Back to Dubai

I never thought I’d be going back to Dubai so soon after my first visit, but here I was, six months later, I was trying to spot Burj Khalifa from the plane window again.

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Last time I visited it was September 2018 and all I can remember was how poorly I could handle the heat. This time it was a different story and I could finally wander around during the day and enjoy sitting outside at night.

Even though I did not crave the heat, one of the first things I did after arrival was….well you won’t believe this –  I agreed to try a hot yoga class there (40 degrees Celcius!!!). I nearly died during the class, but it sparked my love for hot yoga. Now, a year later, I can’t wait until the lockdown is finished and I can go back to my beloved hot yoga studio here in Edinburgh. Believe me, once you try it, it’s hard to go back to a regular yoga…

Anyway, I will stop talking about my love for yoga and write a bit about what I did in Dubai. I was actually quite excited to see more of the city since during my first visit I was all over UAE and didn’t really visit much of Dubai. Well, I can’t really say that I visited that much this time, because I ended up hanging out a lot with Craig’s friends all over the city.

First, we all went for a Friday brunch, which seems to be quite a big thing in Dubai. I had a hard time trying to find a place on google now (that’s what happens when you let people plan things for you), but I’m pretty sure it was at Meydan Hotel. The food was awesome, I could try so many different cuisines and there was plenty to drink. The time passed really quickly and soon I found myself in the taxi heading to one of the sailing clubs for more drinks. I wasn’t sure if I could handle more booze though, so ended up just enjoying being outside.

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The next day I was told there was more eating/drinking involved, which I wasn’t sure I could handle again, so I negotiated a quick visit to the old Dubai. It was nice to see the old buildings, with the wind towers (old natural air conditioning systems),  the Souk and to cross the Dubai creek in a traditional abra (boat). It was good to be a tourist for a bit and see some of the Dubai that wasn’t purely skyscrapers, even the very pushy sellers didn’t bother me too much at that point.

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the wind tower

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However, it was time to go back to the skyscraper land and see a few more of Craig’s friends. The next stop was Dubai Marina. I did quite like it if I’m honest, especially the walk at night after we again stuffed our bellies with tonnes of food. The views from the restaurant where we ate were pretty cool too.

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It turned out to be a very sociable trip and we spent more time relaxing with people rather than doing much in Dubai, but I still think the big picture of this place is kind of coming together. Just one thing to note for myself, if I ever go back to Dubai, I’m never doing it after staying in a super cheap place like Sri Lanka, it’s just a bit too much of a shock to the bank accounts… 🙂

 

 

Porto

I remember sitting in a metro heading from Porto Francisco Sá Carneir airport to the city centre, listening to a strange language and thinking of how this beautiful mix of sounds came together. Probably due to my lack of history knowledge, I didn’t expect Portuguese to sound anything like what I was hearing, but that was a great incentive to do more research about Portugal during my trip. It was only one of the surprises that the country kept throwing at me while I was there.

I got out of the metro on a Friday night, with streets full of people and restaurants still busy serving evening meals. I spotted this lonely dog in the car, staring at the beautiful pieces of meat hanging inside the restaurant and people enjoying each others company. When you are a dog, you don’t have a freedom of choice, you can’t get your wallet out and buy a piece of ham. Appreciate your freedom, humans!

The next day I opened the curtains of my hotel room and decided it was time to go out and enjoy life.

I also took a photo of the same window from outside just to remind myself there are always two sides of everything and you can never tell which one is more beautiful until you see them both.

Once I got outside, an engineer in me took some time to admire the city’s bridges. The most famous one is Dom Luís I bridge which crosses Rio Douro in order to take you to Vila Nova de Gaia with loads of beautiful port wine cellars.

Another amazing thing you can do in Porto is a tour of the arch of Arrábida Bridge, which is the only bridge arch you are allowed to climb legally in Europe. You will get a harness and a great guide if you google Porto Bridge Climb and book their tour. Recommended!

Right, if bridges are not your thing and you prefer looking at buildings, you will be spoilt for choice in Porto. I was slightly surprised that so many of the buildings were looking a bit forgotten and screaming for some renovation work, but one of the locals suggested I should have seen the place before ryanair started flying to Porto. I guess cheap flights to this beautiful place will hugely change the city’s face.

