Mission survive

Day 7 – Dubai

Our very last day in Dubai. The whole week went by so fast. We visited so many different places and made amazing memories. It definitely got never boring. I cannot really tell you anything exciting that we did for that day. We just enjoyed our last breakfast, packed our luggage, checked out and went to the beach.

Since the day before, I was just all the time thinking about what to do. That hasn’t changed. However, I made my decision. If it would be the right one? I was not sure. But finally, I decided to take the risk and travel for almost two weeks alone to the Philippines. Crazy? I know. But it wouldn’t have been me if I would have decided to fly back home and cancel the entire trip, which I spent already so much time, money and nerves on it.

I am not going to lie, of course I was a little nervous and had a weird feeling. I haven’t planned the trip like I did my world trip a few of years ago. Many things were still unclear. But I knew that I could do it. However, my whole mindset about the trip changed. I wasn’t that excited anymore, which was sad. I did not perceive it anymore as a holiday to relax, have fun and forget everything around me. At this point, it was just a challenge to me. Am I able to master this trip on the other side of the world alone? Will everything go alright so I can come safely and healthy back home as planned?

Obviously, my mum wasn’t that happy about my decision, I could tell. But she knew as well, that if I would have travelled back to Zurich with her, I would have been not happy either. I would have always asked myself, what if I would have taken the risk? Was it just a waste of money? On the other side, health and safety is always more important than anything else. It was a tricky decision. But I did, what I have to do.

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We spent the entire day on the beach. The weather was perfect again. Afterwards, we were allowed to use the spa to take a shower and change clothes. The staff members at Rixos Premium were all very kind and helpful. It was sad to leave. Who knows when we will have the luxury again to stay in such a nice hotel again?

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For dinner, we wanted something casual and quick. I discovered a Chinese restaurant called Chowking, which is actually a popular fast food chain in Asia. We ordered their specialty platter, a shrimp curry, some fried tofu, sautéed spinach and rice. It was more than enough, but actually pretty good for a fast food joint. We were both totally satisfied.

I tried like crazy that night to find a mask for my flight and travels to Asia, but even at that point they were all sold out. I was shocked? Already? In the Middle East, where no one was affected yet. But I just couldn’t find it, which made me worry. Therefore, we headed around 7:30 – 8pm to the airport. My flight was very late, before midnight. My mum’s flight was even later, at around 2am in the morning. We hoped we could check in together, but the luggage Drop-off for the Swiss counter wasn’t open yet. Therefore, we had to separate already, which was not the easiest thing.

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When I passed the security check and passport control, I was still trying to search for a mask, but no chance. When I reached my terminal, I immediately felt that I was going to the Philippines. I was the only foreigner and two heads taller than everyone else. No joke! And everyone was wearing a mask, except me. I didn’t really feel that comfortable. In general, I was just in a strange mood. My mission? Just survive!

Miracles

Day 6 – Dubai

We already did a lot in the couple of days in Dubai. However, there were still two things on my To-Do List. The first thing was to visit the dunes of Dubai. However, we didn’t feel like doing a full day trip again. Therefore, the desert has to wait for us. One reason to come back. The second thing was to visit the Miracle Garden. And that’s what we did.

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After a relaxed and amazing breakfast, we took a taxi to the Miracle Garden of Dubai. The Miracle Garden got my attention mainly due to Instagram. It seems to be a perfect place for making pictures. The garden is not open all year long, which is understandable. In the hot summer of Dubai, flower would definitely not survive. However, the season at that moment was just perfect for a visit. It took as around 20-30 min to reach the garden. And we were surprised positively, that there weren’t so many people around. We could immediately buy a ticket and enter the park.

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Miracle Garden exceeded our expectations by far. We really didn’t think we would enjoy it that much, but it was just adorable and so detail oriented. I don’t think I have ever seen something comparable. The garden itself is not too big. Nevertheless, you can discover all the time something new. The tunnel made out of flower hearts was obviously the most iconic part of the garden. However, we liked every single flower sculpture. Visiting the Miracle Garden is a perfect excursion for the morning. It doesn’t take too much time to see the entire park. Therefore, we had still time to relax at the beach for the entire afternoon.

