Dubai Day 7 (17 Mar 11) – From Finest to the Tallest: High Tea at the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa revisited

High Tea at the Luxurious Burj Al Arab

We woke up rather early today as we planned to go skiing in Ski Dubai. The Ski Dubai isn’t that far from where we stay. When we were about to get the tickets for the Ski Dubai, the lady at the counter informed us that we must be able to at least ski decently, if not she would not sell the tickets to us. Since neither of us can ski, we gave it a miss and went shopping around Mall of Emirates instead, since we have about 2 hrs to kill before our high tea at Burg Al Arab. Nothing eventful happened and we hopped onto the cab once the time comes.

Soon we found ourselves driving towards Burj Al Arab, once passed the tourist infested main security gate, the surrounding seem peaceful. As we alighted the cab, we saw a bunch of Mainland Chinese snapping pictures around the main entrance of the hotel. We did like wise and proceeded into the lobby. As we entered the lobby, the luxury of the hotel was immediately felt. Walking inside here really gives one a feeling of VIP. The water fountain rhythm greeting visitors at the main gate was smoothing. However this tranquility was shattered by the hordes of visitors who either paid to visit this hotel or is part of their tour package.  Nonetheless we headed up the escalator heading towards the lift that would take us directly to the Skybar for our high tea. While waiting for the lift, we saw the same bunch of Mainland Chinese chattering and commenting loudly (very typical of them) about their posture for their pictures and such. The lift had came and we soon found ourselves heading upwards towards the Skybar.

The Burj Al Arab
View of the nearby beach from Burj Al Arab
Inside Burj Al Arab
Inside Burj Al Arab
Inside Burj Al Arab
Inside Burj Al Arab
A crystal model of the hotel

The lift was facing the Arabian Gulf, riding inside simply gave me the feeling of propelling towards the sky. The same bunch of Mainland Chinese were in the same lift with us, they can’t contain their excitement about this hotel and I can hear “Wows” from their mouth, as if for the moment that is the only vocabulary that they can find to describe their feeling inside the lift. The journey upwards only took 50 sec and soon we were talking to the waiter about our reservation. The Chinese who came with us in the same lift were disappointed when they were refused entry into the Skybar as they did not have a high tea reservation. We were introduced to Glenn, who took care of our stomach while we were up there in the Skybar. Our seating was apparently one of the most scenic ones as I can see Burj Khalifa afar. The Jumeira Beach Hotel and Wild wadi is just next to Burj Al Arab and they were in nice view of us. The view was not only stunting, it also gave me a sense of carefree.  Glenn came by pouring us champagne and filled our table with appetizers and the teas that we ordered. Glenn appeared about 10 mins later with our tower of finger food. We only managed to cleared 2 level of the 4 level tower container that was shaped to resemble the Burj Al Arab. The level of service in here was amazing, felt very much like the business class of an aircraft when Glenn remembered my surname, and using my surname to address me every time we interacted. The service felt personalised.

 

View of the surrounding from the Skybar on top of Burj Al Arab
The Arabian Sea from the Skybar
View of the surrounding from the Skybar on top of Burj Al Arab
Appetiser
Champagne
High Tea is great here
Me in the Skybar
Tea Time
High Tea in the Skybox

We initially thought High tea probably will not fill our stomach too much, geez how wrong we were. We did not even managed to touch the scones that Glenn brought to us before we gave up and surrender to the food. We spent about 2 hours at the Skybar, enjoying the view and the food as well as the service and the live music. Felt like the world was without worries. However such relaxed feeling was about to end when we had to head towards the Burg Khalifa as we had bought tickets for the 4 pm entrance. As we were at the main entrance and saw some buggies ferrying people in and out of the hotel. We curiously asked the driver if it is for everyone, the driver sternly told us that it is for hotel guests only. However after 5 mins of waiting, he decided to give us a lift. Perhaps he was thinking no harm giving us a lift since he is heading the same way as well. The ride on the buggy facing the Hotel as we exited it was good. We managed to take some good shots of the hotel. As we exited from the hotel, it is not tough to see the envious faces of the people outside taking picture. They probably thought we were staying inside the hotel.

View of the surrounding from the Skybar on top of Burj Al Arab
View of the Palm Islands from the Skybar
Light music in the Skybar
View of the surrounding from the Skybar on top of Burj Al Arab
The hotel entrance
Causeway driving out of Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab from the causeway
The Burj Al Arab

Burk Khalifa Revisited

We were about 1 hour later when we reached Burj Khalifa entrance. The guy at the door merely asked “why so late”. This question feels more like asking for the sake of asking, I replied “we were held up at the hotel” (well in some ways we were held up soaking the ambience at the Burj Al Arab). He passed us 2 tickets and we find ourselves at the lift lobby waiting for the lift to ascend the tallest building in the world. Though this is my 2nd visit in my short stay in Dubai, I was still excited about visiting this skyscraper and watching sunset. Today don’t seemed as crowded as the first day I visited. We went around snapping our cameras away and watched sunset (or so I think, since we did not see the sun physically going under the horizon). We stayed up till the first fountain showtime. I managed to get a good spot that allowed us to see the whole of the fountain. I took a video of the 3 min show. Then we headed down for dinner as it is close to our hotel check out timing. After dinner, we went back outside to see the fountain show once more time. Very coincidentally, the music (or song) they used was “Time to say Goodbye”. I was telling my friend how appropriate this song came accompanying the fountain dancing, as though they knew this was our last night in Dubai. We stayed for 2 shows before heading back to the hotel to pack up for our flight back to Singapore.

