How to live it up in Dubai if you’re tired of shopping

It’s almost like a scene out of The Stepford Wives, sans the wives. The lawns are manicured, the homes, pristine — not a soul where he shouldn’t be – the drive from Dubai International Airport to the JBR area (Jumeirah Beach Residence), was like being ferried through a suburban Utopia. And even as the row houses gave way to metallic buildings and complex high-rises, everything seemed perfect in Dubai – or at least functioning in a well-oiled, processed manner.

And coming from Mumbai, where (mostly) organised chaos takes centre stage — roads are littered with buildings with peeling paint and people are everywhere— on my first visit, the perfection of the city seemed almost too perfect, even after I witnessed the crowded malls on weekends and the “bad” Thursday night traffic. But on my third visit there, I had finally scratched its seemingly perfect surface and begun to feel a little more comfortable around its manufactured perfection. And while I’m grateful to Emirati city and the access it gives me to global favourites like Cheesecake Factory to iHop and the hoard of malls to appease every shopaholic, I found there’s a lot to do in Dubai beyond simply shopping. From exploring Bur Dubai, the historic district, located on the western side of the Creek and Diera to picnics at Zabeel Park (when the weather permits) to making the most of its luxe food and nightlife scene, I’ve rounded my favourite things to do and the places you must eat at – if you want to give more than just your credit card a spin in the Emirate. Fair warning: This is a luxury holiday destination… so be prepared to spend a little money, even if you’re skipping out on the shopping.

Visit 
Ski Dubai
Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort created within the Mall of Emirates offers a bunch of snow sports and the chance for you to play in the snow, while technically still in the desert. My inner snow angel was particularly partial to the chubby penguins that we met there.

Dubai Frame
Officially opened in early 2018, The Dubai Frame at Zabeel Park, designed by Fernando Donis is made of glass, steel, aluminium, and reinforced concrete and stands in such a way that on one end the landmarks of the new part of the part of the city are visible, while the other end offers views of the old city—making it a great representation of a city that seems to change every time you visit.

Dubai Opera
In less than two years, the Dubai Opera has gained a steady fan following—with good reason. Located in the Opera district, in a stunning glass façade building, a trip to this 2,000-seat, multi-format, performing arts centre is the perfect way to spend an evening. We were partial to emotional classics like Romeo & Juliet.

Dubai Fountain
The world’s largest choreographed fountain system set at the centre of the Downtown Dubai development, watch the fountains dance and swirl under the moonlit sky – it’s free and is lovely in the winter time.

La Perle by Dragone
Franco Dragone is well-known for his aqua-based shows and it was in late 2017 that this Emirate got a taste of the Cirque du Soleil veteran’s vision, with a resident show in a theatre built at Al Habtoor city. Think 65 super in-shape artists who range from dancers to Olympic athletes, performing gravity-defying acrobatic, aquatic and aerial stunts that made sure I kept my groggy eyes wide-open even after an entire day of touring through the city.

Eat at
Seven Sands
Want to sample traditional Emirati cuisine? Seven Sands, situated at the JBR walk, should be on your list – think shark sambousas (which apparently inspired the Indian samosa), several rice-based main courses and of course, hummus in all its glory.

The Cocoa Kitchen
We love all things chocolate – so when a café promises that each of its dishes will include an element of cocoa, we couldn’t wait to try it. We visited Cocoa Kitchen at Citywalk and that hot chocolate is something we won’t be forgetting for a long, long time.

J&G Steakhouse, St Regis
With candlelit tables and a gorgeous, endless stairwell leading to the restaurant, J&G is hardly your average steakhouse (though it is well known for its range of American classics). For those who aren’t a fan of the meat, we recommend their foie-grass stuffed chicken, paired with a delicate white wine, from their elegantly curated seafood and steak menu.

Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera
Nestled within the opera building, I almost didn’t notice the Burj Khalifa peeking down at me as I sat down at the rooftop terrace of Sean Connolly at the Opera for a winter-night meal. At the British-born chef’s first restaurant in the Middle East, a contemporary brasserie that opened its doors in late 2017, the menu features a range of seafood and steak, all impeccably cooked and plated. We loved the lobster burger and entrée of grilled white peaches, buffalo mozzarella and pistachio pesto.

Bleu Blanc by David Myers at Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai
Designed like a chic southern French farmhouse, a wood-fired grill takes centre stage at this in-hotel restaurant – we loved the roasted baby chicken and lamb kebabs! Morimoto Dubai is slated to open at the property soon – so stay tuned for the Japanese favourite!

Fact file
Location: Dubai, UAE
Getting there: Easily accessible via air
Best time to visit: November to March
Other attractions: Burj Al Arab, Jumeira Beach, Palm Jumeira, Grand Mosque, Dubai Gold souk, Dubai Spice souk, Textile souk, Al Bastakiya
For amusement park fans: IMG Worlds of Adventure, Motiongate Dubai, Legoland Dubai, Bollywood Parks

 

Winter is coming – Our top 5 must visit winter wonderlands

When someone tells you that you “have to go to Amsterdam” in winter you don’t moan about how cold and windy it’s going to be, instead you pack all the warm clothes you possibly have and make the most of a winter vacation. I’ve always despised the cold, I mean who doesn’t love Margaritas on a beach but skiing on a mountain or sipping on mulled wine in a quaint little town in Switzerland is equally (or more) impressive. Each vacation, whatever the weather may be relies on what you do and how you experience it and a little tip, once you’re in the minuses example -1 and survived; all the minuses are endurable.

