It’s important to compromise when you’re travelling with someone else, so when Ange suggested we break up our trip home to Auckland from London with some time in Dubai, I was all ears. I normally have one speed when travelling: trying to see as much as possible, but as we were attempting to get rid of jetlag, it kind of made sense to approach things a little differently.
The idea was to spend the first day catching up on sleep, the second lazing in the sun by the pool, the third doing the hop-on hop-off bus, the fourth the Burj Khalifa, with the fifth spent at a water park ……a gradual increase in activity.
We’d found some super cheap flights on Pegasus Airlines – Turkey’s answer to EzyJet which unfortunately got into Dubai’s International Airport Terminal 2 at 3am. Terminals 1 & 3 are on the south side of the airport while Terminal 2 is on the north side – with no public transport between the two.
We were a bit worried about there being no taxis there when we arrived but our online research indicated that this wouldn’t be a problem.
The fleet of taxis waiting at the taxi rank backed that up but one word of warning – the guy at the front of the line who directs you to your cab will offer you a special taxi – it’s only a little nicer but will definitely cost you a lot more, so bear that in mind.
Stick to your guns if you want the regular taxi and if you prefer a female driver be sure to let them know, they have slightly different coloured cars but the price is the same.
A very short cab ride later (most of the cost was due to the AED25 Airport pickup) we arrived at the Le Meridien which is basically opposite Terminal 1. We’d paid for two nights because we wanted to hit the bed straight away on arrival at 4am and couldn’t find anyone offering that much of an early check in. We were happy with our room and got a good catch up on sleep and some pool side relaxation.
The next day we checked out and headed to our next hotel. The schedule called for lazing by the rooftop pool and The Savoy Crest Apartments certainly delivered the goods. We ordered food to have in the cabana area and were impressed with what we got.
The following day we checked in to the Park Regis Kris Kin and then went out to start our tour of Dubai on the Hop On Hop Off buses. We spent all day on the buses going from Deira all the way out to the Dubai Mall and then beyond to the Palm before heading back.
You really get an appreciation of the city – both in terms of its size and character with its precincts of skyscrapers and otherworldly construction.
The following day was activity day – starting at the Dubai Mall for a trip up the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. We could have splurged for ticket to the top but couldn’t justify the additional cost.
|Floor 124 & 125||08:30 – 14:30||AED130 (£26)|
|15:00 – 18:30||AED215 (£43)|
|19:00 to close||AED130 (£26)|
|Floor 148||09:30 – 18:00||AED370 (£75)|
|19:00 to close||AED530 (£107)|
For the money we spent I think it was good value. Going early there wasn’t too much of a queue and the views were suitably stunning. The ability to get outside on the viewing terrace was cool and there was even a VR experience which, while not running, showed that they were looking to expand the experiences available to visitors.
There was an undercurrent of trying to separate tourists from their money though. Photographers were everywhere taking professional photos of visitors and I can see why – it’s really hard to take good photos.
The subject tends to be in the shadow inside the building, while the outside is bathed in the harsh Dubai sunlight making the visitors in darkness or else the outside washed out and without detail.
I could see that they would want an arm and a leg for the photos so pushed (gently) past.
After departing the viewing floors through the gift shop and then descending in the lift and leaving, again through another gift shop, we headed back towards the Dubai Mall. As we made our way through the Mall we saw some pretty cool art (waterfall divers, colourful umbrellas and a replica moon).
An ice skating lesson featuring a harness for the jumps was taking place in the indoor ice rink, and there was an indoor souk compete with plastic camel.
We forgot that our Hop-On Hop-Off bus ticket allowed us free entry into the Aquarium at the mall, but just the size of the glass wall was impressive enough!
Dhow Boat Tour
We then jumped back onto the Hop-On Hop-Off bus and headed back into Old Dubai. Our ticket did include a free hour long cruise up Dubai Creek on a Dhow, so we waited beside the dock in the sun for the dhow to make its way back.
We’d timed it well – and fifteen minutes later the dhow hoved into view. On board, we bought some nuts and a delightfully minty lemonade from Switzerland which reminded me of the Virgin Mojito I’d had at the Savoy Crest.
The cruise up and down the creek did not take long and apart from the call to prayer reverberating across the city and examining the other boats on the harbour, the hour passed without too much excitement. I must admit that it is a relaxing way of seeing the city from a different perspective.
Upon our return we elected to disappear into the souks on the northern bank of the creek. We were lucky that it was a holiday and so the aggressive touts were not in evidence, but the gold, spices and perfumes were still around and evidence of the days when this area was where the goods arrived from all over the known world.
Rather than wait for the bus and go the long way back we decided to try Dubai’s Metro and head under the river back towards the Burjuman Mall and our nearby hotel. This went surprisingly well with the ticket machines easy to operate and the stations big, bright and clean.
When we came down the escalator to the platform we noticed that there were three sections marked out: the front of each train was the Gold section for people who wanted big comfortable seats. The Pink section was women and children only with an AED100 fine for any men caught in the section.
An older male tourist was amusingly right in the middle of it peering myopically up at the station map while being ignored by everyone around him. And then the last of the sections was the regular section.
The metro is automatic and before long we were getting off at Burjuman and grabbing a quick bite to eat at the local Tim Hortons (a Canadian coffee chain). A wrap for Ange and a burger for me, and another iced mint drink – we can’t get enough of it, we resolve to try and make it ourselves when we get back to Auckland.
We picked up our luggage from the hotel and headed out towards the desert to our next hotel, the Ibis Styles Dragon Mart. Travelling out of the centre of Dubai gave us a different view of the city – more in touch with how the locals live away from the glitz and glamour of the high rise skyscrapers.
Out near the outskirts the buildings were low slung one and two story affairs which carpeted the sandy landscape in every direction.
The following morning we grabbed a cab and headed to our final hotel, Atlantis The Palm. We took advantage of the free access to the Aquaventure Waterpark and exhausted ourselves on the rides there.
The following day we used up what remained of our three day pass on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus and did the Yellow Route which visited Dubai Marina.
And then after lunch it was sadly time to make our way to the airport. We grabbed a cab from the hotel to the nearest metro station and then decided to upgrade ourselves to the Gold section for the trip to the airport.
It turns out that the Gold section is at the back of this train so I take some hyperlapse video out the back windows and enjoy the view of the skyscrapers.
We’d just picked up someone who looks like a ticket inspector at one of the stations and as we pull away, Ange asks for the bottle of water and takes a swig.
The ticket inspector decides that second to turn around, spots the drinking and tells her that there is no eating or drinking on the metro and then repeats her admonishment to the rest of the carriage at a louder volume.
I then look up and notice above Ange’s head there is a sign saying there’s an AED100 fine for eating or drinking onboard. Ooops!
The train pulls into the airport without further incident and we manage to get all our luggage to the check in desk. Even more importantly we’re pretty much over the jetlag by day six of our stopover, and ready to face the next leg of the trip: Dubai – Hong Kong – Auckland.