View of the surrounding from Burj Khalifa
View of the surrounding from Burj Khalifa
View of the surrounding from Burj Khalifa
Arabian coastline from Burj Khalifa
Panoramic view of the coast from Burj Khalifa
View of the surrounding from Burj Khalifa
Awaiting sunset
Sunsetting over the Arabian Sea
Sunsetting over the Arabian Sea
Sunset
View of the surrounding from Burj Khalifa
View of the surrounding from Burj Khalifa
Musical Fountain show from Burj Khalifa
The Arabian night sky
Night view from Burj Khalifa
Night view from Burj Khalifa
Night view from Burj Khalifa
Musical Fountain performance
Musical Fountain performance
Musical Fountain performance
Musical Fountain performance
Musical Fountain performance
Musical Fountain performance
Night view of Burj Khalifa
Musical Fountain performance
Musical Fountain performance
Musical Fountain performance
Night view of Burj Khalifa

Night view of Burj Khalif

Farewell Dubai

We took a cab to the airport after checking out. The queue for the flights was horrendous! Only 2 counters open for the snaking queue of passengers, but this was solved shortly after one of the staff told us to head to the other side where they had just opened another 4 counters to process the check-ins. We loitered in the airport for the next 3 hours for our flight back home. The flight was delayed by another hour, making flying at this hour seem sleepy.

 

Dubai Day 6 (16 Mar 11) – The Charming Creek and Old Dubai

Wild Wadi Water Theme Park

We woke up slightly later today and went to the Wild Wadi Water theme park. Initially we can’t really decided to go Wild Wadi or Atlantis. After speaking to people and reading comments on internet, as well as we saw how boring and lifeless Atlantis is, we decided to go for Wild Wadi Water park instead. We spent the afternoon at the park, making sure that we took all the slides at least once. The first ride we took was the slide that goes around the park. We found this slide to be one of the most convenient way of moving around the park to different rides without having to walk too much. Basically this set of slides propels you upwards to the next high level ground. There are some parts where you get to slide down, at any given check point, the slides will end up at different areas of the park. We went around once to get our bearings and to check out where to stop for which rides. After going around once, we walked to the main attraction of the park – Jumeirah Sceirah. This is the largest and tallest slide in the UAE. I can see the whole of the theme park from the top of this ride. It is facing the wave shaped Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the view up here was breathtaking, too bad I didn’t bring my camera along. It was my turn to take on the slide, the initial part of the slide was rather gentle, however at about half point of the slide its gradient turned steep. It felt like I was thrown drop to near vertical steepness. What an exhilarating ride. We headed for one of the twin rides in the park, these 2 only differ in their thrill level. We took the more exciting ride with 3 funnels on the way down (Tantrum Alley). The initial launch was thrilling, as the slide was rather steep. After passing the other 2 tunnels, the ride felt rather “tamed”. We then head back up and tried the other not so exciting ride (Burj Surj). Indeed this was not so exciting as the first one, just felt like riding some tube down the tunnels pretty mild though. We then head back to the slide around the park one more time. By this time I realised that we have taken almost all the slides in the park. We then went over to this wave attraction that has staffs teaching people how to do surfing. Man I really suck at this, failed to learn surfing despite the patient staff’s teaching. We did the Jumeirah Sceirah and Tantrum Alley once more before calling it a day at the Wild Wadi.

Crossing the Creek to Old Dubai

We went back to the hotel to leave our swimming gears and headed out to old Dubai. This is our last night here, thus this is our last chance to take the dhow across the creek. We arrived at the creek, which is just a 10 mins walk from the nearest metro station. As we arrived, we can’t seemed to find the water taxi pier. I approached a ship crew nearby and he pointed us to a direction. We headed to the pier and took a boat across the creek. As we were being transported across the creek, we asked the coxswain of the boat about the dhows. He told us to stay put on the boat and alight at the next stop instead. At this moment, I was rather shocked. I asked him isn’t the boat going back to the other side of the creek. He told us the boat is going up and down the creek. Upon hearing this I was delighted, at least we get to ride on the dhow, one of the things that we said we wanted to do before embarking on this trip. As the boat came alongside the next stop, we thanked the coxswain and got off the boat. At the pier, the moment we saw the dhows that we wanted to ride, we took out our cameras and started to snap pictures of the dhows.

Crossing the Creek at night
Crossing the Creek at night
Crossing the Creek at night
Crossing the Creek at night
Crossing the Creek at night
This is the dhow that was used as a means of transport across the Creek
A dhow docking

The Bustling Old Dubai

We headed over to Old Dubai as we wanted to look at the Gold and Spice Souks. This seem to be a place where the Indian immigrants congregate, perhaps the rental in this area is cheaper then the other areas in Dubai. As we were walking along the streets, which was either illuminated by the neon lights of the signs in front of the shops or the lights within the shops, there were a few men standing at junctions of the road asking if we want women. I thought UAE being a Muslim country was very strict in prostitution, and these men are asking if we want women??!! What a risk they are taking. We walked around the area, soon most of the shops looked the same to me. We decided to head back to the creek instead, feeling bored of the shops around.

