Dubai, UAE

Ever wondered what the tallest building in the world looks like?

Yeah, I did too!

It’s pretty damn big.

When we realized that we had the option for an extended layover in Dubai on our way home from Hanoi, we jumped on the chance! The City of Gold was always intriguing for me, but I didn’t think we would ever plan a trip just for Dubai, so a 22 hour layover was the perfect compromise!

We landed at 5am from our 8 hour flight with the intention of going all out; instead of “shop ’til we drop!” we were going to “Dubai ’til we drop!”. It’s like the city knows how to attract visitors or something, because they give out a 72 hour stopover visa-on-arrival for free. And, in case this is useful information for anyone, I had read mixed reviews about a hotel requirement when you go though customs. To be on the safe side, we booked at room at the Holiday Inn Express, but were never asked to show proof.

And actually, to toot the Holiday Inn Express’s horn a little bit, it was a great selection for our short time there. It’s walking distance from a metro station which takes you to the airport in one direction and the city center in the other, despite our 5am arrival time they got us into a room by 8am (for free!), and because we would miss breakfast the next day (our flight home left at 3am) they let us have breakfast that morning while we waited to get in the room! Can’t really complain there.

Semi-grumpy ‘just off an 8 hour flight and its 5:30am’ faces… that was until we could go to the HUGE breakfast buffet!

After breakfast we were able to get in the room and change into our “Dubai outfit” – one set of non-airplane clothes in our carry-on bag – and we hit the town!

…well, we tried to hit the town.

Public Service Announcement: Friday in the UAE is like a Sunday in America (or Europe). Things, including the metro, don’t open until 10am.

So, we walked back to the hotel, watched TV for an hour, and then tried again.

And we succeeded!

View of the Dubai Mall fountain area.

Our first stop was the Dubai Mall, which was the entrance point for the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world!

I will say, I’m not crazy about malls. Like, ok – if I need something and that’s the only place I can find it then sure – but mostly I’m just annoyed by the number of people. On our way into the mall I was anticipating my annoyance, especially because of the swarms of people we were walking in with, but I quickly got over it.

I have a Fitbit, so I’m telling you the honest truth when I say this. It was 1km (0.6mi) from the Dubai Mall tram stop through a covered tunnel to the mall entrance. I mean. I was tired before I even got there, but boy oh boy if I was a mall-walking Grandma I’d be living my best life! Even more so, because the mall is 5.9 MILLION square feet (~500,000 sq meters) and home to over 1200 stores.

And shut the front door, because when I was Googling for that number I learned that this mall is only the 20th largest mall in the world! I can’t even.

Long story short, it’s a big ‘effin mall and we found some storm troopers.

Thanks to the internets, I was warned that it takes some time to actually find the entrance to the Burj Khalifa. That was accurate. I think it took us 10 minutes to find the first sign, then you would walk in that direction and suddenly the sign would disappear. Turn around, look for sign, repeat. No joke, 45 min later we found the entrance. Luckily, we were just winging it and did’t have a ticket with a specific time.

I was originally going to pass on going up the Burj Khalifa because Tripadvisor / random internet searching scared me for the line. There were some horror stories about whole days wasted, but in the end we decided YOLO and just went for it. Great decision – we waited in a reasonable 45 minute line before we were at the top!

View from the 124th floor!

There are actually two ticket options: you can choose to stop at levels 124 & 125, or for (quite some) extra cash you can spring for going all the way up to the 148th floor. We chose to stop at level 124, I mean after that the view is basically the same right?

The elevator ride was an experience in itself. You go from ground level to floor 124 in a matter of maybe 30 seconds? It’s incredible! Your ears barely have time to register the change in altitude. A few steps out of the elevator and you’re met with an open air terrace with sweeping views over Dubai.

After about 45 min and a million pictures we headed back down and to the mall for lunch… because why leave when you have all the food choices you could ever want!

We did eventually leave, and headed to Dubai’s Old Town for the afternoon.

Our first stop was the Dubai Museum; we both like to learn a little bit of history of the place we’re visiting. I’ll save you the trouble and tell you to skip this museum. It needs a good renovation, I’ll just put it that way. I didn’t even bother to take any pictures of the outside, so we will just move on.

The Old Town is known for it’s souks, which are open air markets that sell a particular item. There is the textile souk, spices, saffron, but probably most well known is the gold souk. If you were in the market for gold, this is the place to buy it and at a very competitive price.

Granted, the souks have modernised over the years…

In order to get to the gold souk from the Dubai Museum we needed to take the water taxi across the Dubai Creek (not exactly what I would constitute as a creek, more like a river).

We were’t sure how to make this happen as there were exactly zero signs and most of the people using the water taxi looked like they were with a guide. We spent a little time sitting waterside and just watching. We learned that all the water taxis appeared to go to roughly the same location, you needed small change, and you paid the driver on the boat.

This was apparently correct, because we made it on the boat, paid the driver an unknown amount of dirhams, ended up on the other side of the creek, and had a lovely 10 min boat ride in the process!

We weren’t really in the market for anything (ha! see what I did there), so after we had our fill of wandering we headed back to the mall, where we took more pictures, had an alcohol free dinner at TGI Fridays (go figure, no alcohol in public spaces in the UAE), dessert at Krispy Kreme, and waited for the Burj Khalifa light show and fountain show.

Definitely didn’t expect to see this in Dubai!

And that’s about all the time we had for Dubai! After the light and fountain show (not pictured – you’ll have to wait for the video version, but it was SUPER cool!) we were EXHAUSTED and happy to have our hotel room so we could shower and have a few hours of good sleep before we needed to be at the airport.

Back on the plane to the Netherlands.

And somehow, in the blink of an eye, our much anticipated month of Southeast Asia travel was at it’s end!

The unfortunate thing about the travel-bug is it’s not easily curable. If anything, travel incites wanderlust. So, until the next trip!

Tot ziens,

Whitney

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We are two Americans living in the Netherlands with our fat cat, Meatball. The Shwits is a diary of our time abroad!

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