A Travellerspoint blog

Dubai

Despite going with work for a few days last December, this was my first visit to Dubai and to any part of the Middle East, so I was really looking forward to this trip. It had been arranged for my friend Jess’ hen do due to her twin sister, Gemma, living in Dubai, so we had a jam-packed week, which was great as we got so much done in such a short amount of time!

Our first morning after arriving late the night before we woke to glorious weather – ideal when we had left a miserable, cold UK behind! We made breakfast and enjoyed this on the balcony before going for a stroll around the Dubai Marina (we stayed at Lotus Apartments - http://www.lotushoteldubai.com/ - which overlooked the Marina). We managed to get an hour or so in by the pool before we had to get ready to go out for a meal. We went to a place called Pier 7 – a building along the Marina with 7 different bars and restaurants in it. We went to a restaurant within Pier 7 calls Asia Asia. It was some of the best food I have ever had. We ordered a selection of different things between a few of us (actually, we ordered far too much but hey ho) and it was just divine. On a Tuesday night in Dubai it is Ladies’ Night, so all women get 3 free drinks in each place (7x3=21…21 free drinks!) which is just great. We stayed at Pier 7 until we were out and then went on to a club on the Palm called Mahiki. This was a really cool, underground club with a tropical/Hawaiian theme and thanks to Gemma we had more free drinks.

The next morning we headed down to the beach front to have breakfast at a lovely place called Pots, Pans and Boards - http://potspansandboards.ae/ - it was so nice to be able to sit outside and have breakfast! Following this, we headed back and got ready as at 1pm we were getting picked up to go on a Desert Safari. This involved us getting picked up in 2 massive 4x4s and driving out to the desert. Once we got there we went Dune Bashing, which was absolutely brilliant! Dune bashing means driving at increasing and decreasing speeds over sand dunes. As the surface of the sand keeps shifting, it takes a special skill and a special type of car to navigate the terrain. Due to the nature of the desert, we did not know what was coming next, be it a fall or a swift left, it was great fun.

After the Dune Bashing you get dropped off at a complex in the middle of the desert and spend the rest of the day here. There are all sorts of activities you can do including camel rides, henna tattoos, shishas, sand surfing and so on. The trip itself is cheap but they do push you for extras when you are there so if going it is definitely best to take some extra money – you will need more than you think! In the evening you get a BBQ and traditional dancing shows, which included belly dancing and knife throwing. It was a great day and really fun to be out in the middle of nowhere experiencing traditional things.

The next morning a few of us headed to the Dubai Mall as we were going up the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. We had pre-booked our tickets for this (I 100% recommend you do this as the slots do sell out) which meant we could walk straight through and up we went. I think my ears popped twice if not more on the way up and once you left the lift you see why – it was so high! I have been up some tall buildings in my time, but this was something else. It was great to be able to see so much as it was a clear day – we could even see The World islands that are currently being created.

Following this, we went to the Marina and got on a yacht that we had rented for the afternoon. I was expecting something small and average but no – it was a 22-man yacht, massive! We had a driver and 2 men serving us drink and cooking us food on a BBQ whilst we got drunk and danced around. At one point I was sitting on the front of the yacht sipping prosecco, I felt like a Kardashian! This was a great experience and we got to see so many good sights of Dubai from a new angle. It was definitely my favorite part of the holiday. After the yacht, we had a quick turn around and went to a club called SoHo Gardens which was very cool – they even had a pool!

On the Friday we went to brunch at the Atlantis. The Atlantis is a world-famous hotel which is just huge and very impressive to look at. Inside, it is just as impressive and I was really glad we got to see some of it. I had heard a lot about these brunches in Dubai before so was keen to go. Basically, you pay a set price (which is not cheap, close to £100) and then you get unlimited food and drink for about 4 hours. The food is out of this world, with so much to chose from, from sushi to a Sunday dinner! The drinks options are amazing too – you can pick up a watermelon full of cocktail or go to the rum bar for a Mojito, the options really are endless. There are games too and you can even get set up at an easel and create a masterpiece. It was such a fun day, but it ruined me for the evening and I definitely did not make it out!

