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Dubai Mall Aquarium glass

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

Date: 7th April, 2010

After a tiring walk around Bur Dubai the previous day, I had to give my feet some rest.

But I was just too damn excited about today. And so, as Azhad headed off to work early in the morning, I too got ready to set out early for the Downtown Dubai site.

I took the metro (from Union Station) to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall (of course they were going to get their own stop). As soon as I stepped out…

Burj Khalifa from Metro Station
… there it was!

It really is a beauty, unlike the last building that earned the title “tallest building in the world”.

There’s a bit of a walk to be had to get to Dubai Mall (there’s a bus service too but I chose to walk just to see the surroundings)

Burj Khalifa Emaar site offices Downtown Dubai
EMAAR is the company behind the Downtown Dubai
Burj Khalifa surrounding office buildings
Offices, (empty) offices, and more (empty) offices everywhere…
Burj Khalifa construction worker Dubai
Thousands of people like him build that

Dubai Mall man suit palm treesSignal outside Dubai Mall workersI got into Dubai Mall through the parking lot — because I couldn’t find any other entrance that side.

Dubai Mall architecture

Dubai Mall parking space lot
Parking capacity: 14,000 cars

I had gotten to Dubai Mall quite early. Most stores hadn’t opened or were just waiting for the first customer to walk in. I was going to check out the mall of course, but first things first. I wanted to buy tickets for the observation deck on Burj Khalifa. The observation deck was closed just a few weeks after it had opened due to some technical snags. It had re-opened only a week before, so I knew there was going to be a mad rush for the tickets.

But finding the ticket counter for At The Top proved a bit difficult (at first). Since there wasn’t anyone at the information desks, I simply followed the signs out to the Burj Khalifa thinking, well, that the counter would be at the ground floor of the Burj Khalifa itself.

Burj Khalifa Dubai steel morning
What US$1.5 billion gets you
Downtown Dubai The Address old town
The Address hotel on the left
Dubai Mall The Address panorama
A panorama comprised of 5 photos

Problem is, when I tried to get to the entrance of the Burj Khalifa, that didn’t seem possible either. Everything was cordoned off due to construction work still going on or was restricted access. I asked around but ended up back inside Dubai Mall.

Once inside, I finally found a security guard and asked him how I could get to the At the Top counter.

Dubai Mall Ermenegildo Zegna
I followed his directions and took the lift near the Ermenegildo Zegna store

I was instructed to go to the food court at the ground floor.

Dubai Mall Caribou Coffee At the Top ticket counter

The ticket counter only opens at 10am but at 9:45am, a few had already started a queue. I asked if tickets were available for the morning but they said only ‘Immediate Entry’ tickets were available.

You see, they have two types of tickets. The regular admission ticket costs Dhs 100 (Rs. 1200/US$27/€21) but needs to be booked a few hours/days in advance. But if you need to see it “immediately” or (truth be told) just show up at the ticket counter, you have to pay Dhs 400 (Rs. 5,100/US$108/€86) if you wish to go in then itself.

I ended up buying tickets for the 4:00pm slot (they let people in every 30 minutes) and also three tickets for a later date.

And now that I had plenty of time to kill until then, I began checking out the empty mall.

Dubai Mall basement storesBut as I got up to the first floor, I got distracted by the Dubai Aquarium. So I bought the Dhs 50 (Rs. 630/US$13/€10) ticket to see the largest (& probably the only) indoor aquarium in the Middle East. (The Dhs 50 ticket is the aquarium plus the Underwater Zoo. The standalone ticket for the Aquarium is Dhs 25)

Dubai Mall Aquarium glass
This holds the Guinness Record for the ‘World’s Largest Acrylic Panel’
Dubai Mall Aquarium glass reflection
There’s over 30,000 species of fish in this tank (or so they claim)

And then you enter the tunnel.

