I don’t even know where to begin to describe our whirlwind trip to Dubai, what an amazing place. It feels like we were there for one extremely long day or an entire week–I’ve pretty much lost all sense of time.
I’ll start from the beginning.
On Wednesday morning I woke at 5am (one last time) to race to Soul.
It was pretty weird and nice to be hustling out there so early to actually ride and not work.
My goal with that was to workout so hard that I had no choice but to sleep on the plane. I am a TERRIBLE sleeper, ask anyone, if someone even breathes heavily in the house I wake up. It’s seriously a curse.
My plan didn’t work.
Well, I shouldn’t say that. I did exhaust myself but I did not sleep. Not even for a second. Oh well.
I flew home, showered, and drove with my parents to Logan for the emotional goodbye. But they’re coming in January so SEE YOU SOON! Emirates was a nice airline and I was happy because no one was in the middle seat in my room. However, the man I sat next to decided to take off his shoes (and socks!!) and spread out on both seats and snuggling his naked smelly feet right up against me. Just imagine how well that went over with me…
At one point he told me, in broken English, to feel welcome to “spread my legs,” if I wanted to. He meant that I was welcome to also recline on the seat but either way I responded with a firm, “NO THANKS BYEEEE.” Not the most fun twelve hours I’ve ever spent.
I spent most of the 12 hour staring at the little flight tracking and statistics thing they show you on the TV screen. It was pretty crazy to see some of the places we were flying over. Baghdad, Kuwait… places I’ve only heard about on TV, pretty surreal. I was so thankful when that flight was finally over.
Lewis and I didn’t have trouble finding each other at baggage claim either which was a relief. We walked out of the airport in search of a taxi and were immediately a little shocked by the heat. Of course we knew it was going to be hot but was truly like an oven-y type of desert heat that I’d never experienced before. We were both surprised (although maybe we shouldn’t have been) by the amount of sand everywhere. Collecting on top of parked cars like pollen would at home. On the edges of the highways. Under bushes. Everywhere, dust.
Dubai didn’t remind me of anywhere I had ever been before. Lewis mentioned it reminded him a bit of Vegas with the grandness of it. I sort of thought of Aruba just because of how much construction there was everywhere you looked and how there was such a distinction between the super-touristy “glamorous” attractions and the sort of locals-only gas-stations and random things like that.
The Taj was beautiful! Our room had a view of the Burj Khalifa and the water fountains that do a show every night. The geotag when we checked-in on Facebook and Instagram was Taj Dubai – Billionaire Mansion which kept making us laugh. It wasn’t until the very end that we realized Billionaire Mansion was the night club next door. The hotel had a nice pool and all of the pool accessories were bright yellow which of course I loved.
We were able to check into the hotel right at 9AM when we arrived which was great. We hopped in the pool and had a shower before heading straight out into the city. No rest for us! Also no coffee– mistake on my part
First we went to the Dubai Mall. Gigantic. As huge as everyone says. But hearing about it really doesn’t do it justice. It’s like each store is on steroids and they had every single store I had ever heard of— British, American and everything in between. I loved seeing all of the British stores like River Island and Waitrose to make me feel a little like I was back in London again. We spent most of Thursday just exploring the many things the mall had going on. We had tickets to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo as well as tickets to go to the Top of the Burj. Both were pretty cool but I was honestly so exhausted I was starting to kind of tumble around on my feet because I was literally falling asleep standing up. Definitely things you kinda have to do when in Dubai. We had an early night and slept straight through till morning so the next day we both felt right on track with the time change and not too jet lagged at all.
All of the reviews of the Taj on Tripadvisor RAVED about the breakfast they had there — and for good reason. This breakfast was bombbbbbb. They had everything. A crepe/pancake/waffle bar… every sort of bread, fruit, vegetables, pastries and all sorts of traditional Arabic and other cultural sorts of foods. I tried a few random things (and didn’t write down the names, oops!). Most notably these things that looked like little tiny grape sized oranges. They were really cute so I figured they would taste the same—wrong —literally the most sour thing I’ve ever tried. Got it on video, keep an eye out for the “Dubai” YouTube.
After breakfast we lounged by the pool a little. One thing that was pretty interesting was how people here really did not pay attention to women. None of the waiters or hotel staff addressed me first. They went straight to Lewis for the bill, any signatures, questions, conversation, etc. If I spoke directly to them they would answer but they really would not talk to me first. Pretty interesting. We sampled my new favorite drink by the pool — Mint Lemonade, SO GOOD. If you have a chance pour a glass of lemonade and smash a bunch of mint leaves into it—the most refreshing thing ever.
After the pool we packed up all of our stuff, checked it in the hotel and took a taxi to Jumeirah Madinat which is a fancy resort complex sort of thing by the ocean.
The extravagence in Dubai was so fascinating and I think we saw the height of it both at the Mall and at the Madinat. At one point we passed a parking lot for the resort that had two Rolls Royces, a Bentley, a G-Wagon thing and a Range Rover all in row—and like 20 other luxury cars parked nearby. We didn’t see any police cars unfortunately because we had heard that the police out there drive like Ferraris and Porsches and stuff because they have to keep up with the luxury cars on the road. Insane.
Lewis’s university roommates/best friend James’ older brother, Tom, who lives in Dubai met us at the Madinat to show us around for the rest of the day/evening.
