UAE Staycation: Luxury Roadtrip


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Published: October 18th 2020
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I have not left the country since January; actually, I have not even left the city of Dubai since mid-March except for once to go to a store. I was getting antsy, depressed and angry at work. Initially, I planned a trip to Greece for two weeks, but it just seemed like the hassle of getting there would be more than it was worth and Covid cases were on the rise there. Instead, I thought I would get a luxury hotel on the Palm and my friend mentioned that maybe I should take a roadtrip. It helped that local hotels were also giving discounts to UAE residents. And thus the idea of my Luxury Roadtrip was born!

Ras al Khaimah - Ritz Carlton Al Wadi

This is one of the more luxurious and expensive resorts in the UAE and I had often thought of going there, but could never really justify it. Now that it was summer and with Covid, the prices (though still quite expensive) were more affordable, especially for UAE residents. So, I booked it for my first two nights. Each 'room' is essentially a villa with its own private pool and I looked forward to relaxing in the pool, hopping out to read my book with a little drink by my side, hopping back in and out constantly. I had a pleasant drive to the resort, and the last bit of the drive in was through sand dunes with camels lounging by the roadside. I was a little thrown initially when I stopped at the lobby and they got my luggage out then told me to park my own car just a short distance away (I finally figured out this was a Covid safety measure - duh).

The check in process was pretty quick - sanitizer and some instructions included. Also included was apparently a choice between two RAK tourist activities: 1. the longest zip-line in the world or 2. tour of the pearl farm in town. I was ooooohhhhhh so tempted - they were both two items that I would have been interested in. A zip-line alone is not as much fun. And it was another 30+ minutes into town for the pearl farm. Sincerely thanking the guy for the offer, I told him I was just there for two days and all I wanted was rest. Am I kicking myself for not going? Not really, but I think it would have been worth it if I had gone.

I was taken via golf car to my villa, near the main lodge, where I was given a tour of my extra spacious accommodations. My bathroom alone was as large as a good sized studio apartment. I looked with longing at the bathtub, but between my own pool and the amazing rain shower, it did not seem worth the effort for two days. While I still had energy, I got on one of the bikes provided outside my villa (a scruffy, but sturdy beach cruiser) for a bike ride around the resort. I rode past other villas, the horse stables, the main pool, and towards the star gazing observation area before heading back for the falcon show. It was pretty interesting and the guide from Zimbabwe also showed us a couple of beautiful owls too. I did not stay the whole time and rode back to get ready for my dinner at 6:30. I walked to the restaurant, Farm Table (I think), not very clear on the directions actually, where I splurged. I got steak with veggies and wine. It was nice to actually see another young woman who was obviously on her own. Not just me!

I got back and took a very pleasant night swim. Then finished reading my book before a pleasant sleep (though the green light from some detector was in my face the whole night). I woke early the next morning and stepped out to my patio where I saw some gazelle grazing just off my terrace. I went back to get my camera, but they had already skittered away. I rode my bike to breakfast. Not the usual buffet, due to Covid, but you could get all you can eat al a carte. I got a basket of bread, smoked salmon, avocado, fresh fruit and scrambled eggs and hash brown, plus a glass of pineapple juice and cappuccino. Delicious. I went back to my room intending to have a nice pleasant swim. Unfortunately, the zillions of houseflies in the area had other ideas. While the swim itself was enjoyable, sitting out with my book to dry was very much not fun. So, it was a bit of a bummer because that was what I was looking forward to at my resort. Maybe I should have gone to the pearl farm.

I had a massage at 10am, which was quite nice in a very nice room. I ordered a late lunch of pasta, so no crazy expensive dinner. Another night swim. Another bike ride in the morning when I saw more gazelle. Another delicious breakfast. And an amazing shower before I took off for my next stop of my roadtrip.

