My best memories from Dubai are for sure those that happened after sunset (sunset in Dubai in November happens at 17:30). Simply because I love twinkling skyscrapers, enchanting views, cool design and amazing food. Taxi cost hardly nothing in Dubai so from our basic and very affordable and comfy hotel Akas Inn in Al Barsha, we threw ourself in to taxis many times a day. Neon passing as we were constantly on our way down Sheikh Zayed road.
Two nights we met up with a Danish girl living in Dubai that I got to know through WordPress. We have been following eachothers blogs for a while now and I am really glad we decided to meet in real. Sanne is such a lovely person – sincere, smart and versatile. Under alisa Mitzie Mee, Sanne´s lifestyle blog mainly focus on food but also other topics that occurs in her daily life. Our first “date” was a dinner at the lovely Aquara restaurant in the Dubai Marina. We enjoyed a great buffet, including free flowing cocktails and a magic view. Our evening ended at the tranquil bar “Arabian Courtyards” at hotel One&Only Royal Mirage.
Me and Louise literally ate ourself around the globe in Dubai. Everywhere we went the food was amazing. We had Lebanese, Pars (Iranian), Italian, American, Chinese, Japanese, South African and two international buffets. Most of the times we ate in very affordable but excellent restaurants in the malls or in the hotels. Each of the large hotels has several restaurants, bars and nightclubs. To have a drink with your meal the hotels are the only option. In other places there are only non alcoholic bevarages served.
We spent one full day downtown Dubai to discover Burj Khalifa, that I wrote about in my last post, and the Dubai mall. That night we ended the evening on the 64th floor in the fancy hotel bar “Neos” in hotel The Address downtown. We had a table right by the window and an enchanting view.
I absolutely loved the area Madinat that consists of two large luxurious hotels and a bazaar. The whole area is built up with water channels and restaurant promenades. The enviroment is so beautiful and we spent a whole evening there. We felt like queens in the adorable hotel lobbies and the lights and the fabulous architecture of this place was just magic – from the sunset cocktail at Bahribar and the Italian dinner in Toscana to the Shisha at Barzar.
It was once more time to meet up with Sanne for the weekly Tuesday Ladies Night. After taking a peak at her and her husbands place in Dubai Marina we started our night at a club called XL and finished with dancing at a club called “Boudoir”, the latter situated in the “Jumeirah Beach Resort”. We had such a fun evening
And here are some more beautiful lounges and bars that we were lucky to discovered during our trip. I spent quite some time on the great link Platinum list to find out about Dubai nightlife. As a result I think we got to discover a whole lot of cool places
I have now chosen to make two posts about our wonderful days in Dubai, beside my special food post from “Saffron” that you could enjoy last week This post will show you how we filled our days before sun set, and the next post…well, how we spent the nights. Explanations are found under each picture.
The lenght of our (mine and my friend Louise) stay in Dubai was nine days. We felt this was a perfect amount of time since there is so much to do in this city. I can understand those who don´t like Dubai. It is a bit “plastic” and, just like in the USA for example, there is no possibilities for cosy strolls in between sights. Despite this, we found Dubai faschinating. It is a bit like a fairy tail, just there to entertain you. If you don´t stay in a fancy beach hotel there are frankly not that much beach to chose between. Out of the public spots available we found the JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) beach the best. We also tried two beach clubs, but they allways come with some kind of charge. However if you anyhow plan to eat and drink it is not that bad since the price is usually a “minimum spend” in return for a sunbed. In those places there is allways great upbeat lounge music in the background and a more sofisticated feel.
Besides spending time on the beach we also had time for some shopping and to take a peak from the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa building, until today the world´s tallest. Heavy rain our last two days (average rainfall in Dubai is three days a year so yes, I guess you could say we were a bit unlucky) gave us a good opportunity to visit the Karama “fake” market and the older parts of Dubai – Bur Dubai and Deira, the latter famous for the biggest gold souk in the world.
Just freshly arrived from Dubai I will take a break from my USA roadtrip theme. While I sort out my recent holiday pictures I will give you a teaser of how wonderful Dubai can be if you, like me and my friend, prioritize eating on your vacation Last Wednesday we decided to try the Saffron buffet, located in the hotel Atlantis The Palm. Saffron has different themed buffets most of the nights and on Wednesday´s there is a focus on Asian inspired dishes even though there was some more choices available too. It is truly a feast for the eye and with several live cooking stations serving dishes from all over the world, there is something for everyone.
