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Old 02-27-2010, 04:20 PM   #1
dolphingirl47
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Manchester, UK
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Sun, Sea, Sand and Camels

Day 1

For the first time after 3 years I do not have to work over Christmas. Originally I was scheduled to work over Christmas, but about 6 weeks ago , I was told that my services would not be required after all. So we decided to head somewhere warm for Christmas. With me working for a Dubai based airline, the decision where to go was easy, especially as I have two free standby tickets for which I only have to pay the taxes. I have been to Dubai once in spring 2008 on duty travel and really enjoyed it. DH was supposed to join me for a few days, but his flight was cancelled so he never made it.

Travelling when working for an airline can be nerve wrecking at the best of times as you are painfully aware just how much can go wrong. Flying standby for the first time when the flight is overbooked does not help either. I spent the day frantically checking the loads to see if we were going to get on the flight. I left work being quietly optimistic that we would get on. I headed straight from work to the airport, where I had arranged to meet DH. As soon as we stepped into the terminal, we got this sinking feeling. The lines for our check in desks went clear across the terminal. After taking a deep breath, I approached our colleagues at the ticket desk. They advised that we should proceed to the business class check in to register and to have our luggage tagged, but that we would not find out whether we would get on the flight until 19:15 for a 20:10 flight. I was not impressed, especially as we recently opened a business class lounge at Manchester airport and we had been granted lounge access. However, there was nothing to be done. Fortunately we just got ourselves a shiny new ticket desk with its own seating area. So we made ourselves comfortable. I know most of our colleagues at Manchester airport as I have helped them out on a number of occasions when we had flight disruptions. Quite a few colleagues came by to say "hi" while we were waiting. It was actually quite interesting to see what they deal with on a day to day basis.

About 18:20 the check in supervisor came by to say that things started to look a bit better and that he would get us checked in as soon as possible. Ten minutes later we were given the go ahead and were checked in. They even had saved us two seats together at the back of the aircraft. There was nobody in front of us at security check and we just breezed right through it.

We did make it to the lounge, which is absolutely gorgeous. One of my former team members transferred to the lounge when it opened and he gave us the full guided tour. Then we sat down and had our dinner. Fortunately food is served buffet style, so we actually had time to eat. DH had rack of lamb with assorted vegetables and roast potatoes followed by apple pie and custard and I had cottage pie, with vegetables and bread followed by fruit salad. This was even nicer as it was washed down with champagne. All too soon it was time to get on the plane.

The flight went very smoothly. DH had another dinner on the flight, but I just watched a film and then put on my favourite musical Les Miserables and went to sleep.
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Old 02-27-2010, 04:21 PM   #2
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Day 2



We arrived in Dubai on schedule. Since I had last been to Dubai, we changed terminals as we now have our own dedicated terminal. The approach to the airport in Dubai is really interesting as you can see landmarks like the Burj Al Arab, the Palm islands and The World.



I also love seeing all our aircraft and I had plenty of opportunity as we were parked off stand and had to take a bus to the terminal building. DH actually saw an Airbus A380 parked next to one of our Cargo 747s and he said that the 747 was absolutely dwarfed by the A380. Unfortunately I missed this. What I did not miss was some light rain. I could not believe it. Dubai gets very little rain, but it was definitely raining that morning. Still, it was nice and warm.



I know that in my last trip report I mentioned that Atlanta must be the best organized airport in the world. I still believe this, but Dubai airport must be a close second. Dubai definitely wins the award for the quickest I have ever cleared immigration. We did not have to wait at all and in less than 5 minutes we both had our visa stamps and were on our way. Next up was the baggage hall, which is huge. We were directed to the right carousel and while DH went to the bathroom, I got our entire luggage. I was kind of amused by the dedicated luggage carousel for First and Business class customers and gold frequent flyers. They have comfortable arm chairs and are served coffee and dates while they are waiting for their luggage. I have never seen this anywhere else.



Once we cleared customs, we got some cash and then went in search of a taxi to get us to the hotel. We were soon approached by somebody asking us if we needed a taxi. It did not turn out to be a metered taxi, but a town car, but for GBP15, it was not worth to quibble.



It was DH’s first time in Dubai and he was not quite sure what to make of it. I had been once before, but I was shocked how much it has changed in about 18 months. Dubai must be the fastest changing place in the world.



We got to our hotel at about 9:00 and check in is normally not until 15:00. So I was not in the slightest surprised when they told us that the room was not ready. They pointed us towards the coffee shop where we rehydrated with some coffee and juice. We had not even finished our drinks when the receptionist came to let us know that our room was now available so we finished our drinks and headed for our room, where we headed straight to bed for a few hours.