As we were walking back towards the creek, we found ourselves standing across the famous Gold Souk! This is where people from all over the world visit to buy relatively cheap gold. We took a stroll in the Gold Souk, looking at the golden jewelry being displayed at the window, glittering at us under the halogen lights. At the end of the street, was a shop that has the world’s biggest ring on display at the window! We asked the staff at the shop if we could take pictures of it, they generously allowed us to do so! After snapping some pictures of the ring, we decided to head back to the creek as we wanted to get back to the metro station before the last train leaves. Arrived at the creek after 10 mins of walking from the Gold Souk, we took the dhow across the creek (which was an interesting experience, we would have taken the dhow a few more times and appreciate how people used to travel across in yesteryears if not for our time constraint). We alighted the creek, and at this side of the creek, the lighting on the building makes it a good photographic spot. After taking some pictures of the buildings and the creek, we headed back to the metro station. As we were kinda rushing for the last train, we half brisk walked to the station. As we arrived at the station, we found out that the last train has left. Damn! We should have taken a stroll instead if we knew it has left. We hailed a cab back to the hotel and rest for the night.

Old Dubai
The Old Dubai is still buzzing with life
The Gold Souk
Riding on the dhow
World largest gold ring
Crossing the Creek

 

 

Buildings around the dock at night

 

Buildings around the dock at night
Al Bastakiya at night
Al Bastakiya at night
Me at Al Bastakiya at night
Dubai Museum at night
Al Bastakiya at night
Al Bastakiya at night

Dubai Day 5 (15 Mar 11) – Abu Dhabi: The Capital City visiting the Heritage Village and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi – The Capital of UAE

We spent the day in the Capital of UAE, seeing how the towering skyscraper grows all over Dubai like wild mushroom, I would think Abu Dhabi won’t be too far off. We headed to the bus terminal in Dubai, which was a good 30 min metro ride from the hotel. The bus journey towards Abu Dhabi took roughly 2 hours. On the bus we met this elderly American couples. They are travelers like us, who didn’t like to be constricted by the typical tour groups. We chatted alot on our travels to different part of the world, our home town and the places we have been to and are going to in Dubai. Despite being grandparents, this couple are still rather adventurous. Some 2 hours later, we arrived at Abu Dhabi. My impression of this city is it looked rather run down and not as “glamourous” as Dubai. We bide the American couple farewell and headed over to the mall nearby the bus terminal for lunch.

A mosque that we spotted on the bus ride to Abu Dhabi

The Luxurious Emirates Palace

After lunch, we took a cab to our first destination, Emirates Palace. This building is actually a hotel, now turned into one of the very few tourist spot in Abu Dhabi. The staff at the hotel were very friendly, unlike those hotels in Dubai such as Burj Al Arab or Atlantis, this hotel welcomes guests to walk around inside the hotel. The hotel is huge and indeed looked like a palace, the amount of luxury in this hotel is beyond description. Everywhere we turn we saw nice big couches, chandeliers, and antiques. We headed to this 2 storey window that looked out into the terrace of the hotel, where the private beach is at. We wandered to the ground floor and saw this door unlocked, so we headed out. After taking few pictures, a security staff approached us and told us we were not suppose to wander to this part of the hotel as this is reserved for residents of the hotel. He then politely escorted us back inside the hotel. So this hotel does have out of bounds areas. We then wandered within the hotel, looking at how luxurious a USD 3 billion hotel can be. We spent about 20 mins inside the hotel, and then headed out into the front garden to take pictures of the front of the hotel before heading for the heritage village which is not too far from the hotel.

The ceiling of Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace – A Pure luxury
Inside Emirates Palace
The courtyards of Emirates Palace
Inside Emirates Palace
Broadwalk outside Emirates Palace
Inside Emirates Palace
Front entrance of Emirates Palace
Front entrance of Emirates Palace
Front entrance of Emirates Palace
Front entrance of Emirates Palace

The Heritage Village

We arrived nearby the heritage village. This village is situated on waterfront. From the village, we can see the whole city skyline of Abu Dhabi. Well the heritage village felt very fake to me. It doesn’t felt original, feels more like a site built for the tourists. Even the well and the old tomb at the entrance of the village looked fake. There is a small museum on the left side as we entered the village. The museum is very small, took us about 5 mins to finish all the exhibits in the museum. There is a mocked up village square where some shops are situated. We went into some of those shops to see if there is anything worth buying. The staffs here are pretty slack, they don’t even give a hood about visitors and were rather unfriendly. There is another row of shops selling souvenirs, where my friend bought some stuff from. We hanged around the village for about 20 mins and headed for the Grand Mosque.

Skyline of AbuDhabi
A mosque near the Heritage Village
Inside the Heritage Village
Inside the Heritage Village
Inside the Heritage Village
Inside the Heritage Village
Inside the Heritage Village

The Opulent and Solemn Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

I was impressed with the grandeur of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Grand Mosque. It felt like the epitome of all mosques in UAE. When I saw the domes of the white mosque, it somehow reminded me of the Taj Mahal in India. We headed inside the main building of the mosque and saw a rather large chandelier. A staff member of the mosque told us that there is a guided tour of the mosque in 5 mins time. After taking a few more quick pictures, we went to the gathering point of the tour. We met up with the American couple we saw on the bus earlier on. They were glad to see us here at the same time as well. We joined the same group for the mosque tour. The tour was indeed informative, through the tour, we got to know that the first hall was designed in accordance to how the Quran described paradise as. The large chandelier we saw in this hall was termed as the “baby chandelier by the guide. She then brought us into the main prayer hall. This is a huge hall and is where we saw the biggest chandelier in the world. The colourful 4 storey high chandelier was suspended from the ceiling by 3 wire cables. In this hall was where the world’s largest Persian Carpet was housed. The guide told us the carpet was produced by 1200 Iranian women by hand.