Below my pick. Plate number one was by far the best. In fact plate number four was not as wonderful as it looks like. Maybe I was just too full to fully enjoy the very sweet dessert. But they looked amazing
Two happy but very very full holiday goers.
The lobby of Atlantis The Palm.
After a couple of days in Las Vegas it was time to enter California again. After a pretty long day of driving followed by a nights sleep in the only bad motel on our entire trip, located in picturesque Bishop, we continued on scenic highway 395 in the mountains towards the ghost town Bodie. I had read about this place and even if it was a big detour for us before our next stop, Yosemite, I really did not want to miss it. On the way we passed the beautiful Mono Lake and rugged wild west landscapes. Bodie lies on 2500 meter and the road leading there is not that good but pretty.
So what is Bodie?
Bodie is an old gold mining town that was discovered 1859. The town had around 10,000 inhabitants at its most but only around 150 in the 1920´s and eventually the town became neglected and empty – a ghost town. I was really intrigued by walking around in this amazing place, gazing into the windows where things were still as they were 100 years ago. Even though only about 5 % of the buildings that once stood are still there, it is a funny feeling to walk down the streets which once were inhabited. It is said that this place was very violent. Bodie had 65 saloons and street fights with almost daily killings was the norm. A pretty scary place to live according to the rumour. I just loved the ambiance of Bodie! Don´t miss this if you are planning a visit to this part of California.
Read more about Bodie here.
Appendix – the surrounding area
After a week of driving and trekking in Arizona and Utah I was really looking forward to Las Vegas. I thought I had done my research but nothing can prepare you for Vegas. And nothing can prepare you for the Nevada heat…
As we drove towards the city of sin we were wondering what would happen once we arrived to the Strip and our hotel “New York New York”. Valet parking was a new experience for us.
After entering the hotel we walked for a minute or two through the big hotel casino before reaching the reception. On advise from a fellow blogger we had decided to slip a 20 dollar bill with the credit card and it worked After inspecting our huge room with a roller coaster view we went out to do Vegas. And so we did for three days.
The heat and the distances between all the enormous hotels, where everything is happening, resulted in us doing about half of the intended plan. However, after three days we felt we had gotten a good impression of Vegas. But that it would be great to go back one day, now we know how everything works.
Anyhow, we saw New York, Venice and Paris. We enjoyed a marvelous international buffet at hotel Rio Rio. We tried “the big chill”, the pool party, the clubbing and enjoyed the evening neon. Someone said Las Vegas is a Disneyland for adults. I can only agree.
Time for yet another highlight on our southwest US roadtrip – the Bryce canyon. I had seen lot´s of pictures from this odd canyon before actually seeing it in real. But nothing can prepare you for this breathtaking natural wonder. Unfortunately it is hard to bring about the feeling of this place in pictures. It has to be seen and experienced.
We arrived late afternoon and after checking in to our motel in Bryce we headed towards the national park. We spent two hours wandering along the rim, just getting absorbed by the colors shifting over this bizarre landscape.
The next morning we woke up very early to do a morning trek while the air was still fresh. Seeing Bryce canyon from above is one thing. As you descend into it the view is completely different. We were surprised how spacious it was at the canyon bottom and that it was so green. Surrounded by the pinnacles I felt very small and very aware of how lucky I was to be able to discover something so special as this.
Below follows first the evening part and after the sunset picture, taken from our motel, there are some pictures with a diffrent perspective taken during the morning trek.
Appendix – views from the car from Bryce to Las Vegas
Most people know about Grand Canyon and some have heard about places like Monument Valley. But not that many knows about the adjacent diverse beauty of Southern Utah. Utah has 5 national parks. Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion. They are completely unique and different experiences.
After lots of reading I was convinced it was worth doing a “detour” to discover some of the places Utah has to offer. So after sleeping in at our beautiful motel in Monument Valley, off we went.
We had a long day of driving, starting with a visit to the small village Bluff, located by the San Juan river. After a stroll in the open air museum we watched a movie in the tourist center about the first settlers of Bluff. The main reason for this was actually to cool of in the airco. At 42 degrees you quickly get over heated. But in fact, we enjoyed the film very much
We continued north towards the town Moab where the Arches national park is found. We then passed deserted landscapes until we reached our motel in Torrey, close to Capitol Reef, at around 22:00. The landscapes that unfolded during this day drive were amazing. Not a single moment of those 7 hours of driving were dull. It was just one “wow” after the other.
