Miracle Garden 2016

So this has become somewhat of a tradition… visiting Miracle Garden every year as soon the harsh summer shows signs of letting up. You may wonder why we choose to go the same place every year but the truth is, the flower arrangements change every year, which makes it a brand new experience every time you visit. This year, the highlight was the Guinness World Record holding largest flower arrangement in the form of an Airbus A380 (okay, that’s quite a mouthful).

The garden opens at 9am, but we were being lazy this time so we decided to go at 10am, anticipating that the good weather would hold. We weren’t quite so lucky. It would appear every time we’re blessed with a long weekend, the weather turns back to it’s evil summer spirit just to spite us. In any case, we were still early enough not to have any long queues at the ticket counter, so yayy!

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The perks of coming early… no line!

If there’s one thing I noticed the minute I stepped inside, it’s that this year, there are more flowers than ever before. The garden was completely carpeted in flowerbeds, besides the fancy decorative floral arrangements. The familiar arrangements from previous years had been revamped, and there were so many more things to discover.

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Remember me?

The “graveyard of cars” may have disappeared, but no season of Miracle Garden is complete without at least one epic car installation. In this case it was the Beetle Waterfall ^^

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One of the things I absolutely loved this year, was the fact that there were a lot more places to sit down to enjoy the view instead of rushing through. From the pavilions set up around the fountain, to the benches and swings set up around the perimeter of the park, there were so many vantage points from which you can appreciate the beauty around you.

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Pavilions around the fountain

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Garden swings ❤

For people who may find it difficult to wander around the whole park, don’t worry! There are special “taxis” to take you around the park for only AED 20 per taxi ^___^

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Floral Dhow

There were also a lot more places to eat this time around, Hardee’s and Krispy Kreme being new additions, but overall having a meal here is going to pack a bigger punch in your wallet than the entrance tickets. A simple shawarma which usually costs AED 5, costs about AED 30 in the park, so I wouldn’t really recommend eating at the garden unless you’re reallllllllllly hungry. Drinks too are super expensive so a bottle of water is probably the best way to go if you’re on a budget.

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Butterfly Windmills

La pièce de résistance though was most definitely the Airbus installation, and not just the plane, but also the landscaping around the plane.

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First glimpse of Emirates Airlines ❤

The coolest part had to be the  UAE flag on the tail and the rotating airplane turbines. Way cool! ❤

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Emirates Airbus A380

The park is open from 9am to 9pm on weekdays 9am to 11pm on weekends with tickets for adults costing only AED 40 (as of Dec 2016) , so if you haven’t gone already, it’s time to add this to your to-do list ^^

Dubai Fountain

Now that the weather is cooling down, at least in the evenings, it’s time to start venturing out and doing outdoorsy things again. Our first stop was The Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest musical fountain. Since the boat rides are between 5.45pm to 10.45pm and we’re very very much morning people, we never actually thought of taking a ride through the fountain before. We decided we’d do something different, booked our tickets and braved our way through the weekend traffic to head to Dubai Mall. Despite having had to park on the 9th (and last) floor of the parking garage since all other levels and all underground parking was full, we finally made it… just in time.

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Looking across at Souq Al Bahar

We’d making the bookings online, so we went to collect our tickets from the At The Top counter, where we were surrounded by an endless mob of tourists. Luckily for us, there was more rush to head to the top of Burj Khalifa and less rush at the fountain, so we were in for a comfy ride.

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Heading out

I’d strategically picked the 6.15pm slot, which meant that we’d have time to watch the 6pm fountain show before sunset, and the 6.30pm show after sunset, during the ride. I’d highly recommend picking a time around sunset so you can enjoy the day and the night views of both the fountain and Burj Khalifa, which sparkles like a gem at night.

The weather was lovely, the boat entirely silent and the ride a smooth sail around the fountain, taking us from Dubai Mall, past Souk Al Bahar and past the recently opened Dubai Opera for a vantage point view of both Burj Khalifa and the fountain.