On one of the wall hanged a clock with 7 times, the guide explained that these are the times of the daily prayers for the Muslim culture, it also displayed the local time. After the main hall, we were brought to a smaller male prayer room. Though smaller in size, this room was also designed with the interpretation of paradise in the Quran. We were led to the outdoor square of the mosque. The guide told us that there are a total of 81 domes and 4 minarets in the mosque. The top part of these domes are made of gold! She also told us that the Grand mosque in Abu Dhabi is the only mosque opened to non-Muslims in UAE as the founder of UAE wanted to build a mosque to allow even non-Muslims understand Islamism better. However he passed away before the building of the mosque was completed. The locals built a mausoleum next to the mosque and buried him there. There is even someone to read verses of the Quran to him 24/7 since 7 years ago! Can’t help but wonder how’s the watch system like for the reading of Quran to him. After the tour, we bid the American couples farewell and wandered around the mosque more a bit.

Facade of the Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque
Inside the main prayer room of the Grand Mosque
A huge prayer room in the Grand Mosque
Looking out into the square from the Grand Mosque
Chandelier inside the Grand Mosque
Inside the Grand Mosque
World largest Persian Rug
Inside the Grand Mosque
World’s largest chandelier
Peaceful Grand Mosque
Outside the Grand Mosque

Visiting Abu Dhabi Airport

We went to the Airport in Abu Dhabi to see if it is as impressive as the one in Dubai, after all this is the capital of UAE. Well we were disappointed when we saw the airport. It is small and the shops are limited, and the passenger flow isn’t alot. We only spent about 15 mins here and took a bus back to the city. We walked around the area near the bus terminal. The area is pretty boring, nothing really much to see or to shop here. After dinner we took a bus back to Dubai, the journey was pretty much uneventful.

Abu Dhabi Airport

 

Dubai Day 4 (14 Mar 11) – Venturing into Oman after watching Sunrise in the Desert

Sunrise in Dubai Desert Conservatory 

We woke up in time for sunrise, as we very much wanted to watch sunrise in the desert. We climbed the nearest sun dune and waited patiently for the sun to shine on this land once more. As we waited from dawn to sunrise, we saw a pack of 6 oryx grazing the little patch of grass that is near to the dune we were at (looked like 2 dunes away). Wanting to get a nice closer picture of these animals, I went closer to them. When we walked nearer to them, the pack of oryx had moved further into the other side of the desert. Damn, we were so close to getting good pictures of the oryx. As the sun was about to rise, we stayed put at our current location. We watched the sun slowly emerging from the horizon, pretty much like a lazy boy who refuse to wake up. The view of sunrise in the desert is beautiful, I had watched sunrise from in the sea, but sun rising in desert was a first, and the feel is very different. I felt the most anticipated sun ray beaming across the vast desert land to warm things up, after all the night chilly desert winds had brought the temperature of the surroundings down. After watching the sun rise, we head back to the tent area. Our guide had already prepared breakfast. Breakfast was a simple affair, and after breakfast we packed up and leave the desert, driving towards Hajar Mountains.

Waking up before the sun rises to make sure we get a glimpse of this rare sight (well for us) 
Slowly the lights shine across the horizon and upon these desert grounds 
Awaiting sunrise in the deserts
Awaiting sunrise in the deserts 
Sun is rising across the horizons
Panoramic view of the desert
The colourful clouds in the sky
At this moment, we enjoyed the clouds in the sky
Awaiting for sun to rise
Waiting for sunrise
There it is, the sun is slowly peeking through the sand dunes afar
Magnificent sunrise
This is our first time seeing sunrise in the desert
By this time, the sun is already up and making its way to the skies
Sunrise!
Sunrise in the desert
Sunrise in the desert
The rays of the morning sun coloured the desert in bright orange
Sunrise in the desert
Such peacefulness and tranquility in the desert
Sun rise
A local resident in the desert
This is how a sand storm might look like if there were one
The sun has risen and the beautiful blue skies has cover this part of earth once more

Short Trip to Oman

Not knowing geography of this area well, I thought Hajar Mountains was just further into the deserts. Boy how wrong I was! The guide had driven us out of the desert conservation grounds, as we were pulling up to what looks like a check point, our guide told us to keep our cameras and produce our passport. At this moment, I was wondering if we had just crossed into some army camp. We got our passports checked in less then 5 mins, as soon as we passed the checkpoint our guide stopped the vehicle, turned around and told us we are in Oman. 10 mins drive later we saw another checkpoint, this time we know the drill, kept our cameras and volunteered our passport. Now we are officially in Oman. About another 10 mins drive later, our guide went off road and stopped by an oasis. We were told this is a natural oasis, pretty much similar to what I imagined an oasis would be, except there isn’t a pool of water, just paddles here and there. We got off the vehicle, walking on the ground felt as though this area has not been raining for centuries. The ground is very dried up, however I was rather surprised that there are plants growing nearby the oasis. We walked up to higher grounds to see further. The Hajar mountains has its own beauty, though the mountain ranges are not as majestic nor as amazing as the Zagros or Alborz Mountain ranges in Iran, Hajar mountains, overlooking a vast piece of barren lands just at the base of it, this feels very “desertish”.

