Thought I’d get that out of the way first. After a tiring first day (with barely any sleep), we made up for it by only getting up around 10:30am. And by the time we were out, it was already noon.
But today, the skies were clear and sunny.
But despite the plethora of eateries and cafes, ‘the vegetarian’ (my friend Ramesh) found nothing to his taste. So we decided to go to Little India.
While the guys headed to Little India, I instead went to Sim Lim Square – Singapore’s famous IT mall.
Being a Sunday, few stores were closed but you still had plenty open.
I was looking for a good tripod and the Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS USM I lens. Most stores didn’t have the latter in stock anymore but I did get a chance to try out the non-IS variant.
Several shops I entered asked me why I needed the IS version and suggested that I simply go in for the non-IS version and buy a good tripod instead. Something I did give deep consideration later.
A few smaller shops did say they had the lens and it “could be arranged,” but I decided not to deal with them. After all, Sim Lim is equivalent to Bangkok’s Pantip Plaza — you have tread carefully when shopping here. You can get ripped off, at the same while scoring some really good deals.
I had only made it to the second floor before my friends called and told me they were done with lunch. Since I had to catch up with them, I had to leave Sim Lim. Just like yesterday, I left disappointed knowing I couldn’t explore the mall in its entirety.
I grabbed a quick bite and made my way out.
As I stepped out and crossed the road in front of Sim Lim Square, I noticed crowds and street shops ahead of me.
Bugis Street Shopping is the largest street shopping market in Singapore.
For me, it wasn’t really impressive. Not after you have visited Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market (or JJ Market). In fact, a lot of the merchandise sold here was from Thailand — which obviously meant it was slightly more pricier here.
I had to get to Suntec City to meet up with my friends, but instead of taking of the MRT, I just walked.
I passed through another mall, this time — Bugis Junction.
After catching up with my friends, Ramesh made his way to the F1 tracks to begin his evening. While myself & Loi pondered what to do next. I had plans of going to Marina Bay Sand Casino to go up to the sky deck. When I had called them up earlier in the day, I was informed it was only open to visitors until 4pm, after which it would be off limits to non-guests.
We were inside CityLink Mall (yes, another mall in the area) when we decided to check out the HMV store.
By the time we stepped out of the HMV store, we already spent SGD150 (around Rs. 5,100) on official band t-shirts — and it was past 4pm. So I pushed Marina Bay Sands for tomorrow and headed to Suntec City mall instead.
After shopping some more at Suntec, we made our way back to Victoria Street where I had plans to show Loi the Bugis Street shopping centre.
But lay before us was Iluma — the alluding building which I assumed was a boutique hotel.
But a funky one at that. Iluma is a pretty cool mall mostly targeting a younger crowd. Despite its appearance, we didn’t find the usual selection of high-end designer brands. Instead, we came across stores like this:
The merchandise on display was good enough to draw me & Loi in. Nearly half-an-hour later, we step out after having spent some dime on anime merchandise.
Inside the Otaku House was more anime merchandise; more necklaces and keychains (like the ones we bought from Comics Connection), to cosplay outfits and other props for rent or purchase.
But we sighed… and quietly walked out, reminding ourselves that we had already spent enough and would soon run of Singapore currency at this rate.
It didn’t stop us from exploring the mall still.
The top-most floor houses what they claim to be Singapore’s largest arcade. And then there is the open roof top.
As we made our way down, I realized iluma was one of the more unique malls in Singapore. Not only does it look cool, it really manages to cater to a young crowd with more affordable options compared to the rest of Singapore’s malls.
After we stepped out of iluma, I took Loi to the Bugis Street Chopping centre.
And by the time we were done with that, we were hungry. So we popped into the near by Burger King for a good ol’ beef burger
(Note: Beef burgers are a rarity in India due to religious sentiments so even McDs are too ‘chicken’ to serve beef burgers here).
After this, we took the MRT to Orchard Road, our next destination.
