This is going to be a BUMPER bucket list update, because not only did I manage to go abroad for the first time in two years in January (!!!), but I also managed to tick off THREE bucket list items out there, making it genuinely one of the most memorable holidays I’ve had. Start reading below to find out aaaall about it, or, if you prefer, use these jump cuts to read about each specific activity!
Mr Roams and I have been in desperate need of a proper holiday for, uh, two years. We didn’t manage to get away in that brief period in 2020 where borders were slightly lifted and people could travel abroad if they filled out a Magna Carta of government forms, and as a consequence we were tired, cold, and in desperate need of a tan. We had a heated discussion about where we wanted to go for some Vitamin D, and seeing as the UAE had fairly easygoing entry requirements (and guaranteed sun, sea and shopping), off we went in late January, on an economy Emirates flight (7/10, would recommend as an airline, although the seats and decor felt a little outdated), and staying at the Grand Hyatt Dubai (8/10, lovely rooms, welcoming staff, great food and drink options, but just a tad far away from everywhere in my opinion).
#56 – Ride a camel
For those of you who remember my May 2019 adventure to Dubai (linky link here), you’ll remember that I went on a desert excursion by myself, where I participated in dune bashing, a desert safari, and a belly dancing dinner. Cue this trip, where Mr Roams wanted to emulate this desert excursion with the addition of camel riding and sandboarding, something neither of us had ever done before (and truth be told, I was terrified of). We managed to book with Arabian Adventures (would highly recommend – I think they’re affiliated with, if not owned by, Emirates?) on a Morning Desert Safari through our hotel, and the following morning, we had an early breakfast and met our driver Sajid in the hotel lobby, ready to get going out to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
Similar to the experience I had in 2019, we first stopped off at a little car park right outside the reserve where Sajid let down the tyre pressure on the Jeep we were in, ready for some dune bashing.
The benefit of doing an excursion with Arabian Adventures is that not only are they very knowledgable about the area and the reserve itself, but part of the fee actually goes towards conservation efforts. We managed to see some beautiful animals – including oryx, snakes, and Arabian hare – out in the wild, just doing their thing – while we were enjoying ourselves on the dunes – and honestly this made the experience even better, knowing we were doing good at the same time (for more information, please see here). After some dune bashing where I felt increasingly sicker by every passing second, we went onto some sandboarding on what can only be described as a skateboard with no skates:
And then, what I came for, the camel ride!
I will add here that it wasn’t a long camel ride at all – and thank god for that, because despite having thick thighs, I was in considerate discomfort by the end of the *literal* 10 minute ride. The camel himself crouched down, I was given a little set of steps to get up on, and sat at the front of the camel – in front of his hump. Mr Roams did the same thing but sat behind the camel’s hump (sidenote: two of us on one camel? That poor camel, we are not small people). When the camel stood up, we had to lean back so as not to fall off, and off we went! A camel herder led the camel around part of the desert with us on the back, and we totted around in great pain for about 10 minutes until we came back around to the start. In hindsight, I’m not sure whether 10 minutes constitutes “riding a camel”, but put it this way – I’m never doing that again, and we travelled a *small* distance so I’m totting it up to a bucket list completion. And here’s the verdict!
#56 – RIDE A CAMEL
Am I glad I did it?: 6/10
Would I do it again?: 2/10
Would I recommend to others?: 4/10
#73 – Eat at Hakkasan
The first Fancy Dinner™ we’d booked in on this trip was at the one and only Hakkasan, situated at Atlantis The Palm. Yes, that Atlantis:
I’d wanted to eat at Hakkasan for a few years now, but never really gave it much thought about making it a reality until a friend visited the London branch and ranted and raved about how amazing it was. She’s not one to mince her words, and has GREAT taste when it comes to restaurants, so this shot up to the top of the list when I realised there was a branch in Dubai (of course there is… side note, EVERYWHERE seems to have a branch in Dubai? Mr Roams and I even saw one of his favourite New York eateries Black Tap in the Dubai Mall!). We were able to book a table fairly easily, and turned up for dinner after a day at Aquaventure getting stuck on river rapid rides.
Inside the restaurant was about as cool as you can imagine (obviously I felt instantly out of place). Minimal lighting, heavy beats, and lots of people younger than me wearing beautiful clothes and sipping fancy drinks. We were escorted to our table by our friendly yet exceedingly polite hostess, and were handed menus paired with Voss water (a combination that screams “you’re going to spend a lot of money here”).
