Sunny Dubai, February 2010

After 9 hours of flight from Manila on board Emirates flight, we reached Dubai International Airport, terminal 3 as scheduled at 11pm. For tourists, eye scan is required before proceeding to immigration. The whole process was very smooth. Taxis were abundant right outside the arrival hall and since we’re a family of four, we were directed to a pink “family taxi” with a lady driver wearing pink uniform and got down at the hotel after about 30 minutes with a fare of of 82.50 dirhams including the airport surcharge of 20 dhs to Dubai Marina area in Jumeirah. It was 18 degrees that night, February 9.

Check in at Marriot Dubai Harbour Hotel and Suites was fast but I was surprised when the security stopped me from shooting with my handycam in the lobby and at entrance of the hotel. The concierge, “Chico”, a Vietnamese guy, brought our luggage up and showed as around the huge 2 bedroom-apartment suite on the 27th floor. It was well equipped and fully furnished. Very spacious, great kitchen complete with all kitchen equipments and utensils. A washing machine and iron and ironing board, a balcony with a fantastic view of the palm! Another guest-room with a single bed was there (more like a maids- room, without a window). The master’s bedroom has a 42” plasma tv and a king-size bed, while the other room has two single beds with its own toilet and bath too. I loved the Marriot bedding! So soft and comfortable. In total, the apartment suite has 4 comfort rooms. There is a book shelf in the living area with lots of reading materials. Swimming pool was small and nothing to rave about but since not much guests come, you can have it to yourself most of the time. Gulf news is being provided every day. A small store on the second floor is available otherwise Spinney’s grocery is about 5 minutes walk and lots of cafes lined in the marina area and yachts all over. The observatory bar and restaurant on the top floor was also worth a visit with a 360 degree view of the palm island. A signature spa is also available and few restaurants inside. The Hotel is very good for families specially for those who intend to self cater. We prepared our breakfast and sometimes lunch too, somehow it helped us with our budget. Besides, our otherwise plain breakfast is made special because of the beautiful and relaxing view of the sea. I highly recommend this hotel.

Day 1: DUBAI CITY TOUR. For our first morning in Dubai, we prepared our own breakfast and enjoyed the beautiful and very relaxing view of the sea from the 27th floor. We wanted to set up our breakfast in the balcony but it was a very cold February morning. At 11am, we took the complimentary shuttle service to visit the Mall of the Emirates and headed back to the hotel to catch our City tour pick up at 2:50 PM. I booked a City of Merchants Tour through the Arabian Adventure desk in the hotel lobby priced at 145 each. Since it’s my family’s first time in Dubai, I thought it was great to start our 4-day trip learning about Dubai’s history and seeing the old and new Dubai on our first day. Our tour guide was a German lady named “Elitha”. The bus was full, about 45 of us there. The tour was in German and English. Our guide said that it’s the first time that the German’s (or maybe the non-English) out-numbered the English participants. The assembly point was near the Burj al Arab, so our cameras begun rolling there. There were like 3 Arabian adventure buses convoy. Our guide was talking all the time, pointing the different places we were passing through. She was very accommodating in answering all questions raised. Then we stopped at the Majilis, The Barasti, Jumeirah mosque, Sheiks Palace, Dubai Museum and then we crossed the creek with a quick abra ride and the last stop was in Spice Souk and Gold Souk. We were given 30 minutes to look around freely and told gather back at 7:30 pm. Those who wish to buy and stay some more may take the taxi back to their hotel. At almost 9pm after dropping all other guests in different hotels, we retired that night very tired…

Day 2: BURJ KHALIFA/DANCING FOUNTAIN. My itinerary says we will spend the morning at the Jumeirah Beach Park at 9am using the complimentary hotel shuttle at Marriot, but we thought it was too cold that day so we ended up just being in the hotel until lunch time, again looking outside of our balcony admiring the calm sea. My mom said, she feels sleepy looking at the sea outside and it just seemed like a picture coz nothing was moving. Lots of yachts parked, still empty private beaches (we could see Le Meridien Mina Seyahe from our balcony and Habtoor Grand). But as the day progresses, we enjoyed watching parachutes landing, sea plane taking off and then occasionally the yachts moving and some water sports in the nearby resorts. At 2pm, I bought a nol card from spinneys just so we could try the metro. I actually spent more because 1 nol card cost 20 dhs and we were 4 but I intend to use it only once. (But fare was 2.30 each) From Marina, we took the feeder bus F37a to Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station and then the Metro. From the Burj Dubai/ Dubai Mall Station we got a free shuttle service to Dubai Mall. I ran to catch my reserved ticket at 5:30 pm to enter Burj Khalifa which I bought 1 week in advance, only to get a refund as it was not operational at that time, February 11. After getting the refund we were allowed to look inside where there were displays and facts about Burj Khalifa. Then we went outside at the waterfront of Downtown Burj and saw lots of people from different parts of the world, all taking photos of the Burj and the artificial lake. At 6pm, Arabic music filled up the night and the fountain show started. Beautiful! Once is not enough, so we took a table at Urbano, a reasonably priced Italian restaurant along Souk Al Bahar. I ordered 1 pizza, spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, and carbonara all huge serving, 2 cappucino and 2 glasses of fresh juice. I used 2 entertainer vouchers and paid 220 dhs for four of us, I saved 105 dhs. My favorite music was Andrea Boccelli’s “Time to say goodbye” during the fountain show. Going back to the hotel, we no longer took the metro as it was more convenient to take taxi at 42 dhs.