I actually wanted to go back to Sim Lim Square, but Loi needed to meet his cousin — and since he didn’t have a local SIM, I had to tag along with him.
When we got to Orchard Road, we stepped right out to Ion Orchard mall.
Orchard Road is Singapore’s famous shopping stretch (as if the rest of the city didn’t offer enough already), home to many star hotels and a very popular stop for tourists.
And boy, does this one-way road live up to its reputation!
Once Loi met up with his cousin, I was on my own to explore the rest of Orchard Road for some time.
I got back to the other side to continue from where I left off.
After this point, the malls slowly disappeared.
After catching up with my friend Loi, we decided to see off his cousin at the bus stop and take one ourselves as we hadn’t done so yet.
Since we didn’t really know where to get down, we just got off at the end of Orchard Road.
As I looked at the map, we realized that Victoria Street wasn’t very far from where we were currently, so I asked Loi if we could just keep walking.
It was nearing 11pm, so we stepped into a food court to have dinner and to quench our thirst with some beer.
After ‘dinner,’ we resumed our walk towards our hostel.
I couldn’t help but remind ourselves how good a location we chose to be stay in, given how close we were to a lot of what Singapore has to offer (especially if you a re shopaholic!).
We were finally back in our room…. oh wait, we ran out of drinking water.
(Steps out again)
Once back from the nearby 7-Eleven I was finally done with day 2! As we checked out out our merchandise, we also counted how much we had already spent and soon realized we were running out of Singapore dollars.
We just had one more day left in Singapore, so it was either going to be Sentosa or the Singapore Zoo. I also wanted to hit the sky deck at Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino.
After a tiring previous day (and only hitting the bed at 4am), I got up early to receive my parents from Bur Dubai bus stand as they were visiting from Abu Dhabi. Since today and tomorrow were all going to be ‘family time,’ we were going to be staying with my father’s friend, in his nice, posh little flat in Karama.
Once we all landed at my father’s friend’s place post-lunch, we rested for some time before heading out.
It was back to Dubai Mall for me — but for my parents, despite having lived in Abu Dhabi for nearly an year, it was going to be their first time experiencing Dubai Aquarium and At The Top of Burj Khalifa.
First up, the aquarium:
For more photos and videos from inside Dubai Aquarium, check out my first post. Next up, we waited for our turn to go up the Burj Khalifa.
I had booked for an evening slot for the At The Top visit, hoping I could see Dubai all lit up. But as we got up, the sun was still very much above the horizon.
For more photos and videos from At The Top, check out my first post.
We finished our tour of Burj Khalifa, made our way out and to the Dubai Fountain site. The $200 million-plus Dubai Fountain is an attraction built on the artificial (duh) lake just outside Dubai Mall.
Built by the same people behind the famous Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, Dubai obviously had to up the ante. So these fountains shoot water up higher, 500 feet high (150 metres)!
Shows are every half an hour between 6pm to 10pm. Here’s the show I saw: Since it’s free, and since I can’t afford to go to Las Vegas just yet, this was great!
After the show, we made our way to the buses that drop visitors to the metro station.
The next day with my parents…
The next morning, I took my parents to Bur Dubai for some shopping and to show them around.
After showing them the souk station, I took them to the Hindu temple (photos of both can be seen in my first post).
And with that, we were done. Took a taxi and headed back to my father’s colleague’s place. He offered to drop us off near Jebel Ali power station, where we had been invited for lunch by our relatives.
Once again, it was a drive on Sheikh Zayed Road.
After lunch, we decided to check out Ibn Battuta Mall, which was nearby. This was the last major mall I had yet to see and the one my friends highly recommended, just because it was different.
The mall business in Dubai is, let’s just say, quite cut throat. For such a small state, Dubai has some of the largest malls in the world. And since just about every mall offers the same set of stores, mall operators come up with differentiators to draw the crowds in.
