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Dubai: Home to the Largest Inflatable Water Park in the World!

March 16, 2017
Aqua Fun Dubai - largest inflatable water park in the world JBR

Dubai is a city that pushes boundaries; if they can build it bigger, better, taller or more complex then you can be certain that this city will! This attitude extends to all facets of life, so it’s no wonder that when the idea of building the world’s largest water obstacle course was hatched, that it was destined for Dubai.

Located a short swim off JBR beach, you’ll find exactly that – the world’s biggest inflatable park, which just happens to form the Dubai logo when seen from above.  Would you expect anything less from a city that markets itself so proudly?

After kitting up on the beach, we began the short swim over to the course itself. The first obstacle? Getting on!

Nathan and I had a go at a smaller course whilst we were in Cozumel, Mexico and I found it next to impossible to actually get up on the inflatable from the water. These courses are serious-exercise-business!

Thankfully though, Aqua Fun have installed entry mats and ladders to help those of us who are less athletically inclined. Even with the mats, getting up on the course is a bit of a challenge but it is manageable and as they say, nothing worth having comes easy.

As we climbed aboard, we watched other others brave souls having a crack at the course – the lady closest to use scooting along the track just to slip and fall on the bouncy surface. Surprised, we couldn’t help but wonder if she was a little lacking in co-ordination! As it turns out though, even walking on the flat entrance part of the course is a challenge as we promptly found it, slipping and sliding all over the place.

We spent the next hour climbing, jumping, balancing and swinging our way through a variety of obstacles. Some were physically very demanding whereas others were more about technique than strength. Regardless, they were all great fun!

If we were to have one critique, it would be that the course is little repetitive with the same obstacles repeated at either side of the ‘track’. The advantage of this is that you can have a go on your obstacle of choice without having to wait on other people to clear it – if it’s busy on one side, work your way over to the other. It does feel a little like a missed opportunity to add more variety to the course though (and to actually make it feel bigger) – had there been more options, we would have stayed out on the water longer still. To be fair though, our aching muscles probably couldn’t have taken much more!

We came off the course with a few new scratches and bruises to add to the collection but huge smiles that showed it was all clearly worth it! If you have an adventurous spirit, we’d definitely suggest checking out Aqua Fun. Though you’ll find it easier if you have a good level of fitness and balance, it is within reach of most people, a heck of a lot of fun and a fun dose of adventure in the city.

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Duabi is now home to the largest inflatable water park in the world.  Located in one of Dubai's nicest areas, find out what we thought about it.  Is it worth stopping by Aqua Fun on your stopover to the city of the future?

Thank you to Aqua Fun for hosting us for the afternoon.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Dubai Food Mid-Range Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Catch 22 – Dubai’s Newest Addition to JBR

December 21, 2016
Catch 22 JRB Dubai

Located in JBR (Jumeriah Beach Residence), one of our favourite parts of Dubai, Catch 22, a newly opened casual-dining restaurant has opened its doors.  Eclectically decorated, with a beautiful, big teared deck that faces that ocean, it’s a fantastic place to sit and enjoy the comings and goings of the area.  

With a focus on seafood and quality meet and with menu items that take inspiration from Asia and Mexico, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes at Catch 22.

As we were invited to sample the Catch22’s new menu, we were given the choice of three set options – seafood, meat lovers or vegetarian.  Nathan loves seafood, but I’m not such a fan so it was an easy choice to go with the meat-based menu and a lot of it really impressed us.

We started with the most delicious drinks – a virgin pina colada and a berry and mango smoothie.  Both were a treat, but the pina colada was especially tasty.  In the UAE most restaurants serve a great assortment of non-alcoholic cocktails which is great news for us as we’re not big drinkers.

When it came to our food, the plates were brought out to us on the deck as they were ready and were perfectly presented for sharing.

We started the night off well with their filet minion sticks; these were tender and cooked beautifully and best of all, came with the most delicious, soy based sauce (which we kept aside to enjoy on some of our other dishes – it was that good).

From there we moved onto the cheeseburger quesadillas.  Cut in three, they were exactly what you’d imagine – burger patties sandwiched between wraps and toasted, served with plenty of cheese, sour cream and guacamole.

The largest dish of the night was the double stack angus club sandwich, which, served with wedges, was also our favourite.  Delicious slithers of steak came cooked in a subtle BBQ sauce with capsicums and onions (which I promptly removed – anyone that knows me, knows that I’m not a fan).  The bread was nicely toasted and slathered in a tasty sauce, served with melted cheese.  Sometimes the simple options really are the best – this dish was delicious and not at all sickly as dishes that contain BBQ sauce can sometimes be.  One to return for, for sure!

Nathan finished his meal with the C22 short rib roll – an enjoyable fusion of sushi and deboned short rib steak.  It was a nice, light ending to the savoury part of our meal.

