2016 began with me ticking of two most important things on my bucket list - My first international trip, and my first flight experience. I had been thinking about making an international trip for the longest time and finally decided to visit Dubai!! I cannot even begin with describing what a marvel this place is. Firstly you need a heavy pocket even for a five day trip here. Unless you're really lucky and got some sponsors. Well, I had to literally plan all my expenses before I booked the flight here.
I was lucky enough to have some relatives in the UAE, not in the city centre but a little further ahead - Ras al khaimah. Hence the minimum expenditure.
Staying in Dubai is expensive and travelling is even more expensive.
Spent about 25k on my return flight ticket with Emirates. I booked my flight pretty late which is why I ended up paying so much. Mostly spent on food and travel and visiting a few places which cost approx 10k. Now this is only because I was there with cousins, so most of the times they did not let me spend. Or I am sure I would have spent a bomb.
My cousins took me around pretty much everywhere in their car, so I saved big time on travel. There were a few times I did travel by the taxis and they do charge quite a lot for a short distance (approx 12DHS for 1.5km viz. approx 200INR ). And this Tariff varies in different emirates. Since I was staying at Ras Al khaimah, it was comparatively cheaper than Dubai.
There are buses that connect to different emirates, however they are not that frequent and always take a long route. The metro is only limited to within Dubai city. I noticed one thing here, you need to have your own vehicle to get around. Taxis are expensive and the metro and buses do not take you directly to most destinations.
The roads here can get confusing at times. Specially on highways, if you miss a turn, you will have to go all the way ahead till you reach a roundabout, come back to the other roundabout till your back on the road where you missed the turn..The Road Laws in Dubai are very strict, so you cannot take a turn or drive around anywhere you feel like. This is one thing I wish we had here in India :). First of all, getting a driving license here is a huge achievement. There are radars on most roads, so you cannot exceed speed limits. Even for pedestrians, you cannot cross roads from anywhere you feel like, you can be fined for that.
Coming from Mumbai, a place where anyone drives around wherever they feel like, people walk around like they don't care, this road law just amazed me.
I must say, I'm completely blown away by each and every thing that i have come across in Dubai. From the mad high rises to the cleanest roads to the way they maintain all their marvelous structures. There are zillions of malls around, and lot of dollar stores and marts. The population here is a mixture of Arabs, Indians, Filipinos, Pakistanis, etc. So visiting from India, when you are here, it does not feel like a foreign land at all. Most people speak/understand Hindi, English and Arabic. So there is no way one can get lost either.
I was blown away when I saw the beaches here, the clear blue waters!!! I had always seen images of blue waters, but seeing it for real, I was speechless. Usually due to Dubai's hot weather, the beaches are not too crowded. You will mostly find people from northern countries chilling there getting a nice tan. For all of us who can't stand the heat, visit the beach only when it rains or in winters.
I'm glad I made this trip in January, it is one of the best times to visit, since the weather is pleasant and not as Hot as the rest of the months. In fact I was surprised that it was so cold, with temperatures dropping to 10 degrees.
Another thing I noticed here, the construction never stops.. There are still many marvels in the making. If you are looking at one marvel, there is another one coming up next to it.
I had the time of my life while in Dubai, and I am so glad that after contemplating for the longest time, I decided to go ahead with this trip. Got a lot of memories that I will cherish, the whole experience was so amazing.
I'm gonna list down the beautiful places that i visited in Dubai and RAK
The Dubai mall
This is one massive mall and i managed to see only a quarter of it in half a day. There are quite alot of interesting things inside this mall. The main highlight of this mall is the huge aquarium within it. It has sharks, whales, manta ray and tons of other sea creatures. There are few guys who feed them on a daily basis. I can only imagine the maintenance that goes into this. This aquarium can be viewed by everyone from the outside while they shop. You can also get a closer view; they have a tunnel like entrance which gives you a 180 degree experience of it. But of course there is a charge to it. The mall also has an indoor ski rink.