We were actually quite surprised how big a deal Christmas was considering that Dubai is an Islamic country. There was a huge Christmas tree in the foyer, Christmas carols were played in public areas, the coffee shop had been decorated like a giant gingerbread house and the staff were dressed up with Santa hats or antlers. We go woken up by Carol singers that were performing in front of the restaurants.



Once we were awake, we opened our Christmas presents and then we headed to the hotel swimming pool. Going swimming in an outdoor pool on Christmas Day was a new experience for me. The hotel has a rooftop pool on the 36th floor and there was some wind-chill. So after swimming a few laps and enjoying the hot tub for a while, I wrapped myself up in my towel and enjoyed the view. The skyline of Dubai is stunning and we watched the sunset from the pool deck.



Once the sun had set, we headed back to our room to get showered and changed before heading down to one of the hotel restaurants. Christmas dinner was a new experience for us as well. They did serve a traditional Christmas dinner at the coffee shop, but we opted to have dinner at their signature Thai restaurant. The hotel is part of a Thai owned chain. We had a whole Thai feast and the food was gorgeous. After dinner we were ready for our bed. We enjoyed the view from our room for a while and then fell asleep.
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Old 02-27-2010, 04:26 PM   #3
dolphingirl47
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Day 3



We had very little planned for the holiday, but the one thing that I had planned happened that day. I had booked a sunset dessert safari for that afternoon. This meant that we had the morning and half of the afternoon free. We had a lie in and then headed down to the coffee shop for an early lunch. Once we had eaten, we went exploring for a bit. Dubai as recently opened their new Metro system and we had a Metro station a short walk from the hotel. So we went to check this out. We also had found that the Dubai Mall was within walking distance from the hotel and even though we had to cross a major road there were actually traffic lights (very rare in Dubai), which made it safe to do so. So we had a look at this as well.



The Dubai Mall is pretty impressive. It is the largest shopping centre in the world at present. We got as far as the huge aquarium and then just admired it. The aquarium is an attraction in its own right and they charge admission. However, part of the aquarium opens out into the shopping centre and you can just stand in front of the huge glass panels and admire the view.



We only had a short period of time to have a look around before we had to go back to the hotel to get ready for our dessert safari. The driver was a little late picking us up, but he called to let us know. We were sharing the 4 x 4 with a family of 4 from France. While we were driving out to the dessert conservation area, our driver pointed out various landmarks to us and told us a bit about Dubai. Once we got to the dessert, we got out of the car until all the cars had met up and until they had deflated all the tires a bit. To give the cars more traction on the sand, they have to reduce the tire pressure. We walked up one of the dunes and enjoyed the view.








Once everybody was ready, we got back into the cars for some “dune bashing”. This feels like riding a natural version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. After about 20 minutes or so we stopped for a soft drinks break and after a further 20 minutes or so, we were on our way again for some more “dune bashing”. This time round we stopped near a high dune so that we could watch the sun set from the top of the dune. DH had set up his telescope and he actually saw some Oryx. Oryx is a type of gazelle that lives in the dessert. When I had done this safari on my previous trip to Dubai, there were some Oryx right by the road. This time we not so lucky, but I am glad that DH at least saw some in the distance. After this, it was a short drive to the camp.











At the camp, we were greeted with Arabic coffee and dates. There was the opportunity for a short camel ride just outside the camp. DH really wanted to have a go at this and I decided to be brave as well. However, a camel is awfully bumpy and quite tall. I just freaked out. I simply did not feel safe. So they made the camel kneel down again and I got off in a hurry. DH had his ride on his own, but commented that it was not the most comfortable of experiences.





After he had his ride, we went into the camp proper and found a table. The camp is made up of Bedouine tents with low tables and cushions instead of chairs. DH had brought set up his telescope in a quiet corner whereas I had my hand painted with a traditional Henna design. There was also the opportunity to smoke the Shisha (water pipe), but as neither of us smokes, we gave this a miss.



Soon afterwards, traditional Arabic starters (flat bread with herbs and cheese, cheese puffs, cheese and spinach puffs, falafel and chicken rolls) were served. After the starter buffet was cleared, the main course was served. This consisted of grilled chicken, lamp chops, beef meatballs, hummus, various salads and breads, olives and vegetable curry. Everything was really tasty. There was a free bar serving wine and beer as well as various soft drinks. For desert there was Baklava. I had grown up with Baklava as my best friend at school was Turkish, but for DH, it was something new.



After dinner, we went to look at the photos that were taken during DH’s camel ride and bought a couple. We got another drink while there was a Belly Dancer performing. Once her performance was finished, they switched off all the lights for star gazing. This is what DH had really brought his telescope for. Unfortunately it was quite cloud so he did not see as many stars as we had hoped for.



