Hopefully it was not too late to wish all my Chinese friends and others a great health, happiness, success and prosperity in The Year of Horse. Happy Chinese New Year to all.
It was almost 5 years ago, I visited Dubai, a city of excitement that hold the potential for one of the most significant international cities of the 21st century. During that time, Dubai was still in the midst of masive construction, the pace at which Dubai is making progress is mind boggling. Many of Malaysian architect had been hired to work in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and we experience a shortage of manpower in local construction due to the higher tax-free salary. Even our company had opened a branch in Abu Dhabi as we had been few jobs there. Although Dubai had suffered a major deterioration due to the financial crisis on 2008, Dubai has attracted world attention through many innovative large construction projects and sports events. The city has become symbolic for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, such as the world’s tallest Burj Khalifa, in addition to ambitious development projects including man-made islands, hotels, and some of the largest shopping malls in the region and the world. I’ve longed to re-track my foot step in Dubai, to see how’s the city looks like nowdays. It was the right time for me to visit Dubai.. and I glad we did..
As most of the people went back to their hometown, either to celebrate the CNY, or just to spend time with family during this long weekend, I’ve decided utilized the holiday for a short trip together with my travel buddy to Dubai.. It was an ad-hoc trip.. Just few week before our traveling date, I manage to get quite a good bargain for a return ticket to Dubai from Singapore using Malaysia Airlines. I didn’t make any travel arrangement this time, we explore the whole city ourselves. And with help of ‘The Entertainer’ booklet that I bought there, we manage to save a lot in this trip.. I could see Dubai had started to emerged into another phase of construction madness, as Dubai had just won the right to host the World Expo 2020 which just announced last November 2013.
Since our promo flight ticket to Dubai via Singapore.. we had to take a flight first from KL to Singapore.. and the funny thing is, from Singapore, we had to transfer back in KL before heading to Dubai.. The whole journey is KL-Sin-KL-Dubai… By doing this, we save ourselves quite alot.. a direct flight from KL to Dubai will cost us RM2200return, while we only pay for rm1250return for our current arrangement, it’s almost rm1000 saving !!. It’s quite fun actually.. we had our breakfast in Singapore, lunch in KL, and dinner in Dubai.. hahaha.. We arrived Dubai at dawn…. and thanks to the super slow imigration and baggage collection at the Dubai Airport, we only reached the hotel around 9pm. We were happy that we been upgraded to executive room since the normal standard room that we booked earlier was full. The rooms was big enough for the two of us. After refreshing, we decided to proceed to visit the Burj Khalifa, the current tallest building in the world and it’s mega shopping mall, Dubai Mall. Luckily our hotel The York International Hotel, Bur Dubai, located just beside the Al-Fahidi Metro Station, make it easier for us to explore the city by ourselves.
Having to see the Burj Khalifa just in front of me really take my breath away, as 5 years ago, I could only see the unfinished building still in construction from far.. I was quite happy as my main target for this trip to visit the Burj Khalifa had already accomplished at the first night in Dubai. We hang around the Dubai Fountain area while admiring the beautiful scenery of Burj Khalifa at night. I managed to see the last show of the Dubai Fountain, a spectacular harmony of water jets, ligts and music. However, I was quite dissapointed because it was very short, lasting for only 3minutes. We had our late dinner at the open terrace of TGIF, facing the famous Dubai Fountain with the background of Burj Khalifa… a nice way to spend our first night in Dubai. To add to our excitement Dubai is having its annual Dubai Shopping Festival where most of the shopping complex having massive discounts. We were quite surprised that the Dubai Mall shopping area was open until really late.. the whole complex still full with people when we return back to the hotel at 2am.
The next day, we spend the whole day exploring the street of old Bur Dubai and Deira by foot. A morning walk through the Bastakiya Quarter gives one an atmosphere of how old dubai might have been, a reflection of what life was like in Dubai before oil was discovered. Although the buildings have been refurbished and look rather new, I really loved to walked along its narrow and calms lanes and squares which offers a peaceful distraction away from the very artificial of Dubai. After a stroll along the Dubai Creek, we emerged ourselves into the textile and souvenirs at the Bur Dubai souk nearby the abra docks. The Dubai Creek has a very charming atmosphere of old Dubai, due to its old buildings, the old ‘port’, the shops, the creek itself, and the beautiful, wooden ‘abra’s, meaning boats.. At noon, we took the abra across creek, and explore the old deira, the spice souk and the gold souk area.
