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  • Friday, November 30, 2012

    1,000,000 Dirhams of Dubai Happiness

    It may be that time when the UAE will be wishing each other Happy UAE Day - but a recent survey states that Dubai is the most expensive place in the world to be happy. Not so happy for many. That means that most people are living an unhappy existence.

    The survey says:

    The research, conducted with 5000 people across 13 territories, found that the highest levels of aspired income were quoted by individuals living in Dubai who would need more than a quarter of a million US$ to feel happy - or US$276,150 to be precise. The next highest financial aspirations were recorded in Singapore and Hong Kong, where the levels of desired annual income are as high as US$227,563 and US$197,702 respectively. Generally, respondents from Europe feel that much less is required to keep them satisfied, with people in Germany reporting the most modest needs of all countries surveyed (US$85,781). The UK has the second highest price of happiness in Europe at US$133,010, behind Italy at US$175,825.

    and the worst thing about this is that $276,150 which is essentially a million dirhams does not even make you wealthy. You are only perceived to be wealthy when you reach a level of $2.5m or 9.2 million Dirhams:

    'There are many more things in life that can make people happy but there is no doubt that money can help. It is fascinating to see the regional differences in levels of income and capital that people think they need to feel happy and wealthy. These figures are, of course, aspirational and for most of us the important thing is to have a financial plan and make sure that we are saving as much as we can to give us financial security.'

    Dubai is only second to Singapore in that table. Either way expensive places to be happy. Oh and by the way, if you do want to be happy in Dubai, apparently Umm Suqeim is the place where people are most happiest. Next on the happy barometer were residents in Dubai Marina, who count on cool shops, restaurants and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Suburban Springs was also high on the happy scale thanks to tree-lined streets and a chilled-out, family-friendly ambience. Downtown Dubai, JLT, Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah made up the rest of the top seven. Notice that these are the expensive and new places in Dubai. That means that those in old Dubai (bur Dubai/ Deira) are neither happy or wealthy. Or perhaps they perceive themselves to be - and maybe that's all you need.

    Happiness Index
    Happiness Survey
    happy neighbourhoods

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    4 things to do in Langkawi

    It seems a good few of you are in the process of booking or about to leave for Malaysia. You'll have a great time. We've had a few emails asking where else to go to pair up with KL. Our recommendation is to try Langkawi. Think stunning turquoise seas, iridescent paddy fields, friendly locals and a wealth of things to see and do and you’ll soon realize why the 99-island archipelago of Langkawi is one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations. Located 30 kilometres off the mainland off northwest Malaysia it’s easily accessible by sea or plane (just one hour from Kuala Lumpur) making it a fantastic place for a weekend getaway – or longer if you have the time. We think it's a good pair up with KL and you should try and do both. City break  followed by relaxation. While it’s becoming a popular beach and island holiday spot in Malaysia, it’s still a far cry from the over developed, rabid commercialisation of some Thai resorts not much further north. It’s possible to escape the crowds and get back to nature and, with a few of the insider tips here, you’ll have a fantastic time on Langkawi.

     Tengah beach

    One of Langkawi’s most endearing characteristics is its array of attractions. Whether you’re a budget traveller or more the kind that sticks to exclusive resorts there’s a little something for everyone here. There are boating trips to nearby islands to see eagles and freshwater lakes (try the island boat hopping tour), snorkelling and diving opportunities, mangrove and forest tours, plenty of lazy day opportunities on local beaches and a fantastic array of fresh fruit, seafood and wonderful Malay dishes to enjoy.
    The key to enjoying Langkawi is to get out and explore so plan in a beach day or two with some excursions to places both on the main island and to islands off shore for the best experience of the archipelago. The southern islands are by far the most accessible, but also the busiest.
    Getting around with the wind in your hair
    To escape the crowds make sure you rent a car, scooter or bicycle on the island to explore. The scooter is probably the most economical choice and the best one if you can handle the traffic and road conditions – narrow at times and busy. Once you leave the main hubs of Pantai Cenang or Pantai Tengah other parts of the island remain largely untouched by tourism. And given the size of Langkawi you can easily jet about and take in the major features in just one day.
    The Cable Car
    Initially dubious about this popular attraction, we were completely seduced with it once we went. It’s 30 RM (US$9.50) well spent. Located in the west of the island it is popular for good reason, swinging you up, to the very heights of the island to Mount Machinchang with stunning views of the coastline and the 7 wells waterfall below. It is also a safe and fun family activity and kids will no doubt love the sky bridge at the top that is literally suspended above a gap between the mountain peaks. The queues can be huge during the day so go either very early, they start operating about 9.30am, or later in the day, they stop at 7pm.