Almost undoubtedly though, the highlight of any meal for me is dessert and checking out the menu, they sure did look delicious!  We were tossing up between an amazing sounding fruit crumble and the popcorn chocolate ganache which we eventually decided on.

It looked fantastic when it arrived but, as with any restaurant, the odd teething problem might be expected.  Though we ordered it with vanilla ice cream it came out with pistachio ice cream (which it turns out, we’re not fans of) and though the idea of the dessert was good, it didn’t quite stand up to our expectations.  The filling was too chocolatey (I would have questioned whether there was such a thing prior to this – turns out there is) and the cookie undercooked and floury tasting.  On the bright side though, the raspberries were fresh and juicy and the dessert did look impressive (plus, we’ve since read awesome reviews of it so maybe it just wasn’t out night).

We’ve heard fantastic things about the lotus french toast and it comes in a generous portion so that would definitely be our first pick next time around!

Would we return to Catch 22?  Absolutely!  We really enjoyed our entrees and mains and the location can’t be beaten.  We liked the casual, quirky feel of the restaurant and the prices were very reasonable for the food on offer.  We’d certainly recommend it as a relaxed place to meet friends for a bite to eat!

JBR Review Catch 22 Dubai

Thank you to Azur Blue and Catch 22 for welcoming us as their guests.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Accommodation Dubai Mid-Range Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Roving Around Dubai – The City’s Funkiest Hotel

December 17, 2016
Rove City Centre Dubai review

Sometimes you stay somewhere that is the perfect fit for you – the newly opened Rove City Centre Dubai was exactly that for us.  If I had a hotel soul mate, it might just be it!

From the moment we drove into the massive basement carpark to the last minute when we begrudgingly checked-out, we only have positive things to say.

The staff throughout our entire stay were friendly, attentive and approachable, without being even a little over-bearing – it was clear that all guests to Rove are welcomed in as friends first and foremost, which, for us, is what it’s all about.

Someone with a real eye for detail was obviously put in charge of the interior design and they hit it out of the park.  The little details in the communal spaces were spot on making them a pleasure to spend time in.  We’re not normally ones to sit in a lobby but with the amazing aromatherapy smells drifting about (honestly, a hotel has never smelt so good!), the gorgeous decorations and the comfortable seating, it was impossible not to.

Rove City Centre is perfectly positioned near the main Dubai airport (DXB), making it a fantastic choice for stopovers and people looking for a place to stay before/after their flights.  

As a base, the whole city is easily accessible by car or one of Dubai’s affordable taxis.  Dubai itself is incredibly spread out along Sheikh Zayed Road so wherever you find yourself in the city, you’ll cover a fair few kilometres as you work your way between the airport, Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab (though if you’d prefer, Rove also have a Downtown property right beside the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, famous for its dancing fountains).

Everything about Rove City Centre has been thoughtfully considered.  

Looking to unwind in the city?  The rooftop pool and sundeck will see you right.  Alternatively, challenge your travel partner to a game of table tennis, get in some putting practice on the mini-golf green or see how quickly you can solve a rubies cube.

Keen to work off all of the glorious food on offer in Dubai?  See you in the gym, where you’ll find a full range of machinery, weights, the biggest TV you’ve ever seen and plenty of workout towels on hand (we told you they’ve thought of everything).

In town for work?  They’ve got a range of funky and functional conference rooms and facilities ready to take care of your business needs.

Need to touch base with home or keep up with what’s happening in the world?  You’ll find complimentary (and fast!) wifi in all of the rooms and hotel spaces and iMacs on hand should you forego travelling with your laptop.

Hungry?  Potentially the only place we’ve ever stayed that has a fully-stocked mini-mart open 24/7 (with affordable pricing to boot).

Coming from another holiday destination?  They’ve got both self-wash and serviced laundry facilities so you can be ready for your next stop.

Do you have a late departure?  Rove will give you a 2pm checkout without even needing to ask.

The rooms themselves are of a good size – more than enough for us to relax in and spread ourselves out.  With a comfy king-sized bed and good quality linen getting a good nights sleep was easy, and thanks to the incredible black-out curtains, we both slept in longer than we’d planned – not that we were complaining!

After freshening up (in our powerful rain shower) we made our way down to The Daily for breakfast – make sure you set your alarm as I promise, you don’t want to miss it!

Freshly baked croissants and chocolate pastries, banana bread, assorted toasts, fresh fruit, yoghurt, hot dishes and a selection of more exotic breakfast fare (labneh, bircher musli, soft cheese, nuts, seeds and more) was just the start. In addition, a range of cooked-to-order meals, including omelettes, shakshuka, a full farmers breakfast and paneer bhaji, were available.  

Sometimes when we travel we find breakfasts largely catering for locals – that wasn’t the case here though with plenty on offer to cater to all palettes.  For the two mornings that we were in Dubai, breakfast literally became one of the highlights of each day!