The menu itself was full of delicious-sounding Chinese dishes with an added luxurious twist – think dim sum with a lobster filling, etc etc. I’m not the biggest expert on authentic Chinese food (like most in my demographic, I was raised on the viscous lemon chicken of your average Chinese takeaway in the 90s), so I’m possibly not the best person to comment on the legitimiacy of the dishes, but I can tell you that everything was absolutely delicious (duh). We started off with the supreme dim sum platter – “kaffir lime lobster har gau, abalone and chicken shui mai with caviar, smoked freshwater eel and taro, sea urchin scallion dumpling” – I’m pescatarian and the hostess kindly swapped out the chicken shui mai for another lobster har gau, which I was not at all complaining about:
Washed down with these stunning cocktails which I can’t for the life of me remember the names of:
For the main course, Mr Roams decided to go for the wok-fried Mongolian beef with edamame fried rice, and I had tofu, aubergine and mushroom with a chilli and black bean sauce (plus some of the edamame rice). We also had a side of pak choi for the healthy factor. Exhibit A – oh, and it was all obviously incredible:
After eating some truly delicious tofu (and yes, delicious tofu can and does exist) and rice, as well as the dim sum earlier on in the meal, you might be forgiven for thinking I couldn’t force dessert down as well. Well, you’d be incorrect. Obviously. I had a ‘spikey lemon’, which consisted of “yuzu cremeux, calamansi gel and white chocolate mousse“. It was quite possibly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, I mean, JUST LOOK AT IT:
Mr Roams ended up having a milk chocolate and hazelnut parfait with warm chocolate sauce, which came out looking like this (fancy!):
Overall, the meal itself was exceptional – the food was exquisite both in taste and presentation (as you can see from the pictures), and it was a really special evening. All of the staff were lovely and very welcoming/accommodating, especially of my pescatarianism. The only thing that let it down slightly was that orders took quite a while to be taken, and then arrive. If you’re having a super relaxed evening, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but you might just want to be aware of it if you’re extra hungry.
#73 – EAT AT HAKKASAN
Am I glad I did it?: 9/10
Would I do it again?: 9/10
Would I recommend to others?: 9/10
#74 – Eat at Nobu
Last up on my fairly short “Eating Bucket List Dubai Destinations” list is Nobu, also located in Atlantis The Palm (not a million miles away from Hakkasan entrance). Nobu is one of those restaurants you always hear celebrities eating at – at least, you did in the 00s when I was last up-to-date with celebrity culture – and I’ve wanted to try it out and see if it was really worth the hype for a while now. I mean, the entrance itself was pretty impressive:
As was the interior:
Our table wasn’t quite ready yet, so Mr Roams and I did what we do best – sit at a bar and order overpriced cocktails. Namely these ones. I only had one alcoholic cocktail (one of the benefits of visiting a Muslim country = AMAZING mocktails) but it was delicious, and Mr Roams certainly enjoyed his too – the bartenders were excellent and really took the time to recommend specific cocktails to us based on what we liked.
After getting gradually more tipsy, we were taken to our seat. The restaurant itself was very busy, lots of casual wear surprisingly, and, in all honesty, very loud and full of kids?? Not really the cool upmarket vibes I was anticipating, but we continue. We were sat at a slightly awkward table in the middle of the room, with lots of people rushing around us – again, not nearly as relaxed as I was hoping for. The waiters, however, were lovely and very helpful, pointing out recommendations from the menu based on my dietary requirements (and Mr Roams’ unquenchable love of meat). Nobu specialises in what I would describe as Japanese fusion food, for want of a better term, and so obviously we started with the Crispy Rice with Spicy Salmon, and some maki rolls (I want to say California and Salmon & Avocado??):
Both of these were exceptional – the crispy rice was delicious with the salmon that seemed to just melt in the mouth, and the maki rolls were some of the best I’ve eaten (even compared to some of the Tokyo eateries). Really great, I’d probably go back for these dishes alone.
For main, I had Nobu’s famous black cod miso, which was absolutely incredible. Unbelievable flavours with – again – a real melt-in-the-mouth texture. I’ve had dreams about it since. Paired with some sticky rice, it was truly a beautiful dish, and I can only apologise that I remembered to take a picture of it halfway through:
Mr Roams had a super fancy wagyu thing that was brought to the table in flames #classic, and we also had some little tuna tartare rolls, and some super fancy sushi that cost a ridiculous amount of money (for, if I’m being honest, a pretty average sushi dish? All style and no substance IMO, I’d have preferred another maki roll):
Once we’d sufficiently stuffed our faces, it was time for everyone’s favourite – dessert! (You didn’t think I was going to forget about dessert, did you?). Mr Roams went for a ‘miso cappuccino’ (miso creme brulee with caramelized pecan, vanilla ice cream and coffee foam), and I had ‘Nobu cheesecake’ (baked creamy cheesecake with raspberry wasabi sorbet), which was exceptional. Especially the raspberry wasabi sorbet!:
All in all, I think I probably preferred the food at Nobu, but the atmosphere and environment really let the experience down unfortunately. It was definitely more casual than Hakkasan which I wasn’t expecting, and I’m not one to ban kids from restaurants (!) but I wish there had been fewer screaming children… or maybe a better layout so the sound didn’t travel quite as much? It also felt as though we were crammed into the space – the tables were fairly close together and didn’t leave much privacy really. Shame, given the food and the bill total!
#74 – EAT AT NOBU
Am I glad I did it?: 7/10
Would I do it again?: 7/10
Would I recommend to others?: 7/10
Thanks for coming on this bumper bucket list post with me… more foreign adventures to come soon as travel restrictions are slowly lifted, but I’m also aiming to tick off some list items closer to home in the next few months… watch this space!