Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dubai Diary I

Ajey has always, always wanted to go to Dubai! It would have been a really easy trip to make while we were living in India, but for some reason or the other, we never got around to it. Of course, once we moved to China, Dubai got right back on the top of the bucket list - no excuses this time! It's very convenient to get to Dubai from Shanghai - Emirates flies directly to Dubai, 3 times a week. So what's the problem? Well, the Emirates flight is a tad on the pricey side - about $1800 per head - there goes my entire budget, just on airline tickets!!! Besides, I also wanted a week in India - and trying to work that with Emirates wasn't really straightforward!

Good old Air India to the rescue! We managed to get reasonable deals to fly to Delhi - wait a few hours in the airport, and then get on the first flight to Dubai with SpiceJet. The return tickets clinched the deal - fly directly from Dubai to Pune (how great is that!) and then back on Air India for Pune-Delhi-Shanghai! The pricing worked out great too! So here's my 'Tip of the day' - people planning vacations to Dubai from China - give Emirates a pass, check out Shanghai-Delhi-Dubai on Air India! Anyway, first step, tickets - done! Dubai, here we come!

But wait - not so fast! Manasi, courtesy of her US passport, didn't need a visa - but Ajey and I, as always, had to figure out the paperwork! And did we have a couple of anxious moments! The good thing is that you can apply online or through an agency - but the UAE Embassy does not issue tourist visas directly. Even the online has to be through an agency! Now here's the big advantage to flying Emirates - the airline will process your visa hassle-free! We soon found that all hotels will process the visa, provided you are staying with them - that seems pretty easy, right! Well, where's the fun of planning a vacation without a little tension?!! Out of 5 nights in Dubai, we were to stay 3 nights at the Atlantis, and spend the remaining two with a close friend of Ajey's. Interestingly, our hotel informed us that they would process our visa only for the number of days we were to stay with them! Then, we could apply for an extension - for an additional cost, of course! Seriously, I think I need to write a separate post about all our weird visa experiences! Anyway, all's well that ends well - after all the fuss, when we finally got the visa, it was for 6 weeks! Okay, now, Dubai - here we come!!

Once we had the visas in hand, excitement levels soared! And this actually has to be some kind of record - I was packed, my suitcases in the foyer - 3 days before our flight!! The wait in the Delhi airport wasn't too bad - we were there at about 3am, but we did find a couple of empty benches for a quick snooze - brought back memories of traveling from India to USA with flight changes in Europe!! Surprisingly, could not find a decent cup of tea in the whole airport - all restaurants serve the dip-dip teas - and I do need my chai in the morning! Delhi - India - masala chai?? Well, only at railway stations, apparently!! Oh well, I would have settled for a cup of Chennai-style filter coffee, but although we managed to get a good masala dosa for breakfast, not even a whiff of the aromatic coffee!!

Outside the Dubai airport
Flight to Dubai was cool - flying over the Hindukush mountains, and then Pakistan and Iran - added a little bit of spice to the otherwise uneventful flight! Dubai airport, too, was very uneventful - when you think Dubai, you think big, jazzy, bright - the current airport is almost subdued! I did hear that a new airport is under construction, maybe that will live up to the Dubai glitz! Finding a taxi is really easy - vans designated as special airport taxis, big enough for all your luggage, all metered - so getting to your hotel anywhere in Dubai is not a problem!

First impressions - besides the bright sun, and the bleached sky, of course - Dubai is a curiously flat city. One main road, almost a highway leading from the airport into the heart of Dubai, and then onwards to Abu Dhabi, one elevated track for the Metro parallel to the road - no criss-crossing flyovers, pedestrian bridges or train bridges overhead -very different from most other big cities! The Arabic architecture is very much in evidence, and the skyscrapers seem to be scattered around instead of being bunched together in what usually is the downtown area! Huge hoardings of the Sheiks of Dubai and Abu Dhabi line the road, along with some very well-known faces - Bollywood stars advertising a variety of things!

Lobby of the Atlantis
The Atlantis lobby, very beautiful, very spacious - was absolutely packed with people as we waited to check in. Very interesting place to people watch - the mix of nationalities was unbelievable, the large number of Indians even more so! The other unbelievable thing was that this 5-star resort did not have free Wi-Fi, not even in the lobby or breakfast areas! Seriously, after paying upwards of $600 per night, free Wi-Fi should be a no-brainer! On principle, I refuse to pay for this very basic service - so even with all the electronics we were traveling with, we were effectively cut off from the world for the duration of our stay! A month later, still can't get over it - no Wi-Fi, honestly!!

Lunch at The Burger Joint
Normally, when staying at resort like this, it is very hard to get to the city to look for places to eat. Most resorts do have a wide variety of restaurants, but most of these are usually too fancy when all you need is a quick sandwich for lunch! The Atlantis, though, in addition to being a resort, also has a Water Park open to non-residents - and the entrance to this park has a number of delightful eateries - pizzas, burgers, yogurt, even crepes! For dinner we were to go out with our friend, SB and his family - where else, an Indian restaurant! As we drove there, I was struck by the number of restaurants that we passed - from the British Nando's to the American Chilis to our very own Sarvana Bhavan - Dubai seems to be a heaven for foodies! Even the Indian places - everything from pav-bhaji and chaat, to regional specialties, to the celebrity owned restaurants - a place for every palate and wallet!!!

The temperatures dropped sharply in the evening, and even with a sweater on, it was quite chilly - even the ocean breezes had a bite to them! Busy couple of days coming up - the must-do things in Dubai, the Desert Safari, and the Dolphin Swim, and of course the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa! Although, very typically, I have rambled on too long, and these exciting Dubai adventures must wait for my next post! So don't go anywhere - I'll be back soon with the next installment of Dubai Diary!


  1. Your whole tour journey is really nice. But $1800/- per head, its too expensive . Get affordable price on next tour at Dubai to New Delhi Flights with accommodation, cruise, tasty food, after nun trip etc. Go everywhere, any time and book your tickets online.

    1. Anjali, I didn't pay $1800 per head - that was the Emirates price for the Shanghai-Dubai flight. I did find cheaper options on Air India and Spice Jet. Thanks for reading!

  2. Ok. . Got it. . .

    I have to say its really nice post....