events, travel, food, Dubai

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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Jordan, travel

Mars on Earth

Wadi Rum is Earth’s Mars! Even Hollywood thinks Wadi Rum is the closest to what we believe Mars would look like as the film “The Martian”, was filmed with it as their backdrop. Apparently so was the last Transformers movie, except I don’t really recall.

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Wadi Rum

We travelled through the desert on the back of a pick up truck, not the safest way to travel admittedly, but pretty common in the area. What was added on to the truck for tourists was some cushioned benches and an optional cloth to cover the open roof. No seat belts of course.
Taking photos and videos while in the car was a bit worrisome however due to the bumpy ride. When I wasn’t using my phone I actually held on tightly to the pole that supported to the bench/car/roof rack.
Periodically we would get off the car for photos at points of interest.
One tip for you guys – don’t take off your shoes and walk on the sand barefoot. Alicia and I wore sandals and our tour guide earnestly thought it would be easier to walk barefoot than in sandals as sand would get inside and what not. We listened. BAD IDEA.  The sand was extremely hot and it literally felt like if I didn’t take a break and dig my feet further in the sand where it is cooler every few steps, that I would get a real burn.   We were quite displeased with our choice but also far too lazy to backtrack for shoes. We were past the point of return, haha.
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We asked our tour guide for our usual jumping photo together which he didn’t get, but somehow he took this really nice shot on his own accord.

Afterwards, we had a cultural lunch with a local family for a home-cooked meal. However, I’m quite sure this family frequently hosts such lunches for tourists because we bumped into another tourist with a guide there (and can you believe it, the meal cost us $20+ CAD!!). Have to admit, it was one of the better tasting things I ate during this trip, but was just ridiculous for what it was factually; as we were just eating in someone’s living room floor and there was lots of flies (I hate all bugs).
Wadi Rum was the final attraction of my trip to Jordan and I highly recommend going to visit. It’s a very safe country and I did not have any issues whatsoever or felt unsafe at any time. Tourism is extremely low right now and it’s a perfect time to see everything with low volume of other tourists (and of course in case the political situation does worsen).
Additional tip: You can use USD mostly everywhere and they seem to treat it 1:1 to JOD which is a very good deal…considering for us to exchange CAD to JOD, JOD was worth more than USD : ‘(   How the currency is worth so much, I still don’t understand.
Next up on the blog will be my travels in UAE!
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Jordan, travel

Public Beach at Aqaba

I wish our tour allowed us to stay longer in Aqaba, because the beach was gorgeous. We only had a half day there so unfortunately we did not get to do very much except take a quick peek at their local public beach.

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Something unique about beaches in Jordan is that there is a large distinction of ownership. The beach is basically divided up between various hotels – and to access the beach you would need to be a guest at the hotel or pay some sort of entrance fee.  We had a similar experience to visit the Dead Sea where we paid to enter a private beach.

Given our short time in Aqaba, our tour guide only brought us to the (free) public beach. Which is I’m sure just as gorgeous as anywhere else along the shoreline. However, the main flaw with this activity in our itinerary was our Aqaba visit happened to fall on a Friday, which is the main weekend day off for locals – and as such the beach was packed.

A beach being packed is just a bit of a nuisance to find your own spot, but the main problem we had was many locals (from nearby smaller cities that travelled as a weekend activity to the beach) enjoying the beach were not accustomed to seeing foreigner females. And that caused us to be some sort of tourist attraction to them, which I have to say made me feel quite uncomfortable. And it’s a very different feeling than being stared down when you’re at the club, it was like being watched as if you were some kind of zoo animal.  The male to female ratio at the beach was highly uneven and other than Alicia and I, I think all other females were dressed very culturally and if not very modestly (which we fail at doing because the weather is way too hot for us) and stayed in groups on the shore under umbrellas. We did see one woman go in the water in her full abaya though which is quite impressive.

The strongest memory I have from this day was the extremely awkward walk down a long bridge to get to the end of the dock for a more unobstructed view of the sea. The bridge was packed with probably over 60 men/boys whom were downright gawking, but thankfully do part way for us to walk through.  It was uncomfortable enough at the end of the dock where the majority of the people flocked at, that after a few minutes of waiting for Alicia to take videos, I had to return to an area with less people.  She crossed a fence to a more broken end of the bridge so her area was not as crowded.

I’m actually also quite thankful that other than staring there was never any remarks or cat calling made. We only experienced some very pre-teen boys trying to talk to us and ask for selfies together….which they took a bit far afterwards by trying to put their arms around our shoulders – which I also promptly flung off : /

Overall though, the experience of being stared at was not as prominent at any other city and I think it was mainly due to us being at a public beach on Friday. We had a few occasions of people asking to take pictures with us at various different sites…but that was mostly it.  There were other locals whom were friendly to us without trying to take photos with us of course🙂

Anyway lesson learned from this story is:
1) go to a private beach in Aqaba, that is probably where the other tourists are at as we did not see anyone else that looked foreign
2) if you must go to the public beach, don’t go on a Friday ESPECIALLY if you are female
3) additional note: try scuba diving in Aqaba, it’s supposed to be very nice!

Culturally you aren’t allowed to swim in a bikini or even a one piece in the public beaches…but honestly given the amount of stares, you wouldn’t even want to.

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