Once the lights came back on, we headed back towards the car. When everybody was back, we drove back to the gates of the dessert conservation area along the service road. We had to wait our turn to re-inflate the tires. We dropped off the other family at one of the beach hotels before our driver took us back to our hotel. We had a wonderful day, but were more than ready for our bed.
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Old 02-27-2010, 04:27 PM   #4
dolphingirl47
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Day 4



We had another lazy morning where we did not get up until nearly lunchtime. My plan had been to check out the public transport system a bit more and have a ride on the Metro. Well, this did not go quite according to plan. I walked up to the Metro station and found out more about the public transport network and the ticketing options. They have something similar to an Oyster card in Dubai. It is called a Nol card and it can be used on all buses, the Metro and the Waterbus. The main difference is that this is available in different classes. All versions can be used on the buses and the waterbuses, but for the purpose of the Metro, if you buy a silver card, the carriages you used are divided into carriages for men only and carriages for women and children only. The only mixed carriage is the gold coach, which is essentially first class and for that you need a gold card. So that is what I decided to go for. I was all set to get the cards and then get exploring. Unfortunately neither my debit or credit card would work in the reader even though both had more than enough money in them. There were three cash points there as well, but none of them would give me money either. So I headed back to the hotel to see if DH was still about as I had given my cash to him for safe keeping and had forgotten to retrieve it. He had gone off for his adventure. He had a look at the Burj Khalifa and the surrounding area and even managed to get inside, but only as far as the ground floor.

Out of cheer stubbornness, I tried the cash machine in the hotel and had no problem getting money there. Unfortunately by then it was too late for what I had planned and I just decided to go for a walk along Sheikh Zayed Road. Sheikh Zayed Road is the main business centre of Dubai, with plenty of office buildings, but also plenty of hotels and restaurants plus a few shops. There is some fascinating architecture along there and it was a beautiful sunny day. Even though it was not what I had planned, I really enjoyed a lazy day just wandering around.

When I got back to the hotel, I spent some time planning what we were going to do the following day and then I headed up to the pool deck on the rooftop, where I met up with DH to watch the sunset. Being so high up, it was fascinating watching the rush hour as well. Once we got bored of the view, we headed back to our room to relax for a bit.

Dinner that evening was in another of the hotel restaurants. This was an international buffet and we really enjoyed the meal there.
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Old 02-27-2010, 04:38 PM   #5
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Day 5

We actually managed to get up in the morning this time round and had a nice breakfast in the hotel coffee shop. Our plan for the day was to visit the local nature reserve, which is at the end of Dubai Creek. Over the winter months, they have a lot of Greater Flamingos there. This was something I really wanted to see. So after breakfast, we went outside the hotel and flagged a taxi. When I told the taxi driver where we wanted to go, he turned decidedly pale. He had never heard about this place and had no idea how to get there. I had a map in my guide book and I gave this to him, but that still did not help. In the end he stopped at an industrial estate nearby and the security guard pointed us in the right direction.

This must be the strangest nature reserve I have ever been to. It is right next to a busy motorway and only about 10 minutes away from the major hotel and business area. It is also surrounded by building sites. The nature reserve has three bird hides, but there are no path linking them. So you either need a car to drive to the different bird hides or you have to walk beside a very busy road. Fortunately the bird hide where the Flamingos can be found was right next to where we were dropped off.

It was absolutely amazing seeing the Flamingos so close and in the wild. We sat there for quite a while just admiring them. DH had brought his video camera, but was advised that he could not film the Flamingos. Still photography however was OK. Apart from the photos I took of the birds, I also got some stunning photos of the Dubai skyline.













Once we had enough of admiring the Flamingos, we decided to head for the historical part of Dubai. Of course we were in the middle of nowhere with a major motorway between us and civilization. We decided to just walk to the end of the layby in front of the nature reserve and try to flag down a taxi. Within less than 15 minutes, we were successful.

We asked the driver to drop us near the Gold Souk. What I love the most about Dubai is the contrast between the ultra modern and the old and tradional. We had a walk around the Gold Souk first. Unfortunately we were constantly stopped by people trying to sell us fake designer goods. Even though this was annoying, at least they took no for an answer. From the Gold Souk, we walked to the Spice Souk. I was a little disappointed with this. When I was in Dubai in Spring 2008, there was a number of shops selling cheap tat, but the majority of the shops and stalls actually sold spices. Unfortunately the first type of shop has virtually driven the second kind of shop out. There were maybe about half a dozen of the traditional spice stalls left.