On the Saturday we finally had some chill time so headed to the beach for the day. You had to pay to have a bed on the beach but it was so worth it. We spent a good few hours here, including having lunch at one of the beach-front restaurants, and could get served drinks without moving from your sunbed – perfect. Following this, we went for a meal at a restaurant called Serafina - http://serafinadubai.com/ - the best part being the fact that we were overlooking the fountains in front of the Burj Khalifa. Every half an hour they did a show including lighting up the Burj which was really great to see. After this we went to a club called Urban which was out in the middle of nowhere and had great views of the city. Again, it was Ladies’ Night so between 11 and 1 drinks were free and it is safe to say we took full advantage of this!

Sunday was our last day in Dubai. It was one of those days where we were not flying until midnight so we paid to keep on our room for a little longer and went by the pool for the first half of the day. We got showered and ready, checked out, then walked along the beach front where we went for a meal at a restaurant called PF Changs - https://www.pfchangs.com/ - this restaurant is known for its Dynamo Prawns so we had to try them and they were amazing! After taking our time we eventually headed to the airport and back home.

Since being back people have asked me a lot about how strict Dubai is and what it is like drinking out there and I always say it is not as bad as you think! As long as you are not drunk and disorderly on the street you will be fine – just a bit of common sense and respect and I am sure there will be no issues. Dubai was a great experience and I really hope I get to see some more of the Middle East in the future.

Posted by LaurenF3 12:12 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged desert sun dubai heat Comments (0)

Barmouth

After our few days break in the Lakes we had planned to head to Barmouth to stay in Adam’s parent’s caravan. As Barmouth is Adam’s favourite place in the world (he hasn’t been far, bless him ?) he was very excited for 5/6 days there and I too was looking forward to it.

Before going there, however, we did a couple of stop offs. We were up early in the morning and headed to Snowdonia. Adam had won 2 x vouchers in a raffle for Surf Snowdonia and we were going to use them. Despite having been to Australia I had never before tried my hand at surfing so I was excited to see how I got on. As a beginner, we had a twenty-minute class first to learn the basics and to be told what we needed to do and then off we went into the water. It is the first place of its kind with man-made waves and the concept is great. You are not waiting around between each wave but have enough time to get back into place before it comes. My first few attempts were a little hit-and-miss, with one brilliant attempt ending in me riding Adam instead of the wave! But it did get easier and I did manage to get up and actually ride the board twice! It was really good fun and I would definitely recommend trying this!

After the surfing, we did another activity - this one I had been keen to try for a while – Zip World! I had wanted to go here since it opened and finally we were going to do it. It only took about 30/40 minutes to get from Surf Snowdonia so it worked out well. Once we were all kitted up we first did a smaller zip-wire, which I actually found scarier as you are just dangling over nothing whilst they get you set up, but fun none-the-less! After this you get into the back of a truck and head up to the top one, which takes about 15 minutes. As you are getting closer you start to realise just how high it is! It does not look as high from the bottom and the finish point from the top looks very far away. When we got to the top we had a delay as due to a really strong head wind they had to add a lot of extra weight to people, which they had ran out of. Because we had to sit and wait around for a little bit I did start to get a little bit scared but before long we were strapped in and set off. The wire goes right over the lagoon which is such a lovely colour. It goes so fast – my cheeks were all over the place! And then before you know it you are at the bottom and safe and having a great adrenaline rush. It was great and I am really glad that I have done it, however, at £70 a go I don’t think I would do it again!

When we got into Barmouth we headed straight to the chippy. I had been craving one for a while but held off knowing how much better they are in Barmouth. We did not go to our favourite one as we came into Barmouth a different route and although okay, it was not amazing meaning the next day we just had to have another one from The Mermaid, which is truly the best chippy ever!

We went to a pub called The Last Inn as I have been wanting to go there over the past four years of us visiting Barmouth but have never made it there. The Last Inn is a 15th century pub which is pretty much built into a cave/the side of a mountain and which still has a lot of its original features. It is a really cool, unique place and if in the back of the restaurant you do feel like you are sitting in a cave, complete with only candlelight. It is a very busy place and in the summer, you struggle to get a table so if you want food you are definitely best to book.

We went for a lovely walk up the mountain behind the campsite. From up there, the views are brilliant and make the rather steep trek well worth it. The route is not the clearest and we did not end up where we planned to, but it was very nice all the same.

Just up from the campsite is a new bar called The Norbar. Adam’s parents had raved about this since it opened and I had not yet had a chance to go. We went on the Saturday night for food, drinks and live music. The place is gorgeous and has been done out very well. The music and atmosphere was fantastic and the food lovely too. Well worth a visit!

