On this week’s Where Is…? I am excited to talk to the lovely Sarah Zonio (Xam) from Passport Bites about Dubai – a place which has always fascinated me from afar. An aspiring travel writer and travel presenter, Sarah was born in the Philippines, but moved to Dubai in 2004. Since then she has spent time between the two, recently finishing her studies in the Philippines. Today she tells me about what it’s like to return to Dubai – her “second home.”
Hi Sarah! Congratulations on graduating. What is Dubai like now you have returned?
So much has changed since my last stay here. There is more infrastructure, more stops for foodies, more shopping…more of everything now! It’s has gotten a lot prettier. There’s even a zip-line now to Burj Khalifa!
I imagine Dubai to be quite hot all year round. Is this true?
Surprisingly, Dubai’s weather is quite moody these days. Dubai used to be an absolutely rain-free country. But since last year, the winter season has cried down on us! April-August was still quite hot, but if you enjoy the heat, the beach during August is the perfect time to get those tans.
What do you get up to?
Going to the beach (just a couple of minutes walk from where I live!) is something I look forward to almost everyday. It’s the perfect spot overlooking the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa.
This is one of the places where the extraordinary Dubai fireworks are held every New Year’s Eve. People from all over Dubai gather around, carrying blankets and food with them, waiting for the countdown to begin. The Al Sufouh Beach is not so populated, so it makes writing and having some me-time entirely possible.
Aside from that, the Box Park at Al Wasl Road has recently opened. It is the perfect spot to chill and spend some time with friends. Grab some food, shop for new clothes, and haul your favourite stationary items. The Box Park is a very artsy and funky place to hang out at night.
Sounds like my kinda place! Do you have any other tips?
It is always fun to stroll around JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) before sunset because of its outdoor movie theatre located at the beach itself, various food stops and restaurants to choose from…and lots of shopping areas to spoil yourself with too. It is best to come here via taxi or tram, because parking is usually quite full. Other places that I recommend are Global Village for the wanderlusts and thrill-seekers, Miracle Garden for the nature and flower lovers, Souk Madinat for those looking for authentic Middle East vibes, and the upcoming Dubai Garden Glow at Zabeel Park for … well, for everyone actually.
Some great tips there! Do you have any travel advice for first-timers like myself?
Like what I tell everyone who plans on traveling to Dubai, it is already a modernized city. But as a Muslim country, please respect the Islamic culture. If it says do not wear shorts or anything too revealing at the place you would like to visit, please do not wear the mentioned clothing. And please, please, do not mock the Muslims and their prayer times. Nonetheless, Dubai is a ridiculously fun place to be in. I’ve lived here for 12 years and it just gets better and better each day!
I agree, it’s important to be respectful of other cultures and religions. Do you have any travel plans in the pipeline?
I have always wanted to go to Italy and have my eyes set on Morocco. But, my priority at the moment is to get a job at Emirates or Motivate Publishing. Hoping for the best!
Good luck with that! What three must-have items do you always take with you on trips and why?
As a writer, you always have to be prepared. So I always bring a notebook, a pen, and my phone. You never know when you have to jot something down or take some pretty awesome photos. That’s why I never leave the house without those three in my bag.
And finally, what has been your favourite destination so far?
Dubai and the Philippines hold a special place in my heart, but Bangkok is also winning me over. It has been one of the most memorable and fun travel experiences that I had this year. The people are amazing, the food was undeniably delicious, and Bangkok itself is just so easy to fall in love with. If given the chance to travel back to Thailand, I would! No questions asked, give me my plane tickets and I’ll be off.