After breakfast in our motel we took a morning trek in the Capitol Reef area and then started our journey towards Bryce Canyon, via the scenin Highway 12. In the tiny village Boulder, along the way, we found a little cafe that served one of the most amazing meals on the whole journey. I had a Thai influenced burger and pie for desert. Life at this stage could not have been better. We enjoyed a long lunch in the shaded garden and had nice chats with other visitor that just like us felt extremely lucky to have made it to Utah and this little gem. We spoke about the amazing landscapes and the empty roads and agreed that this area was something very special. Magic in every way.
At around 15:00, after yet another few hours of “wow”" as we passed the Grand Staircase Escalante, same day we reached Bryce Canyon which for me was the most amazing natural experience on our whole trip. Therefore it deserves to be presented in its own post which will be the next one coming up
We arrived to Monument Valley in the late afternoon and checked in to our beautiful motel “Goulding´s Lodge” which is one of only two options if you want to be in the middle of it. It was our priciest stay on the whole trip but it was great About three hours before the sun set our “Monument Valley sunset tour” started. We had booked the trip with “Navajo Spirit Tours” and had no specific expectations. I had no idea there would be so many beautiful monuments and that the landscape around them would make me feel I was on the moon. The tour was absolutely fantastic. The Monument Valley lies on Navajo land and some families actually lives inside the park. Our local guide Harry was a very engaged and kind man that told lots of beautiful stories as we went further and further into the park. The tour was really relaxed and the deserted dirt roads were not busy at all at this time.
In the beginning of the tour it was very windy and my eyes were struggling to keep the sand outside. But as the time went by the storm passed and everything we could see was red peaceful surroundings. Many movies, commercials and music videos has been shot in this park. The last movie shot was “The Lone Ranger”. Johnny Depp actually decided to spend one night in the little hut you can see on picture number six below. This tour left not only visible memories but also emotional. That the earth can be so stunning.
Appendix; from the top => having fun on the road, getting closer to Monument Valley, view from our balcony and Louise walking towards the motel building
Close to the town Page lies the Antelope slot canyon. Located on Navajo land (Navajo being the largest recognized Indian tribe in southwest US) it can only be visited accompanied by a local guide. In fact there are two parts of the canyon, the upper and lower. We choose the upper since it was easier accesible. Due to my claustrophobia this was doable since you walk into it from ground level. The prime time for the visit is mid day to be able to capture the magnificent colors that the light beams creates. The visit is short and a bit rushed. But I promise that as soon as you enter this wonderland, any claustrophobic thoughts will disappear immediately as you get absorbed in a truly magic place.
The entrance to wonderland…not so flattering I would say
Our very knowledgeable Navajo guide showing us how the Antelope slot canyon was formed…
While reading about Grand Canyon I rather quickly understood that this place needed some preplanning. First of all one need to choose between the south or north edge (rim) of the canyon. The north rim is less touristic but more time consuming to reach. The south rim is very tourist friendly, easy to reach and I also read in different foras that the views from the south rim are the best. Since we only had one full day for Grand Canyon and since it suited our route much better, we opted for the south rim. We entered the park from south and exited from the east, on a road called “desert view drive”, which was a perfect plan for us since our lodge for the night was just a small drive from the east park exit. Here is a good site for planning your visit.
Once you have entered the south rim of the park you leave your car in Grand Canyon village and use the shuttle bus system. We used the morning to discover some look out points along one of the lines and the afternoon to discover some view points along another bus route. At the end of the day, just before sunset, we hopped in to our car and drove along the desert view road. We felt a bit fooled since all you see along this drive is actually forest. But there are signs for lookouts along the way and we picked one for our final good bye to Grand Canyon which showed it self to be the most beautiful look out of the day. Below pictures are from Mohave, Hopi and Powell lookouts.
Heat and excitement requires energy. Which we could find in the Grand Canyon Village, the hub for the busses and the different parking areas. The pictures after lunch are from the Trail of the time, Yavapai and Mather lookouts.
And now to the best part, seeing the sun set from Lipan point along desert view. Even though Grand Canyon was not my highlight of the trip (wait until you see my Utah pictures), it was sure a wonderful experience to be able to witness this massive canyon. The size of it is not possible to grasp from the viewpoints. When you look out it is like admiring a painting that is slightly changing depending on where you are standing. It is a true natural wonder.