It was just a piece of invitation when friends from around the globe tend to extend their invitations to meet up at one of the progressed city of the Emirates, Dubai.
Booking a flight 4 months ahead under the budget friendly carrier, Cebu Pacific Air, taking advantage of their trend-setting ‘seat sale’ was way to efficient to our pockets to get a low cost flight.
Journey begins as we touched down Dubai International Airport with my friend fetching us to drive straight to Abu Dhabi to have a good night rest.
Day 1 starts as I meet my friends who flew from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at the City Terminal of Abu Dhabi, in front of Al Wahda Mall. With a 2-hour bus ride crossing through the deserts at 25 AED/per person, buses will drop you in Al Ghubaiba in Dubai. You may walk 5-10 minutes for you to reach the Metro Station but we chose to ride a taxi since no one can lead us to where we want to go. Taxi fares us at around 19 AED for the 4 of us to our pre-booked hotel through Booking.com. Al Sarab Hotel is located at the heart of Al Rigga, Deira City, around 10 minute walk from the Metro station, which is one of the centre of commercial areas. It was a great savings for us where in we just paid 420 AED/room for 2 nights comparing it to their normal rates at 790 AED/night.
As we checked in to our hotel, waiting a wee bit hours as our Dubai friends finish their work, we tend to have our late lunch at a Filipino All-you-can-eat restaurant nearby at 35 AED/person. Meeting up at 4pm at the Metro station, we rode the train to Dubai Mall to experience the modernized structures by the Emiratis. Dubai Aquarium, the falls, the souk (‘market’) are the ones to name a few to see here.
Reaching end point of the mall where you can see the world’s tallest and one of Dubai’s must, Burj Khalifa. Sighting the nearby fountain show every hour really fascinates every tourist’s eye. Walking further is where you will find The Palace Downtown. I would wish I could afford to stay here. Ending our tiresome walking day back to Al Safadi Restaurant, this is just near our hotel. Sipping on our Moroccan Mint Tea and some Khanafa, which is a famous Arabic sweet which are to die for.
Day 2 started with a quick dip on our hotel’s roof top pool. Meeting up at 10am with the whole gang for breakfast at a Filipino food court style restaurant in Deira City.
This long day journey started as we train to Baniyas to ride the Abra, a boat ride to see The Old Souk. Striding further, as we approach Dubai Museum. With an entrance fee of 3 AED/person, this exemplifies the history and culture of the early Emirates and how they unite. After which we reach the famous Dubai Gold Souk, where great deals of gold are in. We had our shawarma/falafel lunch on a nearby store at 5 AED, and tasted the 1 AED Karak Chai, which is the Arabic version of milk tea.
We then rode the train to Mall of Emirates to see the famous Ski Dubai. Long taxi lines kept our patience as we voyage towards the luxurious Burj Al Arab which is just beside the Wild Wadi Dubai. (Note: Burj Al Arab is not open to public unless you have reservation which is really expensive) Adjacent to this is the Jumeirah Hotel in which you can see up close the famous architecture thru its beach stretch. Running to catch the bus back to the Mall of Emirates at 2 AED/person, we rode the train to Dubai Marina and rode the tram to its new structures. The Beach is a new getaway place which friends and family can enjoy. With an array of dine places, movie houses and some more fun activities to enjoy. What a great way to end this very looong day is to lounge around a yacht with some tea and shisha relishing a magnificent view of Dubai Marina. Great to have connections for you to get through this luxury!
Another day started as we finally tasted the most intrigued restaurant in Al Rigga that whenever we try to go, long lines are waiting. We had our brunch at the Sandwich Club, a very nice and affordable restaurant. We quickly finished our pasalubong shopping in a nearby Al Ghurair Mall.
Pre booked in advance, we paid 110 AED for our Desert Safari experience. This includes Transportation (which we are picked up in our hotel at 3pm and returned after), Dune Bashing, Camel ride, Arabic night show and buffet dinner. It was an awesome experience that we enjoyed desserts of Dubai having a great conversation with our ‘Kabayan’ driver, whom he also drove for Kris Aquino and Kara David when they visited. Rushing back to Al Ghubaiba as we try to take the last bus to Abu Dhabi and bid farewell for some time to Dubai.