Fujairah - Intercontinental Hotel

I loved driving from RAK through the mountains to Fujairah. The mountains were so incredible - I wished I could stop to take photos, but some of the most photographic spots were along the highway. I pulled into the Intercontinental, again having to park my own car and hike up the steps. I was again checked in pretty quickly. My boss happened to be there this week and said to join them at the pool. So, I went down to see him and meet his wife and daughter. I was actually amazed at how busy it was - a lot of people from Dubai, taking advantage of the decent rates, especially during the week. The pool was very nice! You could get a drink brought to you by the restaurant - I got a rosé.

My room was so nice. It had a great view of the mountains and beach. And it seemed so clean. I ordered room service for dinner, but I was not overly impressed with the food. I was bummed that I wound up having to work over the last couple of days, but I still felt mostly relaxed. I walked down to the pool and beach early the next morning and stopped to have breakfast on my way back to my room just as the restaurant opened. More work. Then I went down to the pool bar for lunch, and this time the food, shrimp tacos, was actually quite delicious, as well as my cocktail. I spent some more time at the pool again. Then back to my room for another night of relaxation and iffy room service.

My last day, I spent most of the morning at the pool after breakfast with my boss again. Then it was time to check out and head for my last destination.

Anantara at the Palm

My last stop was back in Dubai, but a fancy resort on the Palm. This was the one I was most looking forward to. It was easy to find and had a pleasant check in, complete with a cold ginger lemon tea drink. Also got a golf cart to my room, which was actually close to the hotel. This time, valet took my car themselves. I had booked a premier lagoon access room, which meant my terrace stepped directly into the lagoon pool. And no flies this time!!! Heaven! My room was tastefully decorated and yet another huge bathroom. Thankfully I was here for three nights.

First thing I did was walk to the spa, just across from my room, where I booked a massage for the next morning. Then I made my way to the Thai restaurant, Mekong. Oh em gee. So delicious! The staff was so friendly and the food was mouth watering. Loved it! I got a papaya salad and green curry. With a fruity cocktail. Then I went back to my room and went for a night swim in the lagoon - so peaceful. The water was refreshing, a little on the cool side first stepping in but then felt perfect. I loved that it was open 24 hours, so you could swim whenever you wanted, just step right down from the steps and hop on in!

The next morning, I went to the breakfast at the main hall and sat outside (plates potentially attacked by birds this time). I looked inside at the a la carte / buffet trying to decide what I wanted. I saw this typical middle eastern Northern Africa breakfast dish: shakshuka. The chef saw me looking and asked if I wanted to try it - sure. Spicy? Oh yes. So, he brought it to me outside in a little cast iron dish and it was delicious! I can't believe I had never tried this before.

I did another swim around the lagoon before my massage, which was fantastic. First I had a meeting for the work I was not supposed to have done during my vacation.... Grrr...My masseuse was very nice and applied just the right pressure. I felt so relaxed and refreshed afterwards, plus I scheduled a facial for the next evening. I came back to my room to relax and read. I walked down to the beach for the sunset and had a small dinner of spicy shrimp. Another fabulous night swim.

The next morning, I did an early swim before my friend Anita arrived for a pool day. She came by and we walked to the main pool to have a drink and catch up. The pool was pretty crowded, so we went back to my room and entered the lagoon pool from there. I was a bit sad because supposedly they had had a little boat that would come by serving drinks, but I don't know if it was not around due to Covid or not, but it was nowhere to be seen. Oh well, next time. We ordered some Thai food for a late lunch and then she left. I was just about to fall asleep when my phone rang.

This is one of my biggest complaints about staying in fancy resorts; I come to chill and relax and I swear they are always calling to check up on me or ringing my doorbell to turn down my bed or something. Seriously, phone call or door bell 3-4 times a day. Either napping, or in the shower, or whatever. I will call if I need something! Not the other way around. I don't know if this is world wide, but it is definitely common in the Middle East - I hate going shopping because there are always more staff than customers and they are constantly coming up to you "you want a basket?" "No thanks." Another "you want a basket?" "No thanks." Yet another, "you want a basket?" "Nope." And finally the poor last person, "you want a basket?" "LEAVE ME ALONE!" One of the reasons I really hate shopping here for non-essentials....