In addition to their delicious food, breakfast included barista coffees, an assortment or fresh juice and, our personal favourite, strawberry and mango smoothies (if you visit Rove, go for the mango – it’s out of this world!)

Regardless of whether you’re passing through Dubai briefly or are spending more time in the city, Rove offers great value for money, a warm and welcoming environment, all the facilities you could need and a funky, modern style.  We couldn’t have asked for more from our first Rove experience and are pleased to say, we’re definitely Rovers now!

Rooms at Rove City Centre will generally set you back a very reasonable AED250 (room only – AED340 if you want to include breakfast, and we recommend you do).  We’ve stayed in three other Dubai hotels around this price-point and can say without doubt, that we believe Rove offers the best value in the city.

Dubai's Best Value Hotel The Rove City Centre

Thank you to Rove for so generously hosting us for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts are our own.  Rove really is as good as it sounds!

Dubai Expat Life Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

How is this my Life? Relaxing at the Waldorf Astoria on the Palm, Dubai

December 14, 2016
waldorf astoria dubai palm jumeirah Privilee review

It’s funny, when we envisaged our lives in Abu Dhabi, we certainly never imagined we’d be rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous out on Dubai’s Palm.  A year on though, we frequently find ourselves enjoying the best pools and beach clubs in the UAE (thanks to Privilee – the best membership around!) and though we haven’t met anyone of mention yet, there’s no doubt it feels like we could!

The Waldorf Astoria is located out on the East Crescent, with views out to the Atlantis, and is home to four pools and a variety of leisure activities.

If you’re there to take a dip (as we were) then you can choose from the large family pool, a slightly smaller but peacefully quiet adults only pool and or one of two jacuzzis.  Tennis is also on offer, as are a range of water-sports (including standup paddle boarding and fishing) out on the private beach.

When you’re ready for a bite to eat, you can indulge in plenty of tasty snacks and meals poolside, or head into the restaurants to relax.

We had a fantastic day at the Waldorf Astoria and will certainly be back.  The pools are beautiful, the food tasty and the service great (complimentary bottles of water, fresh, snuggly towels and magazines to read?  Yes please!)

There’s not much they’ve not thought of and we’d highly recommend popping along to the Waldorf Astoria with your Privilee card.

PS: The hotel is currently kitted out in Christmas decorations and wandering into the main lobby instantly perked me up – there’s nothing like a touch of Christmas spirit to get you excited for the coming season!

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Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah Privilee review

Abu Dhabi Activities Dubai Expat Life Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

The Membership Card You’ll Want to Use: Privilee Review, Abu Dhabi + Dubai

December 10, 2016
The Palace Downtown Dubai Privilee review Burj

Over the years both Nathan and I have signed up to our fair share of memberships – mostly to various gyms, all of which are eventually relinquished due to lack of use.  Privilee is different though… we’ve finally found a membership card that we love using!

What makes this membership so different?  Read on for our Privilee review…

These magic little cards open all sorts of five-star doors for you, granting access to the hottest spots in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  Simply put, it’s an absolute pleasure to use.

A membership with Privilee lets you enjoy unlimited access to beach clubs, spas, gyms and sports facilities at some of Abu Dhabi’s and Dubai’s leading hotels and resorts, along with special deals and discounts at a wide selection of award-winning restaurants and bars.

With our leisure membership cards in hand, we can enjoy dozens of five-star hotel pools and beaches whilst receiving discounts at their hotels and bars.  At the end of a busy week, we really look forward to getting comfy on a sun lounger and swapping between a good book and refreshing dips in the pool.

For those of you who are looking to burn off a few more calories, there are plenty of gyms and exercise classes that are included in the membership, along with the use of tennis and squash courts.

If you’re wanting to relax even more, discounts for spa treatments are included in the card and I don’t doubt for a second that they would be glorious!

When you factor in what it would cost to visit one of these hotels or beach clubs on a Friday or Saturday (for those of you not in the UAE, those are our weekend days), the monthly membership more than pays for itself.  We love that having it gives us a little push to head out for a day of relaxation in the sun and with three visits under our belt, it’s already helped us to see more of the UAE.

The service at each of the hotels/clubs that we have visited has been top-notch, with staff being professional but approachable – exactly what we’re after on a day out.

The team at Privilee are on top of their game too, ready to help you with all the information you’ll need to make the most of your membership without any downtime.

The best part of the membership though?  Undoubtedly the amazing spots we’ve had the pleasure of spending time at and the knowledge that there are more to come.

Do your weekends look as good as ours?

Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah

The Palace Downtown Dubai

Saadiyat Beach Club, Abu Dhabi

Turn every weekend into a five-star beach getaway. Fill your days with family fun in the sun, water sports and poolside lounging, energising workouts, pampering spa breaks and award-winning dining experiences. Do whatever you want, when you want.