Dubai Mall Aquarium insideDubai Mall Aquarium dome sharks

Dubai Mall Aquarium baby sharks
They have a lot of sharks…

Dubai Mall Aquarium Sting rays

Dubai Mall Aquarium Stingray
… and a few stingrays

Dubai Mall Aquarium glass domeYou can check out the HD video I took here:

Once you step out the tunnel, the path takes you past souvenirs and a themed restaurant.

Dubai Mall jungle theme restaurant… before leading out to the escalator that takes you up to the first floor.

There, you find the entrance to the Underwater Zoo.

Dubai Mall Aquarium Underwater zoo

Dubai Aquarium underwater zoo otter
Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater zoo water rat
Water rats

Dubai Mall Aquarium Underwater zoo water rats

Dubai Mall Aquarium Lionfish raysDubai Mall Aquarium goldfish

Dubai Mall aquarium Dory Marlin
Dory and Marlin are still friends^, awwwww…

Dubai Mall Aquarium clown fish volcanoDubai Mall Aquarium fish eye

Dubai Mall Aquarium rainforest facts

Dubai Mall Aquarium school tour
The operations at the back

The aquarium was obviously very popular for school kids.

Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater penguins workerDubai Mall Aquarium underwater penguins swimmingDubai Mall Aquarium underwater penguin staring

Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater zoo jellyfish
Dubai Mall Aquarium eels

Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater zoo garden eels

Dubai Mall underwater zoo coming attractions
There’s more coming

Here’s a video I took:

Dubai Mall Aquarium from top
From outside the Underwater Zoo

Dubai Mall Aquarium touristsAfter that, I checked out the rest of the mall.

Dubai Mall floors Versace storeDubai Mall Joseph Joes cafeDubai Mall interiors ceilingDubai Mall Bloomingdales store

Dubai Mall Pucci store
Pucci: Poor man’s Gucci*

*not really

Dubai Mall Harman House showroomDubai Mall Sony showroomDubai Mall ceiling sunlightDubai Mall waterfallDubai Mall souk Harley DavidsonDubai Mall KidzaniaDubai Mall Exoto Tifosi Circle8 shopDubai Mall Sega RepublicDubai Mall Crocs Asics

Dubai Mall Wooden floor lobby
If there ever was a material used in construction, you’ll find it used for Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall chandelier domeDubai Mall Sephora JumboDubai Mall botique runway digital screenDubai Mall ground floor ceilingDubai Mall UAE flag lobby entrance

Dubai Mall sofa rest stops
It took advantage of these everywhere around the mall

After nearly an hour of window shopping, I decided to have lunch at the food court at the basement, near the At The Top counter.

Dubai Mall Fatburger beef
Lunch was at Fatburger, which I never tried before

The burger was okay, nothing exceptional. Of course, I only had the regular beef burger. (Not really ‘Fat’, just regular)

After lunch, it was back to roaming around a bit more. This time I explored the Gold Souk.

Dubai Mall Gold SoukAs the name suggests, this is the section of the mall dedicated to just gold stores and other pricey items.

Dubai Mall Gold souk ceiling chandlier

Dubai Mall Gold souk tree open spaceDubai Mall gold souk treeIt was also the quietest part of the mall.

Dubai Mall gold souk shopsGiven the high price of gold now and the fact that there wasn’t a whole lot of folks shopping anyway, it wasn’t surprising to see very few customers walk through these corridors.

Dubai Mall Gold souk chandelierDubai Mall Gold souk lit up domeDubai Mall gold souk shoppers

And with that, I was out.

Dubai Mall chairs fountain waterfallDubai Mall Element Roadster DinerI also walked past the only Olympic-sized Ice Rink in the Middle East.

Dubai Mall ice skating rink OlympicDubai Mall ice skating rink Olympic Reel CinemasIt was 3:30pm by this time, so I decided to make my way back to the lower basement.