    Langkawi Cable Car
    Seven Wells Waterfall
    Another highlight on the island, and easily combined with a trip on the cable car ride, is this stunning waterfall that cascades down about 80 metres from a series of natural pools. It’s a bit of a steep climb from the car park to the falls but you can wash off the sweat and exertion by relaxing in the pools either at the base or the top of the waterfall. Entry is free but there is a small charge for parking here.

    Seven Wells Waterfall
    Tanjung Rhu Beach
    This stretch of golden sand up in the north of the island is quite possibly the most beautiful in Langkawi with three fantastic islets just off the beach that you can wade out to. The beach front seems to be the dominion of an upmarket resort who have exclusive rights to the beach so don’t linger or use the sands in front of the hotel.
    If you are going to Malaysia on our advice this holiday or during Xmas and NYE, have a great time. And for those of you staying back in the UAE, enjoy the National Day holidays - and the fireworks!

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    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Skydive Dubai

    Are you ready for skydive Dubai - this year? For the world parachutist's championship. Be ready. Watch this video:

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    24 hours in KL

    For those of you that are considering skipping the National Day celebrations for a trip away, can we recommend KL? We went a few months back and probably one of our most favourite trips in recent years. We think that Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is one of Asia’s most underrated tourist destinations. While many recognize the colonial beauty of Georgetown and Malacca or the stunning beaches of Langkawi and Tioman, many miss what may be Malaysia’s most vibrant destination.

     The Petronas Towers are fantastic and worth visiting, especially after dark.

    With inexpensive flights arriving daily from Dubai, Abu Dhabi as well as from many of Europe and Asia’s largest cities, many travellers are already making their way to Kuala Lumpur. And while towering skyscrapers, fantastic food, and multiple cultures come together to create one of the world’s most lively cities, it is still possible to see many of the city’s highlights in a single day. Here are our recommendations:
    After breakfast, start your morning of sightseeing off with a jaunt around the Merdaka Square, the heart of old Kuala Lumpur. It was here that Malaysia declared its independence from Great Britain in 1957, and the influence of the country’s former ruler can be seen in the colonial buildings that still surround the area.
    Located on the northeastern corner of the square is Masjid Jamek, one of the city’s oldest mosques. The mosque’s design is unique among the city’s mosques and was influenced by Mongol and Indian design elements. It also sits on the spot where the city of Kuala Lumpur was founded. Ladies are required to don a full traditional covering while inside the mosque, which is provided free of charge at the entrance.
    After leaving the mosque, make your way to the newly built Masjid Negara, the National Mosque of Malaysia. Built in 1965, the turquoise roof and large size of this mosque make it an imposing statue to Malaysia’s official state religion.
    Having seen two of the city’s most important mosques, head over to Chinatown, where the city’s most important Buddhist and Hindu temples reside.
    Sze Ya Temple was built in 1882 in honor of Shen Kong, the god of miners and houses. Just like the streets of Chinatown, Sze Ya Temple is an eclectic mix of lights, statues, and incense.
    Nearby, the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple contrasts nicely with the Buddhist Temple you have just visited. Peaceful and minimalistic at ground level, the statues and paintings in the temple rise above you in a vibrant range of colors and styles. It is also the starting point for the annual Thaipusam pilgrimage to the Batu Caves outside of the city.

