Summer Trip Pt. 1 – Dubai and Abu Dhabi

So this summer (2013), I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for 4 days (even though I had to literally take 3 final exams, turn in a portfolio, and pack for summer storage as well as say goodbyes to people in 1.5 days). The trip was absolutely breathtaking.

I’ve always been a traveler – been to almost every country in Asia and constantly traveling around North America and Europe – but I never had the change to go to the Middle East before this. To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect; I think it’s mainly because I had been too busy trying to finish everything on time. I’m gonna go right into when I landed in DXB after a 6 hour flight next to an old lady who apparently didn’t know what deodorant was.

The scale of everything in Dubai is absolutely crazy. Here’s a picture of my mom and I when I came out from customs at the airport.

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You can like totes see the color use and the quality of materials used are different from anything in North America. There weren’t that many people at the airport when I landed, probably because it was pretty late at night, and most importantly there weren’t that many Asians. I literally forgot I was Asian until I got to the airport because everyone was staring at me like I’m a unicorn. (I mean, you never know, I could be a unicorn) The airport was giant with free wi-fi. Walking from my gate to the luggage area took me about 5 minutes, and when I got there the luggages were already out (impressive!).

Next Day

The very next morning we went to the Burj Al Arab, a 7-star hotel shaped like a boat. It’s one of the  if not the most famous architecture in Dubai. Here’s a magnificent picture of it:

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My only regret is not taking a picture with Burj Al Arab, but we couldn’t stop the car in the middle of the street. Here’s a pic of the view you see once you walk in: synchronized water fountain with gold everywhere. (If you wanna see another view of the inside of Burj Al Arab, check out my Vine at the username bchou1234)

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Fun fact: They require you to wear long pants that are not jeans and also proper shoes. T-shirts aren’t allowed either. For women, you gals have to wear long-sleeve shirts or have a sweater to cover up because it’s considered “polite” dress code. Imagine wearing all that in 90 degree humid weather. However, it’s completely understandable because who wants tourists wearing tank tops and booty shorts walking around in a 7-star hotel?

Here’s a picture of my first authentic meal at the Burj Al Arab. It’s all over the place in terms of the actual food on the plate, but I enjoyed it very very much. Fun fact: you have to have a restaurant or have to stay at the hotel in order to be let into Burj Al Arab.

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Snapping a classic tourist pic sporting my camera bag 😀

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After lunch, we went to Old Dubai where we got to see local architecture styles with fun souvenirs, little things, and amazing picture locations.

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Gotta love Middle Eastern humor. #LOL

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Later, we stopped by Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, for a night view over Dubai. It took the elevator one minute to go 452.1 m, making it one of the fastest elevators in the world as well.

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The Dubai Fountain at Dusk from Burj Khalifa

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Next Day

We headed to Palm Atlantis the next day. Being a very tourist-friendly and “modern” hotel, I was finally able to wear shorts (THANK BUDDHA!). Palm Atlantis is a very unique place because it’s entirely human-built – using rocks from the other side of the Persian Gulf. #OnlyInDubai

Here’s some pictures of Palm Atlantis from the Monorail:

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I am captured in the same photograph with the Persian Gulf

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Later that day, we went into the heart of the desert, about 50 miles away from Dubai, for some safari (sand-surfing in the car). It’s a lot more exciting/exhausting than you think. Safari really isn’t easy on the driver or on the passengers. I was sitting all the way in the back, and I thought I was going to vomit multiple times. Here’s a view of the desert from the car. It’s absolutely breathtaking. Also, if you want to see safari in action, check out my Vine at bchou1234. It’s like you’re there too.

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I came. I saw. I conquered.

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Trying to be artsy with my shots

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Team tourist I mean team safari

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My parents killing it.

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The sun and I are kind of best friends.

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My usual relationship with my dad

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After the safari, the program treated us to a camp dinner in the middle of the desert.

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The camp.

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At the camp, one can dress up and experience local cultures. As much as I love this picture and the experience, I don’t think I can pull off this look as well as the Arabian men, mainly because I don’t have strong face features.

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I honestly look HUGE in this picture, but the eagle flapping its wings is so epic (and scary). #FakeSmile

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My first time seeing a camel/riding one!! They’re actually very tall, and they go up and come down so fast that you can easily fly out from its back. It happened to a lot of people that were there, but since Bryan is so incredibly strong, I held on, like a boss.

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Smoking Shisha

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Local “Luna Dance” – very very impressive where he started with one plate and gradually moved on to 6 and then came back to one again – all of that while spinning in one spot nonstop.

