Things you can do/ see in Dubai (my pick)

Dubai was our last stop of our 15 day honeymoon before heading home to Mumbai. My first impressions of Dubai was “manmade city.” To me it looked artificial , nothing seemed real. But Dubai had its way of getting me to love it. As days passed the city started growing on me. It was no more the man made city I thought of. Or maybe I simple got used to it. Morning in Dubai was mostly spent checking out the tourist spots like the Burj Khalifa, Emirates mall, Dubai mall, Atlantis, Dhow cruise, Jumeirah beach, etc. and evenings were spent with friends & family. So I was lucky to see both the touristy and the non touristy side of the city.

These are a few things I would recommend doing / seeing in Dubai :

1. Offcourse, the Burj Khalifa, time it with the musical fountain and wallah!! Make sure you check out the show timings in advance. If you want to go to the top of Burj Khalifa make sure you book your tickets in advance. I was unlucky as I missed it due to serious miscommunication between friends wanting to take us there.  Also pay a visit to The Dubai Aquarium at the Dubai Mall.

Dubai Aquarium & underwater world

Dubai Aquarium & underwater world

2. Take a Dhow cruise with dinner at the Dubai creek and see the city at night. It’s beautiful.

Dinner@ Dhow cruise

Dinner@ Dhow cruise

3. Obviously, The sand dune bashing & the desert safari . It was the highlight of our trip. We got an amazing Pakistani driver with whom we had struck a rapport, he gave us 15mins more than the actual time. Plain lucky I say!! Don’t miss the sand dune bashing you’ll absolutely love it.

Sand dunes bashing

Sand dunes bashing

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4. Enjoy Belly dancing &  Tanoura Dance Performances by professional dancers. It’s worth every penny. I absolutely loved the Tanoura. The food at the camp however, is nothing to talk about. We hogged once back at the hotel.

My Favourite dance performance- Tanoura

My Favourite dance performance- Tanoura

5. Take a trip to the Atlantis hotel , apart from the architecture and the beautiful murals on the ceilings..there was nothing much that interested me…but a lot of people love going to the Atlantis. If you have time spend the day at the Atlantis water park. A trip to Atlantis will let you see a new side of Dubai with beautiful buildings, roads and the palm Jumeirah Islands but from the ground level…wish we could see it from top.

The view outisde Atlantis

The view outisde Atlantis

6. Open Jumeirah beach wanted me to go back to Maldives. Clean, white sands so little crowd, perfect.

Jumeriah Beach

Jumeriah Beach

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Burj-Al-Arab in the backdrop

7. The one hotel we liked visiting as a part of our itinerary was Mina A’ Salam, at Madinath Jumeirah. More than the Atlantis , it was this hotel that mesmerised me. The architecture, the Arab style markets inside the hotel, the little boat that takes you from one part of the hotel to the other and the various restaurants. I highly recommend this place.

Mina Al Salam Hotel , Madinath Jumeriah

Mina Al Salam Hotel , Madinath Jumeriah

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8. A visit to the global village at the DubaiLand Area. It’s a big cultural extravaganza all under one roof.  There are 36-37 pavilions (or maybe more) dedicated to each country from Asia & Africa and some major countries of Europe. Stall holders from that particular country sell  local products ranging from accessories, kitchenware, spices, perfumes, clothes, artifacts etc.  There are pavilions dedicated to  Lebanon, South Africa, Turkey , Spain , of course India and many more. It took us more than 3hours to go around (we skipped a few because we were tired) And at the end we were exhausted after so much walking. Even if you don’t buy anything, visit the place to see the different cultures, regions bought under one roof. Apart from the food court,  there are lots cultural activities and music shows etc that take place from time to time, but be prepared to Walk Walk Walk…the place is huge. Its a temporary setup which lasts for 6 months between Oct-March, so check the dates before going.

Shopping@ Global Village

Shopping@ Global Village

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The South Africa Pavillion

9. A visit to the snow world/Ski Dubai at the Emirates Mall. Ski Dubai is the worlds largest indoor snow park with 3000 sq meters covered with snow.You would absolutely refuse to go the snow world at Phoenix marketcity, Kurla, its not even 10percent of what this is.

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10. If you have days in hand, make sure you take a day trip to Al Ain, the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Its known for its greenery and landscape and hence called the Garden City. I especially like the entry to the city…full of flowers, so clean, so well maintained , like our friends said its a place where the rich people stay. The houses there are beautiful. There’s a Zoo, a park , a palace , fort, museums all of which are worth a visit.

on our way to Al-Ain

on our way to Al-Ain

But we skipped all of that for the “Jabal Hafeet”, the best drive up hill. For people who love driving this place is magical, with steep curves, hairpin bends , this place which I believe is 3000 ft above sea level gives you some amazing views of the city. The whole drive up the hills was mind blowing. If not for anything else , just go there  for the drive. There is a cafe  on top which serves delicious food.  Once you come down, head straight to Mubazarra Park to soak your legs in the hot springs. Its an absolutely perfect day trip !!