At night, we took a taxi to the Dubai Festival city, I’m not really keen for shopping, but it’s quite a nice place to stroll around and just chill out in. The Marina walkway along the creek has interesting eateries, with small water fountain display which is nice, stunning view across Dubai looking on to Burj Khalifa. Oh ya.. the Hardrock Cafe Dubai also located at this mall.. Again.. we hang out until almost 2 am here..
The third day was the most exciting day of of trip. We went to the Palm Jumeirah, the world famous man-made island built in a shape of a date palm tree. We spend almost the whole day at Hotel Atlantis area, located at the end of the Palm Jumeirah area facing the wide sea. In the morning, we wander through the Lost Chamber of Atlantis, a large aquarium that give the feeling of the underwater lost world. We also had a great afternoon at the Aqua venture, the best waterpark I have ever been to. There is a wide variety of super fun, super fast thrill rides and even a speed slide that goes through an aquarium. My favorite ride is ‘The leap of Faith’..pushing myself on the edge of an almost vertical drop of a slide, where you reach speeds up to 60kph!! And the best part is, the whole park was very organized that I never had to queue at each rides although the park was very full with visitors.. even the changing room and locker room was very user friendly and comfortable to use.. Although the entrance ticket was very expensive, AED450 p/person for entrance for lost chamber and aquaventure+towel+loacker+1 meal, but it totally worth it.. I would highly recommend this place to anybody. One of the best theme parks I’ve been to so far.. And thanks to ‘The Entertainer’ coupon that I bought at the Dubai Mall the day before, we actually only pay half of the price…
After a great day at the Atlantis, we took the taxi to the nearby Souk Medinat Jumeirah. It is a very picturesque place with lots and lots of little souvenir shops all around a lovely setting. In the old souqs either in Bur Dubai or Deira, the sellers can be quite bit annoying… however here, its nice to be able to have a souk-experience without being constantly hassled by over-zealous stall holders!. We also take really nice photos of the Burj Al Arab at night, on the outdoor terrace there. Very much enjoyed our time here. After that, we took the taxi to the nearby Emirates Mall, famous for first indoor ski slope, ski Dubai. Since we had tried the Ski Dubai before during our first trip, we decided not to play inside and just hang out the mall area until late night.
A friend told me that a trip to Dubai will not be completed without going to the Desert Safari.. hehehehe.. Yeah.. we loved it. We just took the desert safari tour from our hotel. Since the tour only started at 3pm, we fill the morning by walking around the city while having our last minutes shopping spree. From Bur Dubai to Deira.. The old streets of Bur Dubai and Deira never fails me. our eyes are aiming to look for souvenirs to bring back to Malaysia. I bought nice and cheap ‘jubah’ for my family and some chocolate dates for the others. 3.30pm, a 4-wheel drive pick up us from the hotel. As we entered the desert, we had an experience of a lifetime with the sand dunes, my favourite ride. Surfing the sand dunes in a 4×4 is not for the faint of heart. When we stop at the camp, there’s camel ride, ATV and of couse photo session at the desert sand. When it’s dawn, the belly dancing show begin and we also had BBQ dinner there. Sharp at 9pm, we return back to the hotel.
On our last day in Dubai, we went back to Burj Khalifa to go up to the viewing platform called “At the Top Burj Khalifa”. We regret that we didn’t booked the ticket much earlier, as the entrance ticket for the whole day was already sold out. Since it’s already our last day, we had no choice but to buy the alternative expensive immediate entry ticket which cost us AED400.. A normal ticket will only cost AED125… huhuhu.. However, this expensive entrance ticket had allowed us to beat the queue at the entrance and during exits. Slightly disappointed that you can only go up to the 124th floor and not right to the top but even so it was an amazing experience. We went through security checks, a short queue and then into one of the worlds fastest lifts climbing 124 floors in a minute! When we emerge from the lift onto the observation platform it’s the most amazing sight. There are both indoor viewing areas with telescopes and an ‘outdoor’ area which is open to sky. There is also a gift shop and toilet facilities too. The views are spectacular, however, I feel a bit disappointed as its not a clear day with hazy surroundings. Using ‘The Entertainer’ coupon, we also had our late lunch at a nice restaurant called ‘The Red Lobster’ located facing the fountain area. It was delicious !..
The weather was cold most of the time, really unexpected and I had to wear my thin jacket most of the time there. We had a good time in Dubai last week and had some memorable experiences. Although a lots of people said that basically Dubai is the play ground for the wealthy people, I think its still manageable with good planning. No need fancy travel tour, just go by yourself.. Travel like a star, but in a fraction price like we did.. You will be surprised on what can you see and learn in Dubai. I believe in 2020, I’ll be in Dubai again.. Dubai World Expo 2020..