This year, I decided to do a Middle East & South East Asia trip. My vacation was at the end of the year and because I can’t stand the cold, I chose a holiday destination in a warm region. The deciding factors for me were having a friend in Singapore and the promise of a good massage in Malaysia.
Welcome to Dubai
So, my trip began with a stop over in the UAE; my first time in Dubai. Dubai is one of seven emirates in the UAE. While Abu Dhabi is the capital city and the richest emirate due to its vast reserves of oil. However, Dubai is the UAE’s tourism centre. When Dubai’s oil reserves were expected to run out, there was a swift diversification into tourism and real estate to offset the potential loss of income.
Everything and I mean everything in Dubai is designed to make you spend money. The city is well organised and clean. New developments are always springing up to make repeat visits interesting and government policies are tourist friendly. English is also widely spoken.
Customs at the border was a breeze and I was picked up by a tour operator from Arabian Adventures. There was a cash exchange office by my hotel, though the airport rate was also just as good, unlike most countries. Nearby was a well stocked mall with a lacklustre design but great variety – Burjuman Centre . I wasn’t able to get a hang of the public transit system, but I was well served by taxis. For tours, I found that the operators are always on time. When they say 7.15pm, they are at your door by 7.05pm!
Smoking seems to be a past time in Dubai and the weather was colder than I expected. Apparently, in Dubai, it’s either very hot or cool (two extremes of the desert), depending on the time of year you visit.
Taking in the sights
A great place to eat is the Bastak or Old Town by the creek, which separates the two sides of Dubai: the city and Deira. Bastakiah Nights restaurant is highly recommended or the Dhow Floating Restaurants. Dhows are wooden ships that were used to transport goods once-upon-a-time. The Bastak has a good nightlife and many of the old buildings are made from Coral. Apparently the building method was taught by the Iranians. The Dubai Museum is also at the Bastak. You can have drinks by the waterside at the Heritage or the Diving Village. Or you can sit quietly by the Silk Plaza to gist. The food in Dubai is very similar to what you’ll find anywhere else in the wood. They have versions of savoury rice, meatballs, lasagna, stew and even something that tastes like tapioca pudding.
A very romantic thing to do in Dubai would be to rent a ship for the night and have a romantic dinner for two while sailing, and then you could fall asleep under the stars. Dubai tour companies can arrange it. There are also fireside dinners in the desert with traditional music and dancing. Though Dubai can be romantic, it’s primarily a city for shopping and experiences, not quiet contemplation. It’s busy and I worry that it may become overcrowded someday, like Singapore. Then, satellite islands will spring up on the water.
Dubai is very well lit and there are so many hotels to choose from. If you like tours, the best ones to go for are the City Tour, Desert Safari and Dhow Boat Ride. The Desert Safari is thrilling but you need a strong stomach for it. It’s like a rollercoaster ride. But, there’s good food, belly dancing and photo opportunities at the end of it.
If you like shopping, it might be best to stay near the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Mercata Mall or the Wafi Shopping Centre. That way you can simply walk to the mall.
On an interesting note, there are no mosquitoes in Dubai. Water is more expensive than oil. (It’s the desert!) Hence, no random stagnant marshes or pools of water for them to breed in. I also noticed that there were no condoms in the convenience stores in the more conservative Emirates adjoining Dubai. I spied an ELEGANZA apartments! Unsure if it’s related to the Nigerian brand.
At the Airport on my way from Dubai to Singapore, I noticed my flight wasn’t called and didn’t show up on the screens. Apparently it was a connecting flight to Australia, so the airport staff kept announcing Australia NOT Singapore. I eventually made my flight though.
And so, that’s how the Dubai leg of my Middle East & South East Asia trip went. Check out the photos here.
To read about the concluding parts of my Middle East & South East Asia Trip, click here.