Since I’ve seen the John Lloyd Cruz movie “Dubai” in 2005, I included this exciting destination in my travel bucket list. This year, that dream became a reality.
Considered as the global city and business hub of the middle east, Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates or UAE. It is located at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, as well as sharing sea borders with Qatar and Iran. Although the city is known for its world famous infrastructures and skyscrapers, Dubai does not derive much of its wealth from oil industries compared to its neighboring cities. The main revenues that drives its economy come from tourism, aviation and financial services.
If you’re looking for the most affordable plane ticket from Manila to Dubai and vice versa, no other airline company offers the best rate than Cebu Pacific. Their year-round fare for Dubai costs an average of P20,000 to P23,000 r/t. Other airlines cost P25,000 to P40,000. If you book your plane tickets in advance, you may be able to get their promo fares ranging from P15,000 to P18,000 r/t. And if you catch their Seat Sale, the usual rate for one-way ticket to Dubai is only P4,999 all-in! Plus if you are a GetGo member and you already accumulated some points, you can redeem those points to be applied as discount to your airfare if it’s still not enough to purchase the full amount of your round-trip tickets. So if you’re not yet a member of GetGo, sign up now at www.getgo.com.ph!
Dubai has a four-hours time difference from Manila and travelling from/to the said cities takes around 9 and half hours. The recommended months to travel to this city are from November to March because of the cool climate and sunny weather. Scorching hot weather, according to locals, starts from May onwards and it’s uncomfortable to roam outdoor in this season because of high temperature. Good thing we were able to spend a week there last March just in time before the hot season begins.
Filipinos are required to have a Tourist Entry Permit to visit Dubai. I got mine from a local travel agency for P6,000.00. Compared with other countries’ VISA application which requires a bank certificate, an ITR, original NSO, etc., the only thing they asked me to do to obtain a Dubai Visit Visa was to complete/sign a Personal Information Sheet accompanied by a scanned copy of passport and 2×2 ID picture. I just deposited the payment to the travel agency’s bank account and after a week, the VISA was shipped to my home address.
Dubai Media City
We arrived at Dubai International Airport around 10:30pm, Saturday night, and easily got a taxi to Bur where our hotel is located. It only took 30 minutes or less travel from the airport to the hotel.
The next day (Sunday), our first itinerary was to interview James Reid and Nadine Lustre at the TFC office located in Dubai Media City. We purchased a Dubai Metro card and loaded it with dirhams (local currency) and used it in taking a bus from our hotel to Dubai Media City. The card can also be used on trains and taxi so availing this on your first day in Dubai is highly recommended.
It took us about an hour to get to the TFC office by bus. Since we still have a lot of free time prior to the interview, we wander to nearby skyscrapers and malls and took our first set of snaps.
What I love about the roads in Dubai is that there are flowers everywhere! Each bus stop, by the way, has an air conditioned waiting shed.
Dubai Media City, by the way, is the regional hub for media organizations in the Middle East including news agencies, publishing, online media, advertising, production, and broadcast facilities. That’s why The Filipino Channel (TFC) is located here.
We were welcomed warmly by the peeps of The Filipino Channel Middle East chapter.
And then we got our 10 minute sit down interview with James Reid and Nadine Lustre who had a highly successful concert in Dubai the night before.
The next day, we visited Jeng’s sister and aunt who live near Jumeirah beach. After some chit chats, they toured us along the beach.
On the white sand of the beach there is an area for jogging (green) and area for strolling (wooden).
The beach is open for everyone to enjoy. There are several shower areas and comfort rooms along the stretch and some coffee shops and restaurants as well.
There are also bicycles-for-rent system called Byky similar to Taipei’s U-Bike. You need a local mobile number to be able to rent one.
The most popular landmark accross the Jumeirah Beach is the Burj Al Arab, the third tallest hotel in the world and rumored of having a rating of 7 stars. Despite its size, this famed hotel holds only 28 double-story floors which accommodate 202 bedroom suites.
It’s also listed as no. 12 on CNN’s “World’s 15 most expensive hotel suites” for its Royal Suite which costs a whopping $24,000 per night. May I also add that hotel rooms in Dubai, even in two or three stars apartment, are quite expensive.
Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain is voted by travelers on Trip Advisor as the top attraction in Dubai and it’s adjacent to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Going here is easy, we took the train and alighted at Burj Khalifa station. But before you get to Burj Khalifa, you need to cross the Dubai Mall first.
This high-end mall which houses more than 1,200 shops is, take note, the largest shopping mall in the world by land area. In 2011 it was also the most visited building on the planet, attracting over 34 million visitors.
When you exit to the other side of the mall, you will find the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Lake.
And the majestic Burj Khalifa illuminates with different colors at night.
Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai
The Mall of the Emirates is another popular shopping mall in Dubai because it houses several family leisure activities which include the 500-seat capacity Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre and Magic planet, one of the largest indoor family entertainment centers in the country.
And of course, Ski Dubai which boasts of being the world’s largest indoor snow park.
The first Jollibee branch in the Middle East can also be found inside this mall.
Dubai Miracle Garden
The Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural flower garden featuring over 109 million brightly colored flowers spread over 72,000 square meters of space. It operates from October to April and closed from Mid-May to September due to high temperature.
It’s called “Miracle Garden” due to the fact that its built in the middle of the dessert. Imagine how many gallons of water are needed to maintain the garden everyday.
It is a garden of topiary, with cottages, popular landmarks, houses, trains, carriages, bugs, cars and bikes decorated in bright-colored flowers.
