Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A Modern Wonderland ..


8/13/20236 min read

On sooo many levels, Dubai is just 'wow'.

I knew it was going to be clean, but it was next-level clean! I knew it would be modern, but honestly they're on a mission to out-do themselves on a daily. And I expected it to be hot but it was hooooooottttt!! All the taxi-drivers and people I talked to explained that so many of the locals get out of town in August, just because of the heat. So if I had actually planned a whole holiday to Dubai, I would have taken that into account, but as a 2-day stopover on my way towards Europe, it just had to be now.

I had this destination planned down to the minute almost. I wanted to ensure I got to see as much of the city as possible, in case I don't get back here. Now that I've been though, I know I'd like to either call in again on my way home at the end of my travels, or take a longer stay here as part of a future holiday.

I would highly recommend all the things I did here, as the tours were excellent value and my accommodation was great. I discovered some common themes over the 2 days here. One of which was being told multiple times how new everything is. The area I stayed was no exception. A cluster of high rises known as 'Business Bay' - it's home to multi-storey office blocks, and residential buildings that are home to many of the workers there. Basically Dubai has just sprung up out of the desert over the last few years. What was once just a handful of traditional homes and temples in this Arab state, is now a fast-paced, futuristic fantasyland.

I could write pages about the interesting things I learned and experienced here, but I'll try and keep it to a brief-ish overview of what I got up to.

So after hitting the jackpot and getting a surprise free upgrade to first class for my flight from Hanoi to Dubai (thanks Emirates - I'll love you forever!!) - I landed super early in the morning. The friendly staff at the airport had the place running like clockwork, and within minutes I was outside and in a taxi, heading to Unlock Waters Edge - Book your holiday in Dubai 24/7 with Unlock Holiday Homes ( to drop my bags until my room was ready for check-in, later in the day. The 25 minutes in from the airport went by in a flash, as I got my first taste of the 120km speed-limit, and the taxi drivers that use every bit of that allowance! Definitely a change from Bali and Vietnam, where it's difficult to move a vehicle more than 100 metres in a minute. I clocked the temperature at 32 degrees at 6.30am, so figured we'd be heading into the 40's later, and headed straight to the infamous Dubai Mall and the air-con. A 7.30am arrival at the mall meant that I had beaten the crowds by almost 2 hours - so I had the place almost to myself! I wandered around taking pictures of everything like the total tourist that I am, and managed to find a cafe open to get a coffee and some sustenance for the day ahead.

So the mall. WOW. I got so lost in there it was unfathomable. I should have hitched a ride on one of the little electric cars that drive people around inside! I had pre-purchased tickets to both the Dubai Aquarium and the Burj Khalifa online - and as both those attractions are situated at the mall, it meant I was able to fill in all the time I needed to, before my 2pm check in. High-end designer clothing and jewelery stores are punctuated by the most beautiful cafeterias and restaurants. It's abundantly clear that the people of the middle-east have a fondness for dates, honey, chocolate and tea, and there are plenty of stores offering the most visually appealing varieties of all of those things, that no doubt taste as good as they look. The endless array of goods to spend money on is outdone though, by the buildings design features. The sculptures, the ceilings, and the stores themselves add so much to the experience that is the Dubai Mall. Oh and I must mention the full-sized indoor ice-rink!. there was a game of ice hockey being played as I walked past.

The Aquarium was probably a bit average - but great if you have small kids to entertain - and still novel that it's inside a mall! The Burj is iconic though, and a must-see attraction. I had only seen the lights of Dubai through the night sky as I flew in, so it wasn't until I got to the viewing platform on the 124th floor that I got some real perspective of this city in the middle of nowhere, with sand for miles beyond the perimeter of glass and steel. Completed in 2009 and opened on the 4th Jan 2010, the Burj (of course being the Arabic name for tower) - was originally named the Burj Dubai, but after the state was bailed out by the former president of the UAE - Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan - a deal was done for the building to be named after him - and for all the tourism dollars collected through the viewing platform to be paid to his family (fun facts learned on the Souk Tour I did the following day) I finished the day with a couple of hours in the pool - which I was pleased to find in complete shade from the 43degree heat - then collapsed into my super-comfortable bed after taking in views of the Burj and surrounding buildings sparkling against a black sky and reflecting in the body of water between Business Bay and the worlds tallest building.

So to Day 2. I was up early again to taxi to the starting point for 2023 Dubai Aladdin Tour: Souks, Creek, Old Dubai and Tastings ( Small-Group) ( With a group of just 15 people, for just over 3 hours, we were taken around parts of the city on a walking tour, with a short trip over the river on one of the old wooden boats. We took in the gold markets, the spice markets, and had a look through a traditional historic residence. We walked past the oldest existing building in Dubai - built in1787, the Al Fahidi Fort now operates as the Dubai Museum, but was unfortunately closed for maintenance while I was there. We were provided with the most delicious middle-eastern food and fresh fruit juices for lunch on the tour, and given a non-stop, interesting and humorous commentary by our tour guide. As well as a thorough history lesson on the city, he gave us all the tips and tricks required to barter successfully for spices, and to take advantage of the incredible selection of tax-free gold, without being taken advantage of by the sellers. 10/10 from me for this tour - for the bargain price of approximately $45 USD.

The pool was necessary again after a day out walking in the heat, then a trip to the marina area for dinner and a great night at Home - Trader Vic's Madinat Jumeriah Dubai ( where a 5-piece band pumped out plenty of dance-worthy Columbian beats until just before midnight.

My final morning was another early one - back to the marina for a 2 hour cruise with breakfast - booked online with Yacht Rental Dubai, Luxury Yacht Charter - Xclusive Yachts . Another great value excursion, with a delicious breakfast, a fun crew, and plenty of sights to see on the way. I met some cool people and in between taking in the views and snapping photos, we danced on the deck to a few 80's bangers while I had another moment of 'wow - how good is my life right now?!'

By the time we docked, the mercury had hit 43 again and I was ready to check out of my hotel - and they kindly agreed to store my bags and let me use the pool for a few hours, before heading back to the airport for my night-flight to Turkey. Dubai definitely lived up to the hype. With all there is to see and do here, as well as the generous salaries on offer and the tax-free status, it's easy to see why it's a magnet for people from all over the globe, to live and work for as long as they can stand the heat.

I'll definitely be back one day. Next time it'll be dune safaris and camel rides.

The Monster of a Mall ..

Here fishy fishy ...

The Souks, the Sights and the Night Lights ..