We love watching emails pop up, sharing with us the newest hotels and beach clubs to come onboard with Privilee!  If you’re an expat living in the UAE, we’d definitely suggest signing up – those little emails will come to be the amongst the highlights of your week.  That is, until you get to the weekend and can head out to the pool!

Abu Dhabi Dubai Beach Pool Club Privilee review membership

Privilee currently have the following properties on their books, with more being added each week:

Fairmont The Palm • Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa • The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina • Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina • Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club • RIVA Beach Club • Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights • Media One Hotel • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai Jumeirah Beach • Shangri-La Hotel • Conrad Dubai • The Address Dubai Marina • InterContinental Dubai Marina • Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah • Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah • Sofitel The Palm Beach Resort & Spa • The Palace Downtown Dubai • The St. Regis Abu Dhabi • Saadiyat Beach Club • The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

Our Privilee review was made possible thanks to their generous support. We highly recommend their membership programme to beach and pool bunnies and anyone looking to unwind in the UAE (which is everyone, surely?)  As always, all thoughts are our own.

If you do decide to join the Privilee family, we’d love it if you’d use the links above.  Doing so will let us enjoy another month of pool-side fun at no extra cost to you.

Activities Dubai Mid-Range Middle East Reviews Tours United Arab Emirates

Exploring ‘The Palm’, Dubai – Xclusive Tours Review

December 5, 2016
Palm Boat Tour Dubai Xtreme review

Looking for a different perspective for your Dubai sight-seeing?  Check out our review of the Xclusive Tours Palm boat tour…

Dubai is known around the world for its countless unique sky scrapers; these marvels of engineering dominate the skyline, making the city unlike any other.  The tallest building in the world, the tallest residential tower, the only seven star hotel in the world – the list goes on – if Dubai had a motto, it would surely be ‘go big or go home’.  With so many people living and working in the city, it’s no wonder that traffic can sometimes be an issue so when you’re looking to sight-see, why not blow off the motorways and hit the water instead?

Not far from Dubai Marina Mall, Xclusive Tours leaves on guided trips through the largest man-made marina in the world, ducking in and out of the main highlights around the iconic Palm.

Safety is paramount with life vests being handed out before leaving the dock (and if I do say so, they were pretty stylish ones!) and staff that are obviously highly trained.  Though we’re comfortable around water, I’d imagine anyone would feel at ease on one of this tours.

After slowly making our way out of the marina (and turning back to admire the view), we sped out to the first major stop on our tour, a picture-perfect view of the infamous Atlantis hotel.  The ride out was quite the adrenaline rush and we were surprised by how much power the RIB had – it sped through the water with ease and provided us with a comfortable and thrilling ride out to the point.

With seabirds surrounding us and a sea of sail boats out on the water, it was such a pleasure to be away from the madness of the city and out on the water – there’s nothing like a little sun and fresh, sea air to make you feel awesome!

Once everyone had snapped their photos, we continued on towards the Burj Al Arab – perhaps one of the most recognisable buildings in the world and a true symbol of luxury.  As the only seven star hotel in the world, complete with  impressive aquarium-view rooms and a heli-pad-come-tennis court, there’s absolutely no doubting where you are.  In the background, the Burj Dubai towers over the rest of the city – all 830 unbelievable metres of it.

From the Burj Al Arab, we made our way around the other side of the man-made Palm, swinging by a private island and a number of palaces owned by the Sheikh’s before passing underneath the first monorail in the Middle East which connects the mainland with Atlantis out on the top of the islands.

No matter how often we visit Dubai, we’re always blown away by the level of construction (it’s no wonder then, that Dubai has more cranes than any other city on earth!) and the Palm didn’t let us down in this regard with beautiful new hotels popping up everywhere we looked.

With our tour wrapping up, we made our way back into the marina, past the Cayan Tower (which was once the tallest building in the world with a 90 degree twist, surpassed now by only one building in China) and the Princess Tower (the tallest residential tower in the world) – this city does not do things by halves!

We had a fantastic afternoon out on the water and really enjoyed seeing Dubai from a different angle.  It was a pleasure to escape the crowds and cool off and no matter how many times we see them, we continue to be amazed by the incredible engineering and architecture that we find in Dubai.

Next time we have guests, you can guess where we’ll be taking them!

Xclusive Tours boat trip Palm Dubai

Thank you to Xclusive Tours for inviting us along to review their Palm tour; of course, all thoughts are our own.  

If you’re heading to Dubai and would like to join them, check them out on Facebook and Instagram!

Activities Dubai Middle East United Arab Emirates

IMG Worlds of Adventure Review – Is it Worth the Trip?

