Taking a break from posts and features of my recent trip to the Philippines, here’s another way to see Dubai…
Known as the city of luxury shopping, futuristic architecture and energetic night life, Dubai has even more to offer than originally thought. As exciting as the city is from land, it’s even more spectacular from the sky with its man-made islands, a hotel in the shape of a sail and the world’s tallest building in its city centre.
When it comes to man-made islands, nothing quite compares to Palm Jumeirah. It’s shape of a palm tree makes it truly unique and instantly recognisable as a signature feature of the city. The island holds hotels, resorts as well as private homes that can be easily accessed via the Palm Jumeirah Monorail. The best way to see the full shape and magnificence of this structure is from above, whether you fly over it in your private jet or while skydiving.
Burj Al Arab
Further down the coast sits the unique sight of the Burj Al Arab, the third tallest hotel in the world located on an island of reclaimed land and connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was built to resemble the spinnaker sail of a J-class yacht with the hopes that it would be become an iconic symbol for Dubai. The hotel is no doubt best viewed from above via helicopter or private jet hire, where you can get a perfect 360-degree view. Here in Dubai, you can rent a private jet with Air Charter Service to discover a whole new side to Dubai from above.
Located 4 kilometres off the coast of Dubai in the Persian Gulf, the artificial cluster of 300 small islands was constructed to represent a world map. Each little island is made up of sand dredged from Dubai’s shallow coast, and are currently uninhabitable. The islands are difficult to get to, so the best way to view the whole landscape is from above.
If you’ve seen the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas and you thought they were spectacular, just wait until you’ve seen the Dubai fountains. Situated outside the Dubai Mall, it is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system, illuminated by 6,600 lights, 25 colored projectors while shooting water as high as 500ft into the air. The fountain is also accompanied by a range of classical, contemporary and Arabic music. It’s one incredible show that would look spectacular from above.
So next time you’re flying over or even landing in Dubai, remember to look down and you might catch one of these breathtaking views from the comfort of your seat!
Despite the months of July and August being the rainy months in the Philippines, the kids and I traveled to see my family again. This year, my parents celebrate forty years of being married to each other so I thought it was a great reason to convince them to get out of the house. These two people do not travel much, especially on the rainy season but I assured them, the first two weeks of July is still ok, weather wise.
We got on a boat and crossed to Bohol island and stayed at the wonderful resort called The Bellevue Bohol Resort in Panglao island. Once we were there, with the help of Bohol Tourism, we spent half day to see some guide-recommended places in the small island.
Panglao island is a very small island and though there aren’t much to see really, there were still a few we squeezed in our itinerary.
1. Bohol Bee Farm
The Bohol Bee Farm is an eco-friendly village that promote healthy lifestyle with its organic food which they grow in their premises and products they manufacture within the property. Given the name, we were with the impression that honey is actually produced here, however, we were wrong. The guide told us they buy honey from Mindanao and manufacture it to by-products here. Here, the guide is holding cultured bees (I cannot recall the reason why they kept these there when it’s not producing honey). He explained the bees’ behavior and everyone loved the piece of education.
There were lots of different native crafts done at the bee farm and these products are sold at their souvenir shops.
We had our breakfast here and while the service was ultra slow and breakfast menu was not that impressive, the view from our breakfast table was!
Only after visiting this place that I learned their ice creams were to die for! How does salted honey ice cream sound like?
Entrance fee: PHP30/person
Tips when visiting Bohol Bee Farm:
Try the ice cream.
Maybe try the food for lunch (we were only there for breakfast)
2. Stroll along Alona Beach
Alona Beach is a small stretch of tropical paradise on Panglao Island, Bohol in the Philippines. There were so many tourists but mainly Koreans and Chinese. It is quickly becoming one of the top travel destinations in the Philippines because of it’s wonderful white sand beach, (reportedly) world class diving and beautiful blue waters.
We loved our stroll at Alona Beach though I feel that the restaurants and hotels were placed really close to the shore. If they pushed them back a few meters away, that would have been better. Place is overly crowded with restaurants and people and peddlers.