     The historical Central Market in Chinatown is a great place to grab lunch or a few souvenirs.
    For lunch, head to the nearby Central Market. On the second floor is a large food court filled with inexpensive, but delicious, Malaysian food. The Market is also an excellent place to find and purchase souvenirs; just make sure to bargain hard.
    After lunch, catch a taxi or the tram to Kuala Lumpur Sentral Train Station and board a red line train to Batu Caves Station. Sitting 30 minutes outside of the city, the Batu Caves are one of the holiest Hindu shrines in Southeast Asia. The caves are located at the top of a 272-step stairway, fronted by a very large, golden statue of the Hindu god, Lord Murgan. Inside the caves, which are quite impressive in their own right, are several Hindu temples and shrines.
    While visiting the caves, especially in the area around the central staircase, make sure that you watch out for the thriving community of long-tailed macaques. While quite cute, they are a very mischievous lot. It is best to leave any food or snacks in your hotel room as they have a keen sense of smell and aren’t afraid to take food out of your hand or your bag.
     The Batu Caves staircase may seem daunting, but the view from the top is magnificent.
    When you return to ground level, make sure to check out the smaller Hindu temples in the vicinity of the caves. There are also several other caverns that require admission but are quite spectacular.
    After a short train ride back to Kuala Lumpur, board the subway bound for KLCC Station to check out the Petronas Towers. Standing 452 meters above the surrounding city, the towers are an imposing sight from the ground below. When you arrive, spend a few minutes admiring the magnificent architecture of the towers, before heading inside the KLCC Shopping Mall located on the tower’s bottom floors.
    Inside, there are plenty of shops and attractions to occupy a full day. Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, stop by one of the center’s many restaurants for dinner.
    After dinner, head to the park outside of the Petronas Towers for a fantastic view of the towers at night.
    Staring at the lights above and thinking back on the day, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the Malaysian capital. 
    That's a pretty busy 24 hours, but it is possible to do. But if you are planning to visit, try and stay for a bit longer. Five to seven days is perfect if you have the leave. 
    If you want to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website which gives a lot more detail on all the tourist destinations. Sing with me now: Malaysia truly Asia!

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    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Ain Al Faida, Al Ain

    The quiet but beautiful city of Al Ain has been making news lately with the anticipated opening of its refurbished Ain Al Faida Resort.  The family resort which was built over 30 years ago, boasts acres of lush gardens , a mosque and an area for boats.  Pretty chalets, rich in local architecture have been a focal point and long project of renovation to attract new visitors from around the UAE and further to visit the sometimes ignored  ‘Oasis City of Al Ain’.  The One to One Hotel group have taken this project under their wing and describe it as ‘Accentuating Authenticity: Renovating historical sites to create timeless luxury destinations’. 

    After a five year closure, Ain Al Faida has now completed its renovation project and is due to open on New Years Eve and attract new visitors, especially those with families and also couples who want to escape the loud metropolis of Dubai and Abu Dhabi city. 

    The renovation project has been careful to keep the original character and structure of the resort intact but also modernise and expand the surrounding areas.  The resort is expected to be a four star property and will boast 26 boutique style rooms and 57 one and two bed villas.  There will be extensive leisure activities for the family such as tennis courts, basketball, football pitches, pedalos on the lake and quad biking and cycling.  Pony and camel riding and also huge indoor and outdoor play areas for children.  

    It is hoped this huge renovation project will boost Al Ain’s tourism and add to the list of already popular attractions in Al Ain such as the popular Wadi Adventure Waterpark, Al Ain National Museum, Al Jahili Fort and the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum.

    Al Ain is in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and distance from Abu Dhabi city to Al Ain is approximately 160km. Distance from Dubai to Al Ain is approximately 120km.

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    Tuesday, November 20, 2012


    Mashrabiya is a term used for a type of window enclosed with latticework located and an element of traditional Arabic architecture used for many years in Arabia. Its use in the Middle Ages was defining and produced a natural shield to the sun's heat. It's use waned as modern architectural techniques changed and air condition became prevalent. The masrabiya bring back the concept for ADIC's building and what is amazing is that they actually open and close as the sun moves round the building

    Another example of Abu Dhabi using modern technology with a cultural context in a new age

    Al Bahar Towers

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    Tuesday, November 13, 2012

    Ski Dubai - an artistic mini documentary

    We haven't heard much about Ski Dubai recently. It's a given in the Dubai landscape, but it was perceived as one of the first crazy things that put Dubai on the map. This story touches on what ski dubai means to many individuals.

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