Traveling

{Abu Dhabi 2014} Crossing over to the other side

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Hello, capital of the UAE!

So part of our tour was to drive over to Abu Dhabi to explore a bit of its major tourist attractions, which is typical practice for most people traveling to Dubai. The two emirates are so close together that you can travel by car for a little less than 2 hours on even concrete roads. Now the bad thing about our going there was, quite frankly once again the lack of time. That’s the downside to going with a big tour group: Absolutely no flexi-time! But we had to make do!

DUBAI

As the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is where the seat of government is found. The president of the UAE lives here, so when our tour guide took us to a drive-through of the palace grounds she was very adamant about us taking absolutely NO pictures. Security in this area is super strict. Like in Dubai, you are only allowed a glimpse of the sheikh’s palaces from a certain distance. But while the palace there is located in a park where tourists can snap photos to their hearts’ content, here in Abu Dhabi you cannot take photos the moment you set foot in the palace compound.

In my opinion, Abu Dhabi has a bit less cosmopolitan feel than Dubai (at least for now), which I guess makes sense because the main functions of the two cities are quite different. While Dubai has a lot of tourist-serving structures, Abu Dhabi has all the most important financial and political institutions. However that doesn’t mean that Abu Dhabi doesn’t have its share of fantastic architecture.

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There are a lot of amazing buildings here in Abu Dhabi as well, though I feel like there aren’t as many as in Dubai. In Dubai you see building after building, hotel after hotel, mall after mall. Here in Abu Dhabi the structures are a bit more dispersed throughout the city.

If you want to see a moving account of my Abu Dhabi trip you can check out the video down below. Abu Dhabi starts at the 9:13 mark. But a more detailed narration– with lots of pictures– comes after the jump!


EMIRATES PALACE

The Emirates Palace is Abu Dhabi’s very own 7-star hotel. In contrast to Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, this one is more traditional-looking with heavy Arabian influences.

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Inside there are 394 rooms and suites carefully designed to match the hotel’s Arabic theme, and unfortunately I am unable to provide you a photograph as we did not stay in the hotel. I did however get some glimpses of the lobby and the lounge. Every area in this hotel gives the impression of space and massiveness. There is also a feeling of grandeur thanks to the tinges of gold everywhere, a combination of actual gold and yellow lights.

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Even the comfort room in the lobby is fit for royalty.

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The hotel has its own private beach plus about 85 hectares of gardens and lawns. I caught a glimpse of the lovely beachside from the restaurant where we had lunch. 

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We dined at the hotel’s international buffet, named Le Vendome. The interior of the restaurant is bright and elegant in hues of white and blue. Every corner has Arabic details and I especially love the arches. The restaurant also offers al fresco dining at the terrace overlooking the beach, which can be quite the romantic location for couples especially at night.

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The food was pretty good, as expected from such a place. You can tell at a glance that the ingredients they used are topnotch. I remember getting a good fill of the tangy salad that was decorated with drops of ruby-like fresh pomegranates. I’m trying to think of something that really wowed me, but every dish was good albeit not mind-blowingly so. Seafood is fresh, and the choices plenty. I especially enjoyed the lessons in different kinds of dates.

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Now of course my attention was once again diverted to the dessert table. The desserts were set atop a set of tables arranged like an inverted U, and it was filled with all shapes and sizes of cakes, quickbreads, puddings, and cookies. I loved looking at all the mini cakes and petit fours that were topped with fresh berries and figs. There were macarons too, but I distinctly remember enjoying this pudding topped with a big piece of date.

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If I recall correctly, the restaurant specializes in desserts decorated with edible gold. Apparently they use a lot of edible gold throughout the year though I can’t remember the exact number. I just remember being amazed by it. The impressive ones cost quite a fortune for a dessert, but I managed to spot a couple of desserts included in the buffet that were sprinkled with gold dust. There were gold sheets torn on top of a chocolate opera cake. There were coffee beans covered all over with gold flecks on top of the cake too.

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I wish I could take home some of that to add to my own baking!


FERRARI WORLD

Located at the Yas Island is this popular indoor theme park that claims to be the largest in the world. From the outside it’s hard to tell that this is the same structure that is shaped like a Ferrari, uh spaceship… from above.

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Ferrari World is directly adjacent to a mall and you get to the main entrance by riding several escalators up. Once you get there you can check out the Ferrari Store while waiting for your tickets. Ferrari merchandise ain’t cheap, but all of them are nice to look at.