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And then he turned into a peacock.

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An electrical peacock

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Bryan’s always happy to see food. #Doh

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Belly dance. I’m really not too sure if she’s from the area because, based on how conservative people were towards women according to my observations, I don’t think women there would go anywhere close to learning let alone performing belly dancing.

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Next Day

Boom. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is only about an hour away from Dubai, so we stopped by Ferrari World on our way to spend the day in Abu Dhabi.

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Fastest roller coaster in the world. The speed is about the same as when  you race a car in a Ferrari in F1. If you want to actually see how fast this moves, feel free to visit my Vine at bchou1234!

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Money shot.

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The whole point of visiting Abu Dhabi was to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – the 3rd largest but the most expensive mosque in the world (it costs about $545 million). In the picture attached, you can see that the gold on top of the buildings are actually real gold – which is also used throughout the prayer rooms as well.

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A view by the entrance to the Mosque. Over 90 degrees out and we’re required to wear long pants that are not jeans. Sigh.

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View from the entrance. Yes, that’s real gold. No we couldn’t take any.

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Behind me, you’ll see Swarovski crystal lights – the largest ones in the world as well. I felt like everything is in UAE, and everything I saw was either the largest of the most expensive or the tallest. Must be so much pressure living here.

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Prayer room. These are usually not open for non-Islams but since this Mosque is so new, they’re opening it for tourism reasons.

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The dress code.

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The three Swarovski lights

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After a very hot visit to the Mosque, we headed towards the Palace Hotel for lunch. Again, if you’re not a guest of the hotel, you would not be allowed in unless you have a restaurant reservation. This hotel was an actual palace – like for kings and stuff – and is ranked a 8-star hotel.

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All you see is REAL gold.

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Accidentally kind of matching with my dad.

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Real gold behind the flowers. #OnlyInAbuDhabi

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The deserts drive me WILD. #Nom

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The Persian Gulf in the back, right by the hotel and the restaurant.

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How I usually am around my parents, or anyone for that matter.

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And we came back to Dubai for the last night. The end.

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Overall, I’d say this was once in a life time experience for me. Having been to a lot of places, the UAE was so different that I really could not compare it to anything I had already known – I was just amazed for all 4 days. The good thing is that despite their accent, everyone there spoke really good English. There was no problem traveling around and ordering at restaurants. Surprisingly, there were a lot of Russians and not as many Americans as I’d expected.

One fun thing that I didn’t get a chance to capture on camera was that there were many different colors on the top of the taxis – blue, red, pink, etc. Every color except for pink are driven by male taxi drivers. Everywhere we went, there was a lot of separation between men and women; it was very interesting to see.

I am currently home for 2 weeks and then heading to study abroad in London for the majority of the summer, followed by a design program in Paris afterwards. I hope to travel around Europe like I’ve always wanted to, and I will share pictures and stories with this blog throughout the summer. Feel free to follow my adventures with me and give me tips on where to go!

If you just cannot get enough of my face or my trip, feel free to visit my Twitter, Instagram and Vine:

Twitter: @bchou1234

Instagram: instagram.com/bchou1234

Vine Username: bchou1234

Thank you so much for reading this. Now go do something useful.

Peace, love, Bryan.

5 thoughts on “Summer Trip Pt. 1 – Dubai and Abu Dhabi

  1. Abu Dhabi is a pretty good time. I lived there for a while as a kid and got back recently a few years ago – it’s grown a whole lot. Actually living and working there is something to get used to. Business attire is extremely formal, even during the 110+ degree summers, and all the restaurants close during the day in Ramadan, which can be an inconvenience for non-Muslims. I always enjoyed my time there and consider it a sort of second/third home.

    And Emirates Palace is great. Their cafe and restaurants are pretty nice if you’re willing to pay. The main draw is the gold-topped cappuccino (yes, real gold!)

    • I absolutely adored staying in Abu Dhabi even if it was only for a day. The atmosphere there is so different from Dubai – I felt Dubai was more commercialized and globalized while Abu Dhabi has more of a local culture, and that’s what I was hoping to experience!
      and the desert shots I had posted on the blog also had gold flakes! It was absolutely crazy!

  2. I didn’t even know 7-star hotels existed! I’m so envious! I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai, and it looks like you had an amazing trip. Now I have all the more reason to visit! Though I’m not too thrilled by the idea of wearing long sleeves/jumpers in that kind of weather >_<

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