Myanmar was our first destination of this trip and one of the first things the search engines are showing you when you try to see how the field of temples look like, are the balloons over Bagan.
We had never been on a balloon ride before, so this was kind of special.
The first thing you need to know: it is expensive. When we saw the price of 380usd for a 50min ride, we were very hesitant to splurge on this activity. We were on the beginning of a 3 month trip which will include Australia and New Zealand (not exactly cheap destinations), so we had to be careful with our budget. After some reflection though, we decided to take it and were so glad we did it.
New Zealand is on many people’s bucket list and its right where it should be. For many, being so far away, is a once-in-a-lifetime place to visit so, once you’re there, you try to make the most of it.
With stunning coastline and beaches, unique geothermal areas, primeval forests and snow-capped mountains, glaciers, fjords, the ever-changing scenery is attracting around 3 million people each year. From backpackers touring the country in small camper vans to all-inclusive package tourists, they all come to enjoy the spectacular scenery or to the push themselves to the limit in one of the many adventures New Zealand has to offer. It is considered, after all, the Adventure Capital of the World.
We decided to visit Croatia a few years ago when, on an extended summer holiday spent at our home country (Romania), we thought we’d to jump in the car and go on a 10 day itinerary through this fabulous country.
There are many beautiful countries in Europe but Croatia clearly stands out as one of the most astounding places, a true “Pearl of the Adriatic”.
With no shortage of islands, beaches and crystal clear turquoise blue waters, the Dalmatian Coast with its 1200 islands makes it a perfect summer destination for any tourists arriving here by car, train, cruise ship, or private boat.
In addition to its beautiful coastline, perfectly preserved cities of Split, Zadar, Pula, Trogir, Hvar or Dubrovnik (noted in the UNESCO World Heritage List), will offer you top cultural experiences as well as myriad sights to fill you with awe.
Not to mention the impressive countryside, unspoiled nature and gorgeous national parks with turquoise lakes (Plitvice, also a UNESCO Site) and rushing waterfalls.
Dubai is the fastest growing city in the world. And I have seen the radical changes with my own eyes. United Arab Emirates was the first country I visited, back in 2000 and 15 years and 53 countries later I decided to see what will I be able to recognize. Very little, I might say.
Dubai has become the city of the future.
Due to the sheik’s belief in the idea of grandeur, Dubai now prides itself with the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, man-made islands, The Palm or the world’s most luxurious hotel, Burj Al Arab.
Dubai is the most famous and the most visited emirate of the 7 emirates that form the UAE, becoming the new hot holiday destination of the last couple of years. This is a normal growth considering the constant investment in tourism we have witnessed in the last decade.
Very few people know that Dubai doesn’t have much oil (anyway, not comparing with the other rich emirate, Abu Dhabi) so their economy is focused mainly on tourism.
Here is a list of top 13 things to do in Dubai:
Go on top of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Best time to visit is just before the sunset so you can enjoy a little bit of both day and night views. I strongly advise you buy the tickets online at least one month in advance if you want to get this special time slot.
View from the top
Let yourself be captivated by the mesmerizing jets of water at Dubai Fountains. It is located just outside Dubai Mall, underneath the Burj Khalifa Tower and is most probably the best free tourist sights in Dubai.
Burk Khalifa fountain
The fountain pool from the top
Tip: best way to see the show is by booking a table at one of the restaurants in the mall that faces the fountain. You can do that before you go up the tower, so when you come down is already dark and you can enjoy the display of water, lights and music every half an hour.
Go shopping in one of the malls. Since you are already in Dubai Mall for the Burj Khalifa and the Fountains, why not come a few hours earlier and do some shopping.
Visit Burj Al Arab. I know that visiting a hotel sounds a bit strange, but this is not your ordinary hotel. It’s the only 7-star hotel in the world and the city’s emblem. It is even printed on the cars number plates. The only way to have a glimpse behind its sail-shaped exterior is to book a table at one the lavish restaurants inside, except of course if you have room there. I still have some friends in Dubai and we managed to go inside without a reservation, so this is how it looks on the inside, if you don’t want to pay 50€ for a tea and some cookies.