The Dancing Fountain show is from7pm to 10pm daily.

The Dancing Fountain at Downtown Burj

Desert Safari 2010
Day 3: DESERT SAFARI. To utilize the Entertainer vouchers, I booked a safari with Sunflower Tours. Since there were about 3 companies in that book I initially had a hard time choosing which one to use. I emailed Arabian Nights 1 week before to ask the price and if they accept the vouchers but didn’t get any reply. I called Sunflower Tours and before I even mentioned about the voucher, she asked me if I have it. It was 250 dhs each and 30 dhs each, additional charge for pick up since I am using a voucher. So for the 6 of us, I used 3 vouchers 750dhs plus 180 pick-up charge plus 3% since I’m using a credit card. I thought it wasn’t a very good deal but I didn’t have time to compare prices. I think other companies do not charge for the pick up! The Safari was great though, the crowd was mostly Iranians, then I found out from the driver that Sunflower Tours is an Iranian-owned company. Our first stop was in a store selling souvenirs. The Indian guy showed us something like a scarf made into a headdress. Although we told him we didn’t like to try he said no obligation to buy so we did try and took photos. (I ended up buying it though, as it looks nice props for the safari). After about 30 minutes of (“scary” for- me-but “fun” for my sis and cousin) Dune bashing, we stopped for a short photo shoot of the beautiful desert sand. Before sunset, we reached the camp and there were 3 camels taking tourists for a very short ride. While waiting for the dinner to be served, we tried sandboarding (our first time), henna tattoo, and had some Arabic tea with dates. The barbeque dinner included softdrinks but the buffet food didn’t have much selection. Since I only liked the chicken barbeque I returned to get another one but the dish was already empty. I guess it’s counted! My father was chosen by the belly dancer to dance with her and he obligingly danced with her adding fun to the night. Then another old guy same like my papa was chosen. Again the belly dancer came to our group and took my cousin and my cousin pulled my sister too. I was too shy to go with them so I made myself busy and tried to ignore her before she could even pull me too!! I do not know why she came to our group again when there were so many other groups there but it definitely added to our Dubai experience! After the dinner, while waiting for our safari driver, we noticed that nobody tried the abaya yet so so went and wore it and after us other tourists followed. If my cousin didn’t tell us about the abaya fittng we wouldn’t have known that it’s there coz nobody was attending to it. We were back to the hotel at 10pm.
ATLANTIS, Aquaventure water park
Day 4: ATLANTIS, Aquaventure. We left the hotel at 10am via taxi at 23 dhs. There were a lot of people and tourist buses dropping groups of tourist taking a look at the Atlantis. Expensive boutiques are present in the lobby and as you walk through, you will see a huge aquarium. There was also a big line in buying Aquaventure entrance ticket. I don’t know if it’s always like this here or because it was a weekend. We went there on a Saturday and had a hard time looking for available sun beds near the pool although in the beach area, there were lots but the sun was glaring too much at 1pm. We dipped into the water at Torrent beach but it was very cold! I didn’t last even 5 minutes there. The water in the beach wasn’t very inviting. Then we tried the rapids and some other rides. We had our snacks at the Shark Bites restaurant. 1 classic hotdog 29dhs , 1 cheeseburger 39 dhs coffee at 12 dhs, pepsi at 8dhs. We decided to leave by 4:30 PM and taxi’s were nowhere to be found! There was a big queuo waiting for taxi and our turn came after 45 minutes! After changing our attire, we headed to Madinat Jumeirah for dinner at Noodle House. Bill was 217 dirhams using one entertainer voucher for Quarter Roasted duck, Singaporean Noodles, 2 Egg fried rice, and 4 fruit juices. Taxi back to the hotel was 15 dhs.

Feb. 14- Departure to Manila

Me and My Itchy Feet :)

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