There are so many inns and resorts, hotels big and small along Alona Beach. They say the night life is vibrant. To me, the place was too crowded and I am so grateful the resort where we stayed in Panglao island was located at the other side of the island, away from this. The water looked absolutely wonderful to swim in: very clean and clear but it’s quite crowded with boats from the diving centers.
Tips when visiting Alona Beach:
Find some place to eat farther away from the shore since the restaurants near/along the beach tend to charge more for the same type of food you can get from other restaurants.
If you want to swim, swim at a later time when the boats for island hopping have departed. (They depart early mornings)
3. Hinagdanan Cave
Hinagdanan cave is probably the most interesting place in Panglao Island for us. Stalactites and stalagmites surround a purest underground lake inside the cave. It was our first time going inside a cave and I did not know what to expect (I prayed there would be no bats!!). The kids didn’t say anything, just went with the flow…brave kids. They truly go wherever I go, no questions asked!
The first entrance to the main area is a man-made stone gate where visitors need to pay a PHP50 (US$1.2) entrance fee (as of this writing) to get inside. The Hinagdanan Cave’s entrance is merely one meter wide in diameter, and the descent to the cave is steep.
I expected it to be cool down there but it wasn’t! It was hot and humid, the water looked so inviting! The holes above the cave provided natural light to the cave below. The scene look out of this world, yes?
History says that during the 16th century, early settlers of Panglao had begun removing thick vegetation around the island to make way for their homes. In Bingag, one of the locals was clearing his land of old trunks of trees and decaying branches when he discovered two holes on the ground situated right next to each other. He was curious about the holes in his land so he dropped a few rocks on it and heard a water splash. The locals eventually explored the unknown area below the ground using a ladder, discovering a cavern with a deep catch basin at the center.
Here’s a high resolution photo of the underground lake inside the cave.
Souvenir shops line outside the cave which sells everything from colorful hats, shirts and dresses. The price is fair and not overly inflated.
There’s something big happening in little, humble Panglao island: construction of an international airport! The above photo is the clearing of the huge space to construct Bohol’s first international airport. It is intended to support its tourism industry, especially on Panglao Island which is being promoted as an alternative destination for Boracay Island.
We concluded our short tour of Panglao island by having lunch at a restaurant just outside Alona beach and went back to our resort to enjoy the rest of our stay. There are other places to see in Panglao island. You can even rent a motorbike and drive around yourself.
There are old churches and traditional houses, farms and small markets. It’s a rural area and if you live in a big city like me, I am sure you will appreciate this small town’s charm and of course, the fresh, clean air.
Back from the two day weekend and I am so tanned, exhausted but happy to have toured around Dubai and Abu Dhabi, proudly pointing the this and that that puts Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) in the map to our guest who came all the way from Japan. One of the best things about having guest come over to visit us in Dubai is being able to become tourists ourselves.
Reconnect with the city.
Stop and smell the roses, so to speak.
We were excited – the last we have done this was way in the year 2009 but days leading up to our guest’s arrival, we were asking ourselves, where will we take him? Where will we have our lunch? Fancy, local themed dinners? Is the beach good enough at this weather? Where are the places that would excite a tourist?
Expat or not, it’s very to get lost in the mundane of everyday life. We are on our 8th year in Dubai and suddenly, the city that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors just became “normal” for us. Biggest malls, tallest building this and that, they all became bleh.
Nothing shocks us anymore.
But we ultimately made up a plan, a simple itinerary. The weather is leaning towards hellish summer already and we do not want our guest to get too exhausted. After picking up our friend from his hotel, we drove to a part where he can see the lineup of buildings on Sheikh Zayed road. We drove up to Ras Al Khor, near the bird sanctuary. Yeah we got a good view of Dubai’s skyscrapers but there must be better places. Do you know which ones?
Next we drove to the beach. Nagano, Japan, where our friend lives is still cold. We were sure he would welcome this wholeheartedly.
I know I did. When I saw the water, I wish I could stay and swim. It was perfect. The water temperature was perfect (it was a bit cold when we went to the beach at Ras Al Khaimah a couple of weeks ago). It was lovely digging through the soft, velvety warm sand .
