Boots got the whole crazy idea about going to Dubai while we were surveying the view from the observation deck of the Sydney Tower. He has had this thing about the tallest buildings and the tallest towers since Ate took us to the Empire State Building, and of course he wanted to reach the tallest of them all. It's what he wished for for his seventh birthday. He didn't want a party or any gadget or gift - all he wants is to climb Burj Khalifa. He has such simple needs, right?
It was fairly easy to book the trip thru my trusted travel agent Lorie, whom coincidentally I first met when I had to cancel an El Nido trip with Ches and Yoshi bcoz I found out I was pregnant with the baby who will become now nearly-seven Boots. Owww. You have to book thru a travel agent, anyway, if you don't have a relative or friend in Dubai, bcoz you need a sponsor for your visa application, who has to be a Dubai resident.
Lorie got us into Howard Johnson Hotel in Bur Dubai. It is actually a hotel chain primarily located in the US and Canada. We had to take a suite bcoz apparently Dubai hotels don't allow families with two kids to be in just one regular room. (I also read that Dubai hotels are the most expensive in the world, second only to Geneva. Ha.) So it was either a suite or two deluxe rooms. I told Lorie we will have to take the suite bcoz my kids still sleep with us even back home. Groan.
The suite was nothing fancy - it was large, clean, comfy, but it wasn't luxurious, certainly not in the level of the Marina Bay Sands suite. Hahaha. My favorite feature was, strangely, the bathroom tiles, which had a peculiar sandbar design. It's so Middle East.
Most of the staff manning the reception were Pinoy. We made fast friends with Jennifer the manager, Mykel the concierge (who taught us all we needed to know about getting to Jumeirah beach and Burj Al Arab), Nikko the other concierge, and Sheila the waitress who chatted us up every breakfast. They called the elderly Indian bellhop 'Tatay'. Hahaha. After long days and nights touring Dubai, it was a lot like coming home when we got back to the hotel bcoz of all the familiar Pinoy faces.
The rooftop had a decent pool, jacuzzi, and sauna, and we got to try all those while waiting for one of the tours we booked. Ches even had a go at the gym. You could see the Burj Khalifa from the rooftop. It's like Washington Monument or Mount Mayon - when you're in the area, it will be hard to find a place where they're not visible somewhere in the background.
I had a good experience here with the Indian lifeguard who helped me fix up the sauna and returned my Ray-Bans which I forgot on one of the lounge chairs. Ches thinks he has the hots for me. Sniggers. He thinks that of every guy who does anything nice for me, as tho he can't believe I'm the kind of person others just want to be nice to. Hahaha.
The first stop of our Dubai city tour was actually the gold souk, but there was nothing there that interested me, much less the boys. I stopped buying real jewelry since MWC. We mostly just ogled at all the luxury cars on the road, and if they were parked we had our pictures with them. Hahaha.
There's supposed to be an ATM in Dubai that dispenses gold bars. Sniggers. It's as easy as buying soda, you know. I'm not sure, tho, whether that's found in the gold souk. Gold bar ATM = only in Dubai.
Then we headed to the Dubai Museum, which is more like it, right? It was actually converted into a museum from an old fort from the 1800s, the Al Fahaidi Fort, thought to be the oldest structure in the area. Cool, huh.
It opens up into a huge courtyard, and the buildings house several exhibits about the old Dubai and its people and trade. It's easy to squeeze the tour of the whole place in under an hour. My favorite parts were the doors with elaborate floral patterns. As you know, I have This Thing With Doors, ever since I fell in love with the massive red doors of The Forbidden City a couple of years back.
And then came the episode I've come to call Jewel Takes On The Pakistani. The latter is our driver/tour guide, a youngish Pakistani guy in a preppy outfit and a demeanor that aims to say he's on his way to an event way cooler than driving some Third World tourists around. I gave him the third degree bcoz he didn't follow our itinerary, which was supposed to include photo stops at a mosque, a palace, and the Burj Al Arab. He made all kinds of excuses - that he was bringing us instead to nicer places, that traffic was bad and we were running late - but of course I didn't let him off easily. I don't back out of fights, especially those I start. Sniggers. To his credit, he remained gentlemanly all the time I was scolding him. I guess he exacted revenge when he took pictures of us, which turned out to be all blurry. HAHAHA.
