This trip was so damn epic.
It's currently 3:46am, I'm at my first overnight shift of 2018 trying to write this piece about how AWESOME the past two and a half weeks of my life were. It almost feels like words don't even do this experience justice you know? This is part 1/3 of my recaps for this trip. They will ALL likely be content heavy and filled with a bunch of pictures (just scroll through them at your leisure). Although most people would say I post a lot while traveling on Snapchat/IG story/Twitter - I wanted to make sure I captured every part of this trip because I knew nights like this, when it is -27 outside, I would need memories to just look back at and reminisce.
Monday, Dec 18, 2017
So I go to work on the Monday and leave at 2pm to catch the subway to Dundas West station and then continue to the airport on the UP Express. I WISH someone had let me know that the UP Express was actually not inside the station. On a cold day with a bunch of luggage, lugging it two blocks was not awesome. At all! So I link up with my travel partner Sherry at the UP Express stop and we go to Pearson airport. It was pretty straightforward from there; we dropped off our luggage, hung out a little in the terminal and got on this massive Air Canada plane towards Frankfurt. Everything was timely and bless, minus that on the flight to Frankfurt they ran out of meals with meat so Sherry and I had to eat a vegetarian meal. Sadness. Once we landed in Frankfurt we felt pretty crummy but we boarded the next plane going from Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi with Etihad airlines and that was on time and smooth sailing as well. I should mention, I looked very fabulous in my Vybz Kartel tshirt and leggings. Choose comfort when traveling, always.
Tuesday, Dec 19, 2017
Finally, at 8:45pm (local time) we land in Abu Dhabi. The first thing I did was get my SIM card at the airport because I knew I'd be posting a lot and didn't want to always wait until Wi-Fi to be able to do so. I will say, the company I got my SIM card with (Etisalat) was perfect in their service between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I never lost a signal and the upload speeds were quick even when we were deep in the desert. We took a taxi from the airport and finally got to our hotel, the Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri.
The outdoor entrance to our hotel was a pleasant welcome with all the fancy cars, staff everywhere and big fountain in front. Even more pleasant was us finding out upon checking in that the gentleman at the front desk (SHOUT OUT TO FATHI) had given us a free upgrade to a sea view room. The bathroom was nice and big, as was the room itself. The view from our balcony was really nice, especially at sunset. Because we had been traveling for what felt like forever, we went down to the hotel restaurant which overlooked our private beach area. This actually looked like a beach club at night. There was cabanas, tables, a bar and people smoking shisha. Overall a really positive welcome into Abu Dhabi and this trip.
Wednesday, Dec 20, 2017
I don't think we slept much the night before because we were adjusting to the time change, so we were up early to get some breakfast and go check out the hotel grounds in daylight. It was a really big surprise when we went to pay for the breakfast buffet at our hotel that the price was the equivalent of $42 Canadian per person. I'm more accustomed to my $5.99 breakfast options, so Sherry and I were both taken aback by that. We followed up our wealthy breakfast with a long walk along the beach. The grounds of this hotel property were MASSIVE. I believe there were five or six hotels/residences all together there. It was so big that once we reached the other end of the property, taking a gondola was the option to return back to ours. Yes, they have a whole ass gondola at your service there. The gondolier told me that the canal is 700m long from one end to the other. Insane. Went from taking gondola's in Venice to taking one in Abu Dhabi. Didn't see that coming.
We returned back to our room and got ready to go to the famous Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We had prepared our modest clothing and head wraps for this incredible place. This ended up being pointless because we had to throw on the modest dresses they had available at the mosque anyways. A note to you ladies (if you are particularly curvy) it does not matter how much is covered - they will have you put on their clothing so don't bother buying anything extra except the head scarf to cover your hair. Sherry and I both had no issue with this because we were entering a religious site and the last thing we wanted to do was come off as disrespectful. (Sadly, other tourists didn't get that message as we kept seeing them flashing their hair and security repeatedly telling them to cover it.) I thought the mosque I visited in Kuala Lumpur was the most beautiful and impressive, until I got to Sheikh Zayed Mosque. There is nothing in this world, no pictures, no descriptions that can prepare you for the sheer beauty and structure of this place. It is breathtaking and when you are walking through it an incredible feeling of peace comes over you. If there is any 'must-see' when you go to the United Arab Emirates, I would say this mosque would be it.
Following the mosque trip we went to some random mall nearby in search of food. I always find it odd when I go to foreign countries and they have this obsession with North American fast food joints. All we saw in this mall was Burger Kings, McDonalds etc. We didn't come all the way to the UAE to eat that. Luckily, there was a shawarma spot nestled in a corner we were able to have a sit down meal at. Best shawarma I have ever had. That's all you have to know.
Bet you thought this day was done?