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For dinner we checked out some restaurants near our hotel. We didn’t realize before that there were so many different restaurants and shops close bar. At the end we decided to eat at the Noodle House. The Noodle house offered different types of noodle dishes from Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Korea. I really enjoyed the food. Simple and delicious! Afterwards we walked along the beach promenade where we discovered a small souvenir market. And I thought that was it for today.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t. I got a quite shocking message from my friend that day, which turned my whole plan upside down. After Dubai, I was supposed to go to the Philippines with my Indonesian friend from uni. Due to the virus situation that got especially in Asia worse and worse, she decided to cancel the trip at the last minute. At that point of time I didn’t perceive the situation that serious. There were only 3 cases in the Philippines to that time. Furthermore, the Philippine government set up very strict rules for Chinese travellers to enter the Philippines. A whole plane was sent back to China.

I was just very confused and didn’t know what to do. We planned our trip already so many months before. First there was the volcano, which worried as a lot, now the virus. Maybe it just wasn’t the time for us to visit the Philippines. Nevertheless, we spent already so much money on the flights, the accommodations, boat trips and so on. It was such a shame. When I texted my Chinese friends in China, I was totally shocked about the situation they were going through at that moment. Obviously, they told me to go back to Europe. My mum already asked my brother to book a flight for the next day back home to Zurich. I still wasn’t sure. Should I go back home with my mum? Or take the risk and travel alone to the Philippines? I mean, I have travelled alone before. Nevertheless, I was prepared for a trip with my friend together. Furthermore, the Philippines are not really well known for travelling alone, especially as a girl. It is just not the safest country on earth! Oh god… I had to decide… then my flight was already tomorrow!

What would you have done?

 

Abu Dhabi

Day 5 – Abu Dhabi

It was already our 5th day in Dubai. There was still so much to see and do. At first, I thought one week might be quite a long time. But there is so much to do and to see. It took me quite a while to convince my mum to go to Abu Dhabi. But I really wanted to see it while we are in Dubai. Furthermore, the windy weather that day was not appropriate for a beach day. And at the end, it was definitely a day I do not want to miss.

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We hired a driver for the day to Abu Dhabi and back. That was actually the only way to reach Abu Dhabi without having to do a guided group tour. It took us around an hour until we reached Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is mainly well known due to the huge white mosque, called Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. My mum was sceptical. Would it be worth it to drive one hour each way and pay a good amount of money for the driver just to see a mosque? But at the moment we saw the huge white building the first time, we immediately knew that it was worth it.

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But before actually entering the mosque we had to wait in a queue, get a free ticket and change clothes. Especially women’s dress code in a mosque is really strict. It is important to cover your head and hair, as well as the entire body. Therefore, we got some amazingly pretty looking garments. But everyone looked ridiculous, which made us feel a little better. And then we actually came to the mosque. WOW! It looked so beautiful! The entire mosque, completely white, was something I have never seen in real life. Really beautiful. And even though there were so many people, we could enjoy the beauty!

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We also had the chance to have a look inside. Apparently, we saw the world’s largest hand-woven carpet. Absolutely amazing. So many details and colours in the entire room. Very noble and just magnificent.

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Afterwards we headed back to our driver, who waited already too long for us. Sorry but not sorry! He drove us straight away to the Emirates Palace, the most famous luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi. We have never really heard about it before. But when we entered the hotel, we knew why it’s called the Emirates Palace. Everything seemed to be golden and beige. The ceilings, the pillars, the furniture, the floor, just everything. We wondered around, made some pictures and headed already back to the car.

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From there we made one last stop to see the “skyline” of Abu Dhabi. I guess the word “skyline” is a bit of an exaggeration. It was just a view of the city. When the driver told us, that it is raining right now in Dubai, we knew that we decided perfectly to visit Abu Dhabi. The weather here was absolutely alright. A little bit windy, but alright!

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And that was it. We headed back to Dubai and ate some dinner at a Thai restaurant again. It was so so stormy and fresh outside that we didn’t want to search and walk long to a restaurant. The Thai place was right nearby, and the food was absolutely tasty. Tomorrow was already our last full day in Dubai. But stay tuned for what we experienced then.

 

 

A magical night at Burj al Arab

Day 4 – Dubai

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For our fourth day in Dubai we decided to spend the day at the beach. The weather was amazing that day. Therefore, we just wanted to relax, soak up the sun, walk along the beach and swim in the sea. And that’s exactly what we did.

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In the afternoon we decided spontaneously to visit the famous “Atlantis” hotel. I think everyone knows the sand palm in the sea, which was artificially made for mainly hotels. Atlantis is the huge five-star hotel at the very end of the palm tree. It is one of the most iconic hotels in the world, I would claim, and incredibly famous in Dubai.

