Tag Archives: Dubai

A Trip To The Sun – Part 2

IMG_0250Day 5

On our fifth day it was finally time to see where all the beautiful people lived, and no I don’t mean we were heading home to Larbert! The destination was none other than the Dubai Marina. Another name you might recognise is Jumeriah Lake, which is basically the same thing. This area of town is crammed full of gleaming glass towers with little white boats chugging up and down the marina between the high risers. It simply smells of money and if you have £200,000+ to spare you just might be able to purchase a shoebox sized apartment in it.

Taking a step back. This trip required another saunter down the red line. As we do we like to see everywhere, so instead of getting off at either Dubai Marina or Jumeriah Lake Towers we kept going till the end of the line. Always like to see the end of lines, usually they aren’t that interesting and today was no exception. The terminus at Jebel Ali was in a developing industrial area which is actually not in the city of Dubai, but a few miles out on the border with Abu Dhabi. We liked this station so much we went back for a second trip 20 minutes later when we arrived at Jumeriah Lake Towers without Deena’s hat. Cue much laughter, or maybe I was crying. Either way, back we went…and yes, we found her hat!

Dubai-70D- 25-03-2014 13-24-37Eventually we got off (with hats) at Jumeriah Lake Towers and wandered through the tower blocks to the beach. Weather wise it was very warm, probably the hottest day we had and lazing on the beach wasn’t an option unless we wished to be roasted alive. Therefore we headed for some lunch in a shady cafe before a stroll along the retail section of the Marina. Some ice-cream accompanied us on our walk which ended up with as rejoining the red line at Dubai Marina station.

Dubai-70D- 25-03-2014 16-50-36Much to our surprise, on the way back to the hotel it began to rain – not much, just a few drops. Little did we know! Our enjoyable nightly swim/spa session was followed by our first trip to IZ. All I will say is if you ever go the Dubai Grand Hyatt, which we would both thoroughly recommend, then you must have at least one meal in IZ. The food was delicious, and the complimentary pickle tray & poppadoms were a filling starter in themselves. As was common in Dubai the meal was also very reasonably priced at around £15 each.

Day 6

Dubai-70D- 26-03-2014 08-58-23The rain which had started the previous night as we walked from the metro station kept on coming, and by morning there was a relative torrent flowing through the streets. Something like 1100 traffic incidents were reported due to conditions alien to most of the city’s boy racers. Wondering what to do we decided as we’d been to the end of the red line we might as well go to the end of the green one, and so we did. Like the red’s terminus, the end of the green line at Etisalat was equally uninteresting. Had the feel of a commuter station which was probably busy morning and night but quiet in between. We did see some more typical Dubai housing in a pleasant change from the towers. However, there wasn’t really much to walk to so we simply hopped back on the next train back towards town.

With postcards to post we needed stamps and so stopped at ‘Stadium’ which was as the name suggests next to a, you guessed it, stadium. The venue in question was the Rashid Stadium, home of Arabian League champions Al Ahli. Across the road from the ground was a supermarket called Lulu’s. In here we bought some stamps before having a bite to eat at the adjoining food court.

Back at the hotel our nightly swim/spa session was followed by our second tasty trip to IZ.

Day 7

This was our last full day in Dubai. As the rain had moved away it was another warm and sunny morning so we decided to begin by having a couple of hours by the pool. Has to be said the grounds of the hotel were fantastic. Because the hotel was in a developing part of town it clearly had its choice of land and chose a huge plot with great views of the creek. This meant large, landscaped grounds with a pool snaking between lounging areas. There was also the expected tennis courts, kids areas etc. In short a better hotel set-up you’d be struggling to find anywhere in Dubai.

Dubai-SX50- 27-03-2014 15-32-32After a cuppa, some packing and a breather in our room we got smartened up and ventured out on our last trip. The destination was once again the Dubai Mall. Not only did we want to get some presents for those at home, but we also wanted to witness the ‘Festival of Lights’ which was happening in and around Dubai Fountain each night that week. Dubai Mall meant one last return trip down the red line. Please note if you ever get the metro to Dubai Mall the walkway between the station and the mall is huge i.e. at least half a mile long. Thankfully a succession of moving escalators makes the journey less tiring but it’s yet another example of the cities attempt to keep you inside if at all possible. To make people walk in the sun for this distance in the height of summer would be crazy. Therefore if they want shoppers they need to make themselves accessible – hence covered walkways where possible. After a brief wander we headed for some tea at TGI Friday’s. Luckily for us they had a balcony which overlooked the Dubai Fountain so it was a perfect place for our last meal out. As ever the food was well priced at the almost daft price of about £16 for our two meals with drinks.