Go to one of the waterparks. No visit to Dubai is complete without spending a day in a waterpark. We chose Wild Wadi because it was the same waterpark I visited 15 years back. So it is probably a bit old and quite small compared to some waterparks in the US, but it’s the only one with a great view of Burj Al Arab and also one of the few that have slides where the jets push you up the hill, often faster than you go down. If you choose to go the newer Aquaventure Park instead, make sure you try the “leap of faith”. Not for the faint of heart this one!
View of Burj al Arab from Wild Wadi
Do a desert tour with a BBQ dinner. We booked a package which includes dune bashing in 4X4, a very quick camel ride and dinner. The best part of this tour is the dune bashing. Our driver was incredible (read crazy) and he was pushing the limits of the car with every chance he got. So a word of warning: do not eat a heavy meal before you do it because there is so much shaking about. Maybe the barbecue dinner is a little touristy but the one hour roller coaster dune bashing is really great fun.
Our safari car
Before starting the safari
Our friends who joined us on this trip and added lots of fun to it
Take a boat tour. We did the Yellow Boat Tour which took us around the Palm, Burj Al Arab and Atlantis. It is certainly a good way of seeing some of the world’s most iconic pieces of architecture and offers opportunities to get photos that otherwise are hard to get.
View of Atlantis
The Sheik’s yaht
Visit Dubai Creek. Any top about things to do in Dubai should include a trip to this less seen but very genuine part of Dubai. Jump on a taxi Dhow with the locals and cross to either Bur Dubai or Deira, depending where you’re coming from. The old souks sit on either side of the Creek. Textile, spice or gold souk, they represent the traditional old Dubai and the most important activity in the Emirate, commerce.
Bastakia Quarters. It’s a historical heritage site built in the 19th century as the home to wealthy Persian pearls and textile traders that settled here attracted by the tax free trading. Today Bastakia is a conservation area, trying to restore the sophisticated and beautifully decorated homes to their original glory. You’ll have a chance to see the famous wind towers, used as a very efficient form of air conditioning.
Take a walk on Dubai Marina, if it’s not too hot that is, and admire the views of the skyscrapers crowded on this man-made canal than stop for a coffee or dinner at one of the many restaurants facing the water.
Spend a few hours skiing in Dubai Mall. It’s not the Swiss Alps, but for a slope inside a Mall not to mention in the middle of the desert, I say it’s pretty impressive. Complete equipment is included in the entrance ticket.
Visit the Madinat Jumeirah Souk, located at a very short walk from Wild Wadi Watrepark. If you don’t go there for shopping (it is an expensive souk) you can have an excellent steak at Meat & Co or some noodles at one of the restaurants with excellent views of Burg Al Arab, perfect place for a romantic dinner.
Try one of the Friday brunches. Whether you want to party or just want to indulge yourself in a lavish buffet that would make even the most indulgent glutton to surrender, the Friday Brunches in Dubai are in line with the city’s superlatives. You can choose Champagne brunch, which offers unlimited flow of Moët and Laurent Perrier (like Spectrum on One or Le Meridien) or just have the buffet without alcohol. We chose Kaleidoscope in Atlantis because of the convenience of being there and also had a reservation for Mina A’Salam within Madinat Jumeirah Resort which unfortunately had to cancel.
If you ever travel to Bolivia or even to one of the neighboring country you MUST find a way to spend a few days in largest salt desert in the world, Salar de Uyuni. Whatever your expectations, chances are, they will be exceeded by this awe-inspiring scenery, one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet.
When in Ushuaia, the most southern city in the world and here, taking a boat trip to Beagle Channel is your number one priority.
To give you a bit of a background, the English founded Ushuaia at the end of 19th century when the British ship HMS Beagle was exploring Tierra del Fuego. They reached the channel in 1833, which is actually a navigable strait between the Pacific and Atlantic, together with two other famous passages: Magellan to the north, and Drake to the south.
So they decided to name the channel after the ship. Onboard the ship there was a young and promising amateur naturalist named Charles Darwin, who was of course so thrilled to find such a wide variety of birds, penguins and sea lions.