On the other side of the mall is this man made marvel - the Burj Khalifa surrounded by beautiful musical fountains. How hard does everyone try to get it within the frame of their tiny camera lenses.. These fountains are a treat to watch but they come on only in the evenings post 7pm. There is an amazing fire works show that happens here on New Years Eve and the rush to watch that is crazy.
The Jumeirah Madinat Hotel
This hotel gave me a whole 'agraba' feeling (Aladdin's city). Those small passages with tiny shops along the way, a small creek passing through, small eateries by the creek. This was just beautiful.
The Dubai Miracle Garden
This is the hugest garden I’ve ever been to. It is basically a huge natural flower garden, where every structure is made up of vines of different beautiful flowers. The entry costs 15AED.
I'm totally amazed by the maintenance that goes in this place. It took us about two and a half hours to see each and every corner of the garden. There were houses of different types, monuments, designs – all made of flowers.
The Atlantis Hotel – Palm Jumeirah
This place is HEAVEN!!!. I had watched a documentary on how this palm island was constructed. Being on it for real was an unexplainable feeling. There are few Mono Rails on the island, one is at the Atlantis hotel which is mainly for people to have a better look at everything that is on the island. You get a ticket for 25AED which is a return trip and it gives you a full view of the hotel from the sea front. There were many small row houses, all of which had their doors open to the ocean.. Many complexes with people already living there. All I thought to myself was – these guys are filthy rich!. There were still many other constructions taking place, which means many more amazing things coming up. There is also a water park – Aquaventure. Now, since this place is situated far from Dubai’s natural coastline, it is quite windy and chill even at noon. We were freezing.
The Global Village
This is a huge complex with entertainment, shopping pavilions, restaurants, best products from around the globe. Each country has their own pavilion displaying their speciality and a stage which showcases their cultural performances. It is open from 4pm till midnight and the entry is 15AED. It is best to go at least before 4pm, or it gets crowded and their parking lots will fill up. We somehow managed to see most of the pavilions and there was so much to see around.
Now if you are gonna visit an arab place and not go on a desert safari, your trip is gonna be incomplete. We got this amazing deal on cobone, which was 89AED per person for the desert safari. This price included – Pick up from certain hotels in Dubai, Snacks at the camp, buffet dinner, camel ride, dune bashing, some entertainment programmes like fire dance and belly dance. And you need to book atleast a day or two in advance. We were picked up from the Grand hotel in Dubai. We had a Pakistani driver who was very helpful and informative about the dos and don’t’s and has been in this business for 19 years. On this ride, we were in total 7 of us. From the hotel, it is about an hour’s drive to the Hatta desert. They take you to a camp, where the Car tires are deflated. While they deflate the tires, you can hire a dune buggy for about twenty minutes and ride around.
Once done, the safari begins. The dune bashing was crazy, although I have motion sickness, I did not feel sick at all. After the dune bashing, they take you to another camp, where all the entertainment programs take place. There are several stalls with refreshments, Arabic dressing which you can wear and take pictures in. There’s also a henna artist who will make you a nice design. Then begins the fire dance, followed by the belly dance which was a treat to watch. Their buffet dinner was also very good. All this goes on till about 10pm.
It was a beautiful experience even though I was freezing!!
I also visited Jebel Jais in RAK- The highest peak in the UAE. The drive up to the mountain was about an hour and half. The road to the top is shut when it rains due to occurrences of flash floods. Once at the top, the view was breathtaking, you can see all of Ras Al khaimah. There were people even racing at the top. In winters, the weather at the top of this mountain literally drops to 4 and 5 degrees.
Now that I made my trip, I feel one should visit Dubai at least once in a lifetime.. It took me so long to even publish this trip, because there is so much to say and somehow words are too less to describe much. After editing this post a zillion times for the last six months, I am finally publishing it :)