Dubai Mall lower basement escalatorsI waited near the At The Top counter for my turn to get in

Dubai Mall At The Top gift store
The At The Top gift shop

(This is just part 1 of what I saw today, part 2 is when I went up to the Burj Khalifa observation desk)

[^ ‘Finding Nemo‘ reference]

Next posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Mall of Emirates and Times Square Center

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

Previous posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

MBK Center, Bangkok

Thailand 2009: Day 9 – MBK, Siam Paragon… and ‘little Arabia’?

Date: Dec 22nd, 2009

Woke up at a reasonable time after sleeping properly for the first time since I arrived in Thailand a week ago.  I wondered what to do today. I still had sights to go see but looking at the battery power left in my camera made me realize I need to get my charger fixed or at least find a new one (my Canon 7D batter charger had gotten wet in Ao Nang) before I could click again.

So I decided to head back to MBK Center and visit the Canon showroom I picked up my camera from.

Bangkok grafitti BTS Skytrain Nana
This was taken from the Nana BTS station

I took the BTS, got off at the Siam stop and reached MBK by around 10am. Stores were just opening for business and the Canon store unfortunately wasn’t going to open until 11am. So I decided to explore all the levels of MBK Center to kill time.

MBK was once the biggest mall in Asia. Even though it has long lost that title, it still remains one of the most popular shopping centers in Thailand. Mostly because you get a good mix of branded stores and independent small ones selling stuff you probably find in less-posh street stores or at flea markets.

Like I mentioned in the last post, just because you find something in a small store or a flea market, doesn’t mean you got a good deal. Case in point, the 80 litre bag I picked up from Ao Nang. When I bought it for 1500 baht/Rs. 2000 (bargained down from 2000 baht), I thought I got a good deal. Until I saw it for 890 baht (Rs. 1,200) in one store on the ground floor at MBK 🙁

Oh well.

MBK center Bangkok
MBK Center (Taken on the Nokia E72)

MBK’s fourth floor was dominated by mobile phone stores. Be it handsets or accessories, there were plenty of them. Selling everything from the genuine to even the fake Nokias and Apples. You name the brand, they had it. You want customization options, there’s plenty to choose from. Worth checking out if you want to deck out your mobile.

As I entered the 4th floor though, I smelled something sweet in air and I followed the trail which led to this:

MBK breakfast pastry

I tried the pancake with coc0nut filling and had coffee. Funny thing is, the coffee cost more than the pastry!

Done with “breakfast,” I had some time to kill before the Canon store opened. So I went to the 5th floor which had the food court on one side and (mostly) clothes stores on the other. Like Chatuchak, you had stores selling all sorts of gear for more or less the same prices. I picked up some more t-shirts and then went around looking for good deals on PlayStation 3 games.

MBK video game store BangkokTrouble is, finding original games in Thailand is very, very difficult. Pirated discs pretty much rule the home entertainment market and very few stores stocked a good collection of original video games.

By 11am, the Canon store opened and I went to meet Kosin, the sales guy I mostly dealt with. He saw me and even remembered my name. I told him what happened to my battery charger and asked him if I could get it repaired.

Canon showroom Fotofile MBK
Inside the Canon showroom at MBK

I had Thai warranty on the camera and even though water damage isn’t covered, he still took me to the service center which was behind the showroom and gave it for service. They said they couldn’t promise anything because the Canon 7D was so new that they didn’t have the parts for everything just yet. But I still filled up the papers and was asked to come back in the evening.

Since there was a good chance I wouldn’t get the charger repaired, I wondered if I could get a new one. Kosin told me they hadn’t received stock of the new charger so I decided to head to Pantip Plaza and try there.

I took a taxi and made my way to Pantip, which is around 2 kms from MBK.

Bangkok schoolgirls
Saw more girls in uniforms than boys

I had written about Pantip in my Day 1 post but for the sake of a quick reminder, Pantip Plaza is pretty much the most popular IT destination in Bangkok (and also famous for being the largest grey market mall as well).

I went around asking every camera equipment store if they had the particular battery charger in stock but none did. So I ended up having to buy a third party battery charger for 600 baht (Rs. 830) — which is a lot cheaper than what the genuine Canon charger costs.