We drove out on an early Friday morning and what a joy. It’s like we owned the roads. Our friend was overwhelmed at the great weather – it was a bit hot last Friday but there was breeze and the cloudless blue sky! He says we’re lucky to enjoy a weather like this. And we thought, yes! See, sometimes someone has to point out the good things for us to re-realize the good things about living in Dubai
Looking up at the sky, we also needed to explain what this gigantic golf ball is doing on top of this building! This is the Etisalat building, a telecommunications company owned by the government. All Etisalat buildings have this golf ball like thing at the top. My husband said it’s actually an antenna.
It was picturesque Madinat Jumeirah next. I never get tired of this view. It’s like our little Venice in Dubai, always picture perfect, all throughout the year.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah was quiet and empty on an early Friday morning, probably the best time to be there so you can take a lot of photos without people getting in the way (if you prefer it that way, of course).
Our guest has a desert safari booking with pick up at 3:30 pm so we really didn’t have time to explore everything. But we have to include a little tour of old Dubai. My husband dropped me and our guest at the Bur Dubai side of the creek, at the textile souk. The textile souk was bustling with shoppers even if it was Friday. I found it amusing when the sellers are blurting out their best Japanese language greetings towards us. They probably learned in the streets, dealing with tourists every single day for years on stretch. Or they could have Googled.
We didn’t buy anything at the textile souk but went on towards the abra station to cross the creek to the gold souk…but first, let me get my coconut water. Years of living in Dubai and I have not tried to buy my coconut water from these local shop vendors selling fresh coconuts (from India/Sri Lanka). Shame.
After drinking all the coconut water, I requested the man to cut open my coconut. Who would want to waste that coconut meat? I have to have it! It was nice and reminded me of my time in Thailand and in the Philippines.
It was time for our abra ride. (We wanted to go to Dubai Museum but it was closed on Friday morning too)
I took this video in 2010. Nothing has changed, it’s the same scene when crossing the creek. And the fare to cross the creek is still the same at 1 dirham. This is how it looks like.
Our guest was thrilled. I could tell from the expression of his face.
We safely crossed the creek to the gold souk, passing this green mosque.
There were more shops closed than open at the gold souk. The place will only pick up by afternoon, around 4 pm on a Friday.
And then it was lunch time, after looking at dining options, we decided to go to Gazebo Restaurant at Deira City Center. Gazebo is a popular Indian restaurant we really love and we’ve taken friends and guests here and all of them loved it. Our guest will have Arabic fare at the desert safari camp that night so we didn’t have Arabic themed lunch.
We took our friend to the desert safari pick up point and wish him good luck. I’ve been to desert safari three times and the last one was terrible. It involved involuntary projectile vomiting. Sorry, TMI.
Playing tourists in our own city was actually fun. It made us see the little things we otherwise ignored , it makes us see Dubai in new eyes, as others see it. Day 1 done, a longer day on Day 2 to Abu Dhabi!
After a very hectic Day 1, we planned a low key day by going to the Springs, an expat villa community in Dubai where we were invited by a family friend for a post-Christmas party. When you go there, you would think some magic spell had been cast on you and that you’ve been transported to somewhere else. I don’t know where but just not in desert land. It is full of greens all around, with lakes (man made). Just beautiful.
The Springs community is a great place for families with children. There is a green space right at the back of each house and Pristine is always delighted when we go there.
Around the lake is a walking/jogging course – there’s no way you could be fat in the Springs with this big chance to exercise right near you!
The line of villas in Springs community:
My mother told me, “is there any chance in the world we could live here, too?”. Oh mom, if only! Not only the villa rents are expensive, Springs community is around an hour and a half drive from where I work (though I still believe the commute is worth it).
My friend thinks about the possibility of moving to Dubai IF she’ll live in this community!
RENT for a two-bedroom villa starts at $40,000 per year. No, renters are not feeling any effect of the global recession here – the rents are still unbelievably rising!
We had a barbecue party in the backyard and had a great time eating and talking and just lazying around. Ah, I need more days like this!
On Day 3, my friend and I are up for really serious walking and touring the city on our own – no car. Just buses, taxis, Abras and lots of luck to get to our destination on time.