Anyway, the phone rang, I found out, because they were apologizing for one of their cleaners who had walked into my room my first day without knocking. To be honest, I had totally forgotten about it. It was strange, but he left immediately upon seeing me in the room. The next day, coming back from I think the massage, there had been a bottle of wine with two glasses laid out, and I just thought it was standard issue. Instead, it was their way of apologizing. So she asked if I had gotten and enjoyed the 'amenities'. Oh yes, I surely did! It really was a nice gesture. But once I was up, I stayed awake until my facial. Fortunately, this was a pleasant facial, relaxing, soothing, cleansing.... instead of the ones I typically get here where they seem determined to rub my skin off, pluck every stray hair, and squeeze anything even resembling a bump until I am literally scarred. So, it was a pleasant stroll back to my room and one final swim around the pool. That was a quick one though because I guess Friday nights are party nights here. There seemed to be a group gathered for a birthday party and they had taken over one section of the pool. I was not upset about it at all, but I had come to relax and was still in semi-isolation mode due to Covid; I was not used to this excited atmosphere. They partied until about midnight, at which point I finally was able to fall asleep. One last swim around the lagoon in the morning before packing it up and heading home, just a short 20 minute drive away....

Also, I left my fancy international trekkup charger in my room again for the second time this trip, did not realize it til I was 5 minutes away. I came back and was taken to my room. They were already cleaning it and I can verify, they stripped everything down and were doing a thorough cleansing. That was actually pretty comforting, especially nowadays.

Summary

I had a fantastic week, if only stupid work did not get in my way (a certain guy is officially on my sh*tlist forevermore, especially since he did not even apologize). I loved each of the hotels I stayed in and it was nice to escape even if it was local. All the hotels seemed to have good protocols to help minimize any exposure to Covid - the rooms were clean, social distancing generally enforced, etc. Sometimes though, there is only so much you can do and people make their own decisions (ahem - birthday party). Abu Dhabi was off the table this trip as you need a Covid test to visit. Also, sorry for the excessive use of the word 'pleasant'; then again, that was the purpose of this trip, right?

Place most like to return: Anantara at the Palm (and I will!)

Best breakfast: Ritz Carlton al Wadi

Best pool: Anantara at the Palm

Most affordable: Fujairah Intercontinental

Most peaceful: Ritz Carlton al Wadi

Best food: Anantara at the Palm

Most options for free activities: Fujairah Intercontinental

Most options for paid activities: Ritz Carlton al Wadi

Best views from room: Fujairah Intercontinental

Best room: Ritz Carlton al Wadi (Anantara with steps to pool was ideal, but very thin walls and ceilings)

Best spa: Anantara at the Palm


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18th October 2020

I miss traveling with you!
I always love reading about your travels, and of course I imagine myself there with you. I envy your ability to go out on your own and agree with you on hating being disturbed while shopping or staying at a hotel (even at a restaurant if they check in too much or interrupt my conversation to see if I need anything, "how's everything tasting?" Me: "non of your business! Get lost!"). Oh I can't wait to throw back some wine with you eventually. I want to start wine nights back up. Maybe you'll help me coordinate and Zoom in for a glass! I think your blog should be submitted as a paid site for Dubai tourism. I should look into that for you! Ok, well I love you and I'm glad you're getting out and about. Let's plan our Zoom wine nights soon!
18th October 2020

Miss you!!!
I miss traveling with you too!!! Or just even seeing you. Hopefully I can make it out to Cali in 2021 and we can have some fun, maybe plan a nearby adventure! I am definitely up for virtual wine night! Just say when and where, or I'll be glad to help organize - great idea! :) Love you!!!
21st October 2020

UAE staycation
Living in luxury. Not a bad way to go.

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