I went back to the room, put my battery for charging and prayed that the third party device wouldn’t blow up.

Since I had to wait a while before the battery had enough charge for use and that it was already noon, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do any of the sight-seeing I had planned for in Bangkok while the sun was still up. So I headed back to MBK.

I had lunch at the food court and decided to watch ‘Avatar‘ in 3D. My take on the film? Technically brilliant, visually stunning… but so damn cliched and predictable that it got boring and some what annoying after a while. Sorry James Cameron, I still like you but ‘Avatar‘ wasn’t really worth all the hype and years of anticipation. (And it totally doesn’t deserve all the critical praise and record-breaking financial return its getting!)

By the time the film was over, it was already past 5pm. I went back to the Canon service center to collect my charger and find out if they repaired it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t as they said they didn’t have the parts needed.

So I collected it and left MBK. I figured if there was no tourist attraction to see today, I rather just cross over to the other side and check out the place that now holds the crown for being the largest mall in Thailand.

MBK Center, Bangkok
MBK Center, Bangkok
Bangkok night traffic near MBK
Night traffic near MBK
BTS Skytrain Siam Discovery
Siam Discovery, one-third of Siam Center

Siam Center is now the biggest shopping complex in Bangkok, consisting of Siam Discovery, the Siam office tower and Siam Paragon, the newest and the most posh of the bunch. MBK and Siam Center are conveniently accessed by a large over bridge and a BTS station above that!

BTS Skytrain Siam ParagonBTS Skytrain Siam ParagonChristmas tree Siam ParagonSiam Center is your typical international standard mall. The usual big brands and using every major festival, like Christmas, to deck the place up all nice — even though Thailand is a Buddhist majority. Siam Center houses several well-known (and slightly more affordable) brands while Siam Paragon mostly caters to luxury goods.

Emporio Armani Siam Paragon
Inside Siam Paragon

So as expected, they was hardly anybody inside the shops.

I went down to the food court to catch some grub and was happy to see a Mos Burger outlet. Being a Japanophile, I’ve always wanted to try one.

Mos Burger Siam ParagonI got my takeaway and checked out the rest of the mall. Fairly standard international mall affair.

Except for this.

Maserati showroom at Siam Paragon
Maserati showroom at Siam Paragon
Lotus showroom Siam Paragon
Lotus showroom at Siam Paragon

This was the first time I saw a car showroom, and that too, luxury cars being sold on the second floor of a mall! There were a series of them. But the coolest of them was the Lamborghini showroom. Just two cars – an orange Gallardo and a white Murcielago SV (or it could have been the other way around, don’t exactly remember) – in an all black showroom. Sexy.

Sadly, photography was prohibited.

I headed home and on the way, stepped into a tour agency to inquire about how to get to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the Floating Market, which were the sights I wanted to see. In the map, the Grand Palace seemed far off and the tour agency told me the Floating Market is a two hour drive away from the city (or at least from Sukhumvit). I went back to the room and had to decide which I wanted to see because I could only do one the next day. The woman who runs Thai House Inn told me I can just take a taxi to the Grand Palace for around 100 baht and assured me that it wasn’t as far as I thought it was.

I had only the day to spare, so Grand Palace and Wat Pho it was. I really wanted to capture the Floating Market on video but I just couldn’t take the risk of being late for my flight back to Bangalore later that evening. Disappointed, I decided to walk one final night instead of hitting the bed just yet.

And I was glad I did. Turns out the area I was in was popular with Middle Easterners and North Africans. There were so many restaurants run by Egyptians, Lebanese and other Arabs serving Middle Eastern cuisine (a favourite of mine!) as well as some Indian.

Bangkok Arab Middle Eastern areaBangkok Arab Middle Eastern restaurantsThere were joints popular with Africans and enough shawarma joints to go around. It was kinda cool. Reminded me of walking through the bylanes of Manama growing up. I picked up a mutton shawarma (which was tad spicy) from a Nigerian-run joint and went back after picking up some chocolates to take back to Bangalore.