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We took public transportation to the Atlantis hotel, which wasn’t the smartest idea. We should have just taken a taxi to be honest. Whatever, we made it. The hotel looked stunning from the outside. We walked along the sea promenade and to a viewpoint, where we could see the skyline of Dubai Marina. We even saw the most amazing sunset that day. We actually planned to see the sunset at Burj Al Arab, but the whole journey to Atlantis took us longer than expected.

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Nevertheless, we still took the taxi to a public beach near Burj al Arab. It was already quite dark, but still very nice. If you do not know, which would be shocking, the Burj al Arab is a 7-star luxury hotel. Probably the most iconic, expensive and luxurious hotel in the world. The shape of the hotel should remind of a sail. Just the entire exterior and I am sure the interior even more, is breath taking. The beach was quite nice, but there were so many constructions going on, which ruined the view a little bit. But at that point of time, we didn’t know what we would still going to experience in that night.

It was definitely a day of visiting amazing hotels. For dinner, I booked a table at a restaurant called Paithai. The restaurant is located inside Jumeirah Madinat. Having lunch, afternoon tea or dinner is probably the best way to experience a hotel without staying overnight and paying an incredible amount of money. And I would have never expected that this would be such a good idea. But it was the most amazing night for us during our stay in Dubai.

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From the moment we arrived at the entrance of Jumeirah Madinat, we were amazed. The doormen opened our car door and greeted us so kindly. There uniform, their smile, how they spoke to us, WOW! What a service. Then we made our way through the lobby down to the water, where a boat picked us up. Yes, you heard right! A boat picked us up to bring us to the restaurant. It was magical.

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When we arrived at the restaurant we decided to sit outside. That was the best way to experience the whole atmosphere. We ordered a Mango-Shrimp Salad, Pad Thai and green curry. The food was really delicious and authentic. Except the lower spice level, I felt like I am back in Thailand. For the entire experience, the atmosphere, the food and the amazing service the price was absolutely worth it. Highly recommended!

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After dinner we headed back with the little boat. Form there we decided to have a little night walk through the outside area of Jumeirah Madinat. I really couldn’t believe how beautiful this hotel is and how big! We walked and walked and couldn’t find an end. Actually, Jumeirah combined a couple of hotels in the same. Therefore, we didn’t only see Jumeirah Madinat, but also Jumeirah Al Qasr, Jumeirah Mina A’ Salam, Jumeirah Al Naseem and the Jumeirah Beach hotel, which is shaped like a wave.

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We had the whole beach on our own with the most amazing view of Burj Al Arab. We couldn’t believe it. A perfect night and an amazing memory!

 

On top of the world

Day 3 – Dubai

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Day 3 in Dubai and still so many things we haven’t seen yet. The day started again with a big big breakfast. The weather was not as good as the days before. It was just cloudy and too windy and cold for laying on the beach. Therefore, we decided to visit the famous Dubai Mall.

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As the day before, we took the subway directly to Dubai Mall. The Mall is much bigger than I have expected. You could easily just spend the whole day shopping and eating. But that’s not all. Want to go ice skating? No problem. Just the imagination of going ice skating in a city close to the desert is insane. But in Dubai everything is possible. While wondering around the mall, we did not only discover fancy shops, but also very cool art and sculptures. My favourite was definitely the waterfall where people seemed to jump of.

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Then we obviously needed to go to the Dubai Aquarium and under water zoo. There were so many people. Crazy! We had to wait quite a while, even though we purchased the tickets the day before online. When we finally managed to get in, we were well… kind of disappointed. The aquarium was actually only one tunnel. The glass was already quite damaged, and the amount of people just affected the entire experience negatively. The pictures you see online definitely don’t correspond to the reality. But I don’t want to complain. It was still very nice. It didn’t fulfil our expectations. The underwater zoo however was really nice. Nothing extremely special, but still good to see.

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In the afternoon we planned to go up Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. I guess that’s on many people’s bucket list. We had to wait for quite a long time. It was incredibly hot and tiring.  At least we learned something about the history of Burj Khalifa and how long it took them to build the tallest building in the world. By the way, that was the first time we saw people wearing mask. In China, the virus was to that time already a big issue. However, there weren’t any cases in the Middle East yet and just a few cases in Europe.

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Honestly, I don’t really know if it is actually worth it to wait for such a long time, just to go up the tower and see the view from there. It was definitely nice, but nothing very special. We were extremely lucky that the sun came out at that time. We had a nice view over at least one side of Dubai. And now we can say, that we literally stand on top of the world.