If you want to admire Portuguese azulejos (various ceramic tiles that turned city into a piece of artwork in my opinion), Porto is perfect for that. You can head to Sao Bento station that loads of tourists do or wonder around the city and wait to be surprised. You won’t be disappointed!

Another beautiful thing about Portugal is it’s amazing food and I won’t keep taking about it, but some of the seafood I tried was absolutely amazing. Also, I remember one night my friend was telling me about this amazing white wine sangria he tried in one of the restaurants and we absolutely had to have it. Being a bit tipsy, we showed up at the place not realising they were closing and asked for the best sangria in town. Even if they were closed, not only they made us the drink, but also gave it to us for free. Portuguese hospitality at its best.

What else can I say, Porto is an amazing place that didn’t yet feel ruined with tourists. It’s got plenty of character and will keep your senses exposed to plenty it’s got to offer.

Budapest

Life is short and you need to make the most of it. That’s what people often say, but they forget to add that you also need to go to Budapest. It’s definitely my favourite European capital at the moment and I cannot wait to go back one day.

I got there at the end of September when the weather was still nice and I was unemployed. Oh wait, the latter is not that relevant… Anyway, I arrived by train from Bratislava and had very little expectations for the place. Just thought I would check it out since one of my closest friends (Emma) was from there. I was not disappointed! The place was full of beautiful buildings, amazing outdoor and ruin bars, great food places and colours around every corner.

I spent my first evening wandering around and admiring Fisherman’s bastion that looked like a castle from a fairy tale. You could also get a fab view of the parliament from there.

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Fisherman’s Bastion

As I mentioned, Budapest is famous for its ruin bars and there are loads of them, so it didn’t take me long to step to one of them. I met up with Emma and we went on a wee catch up adventure around some of the more random ones. You can never know what to expect from the ruin bars, but it’s always a nice surprise when you find something unusual.

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In summer, loads of places will offer you an option to chill outside – like the whole place just being the outdoor bar with hammocks or they open the windows and add couple of benches outside, so you don’t feel like a random hanging out on the street.

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I am not a big fan of taking food photos but some of the things had to be photographed. I fell in love with hungarian “pizza” langos, which is a deep fried dough topped up with cheese etc. Far from healthy but it tastes amazing!

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They also had loads of nice restaurants and I was worried that I forgot the name of the place that blew my mind, but I then found it in one of the photos – it’s called Mandragora. The restaurant has a really relaxed outdoor seating and amazing food, I would recommend it to anyone.

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I also have to mention that Budapest is famous for its baths, it’s got loads of them, with one of the more famous being Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Pick any one of them and spend a day relaxing and you will be ruined forever. Thermal baths should exists in every city!

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As I said earlier, Budapest is full of colours and random features and it’s nice to walk around and explore what it’s got to offer. We accidentally wandered to one of the parks and were surprised by an amazing fountain dancing to a variety of songs.

It’s also got a lot of markets where you can buy fresh or home made produce or just wander around and feel like a part of this amazing city. Budapest’s got everything, you just need to let it to surprise you.

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Go to Budapest and you will love it. Just open up your mind and enjoy it 🙂

Bratislava

It was my first day of unemployment and I was heading to Bratislava. Having finished a yearlong internship I decided that it was time to relax and that I would worry about getting a new job once I came back from my holiday.

Bratislava wasn’t my final destination, more of a stopover on the way to Budapest. There is a convenient train connection between the cities so I thought I would make the most of it.

I got an extremely early ryanair flight, so I am blaming it for Bratislava being a bit of a blur in my memory. However, I remember the first thought I had once I got there – this is a lot like Lithuania! Having lived in Scotland for several years, it was nice to find a place that felt a bit like home. I loved the vibe in the city and I almost wished I stayed a bit longer.

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There was so much good food (although extremely carb rich), with my favourite being halusky and I tried a few different varieties of them. They also had really awesome garlic soup that was conveniently served in a bread bowl.

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I loved that there were loads of colours in the city, especially the old town. Not going to lie, I did not have any energy for any cultural stuff since I was really tired after a sleepless night, but it was nice to wander around.

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I had to have a nap in the afternoon since I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, but got to enjoy the city at night. It felt really lively and with plenty of character!

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Perhaps I will visit the city again, I know loads of people say that it’s worth seeing more of Slovakia than just Bratislava and I’m sure they are right!

The post turned out more of a photo essay rather than anything else, but I just felt like sharing these photos 🙂