We then walked down to the Creek to cross over to the other side. The transport across the Creek is by Abra (water taxi). The Abras are little wooden boats that have been built in the same way since medieval times. The only thing that has changes is that they now have engines. The fare is 1 Dirham per person (about 20 Pence). People always say that you cannot say that you have been to Dubai until you have crossed the Creek on an Abra. The crossing only takes about 5 minutes. Right next to the Abra station is Dubai Old Souk. This was new to me as well and somewhat classier than its counterparts on the other side of the Creek.

I actually ended haggling for the first time, and entirely against my will. While we were walking along the souk, one of the sellers handed me a beautiful cashmere pashmina. I really liked the colour and it felt lovely. He invited me to come back to the shop with him and showed me other colours. I picked up a second one and asked for the price. I nearly fell over at what he quoted me. Seeing my reaction, he kept lowering the price, but it was still far more than I was willing to pay. He asked me for a price I was willing to pay, which I gave him. Initially he just laughed. I started to head out of the door and he would not let me leave. In the end we agreed on a price that was only 25 Dirham (ca. 3 Pounds) higher than what I had told him. I was very happy with my purchase. I was even happier when I realized that the price he had originally quoted for the two pashminas was still lower than the going rate for one at the shopping centres. So I got a real bargain and I really love the pashminas.

After the shopping, we headed towards and area with refurbished traditional wind houses called Bastakiya. I really liked this on my previous visit to Dubai. There were loads of quirky little shops, galleries and restaurants there. On the way there, we walked past the Dubai Museum and decided to have a look. I briefly visited this as part of a city tour on my first visit, but we only had about 10 minutes. The museum is really interesting covering the history and culture of Dubai. We both enjoyed this.

After the museum, we headed over to Bastakiya. I was so disappointed. Most of the wind houses have been locked up and all the quirky shops and galleries have gone. This was the first time it really hit me that Dubai is struggling financially. Still, we had a walk around and they had a living display of a bedouine camp near the entrance. They even had a camel there. Once we had walked around for a bit, we found a coffee shop that was open in one of the wind houses. They actually sold Starbucks products. We sat in the courtyard and had coffee and a cake. This must be the most unusual Starbucks that I have ever encountered.

Once we had finished our coffee and cake, we headed back to the Abra station to cross the Creek. We were offered to charter an Abra for an hour’s tour along the Creek. They quoted us a price of 100 Dirham (about 15 Pounds) and we jumped on this over. Our driver first took us up past the diving and heritage centre, which has more wind houses, and past the house of one of the previous rulers of Dubai. He then turned around and we went past various government buildings and palaces as well as loads of the traditional dhows. We got stunning views of Dubai. It might not have been the most comfortable experience as the Abras are extremely basic, but it was a lot of fun. When we were dropped back to the Abra station, we took one of the normal Abras to cross the Creek again.

We walked through the Spice Souk again to get to the bus station. Unfortunately the Gold Souk was still closed as this closes for a number of hours during the middle of the day. We decided to head to the Dubai Mall for dinner.

The bus station at the Dubai Mall is near the new Dubai Fountain. At certain time in the evening they have a show with dancing fountains, music and lasers. Supposedly you can see the lasers from space. We missed this, but the fountain was still impressive all lit up.

As soon as we entered the Dubai Mall, we saw the biggest Christmas tree I had ever seen. We had a walk around their Gold Souk area and unlike the one in town, nobody tried to sell us fake designer stuff there. The good thing is that in Dubai, gold has to be sold by weight so there is no difference where you buy it. I was not in the market for any jewellery, but I loved just window shopping.

We had dinner at Macaroni Grill. There are a number of American restaurant chains in Dubai. Apart from the fairly international chains like Chilis and TGI Fridays, they also have Applebees, Ponderosa and Macaroni Grill. We had considered eating there when we were in Florida, but never actually came across one apart from at the airport. The food was very yummy. We shared an appetizer sample and then I had a sampler with Chicken Parmigiana, Lasagna and Chicken Cannelloni. The food was yummy, but the view was even better. The restaurant was open plan and backing onto the aquarium. We were lucky enough to get a table near the aquarium as well. We watched all the sea life swimming past. They also had people diving with the sharks. To get an idea of the size of the aquarium, they even offer glass bottom boat tours of the aquarium. During our meal we saw the boat go by a few times. They are also feeding the fish from the boats so we saw loads of fish whenever the boat came by. This definitely was a memorable meal.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and headed to bed as we had an early start the next morning.
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Old 02-27-2010, 04:39 PM   #6
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Day 6



We had another early start. Just over a year ago, they opened Atlantis The Palm. I was absolutely fascinated by the original Atlantis in Nassau/ Bahamas and would have loved to visit their water park, but the only way you can do this in Nassau is via a shore excursion sponsored by the cruise line. Disney’s prices for this are insane, so we never visited the Atlantis. The Atlantis at Dubai is a different proposition. You can just go there and get a day ticket for their water park or a combo ticket for the water park and the aquarium. This was too good to pass up.



