Dubai, travel

At the Top, Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world at 829m ousting Toronto’s very own CN Tower (553m) for the title of tallest freestanding structure.

However for us tourists, we can only get up to L124 “At the Top” (452m) or  L148  “At the Top Sky” (555m). Which realistically is still higher CN Tower’s observatory as Burj Khalifa  held the record of highest outdoor observation deck until 2011.  On L124 there are electronic telescopes that allow us to see an augmented reality of the landscape surrounding us in real time too!

I would definitely recommend getting tickets in advance online (plus lining up to enter early) and get a entry time that is before sunset so you can view the sunset from the observation deck, and also the night time skyline post sunset. You’re allowed to stay up there as long as you wish. Spots by the window for sure are hard to sneak into for photos, but there were a few tourists that seemed to be camping waiting for the sunset.  Tickets are discounted after 7pm so check the sunset times and it may work out in your wallet’s favour!

Both views are amazing as the city is extravagantly full of tall skyscrapers, fancy waterways and brightly lit up roads. Personally I found the night skyline view best. Seeing all 3 (day time, sunset, night time) views within 1-2 hours was amazing.
The Dubai Fountain is also visible from the top, so we were able to catch the show from above too!
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Dubai, events, food, travel

Champagne Brunch

Honestly a brunch like no other! The most expensive meal of my life costing at $180 CAD for non-alcoholic and $214 CAD for alcoholic per person. But definitely well worth it for the experience as it is a must-do activity in Dubai. Brunch on Fridays in particular are most infamous and keyed as ‘Champagne Brunch’ because weekends in UAE (and Middle East?) start after Thursday’s work day – so the drinking starts early by Friday morning!

After much research the venue we chose was Al Qasr at Madinat Jumeirah.

I was not able to take much pictures as it was quite difficult to do so while holding a large plate, but there were 3 large areas as Friday Brunch takes over 3 different hotel restaurant space (2 indoor and 1 outdoor) that had multiple food stations – of raw and seafood, plated appetizers, cooked foods, cooking stations for each cuisine, multiple dessert stations for liquid nitrogen ice cream, chocolate, cakes etc, and of course various alcohol and drink stations. Unlimited coconut drinks❤

 

My plates of food:

 

May not look like much, but I was extremely full. Everything was very gorgeously plated, especially those appetizers that are prepared in advance in individual dishes, and service was impeccable. There were so many chefs working outside (at least 5 International cooking stations outside) in the gruelling heat whom I felt so bad for. Have to admit though the food was not especially amazing, a large chunk of the price definitely goes towards the presentation and the uniqueness of the experience itself.

Quick videos of a few of the sections (there was a lot more than what was filmed – wish I did a better job).

 

Here’s us dressed up as nicely as we could with our limited wardrobe. So many drinks as there is the welcome (on the house) champagne, waters, and delicious mango juice and coconuts!  We ended up opting for the non-alcoholic option as we had many drinks from all the Ladies’ Nights that we attended during that whole week.

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Dubai, events, food, travel

Ladies’ Night is Every Night in Dubai

Being a lady is great in Dubai if you enjoy going to the bar for a few drinks after work. You don’t need to worry about cover or paying for your drinks – don’t even need to chat up guys for free drinks either!  A very popular and well known weekly event is Tuesday Ladies’ Night – most bars and clubs partake in this. And they give up to sometimes 3 or 4 drink tickets per person!!!! Why don’t we have this here?

In addition, you are likely to be able to find a Ladies’ Night for every night of the week somewhere within the city. In our case we went to four – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  That might sound crazy or very fun to you, but we really spent most of it just sitting and drinking by ourselves as we were extremely tired each evening from a full day of activities. They also became less and less fancy as each day passed as we grew increasingly tired. Although it is called Ladies’ Night, there are still men at each location, just significantly less. On Tuesday, it was a mixed crowd.

SundayMaya Modern Mexican Kitchen & Lounge at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa
This was probably the fanciest hotel/resort I’ve ever been to in my life (which isn’t very much or none at all). You could literally spend your whole vacation there as they had multiple outdoor restaurants, bars, pools – probably access to private beach? All very gorgeous. As we had our swimsuits we really wanted to take a dip in their pool bar while we were there, but unfortunately it was closed after we ate. Maya Modern gave I believe 2-3 drink tickets each and you get a discounted food menu for the night too!


MondayiKandy at Shangri-La Hotel
Beautiful and girly (very pink everywhere) rooftop pool terrace that offered 2 drink tickets, had a chocolate fountain, AND unlimited candy!!!!!! How could we not come here?


Tuesday Lock Stock & Barrel at Grand Millennium Hotel
We were very tired after a full day at Wild Wadi Water Park and evening at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding that we decided to just go somewhere closeby. Literally across the street from our hotel (Atana Hotel – which doesn’t have its own liquor license) was Grand Millennium – which apparently according to a taxi driver we had it is quite well known. As Tuesday is THE biggest night, we decided to go for the sake of it. The crowd was definitely larger here but is still mostly a bar vibe of people hanging around and drinking in groups of friends. There were no seats or tables left so after a glass of wine we decided to leave. Gave the rest of our drink tickets to a group of girls who received them extremely happily. LSB is very westernized pub theme (I think it’s also a franchise), but they did give us the most drink tickets – I think 3 and they each traded 1:1 for a drink.


