During our trip from Japan back to Europe, we had a 20-hour layover in Abu Dhabi.
Despite being dead tired after the overnight flight, we wanted to make the most of our time in a country (UAE), we’ve never visited before.
The only plan we had, was to visit the Grand Mosque. But we wanted to be there during sunset to get the best light for taking pictures, and it wasn’t even 8 AM yet. We thought about renting a car to get around easily. The lady at the rental car counter actually gave us the idea of driving to Dubai. A one-way trip only takes about 1.5 – 2 hours.
So – after visiting the second tallest building in the world two weeks ago – we now had the chance of visiting Burj Khalifa, which – at 830 meters in height – is the world’s highest artificial structure.
We parked at the Dubai Mall, which is free. The mall itself is huge (Wikipedia says it is the largest in the world – of course), but the only real attraction is the aquarium with sharks and manta rays.
There is a direct entrance to the Burj Khalifa from inside the mall at the lower ground level.
The observation decks are called „At The Top“. Ironically the standard ticket only gets you to level 124 (of 163). If you opt to go to the 148th floor – which they call the „Sky“ level – you have to pay a pretty premium: about 500 AED (around 120 Euros). With this package you buy VIP treatment: starting out in a lounge like area, where you get served traditional arabic coffee and dates, a short guided tour on the history of the building, then you take two elevators to the top, where you will be served coffee, fresh juices and sweets.
You can usually stay up there for 30 – 40 minutes, but nobody bothered us to leave, so we stayed a bit over an hour to take pictures and enjoy the view. On our way down we stopped at level 124 (the regular observation deck), which is much more crowed.
Back in Abu Dhabi, we drove to the the Grand Mosque, which I wrote about in another post. It is a must-see!
We drove around a bit after that and then went back to the airport.
We still had lots of time before our flight so we decided to check out the Sleeping Pods. It looks way fancier on their website than it actually is. I would compare it to a dorm in a hostel, not a fancy napping place for business people. I guess if you are really, really tired you could give it a shot. It’s definitely more quiet, than sleeping at a gate. An hour costs 48 AED (about 12 Euros).
It is the biggest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and holds several records, eg. it has the largest carpet and several of the biggest chandeliers in the world. During Ramadan – which is the busiest time of the year – it can accommodate more than 40.000 worshippers.
I would suggest you get there before sunset and stay until after the light is gone, so you will have the benefit of seeing the mosque during daylight and during night time – which is, when the light projection system comes on.
You should also definitely attend a walk-in tour, which takes about 45 minutes, is completely free and well worth your time.
(We arrived at around 16:30, took the tour at 17:00 and stayed until about 19:30.)
I took so many pictures of this amazing place… Enjoy some of my favorite ones below.
All pictures were taken with the Fujifilm X-T1 and XF 14 mm.
So we went to the Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest building in Japan – and, with a height of 634 meters, the second tallest building in the world. It has the fourth highest observation deck in the world, at 450 meters.
The view from up here is breathtaking and well worth the 3.000 Yen entrance fee. (It’s about 2.060 Yen to get to the „Tembo Deck“ at 350 meters and another 1.030 Yen to go to the „Tembo Galleria“ at 450 meters.)
You can’t quite fathom how large the greater Tokyo area actually is. It is building after building as far as you can see.
I visited the the Tokyo Tower a couple of years back. It offers another great view of Tokyo from above, but from there you feel, like you are right in the middle of it all. On top of the Skytree you feel kind of detached, almost like hovering above the city. Highly recommended.
So we went to Kuala Lumpur – or KL, as most of the people actually call it.
What can I say. Overall, it came across as pretty underwhelming. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but nothing special either.
We originally went there to get a visa for China. The Chinese consulate’s website made it clear, that this was not an easy task. You need all kinds of documents, eg. a proof of residency. It is much easier to get a visa for China in your home country. When I asked my friend, who lives in Shanghai, why they make it so hard to get a visa, he said: “They don’t want foreigners to take pictures of monks, who set them selves on fire.” Well… In the end we thought, it wasn’t worth the trouble and decided to head to Tokyo, Japan instead – which is where we are right now.