Entering into Oman
Driving into Hajar Mountains in Oman
Driving into Hajar Mountains in Oman
Driving into Hajar Mountains in Oman
We arrived at Hajar Mountains and a natural oasis welcomed us
This is how a natural oasis looked like (well my first time seeing this)
So much life surrounding this oasis
Around the oasis
We did a small trek up some hills around the oasis
Natural rock formation
Arriving at the peak of the hill 
Nearing the peak
Panoramic view of Hajar Mountains from the peak
Panoramic view of Hajar Mountains from the peak
Panoramic view of the surroundings
Flaura near the oasis
Driving back to Dubai

The Engineering Marvel – Palm Islands

We spent about 20 mins walking around, taking pictures and soon we were on our way back to Dubai. The 2 hour drive back to Dubai is rather uneventful. Once back at the hotel, the check in was faster then my first check in. We lazed a little in the hotel and left for Atlantis on the Palm islands. There are a lot of hype about this place and we just wanna see what’s the big fuss about it. We took a cab from Mall of Emirates (there are hardly any cabs plying through our hotel), the drive towards Atlantis was astonishing. It is amazing how this land that we were driving on at the moment used to be Arabian gulf. The numerous housing built on this island, mostly vacant looked luxurious. The realisation of such a huge project proves that as long as there is money, nothing is impossible. We alighted at the aquarium side of Atlantis hotel and started to explore around. The number of places we can access at this place is really limited, this public area that was opened to us only consisted of a few shops and an aquarium. Since there is really nothing to see around, we went into the aquarium. The aquarium was relatively small and boring. The centrepiece of the aquarium is this really huge tank with sharks, stingrays and tons of fishes swimming inside. Not too much to see around. I thought people find the tankful of piranhas more intriguing then this huge tank.

Nearing the Palm Islands
Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Islands
Inside the shopping arcade in Atlantis hotel
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium
Atlantis Aquarium

We went to an ice-cream shop after exiting the aquarium. The staffs in this shop are a fun loving lot of people. They entertained their customers via this ice-cream throwing stun. What the did was to prepare your order, and then one of the staff will stand about 20m away, the staff who prepared the ice-cream will throw it towards him like a baseball. The coordination between the staffs ensured that the chances of missing is very slim. Very interesting sight. After the ice-cream, we headed to the sea front of this artificial island. We headed over to the Hotel entrance, but was stopped by the security. Well we can only take pictures of the hotel from outside. We headed back towards the aquarium side of the hotel and took the train out of the island. There is really nothing much we can do hanging around here. The train ride was rather expensive, but it enabled us to see the island on a slightly elevated perspective. On the way out, I saw alot of apartments and houses not occupied, wonder if they even managed to sell the properties here. We headed back to the hotel after our visit to Atlantis, as we felt the fatigue from the lack of sleep last night. Spent the rest of the day lazing around in the hotel.

Atlantis Hotel Exterior
At the edge of Palm Islands
Atlantis Hotel
Atlantis Hotel
Selfie at Altanis Hotel 
On the Monorail out of Palm Islands
View of Palm Islands from the Monorail
View of Palm Islands from the Monorail
View of Palm Islands from the Monorail
View of Palm Islands from the Monorail
View of Palm Islands from the Monorail
View of Palm Islands from the Monorail
View of Palm Islands from the Monorail

Dubai Day 3 (13 Mar 11) – Dubai Museum to Dubai Desert Conservatory for a Night in the Deserts

The Dubai Story

We originally planned to spend the morning at Ski Dubai, however looking at the time we felt that we might not enjoy rushing for time. Instead we headed for the Dubai Museum to understand a bit more about the city and how it came about. I thought the museum was not too impressive, given the wealth of this country, I thought more could be done to the museum in terms of exhibits and introducing interactive exhibits. However the entrance is just 3dh, can’t really complain much. The museum was rather small and we finished it under an hour. The museum is built on the old Dubai fort. There are 2 sections to the museum, the outdoor section which displays old dhows, musical instruments, weapons and houses that were used in the earlier days of Dubai. The indoor section displayed a series of wax figurines depicting the lifestyle and the significance of the dressing style of the locals in olden days. We did not spend too much time in the museum partly due to its size and partly due to the exhibits did not attract us to stay any longer.