Literally we picked this one because it was closeby . It was a jazz underground bar; dingy compared to what we had seen so far (especially compared to Maya Modern and iKandy), likely due to the bar being extremely dimly lit. They had a live performer though which was neat, and also had salsa night right after.  The environment was extremely mellow, so again after 1 drink we left.  Should have taken up learning salsa while I were there though!


Ladies’ Night wasn’t an extremely exciting or highlighting experience for me, but something that shouldn’t be missed just for the sake of free drinks and checking out different venues. If you’re into drinking, bars or clubs, it is definitely great. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was less tired and maybe if we had went with a larger group of friends.


I would recommend Maya Modern and iKandy if you are looking for a place for Sunday and Monday : )
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Dubai, travel

Desert Safari in Dubai

In Dubai, a very popular tourist attraction (I believe is a tourist trap though), is their desert safari excursions. I mean, I still signed up excitedly no less. We chose ours with Arabian Nights because we found a BOGO discount for it.

The itinerary said it included:
  1. Sand dune bashing
  2. Sand boarding
  3. Camel Riding
  4. Henna Tattoo
  5. Meal / Shisha
The main attraction is the dune bashing inside a Land Cruiser and the add on’s that I was especially interested in were sand boarding and camel riding.

 

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I was expecting us to be bashing in a sort of open cover 4×4 Jeep, like Jurassic Park style, but we were just in a Toyota Land Cruiser – which probably was better  due to the wind and sand. There was one pit stop in the middle of dune bashing where we could walk up a tall sand dune;  I could barely make it up due to all the gust of sand that flew into my face. I hurried back to the car when I reached the top because I was unable to even open my eyes without them stinging. No idea how others were able to pose for pictures because as I got in the car, I noticed my whole face was covered in sand.

 

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Unfortunately for me, I also get motion sickness. So for the last third or so of the dune bashing I was mostly hoping it would be over soon…  The view also has got nothing on Wadi Rum, Jordan.
The activity basically is 10-20 cars in a line going down a pre-determined path within the sand dunes and the driver would purposely drive the car in a way that each up/down on the dunes is felt by the passenger, and sometimes they would purposely swerve to get more action. It was pretty enjoyable until I started feeling sick. It was also pretty cool to see other cars and even some guys in ATVs in action up close.

 

The rest of the activities were pretty unimpressive I have to sadly admit.
  • sand boarding really should require boots and none were available. Out of the 3 boards available 2 of them looked like the straps were broken. It was basically impossible for us to even attempt to board without boots because the straps were far too large for even regular running shoes.
  • camel riding was literally just a small circle – which made me just feel sorry for the hard work the camel had to do as it would frequently have to go up and down on their knees for each passenger…..poor camel.
  • the henna tattoo was a very simple non-personalized one that was completed in about 3 seconds. If you pay extra, you were able to get something more intricate, but I mean this activity was sold as part of our package so i wasn’t expecting this.
  • Meal was buffet style, the free shisha was flavourless and very smokey. To get better quality you had to (again) pay more – and you can tell it is definitely different as the paid shisha had a very strong fruity fragrance.
The only redeeming part of the tour was the dancing entertainment that accompanied our meal (and they fact that they provide pick up and drop off service at your hotel). There was a female belly dancer and a male dancer (don’t remember the style of dance) but he would spin around in circles continuously while wearing many layers of skirts (with pants under too) and the colourful, and at times lit up skirt would look very fantastical as he spun so fast.
Overall I was a bit disappointed in how the activities panned out given that I had been looking forward greatly to this excursion, and not to mention the price as these excursions do not run cheap. I think the downside of this tour group is possibly the large size which led to the slide in quality. Possibly with another tour group with smaller sizes and the more luxurious types would provide higher quality of activities.
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Dubai, travel

Meeting Penguins!!!

Alicia says her most memorable moment of our trip was skydiving (which I was not there for because I have extreme fear of falling from heights…How could that be her favourite moment if I wasn’t present?). I guess in contrast, one of my most memorable moments was one she skipped out on too – meeting penguins at Ski Dubai!! Ski Dubai is a mini ski resort / winter playground / penguin habitat inside, can you believe it, a mall! Obviously, compared to what we are used to in Canada, the snow and the hill looks extremely sad and fake. However, penguins!!

There are multiple packages available, where of course, the more you pay, the more interaction you get. I didn’t get to be immersed in a huddle of little penguins as I had wished for because that required a minimum of 4 people to book online. However, being able to see one so up close and touching their feathers was already very exciting as it is! I like to believe it is an unique experience few people get to have.

They have two types of penguins at Ski Dubai, King and Gentoo penguins (a bit under 20 in total). Both are pretty small in size even compared to me. So for the photo taking we had to sit or kneel down so they wouldn’t be as afraid.

For this basic package I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that the interaction and educational portion of it is quite limited.