Unfortunately my battery drained out by the time we reached Jabal Hafeet and hence i dont have any pictures from my camera. So i borrowed these two from Google.

Drive up Jebel Hafeet pic courtesy - Google

Drive up Jebel Hafeet
pic courtesy – google

pic courtesy- Google

pic courtesy- Google

11.Shop shop shop. Dubai is a city of malls. You get everything from branded stuff to perfume testers to local shopping. The options are galore. Emirates & Dubai mall for all the branded stuff.Meena bazaar for perfume testers ( try Ratans they are quite well known in the area) , Deira for local shopping, Dragon mall for good branded stuff at reasonal price. Take your pick.

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12. Dubai nightlife is also something to talk about, we enjoyed ourselves for the time we were there thanks to our local friends.

If your visiting during dec -jan make sure you carry your jackets. It was freezing when we visited. But it’s still one of the best months to visit as I love winters. Oh and Jan is also the Dubai shopping festival month. So , happy planning.

Jaipur -A royal affair

Jaipur was our last stop in Rajasthan. The pink city surprised me in many ways. I dint expect it too be so crowded, I din’t expect it to be so touristy and I dint expect it to be so Royal. But it was all that and more.

We arrived quiet late in Jaipur and had no idea whatsoever that it would be so different in the morning. We zoomed past so many cars, buses, scooters and lots and lots of people evry time we went out to visit a place. In the beginning it was like the city was testing my patience with so much traffic and chaos but eventually and slowly the city grew on me. And at the end of journey and I kind of liked this place.

What to see :-

Hawa Mahal :- Hawa Mahal is located in a crowded street. It’s beautifully made from the outside with lots and lots of window…for air to pass in. Hence, the name Hawa Mahal- the palace of wind. It is a place where the ladies from the royal family used to sit and watch the people go by as they were not allowed to come out in the open.It was their idea of evening entertainment. You can go inside as well but due to lack of time, and because a lot of people said it’s not that great inside, we decided to skip it. I wish the authorities took a little effort to maintain the place and keep it clean.

Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal

Jaipur City Palace :- The City Palace is built in true Rajputana style , and a part of the palace is still the residence of the royalty. You are however, not allowed to enter that part. Luckily for us, the day we arrived at City Palace the royal family was expecting a few guests and so we could witness a grand procession of horses, camels, elephants of the royal family welcoming the guests in true royal style. But once the guests went inside, the gates were closed. But nevertheless it was a magical experience. The part open for tourists houses big courtyards, fountains, gardens and museums which are well maintained and preserved. The architecture is something that will make you sit down and take notice. One of the displays that caught my attention was two magnificient silver urns which were used to carry water for the king whenever he went on a trip. Unfortunately,you are not allowed to take a picture of it.

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Palace where the Royalty still lives..as visible from one of the courtyards.

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the beautiful peacock design at the entrance

Amber fort :- Amber fort also pronounced as Amer fort is situated in Amer, 11kms or so from Jaipur. You have to take an Elephant ride to go up there, trust me the ride is worth it and luckily for us our elephant and the rider both were entertaining , we had a ball of a time with them. Once up you will be mesmerised by the beauty of the palace, but what puts you off at the same time is the hundreds and hundreds of visitors, which makes the place super crowded. The palace is full of courtyards, palaces inside each with a story to be told. A lot of movies have been shot here, and you are also told stories of how jodha bai of Jodha Akbar fame used to live here. One marvels, at the largeness of this place. It amazes me as to so much detailing must have gone into designing the interiors which is well preserved. While there I could visualize the lives led by the Rajput royalty.

Amer fort

Amer fort

 

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Elephant ride up..

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Jal mahal :- it’s impossible to drive past this place while visiting Jaipur. It’s on your way to Amber fort , the most sort after tourist attraction in Jaipur. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside, and so the place is not that crowded. Tourists just stop by to take some pictures enroute amber fort. But it’s a perfect place to unwind in the evening, with a cup of tea in hand, a walk by lake makes you appreciate this beauty called Jal mahal…especially during sunset. The palace is half submerged in the water.. And hence remains cool from inside. Jaipur is usually hot in the summers. So some say This was used a getaway palace by the king back then during summers. While some say, it was built so that the royalty could do some duck hunting as pastime without having to sit in an uncomfortable boat. It however, surprises me how the palace has stood the test of time and weather without corrosion despite being in the water for so long.

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Jantar mantar :- What looks like a sculpture park full of modern art to one, is actually a place full of astronomical instruments. It was built during the end of Mughal era , and allowed common people to learn about the science involved in astronomy. Instruments of marble and stone were used for tracking the movement of stars and planets. It also predicted the arrival of the monsoons. It is still used to forecast opportune time and date for special occasions like weddings. Even if you are not into astronomy, give it a try as this place is worth a visit.