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The sun going down behind Dubai Opera

If you stand close to the fountain and the wind is just right, you should expect a nice cool shower, but when you’re in the boat, the driver takes you to a sweet spot, close enough for the fountain to seems magical, and just far away enough not to get a drop on you. For the photography enthusiast, it’s a great opportunity to get a non-crowded shot up close, but somehow nothing you capture will be as nice as it actually feels sitting in the boat, away from the crowds, softly rocking, watching the fountains dance to the music.

My biggest tip to anyone who’d like to plan a visit to the fountain would be this… if you’re heading out at night don’t strain your neck trying to get a glimpse of the top of the Burj. Instead, sink a little in your seat, tilt your head back and voila… the top will come down to you.

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Glittering in the night sky

Tickets cost only AED 65 for adults (as of Sept 16) and even if you’re travelling with kids, there’s no need to worry because there are life jackets available on board for adults and kids alike. No excuse not to go and spend a relaxing half hour along with your thoughts.

The Green Planet

We headed off to The Green Planet on their opening weekend, because who doesn’t want to experience a day in a rainforest, while living in the desert. To be honest, while landscaping in the UAE is a testament to human creativity and ingenuity which allows for 24/7, 365 days a year greenery that often makes you forget that you’re living in a desert, there are times when you crave something less manicured and something more wild and green.

Located at the City Walk, the Green Planet can be a bit hard to locate if it’s your first time in the area because there’s still some roadwork ongoing, but the building is easy to spot, and is located right opposite The Hub. We had booked tickets online, to avoid any potential queues at the ticketing counter, and decided that we’d head out bright and early so we’d get in just as the place opened up. We weren’t the only ones with the same idea, but we got our tickets easily enough, and were ushered through for our rainforest experience with two important reminders – No flash photography and No Touching!

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Welcome to The Green Planet

You start your visit at the ground floor, where you get an amazing view of where you’ll be headed (the rainforest above) while at the same time enjoying turtles and all sorts of fish in the aquarium. From the moment you enter, the temperature is a comfortable 20 something degrees, and while it’s humid it’s not uncomfortably so which means you can easily spend hours inside.

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Looking up

Once you’ve had your fill of looking at the fishes, you head into an elevator which takes you right to the top, from where you’ll begin your journey, naturally working your way downwards. The first thing we saw as we stepped off the elevator… were parrots! Just sitting there… comfortably… about to begin their early morning preening. I think the most surprising thing, for me at least and for the many kids who came in after us, was just how loud parrots can be. It’s positively startling, especially if you’re not expecting it.

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Too uncomfortable to preen in front of camera-wielding strangers

The thing I loved most about the place, was the fact that all the birds were free to fly around, which meant you had to spot them in all the dense foliage. There were signs all along the footbridges giving you the names and details of the birds, and you had to hope you were lucky enough to spot them. Free to fly also means free to poop, excuse the French, where and when they please, which often includes on unsuspecting visitors, which is why I’d advise you to keep a pack of wet wipes on you when you go. Just in case!

 

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Look who’s hiding

There were all sorts of birds, from green and red parrots, to toucans and then of course, there were the other animals which we had’t expected like the sloth (who was just beginning his rather slow journey into the rainforest) and rather large sleeping porcupines (in fact, I didn’t even know porcupines could be so big or that they are nocturnal!) There were also a number of fascinating critters, not all free to roam thank God. I wouldn’t quite know what to do with myself if that tarantula had been out wandering. One of the nicest things was that there were guides available everywhere who were willing to share their knowledge with you to help you pick out a male from a female lizard and also to creep you out by telling you just how lathe those lizards can get once they’re fully grown.

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The Frog Leg Beetle looks like an absolute jewel

The animals aren’t the only wow factor at the Green Planet- in fact for me, it was the tree that was perhaps the most awe-inspiring. The tree, as they explained to us, is man-made and other vegetation has been planted in such a way that it will grow over the structure which acts as a support. Which means, while the tree looks amazing now, it will take a few years before the tree is fully covered  in wild green and a place for all those animals to truly call home.

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First look at the man-made tree.