October 31, 2016
IMG Worlds of Adventure review dubai

Anyone that’s spent a fair amount of time in the UAE will testify just how rapidly things change over here – from year to year massive building projects rise from the sand, changing the skyline for the umpteenth time.

There’s one type of project that gets us really excited though and that’s the creation of a new theme park!  For the past year we waited patiently for IMG Worlds of Adventure, the largest indoor theme park in the world to open it’s doors – their original opening date came and went and still we waited.

Today we finally made it along to the park (which has now been open for approximately two months) to have a go at answering the question on every coaster enthusiast’s lips – is it worth spending your hard earned cash on?

The answer is not a simple one – as much as we would love to reply with a resounding ‘yes!’ we can’t (but you might).

Read on for our IMG Worlds of Adventure review…

What We Liked


Though a park isn’t built on theming alone, IMG Worlds of Adventure did a great job of designing and creating an immersive environment.  Each of the four zones are unique and reflect their brief well – from animatronic dinosaurs to rainbow unicorns, you know exactly which part of the park you’re in.  The rides themselves clearly match the zone they’re in and the theming in each line matches well and holds your interest whilst you wait (for the first little while anyway – there’s only so long someone wants to wait in line, well themed or not).


All of our interactions and observations of staff were top-notch.  They were friendly, professional and obviously had safety of guests at the forefront.  Yes, reviews online have said that loading times are a bit on the slow side compared to more established parks which we did find to be the case but as long as this improves through training and experience, we’d rather wait a little bit longer for our ride than run the risk of not being locked in properly.


Though we didn’t stop for a bite to eat there was a great variety of food on offer – a range of restaurants, snacks and drinks were spread evenly throughout the park, making it easy to refuel mid-visit.

Some of the Rides

The Really Good One!

The Velociraptor is so good it would have been worth the admission price alone – if only we made it our first priority rather than last!  This coaster shoots riders out into the desert where you go through a series of loops, airtime hills and stomach-churning rolls – the stuff of dreams!

The Relatively Good Rides

Though the Velociraptor was so good it seems a little unfair to compare others to it, we will.  The other rides worth checking out (in our opinion – especially if they have short lines) were

  • Lost Valley: Predator.  A small indoor coaster with a vertical lift hill and a practically vertical drop on the other side.  Similar to Saw at Thorpe Park in the UK.
  • Marvel: Hulk Epsilon Base 3D.  A flat-platform-circular motion master ride – great power on the spins.
  • Marvel: Spider-Man Doc Ock’s Revenge.  A rollercoaster that spins riders independently of the tracks through a large dark housing.  Great for pre-teens and teens keen to take their coaster riding to the next level.
  • Marvel: Thor Thunder Spin.  Headache inducing fun – this ride spins guests around (a little more than I would like) and leaves you hanging out of your seat on plenty of occasions.

Issues & Improvements to be Made

Limited Information on Offer

The only thing worse than waiting in long lines at a theme park is waiting in a line with no idea of just how long you’ll be there.  Due to the lack of signs, we waited in line for one ride without even knowing what it was (you can imagine the look on Nathan’s face when we made it through after cueing for 30+ minutes to realise it was precisely the type of ride that he avoids) and waited almost two hours for another ride with no ideas of the suggested wait time.  Had we known, would we have waited that long?  Possibly but unlikely.

The simple addition of quality signage would greatly improve the park experience.   ‘Approximate wait time’ signs would allow people to make informed decisions about which rides they want to wait for and which one’s they’ll try later again in the day and ensuring signs clearly explain the nature of the ride would mean people can make informed decisions regarding whether they ride or not.  An easy, cheap fix that would make a significant difference to guests.

Wait Times

The wait times varied from being an acceptable 30 or so minutes to a frustrating two hour slug – as mentioned above, the wait times wouldn’t actually be such a worry if you knew what you were waiting for an knew approximately how long you’d be there for.  An easy fix with the addition of the aforementioned signs (and even better if you can go at off-peak times – we did read about some people only waiting 5-10 minutes on quieter days).

Sub-Par Animation and 3D Graphics

I hate to think how much it would cost to create world-class animation and 3D imagery for a modern theme park but if IMG want to play with the big boys then, in our opinion, this is an area where they could do with stepping up their game.

Animations that were meant to represent characters talking were static throughout the park and the 3D used on the rides (which many of them rely upon) was blurry.  It’s far from a major issue but improving these two elements would improve the overall quality of these rides – in this case, the small details really do make a difference.

So, having read our IMG Worlds of Adventure review, is it worth heading along for yourself?  Potentially, yes.

Though we won’t be in a big hurry to head back, there certainly are target markets that will enjoy the experience.  First time theme-park visitors will lap the IMG experience up and those with an adventurous spirit will likely find plenty of rides to excite.

If I’m being honest, I think our expectations of a theme park are abnormally high.