Despite having been to Barmouth lots of times over the past few years I am still finding new things to do and see when we go. Adam and I do love going here and I am sure we will continue to visit lots of times over the coming years!

Posted by LaurenF3 12:41 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged holiday sights travelling siteseeing barmouth Comments (0)

Lake District

The Lake District is somewhere that I have always wanted to go but for some reason always felt like it was too far away so had not yet bothered. Also, I am very much into going abroad as often as possible so when Adam and I decided to do a UK holiday this year it had to be the Lake District.

We had planned it quite some time in advance so it felt like a long time coming but eventually we packed up the car and off we went. We were staying a ten-minute drive away from the town centre of Windermere (so we were very well located) in a lodge on a farm. Getting to the lodge was a little bit of a mission up quite a few back lanes only wide enough for 1 car (every time we went anywhere we would pray that no one came the other way!) but once there we were very happy that we had booked it. The lodge was located on High Barrans Farm and there were about 5/6 lodges in the same place which all seemed relatively new. The location was great as it was very quiet – just what we wanted for our chilled few days. The lodge inside was very nice and well decorated and much more spacious inside than how it looked from the photos – I was impressed and happy with our choice.

We had wanted a chilled couple of days and I had envisioned going for long walks with picnics etc – this did not really happen! On our first evening, we went into Windermere and had a stroll around then a nice meal in a local pub, which was ideal. The second day was the day for our walk. I had tried to search for a walk in the weeks leading up to our trip but there were so many options and we weren’t sure how far we wanted to do so we had not planned this yet. A lot of the websites and blogs I had read advised going to the tourist information centre which was not far from us so we headed there – only to find we could not park anywhere! Adam ended up dropping me off and driving around when I went in. What I expected from the tourist information and what I got were very different, it was basically just a shop. Maps for walks were available but you had to pay and thinking I was just popping in for some advice I had not taken my purse. Also, it seemed that most walks started from the centre and with having the car and nowhere to park this was not really an option. In the end, we went back to the lodge and went on a walk from there. We just went with it and ended up doing around 3 / 4 miles before the rain started. Once it started it did not stop! We could see a pub in the distance so headed there whilst we waited for it to ease off, which it did not! Eventually we gave in and walked back in the rain, it is safe to say we were soak by the time we got back. We spent the evening in the lodge watching films which was nice, but the great walk with fantastic views and a lovely picnic did not quite pan out as expected.

The next day we went exploring a bit more of the Lakes. We visited both Kendal (which I was so happy about as I have always loved Kendal mint cake – I bought loads!) and Ambleside, both of which were really nice. We then went back into Windermere and went for a boat ride on Lake Windermere. The lake is gorgeous and it was really nice to get out on it. There are such great views from here! For our last evening, we went to a local Thai restaurant which was brilliant, we even bumped into someone we knew, what are the chances!

As much as I had a nice, chilled few days and as much as the Lakes are truly beautiful, I must admit I was a little underwhelmed at my stay there. Maybe it is because I had overdone it in my head but I thought I was going to be amazed and awed but I did not find that to be the case. I enjoyed my time but I do not think I would be heading back in a rush. If anything, I was a little bored!

Posted by LaurenF3 07:20 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged lakes views lake holiday district Comments (0)

Singapore

After more travelling and more flights, we eventually made it to Singapore. It is not that I was not exciting about Singapore, but I was so focused on Bali that it had taken a back seat. So, when we got there and explored the city, I was so pleasantly surprised by what a great place it is!

As we did not have many days in Singapore and quite a lot to see, the first thing we did was book a hop-on hop-off bus. We used this to go around the city, taking it all in, and got off at the famous Raffles hotel. Here, we couldn’t not have a Singapore Sling – this was where they were invented after all! It was lovely but so expensive that we only had one and moved on.

We visited China Town on our first evening, going to the biggest Hawker Centre in Singapore (food market type place). Here, we ordered a selection of Dim Sum meals and all shared – it was lovely! China Town was very cool but a very busy place. We walked to the Quay after this, got an ice cream and sat on the bridge – it was a great atmosphere with loads of people around and everyone having a good time.