Dubai-SX50- 27-03-2014 15-00-56Just as we were finishing our food the clock struck six and this cued an explosion of music, water and light from the fountain below. Was almost like a Dubai version of the one o’clock gun from the ramparts of Edinburgh castle. We soon realised it was only the start. All around the Fountain at the base of the Burj Khalifa were installations and statues decked in lights of all shades and colour. The Khalifa itself sparkled like a 900m Christmas tree with spotlights searching into the darkening night skies. At seven and again 30 minutes later the fountain once more exploded to life. Really was a spectacular sight.

It was soon time to head back to our hotel. There was still time for one last bit of fun as the trains rolling into the metro station were packed like sardines. We let one go before deciding to ‘go native’ and just squash our way in!

Day 8

Dubai-70D- 24-03-2014 12-23-28Unfortunately we had to be up and out of the hotel by 3:30am to meet our arranged pick-up back to the airport. This meant getting up at 2:45 – Deena didn’t even go to sleep! Our lift finally arrived and raced through the still busy streets to the airport. After checking in we had some food and waited for the plane to take us home. As with the flight out it was an enjoyable, if tiring, seven hours. Between eating I filled in time by watching seven episodes of ‘Broadchurch’ on the in-flight TV service. There are actually eight episodes to watch but I only had 20 minutes left after watching the seventh so I’m still none the wiser to what happens at the end – I will need to find and watch the last episode somewhere soon!

Back home it was of course grey and freezing. However, it was home and for all that a small part of you is always glad to return to it.

A Trip To The Sun – Part 1

dubaiSome time before Christmas, Deena and I watched, and enjoyed, all ten episodes of a documentary series about Dubai International Airport. This, allied to an already existing interest in the desert city sparked plans for a trip to see it all for ourselves. Thanks to Netflights we soon had a week booked in the Dubai Grand Hyatt for the end of March 2014. As is the case most years, January and February went in a blur and before you knew it holiday time was fast approaching. Therefore with our suitcases packed, Dirhams (UAE currency) obtained, iPad charged and visitors guides/maps readied the morning of our trip soon arrived.

Day 1

Our flight was direct from Glasgow to Dubai on Emirates. Departure time was just after 1pm, and as is traditional with holidays we were at the airport with nearly three hours to spare. For me the holiday really feels like it’s happening when you get to the airport, and so even if it means hanging around for 2-3 hours it’s still seems like you’re on your way i.e. it’s still exciting!

2014-03-21 11.33.48Our chariot to the Middle East was a Boeing 777-300ER,  the workhorse of the long haul Emirates fleet. Seating was mainly 3-4-3, although on our way out we bagged seats towards the tail of the plane where four rows of 2-4-2 meant we could sit without bothering a third person. Seats were slightly angled away from the window but this meant plenty of space to stick hand luggage between seat and window. Leg room was surprisingly good as I was able to stretch out both under and to the side of the seat in front. Other than the odd ripple of mild turbulence the flight was very smooth and the food and general level of service was excellent.

dubai_bogOur flight lasted just over seven hours and arrived in Dubai with our watches showing 8:30pm. This though was in reality 12:30am as Dubai is four hours ahead of GMT. It was therefore approaching 01:30am when our pick-up dropped us at the steps of the Dubai Grand Hyatt. After checking in we made our way up to room 469 to be met by what was probably the poshest room I’ve stayed in. The bathroom was decked in marble, gold fittings, tiled floors and featured his and her’s sinks. The bedroom was very large with a huge King sized bed. As we were still hungry our first meal in the UAE’s show city was room service, and very nice it was too.

Day 2

When we arrived at the airport the previous night we were informed of a 09:00am meeting in the hotel lobby with the local travel rep. Considering we didn’t hit the hay until gone 02:30am the chances of making this meeting were never very high. I did at least email them to say we wouldn’t be coming and they understood. However, we still got up relatively early and made it down to breakfast before 10:00am. Breakie was included in our package and it took place each morning in the hotel’s ‘Market Cafe’ restaurant. It was a buffet service which had offerings from many different countries. Being safe I stuck with bacon and eggs (veal bacon as of course pork is off the menu in Dubai).