There are also windmills and castles decorated with lemons and oranges!
Dubai Global Village
The Dubai Global Village is claimed to be the world’s largest tourism, leisure and entertainment project located in Dubailand. It’s open every night from the month of November to April. Just like the Miracle Garden, this theme park is close on the “hot” months specifically May to October.
The theme park has several rides, both extreme and conventional carnival attractions.
There are lots of games kiosk where you can win small to extra large stuffed toys.
There’s a manmade lake inside where you can ride a boat.
And of course, the shopping pavilions featuring the products of various countries including the Philippines.
The Dubai Global Village operates seven days a week, and opens its gates to visitors from 4:00pm to 12:00am, and until 1:00am on Thursday, Friday, and public holidays.
Each year, this theme park garners more than 5 million visitors.
Wild Wadi Waterpark
Located in Jumeirah and situated in front of the stunning Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi Waterpark offers 30 rides and attractions for the whole family. It is themed around the tale of Juha, a known character from the Arabian folklore.
It’s safe to say that this is the best water park that I’ve tried so far next to Sunway Lagoon and Legoland in Malaysia mainly because of the facilities.
Previously, it has the largest water slide outside of North America, but sadly it was removed to make space for two new other rides.
Another feature of this water park is an 18 m. waterfall that goes off every 10 minutes.
The park has 2 FlowRider rides called Wipeout and Riptide. And of course, I tried both. :)
The sunbathing area has a relaxing view of the beach and the iconic Burj Al Arab.
Below are slides for kids and there are plenty of adult slides, too (which I was not able to take pictures because cameras are not allowed in the area due to its extreme nature), like the White Water Wadi, Jebel Lookout, Wadi Leap, Hos’N Hurler, Falaj Fury, Wadi Twister, Wadi Basher and Flood River Flyer.
Fronting the luxurious Jumeirah Hotel is the Breakers Bay, the largest wave pool in the Middle East.
If you are a thrill-seeker and a wet and wild type of person, Wild Wadi Waterpark will never disappoint you. All the facilities are squeeky clean including the changing rooms and toilets and all the rides/slides are superb. The only downside is the entrance fee which is more expensive than tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland in HK, Universal Studios in Singapore and Osaka Japan, Sunway Lagoon and Legoland in Malaysia, and perhaps in any other theme parks across Asia.
Atlantis, The Palm
Atlantis, The Palm is a luxurious hotel resort located at the apex of the artificial archipelago Palm Jumeirah. There are two ways to reach this spot, one is by riding a tram and monorail and enjoy the view at the same time…
…and two is by taxi from Dubai Marina station of Dubai Metro.
Another favorite photo spot of Filipinos is the facade of the hotel. If you rode the taxi, you will alight here before you enter the complex.
Inside the hotel are several indoor attractions like The Lost Chambers Aquarium which boasts of more than 60,000 marine species in panoramic lagoons, chambers and tunnels.
This aquarium is truly mesmerizing, my snap below doesn’t give justice on how marvelous this giant aquarium was. I think I spent about an hour here just gazing at the wide variety of sharks, sting rays, Dugongs, and other marine creatures of different sizes and colors.
Outside the mall/hotel of Atlantis The Palm is the Aquaventure Water Park which boasts of record-breaking rides and slide. They say it’s the no. 1 water park in the Middle East and Europe and entrance fee is at par with any Disneyland Resort. Since we already tried the Wild Wadi Water Park, we took a pass at Aquaventure and just enjoyed the other attractions inside the Atlantis complex.
For those who love the beach, they can also soak up the sun outside the hotel and enjoy this amazing view.
Going back to the city, a ride on a monorail is a must! Skip the taxi this time. The view from the monorail is spectacular specially on a sunny day (In Dubai, almost everyday is a sunny day).
Dubai Museum and Gold Souks in Deira
On our last day in Dubai, we immersed ourselves in local culture. The best way to do this is of course, visiting the country national museum which is the Dubai Museum.
Since our hotel is near the museum, we just walked our way here passing by several mosques and shops. Below is just the exterior, the actual museum is located underground. It features various artifacts and audiovisual presentations teaching how Dubai evolved as the most popular Emirate in the UAE in the last 100 years or so.
This is an ancient dhow outside the museum. It’s the traditional sailing vessel with one or more masts with lateen sails used by the Arabs in navigating the Red Sea hundreds of years ago.
From the Museum, we crossed the Dubai Creek by boat and in less than 5 minutes, arrived in Deira where traditional Arabian markets are located.
If you’re a gold junkie hunting for that unique memento or shiny jewelries, this is the place to be. Aside from Gold Souk, Deira is also the top place for 5 other Souks: spice, perfume, textile, sculptures and colorful lamps.
Riding the boat from Bur to Deira and vice versa is also a wonderful experience. Boat ride only costs 1 dirham.
Bur and Deira also have 10 Dirham shops where you can buy local delicacies and souvenir items which cost 10 dirhams or less. If you’re already at the airport and your “pasalubongs” are still not enough, here are some souvenir items available there:
Cebu Pacific flies directly from Manila to Dubai and vice versa. Daily flights from Manila to Dubai are scheduled to depart at 4:40PM (Manila time), while flights from Dubai to Manila depart at 11:10PM (Dubai time).* Get the lowest fares now, guaranteed up to 40% lower than other airlines’ offerings, at www.cebupacificair.com.
* subject to change without prior notice.