Other posts in this series:

Getting ready for my trip

The day I left for Thailand

Day 1 – Suvarnabhumi, Pantip Plaza, Fotofile & MBK

Day 2 – Bridge over the River Kwai and Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Bua) in Kanchanaburi

Taking the bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

Day 3 – Maesa elephant camp, ‘long-neck’ tribe village near Chiang Mai

Day 3 (Part 2) – Chiang Mai Night Market

Day 4 – Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai… and back in town

Day 5 – Leaving Chiang Mai for Phuket

Day 5 (Part 2) – One night in Phuket

Day 6 – Leaving Phuket for Ao Nang by bus (via Phang Nga)

Day 7 – Touring Koh Phi Phi (Maya Bay, Monkey Island & Bamboo Island)

Day 7 (Part 2) – Exploring Railay, Krabi

Day 8 – Flying from Phuket to Bangkok

Day 8 (Part 2) – Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

Day 10 – Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha

Day 10 – Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and finally leaving Thailand

Figures, lessons learned, and things I couldn’t do

Chatuchak weekend market girl

Thailand 2009: Day 8 (Part 2) – Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

Date: Dec 21st, 2009

As soon as I was done with lunch, I headed to the nearby BTS station (this stop was called Nana) and stood in line to get coins.  The fares range from 10 baht (Rs. 13) to 60 baht (Rs. 83) and it essentially works like so:

– get 5 and 10 baht coins from the manned counters

– each stop is number coded, so you first choose your destination by selecting the number on the machine

– put in the required number of coins

– your card is issued

You need the card to get past the gates and only then can you go up to the platform. Once there, you generally don’t have to wait long. I had to get down at the last stop heading north on the Sukhumvit line, Mo Chit, to get to Jatuchak park.

Bangkok BTS skytrain inside

Siam Paragon, Bangkok
Taken from inside the skytrain on the Nokia E72

It costs 60 baht but my god! The time you save! A ride which would have taken me an hour in Bangkok traffic took me just over 10 minutes. I can’t wait for Bangalore Metro to open! This service is such a time-saver.

Chatuchak Jatujak park Bangkok
Jatujak Park in Bangkok

Chatuchak (also called Jatujak or even JJ) Weekend Market is located near Jatujak Park.

Chatuchak Jatujak park Bangkok
Walk ahead and you enter the weekend market

Now, I’m not much of a shopaholic but while I was doing my research for my trip, JJ Weekend Market claimed to be the largest flea market in the world with thousands of stalls! I wasn’t going to count but it still intrigued me enough to go check it out.

I didn’t even know if there even was a “main entrance” so I just entered one of the lanes.

Chatuchak weekend market
She was promoting a product

Chatuchak weekend marketI immediately realized why JJ was popular. You get everything! From clothes, fashion accessories, home furnishings, cutlery, food, fake brands, stationary, cool crap… wholesale as well as retail.

Chatuchak weekend market
He was drawing quite a crowd

The guy in the pink shirt you see above was selling every bag inside his store (even the big ones) for 199 baht (Rs. 270). He kept calling every non-small eyed guy (including me) “Michael” and pointed towards his store in the hopes of luring us in. The tourists did find it funny hearing him go “M-O-I-kaal!” and I did step inside to see what the fuss was all about. There was a fairly large trendy looking Puma bag (good looking fake) I thought of picking up but I reminded myself that just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean I have to buy it. Especially if I’m really not going to use it. So I just walked away without buying it.

Which was a good thing because just down the road there was another store selling bags for 189 baht (Rs. 260) — but without any fuss [picture can be found below]. I realized what a clever marketing move it was that the 199 baht store was employing. Get people’s attention with a lot of noise and the notion that everything must go with 199 looking like the rock bottom price. Once people are in, take a hit on bags that may actually cost 250 selling for 199 baht but make up for lost profit by selling bags that may actually cost him 100 baht for 199 there by evening it out anyway. Clever.

