High on Dubai!

Charles Duncombe is a Dubai holidays expert at UK travel company Holidaysplease. He recently experienced the ever changing face of Dubai.....This is his Dubai travel story.

I have been in the travel industry long enough to remember when no-one knew much about Dubai, and didn’t really consider going there on holiday. The frightening thing is that this was only about 10 years ago!

However when I visited recently I realised that 10 years is a long time when you work on Dubai time....

The transformation occurred before I even arrived at Dubai as flew on the Airbus A380 from Heathrow. This aircraft is simply massive as it carries 33% more passengers than a Boeing 747. For a moment I wasn’t sure whether I had got on a plane or a cruise ship!

You can really feel the extra space and with a complete upper deck full of business class there is often the option to fly in style at a more reasonable price than usual business class prices.

The sense of “newness” and space continued as we arrived at Dubai airport with its cavernous roof and spotless facilities. My tired, old suitcase looked slightly embarrassed as it came around the carrousel into this opulent arrival hall. It looked like it had just turned up at the opera in jeans and a t shirt!

Nevertheless we were allowed to proceed and we took a local mini bus to the hotel which was the Palace, Old Town. Don’t be mislead by the phrase old town as the hotel is next to the Burj Khalifa (formerly Burj Dubai) which had just been built when we stayed. For the uninitiated the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at almost 1km high. Me being Mr practical quickly realised that when you are staying next to the World’s tallest building you are always going to be able to find your way back to the hotel!

The Palace hotel in Dubai has ultra modern facilities while still retaining a traditional feel. You arrive along the driveway with a fantastic rectangular pool lined with palm trees. Surrounding the palace hotel is a man made lagoon with the Burj Khalifa on the other side. This lagoon was also home to a fantastic water fountain show to enjoy in the evening.

Within the hotel we found the rooms are spacious and well designed. Our room was overlooking the lagoon. I particularly liked the dark wooden work desk in the room ... I think it was a subtle hint from the hotel owner that I was meant to be there working! The bathroom had a walk in shower and was a modern combination of stone and glass with twin sinks.

To the rear of the hotel is a well sized swimming pool which also looks out on to the lagoon. There is also a great balcony to enjoy a few quiet drinks in the evening.

Meals were of a high standard and were a mixture of Western and Middle East cuisine. The hotel does serve alcohol but as always it is best to travel outside Ramadan if you want to drink alcohol during your trip.

Outside the hotel you can visit the Dubai mall which is one of the biggest shopping centres in the world. Like everything in Dubai it is spotless and stocks the finest quality produce. You can easily find yourself exiting it through one of its many exits by accident but luckily you always have the world’s tallest building to help you get your bearings!

We went on a number of trips outside the hotel including a trip to “Ski Dubai”. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be skiing in Dubai I would have said that something drastic had happened to the climate. Instead they have built the world’s largest indoor ski centre which has real snow and even a working chairlift!

I spent a whole afternoon skiing down the slopes while my girlfriend sat on the chairlift and enjoyed hot chocolate in the restaurant halfway down the slope. At the bottom of the slope was an area for children where they can play amongst snow figures and have the mandatory snowball fights!

During our stay we also travelled to the Atlantis Palm, Dubai. This is an ultra modern hotel based on the end of the manmade Palm island. To give you some idea of the scale of the island it took us 15 minutes to drive from one end to the other .... and the traffic was pretty clear!

At the Atlantis we saw their huge indoor fish tank which was host to innumerable fish, rays and sharks. Some of the suites have walls of glass up against the tank and so you can get a nice shock when you wake up in the morning!

Other places that we visited and enjoyed were the local markets (where I was offered countless strange substances that were meant to have an aphrodisiacal effect!) and a boat trip on Dubai creek. We also had a fantastic lunch at Jumeirah Beach hotel which is just opposite the world’s only 7 star hotel the Burj Al Arab.

We were meant to go on a jeep safari in the desert but it was raining and so we couldn’t. Dubai gets about 3 days of rain a year and we were there for 2 of them!

All in all Dubai has changed beyond all recognition and is a fantastic destination to keep even the most demanding traveller entertained. It is also a fantastic stop off destination where you can spend a few days relaxing ahead of travelling further afield to places such as the Indian Ocean and Far East. I just hope it’s not another ten years before I come back....

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