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Jaipur & shopping :- Shopping & Jaipur to hand in hand. The old city of Jaipur is full of shops, markets and is a treat for shopoholic’s. Johri bazaar ,chand pole bazaar, tripoli bazaar, Bapu bazaar are all a Shoppers haven. From jewellery, to bags, to textiles especially the famous Rajasthani bandhani, to handicrafts, puppets, arts, mojdi’s etc you name it they have it. Jaipur is also famous for blue pottery and you will find a lot of showrooms on your way to Amber fort.

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Chokhi Dhaani :- To experience the whole of Rajasthan under one roof head straight to Chokhi Dhaani at night . With different dance shows, cultural activities, entertainment, mehendi stalls, astrologers and stalls selling products from rajasthan the palace is an experience in itself. Its a complete rajasthani village experience. And then you can savour some rajasthani food in the end which is super delicious.

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Abhaneri step well – the unknown treasure

On your way from Jaipur to Agra , a small detour of a few kms will take you to this unknown treasure , abandoned, untouched and not so touristy place.
The village of Abhaneri is known for its step wells, and Chand baori (step well) was one of its kind I had ever seen in my life.
It was straight out of a Bollywood movie, it reminded me of the movie “Paheli”.
What’s strange is not many people know about it . Even our driver was clueless and discouraged us to take the detour. But I was adamant that I wanted to see this place no matter what. And was happy that I convinced him to take us there, and it was worth it.

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It is nearly 1000 years old and built by King Chanda of Nikhumba Dynasty. But when you look at it you feel like it was built just yesterday. It’s one of the oldest stepwell in Rajasthan and one of the deepest step well in the world. The construction of this step well is so beautiful with stone works all over that makes you sit back and take notice of it. It’s near a river bank. It also has some temple ruins. One cannot go down for safety reasons. The step well is designed like a reverse pyramid into the ground . And I wonder how would it look at night with lamps lit all over just like in the movies…so beautiful. But such a thing used to happen during those days just to appease the rain god so that he blesses the well with water..this is what a guide following us told.

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09_Abhaneri stepwell (20)

You can take a local guide for a nominal amount or just explore the place on your own.  The entry is free however they charge you for the video camera.

You might be the only person here, or maybe a few foreign tourists but it helps you in exploring the place more peacefully. The place is really quiet and peaceful and let’s you break the journey between Jaipur and Agra while you discover an untouched place. The architecture, the craftsmanship, the beauty will just blow you away.

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09_Abhaneri stepwell (26)

I am so glad that I read about this place somewhere, researched well before we left for Rajasthan and took the decision to go there. This place was the most unforgettable experience I ever had.

 

Kumbhalgarh fort – our very own china gate

Our first stop in Rajasthan was The Kumbhalgarh Fort – a place I had never heard of before. It hurts to know that a fort with its wall which is said to be 36km long running along the aravali mountains , second only to Great Wall of China and with so much of history to talk about is not known to many in their own country.

Th place is really majestic, stands on top of a high hill where you reach by walking for too long. But once up the views are awesome and makes the journey worth it. It’s from here you can see the size of the fort and the majestic walls. You can hire a guide at the entrance which is definitely a good idea if you have absolutely no idea about the history of kumbhalgarh.0_Kumbhalgarh (5)

The fort from inside

The fort from inside

Situated on the banks of Banas River, Kumbhalgarh fort was built in 1443 AD by Rana Kumbha. It took 15-long years to build this massive fort. The long winding walls was instrumental in preventing the enemy to capture the fort. The fort was the most difficult one to capture and was captured only once but was recaptured by the Mewar rulers again. It was one of the most important part of the Mewar history. The fort was also the birth place of Maharana Pratap.

The Kumbalgarh fort from the viewing platform outside.. I could not capture the whole thing in my camera..its that huge..

The Kumbalgarh fort from the viewing platform outside.. I could not capture the whole thing in my camera..its that huge..

It has hundreds of Hindu and Jain temples within. A lot of villagers still live inside the fort. The fort is surrounded by the Kumbhalgarh wild life sanctuary and is guarded by seven lofty gates. The steep walls are wide enough for eight horses to march abreast.

The never ending 36 km long walls of the fort..as seen from the top.

The never ending 36 km long walls of the fort..as seen from the top.

The sound and light show at night brings alive it’s history making you feel as if the characters are actually in front of you. After the show the place is lit up with lights & this is when the beauty of the fort comes alive. It looks absolutely stunning.

Walking yoru way up the fort..its a long walk..

Walking yoru way up the fort..its a long walk..

The temples within the fort

The temples within the fort

The fort looks the best from the outside. Stop on the opposite side of the hill that houses it, and you can see it in all its majesty … really not to be missed 🙂