What’s the differentiator for Ibn Battuta Mall? For one (if you haven’t figured out already), it’s named after the great Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta. The entire mall is themed after his travels across China, India, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Andalusia with a section dedicated to each zone.
We parked near the China entrance. Each of the sections have a lobby with a major attraction specific to that zone. This is what the China court looks like.
The main attraction here being a replica of a Chinese sailing ship supposedly used by Ibn Battuta in his travels.
From China, we then moved on to India.
From India into Persia. Persia Court’s big attraction is a replica of a Starbucks Coffee outlet*.
From Persia, you have two paths to Egypt.
And finally Andalusia.
With that, we had conquered all five regions of Ibn Battuta’s mall. So we made our journey back, passing by more displays.
Ibn Battuta Mall truly is a must-see in my opinion. It was a good move on Nakheel Properties’ part to use a theme like this to set the mall apart from Dubai’s other shopping centers.
Once out of Ibn Battuta Mall, we wished our relatives goodbye and took the metro to Bur Dubai bus stand. I was heading back to Abu Dhabi.
Mall of Emirates is located after Dubai Mall (as per the metro line) so the ride takes nearly 20 minutes.
There is a Mall of Emirates stop on the metro line and a walk-way metro link connects directly to the mall.
Now Mall of Emirates isn’t the most impressive-looking of malls (architecture wise) — or at least compared to the expensive Dubai Mall. Therefore you’re not going to see a whole lot of photos in this post, simply because I didn’t take that many.
The only portion of the mall that impressed me was this bit…
… that was it.
Oh, Mall of Emirates also houses Ski Dubai – the first in-door ski resort in the Middle East.
I was tempted to go in and check it out because I have yet to experience snow — and yes, I know Ski Dubai uses fake snow. But still, something for next time.
Not much else to say about the mall. It was the usual collection of high-end brands but what I liked about Mall of Emirates is that it still offers something for everyone. Maybe it was the anchor tenant Carrefour, but I saw more people in Mall of Emirates than I did see in Dubai Mall… and this was on a week day morning.
More people were shopping too. I mean actually buying stuff unlike most of the visitors I saw in Dubai Mall.
I was one of those shoppers. I was in the hunt for a particular lens (which was hard to come by) and my friend did advice me to check out the Virgin Megastore in the Mall of Emirates. Which I did. Then I saw a lot of stuff I wanted to buy… and then told the sales people I would be back because what I wanted to buy was kinda big.
I had to check out electronics retailer Sharaf DG, whose largest outlet in UAE was located in another mall. And so I decided to step out of Mall of Emirates, have lunch at the Lulu Center nearby and take a taxi to Times Square Center.
After an India lunch, I hopped in to a taxi and went to Times Square Center which was actually before Mall of Emirates (as per the metro line).
Times Square Center isn’t very big (comparatively by Dubai’s new standards). As soon as I walked in, lay before me stood these machines.
I don’t know if it was Yellow Hat who put them up, but the collection was impressive.
Sharaf DG was located on the top floor in Times Square Center.
The outlet is definitely big and has pretty much everything you need — except that the lens I wanted was out of stock. Sharaf DG make a claim that if they don’t have something in stock, the buyer will get a hefty discount*.
They still took my information down and told me they would contact me once the Tamron lens I wanted would arrive. The price they quoted was much less than what it cost in India, even from the grey market.
I soon left and made my way back to Mall of Emirates by cab…
… hopped backed into Virgin Megastore and spent close to Dhs 1000.
I then struggled to carry my purchases to the taxi and in the process, managed to get the only workout during my time in UAE.
I finally managed to get it all back to the room.
So what did I buy?
The Band Hero set was a straight 25% off on the price (and they threw in a free copy of Guitar Hero World Tour — which I already had). I got Arkham Asylum pretty cheap too (considering it wasn’t an old game by any means) and I got a free Nintendo t-shirt too. All-in-all, a great deal!
Now all I had to worry about was how to get it all back to Bangalore.