Highlights of Dubai 

Futuristic skyscrapers, warm blue seas and hot desert sands – I’ve arrived in Dubai!
With only three days to fit everything in I’ve had a whistle stop tour by my friend Taylor, who works for Emirates and has been living out here for the past year or so, making for the perfect tour guide! This is what I got up to in the first four days of my travels (If you notice the days are labelled wrong it’s because they correspond with my #143daysofjoy and day number 1 was my travel day). You could probably fit even more in, but for me it was a nice opportunity to rest up after a hectic few months of finishing my studies. Dubai really exceeded my expectations and I loved every minute.

Day 1 – Gatwick Airport

I said a teary eyed goodbye to my Mum and my Aunt, boarded my flight and my travels began!
Day 2 – Jamirah Beach

Even though it’s a surprisingly short flight (only 6 hours) I was still feeling pretty jet lagged. My head was bobbing the whole way on the metro and I couldn’t wait to sprawl out on the sand and relax.

After some delicious smoothies to revive us from one of the many cafes and restaurants that line the beach we headed straight into the water. It’s so warm you don’t hesitate to get in and everyone floats about, not too deep, as they admire the Dubai skyline. It wasn’t too busy but it was also kind of nice to have lots of people about, giving it a great atmosphere. It’s the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon.

We finished the evening at Pier 7 and if the other 6 restaurants are as good as The Scene I definitely recommend it. The tasty food was complimented by a view over the marina.

Day 3 – Burj Khalifa

I had my first experience of a Dubai mall (in fact THE Dubai Mall) and wow is it overwhelming! You could get lost for weeks in there! They had everything you could ever possibly want and there were so many English and American brands. If you’re serious about retail therapy this is the place to go.

The highlight of my day was going to the top of the Burj Khalifa though. It’s quite pricey but so worth it and go for the At The Top Sky Ticket, it will get you to the highest floor you can go to, 148, and make you feel like a VIP. For starters you’re ushered into a private waiting area, skipping all the queues and getting to taste some Arabic coffee (tastes nothing like coffee and smells like the water you drain from rice but tastes all right) and sticky dates. Once you’ve speeded to the top in around 22 seconds in the world’s third fastest elevator, the doors will open to reveal a plush lounge and a waiter offering fresh juice. 

I wandered around the viewing area with my hands shaking slightly. It was just stunning! I felt so peaceful and so in awe, watching busy life happening 555 metres below me. I went up just as the sun was setting and it was beautiful.

The crowded floors below, 125 and 124, prove that it’s worth paying extra to go all the way to the top as it’s difficult to find a good spot and noisy. However, the views are still amazing and if you’re on a budget the view itself is not much different from the upper floor if you can put up with the crowds.

At the bottom I caught up with Taylor and we grabbed a pizza at Scoozies right next to the Fountain Show. I had seen it from the top of the tower but seeing it at ground level was so much better! They do a different show to a different song every 30 minutes from 6pm and I tell you, you’ve never seen water move like this before. After dinner we watched a Thriller performance and the jets of water were practically doing the full Michael Jackson routine. A spectacular way to end the evening.

Day 4 – Desert Safari

This was the part I had been most excited for and I was not disappointed. Despite the tour being a lot more commercialised than I imagined, it was still a brilliant night and a lot included for the price.

We were picked up from Taylor’s in the afternoon and driven out of the city. We had a quick pitt-stop to decrease the tyre pressure and then we were back on the road. After a while our driver pulled the land cruiser over and turned sharply through a gap in the fence, driving directly onto the sand. Now, before we hit the dunes our driver informed us there were bags in the car for motion sickness but I don’t think anyone took him too seriously. Five minutes later we were bouncing about and being thrown in all directions as the car dipped and bucked over the sand. We followed the tracks of the other vehicles, which crawled all over the dunes like scarab beetles. 

The only thing that kept me from seeing my lunch for the second time that day was the orange glow cast across the horizon. We stopped for photos and I could have stayed there for hours.

There was more awaiting us though and by the time it was dark we pulled up to a semi-permanent camp in the desert. Cushions and rugs were scattered around a stage and there were yet more around the edge where you could get a henna tattoo, smoke some shisha, buy souvineers or get some refreshments. Just outside there were several grumpy camels waiting to give you a ride. This was the only part I found to be a little bit of a let down. When I found out there was camel riding I had imagined trekking over the sand dunes on the back of a camel, admiring the scenery, but what it turned out to be was a five minute walk in a small circle in the dark. 

Dinner and a show was much more impressive however. We piled our plates with curry, vegetables and rice at the buffet and took our seats on the cushions. First on was an Egyptian dancer who span solidly for the whole of his performance, his brightly coloured skirt splaying out and making him look like a spinning top, without getting dizzy. The second performer was a belly dancer, whose shaking hips and girating belly had every man in the camp drooling! 

