall since it closed super late (they closed later than usual due to Ramadan).
(Sorry, I just realized I’m typing WAY too much, I’ll try wrap this up and mention the more exciting parts haaaa)
The entrance to Dubai Mall was gorgeous. It was lined with dancing water fountains and lit-up palm trees which reminded me a lot of Solaire Casino in Manila. I remember as our taxi approached the place, we caught a glimpse of the Burj Khalifa for the first time and I didn’t think it was that tall. Trust me however, once you’re standing around the area of the Dubai Mall, it’s hard to even see the top! It’s freaking huge.
We did a quick walk around the mall since we knew we were coming back the following day. The aquarium is as amazing as it looks in all the photos, there’s an incredible array of sea life swimming around in that massive tank, perfect for photo ops!
It had plenty of westernized stores and restaurant chains, so we decided to hit up TGI Friday’s since it had a view of Dubai Marina. Little did we know, there was a freaking fountain show going on outside!!! Aptly named, The Dubai Fountain, they play a couple of shows every night with different themes of music. The one we saw was sweet and romantic, water and lights shot up to the rhythm of — Enrique Iglesias’ Hero. *crying with laugher emoji* After dinner we stood outside of the balcony of the restaurant and watched on at another show. We were roughly 3-4 storeys high so when I looked down the hoards of tourists crowding around below, it sorta hit me that this trip was only just beginning.
The rest of the night was spent wandering around the stores until we tired ourselves out and went home nearing closing time, which was 1am. We also did a quick grocery store run. Dubai does sell pork guys, it’s pretty much at the back of the store with its own semi closed-off section (almost like the porn section at Blockbuster) and the sign simply says, “Pork Shop” with a smaller sign underneath that says, “For non-Muslims”. Just an observation!
With an unnatural sleeping pattern, we woke up super super early to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet — amazing! We went straight back to our room and slept in well after midday and I think we even stayed in until after 2pm so I could use the hotel wifi to do an online check-in for my flight the following day (gotta make sure you get a good seat!).
We stood outside at the front of our hotel and realized our hotel owns and holds the record for the biggest chopsticks in the world, go figure! Our taxi took us right to the front of Burj Khalifa (as we requested) and man, was that a mistake. Apparently, if you don’t work there and want to visit the top, we had to enter through the Dubai Mall. Sadly, we walked about 10 minutes in sweltering heat until we were greeted with the relieving feeling of aircon as we stepped back into the mall. Just a sidenote — I was wearing crappy shoes so I had to go to a chemist to buy bandaids to aid my already growing blister, bandaids are not cheap in Dubai.
Finally, the entrance to visit the Burj Khalifa. We were granted two options — visit the 128th floor only, or ‘At the Top’ which allowed us to visit both the 128th floor and 148th floor with first class service. The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world, we chose the second option obviously! They made us wait in a swanky waiting room with lush white couches and snobby loungey instrumental music. I feel like there might have even been drinks offered usually, but since it was Ramadan the only thing we had in our hands were our tickets. We were pretty damn excited.
The ‘tour’ At The Top promised wasn’t anything special, the tour guide quickly gave a speech about the Burj Khalifa’s history while walking us to the ‘special’ elevator. The elevator ride itself was already pretty exciting — as we ascended quickly the shaft dimmed and gave a little hologram show of other famous buildings around the world as we surpassed them. Once the doors opened, we pretty much explored the deck on our own terms.
So the tickets to At the Top weren’t too cheap, but it was worth every penny! We’ve officially been to the tallest building and the highest observation deck in the world! The 148th floor was also very quiet, less crowded, the atmosphere was almost serene. We visited the 128th floor after and it was loud, littered with running children and tourists fighting for the best spots to take photos. Don’t get me wrong, it was actually still a really great view, maybe even clearer 20 floors down! It was such an awesome experience, if you ever go to Dubai, seriously consider visiting the Burj Khalifa!
The rest of our time was spent walking around the mall again. We came to the discovery that the food court and restaurants were actually open! The food court was completed barricaded (in respect for the Muslims), even some of the cafes covered their food displays to make it look less enticing. There were plenty of cool food joints in the food court. I was so tempted to get Jollibee but the wait had to be at least 30 minutes, so I opted for Burger King which wasn’t too memorable.
We walked our food off by heading to the marina to see one of the fountain shows from a different viewpoint and even though the sun had already set, the temperature was still high. Both of my cameras started fogging up from the temperature change from cool to hot, so I pretty much freaked out the whole time the show was on and didn’t get any good shots haha.
Thankfully (and obviously), my lenses went back to normal once we went back inside and we decided to visit the aquarium. The place is a lot bigger than it seems — we walked through the main aquarium (half of which you can see for free if you’re just walking by), went on a ride (nothing special, it was like a simulator, definitely more fun for kids), we went through a fully controlled glass bottom boat tour of the the same aquarium and then we got to see more sea life, birds and reptiles. That was definitely the highlight for me. I even got to see a real beaver!
That pretty much wrapped up our Dubai experience. After walking around all day, we headed back to our hotel to catch some z’s. Sadly, Dwayne’s flight the next day was a couple hours earlier than mine so he headed out early while I slept in and ate breakfast by myself. Then it was on to the next one and straight to the airport!
Although we only spent a minimal amount of time in Dubai, it was still a culturally enriching experience. The exploring didn’t delve much past our hotel room and Dubai Mall so if I do end up coming back, I’d love to go camel riding or 4WD’ing in the desert and hopefully stay (or at least visit) Atlantis, one of my dream resorts. And of course, bring a larger budget so I can actually shop and buy cool jewellery and trinkets at the Souk!
Next stop… London, UK!