Staying in my friend’s accommodation in Abu Dhabi was indeed a great savings for our pocket and time to bond with my ever missed friends. The time spent here is mostly of catching up with friends, digesting their success stories and struggles as they venture into their new lives away from home.
Day one here in the capital city started being fascinated with the The Galleria, a mall with high end shops adding up the view of the high rise building while taking a sip of coffee in Armani Café as I caught up with my friend from my previous work. Traveling by taxi to Al Wahda Mall which is one of the shopping heavens for sale items are here and there. We ended our day celebrating with our friends over dinner and laughs in their accommodation in Al Reem Island. Fortunately they got a nice place which was sponsored by their employers, unlikely not for other OFW brothers and sisters since renting a place in Abu Dhabi is really one of the top expenses living in.
Another day to explore the city has started since my friend is off from work, she can tour us around. We travelled by taxi to Saadiyat Beach to experience the sands and sea of UAE. Unfortunately, there was an event on going so we changed our plans and re-route to Yas Mall to tick Ferrari World on the itinerary. Free Entrance during Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We ate at Rogo’s Rollercoaster Restaurant in which your food goes through the loops and grind upon serving. Amazing idea indeed! We had some desserts thereafter at the famous Cheesecake Factory. A slice cost 34 AED which is not bad for a mouth-watering experience.
Since we still itch for a beach experience, we then resort to Corniche Beach which has an entrance fee of 10 AED, but you can still enjoy their public beach for free if you want. After which, we proceeded to the Marina Mall and climbed to its tower to have a view of the city. They privatized their observatory and converted it to a coffee shop and have some refreshment to see a great view.
I can’t believe that I am in the Emirates for a week and starting my day 7 to meet some friends at the World Trade Centre. Finally, I tasted the famous Shake Shack burger. The ‘Shroom burger is too die for! The lunch was followed by some coffee session meeting another friend. It was really great catching up with friends realizing their new lives abroad.
My friend rented a van for us to explore the city with the whole gang. And so they picked us up and went straight to the Emirates Palace which is the 7 star hotel. Embellishments and grandeur has been exhibited in this place.
After which, we went to the Grand Mosque in honour of Sheik Zayed. Architecture was just perfect in all angles. Females must wear long sleeves and pants with abaya to enter. On the other hand, males should not be wearing shorts above the knee. Anyway, they have clothing to rent at the basement for you to be admitted. It was actually my dream to wear one of the everyday outfits of Emirati males which is a ‘kandora’. And so I did together with the help of my supportive friend.
We then proceeded to the Masdar City which is said to be the source of the future of Emirates. Everything here is solar powered and they try to recycle as much as they can. The PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) is said to be one project that the government is looking as a good transportation in the future. We tried to ride this and it was just amazing. Lastly, to cap of the night, we went back to the city and headed to Al Wahda Mall to have our late dinner in Olive Garden.
It was our last day to explore the city and to go back to Dubai since we are having the evening flight back to Manila. And so the gang is up again and travelled to Dubai. Our first stop is the Last Exit which is usually the stop over for those who are travelling from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. We had a quick lunch there and proceeded to the Dubai Parks. Apparently, since the parking is quite expensive just to see the Lego Land and other attractions, we decided not to go and just go to the Outlet Village instead to do our last minute shopping. We were welcomed with quite a jam of traffic as we enter Dubai. So we then drove to Dubai City Walk, which is one of the newest attractions in Dubai, followed by our last dinner in a Chinese restaurant, Chin Chin before heading to Dubai International Airport.
To date, this is the most body tiring yet a mind resting travel that I did since mostly I did not research anything with our itinerary and my friends provided us and pampered as much as they can to be with me concurrently with their work. It was indeed an amazing experience that the bonds of your friendship strengthen as you share both your stories on how successes are not easily attained. It was an incredible journey how the stories of Filipinos abroad were really not easy but for us to achieve our goals, a lot of sacrifices are being offered.
Above all, how can you maximize your PHP 30,000 budget to an all in travel to United Arab Emirates? Find out in my next entry. 😉