As we made our way down, over rope-bridges and past preening parrots, we met weaver ants making their homes, bees building their hive, leaf-cutter ants being their diligent selves carrying upto 5000 times their body weight in leaves and butterflies just sitting  pretty on the large leaves of the canopy.

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A place to call home

 

The experience was both wonderful and educational and I’m pretty sure I’d like to be back in a year or so to see how much the canopy has changed. The Green Planet is open from 10am to 10pm everyday (closing time extends upto midnight on Thursdays and Fridays) and tickets can be bought online or at the entrance for AED 95 for adults and AED 70 for children (Prices as of Sept 2016).

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The biggest parrots I’ve ever seen… and the cutest

Last Exit

It’s no secret that food trucks and pop-up restaurants are the new craze in UAE. Some of the more recognizable names include Salt, which now has a permanent home in at least three different emirates, Moti Roti, the Ramadan favourite and of course Parker’s, no key no entry. So it’s no surprise that a permanent food truck park has finally opened up in Dubai.

Last Exit is located on E11 on the way from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, just outside Jebel Ali which makes it a great alternative to stopping at the Adnoc service stations on the way back from Abu Dhabi.

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Welcome to Last Exit

What’s great about the place is that not only does it have a drive-through in case you’re in a hurry, but there’s also plenty of parking if you want to get some rest before hitting the road again.

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Drive through Big Smoke Burger

An interesting thing to note is that despite the absence of most of the big names, there are plenty of new-comers which shows the food truck business is alive and well. From burgers at Burger Pit, to coffee at the prerequisite Starbucks and dessert at Clinton Street Baking Company, you’re all set for a hearty meal. And of course, no food truck park can be complete without karak and parathas from My Karak.

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Nothing like starting the day with karak

With its vintage 1950s feel, the park is a great place to visit, even if you’re not a foodie (is there such a thing?). Not only are the food trucks painted with 50s themes, the indoor dining area is a blast into the past complete with a pinball machine and a juke box.

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Taking the 50s theme very seriously

From the gas pump nozzle door handles to the bicycle spoke lights, there’s no place left without decoration.  I didn’t go into the restroom, but later found out even that is a work of art.

While the indoor dining area will be the obvious preference in summers, the outdoor dining area will be a hit in winter. The seats are made from re-purposed tyres and the tables are old barrels. What’s not to love!

If you do get a chance to go, leave me a comment and recommend something yummy to try on my next visit 🙂

Chillout Ice Lounge, Dubai

If you haven’t figured it out already, the summer’s not showing any signs of ending any time soon. So how does one chill out in Dubai.. .apart from going to a mall that is? Well, there are more than a few icy options around to turn your summers into winter… there’s Ski Dubai in MOE (which has recently started overnight camping!), several ice skating rinks including the one in Dubai Mall and then… there’s the Chillout Ice Lounge! If you’re just looking for a place to relax, have a coffee and a bite to eat in the comfort of -6C then this place was made just for you.

The good news is you don’t need to lug your own snow boots and heavy jackets with you. Both are provided to you before you enter, along with a nice warm cap and gloves. The gloves, though aren’t as warm as we would have liked so I’d advise you to carry your own as well. Also, do come wearing jeans because there’s nothing to cover your legs. Once you’re all bundled up and look like you’re heading for an Alaskan expedition, that’s when you’re allowed in to the cafe which is full of beautiful ice sculptures.

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Fairies and Dragons

While some of them are just for admiring, there are even some that you can climb into, like chariots and cars, for that perfect photo op! (If you can bear to take your hands out of your gloves, or if you’re lucky enough to have gloves that work with your smartphone!)

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Some of the epic sculptures!

If you’re worried about how long you can stay inside, no need to worry! You can always warm yourself up with a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate and of course, there’s always lunch to take your mind off the cold. Did I mention, your first drink is complimentary? ^^

One of the things I loved about the place was the fact that the lights keep changing colour, so you get to see the sculptures, literally, in a new light.

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The red dragon!

Tickets are only AED 75 per adult and AED 35 for kids (as of Aug 2016) and since you can stay in for as long as you can stay in, it’s definitely worth a visit!