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Afterwards we took a walk around the fountain area and Burk Khalifa. Now we finally saw the tall building from the outside. It really took out breath away. So stunning! We also had a look in Souk al Bahar, where we tried some traditional Arabic sweets.

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For dinner we headed back inside the mall. I really wanted to eat some Chinese food today. It was actually quite funny. I didn’t realize that it was Chinese New Year’s Eve that day. Maybe I just had a feeling. The restaurant was called “New Shanghai”. Many Chinese families had their dinner here. The decoration inside and the entire atmosphere was lovely. You could even see the chefs making the dumplings fresh. Chinese food in Dubai is not that common as in Europe, America or Asia. People in the middle east usually don’t eat pork, which is why the food offerings are quite different here. We ordered so much delicious food. Some shrimp wontons in chili oil, delicious dim sum, sweet and sour fish, fried spinach and rice. I was super happy!

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To end this day, we headed back outside where we watched the famous fountain show. It was incredibly beautiful and definitely the highlight of the day. One moment of our Dubai trip, that I will not forget. I can say without doubt, that visiting Dubai wouldn’t be complete without seeing Burj Khalifa and the mall!

Old Dubai

Day 2 – Dubai

Our second say in Dubai started again with an amazing breakfast. Since I started studying international hospitality business, I am perceiving the entire hotel experience totally different. When I see young employees working for breakfast, I have an immediate flashback to my internship in Japan. It is insane how I can relate to them and actually know how hard they work .

For this day, we decided to visit the Old quarter of Dubai. I know, when hearing Dubai, you are usually thinking of tall buildings, shopping malls and luxury hotels. But there is not only the modern city of Dubai, but also the more traditional Arabic part. I am not sure how much of “Old Dubai” is actually old, traditional and historical. I heard that some parts were just artificially build to reconstruct the “old” vibe. Whatever! We both really wanted to see what Dubai has to offer and experience the more traditional Arabic culture.

We took the subway to Al Ras station, if I remember correctly. The journey took us around one hour. When we arrived we felt immediately the completely different atmosphere. We were wondering if we still are in Dubai. The buildings were all flat, the surroundings kind of “desert” like and the people extremely obtrusive. To be honest, we didn’t feel very comfortable at first.

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Old Dubai is well known and popular for the different markets, which they call Gold Souk, Spice Souk and so on. They basically sell everything a tourist is looking for. Arabic spices and sweets, silk scarfs, tableware, very cute souvenirs and obviously gold. Especially the shops selling spices were so interesting and looked absolutely stunning. All the different colours of herbs, dried fruit, flowers and spices were amazing and often new to us. However, when wondering through the streets every time passing a shop someone tried convincing us to buy his product. It was really annoying, but also quite funny. I am not sure why everyone started calling me Shakira. Is that supposed to be Arabic for Lady? I have no idea. And then, suddenly people were starting to speak German to us. “So günstig wie bei Aldi Süd”; “Luege ma mol” and “Schauen kostet nix” were the top sentences we heard. It was ridiculous and shocking at once. I guess German tourists are quite common in this area.

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After a while we found some less crowded corners, where we were able to actually look around, buy some souvenirs and take some pictures. When we made it through the small alleys, we came to the Dubai Creek, a small river which makes it way through Dubai City. In order to continue exploring Old Dubai you have to cross the river. And that was actually a really cool experience. Only for 1 AED we could hop on a traditional small boat and cross Dubai Creek. Our driver was insane. He slightly misjudged the space when arriving at the other side. Oh Lord! That caused a heart attack. We bumped into the stone wall and I almost fell across my seating neighbour. It was so funny.

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When we arrived safely on the other side of old Dubai we walked through another market, which was less crowded and had way less annoying salesman. However, we just made our way immediately to a small restaurant where we could relax, drink and eat a snack. I really wanted to visit this one specific little restaurant. I discovered in online and had to see it in real life. Obviously, we weren’t the only once having this idea. The place was completely occupied and busy. However, we decided to wait like everyone else for a while. And I have to say, the 20 minutes waiting time was totally worth the experience.

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The Arabian Tea House looked stunning inside and outside. It almost reminded us of being in Greece with the white and blue furniture, the plants and flowers hanging from the ceiling. It was an incredible atmosphere. Never have I ever seen so many employees working at the same time in one small restaurant. But I wouldn’t have changed anything. They all seemed to really enjoy working together. We ordered some refreshing drinks and some Arabian snacks. We had to order hummus, which came with home-made flat bread and some falafel with a yoghurt dip. I chose the recommended mint lemonade to drink. All together was just so delicious and fresh.