Realistically, it’s normal for a park to experience teething problems in the early days and nobody expects a park to open with multiple award-winning coasters – if you take IMG Worlds of Adventure for what it is, a family friendly park with a fair few adrenaline inducing rides, quality theming and a perfectly controlled climate (a pleasant respite from the Arabian sun), you’ll have a fun day out… just try to pick up discounted tickets to minimise your expenditure.

Thinking of visiting IMG Worlds of Adventure?  Pin this post to come back to it!

IMG World of Adventure theme park review Dubai

We purchased our tickets directly through the IMG Worlds of Adventure website on a two-for-one special which made our tickets 150AED per person.  If they’re not running a special during the time of your visit, you can purchase them one or more days before your visit to lock in a 10% discount online.  We visited without any association with IMG and as always, all thoughts are our own. 

Dubai Food Mid-Range Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Busaba – The Answer to Your Thai Cravings in Dubai

October 8, 2016
Busaba Eathai JBR Dubai review

It’s hard to beat a good Thai curry but over the last year in the UAE our Thai-food intake has drastically declined.  There are lots of fantastic food choices here in our corner the Middle East but we’ve struggled to find a stand-out Thai option – that is, until now.

We were invited to join the team at Busaba to sample their new menu and when we read that they served amazingly authentic dishes in a location that people travel the world to visit, it was an easy decision; my friend Tracey and I booked in a girls night!

Jumeirah Beach Residence (known locally as JBR) is a 1.7km stretch of prime waterfront in Dubai.  It plays host to a huge collection of high-end restaurants, cafes, retail shops, entertainment offerings and beautiful beaches.

Not far from the world-famous Palm, a visit to this part of Dubai feels totally surreal – sometimes it’s hard to believe that we actually live here, where a visit to a breath-taking spot like JBR can happen with such ease (and on a school night, no less!)

Busaba itself is located on the Southern end of JBR, just back from the water.  The restaurant is tastefully furnished and the combination of aromatic curry and incense drifts through the air, inviting you inside.

Throughout the evening we were treated to plate after plate of delicious Thai food – perfectly cooked seafood (so I’m told, I must admit I don’t generally eat seafood myself), tender lamb chops ( a real surprised in a Thai restaurant), the most amazing pad Thai.  Everything was fresh, perfectly seasoned and served hot from the kitchen.  I’m not sure who’s working their magic back there but they certainly do a good job, paying attention to every little detail.

The surprise of the night for me came in the form of a vegetarian dish.  Everything was delicious but those of you that know me well, know that I would never generally order the veggie option; the aromatic pumpkin curry was one worth writing home about though!  Served with coconut rice (seriously, they think about every little detail), I could have happily munched away on it all night.

After feasting on what was easily the best Thai food I’ve had in the UAE, we finished up the meal with a personal favourite of mine – mango sticky rice.  After learning to make it in Chiang Mai and standing amongst the hustle and bustle of Khao San Road in Bangkok whilst enjoying this Thair dessert treat, whenever I eat it, I’m transported right back there.

So, after driving for an hour to Dubai, was it worth making the trip?  It certainly was!

If you’re looking for tasty Thai food, generous portions, a sophisticated but unpretentious environment in one of the most striking parts of Dubai, be sure to check out Busaba Eathai.

best thai dubai busaba

Thank you to our friends at Azur Blue and Busaba Eathai for hosting such a fabulous evening out.  All thoughts are our own – like we’d do it any other way!

PS: Don’t forget to have your parking validated after dinner too – that way you’ll get three hours of parking for free.

Dubai Expat Life Food Middle East United Arab Emirates

Freaking Out over Freakshakes in Dubai!

June 11, 2016

Anyone that knows me, knows that I have a major sweet tooth. In the past we’ve traipsed all over town (and sometimes further afield) to track down a delicious looking treat so when we saw the most amazing freakshakes popping up on Instagram there was no question that we’d be driving over to Dubai – the only questions were how soon we could get there and what flavours we’d choose (this proved to be a difficult decision)!

We looked over the menu and decided on a savoury start, as apparently milkshakes don’t cover all of the essential food groups required of lunch. We expected the shakes to be amazing, but didn’t have too much of an idea of what to expect from the other menu items; it’s fair to say I was blinded by the monster shakes.

Chicken wings were the easy choice for me and they were seriously good!  Crispy wings, beautifully cooked (remaining tender whilst not being even slightly greasy), served with a lemon and coriander dip.  I’m not normally a fan of coriander but everything about the dish was amazing.

The shakes are what drew our attention to Fume but I think the wings may just be what keep us coming back – yum!