Travel like a pro – 6 steps to avoid over packing

 

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found in your suitcase yet? Well, half way in to our American holiday we realised it wasn’t wise to carry a photo album with photos of our dogs or jewellery pouches filled with bobbles nor was it necessary to carry biscuits from India! You’re faced with this life or death decision whether to carry the sun hat for the beach, the 3 swim suits you’ve just bought, the striped or plain dress and which shoes you have to be photographed in on this holiday. It’s unpleasant lugging around a 32 kg suitcase that’s half your size and holding up lines because you also have a backpack and sling purse to balance all for your 10 day holiday. Therefore, we’ve devised the perfect guide to assist you with packing that won’t require you to sit on your suitcase to have it closed.

Mission Scuba – 3 reasons why Borneo turned us in to scuba junkies

With seventy per cent of the planet underwater, you mustn’t think twice before plunging in to the deep blue waters of any ocean. What awaits is a whole new world for you to immerse yourself in sans crowds, pollution and any form of mundane you’re used to. We’re talking abut scuba diving.

Blessed with some of the most marine-rich waters in the world, Borneo (Malaysia) promises to deliver those exhilarating experiences of swimming with hammerheads, cruising alongside turtles and gliding by the swirling tornadoes of barracudas. Not convinced yet? Read on

Borneo – the undiscovered paradise

Chasing tigers at Ranthambore National Park, India, scuba diving with fishies in Indonesia and road tripping through the snow-capped mountains of Kashmir, India—  we love adventurous vacations and we’re lucky to have a group of friends as crazy about them as we are. This year, our motley crew was on the lookout for something pocket friendly yet mega exciting and we found our match in…

… *Drumroll*  BORNEO, the land of rain forests, idyllic islands, noodles, hot curries and super-welcoming people! Borneo is the largest non-continental island in the world shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the tiny nation of Brunei. Known for its rugged landscapes, world famous dive-sites, orangutans, clouded leopards and unusual wildlife; Borneo was a no-brainer.

Here, we’re giving you a day-wise itinerary for those thrill seekers ready for an adventure like no other.

How to do Machu Picchu on your honeymoon – hostels, shared car rides, cuts, bruises et al

Life-long dream. To enter the ruins of Machu Picchu – the famed lost city of the Incas has been a lifelong dream. I had successfully annoyed my now husband to take me to this wonder on our honeymoon and no this story does not end in – “wow you’re so lucky, he surprised you!” Not exactly, it only took a few years of convincing, a promise to stop nagging for 1 month and strict instructions by him to fit it in our “working class” salary budget and if it panned out without the need to sell a kidney, HURRAY we were going to Peru!

While most of the online guides you read advise you to take a tour, we wouldn’t’. We live in a world where information to the remotest of places is a click away and questions are answered in a matter of minutes by bloggers and like-minded travelers. So immerse yourself in blogs and online content that spew information and in no time you’ll be narrating your itinerary in your sleep. Neurotic as I am, we meticulously planned this adventure right down to its last bus transfer and hotel requirement before we stepped on foreign soil but little did we know that some adventures just cant be planned.

Bird watching in Bombay: the fort of the flamingos

I like getting drunk over the weekend like any other self-respecting corporate slave that’s usually attached to her desk. But my Grab Your Globe alter-ego basically can’t sit still – and that makes settling for knocking back brunch-time margaritas, every Sunday, difficult. Even when I’m stuck in the city, I’m itching to “do things”  – beyond bar nights and book clubs, flying all the way to flamingos.

And that’s how I agreed to wake up at 5:30am on a Saturday morning (hungover) to chase certain long-legged blushing hotties. Yep, I’m talking about the flamingos that live in the mud flats of Sewri. And if they can fly over 600km to get to their winter home, I could wake up pre-sunrise to meet the flaming feathers, right?

Uakari Lodge – Why you should go + survival tips for the faint hearted

Welcome to the jungle — it’s enchanting, with visuals so stunning even a travel prude would fall hook, line and sinker. A relatively unexplored setting, the Brazilian Amazon is everything you imagine, and more, making it the perfect place to let go and breathe in the freshest air you’ve ever inhaled.

Travel tunes: Our ultimate guide to some easy listening, on the road

Whether you’re gliding down a river, floating above the clouds in a metal bird or leaving dusty roads behind, music makes a great companion

Music and travel have a tantalising relationship. These two go hand in hand like Brad and Angelina on the sets of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (who knew they’d get a divorce). Music is quite an addiction for most of us where it’s impossible to leave the house without an IPod or music providing device. Good music can quite easily transport you to your happy place, engulf you in its world and leave you spellbound wanting the sensation to never end. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of what we think make the perfect companions for a “feel good” travel journey. If nothing, these suggestions are guaranteed to awaken the inner free spirit in you and encourage you to pack those bags and head out.

Warning: Some of these are classic clichés but we just couldn’t help ourselves.