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Afterwards we decided to stay in this area, called Al-Seef. In my opinion, that was the most beautiful part of old Dubai. I really enjoyed just walking through the small alleys, discovering mosques, museums and cafes. The best was, that there weren’t a lot of people at all. We had the whole beauty for us. At the end we even saw some camels, which was definitely the highlight for my mum. But I have to admit, especially the baby was really cute.

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And that was basically it for today. We walked to the next subway station and headed back to our hotel. We decided to grab some dinner from one of the stalls nearby our hotel and eat them casually in our room. It was a really nice day with so many different impressions and experiences that I didn’t expect from Dubai.

When everything still seemed normal

Day 1 – Dubai

Hello everyone. It’s the 28th of March 2020. I am in London at the moment, sitting in my room on campus and trying to avoid going outside as much as possible. I would have never expected that live would change so dramatically in such a short amount of time. Borders are closed, as well as schools and shops, streets are deserted, supermarkets are empty, toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizer sold out. Covid19 really turned our live upside down. It’s scary. We have never been in such a situation. And who knows when it will end.

But let’s try to stay positive. I guess almost everyone is at home right now. And if not, you should! I admit, it is not that exciting here. Expect doing online classes, cooking lots of food, studying Chinese, watching Netflix and struggling to finish the puzzle I have started, there is nothing to do here. That’s why I have more than enough time now to share my latest trip with you, where everything seemed to be still quite normal.

At the end of January, me and my mum visited Dubai! I couldn’t have been more excited to finally have semester holidays and go on a trip again. Even more excited was I to escape the winter in Europe. But why did we choose Dubai? First of all, we wanted to visit a place where we haven’t been before. In addition, we were definitely looking for a warm climate. Nevertheless, my mum didn’t want to fly for such a long time, which is why Dubai was the perfect destination.

When hearing Dubai, people have very different opinions about it. Either you love it, or you hate it, they say. Basically, everything is artificially made! Nevertheless, in my opinion you have to make your own experiences in order to judge a place. Moreover, Dubai is one of the most interesting cities in the world of hospitality, which is another reason why I really wanted to see it with my own eyes.

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We were both super excited, as it was our first time going to the middle east. I terms of the culture and religion in Dubai, I didn’t really know what to expect. Even more was I surprised when we arrived at Dubai Airport. It took us around 6 hours from Zurich to Dubai, which was an absolutely comfortable duration, considering the other long-distance flights I have been on in the past. At the airport, we already felt extremely that we were in a completely different part of the world. Starting by the Arabic language, the people and the traditional clothing. Men wore long white robes, called Kandura, whereas women wore Abaya, which is a long black dress, that covers the whole body except the eyes.

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After we went through the passport control, we bought some take away food for dinner and made our way with the taxi to our hotel. The ride was amazing! I don’t think I have ever been in such an incredible car. I mean, I am definitely not a car expert, but wow! We really were amazed. Not only from the care ride, but even more from our hotel. We chose the Rixos Premium Dubai JBR.  Our room was so spacious, modern and just perfect. Dubai has so many hotels, that it was not the easiest task for us to choose a hotel. But we were more than happy with our choice.

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It was already very late. Therefore, we just ate dinner in our room, watched some rather weird Arabic television and went to bed.

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The next morning, we could not wait to check out the breakfast buffet. And wow! I don’t remember the last time I saw such a variety in a breakfast buffet. It was amazing. Afterwards we had a look outside to see the pool area and the beach. It was quite an unreal experience, considering that we were the day before in cold Germany. The weather was really nice, however not extremely hot. The week we’ve been here we had between 23 – 27 Degree Celsius if I remember correctly, which is probably the best time to enjoy Dubai.

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For our first day we decided to just stay a in the hotel, relax at the beach and wonder around near the neighbourhood. We walked by some very cute street art and checked out a local supermarket.

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In the evening we headed to Dubai Marina, which was also nearby the hotel. Dubai Marina is an amazing place to have a walk in the evening and eat some dinner. And that’s what we did. We went to a Persian restaurant, to enjoy authentic middle eastern cuisine. I think that was the first time for us to eat Persian food, but I have to say that we really enjoyed it. We had obviously some hummus, home-made flat bread, grilled fish and chicken with Safran rice. Simple, but very delicious.

We had a great first day and were excited for everything else we would experience during one week in Dubai!

 

Good-bye Japan

I can’t believe my time in Japan is already over. 6 months seems to be a very long time far away from home, and that’s true.