The Start of the Trip: Stopover in Dubai
We booked our flights for travelling through STA Travel which I’ll go into more detail about in a later post. The first flight we booked was London Gatwick to Bangkok which included a stop in Dubai for a few hours. We decided instead of stopping for a few hours, we would stay in Dubai for a couple of days and break up that extra long journey to Bangkok which also meant we’d get to explore Dubai, a place neither of us had been to before.
The night before we flew, we stayed at the Sofitel Hotel at London Gatwick airport. It’s a lovely hotel and it allowed us to have a good night’s sleep the night before instead of travelling down in the early hours of the morning from Leeds on the day of the flight. It also meant we didn’t have to rush as the hotel is right at the terminal for Emirates, the airline which we flew to Dubai with. I’d never flown with Emirates before and it was such a nice experience, especially for someone like me who isn’t the biggest fan of flying. They really looked after us and the unlimited alcohol was perfect! When we arrived, we got the metro to Dubai Marina, where we had booked accommodation with Airbnb at a place called Princess Towers, the tallest residential building in Dubai and one with incredible views from the balcony!
Dubai was like a Middle Eastern New York with it’s billions of high rise buildings, expensive prices and glamour. Everything is big and modern. There is no such thing as small or understated in Dubai. Don’t even get me started on Dubai Mall, I’ve never seen a mall as impressive as that. Amongst an unthinkable amount of shops (all of which looked so inviting), it also contained an ice rink in case you fancied a skate mid shop, some souks for some traditional shopping and an aquarium and underwater zoo where you can stare in awe at sharks whilst you indulge in cheesecake at their Cheesecake Factory opposite. Yes, they actually had sharks in a shopping centre! Luckily, I had no money to spare so we left empty handed but if I lived there, I think this is where I’d be spending EVERY weekend.
There’s more to the mall than that though as just next to it is The Dubai Fountain. We ate in a restaurant called Social House after a recommendation from my boyfriend’s friend and one I’m also going to recommend to everyone reading this because along with the delicious food (I ordered Nasi Goreng and it was sooo good), if you sit outside you’ve actually got the perfect view of the fountain and can watch the shows whilst you eat. It was one of those accidental romantic moments (my boyfriend said he planned it but that was a complete lie…), and it was lovely!
And just next to the fountain is the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. It’s that tall that I couldn’t even get a good photo of it to insert here! I’m not usually scared of heights but my god, there is no way I could ever go to the top floor of that building. Another building in Dubai that I couldn’t leave without seeing was the only 7 star hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab. One day I would actually like to be able to afford to go inside but for now, we just stared longingly from the outside wondering how amazing the inside must be to achieve that 7 star status even if the management have supposedly awarded the ridiculous star rating themselves. You can get very close to it or just get a lovely photo from the golden sandy beaches at Jumeirah beach. Talking of beaches, we endured the heat and went to two of them. The water is actually warm, almost hot! Usually I would love this but when you’re in 45 degree heat, cool water actually sounds appealing. Other than that, the beaches were nice and there’s lots of really cool beach bars to visit too.
We stayed at Dubai Marina which is a nice area to stay. Of course, it’s very modern because what isn’t in Dubai?! It has a pretty fountain and at night the palm trees all light up!
For a backpacking location, Dubai is definitely not the place to go. It’s extremely pricey even in supermarkets and we struggled to fully enjoy it being on a budget, especially as Dubai wasn’t really part of our travelling trip, it was just an extra stop. We tried to enjoy it as much as we could despite it being expensive but I’m glad we only stayed a couple of days.
Culture-wise, it was a little odd going to a holiday destination where you couldn’t drink freely but it was also nice to not be surrounded by drunken idiots all the time and to see people having such a good time and enjoying meals in restaurants without any alcohol. With regards to covering up, we heard mixed things about it but the majority of articles online said you must cover up. We didn’t find this to be the case and the majority of the tourists we saw were just wearing usual holiday attire – dresses, shorts, skirts etc. Maybe it depends on where you’re visiting or where you’re staying but I just wore loose casual clothing, nothing too revealing but enough to feel cool in the crazy heat!
I’m glad we visited Dubai and it was interesting to see it but as much as I tried to fall in love with the place, I just couldn’t seem to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool place and the buildings are incredible but it just wasn’t really for me. Maybe if you’ve got money to spend and can stay in one of the luxurious resorts then I’m sure it’s incredible for the glamour but personally, I wouldn’t rush back too soon.
Next up: Bangkok…