Amazing chicken wings, Downtown Dubai, FumeIn preparation for our monster shakes, we decided we’d better stock up on water. For those of you who haven’t visited Dubai yet, there’s no such thing as ‘free water’ in restaurants – the majority of people don’t drink tap water in the UAE which means that water comes from bottles and it, of course, needs to be paid for.  We’re used to sometimes being charged a small fortune for bottled water but at AED10 for a 750mL bottle, we were pleasantly surprised – well done Fume.  I couldn’t resist a snap of the bottle either, check it out (melted snowmen, too cute!)

With water on hand, it was time for the main event…

Fume Downtown Dubai waterFume have four monstrous shakes, AKA freakshakes, on their permanent menu (chocolate, caramel and two berry based recipes) and they periodically add new ones (like their Ramadan date shake which is now in rotation).  Deciding which ones we’d like to try was a difficult decision (first world problems, right?) – check out the amazing ingredients that go into each of these shakes…

Fume make many of the different components for their monster shakes themselves, right down to the gooey brownie and cheesecake toppers and the delicious ice cream that is mixed in (and sits on top) of the shakes.  We enjoyed chatting to the pastry chef downstairs who is responsible for these calorific-delights and it was clear to see that he is immensely passionate about these creations – with good reason, too.

Freak Shakes Dubai Fume Downtown menuWe’d heard great things about the Bro-Nut and Popping Cereal but decided that with chocolate overload, a fruity shake probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, so we decided on Berry Freaky to complement our Bro-nut.

How amazing do these look?!

Freak Shakes Dubai Fume DowntownThey tasted every bit as amazing!

The Bro-nut chocolate creation was my personal favourite. The brownie was deliciously gooey and a very generous portion. It went far beyond being a garnish… In fact, it was amongst the best chocolate brownies we’ve ever eaten! The shake itself was, of course, sweet but avoided being overly so.  It had the perfect mix of milk chocolate, caramel and white chocolate, mixed in with their homemade, ice-cold ice cream.  Fresh cream topped off the shake along with M&Ms and a couple of Kitkat bars.  I’m not sure how Fume managed to create something that looks so absolutely decadent but isn’t overwhelmingly chocolatey, but they’ve managed it.

Freak Shakes Dubai Chocolate BrownieNathan favoured the Berry Freaky monster shake – a healthier combination of mixed wild berries, yoghurt, ice cream (because you can’t be too healthy when you’re talking freak shakes!), fresh cream and a wafer cone.  This shake was almost tart in comparison to the Bro-nut; a fresh option that nicely complimented our chocolate shake.  You could clearly taste the berries and yoghurt, and just like the Bro-nut, Berry Freaky was served icy cold, making for a very refreshing mid-afternoon snack in the desert heat.

Eduardo, the manager of Fume Downtown, explained that he personal favourite berry shake was the Funky CheeseShake – a strawberry concoction with a slice of cheesecake to top it off!  When we return, that’s going to have to be top of our list too as I think it would be the perfect combination of both sweetness and refreshment.

Whilst we were in Fume, a number of patrons ordered their monster shakes and the delight on their faces was a pleasure to observe!  Something about these shakes brings out the child in everyone – they’re decadent, beautiful and a little bit ridiculous (in the very best way).  They’re memorable and exciting which is exactly what you want when you’re deciding on where you’ll spend your hard earned cash.

Fume’s customer service was second to none (literally, the friendliest service we’d had in Dubai), their decor was funky and welcoming and the atmosphere energetic.  Everything about Fume was unpretentious but impressive; from the industrial styling, to the gourmet but upfront home-cooked food, everything had us wanting to come back for more.

If you’re stopping by in Dubai, be sure to venture outside of Dubai Mall and across the road to Fume – you will not be disappointed!

We came for their monster shakes, and left realising that Fume offers so much more.  Was it worth making the hour+ drive from Abu Dhabi over to Dubai to check these freakshakes out?  You bet!  Will we be back?  One hundred times, yes!

Fume Dubai view of Burj Khalifa

Thank you to Fume and Jas Hospitality for so warmly welcoming us as their guests.  All views are 100% our own – Fume is just that good!

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Where has the time gone? Another ‘Monthly’ Round-Up

June 1, 2016

How on earth is it June already?!

The plan was to jot down what we’ve been up to over here each month but considering my last ‘monthly round-up’ was posted at the beginning of March, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been pretty unsuccessful in doing so!

The past three months have been a whirlwind of travels, work (school for me, price-lists for Nathan), brunches, socialising and for a week, family (yay!)

Nathan arrived back in Abu Dhabi, having spent a month or so working in New Zealand.  He had a great time catching up with our friends and family (not to forget our cats!) but it was nice to have him home again at the end of it all.

We were fortunate to get out of the UAE on two occasions since our last general update, on both occasions to Africa (which is incredible considering before those trips, we’d never set foot on the continent).

