Hi.

I'm Sophia! Follow me through all my adventures around the world. 

Hope you have an inspired stay!

Layover Explorations in Dubai, UAE

After my 2.5 week trip around The Netherlands, I was so excited to be back home since I was homesick! I got back into Houston on Sunday and I went straight to the office on Monday, thinking that I'll have some time to settle down a bit, take my time doing laundry, clean my room, and have some time for myself. Initially I was signed up for more training course in August (back to the Netherlands), then Cairo in September, and Singapore in October. But with all the uprises and riots in Cairo, I had to get signed up for a different course in Malaysia... which started the next Monday! So... I quickly made a "To Do" List for what I have to prepare and do before I go (I ALWAYS make a list since I am so forgetful), and start working on that list! I had 4 days to really unpack my things from The Netherlands, and then pack again for another 3 weeks. I booked my flight with Emirates Airlines since I wanted to see what all the commotion is about. Also, I have always wanted to go to Dubai, and this gave me two days in Dubai to go explore during a layover :) Win, win situation. Very nice!

Sadly, my flight was overbooked, so it was a PACKED flight.. the airline was giving away  free roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the world if I changed my flight for the next day, but I had to get to Malaysia by Sunday. The airplane itself was very comfortable, a lot of leg space, really awesome entertainment (their entertainment is SO awesome they don't ever want you to turn it off!... seriously though, the TV NEVER turns off), and like Singapore Airlines, when they have "steak" written on the menu... it's really a medium cooked steak.. amazing! The food was great on Emirates! My one complaint was that all the flight attendants were rude! I was appalled at how impolite they all were by giving an attitude and using a very condescending tone to others who were trying to get their luggage into the upper cabinets.

For my first 15 hour flight from Houston to Dubai, I was stuck in a row of four seats with a family of three. This family of three were two parents and one "special" daughter who ended up sitting next to me... Luckily I had the aisle seat. You may think I am a terrible person, but hear me out before you judge me! I know that their daughter needs special attention, but as a family of three, I would place my daughter inbetween the parents. This girl seriously had her face 2-3 inches away from my face. I placed my jacket even on TOP of my head so that I can sleep but she was staring so hard at me, literally staring into MY SOUL, that I could feel her stares through the layers of my jacket, my hair covering my face, and my eyelids covering my eyes. She also made a lot of strange noises and caressed my arms over and over again... so... to say that I had a very unrestful 15 hours on this flight is an understatement...

Overall, I still believe Singapore Airlines has ben the best airline that I have flown. Maybe Emirates was too hyped up and I expected more especially since I was flying across to the other side of the world!

Once I got into Dubai, it was almost sunset so I tried to speedy out of the airport into the city. I grabbed my list of Dubai suggestions from my good friend Mazen, who has lived there and who's family currently lives in Dubai, change into more appropriate (and cute) clothes, headed straight out to customs, obtain my short tourist visa, drop my carry on at the luggage hold, and take the tram into the city. Getting from the terminal where I landed to customs took about a 20 minute walk... power walking.... a very long walk! Right outside customs, there is an attendant helping with your stay in Dubai, helping with lodging, tickets, and suggestions on places to go with your time. I would definitely recommend going to this help stand for advice into Dubai, especially if you are only in Dubai for a short time (like I was). I booked my Burj Khalifa "At The Top" ticket here for 11:30PM for 125 AED or about 35USD.

Once at customs, it was overwhelming to see how many  people were trying to get into the city, but the lines went by very fast (since so many stations were open). The hold luggage room is actually located outside the gates. I got lost trying to find it, but if you follow the signs right outside the gate, it is not too far!

Seriously, this airport is HUGE. The first thing you see are the massive columns and sparkling... everything. I was already dazed by all the shinny things in just the airport! From the exit of the airport, you take the escalators up to the train, which takes you into the city (about a 20 minute ride). My first stop on my list was the Dubai Mall and Aquarium! The train was nice in that I was able to stay in one train (without switching). I got off at Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall stop. From there, I just followed the signs and herd of people. The walkway from the train station to the Dubai Mall was about a 30-45 minute power walk even with the help of the conveyor belt floors.... it was ridiculous! But at least it was air conditioned! :)

When I finally got to the entrance of the Dubai Mall, I almost had a heart attack. Where was I?! The mall was so big! I could not believe this space! Everything you could possibly want from all over the world in one building... But what I really wanted at the moment.. was food... I was starving so I headed straight to the giant food court and found this little Indian place. It was SO GOOD. I scarfed it down in about 10 minutes. It was interesting to see that everything was in both English and Arabic! Even my Aquafina water :). How cute!