When dinner was over it was time to head back and, thank God, our drive over the dunes was a lot shorter and les bumpy after our huge dinner.

Dubai has been incredible. These past few days have been a great taster into what Dubai has to offer and I will definitely be back for more, but for now, the adventure continues as I head to Sri Lanka.

The Adventure Begins – Dubai <check out the video to see even more of my travels!

My Epic South East Asia Trip

Ever since my 7 week gap year trip around Australia and New Zealand I have been dying to  go on a bigger, longer, even more awesome trip. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of my gap year trip but when I kept running into people who were travelling for three months minimum I started to feel like mine was a little more like an extended holiday. I shouldn’t have put myself down so much because I’ve come to realise it doesn’t matter the length of the trip but the experiences you have along the way. I crammed a lot into Australia and New Zealand and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. That being said, I’ve still always wanted to go on a longer trip for the simple reason that I can fit in even more great experiences!

One day I drop into an STA travel shop and tell them my budget and my ideas, now a couple of months on I have an epic itinerary planned! STA have been so helpful with putting together something really cool and also kind of complicated; I’d definitely recommend using them. Asian culture is so different from anything I have ever experienced before so it’s been a long time dream to visit Thailand and we built the trip from there. In the end I booked a 5 month trip around South East Asia!

My big trip starts ten days after my last MA assignment and I can’t wait. Here it is:

10th Oct – I’ll fly to Dubai to catch up with my friend Taylor. I’ll be spending four days here with Taylor showing me the best local places, doing some shopping (well maybe window shopping – I have got to save some money for the rest of my trip) and visiting swanky bars.

14th Oct – After this short stop over I’ll be heading to Sri Lanka for a week. I don’t know what I’ll be getting up to in Sri Lanka yet but I’m excited to start planning!da7bcabad41cdf7778311fbaf44d70f8

21st Oct – Next up is India. I’ll be on the Uncover India tour which will take me from Dehli
to Goa. Along the way I’ll be checking out the Taj Mahal, learning henna painting, bathing in Pushkar lake and visiting many temples.

6th Nov – Once I’ve lazed around on the beach in Goa for a few days I’ll be flying to Singapore where I’ll make my own way to Kuala Lumpa. I’m looking forward to this bit; a little taste of freedom to travel where I want, when I want and some independance to figure out how I’m actually going to do that!

16th Nov – I’ll be flying to Manila to explore the Philippines next. This is another leg of the journey I’m doing solo and also where I’ll be celebrating my birthday! I’m hoping here I’ll be able to do some diving as I island hop around Philippines’ 7,000+ islands! Swimming with whale sharks, visiting the chocolate mountains and the hanging tombs are also on my list of things to do.

28th Nov – From there I head over to Borneo for almost three weeks. I’ll fly into Kota Kinabalu and have five days to explore there, perhaps hiking Mount Kinabalu and visiting Turtle Island. Then it’s on to Kuching and my first volunteering experience: Orangutang conservation. I’m sure it will involve some hard work at times but will also be a lot of fun and gives me a chance to explore the rainforest and even stay in a traditional longhouse.

16th Dec – Finally it will be time to head over to the long-awaited Thailand. For this section of the trip I’ll be meeting up with my travel buddy Joey. You’ll hear more about a previous trip we’ve been on together in the next post but in the meantime check out his blog https://themichaeljoseph.com. We’ll spend a day or two in Bangkok before heading up to Chaing Mai where we will do one week of elephant conservation. Elephants are my favourite animal and one I’m currently writing my novel about so I’m really looking forward to this part of the trip. Being up close and personal to an elephant will be a dream come true! We finish just in time for Christmas and hopefully for a couple of other friends to come and join us; Ed and his girlfriend Becky. From there the four of us will head South to explore Thailand’s islands and celebrate the New Year.

IMG_23289 Jan – After I’ve said goodbye to my friends I’ll be joining the Stray Asia bus. This is a flexible hop-on hop-off service that will take me through Laos, Cambodia and end my trip in Vietnam. I chose to travel this way because I did a similar pass with the Oz Experience and New Zealand Experience, both of which were great. It’s a fun way to meet new people and do a wide range of activities with the ease of having a tour guide to help book them for you. They also offer unique experiences like remote homestays I might not otherwise be able to do if I were organising it on my own. This will be the most flexible part of my trip and I’ll be able move on when I like or stick around for a few extra days somewhere if I feel like it- as long as I’m back in Bangkok to catch my flight home on the 1st March that is!

So that’s it! This is my epic jam-packed trip and everything I’ll be doing along the way – or at least what I have planned so far. This will be the longest I’ve ever been away from home and the first time I’ll be travelling completely on my own. I am equal parts terrified and excited. Bring on October. Bring on South East Asia!