This was the furthest we were planning to go while we were in Dubai. Taxis in Dubai are very good value, but this would still have cost us a fair amount. So we decided to do the first half of the journey on the Dubai Metro. The Dubai Metro is kind of a cross between the Docklands Light Railway on steroids and a monorail. Like the Docklands Light Railway, it is driverless, but it does not run on a track, but on magnets similar to a monorail. In most coaches, there is a strict separation of men and women. However, they also have a gold coach. This is like a first class and is a bit more expensive, but the seats are more comfortable and it can be used both men and women. We got a card that allowed us to travel on the gold coach.



Only a few Metro stations are open at present. The one closest to our hotel was open and there is also a Metro station at the Mall of the Emirates. The Mall of the Emirates is about half way between our hotel and the Palm Jumeirah, where the Atlantis is located. So we took the Dubai Metro to the Mall of the Emirates and then get a taxi for the rest of the way. This worked out very well.



The Palm Jumeirah is fascinating. The whole palm-shaped island is entirely man-made and reclaimed from the sea. There are a number of different apartment complexes on the island as well as the Atlantis, which is at the far end of the Palm Jumeirah.



The Atlantis is first and foremost a 5 star beach hotel, but it has The Lost Chambers aquarium, Aquaventure Water Park and Dolphin Bay, which makes this a major tourist attraction as well. We walked from the taxi drop off point through a little shopping arcade and past The Lost Chambers to the ticket hall. I was quite surprised that there were still tickets for their dolphin interactions available for the same day. They offer both a shallow water dolphin interaction and a dolphin swim. However, as tempting as this was, I decided against this. We decided to get a combo ticket for Aquaventure and The Lost Chambers. Aquaventure closed at 17:00, but The Lost Chambers is open much later so we did not miss out on any watery fun.



We hired a locker and towel. They also encouraged us to add money to our wristband so that we did not have to carry money around with us. As this was fully refundable, we went for this. We walked up to the closest entry point to the “lazy River” and left our towel and sun lotion on one of the sun loungers. We grabbed a twin inner tube and we were ready for some watery fun. The first surprise element was a waterfall, but we managed to avoid this. We were peacefully floating along, when we suddenly came across an uphill conveyer belt. I started to get a little alarmed. I know from what I had read about Aquaventure on the Bahamas that you no longer have to walk up to the slides and that you are transported between the lazy river and the slides by conveyer belt. So I checked with one of the lifeguards and they assured me that this was indeed the right way for the lazy river. So we headed up the conveyer belt and some of the way down again on the other side. We ended up in the lazy river again, but after a short journey, we came up to a short slide. They actually have white water rapids as part of the lazy river. This is so much fun. Going once around the lazy river, we had to navigate two sets of conveyer belts and 7 sets of rapids. I think Orlando should have a good look at Aquaventure. This is the best water park I have ever been to, even though I swallowed quite a bit of water.



After we had gone round the lazy river/ rapids twice, we decided to float down one of the side arms that went off the lazy river. This led us to the so called “Wave Pool. This was a bit of a disappointment at first as it was a question of blink and you missed it. However, it led to something that was a great deal of fun. I suddenly saw a sign saying “The Torrent” and again I got this sinking feeling. However, what expected us was even more fun than the rapids. There was another river, but this one had a wave machine. Every few yards, you encountered a wave and it was like surfing in an inner tube. After we had a few goes on this, we headed back into the rapids and back to our starting point, where we escaped the watery fun for some dry land.



We had a bit of a wander around and had some lunch. The menu was pretty typical theme park fare, but it was better quality. The burger meal that we had was rather yummy. I also encountered some old friends. They have grackels at the Atlantis. I started to wonder if I had somehow ended up in Florida.



After lunch we went to see the private beach. Beach access is included in the ticket price. I was really disappointed. I previously visited a beautiful public beach in Dubai with soft white sand and this was just packed white mud. DH put his feet into the water, but we did not stay long.