On our second day, we had planned to get up early and go to the Botanical Gardens but Milz was not feeling too well so we had a bit of a lie in until she was ready to get up and go. We went to Little India and walked around here – the temples were beautiful and so unique – then walked a way out of the city until we got to Platform 1049, a Harry Potter themed bar! It was very cool here and we got to dress up, make our drinks light up and all sorts.

We got the Skytrain to the Arab centre which was again very nice. There were so many nice buildings around with lots to see. We went to a street called Haji Lane which was small but so cute, lots of little shops and restaurants. We had food here before going back to get ready and then headed straight back out again as we were heading to the Night Safari in Singapore Zoo. This was a really good experience as we have been to several zoos in the past but never at night. Walking around in the dark and seeing different animals that come out at night was brilliant and this is something I would highly recommend.

The next day we went to the Marina as we were moving hotels for our last night. We were treating ourselves to a night of luxury and staying at the Marina Bay Sands hotel (seriously, if you are not aware of it, look it up!) It was obviously an expensive hotel but we decided to do it for one night, however, we did get stung a little as tax gets added on after. So, despite paying a lot of money for the hotel in advance, we ended up having to pay more when we got there. Saying that, it was so worth it. The hotel is insane! It is just absolutely massive and grand, unlike anywhere I have ever stayed before that‘s for sure. We were really lucky as well in that our room had a view of the Garden’s by the Bay trees and it was just beautiful.

We visited the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, basically two massive greenhouses full of wonderful flowers and trees etc. The Cloud Forest has a waterfall and you can walk all the way around the top, it is great. At night, we went to see the Gardens by the Bay light show, which was fantastic. They really are a sight that just needs to be seen! We had our tea then had drinks in our hotel for our last night!

The next morning, we made full use of the hotel by going up to the infinity pool at the top. The views from up there are insane and make for some great photos. Once checked out, we went for food and had a final Singapore Sling before making our way to the airport.

I really had not been expecting to enjoy Singapore so much but it really was one of the best cities I have been to. It was also the cleanest and felt the safest too. Really somewhere that I would recommend visiting!

Posted by LaurenF3 08:49 Tagged singapore holiday sightseeing travelling Comments (0)

Bali

It felt like such a long, long time from booking our flights to actually going, but the last four weeks in the lead up to this holiday just flew by and before I knew it we were in Manchester airport on our way! The journey was very long but three flights and a taxi ride later we were pulling up at our first hotel. At this destination, we met with Kelly – a friend of ours who had been travelling for 6 months already and who we were spending the next 2 weeks with! Kelly is really the reason why this trip happened so shout out to her!

By the time we got there the first night was pretty much over so we popped to the shop for some beers and just chilled out having a catch up. The local beer is called Bingtang which is nice but they also do Bingtang Radler which is just gorgeous!

When we woke up on our first morning in paradise….it was raining! (Typically, it was a heat wave at home ☹) When it finally cleared up we went to a place called The Nook for some food, which was brilliant - very healthy too! In the afternoon, we headed to Potato Head Beach Club – a perfect day for this as it was Kelly’s birthday. This is a place I was very keen to go to as I had heard so much about it, and it was great! It was very idyllic with big sun beds and a pool overlooking the sea. It took a while to get a bed as you had to put your name down on a list but thankfully for us not many people waited the whole time so we got there a lot quicker than we should have. Once on the bed, we ordered some cocktails and they were kind to bring Kelly something and sing her happy birthday, it was great. Once the sun had set we headed out and went to a nearby restaurant for tea. I tried Nasi Goreng, a famous Indonesian dish and it was gorgeous! After this we headed to La Planche which was a bar on the beach will lots of bean bags everywhere and pretty lights. We got a little carried away here and did not realise we had got so many drinks – the bill came to 2,800,000 Indonesian Rupiah without us realising how much we had spent! (Not nearly as bad as it sounds). It was a great night and a perfect first day in Bali.

The next morning there were a few sore heads so we changed our original plan and just chilled out by the pool. Around midday we got a taxi and headed to Ubud, our second destination, which took about an hour and a half. By the time we got there and checked in etc it was early evening, so we went out for food and then chilled in our room whilst planning our time in Ubud. There was a lot that we wanted to do so this was a necessity! The place we were staying in Ubud were these traditional bungalows which were just fantastic!

The next day we went to get our breakfast which was included and were told okay, it will be here soon and go back to our room. About 15 minutes later we were brought breakfast to our bungalow which we had on our little terrace, amazing!