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I’m sorry I don’t have more photos of Ferrari World. We spent so little time in here that I didn’t get to explore all the rides. The park proper is quite nice, and the ceiling is made of glass. I’m not the type of gal who likes cars, but I did really dig the yellow centrepiece race car they put a ribbon on ala Christmas gift. I wish it was a gift to me haha!

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I love roller coasters but I hate falling in line, so I did not attempt to even vie for a spot on the Formula Rossa. I know it’s the world’s fastest roller coaster and all, but queuing for something like 4 hours just to get on a ride that lasts a couple of minutes doesn’t sit well with me. If you want to ride this, I highly recommend coming right on the hour Ferrari World opens so you don’t have to wait too long.

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But because I still had to have a roller coaster ride, I decided to go to the other one. The Fiorano GT Challenge is a dual coaster ride, and is set up as if you are competing with the other roller coaster car. It’s a “fun” type of roller coaster which is to say not too fast but not too slow, and it doesn’t have super steep dips and super sudden turns. It’s still fast and still has twists, but to me it’s a pretty feel-good ride. I loved it! I rode it in the evening and the air outside was so cool; the wind was blowing wildly in my hair, and I think that contributed to my enjoyment of it too.

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I was not a fan of the Speed of Magic attraction at all considering we lined up a long time for it, but I hear Viaggio in Italia and Driving With The Champion are good ones.


YAS VICEROY HOTEL

Wowza! I have to say this is probably the most uniquely-built hotel I have ever lived in. Yas Viceroy Hotel is a 5-star Hotel located on Yas Island– yes, the same as the one Ferrari World is located on. The glass ceiling lights up at night and shifts from colour to colour, visible even from a distance.

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The coolest thing you have to know about this hotel is that the Formula 1 circuit runs around it. I’m not a Formula 1 fan but I play racing games on the Playstation so I get a sense of thrill from this. I know, weirdo.

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Stepping inside, the lobby is incredibly cozy. I’m not sure if it’s the fake fireplace or the choice of armchair, or the fact that there’s a reading room at the back of that wall with more armchairs!

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There is a door in the lobby right beside the reading room that opens up to this lovely deck.

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There’s also a mini-bar for refreshments in case guests want a little something to drink before they go, or they want a place to meet with someone who doesn’t live in the hotel.

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Now for those who couldn’t give a damn about the race track, maybe the pool area will be of more interest to you. And by that I mean this absolutely GORGEOUS pool area… (With a bar of course.)

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I don’t think I have ever seen a hotel pool area that is as jaw-dropping as this!

Okay. Now that I have shown you around let’s make our way to the rooms. On the way there we got to pass by hallways of beautiful white interwoven walls, following the pattern of the hotel’s glass roof.

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I adore these paintings. The wooden canvasses look like windows, don’t they? Somehow these traditional-looking pieces fit well with the whole modern look of the hotel.

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This was my favourite hotel of the trip by a slim margin, because I freaking loooove our room. It’s huge and absolutely posh! You get in by scanning your room key on this very sleek glass card reader. I always savour that small moment of anticipation as I open the hotel room door not quite knowing what to expect inside. I was ecstatic to see one of the most amazing rooms ever!

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(Sorry about the blurry fish-eye. I needed to do this to get the whole room.)

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The living room area is like the perfect place to hang out. I feel like I need this kind of couch in my own future house haha!

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The moment I woke up the next morning I was already thinking about breakfast. Breakfast buffet in 5-star hotels, who doesn’t look forward to that!? We had a bunch of choices but the other restaurants were full so we ended up in Amici.

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There were no blank seats inside so we got to sit by the poolside. The weather is cool enough to make eating outdoors extremely enjoyable. This is the area that’s directly across from the lobby deck.

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There was a lot of yumminess at breakfast and I don’t know any other better way to start the day. The food here was fantastic and I especially liked the danishes! Definitely one of (if not the) best breakfasts we ate during the trip! 

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Oh, and the super highly recommended food to eat while in the UAE: figs! We don’t have this where I’m from so I might’ve stuffed myself silly with as much figs as I can take while I was here! My favourite ones are probably here in Amici. The figs are drenched in a sweet syrup (honey maybe?) and absolutely divine.

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So that’s one part of my Abu Dhabi travel diary down. The very last one is coming in a few days. It’ll be the last of my UAE travel blogs too so watch out for that! 🙂

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Here’s my travel video that pretty much sums up all the highlights of my trip. Check it out to know what to expect in my Dubai/Abu Dhabi Travel Blog series! The part about Abu Dhabi starts at the 9:13 mark.

Other posts in this series:

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