The next stop was Dolphin Bay. I was not sure how far we would get. However, they have a seating area overlooking the dolphin lagoon, where people are waiting for their dolphin interactions and we were allowed to just stand there and watch. The Atlantis has had a lot of bad press about their dolphin facility and there have been accusations made that they caught their dolphins in the wild off the Solomon Islands. Well, the dolphins did come from the Solomon Islands and they had previously been wild dolphins. However, they were stranded and were not able to be safely returned to the wild. So Atlantis said that they would take them. Even knowing that they saved those dolphins’ lives, I was still not sure what to make of dolphins owned by a hotel. Well, I need not have worried. The facility that they have there is at least on par with Discovery Cove, if not even a bit better. The dolphins were well looked after and looked happy. What really swung it for me was that dolphins that were not involved in the interactions and were in some of the other lagoons were obviously itching to join in with the fun. The next time we go to Dubai, I will definitely do a dolphin interaction there. I spent a happy hour or so just observing the dolphins. We then headed back to the entrance and there was a golf cart there, which provides a shuttle service between Dolphin Bay and Aquaventure. So we got a ride back.



We had a walk around the water park itself and had a look at some of the slides. Most of them are water coasters, where you are propelled up inclines by jets of water. It looked fascinating, but the lines were very long, so we passed. We headed back for the Rapids and then for the Torrent river. At some stage we decided to abandon our twin inner tube and go for two single inner tubes. This was a totally different experience from riding doubles. While I was happily floating along, one of the photographers caught up with me. At certain points during the Rapids as well as in the wave pool they have photographers. This was a novel concept for me.



Once the sun was going down and it started to get cool, we got showered and changed. We still had The Lost Chambers to look forward to. I don’t think this is quite as big as the aquarium at the Dubai Mall, but it was still very impressive. The whole area was brilliantly themed and there was an amazing variety of fish from tiny and very colorful fish to a whale shark. The whale shark in particularly fascinated me. The only thing that let this aquarium down was that there were no signs or anything to tell you what you were looking at. The really dropped the ball there.







When we left The Lost Chambers, the line for a taxi was huge. Throughout the day we had seen a monorail going backwards and forwards, so we decided to check this out. The monorail took us back from Atlantis to the gateway station on the mainland. At the gateway station, there were signs for busses and taxis, but we did not find either. We walked along the road leading to the Marina in the hope that we would come across either a bus stop or a metro station. Eventually we did come across a bus stop. What struck both of us while we were wandering around aimlessly, was how safe we both felt. There are not many places where you could safely just wonder around.



Getting back on the bus, we got stuck in the Dubai rush hour. We had to take two different busses to get back to our hotel and it took us about 3 hours to get there. We were really tired when we got back. We had a quick bite to eat at the hotel coffee shop and then headed for bed.
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Old 02-27-2010, 04:42 PM   #7
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Day 7



After two early starts, we had another lazy morning. Originally the plan had been to fly home on that day, but after I looked at the loads, we decided to extend our holiday by an extra two days. Unfortunately the hotel we were staying at for the first 5 nights was fully booked over New Year’s Eve, so we had to book another hotel for the last two nights. I was very sorry to lose the fantastic view that we had from our room.








Once we were up and about, we decided that we did not fancy breakfast. So we packed and headed downstairs to check out. A taxi was waiting in front of the hotel and we took the taxi to our new hotel, which was a Holiday Inn in Deira (one of the older parts of Dubai). We checked in, but because it was still morning, our room was not ready for us. We left our luggage at the hotel and headed for the beach.



The hotel concierge had directed us to the nearest bus stop, but we waited for ages and no bus turned up. So we flagged down a passing taxi. Our destination for the day was Jumeirah Beach Park. I fell in love with this the last time I was in Dubai and I really wanted to show DH this. It is a public beach, but there is a small admission charge (about 80 Pence per person) and the beach is beautifully clean with soft white sand. We had fortunately brought our wetsuits. It was a warm sunny day, but the water was a little chilly. When I had been there in April, it was bathtub warm. Still, after the initial shock, we managed to stay in there for quite a while. We swam out to the boundary rope and then just treaded water watching water sports going on at the other side of the rope. I started to feel a bit chilly after a while and swam back to the beach. DH followed shortly afterwards and we decided to get some lunch. They have a little café at the beach that sells fried chicken, burgers and other fast food. We both went for some chicken and it was rather nice as far as fast food goes. After lunch, we headed back into the sea for another swim.



Once we were duly chilled, we got showered and changed. We discovered some nice covered alcoves with benches on the boardwalk that leads to the park proper. So we sat down and just enjoyed the warmth. After a while, we headed into the park and sat down again watching the local wildlife.