Our first trip away took us to Eastern Africa – Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.  It was a mind-blowing trip that left us feeling incredibly humbled.  If you’re interested in checking out our itinerary, you can see the key places we visited in this post.  The highlights of the trip were based around the amazing animals we saw – all of the ‘big five’, not to mention tracking highland mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild (the stuff of dreams!), swimming with wild bottlenose dolphins, diving to spot seahorses and trying to avoid the killer croc that almost landed in our boat whilst cruising the Nile!  You can read about the differences between our Masai Mara and Murchison Falls safaris here too.

Our second journey to Africa took us to Egypt where we spend a whirlwind three nights exploring this unique, vibrant country.  We spent a night in Cairo and two in Luxor, where we were memorised by the incredible history found throughout the country.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe how much we managed to squeeze into our three nights (which was really only two full days) there – we visited Sakkara, home to the oldest buildings (which also happen to be pyramids) in the world, where we also climbed down inside a pyramid, rode camels and Arabian horses to the Great Pyramids of Giza, explored the Valley of the Kings and rode a hot air balloon over the Nile (and that’s only scratching the surface!)  We found the Egyptian people to be warm and welcoming and had no concerns whatsoever in regard to our safety.  I don’t doubt that having a fantastic driver/guide helped, but we have no reservations in recommending others visit this incredible part of the world.

I’m a bit behind the ball with blog posts (stay tuned for posts on our Masai Mara safari, Ugandan adventure and Egyptian exploration) but you can find our photos on Instagram if you’re keen for a peek before I find the time to get writing.

Back in Abu Dhabi, I’d been watching the newest coaster at Ferrari World pop up and the implementation of a teachers’ special made the call of a new coaster far too hard to ignore!  Along with three friends, I headed back to the theme park and, I’m pleased to say, came away feeling quite differently about my experience there (read my thoughts from our first visit here).  Flying Aces is a welcome addition to this indoor park – the initial climb was fantastic and a number of slow loops pull you right out of your harness – certainly a ride that doesn’t suit everyone, but I was a happy camper!  Whilst there I had another zip around on Formula Rosa (the fastest rollercoaster in the world) and again, felt much more positive about it.  The roughness that we experienced our first time riding it was gone, making way for a smooth, incredibly fast (yet comfortable) ride.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the engineers had given the cars a once over, but regardless of what made the difference, Ferrari World is now a much better option for thrill seekers… I will be watching with anticipation to see what the other new rides look like.

My friend from back home arrived so we had a great time showing her around the UAE.  Together, we managed to squeeze a trip to Aquaventure in (the waterpark over on the Palm, in Dubai) and we have a fantastic day splashing around and racing down the slides!  Nathan and I enjoyed Yas Water World but if we had to pick a favourite, I think it would have to be Aquaventure – it was seriously impressive!

We made the trip over to Dubai a number of times in the last three months and are finally starting to feel like we have a sense of direction there! It’s a big city and like all of the UAE, the off ramps tend to loop around which means you often drive in the opposite direction to where you should be going before the road loops back around.

The more time we spend in Duabi, the more the city seems to be growing on us! The architecture there is mind blowing and it’s nice to get out of Abu Dhabi; even driving an hour down the road feels like a mini holiday.

We spent a night in the city to see Armin Van Buuren play one of his Armin Only gigs.  We’d seen Armin play a few times in the past and though the production was good the music wasn’t particularly to our taste.  Regardless, it was a well overdue night out and Nath’s excited as we’ve booked in to see one of his all time favourite DJs over the summer.

On their way back from visiting family in Spain, my mum and stepdad swung by Abu Dhabi and spent a week with us. It was such a treat having them here with us!

We’ve also been branching out and trying a range of restaurants recently – as much as we love Chilli’s and PF Changs, its been great to broaden our options and explore more of Abu Dhabi in the process.  We treated ourselves to the fanciest meal of our lives at the Ritz, enjoyed the atmosphere and amazing pan Latin food at BU!, munched on burgers and crazy shakes at the U-Turn Diner and experienced an Emirati fusion Iftar taster too.

In mundane news, my word visa come through (I cannot tell you how exciting this is) which has meant that we can now start the process for Nathan’s visa.  We’ve managed fine without having them but life will be easier once they’ve both come through.  With my visa, I’m now a proud holder of an Emirates ID and UAE drivers licence (you can read my practical guide to converting my NZ licence to a local one here – it’s not exciting but will be helpful for other newbies).

School’s been incredibly busy with our students preparing for (and sitting) their SAT assessments and reports that need to be finished. Last night we celebrated how far they’ve come though, with a graduation evening – they’ve had an awesome year!

Nath’s been busy with work and by all accounts Chant has had a big few months which is awesome news!

As we wrap up our last few weeks at school and work, preparations for our European summer continue. I’ll pop our initial plans here – if you’re going to be in those areas or have any recommendations, we’d love to hear from you! Most stops aren’t set in stone quite yet so feedback would be much appreciated.

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