This day was the day I finally got to do something I had wanted to do for a long time…I went white water rafting! We did it through the middle of a rainforest/jungle area and it was just fantastic. Our guide was great and even let us get out and swim with the current – I felt like I was in The Jungle Book. It was a great experience and one of the best things I have ever done. After this we chilled out by the pool, did some shopping on the main street then had an early tea/night as we had to be up super early the next day…

We had to get up at 1.30am for our next adventure – we were going trekking up an active volcano called Mount Batur. The idea was that we got picked up at 2am and made our way to the base of the volcano (about an hour away). From here, we would start the trek up the mountain with our own guide and by the time we reached the top the sun was starting to rise. It took about two and a half hours to get to the top and it was quite a tough climb but so satisfying when we finally reached the top. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy at the summit so our view of the sunrise was quite limited. It was also so cold up there! We did not stay at the top too long, just long enough for breakfast and a hot drink and then started to make our way down. Coming down was a completely different journey – now that the sun was up we had views, which were amazing! There was so much to see and I couldn’t believe that we had walked past it all just an hour before! Once we got to the bottom we asked our driver to take us to some hot springs which were nearby and it was such a treat to do this – well needed after our trek.

We spent some time by the pool after this as it was one of the hottest days we had then in the afternoon Milz and I went to Monkey Forrest whilst the others stayed by the pool. We were unsure about going as we had not had any rabies vaccines but decided to go and see. It was great to see all the monkeys around but they were a little intimidating so we did not spend long here and went exploring for a little while as the others were getting ready. We found a street full of vegan cafes and restaurants which was very cool and then went and found the cat café that we had heard about. I love cats so it was great being in there! We went out for tea and a couple of drinks after this to finish off a great day.

Again, we had our breakfast on the terrace and spent most of the day by the pool as we were so tired from the previous day. In the afternoon we went to see the rice fields which was such a fantastic sight and one you would definitely associate with Bali when you see it! We went back into the town and had tea and I just so happened to bump into someone I knew from home, Katie. We have a pretty chilled night as we had to be up early the next day to leave for Gili T.

On our 7th day we left early to make our way over to Gili T. This involved a taxi which took about an hour and a half then a boat which was about the same length of time. The boat was small, cramped, hot and the sea rough and choppy so it was not too fun but eventually we got their and after dragging our suitcases across the beach and down several dirt roads we made it to our place. This time, we decided to go all out and booked a private villa which even had its own pool! It was gorgeous and still so reasonably priced. The villa was also very well located – pretty much smack bang in the middle of the island so we could go left to one side and beach or right to the other and we were also provided with our own bicycles which we ended up using quite often to get around. For our lunch, we headed left back towards where we got off the boat and had lunch at a lovely restaurant on the beach. We went back to the villa to chill for a bit then headed to the other side of the island, known as sunset beach. From here you can see the sun setting (duh!) but also this is where you can get your famous snaps on the swings looking out to the sea. I was quite surprised when we got there as I was expecting there to be one swing with a queue to get on it but it turns out every beach front place had the same idea so there were swings all along the beach and therefore no queues. We got our photos (which look great but getting up and down was a bit of a mission!) and headed back.

Later that night we headed back towards the sunset beach and had quite a shock – it was completely deserted! It was honestly like a ghost town – no people around and nowhere was open. Typically, we had all got dressed up as this was going to be our big night on the island but it was not to be. We walked along the front for a while until we came across a security guard who advised us that it was the end of Ramadan/Eid and everything was shut! (This was due to be the case for the next three nights…which is exactly how long we were there) We finally came to a hotel that was still open where we had tea (it was almost 10pm by this time) and then gave up, calling it a night and heading back to the villa.

The next day we went snorkelling near the other 2 Gili islands and actually managed to swim with giant turtles – it was amazing! We saw one right down on the sea bed and were happy with that but the guy with us took us to another place and we saw one that was actually swimming and we went right by it, what a sight! We finally got a bit drunk that evening with drinks in the villa (we bought alcohol earlier in the day knowing everything would be closed again) and played games, it was quite a fun night but we did run out of alcohol and there was nowhere to go to get more!
After Gili T, we headed back to the mainland (the boat was even worse this time around!) and on to the airport and to our next destination….Singapore!

Posted by LaurenF3 08:08 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali sun sight travelling seeing Comments (0)

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