Still in shock at how gigantic this mall was, I stumbled to the Aquarium and decided to go in. It was 70 AED which is about 19USD. Outside there is a giant 30 foot floor to ceiling glass walled aquarium with various exotic marine life. For people who bought a ticket, they have to walk completely across this wall to get to the entrance of the actual aquarium tunnel. There were so many people who did not buy a ticket to go in, but instead took photos outside of this walkway. So whenever I walked towards the entrance past the aquarium wall and though the walkway, I'm not going to lie, I felt famous, like I was kind of a big deal walking along the red carpet! haha

The entrance into the aquarium leads straight into the tunnel. The tunnel was alluring, glowing and illuminating the color of the blue water on everyone and everything! I felt like I was actually in the water. You can see every sea creature swimming above, next to, and beside you. I tried to get a good photo with me in the tunnel... but it's so hard to get a photo from a stranger (always ask the Asian people.. they are awesome at taking photos!). This is one of the downsides of traveling alone... you have two photography options, taking selfies or asking a stranger to take a picture and then photo failing...After the tunnel, there is a small aquarium zoo that is lacking especially after walking through this amazing tunnel... so I just ran through it very quickly.

Just to get from the aquarium to the Burj Khalifa entrance took about 20 minutes of walking  since the mall is so huge! To be honest, it was a good work out ;). I had some time to spare, so I made it just in time at the Business Bay to see the fountain show... it was sensational! It was comparable to the Magic Fountains (Montjuic Fountain) in Barcelona, Spain. The dramatic sways of the water, the extreme heights on each of the individual streams, the Address Hotel and Burj Khalifa in the background... just breath taking.

The entrance for the Burj Khalifa is right next to the fountains inside the Dubai Mall. I went into the entrance and was given an elevator by myself since... I was a party of one. FOREVER ALONE. But the ride up was thrilling! The dark elevator, taking me up to the top, was so fast and the dramatic/sporadic lighting was enhancing this climatic effect. I could not believe I was going to be at the top of the tallest building in the world! I was getting feeling giddy and extremely excited. I even had to go to the bathroom before I got outside (bathrooms are awesome and super clean by the way). The view from up there was stunning. This moment had become an unforgettable and meaningful moment in my life. All the buildings I admired and studied while I was in school for Architectural Engineering are right here in front of my eyes, and I am looking at them off the view of the tallest building in the world.. ! What an engineering feat to build the Burj Khalifa! I really wanted to get a good photo of me up on the building... but of course, all of them were photo fails. Oh well!

My next destination was to try to go to the beach to see the Burj Al Arab, but there was clearly a language barrier between me and the taxi driver. He DID NOT understand me. I go so frustrated, that I told him to stop and drop me off right here, so that I can start to walk using my iPhone Maps as a guide.... well, he dropped me off in some really ghetto area that was far away from where I wanted to go and I was a bit terrified. In the humid weather with my long black non-breathable material long sleeved maxi dress, I walked a good 40 minutes to get to a normal street with taxis on it. I jumped into a taxi and somehow ended up at The Marina, which was NOT the Burj Al Arab, then I was taken to the outside of Palms Jumierah, which was too dark to really see much, and then finally got to the entrance of Burj Al Arab. Unfortunately, you are not allowed in unless you're a guest so I took a creeper photo outside, got back into the taxi, and headed back to the airport.

All in all, I got to see most of what I wanted to. I most certainly want to go back to see Dubai by daylight and really visit all the architecture up close. Even with just the 18 hours I had in the city, I could feel the grandeur and luxury of this city. I understand how all this lures us in to visit this luring city. I can see how this city, an opulent city in the middle of the hot, humid desert, is so enticing. Even the grandiose airport sparkling in all sorts of gold and silver is just a small portrayal of the city... Even if you do not get to go out to experience the actual city during a layover, you can still get a slight taste through the surroundings found at the airport.

Dubai, your magic has worked on me... I'll be back... during the day time, next time!

Street Eateries to Fine Dining of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Den Haag (The Hague), The Netherlands

Den Haag (The Hague), The Netherlands