If I had one tip for traveling it’s to always always try and meet up with a local person to show you around. It is seriously the most valuable way to see a new place. Of course it’s incredible to blindly and freely explore a new city on your own and that is extremely special in it’s own way. But when you’re only in a place for a short amount of time a local tour guide is so so so incredible. James’ brother Tom was fantastic and helped us find things in Dubai we never in a million years would have otherwise found/seen/did. (Thank you so so much Tom! And James for hooking us all up!) We wandered around this sort of indoor market for a while. There were so many things I wanted to buy in the market but I guess every souvenir for the next year has to fit into my backpack which is already literally bursting at the seams…. sooooo I ended up with a postcard and a bunch of photos.
After the market (souk) we started out to walk down the road in search of a public access point to the beach.
The ocean water was HOT. Comfortable bath/shower temperature sort of hot and surprisingly (because of how close we were to a city and a city with a LOT of construction going on) clean and clear!
After the beach Tom took us to Dubai Marina where we got on an hour long sunset ferry ride which would tour us around the city to get views by sea. Lewis and I were a little apprehensive about how hot it would be on this ferry ride and I laughed to myself at my Dubai-naive-ness when we got on the ferry and it only had seats on it’s air conditioned inside. This city is not built for people to spend a ton of time outdoors—it’s just too damn hot— and everyone there was going on about how happy they were that their winter season had finally begun!! It was 100 degrees!!!
We got some great photos on the ferry ride and by the time it was over it was dark out and we were in “Old Town Dubai.” This is where the contrasts that Dubai is famous for really came into play. The city is such a wild conglomerate of old-fashioned tradition—with such a strong religious presence and such strict rules about dress, alcohol, etiquette, etc—and completely in your face newness it’s just really unlike anything else. Old Town had none of the gigantic skyscrapers with wild architectural designs like Dubai center did. Outdoor gold and spice souks were crammed full. At one point we jumped on this little boat I don’t even know how to describe it and it was too dark to take a proper photo of it so here’s one from Google:
The boat was called an Abra and we were the only tourists on it. No one even said anything we just hoped on it. It cost 1 Dirham (about 30 cents USD) to ride no matter how far you went. It was nuts. The absolute most fascinating part of the whole Dubai experience was walking through these souks at night. The air smelling thick with spices and sweat, still a humid 99 degrees even though it was night, when all of a sudden this alarm sort of thing went off and you could hear the prayer calls echoing through the whole street. Walking past the mosques with hundreds of pairs of identical looking shoes just covering the stairs and the sidewalk outside so the people could go inside and pray.
It lasted for about ten minutes and I seriously had chills. It was the first moment of this trip that I really felt Far Away From Home and Out Experiencing The World. Actually that moment and the moment when we were on that ferry boat cruise… there weren’t seats outdoors but you could lean against the railing outside the back of the boat and I was standing looking out the open ocean side and it just was so completely surreal that that was the Arabian Sea. The other side of that was Iran. Like whatttt. Those are the moments that you’re like this is what it’s all about. This is what I’ve worked so hard for these last 12 months. To see the world and have experiences that you never otherwise would get. Those are the moments that make it all worthwhile.
*In another funny and less-glamorous Oh Wow We’re Really Traveling moment Lewis and I could be spotted earlier that morning, ten minutes to check out to be exact, with the hotel’s hairdryer trying to blow dry our dirty socks and underwear that we had valiantly attempted to wash in the sink using my better-in-theory camping laundry detergent leaves which really did nothing at all in the way of soap.*
Anyways, around 9PM Tom, Lewis and I made our way back to the Taj and we were able to take much much much needed showers (I literally have never sweat so much in my life—and I do SoulCycle AND I’ve been to Disney World in July so that’s really saying something about sweat). We all chilled out in the Taj lobby until about 11PM when Lewis and I had to catch the next leg of our flight to SYDNEY!!!! Which brings me to where I am now… sitting in lovely seat 63C with about 10 hours left to go (ahhhh!!!! It’s all happening!!!!!). Literally just can’t wait to GET INTO A REAL BED and have this flight be doneeeee and then not have to fly for a goooood couple of months (or weeks, hehe).
Also, let me just say, the restrictions flying to Sydney are WACK. First of all they try to tell us at check in that our carryons can only weigh 7KG each. Like FAT CHANCE, wait until you read my What’s In My Backpack Post? That shit did NOT weigh less than 7KG I can sure tell you that much. So that was a struggle. Then we finally sort that out and get going to security which was comparable to one of my high school track meets. It was legitimately like a race. Lewis and I were speechless. You put your tray on that conveyer belt thing and usually you, I don’t know, have thirty seconds to take your shoes off and whatever. This thing, you put your tray on the belt and it literally just TAKES OFF at 50MPH down the thing and you’re like chasing after it, people are pushing you, they have you run through the metal detectors. It was the strangest thing.
Then the other thing that was annoying was we bought those massive 1L waters for the flight and they did ANOTHER bag check right as you were boarding and made us throw them away! This bag checking woman also read word for word every single ingredient in my deodorant and I really thought she was going to confiscate it and I was going to have to smell for the whole first day of Australia. Rest assured I DID get to keep my own deodorant, THANK YOU EMIRATES. In all the extensive 8 months worth of reading and researching coming to Australia these entirely bizzare flight rules were NOT mentioned. So here they are. Hopefully someone can learn from this and maybe check their deodorant in their luggage so this doesn’t happen to them.
Stay tuned for the Dubai YouTube and some info about our AirBnb in Maroubra, NSW!!