Once we had enough sunshine for the day, we decided to find a bus. We took the bus route that goes along Jumeirah Beach Road. This is one of the more affluent areas in Dubai and also where a lot of the 5 star beach hotels are, so it was an interesting bus ride. The bus went all the way to the Ibn Battuta Mall. Ibn Battuta was a medieval Arabic explorer. The mall is very richly themed and the different areas each represent a country or area that he traveled to. It is really beautiful and there are loads of educational displays as well. Persia was my favourite area and the only area that was somewhat disappointing was Egypt. I thought this could have done better. Other areas were China, Morocco and Andalusia. The whole effect is rather striking. The shops were nothing to write home about. They are mainly shops that we have in the UK like Next, River Island, Debenhams, etc. The prices are pretty steep as well. However, it was well worth going from the sightseeing point of view. We did however have some gorgeous ice cream at Marble Slab Creamery.



I also found out that day that ATMs in Dubai definitely hate me. We started to run a little low on Dirhams so I decided to get some more. I tried 10 different ATMs all from different banks and none of them would give me any money. I knew that there was plenty of money in the account. In the end I got lucky using an ATM from the same bank that also operates the ATM at our first hotel. I still don’t understand why this bank is able to accept my card and the others are not. I had no problems at all the last time I was in Dubai.



Once we had done enough sightseeing, we took the shuttle bus to the closest Metro station. This is currently the last Metro station on one end of the line. There is a Metro station about 200 yards from the hotel, so this worked really well.



When we got to the hotel, we were given our room key. We asked for our luggage and were told that this would be brought up to our room. So we headed up to our room and waited. We both needed a shower and we were hungry. So I went back down and asked if I could not just take the luggage up myself. Suddenly a porter was called and he brought up our luggage straight away.



Once we were showered and changed, we decided to get something to eat. According to the hotel directory in the lift, there are two restaurants and a bistro in the hotel. However, the restaurants no longer exist. So we headed up to the top floor and checked out the bistro. Even though it looked like a cafeteria, they had a good selection of food. DH had a Middle Easter grill platter and I had Nasi Goreng with Chicken Satay, which was yummy. We had a quick look at the rooftop terrace and then headed to bed.
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Old 02-27-2010, 04:44 PM   #8
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Day 8

This was our last day in Dubai. There was still a lot we would have liked to have done and seen, but we had run out of steam. So we decided that we just have to make sure that we come back before too long.

I had found out that there is a German restaurant at one of the 5 star hotels that was not too far from our hotel. As it was New Year’s Eve, we decided to walk over there to see if we could get a reservation. The menu looked very promising, but unfortunately all the restaurants were closed that night and they were putting on a big gala buffet instead. The price for that was outrageous and it also started too late as we had a an early morning flight the next morning. Still, the hotel was very beautiful so I had no regrets about this little detour.

We had planned to visit the Deira City Centre Shopping Mall that day so we decided to find a bus. Unfortunately buses seemed to be in short supply again so we ended up taking a taxi. This is one of the older shopping centres in Dubai, but it holds two attractions for me: the only Lush shop in the United Arab Emirates is there. I try to visit as many Lush shops as I can. They also have an Emirates shop in there and I was looking for a model of the Airbus A340-500 to complete my collection.

As we had not got around to breakfast, we were quite hungry when we got there. It was lunch time as well, so we decided to get something to eat. We ended up going to Chilis. We had a lovely meal there. One thing was quite amusing. I wondered why the cocktails were so cheap. Alcohol is readily available in hotels and nightclubs in Dubai, but is very expensive. Then I suddenly remembered that restaurants outside hotels are not licensed in Dubai. So all the cocktails were alcohol-free. This was very welcome. I am a firm believer in “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” so I did not drink any alcohol in Dubai. We both had Virgin Margaritas, me with cherry and DH with strawberry. The were lovely and very refreshing on a hot day.

After lunch we went exploring. A lot of the shops were European again, but they have one area where you can buy traditional Arabic clothes and perfumes. I loved browsing the shops in that area. I also had a look at the Lush shop, but the products were the same as in the UK (often different coutries have a few special products that are only available in that country) and the prices were much higher than back home. So I did not buy anything. The second shop did not want my money either. As soon as I entered the Emirates shop, I saw the model of the aircraft I wanted, but when I asked for it, I was told that they had sold out and were not able to sell me the display model. To make up for the disappointment, we got an ice cream. This time it was Coldstone Creamery that got our business.

Once we had our ice cream, we decided that we were all shopped out. We had originally planned to head back to the hotel, but decided that we wanted to ride the Dubai Metro to its terminus at the other end of the line. So we did this. We went past the new Emirates head quarters, but unfortunately the Metro stop there is not open yet. If it had been, I would have had a quick look. When we got to the terminus station, we changed platforms and took the next train back to the hotel.

After we had packed, we decided to get something to eat at the hotel before getting an early night. However, the only restaurant in the hotel had been hired out for a private party. They served food in the bar that night, but the air in the bar was verky smoky.