IMG_0006The plan for our first day was to suss out the metro system, plus a possible visit to the Dubai museum – both were achieved. The driverless Dubai Metro system has two lines, a green and a red. Handily, the green line has a stop called ‘Dubai Healthcare City’ which was a five minute stroll from the hotel. We therefore headed here and bought a ticket to get us the two stops to Bur Juman. The idea was to get to a main junction i.e. busier station than Healthcare City, and sort out some form of ticket to last us the week. The answer was a ‘Silver Nol’. For the princely sum of 20 Dirhams (about three pounds) we purchase a silver coloured credit card pass ticket which comes pre-loaded with 14 Dirhams worth of credit. The most anyone can spend on the metro in any day is 14 Dirhams i.e. once you’ve spent this all your journeys are free for the rest of the day, which is nice. Worth pointing out straight away that the metro system is an incredibly cheap way of getting around with journeys of several miles costing barely 70 or 80p.

With our Silver Nols purchased we then moved up one station to Al Fahidi and set out to find the Dubai Museum. As is traditional with Deena and I, we of course proceeded to walk 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Eventually we clicked and returned to Al Fahidi before continuing in the correct direction towards the museum. This museum was in an area called ‘Bur Dubai’ and it isn’t the area where all the jet setters and film stars live – it was more of a working man’s/old Dubai. Eventually after another few wrong turns we finally found the museum. Once again it was ridiculously cheap with entry only 3 Dirhams (50p).

IMG_0059The museum was set in the grounds of an old fort and was split into overground and underground sections. Above ground were bits and pieces of an old house and windtower. A couple of rooms held artefacts and some models of Dubai when it was just a small settlement by the creek. The main part of the museum was underground and therefore out of the sun. Haven’t mentioned the weather so far but needless to say it was sunny and warm with the temperatures hovering between 30-33 degrees. Out of the sun the museum wound its way through several rooms of exhibits, reconstructions, videos and a shop. In all we spent around an hour at the Museum which made it very good value for our 50p.

After the museum we had a late lunch at a nearby cafe before winding our way back the hotel. Dinner on our first night was had at the Market Cafe.

Day 3

dubai_mall1Only being in town for a week we had things planned for at least the first few days i.e. ‘the must sees’. The next of these was the ‘Mall of the Emirates’, which as you may know is a very large shopping centre home to all of the biggest names in the retail business. Even though the Dubai Mall is bigger, and in some ways better, it’s the Mall of the Emirates which is the one which seems to be known around the world. Hence we came here first. This involved a trip down the red metro line and afforded us a distant glimpse of the famous seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab.

IMG_0187The thing which the Mall is possibly most famous is ‘Ski Dubai’. Being Dubai there is of course never any snow so the city decided to make some of its own, as you do. It really was quite a bizarre sight to see all the excited Arabic children rushing around in the snow, sledging down winding, icy runs and all wrapped up against something they rarely experience – freezing cold (temp is maintained at around -3 according to a digital display). Elsewhere chairlifts trundled up and down the slopes as snowboarders raced their way to the bottom. As I said a bizarre, whacky sight but one clearly enjoyed by the locals as it was absolutely packed.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed our daily trip to the spa – steam room, sauna, hot tub, pool i.e. the usual jazz, before once again dining at the Market Cafe. As it happened this was our last evening meal at the Market as we began to get more adventurous as we settled into Dubai, and hotel, life.

Day 4

dubai_mall2As hinted at in Day 3, the other ‘super mall’ in Dubai is the Dubai Mall. This is actually the bigger of the two malls and had two distinct advantages for us. Firstly it was half a dozen stops closer on the red line, and secondly it was right next to another of Dubai’s must see locations, the Burj Khalifa (more of that later). Within the air conditioned confines of the mall we once again wandered for a couple of hours past some of the most famous names in shopping. Has to be said most of the really expensive looking shops were empty as entry is likely to lead to a wallet soon shorn of several thousand pounds. Being in the Middle East we of course had to try some of the local cuisine and I must say the two portions of Cod and Chips purchased from the London Fish and Chip company were absolutely delicious!
burjk1Outside the mall one finds the Dubai Fountain and to your right the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building is a staggering sight up close although you need a flexible neck to see all the way to the top! Sadly we didn’t realise you need to book up months in advance for a trip to the Observation deck on level 124 so we had to content ourselves with simply gawping in open mouthed wonder at the shining marvel.

Back at the hotel our spa session was followed by a meal in ‘Wox’ a Vietnamese noodle bar. Next door to ‘Wox’ was an Indian restaurant called ‘IZ’, which would feature over our next couple of nights.

Continue to Part 2