Where he took us to instead was the Atlantis hotel in this place called The Palm, a man-made island in the shape of - you guessed it - palm fronds. (The aerial view of The Palm shows you one of those hugely extravagant things Dubai has become famous for.) You couldn't even get in the lobby of the hotel and even if you could, how fun is that knowing you're just visiting for a few minutes and not checking in? It's like, I'm a first-time tourist in Manila, and your itinerary includes taking me to Manila Hotel, where all I can do is take pictures of the facade and the bay it overlooks. Groans.
At least we had a whiff of fresh air from this body of water that Chester says must be the Persian Gulf. Well, hello there, Persian Gulf! We're happy to meet you!
It was relatively quiet save for a few Caucasians engaged in water sports. It looked a lot like Manila Bay, actually - only bluer, and less dirty.
A while back I showed the boys this feature in Readers' Digest last year or so, about this crazy slide in a water park that is not only nearly vertical, but also plunges you directly into a pool encased by glass compartments full of sharks. Aarrgghh. Talk about extreme adventures. It turns out this slide is in Aquaventure Waterpark in Atlantis. Good thing we made the connection belatedly, or the boys would have nagged Ches and me to no end to go into the darned slide.
The last stop of the tour was Dubai Mall, but that was where we killed time before our flight back home, so I'm doing a separate post on that. One of the Pinoy staffer in the hotel told us that is usually the racket of these tour guides - they leave you off in the mall to get done with their tours. How convenient for them.
At night we went on another touristy activity, the dhow cruise dinner. The boys were excited to get into a big boat and have a dinner buffet while going around the Dubai Creek. So that was fun, even if the food was mostly blah. There was fish, chicken, beef, rice, pasta, and veggies, but they were all rather bland. I was not optimistic about Middle Eastern cuisine, to begin with, and I'm the kind of person who gets into a mood if I don't eat good food - so I made sure to stock our luggage up with all sorts of chips and sweets, tuna paella and cup noodles. Hahaha.
There was also live entertainment on board. There was a giant horse-shaped mascot that went around and nuzzled the guests and kicked Yoshi bcoz he was being too rowdy as usual. Kids and adults alike enjoyed that. And then a young Arab performed this amazing local dance called tanoura. We had seen it the night before at the Desert Safari, and my, were we impressed. It involves a male dancer clad in several layers of colorful, elaborate skirts, which light up and form something like a giant jellyfish at the end of the dance. The dancer also juggles round, wooden objects - and all these while spinning around and around, for a solid 10 minutes or maybe more. Wow. These guys must take something so much stronger than Bonamine before getting into their routine.
The boys remember this part of the trip mostly for the two Indian girls on the other table, whom we code-named Dora and Doray. Yoshi cracked up when I noticed the elder one with fierce bangs and quipped, 'wagas ang Dora haircut ni Ate!' She had a little sister whose bangs were a little bit softer. We were pairing Kuya up with Dora thruout the night. He's a good sport about these things. Bootsie not so, hence we kept quiet about him and Doray. Hahaha. He did spot two pretty little girls at Burj Khalifa, and he code-named them Dory and Doris. Crazy.
And then there was this winner blooper from Boots. Dubai Creek separates the two main parts of Dubai, Bur Dubai and Derai. Ches forgot the latter one time.
Ches: So it's Bur Dubai and what's the other one?
Boots: Mur Numai?
The best part of any trip: creating memories with loved ones.
My favorite part was staying on the open upper deck which offered nice views of the Dubai skyline - all the tall, glitzy buildings with their peculiar shapes and bright lights, the ancient, well-lit mosques and heritage villages - as well as the other dhows and abras in the creek.
It got cold, too, like the way Baguio gets nippy at night. This was actually the best time to visit Dubai bcoz in all other times of the year, the heat is apparently unbearable. It drizzled on our way to the cruise, and the front page of the newspaper the following day showed a pix of locals frolicking in what they called 'the first winter rain'.
I'm truly happy for them, but I just think it's a bit of a stretch to call that short, light drizzle as rain, much less winter. Hahaha.