Chatuchak weekend market singer

Chatuchak weekend market lampsChatuchak weekend market

Chatuchak weekend marketChatuchak weekend marketTip: Try and do all your shopping from Bangkok. I realized Bangkok is the hub and main distribution point for pretty much every other city in Thailand. Take for example the cool looking lanterns you see above. I saw the silver one first on the streets of Ao Nang — for around 1600 baht (Rs. 2,200). Obviously I didn’t buy it because I thought it was quite pricey. But here? Prices start from 300 baht (Rs. 410).

Chatuchak weekend market shoesJust because JJ calls itself a ‘flea market’ doesn’t mean you don’t get genuine products here. There are authorized dealers for original Converse shoes (very popular in Thailand) and several other brands. But the thing is, I’d still pick up a good looking fake for hundreds less. The imitation is just that good!

Chatuchak weekend market rockersAnother cool aspect of JJ I really liked was the sub-cultures that existed within the place. You had various sections dedicated to different fashion. A series of stores specializing in hip-hop fashion, gear for rockers, reggae, etc.  It was really cool.

Chatuchak weekend market girl
That’s no wig, that’s really her hair. She let me touch it.

I really want to profile the various sub-cultures at Chatuchak the next time I come here.

So did I shop much at all? I had already picked up a funky T-shirt (for 90 baht/Rs. 125) and I was looking for a Def Leppard t-shirt at all the stores selling rock gear. Some stores had genuine second-hands (the official merchandise but already worn) but those were selling for over 1000 baht (Rs. 1,300). Now, I love me some Def Leppard but I wasn’t going to spend that kind of money for a second hand t-shirt unless it was worn by Joe Elliot himself!

I had spent nearly 3 hours here and I could have checked out more stores but a lot of them began closing by 6pm itself.

Chatuchak weekend marketI decided to leave JJ and so… puppiiiiiesssss!

Chatuchak weekend market puppies
Awwww… yet so cruel

They even had puppies for sale! I felt sad seeing them being sold like this. But when I heard 3000 baht (Rs. 4,100) for some breeds, I was more “Hey, that’s not bad” than “Awww, poor thing”.

Chatuchak weekend market food
Those are quail eggs
Chatuchak weekend market bag
The store that was selling bags for 189 baht

There was a lot of stuff I could have bought from here, especially clothes and shoes. But I had already spent enough and my bag was full enough.

Also, don’t cave in and splurge at JJ thinking everything is cheap here. Some items you’ll get in air-conditioned malls such as MBK Center for more or less the same price. So do go around Bangkok a bit before you decide to spend.

Bangkok city night trafficBangkok city night trafficIt was past 8pm by the time I finally left JJ market. Yet another place I’m definitely coming back to.

I took the BTS back to my hotel room and called it an early night after dinner as I had woken up very early today.

Nana BTS station Bangkok skytrain

Other posts in this series:

Getting ready for my trip

The day I left for Thailand

Day 1 – Suvarnabhumi, Pantip Plaza, Fotofile & MBK

Day 2 – Bridge over the River Kwai and Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Bua) in Kanchanaburi

Taking the bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

Day 3 – Maesa elephant camp, ‘long-neck’ tribe village near Chiang Mai

Day 3 (Part 2) – Chiang Mai Night Market

Day 4 – Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai… and back in town

Day 5 – Leaving Chiang Mai for Phuket

Day 5 (Part 2) – One night in Phuket

Day 6 – Leaving Phuket for Ao Nang by bus (via Phang Nga)

Day 7 – Touring Koh Phi Phi (Maya Bay, Monkey Island & Bamboo Island)

Day 7 (Part 2) – Exploring Railay, Krabi

Day 8 – Flying from Phuket to Bangkok

Day 9 – MBK, Siam Paragon… and ‘little Arabia’?

Day 10 – Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha

Day 10 – Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and finally leaving Thailand

Figures, lessons learned, and things I couldn’t do

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