The session included:

  • brief prep talk about the penguins and the centre by the trainer
  • viewing of aquarium where the penguins swim and reside
  • meeting one King and one Gentoo penguin individually and watching them play fetch (I didn’t get a chance to throw though)
  • taking turns within the group of about 10 people for photographs with each penguin

It doesn’t sound like much but nonetheless, I was definitely smiling the whole way through.

If you go with family/friends you have to take the photo as a group. As I went alone (lol) I got solo glam shots which I bought way too much of #noregrets

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I don’t think I am ever this smiley to people. 

 

With the King Penguin as he was more trained and friendly we were able to give it a little hug and a kiss, and touch the feathers on his back, chest and flippers.

 

 

My new pengfriend!


The feathers are surprisingly extremely soft, except for the flippers part which was more rough.

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This was not a very good shot….but I guess I had to for the memory. The photographer told me to do that pose. 

The Gentoo Penguin (Pumpkin, I believe) unfortunately was not trained enough for us to fully interact with. He was only trained to walk up to stand beside us for a photo. Pumpkin kept trying to walk into our area when it wasn’t his turn yet, haha.

The penguin encounter itself isn’t too expensive given how rare the experience is. However, where they rake your money is in the professional photographs they take of you. You aren’t even allowed just the digital copy unless you purchase the hard copy. Cameras and cell phones are strictly forbidden….there was no way you could sneak in a shot. Thus no penguin selfie possibility!

Where do I apply to be a real spokesperson? I think I am already looking the part.

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Dubai, travel

Cruising on The Yellow Boat

I think Alicia and I did UAE proud as we hit up nearly all of the most common tourist attractions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  This is proven as we met 3 different locals who seemed satisfied with our itinerary. The only thing we didn’t do was go to a Friday Brunch after party (more on Friday Brunch later).

 

The Yellow Boats tour was an activity that Alicia found and originally I wasn’t extremely interested in it because I thought it could be a bit boring given that it the tour was for 90 minutes. However, these boats although by appearance look like little rescue boats, the exterior of the boat is pretty strong and so is the engine.

Once we were out of the Dubai Marina, the boat sped up so fast. Periodically, the driver would also purposely swerve the boat so we would be halfway in the air sideways – which was scary at first but exhilarating once I got used to it. Thank god for life jackets as the ride was pretty bumpy due to the speed.
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The Burj Al Arab that is designed to look like a sail.

The 90 minute tour brought us around Dubai Marina, the Palm Jumeirah (not allowed to go inside as it is private property) and an upclose view of the Burj Al Arab. The tour guide was exceptionally knowledgeable and charismatic as he explained many of the infrastructure to us, and we also got to stop at landmarks for photos.

 

Some videos that I attempted to take on a XiaoMi videocam. Excuse the awkward selfie and very long 2nd video (the end is when we reach the Burj Al Arab!!!! skip to there at least).

 

 

Fun fact that I learnt on this tour: all the boats/yachts are labelled and coded by their use DP for pleasure/personal, DT for Tourism and DC for Commerial – so if you see anyone having a fancy party but on a DT boat, no need to be jealous, it’s only rental ; )

 

 

 

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Dubai, travel

Old Dubai

After spending a week in Jordan, the change to a developed and thriving city was much appreciated and definitely missed. It was nice to return to a land with air conditioning, better Wi-Fi, more food choices, and less stares on being foreign.

Although Dubai is quite well known to be multicultural, what we found was the local foreigners were mostly Caucasian or South Asian – not so much East Asian. But I’m sure we stood out more because of our attire and conversation showing that we were clearly tourists.

Stepping into our hotel (Atana Hotel) which is only 3 to 4 star (in Dubai it can go up to 7 even….), was a huge breath of fresh air. I didn’t have much expectations for the hotel since we got it at a discount and I normally don’t stay in anything fancy…so I was extremely pleasantly surprised by how pretty our hotel lobby and even our rooms were; felt like entering paradise.  Ironically our hotel named their 2 towers after Adam and Eve.
However, as technologically advanced and developed Dubai is as a city, there is still a more “olden” part of it in the Bur Dubai and Deira area.
The main attraction in this area is travelling across the Dubai Creek in a local abra (little boat) and also the various specialty souks (markets) – especially the spice and gold souks. The common route is to go to Bur Dubai and take an abra to cross the creek to Deira where the souks are. 
The souks were actually more modern than we expected, I was legitimately expecting dinky shops but the souks were more of an open space market of multiple store fronts (actual building not just a simple stall).  The gold souks were quite luxurious as well with the most famous gold store blasting AC and even had free beverages for customers. They also hold the largest gold ring in the world!!!!
As expected the souks were flooded with tourists. Predominately at the spice and textile souks, the shopkeepers would shout out at us in various Asian languages to try to grab our attention. Usually it’s quite easy to ignore or play off, only one occasion did I have one shopkeeper literally try to drape a scarf around me….which I of course pushed his arm away : ‘)
It was nice to see the more cultural and heritage side of Dubai (we also visited the Dubai Museum – entrance was only like $3.00!) as for the rest of our trip we would be doing more modern and extravagant tourist activities!
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We also visited the Jumeirah Public Beach. How anyone can sunbathe in 35+ degree weather is beyond me.
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