Since our flight was leaving from Munich (sometimes that’s a lot cheaper than from Zurich), we had to take a bus to get to that city in Bavaria. We chose meinfernbus.de a discounter bus which brings you cheaply to many destinations in Germany. The highlight of the journey was when the bus boarded a ferry which brought us from Constance to Meersburg. In Munich, it took us quite a while to get from the bus stop to the airport because the subway trains were completely jam-packed and not on time due to the ongoing Oktoberfest. I wasn’t sad that we were basically next to the Wiesen but not going there. The things there get more and more expensive every year and for the past three years I’ve been there, every time it was more difficult to get inside a tent. There are just too many people.
After about 1,5 hours (for a ride that should have taken 40min) with our suitcases on the subway among people in Trachten smelling of alcohol (not so pleasant for the people not smelling of alcohol), we finally reached the airport. Our bags were checked in quickly at the Emirates counter and once we figured out that we just had to walk behind the check in counters to get to our gate, we just had enough time to have a small dinner and a well-earned beer.
Flying with Emirates was great! Unfortunately, we didn’t have a window seat but the outdoor cameras on the plane were running the whole time and so we could still enjoy the view outside. The meal was probably the best I ever had on a plane, we received a warm face wash cloth twice and the flight attendants came by with drinks quite often. Plus, there were so many movies, music channels and video games to choose from that I was already looking forward to our return flight when we landed in Dubai. The 38 C that greeted us at 6.30am were a nice change to 8 degree freezing Germany.
Finally, after more than an hour, we made it through the passport control and were greeted by a driver who brought us and two other guests to the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Ras al Khaimah. They know how to welcome people because the first thing we received was a chocolate chip cookie 🙂
The interior of the hotel was elegant, clean and above all nicely air-conditioned. It has 15 floors and from the top floor you can walk up a stairway to a roof top bar and pool. I always enjoyed that when I felt like cooling off but there wasn’t enough time to go to the beach anymore.
Breakfast was delicious with a great variety of things to choose from. The hotel also offers a free shuttle bus to the nearest mall every evening, a shuttle to the private beach every hour and a bus to and from Dubai Mall several times a week.
The beach was beautiful with white, shelving sand, so that I actually was able to swim and not just flounder about. There were always enough chairs with umbrellas. So, with the sea, sun and my book I had everything I needed. It’s wonderful to wake up in a place where you never have to ask what the weather will be like today because it’s always hot and sunny.
We had dinner in a different place every evening since we only booked with breakfast. There’s a Chili’s in Manar Mall but other than that, there are mostly fast food stalls. We did try one with local food though. I liked it but that was before we had dinner in the hotel or on the Bedouin safari. The food there was better, above all at the Bedouin camp. Since the pick-up time at Manar Mall never gave us enough time to do everything we wanted (there is a pretty bay area outside and after being inside the freezing mall it’s quite nice to take a stroll outside or sit on the green grass) we usually walked back to our hotel (about 20 min). I was glad that it was possible to walk at all, since I had read before that there are no sidewalks. However, where we lived there were sidewalks to go to all the important places and even some road bumps to slow down the car. You just have to watch out a little more when you cross a road or walk over the parking lot. Hardly anyone is walking here. Why should they? Everyone has a big car. Mostly white cars, probably because of the heat.
Apparently, there was a Muslim holiday because from Friday to Sunday there were a lot more people in the mall. Groups of men in their white dresses and the females in black. No color variations like in Kuala Lumpur. I tried to cover my shoulders and knees too and just be polite but it still seemed to me that often the employees in Manar Mall (not in Dubai) would have preferred to talk to a man instead of me, for example if I needed to ask something.
One day, we rented a car and took a trip to Dubai. I took print screens of every step of the way on google maps, while we were at the Starbucks at Manar Mall. There was no free wifi in our hotel. These pictures were enough to bring us to the city without any detours. There are a lot of cars and some of them are driving horrendously but I still felt save most of the time. It’s quite special to drive on a highway through the desert because the only environment we saw as soon as we left Ras al Khaimah was sand, a few trees, bushes, camels and goats.
Getting around in the city was a lot more difficult, since all the streets are one way streets and if you take a wrong road it can take you a while to find back to where you are supposed to go. It’s good to have the high Burj Khalifa as point of reference.
We finally reached the pretty looking Burj al Arab but it wasn’t really possible to leave the car except if you parked it on the other side of the 8 lanes of a two way road. We didn’t want to take the walk in that heat. We drove on to the marina bay and the palm island Jumeirah but that’s probably only interesting if you see it from the air or have a hotel there. I guess we could have saved the gas to go down there and so drove back to Burj Khalifa, where the Dubaj Mall is located.
The mall is huge!!! Next to many stores, movie theaters and restaurants, there is a whole ice rink (not just a small one) and an aquarium in it. The aquarium looked beautiful from the outside. You can look at sharks and all the other fish without paying anything! However, it looked so impressive that we wanted to see more and bought a ticket for the tunnel and the zoo. It was really cool to walk below sting rays and sharks and see so many fish living in one glass tank without eating each other. I wished I could have stayed in there all day!
At 8pm we made it to the fountain show outside of the mall. There you have a nice view on Burj Khalifah and another nice tall building. Again, I thought that a big city looks much nicer at night, when all the buildings let their lights shine.
The fountain show didn’t impress me too much and so we went to check out some more stores. At 10.30pm we decided that it was about time to leave. Luckily, we then walked past the entrance to the highest building in the world and to our surprise they had a free slot at 11pm (at the hotel they told us that we had to book the tickets 2 days in advance plus, directly at the entrance they were a lot cheaper too). We paid the 125 Dirhams and they said that there was also enough space right now and that we could proceed to the elevator.
Luck was with us again because there were no other people and the lady let us ride the 124 floors alone. It only took 1 minute, my ears popped but I didn’t even get dizzy, as I sometimes do in other elevators. The view from the top was stunning! It’s really worth it to go up there when it’s dark! The fountain show looks much better from up there. Plus, there are free binoculars which also show on a screen how the 360° view would look during the day.
When we rode back down it was past 11pm and there were still quite many people in the mall. Maybe here it’s even lucrative to let the mall open for so long.
Finding back to our highway was a lot easier than taking the correct road to the mall and so we drove back through the desert on the one road leading through it, lit up by a street lamp every 50m.
On another day we did a desert safari with a BBQ dinner. A driver picked us and another couple up in his big (white) Nissan SUV and brought us to a meeting point 1hour20min away from RAK. It’s probably an obligatory stop to make some more money off the tourists because you could have paid to go quad driving or bought souvenirs and food or drinks. Since we weren’t really interested in any, 20 min later, we sat in the car again. The driver had let out some of the air in the wheels to make the car ready for the sand. I thought we were going in a jeep but apparently this car is good for something more than just asphalt. Racing up and down the red dunes was just awesome! Our driver did a great job because I am sure that if any of us had driven the car, we would have rolled over several times. But this way, it was like the driver said, a great “Achterbahn” ride.
I was sad when the ride was over and we got back on the normal road. A little while later we stopped at a Bedouin camp slightly off the highway. That place was extremely touristy. You could try sand boarding, make henna tattoos or take a short camel ride. But everything only took 2-3 minutes. There wasn’t much time anyways because then a dance show started and the buffet was opened. The food was even better than the dinner in the hotel!
When the show was over and the driver saw that we had emptied our plates, we got back in the car and drove back to the hotel via the highway. How boring 🙂
Now, the week is already over and we’re back on the bus to the airport. The weather is still as beautiful and hot as every prior day and I’d love to bring some sun rays back home.