The old Dubai Fort, which is now converted into a museum
Entrance of the Museum
The outdoor displays
Outdoor area of the museum
These were the dwellings of the Emratis in the early days
Dwellings of the Emiratis in the early days
Some of the outdoor displays
There are also a ton of indoor displays in the museum
Indoor displays
Indoor displays
The depicts the livelihood of the Emratis in the early days of UAE
The depicts the livelihood of the Emratis in the early days of UAE
Indoor displays
The depicts the livelihood of the Emratis in the early days of UAE
This exhibit talks about the dressings of the Emratis
The depicts the livelihood of the Emratis in the early days of UAE
The depicts the livelihood of the Emratis in the early days of UAE

Al Bastakiya – Oldest District in Dubai

We exited the museum and wanted to head over to the Dubai creek. Our original plan was to take the dhow across the creek and then take a taxi from there back to the hotel. As we were heading over to the creek, we came by this bunch of traditional looking houses. These houses are the Bastakiya, which is the oldest residential district and was famous for its narrow lanes and wind towers. These houses are now converted into either guesthouses or art galleries. I felt these houses are rather artificial, and not really that old. They all looked kinda new to me, perhaps there has been some refurbishments to these houses. We wondered into a couple of them. The first one we went to was some government office. It had a sign that says “Visitors welcome”, so we popped inside. The entrance of this house led us to the courtyard, which was moderate in size. We saw the roof and wanted to go up, but can’t find the way. Moreover the staff inside the house doesn’t look welcoming (hhmmm…. what happened to the “Visitors welcome”?), so we left the house after taking some pictures of it. We then wondered along the streets of Al Bastakiya area and saw this art gallery that seemed to be opened to public. We went inside more with a purpose of seeing the house and the roof then the art. We browsed through the photographic art pieces on display and asked the staff if we could take a look at the roof. The staff here are more welcoming then the other house we “barged into”, they gave us the green light to go to the roof. At the roof, I can see the houses and the wind towers. However the air-con compressors are a sore to our sight, and it made the whole area looked fake. We did the touristy bit (taking some pictures) and headed to the direction of the creek. Soon we found ourselves nearing the creek. There is a mosque by the creek and this mock up desert area with sand and a real camel. I guess this is for the tourist to try taking a ride on the camel. As we were walking along the creek, we found this water taxi pick up point. It looked kinda deserted, just when we were waiting for a dhow to pull up, we saw one floating past us. We tried to give it a chase to see where it would stop at, due to time constraints, we gave up and took a cab back to the hotel.

Streets of Al Bastakiya
Streets of Al Bastakiya
Streets of Al Bastakiya, which resembles a lot in the streets of Old Yadz in Iran
Streets of Al Bastakiya
Wind tower of a building in Al Bastakiya
View from the roof in a building in Al Bastakiya
View from the roof in a building in Al Bastakiya
Panoramic shots in Al Bastakiya
Mosque round the corner
The mosque in Al Bastakiya
Inside a building in Al Bastakiya
Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek

Venturing into Dubai Desert

Once at the hotel, we pack up our stuff and checked out. Left our luggage at the hotel concierge and went over to the pick up point for our overnight desert camping trip. The guide who is supposed to pick us up was already waiting for us, despite us being 10 mins early. Soon we were heading out of Dubai and into the desert area. The drive to the desert conservatory was about 1 hour. As we were driving long the parameter of the conservatory area, our guide pointed out a desert oryx gazing by the fence. Too bad my camera has insufficient zoom to capture the oryx. I was fascinated by the desert landscape once we were inside the Dubai Desert Conservatory. I have not been to a real desert, and this is the first time I have seen a desert other then those images on TV and internet.

We pulled up to a convey of vehicles, where it seemed to be the gathering place of some sort. Hordes of tourists are already in the sand, taking pictures and running in it. I got out of the car and ran up to the nearest sand dune to take a closer look at the desert. The wavy sand on the sand dunes, caused by the wind that often blow across the deserts was amazing. Running on the sand is a different experience. My feet was constantly sinking into the sand, it is actually quite fun. Once the guide had deflated the tyres of his vehicle, we went back onboard for the next part of the trip – sand dune bashing. As the convey of vehicles depart the gathering area heading towards the somewhat marked sand dune bashing area, I was rather excited as I read that some people who have done this described it as a roller coaster ride. The initial part was alright, however I got bored after awhile. I felt it would be more exciting if the driver had drove at a faster speed.

Driving towards Dubai Desert Conservatory
Driving towards Dubai Desert Conservatory
Oryx sighting
Arriving at Dubai Desert Conservatory
Desert!
Inside Dubai Desert Conservatory
Just love the wave pattern on the sand
Inside Dubai Desert Conservatory
Inside Dubai Desert Conservatory
Inside Dubai Desert Conservatory
Inside Dubai Desert Conservatory
Sand dune ride
Inside Dubai Desert Conservatory
Inside Dubai Desert Conservatory
Sunset in Dubai Desert Conservatory
Sunset in the desert
Sunset in the desert
The sunset makes the sand turn golden
Sunsetting over the horizon
Sunsetting over the horizon
Sunsetting over the horizon
Me in the desert
Sunsetting over the horizon
Sunsetting over the horizon

Dinner in Desert

After some 30 mins of sand dune bashing, we were driven to this large camp site for dinner. The entrance marked the words “Al Sahara”, I guess this is the name of this artificial camp constructed purely to do tourist business. This is where we will be having our dinner for the night. We walked around the camp site, everything looked very fake to me. Oh well, it would be fake since the sole purpose of this camp is to entertain tourists. We found seats by an Irish couple, and we started to chat. The Irish couples are very friendly, we chatted about the places we have been to, our countries. This is the part I liked about traveling, you get to meet and talk to people from all over the world. Dinner was served shortly, first appetizers then main meal and then desserts. There was a belly dancing show after the dinner. It felt like some cheap production as there is only 1 dancer. I didn’t liked it because I find it boring. I have seen better belly dancing. Having said that, I do admire the stamina of the belly dance, who was able to dance non-stop for about 30 mins (perhaps more). After the belly dancing segment, the lights to the camp was shut for about 10 mins, perhaps done so that people can see the starry night skies. After 10 mins the lights came on, we left the camp for the site .