We were in bed long before midnight on New Year’s Eve. DH slept through it all, but I woke up just before midnight as it suddenly got noisy. People obviously were congregating on the roof-top terrace and there was a lot of laughing and singing. What I really liked was that there were no fireworks. Instead there were people driving by honking their horns. This is altogether more civilized.
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Old 03-01-2010, 02:29 PM   #10
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fab holiday
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Old 03-02-2010, 07:08 AM   #11
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What a great holiday Corinna, and photos too
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Old 03-03-2010, 03:30 AM   #12
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A very interesting report of your adventures in Dubai. It is always interesting to hear about different destinations. I found this fascinating. Thanks for sharing. I don't think I would have been too happy on that camel either .... they always look too miserable and a bit smelly
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Old 03-03-2010, 02:16 PM   #13
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Day 9

We had a very early morning as we already had to be at the airport for 5:00 AM. Fortunately the hotel was quite close to the airport and there was no traffic at this early hour. Things went quite smoothly. We checked out very quickly and they offered to get us a taxi. There was a taxi right in front of the hotel, but they tried to direct us to a town car that was parked near the hotel. Taxis in Dubai are regulated and very cheap. Town cars are neither. I was not too happy about this and politely declined and headed for the proper taxi. It is well known that hotels take backhanders from the town cars for sending custom their way.

It took us only about 10 minutes to get to the airport. At Dubai airport, staff check in in a dedicated area and I had been warned that this is not very well sign-posted and hard to find. So I asked where I needed to go. With a little help, we found the right area. We had our luggage tagged and were told to come back at 7:00 AM as there were cargo restrictions on the flight. DH was quite amused that staff is counted as cargo.

We still had two hours to kill until 7:00 so we decided to get some breakfast. We found a Costa Coffee outlet and we both had some coffee and DH had some cake. While the coffee was cooling down a little, I decided I would make one last attempt to find an Airbus A340-500 model. The second shop that I went into had one and I quickly picked up my prize and paid for it. I thought I had also seen a 777-200. The first model that I got was a 777-300 and those two planes are virtually identical. I mentioned that to DH and he said that he thinks that I should still get it, as I would only regret it if I don't. So I went back to the shop and realized that the model that I had seen was not a 777-200 at all, but a limited edition model of the 727-200, the first plane that Emirates owned. So of course, this had to come home with us.

We had another wander around the airport and then went back to the staff check in area. If this is possible, this time round it was even more nerve-wrecking to wait and find out if we were on the flight. There were plenty of alternatives on the day, two of which would even have gone into Manchester, but I had my heart set on flying on the A380. Fortunately just after 7:00 they called us. We had made it on the flight. We handed in our luggage and then legged it towards security. The flight was due to take off at 7:45 and the airport is huge. Unfortunately they took their own sweet time at passport control and one couple in front of us thought they had to argue with the authorities. We finally made it through passport control and security with 10 minutes to spare before the gate was due to close. We raced across the airport and there were still plenty of people in the gate area. We soon had our boarding cards and passports checked and were on our way to the aircraft. I got my first close up glimpse of the A380 and it is definitely an impressive plane. Getting onto it was a little tricky though. We were directed down a set of escalators, but there was no obvious exit from this area. Fortunately there was a member of ground staff at the other side of the glass wall and she pointed us in the right direction.







From the inside, the plane is even more impressive. It is really spacious and there are widescreen touchscreen TVs in the back of each seat. As soon as we sat down, DH had a good look at the various cameras that are mounted on the outside of the aircraft. He had plenty of time to do so as in the end we took off about an hour behind schedule.

I was surprised how noisy the aircraft was. You kept hearing the hydraulics when the wing flaps were adjusted. I was not too bothered as I made full use of the entertainment system and the head phones muffled the noise quite considerably. I managed to watch two films that I had missed in the cinema and really had wanted to see: This Is It and Fame. I really enjoyed both of them.

Getting off the plane was surprisingly smooth considering the size of this plane. By the time DH had gone to the bathroom at Heathrow, I already had our luggage. We took the underground into central London. Once we got to Euston, we had some lunch and then we had a long wait for our train. I gave us plenty of time on purpose just in case we did not get on the flight and had to go on a later flight. Fortunately I had a good book. We treated ourselves to a weekend First Class upgrade and traveled back to Manchester in style. When we got there, there was a light dusting of snow. What a difference from the temperatures in Dubai!
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Old 03-05-2010, 01:57 AM   #14
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Great report and pics Corinna, thanks for sharing
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Old 03-15-2010, 04:01 PM   #15
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very interesting. I can't imagine not celebrating New Year's Eve!!!!

love the photos too

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