At about 1:30pm we returned back to our hotel and changed into our comfy clothes. I had booked us an afternoon adventure of riding through sand dunes, camel riding, sand boarding and a buffet dinner in the middle of the desert with belly dancers. I booked the package through GetYourGuide and the tour guide was prompt and really nice. (SHOUT OUT TO SALIM!) There was a 45 minute ride until the desert that was calm and peaceful as we spoke to Salim and the two other tourists in the backseat doing this adventure with us. We first went to a camel farm and got to feed the oddly large animals. I had no idea camels were that big, but they were really gentle and just hungry. We then continued on another peaceful ride. until we touched sand. Insane. Salim had that Land Rover flying over and sideways in the sand. You ever been in a car drifting sideways on sand? Your life flashes before your eyes. I definitely was screaming the entire time. When we finally stopped, Sherry took advantage of the sand boarding and I just took a lot of pictures. We then arrived at our camp for the night and had the pleasure of actually riding a camel as the sun set. Pretty cool atmosphere to be in, didn't even feel real.
The camp itself had a lot going on; there was a falcon to hold, henna being done, a shisha area, a sitting area, a buffet area, a stage where the belly dancers performed and there was a spectacular spot to catch s view of the sun setting. At one point in the night they turned off all the lights in the camp so we could see the stars. I was there laying down in the pitch black, in the middle of the desert, looking up at the stars as I drank a rum and coke. Life is beautiful.
Thursday, Dec 21, 2017
Our Wednesday was really busy and we thought that would maybe prompt a longer night of sleep but the jet lag was just kicking our asses. We were both up at 4:30am ordering spaghetti to our room. We really didn't sleep longer than 4 hours a day in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Tragic.
This was going to be another really busy day of planned activities, but since we were up so early we figured we'd go take a swim at the infinity pool on the property. When we got there we found out that there was a minimum spend to use the Shangri-La's pool, which was fine with us. The pool was beautiful, quiet and looked directly at Sheikh Zayed Mosque across the water. Well worth the money. What we did not know was that they didn't start serving food until noon. The reason this was an issue was our afternoon tea spot was reserved for 1pm at Emirates Palace. This wouldn't give us much time to eat, however, their bar opened at 11am. Fantastic. Between 11am and 12pm we had the bartenders bring us a new drink every 15 minutes. By the time we left the pool I personally was quite tipsy and happy. Perfect mood to be in for afternoon tea in a fancy pants place right?
We got to Emirates Palace on time and somewhat drunken. The place is very luxurious and upon entering you definitely feel a little overwhelmed by the ambiance. The afternoon tea spread was cute and tasty. The best part of it was that it came with a 24k gold coffee or hot chocolate option. We both chose the hot chocolate option and were throwing those gold flakes DOWN! If you do choose to attend afternoon tea at Emirates Palace, I would suggest also making a reservation here. There was a lot of foot traffic through the property that I don't think was all people staying in the hotel, so it is better to be safe than left hungry. Sherry and I tried to go look at the beach grounds but were denied as it was only for patrons of the hotel, shame. We did manage to play in the fountains outside of the hotel and admire the plethora of expensive cars parked in front as well. Yeah, beach would have been better.....
From Emirates Palace we made our way to the newly opened Louvre, Abu Dhabi. It is kind of wild to me that I stepped foot into the Louvre in Abu Dhabi before the one in Paris, but that's how life goes I guess. The tickets for the museum were booked as soon as they were made available online and they weren't expensive at all. The inside was were clean and modern, but I quite fancied the outdoors much more. I did like the statues and historical artifacts inside, but, the outside architecture of this building was much more impressive. The rood and the way the structure was set on water was so perfectly planned and elegant. Make sure if you ever go that you take time to explore the outdoor grounds because it is mesmerizing.
Bet you thought this day was done as well?
Sherry and I decided it was time to finally go out and get our dancing shoes on. We read online that Thursday and Friday nights were actually the 'club nights' in the UAE and that specifically on Thursdays there were many ladies nights wherein women entered or drank for free. Sounded good to us! We had made a plan to go to this one large club at about 11:30pm, but as our taxi pulled up there, ghost town. Luckily, we were on YAS Island where most of the clubs were anyways, so we had options. As our taxi drove us to get some food - we heard dancehall blaring from one establishment. Easy decision. Stars 'n' Bars was the name of the place. We chose a damn sports bar. On one side there was food and TV's showing NBA games but on the other side there was a bar with booths and a DJ. We found out it was about $250 Canadian minimum spend for a booth, so we opted to do that. Sherry enjoyed her shisha, we both got some food and proceeded to order many doubles of whiskey and rum. $250? Easy. We also managed to make two acquaintances from Texas and Georgia that were working for the US Army in Abu Dhabi, great people to talk NFL with. I will say this, the damn DJ tricked us! That one dancehall song got us to choose that place but for the rest of the night the DJ kept making everything into some weird EDM mix. Damn shame. However, being drunk twice in one day fixes most ailments.
If you're wondering the costs associated with this entire trip, make sure to click here. Gives a breakdown of what we paid for flight + stays.