Al Sahara
Up close with a falcon
Desert beyond the fences of Al Sahara
Inside Al Sahara
This is where our dinner was served
Inside the Al Sahara
Getting ready for dinner
Dinner is served
We enjoyed some belly dancing with our dinner
The stamina of this belly dancer is just amazing

Overnight in Dubai Desert

We left the dinner camp for our camp site where we will be spending the night at. Our tent is already pitched up the moment we arrived. Our guide told us he saw a baby falcon earlier on when he was pitching the tent. He said the falcon can be sold for as much as 30,000dh! My friend and I climbed to the nearest sand dune and watched sunsetting. Watching sunset in the desert was rather refreshing. This is a good photographic opportunity, as the day turned into night, the moon replacing the sun to illuminate the desert. Soon star began to blink in the night sky, we spent some time trying to take pictures of the night sky and identifying the various constellations. I can only recognize 2, the Big Dipper and the Orion. We were experimenting with our camera, trying to take good pictures of the stars in the sky. The desert in the night was cooling and emitted a sense of mysticism. After taking pictures, we sat on top of a sand dune, chatting under the blanket of the desert night starry sky. It is a very rare opportunity to be doing this and indeed felt very relaxing. It is a nice feeling. As the guide was waiting for us to retire into the tent before he goes to bed, we got off the sand dune and headed for our tent. As the night went on, the desert wind turned from cool to chilling. I was not well prepared for the desert nights, and did not get too much sleep. Nonetheless I tried to get as much sleep as I could, hoping the sun shine would come sooner to heat up the desert once more. Despite being ill-prepared for the desert nights, spending a night in the desert is a rare chance for a city-dweller such as me. If not for my friend’s suggestion, I would have gave this rare opportunity a miss.

Camping out in the desert
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
Camping out in the desert
Camping out in the desert
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
I can see the big dipper
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
Orion constellation
Orion constellation at the bottom
Starry night
The night desert skies
Orion Constellation
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies
The night desert skies

Dubai Day 2 (12 Mar 11) – An Uneventful Day

Roaming Around in Dubai

Today is a rather uneventful day. I headed to pay for the overnight desert camping trip scheduled for tomorrow. However I was told they did not have my booking and the tour was fully booked! What a stuff up! When I demanded to speak to the superior of the booking agent, awhile later I was told that they could arranged another 2 spots for me. I was thinking imagine if I hadn’t demanded, they would have just leave it as it is. This shows how much customer service they emphasize on. I roamed about the Mall of Emirates for the next 2 hours before heading over to the airport to pick up my friend who would be joining me for this phase of my journey.

Ski Dubai In Mall of Emirates
Roaming around Mall of Emirates
The glass roof in Mall of Emirates lets the sun into the mall
Arabian McDonald’s
Walking around Mall of Emirates. This mall was the world’s largest shopping mall until Dubai Mall was completed

Dubai Mall – The Mega Shopping Mall

After meeting up with my friend, and settling him in to hotel, I brought him to the Mall of Emirates to change some local currency. Our plan for today was to head over to Burj Al Arab for high tea. Once we were at the security gate, I realised that I have mixed up the timing. We were 2 hour late and we missed the high tea. However the staff was kind enough to rebook our high tea session to another date without penalising us. So our plan worked out fine and we are still going for high tea in the finest hotel in Dubai afterall. We then went to Dubai Mall to spend the rest of our day there. As my friend had a long flight, we wanted to take the day easy.

The Burj Al Arab is a fine piece of art
Entrance of Dubai Mall
Around Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall Entrance
Inside Dubai Mall
Inside Dubai Mall
Iranian Kebab for Dinner

After dinner we went to watch the fountain show from ground zero. I had watched it from the tower yesterday. The show was indeed different from here, at the ground floor, I can see clearly how the water fountain danced to the rhythm of the music, while from the top, I can only see circles lighting up. After the fountain show, we went for a movie and then headed back to the hotel to rest for the night.

Fountain at Dubai Mall
Burj Khalifa at night from ground zero
Around the musical fountain
Burj Khalifa shines at night like a star in the Arabian skies
Before the start of the fountain show
And the water dances away with the music
Musical Fountain at Dubai Mall
Musical Fountain at Dubai Mall
Musical Fountain at Dubai Mall
Musical Fountain at Dubai Mall
Musical Fountain at Dubai Mall
Musical Fountain at Dubai Mall
Musical Fountain at Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall at night
 

 

Dubai Day 1 (11 Mar 11) – Goodbye Iran, Hello UAE

From Iran To Dubai

We woke up in time for our final breakfast in Iran, before meeting up with the same driver who would sent us to the airport for my morning flight out of Iran. As we were driven to the airport, Tehran zoomed past us, I reflected our 2800km road trip in Iran. We had covered alot of grounds within a short 10 days, and this is just the tip of the iceberg this amazing country has to offer! During the past 10 days, we have traveled from the desert towns, to snow-capped mountains, into the valleys, and along the coast. From big metropolitan city to small dead towns, Iran does has lots more to offer to travelers who are prepared to look past the stereotypes and truly give his country and its friendly and hospitable people a chance and come to explore this country with riches in historical value. After all Persia was once one of the greatest empire in human history. As I was waiting to board the aircraft sending me to my next destination, I realise how quiet the international airport of this huge country is. As I was sitting at the check-in area of the airport, sipping the cup of coffee that I bought, awaiting for my flight, I can truly feel how much the foreign media stereotype has impact on the visitorship of this country. There are about 1 plane landing or taking per hour, in contrast to the airport back in Singapore where an aircraft lands or takes off every 5 mins! Soon I was on the Emirates flight that would bring me to my next destination – Dubai, and opens the next part of my journey thus far.