Back to KL: The one great thing to see are the Petronas Twin Towers.
Everything else, the shopping malls, the markets, etc. are pretty much the same as in any other big city.
One evening – to get a nice view for the sunset – we went to Heli Lounge, which is basically a rooftop bar, located on a heli pad. From there you have a great view of the city. You need to order a drink to get access to the top. You should stick to beer or soft drinks though, because all of the cocktails we tried (four in total, one for each of us that went), were truly and utterly horrible! Must have been the worst Mojito I’ve ever tasted. But hey, people probably go there for the view and not to get drunk.
Accommodation was very nice: We got a great apartment via Airbnb, which was only 400 meters away from KLCC. Chrissy, the host was amazing and available around the clock via text messaging (we used iMessage). She organized transport from and to the airport and I highly recommend staying in one of her places, when visiting KL.
Most days we got food right around the corner on Jalan Cangkat Perak street. There are several food stalls, with all kinds of local dishes, and you can also find a full range of multi-cultural food experiences there. We paid about 15 Ringgit (currently about 3.70 EUR) for two full meals + drinks. Not bad at all.
Speaking of money: Malaysia’s banknotes are among my favorites. They are colorful and very compact. Furthermore you do not need coins very often, which is always a plus in my book.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we found KL to be nothing special. Come here for the Twin Towers and probably the food. Two or three days are probably enough.
Enjoy a couple of images I took during our week in KL.
A couple of weeks back, the wife and I spent one month on Ko Lanta. It is a small island in the Andaman Sea, approximately 80 km east of Phuket.
(To be precise: We stayed on Lanta Yai, which is the southern island, whereas Lanta Nai is the northern part. Both are connected to Krabi via car ferry. We arrived by ferry from Phuket via Ko Phi Phi.)
We first heard about Ko Lanta back in Chiang Mai, when our friend Sascha told us about KoHub. We looked at their website and I talked to some people via Twitter that where on Ko Lanta at that time (thanks Daniel!). We quickly made the choice to go and stay there for a month.
I am very glad, we made that decision.
KoHub is one of only a few, non-urban co-working spaces in the world. That means it is beautifully located near the beach, surrounded by palm trees.
KoHub’s owner James told me, that in the beginning he was not sure, if the atmosphere would allow people to actually get any work done – with the beach just two minutes away. (You can actually walk to the beach, have a swim in the ocean, then use the shower in the garden and get right back to work.)
Everyone I talked to, said they were indeed very productive. So was I.
When the weather is nice (which means: not too hot) you can work on the patio, overlooking a garden with a Buddha statue and some hammocks, which you can use to relax or sit in, while doing Skype calls.
When I needed to be really productive, I preferred one of two A/C rooms.
Internet was fast and very stable. In fact, it only went out once, while I was there, because of a power outage. But not to worry: KoHub has it’s own generator. So even if the power goes down, they just start their own power supply and you can keep working.
KoHub has lots of ideas on bringing people together. One of the best opportunities to get to know your fellow co-workers is lunch. Everyone gets together to talk about their current projects and their lives as digital nomads. Tuesdays and Thursdays is salad day (which was my favorite).
KoHub also regularly organizes group events (on weekends) so you can, for example, explore the surrounding islands, like we did, when visiting the Emerald Cave.
Ko Lanta itself is very laid back. People are very friendly, there are many good options for food.
We arrived here at the start of the so called “green season”, which is another term for low season. Prices are much cheaper, than during the main season. Visit lanta.info – a website we created during a hackathon at KoHub – to find out more about what to do on Lanta.
Another great place find up-to-date information about where to stay on Ko Lanta and what’s generally going on, is the Kohubbers Facebook group.
We are definitely thinking about coming back to Ko Lanta in the future.