One last shot on the streets of Tehran before leaving for airport
Checking into our flight at Tehran Airport
Waiting to board our flight to Dubai 
View from the waiting lounge
Waiting to take off

Arrival in Dubai

When I arrived in Dubai, I had no idea what to expect. I was told that the customs will take 1 hour to clear. I have no idea why it would take that long. Well the “mystery” was soon revealed to me. The reason for such a long delay is due to 2 factors, one is there are alot of people arriving in Dubai Airport, coupled with the fact that the Emiratis manning the immigration counter are working very slowly. My clearance alone took about 1 hour, that is 10 times slower then that of Iran. Anyways, I was glad I cleared the custom, after collecting my baggage we headed for the hotel. After all we have a schedule to meet as our pre-purchased Burj Khalifa ticket is at 6pm. As the taxi departed the airport for the hotel, all I see was tons and tons of skyscrapers, as though each is trying their best to reach for the sky. As our taxi drove past Burj Khalifa, there it is, the winner of the sky scrapper is there. The slender King of Skyscrapers stood there solemnly looking down at the others within the city. I was already feeling excited visiting this tallest building in the world, but that has to come later. Soon we arrived at the hotel, due to the massive check out, our check in took nearly 2 hours. The apologetic staff keep checking on us every 15 mins, trying to update us the situation and the time we can check in. After some 2 hours later, we got the key to our room, and I simply love this room.

Driving towards our hotel in Dubai
On our way we saw skyscrapers and the Burj Khalifa
View from our hotel room
Walking around our hotel

The Tallest Building in the World – Burj Khalifa

After settling our luggage in the hotel and did some laundry, we headed for Burj Khalifa as it is near to 6pm. We took the metro to Burj Khalifa from our hotel and it is very convenient. The metro ride is very comfortable and clean and the ride to Burj Khalifa is took around 20 mins. We walked out of the metro station and there it is, the tallest building in the world stood right before my eyes. In a few minutes time, I will be going up this wonder of the modern world. Meanwhile at the metro station, lots of people taking picture of the tower, as it offers one of the best spot to take picture from. We walked towards the Burj thinking the entrance is at the ground floor, we were stopped by a security member for the tower. We asked if this is the way to the observatory deck of the tower, he said no and told us to go to Dubai Mall to gain access. By now we were running a little late, half thinking that we might refused entry if we were 1 min late. We brisk walked to Dubai Mall through the carpark, and found the entrance. Luckily we were still allowed entry despite being about 15 mins late. Soon we were queuing up at the lift that would bring us up 124 storeys, 424m into the sky. As we were walking towards the lift, there is a video clip that showed the builders of the skyscraper. I was telling my friend, the Emiratis paid the bill for the tower, but it is the Indians who actually built the tallest building in the world. Kudos to them!

Metro system in Dubai
Burj Khalifa – The tallest building in the world
Around Dubai Shopping Mall
The hallway that led to the lift to the observatory deck in Burj Khalifa
The speed lift that is going to take us up over 100 storeys in a mere few seconds

The lift brought us up to the observation deck pretty fast, as soon as we were released from the lift, we headed for the outdoor section of the deck. From here I can see as far as the Arabian coast and part of UAE (the other parts are visible from the indoor part of the deck). There are alot of people visiting Burj Khalifa today, and most of them are from India. At the time of the fountain show (I was thinking of seeing it from above), all the visitors were stuck to the window, there are hardly any space for me to squeeze in and see.  There was this very nice European lady who managed to squeezed out a spot for me to glance at the fountain show. How nice of her. After the show, we walked around a little more and decided to go back to earth for dinner. As I was craving for spicy food, I ordered Indian food. After dinner, we did some walking in Dubai Mall.  The Mall, boasting to be the largest in the world, indeed cannot be finished within 1 day. We skimmed through the mall till about midnight and then took a cab back to the hotel to rest for the night, as my friend has an early flight to catch the next day.

View of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
View of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
View of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
View of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
Soon the city of Dubai lights up for the night
View of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa – The Arabian Coast
View of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
View of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
Night view from Burj Khalifa over the Arabian Coast
Night view of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
There is a musical fountain at the foot of Burj Khalifa
Night view of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
Night view of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
Night view of the surroundings from Burj Khalifa
Watching the musical fountain from the observatory deck
Watching the musical fountain from the observatory deck
Inside Dubai Mall – The world’s largest shopping mall
Indian food for dinner
The Gold Souk inside Dubai Mall
There is an aquarium inside Dubai Mall

 

This was the world’s largest single piece acrylic inside Dubai Mall
Inside Dubai Mall
Around Dubai Mall