For some, Dubai is the pinnacle of sultry elegance and extravagance. For others, the idea of going to the Middle-Eastern emirate fills them with dread. Images of glittering air-conditioned shopping malls packed tight to the rafters with luxury and designer brands, towering skyscrapers and manmade islands immediately come to mind whenever Dubai is mentioned, and for obvious reason, too – Dubai is famous for being unashamedly ostentatious.
The country is home to the tallest building on the planet, the Burj Khalifa – its needle-like point reaching a dizzying 2,723ft. Inside the Dubai Mall, the largest in Dubai, you’ll find a 22-screen cinema, an indoor theme park, a giant aquarium with an underwater zoo and a full-sized ice rink. The shopping – of which there are opportunities in abundance – takes a shy backseat to the pomp and splendour of the other attractions.
In this sweltering millionaire’s playground, anything is possible. Gold-plated Porsche Cayenne’s cruise past Bugatti Veyrons along the beachfront at the Dubai Marina, one of the planet’s finest locations to spot the rarest and most expensive cars in the world.
However, if all the above makes you want to run for the desert hills, grow your hair and start your very own eco-commune, then perhaps Dubai is not the place for you. However, there is another less celebrated but no less spectacular side of Dubai to explore.
It’s possible to eat every kind of food in Dubai. Michelin restaurants occupy much of the emirates main stretch, but their fabulously exotic menus are matched by their fabulously expensive prices. However, if you explore slightly further afield, you’ll stumble upon Persian and Lebanese restaurants that serve equally delicious food at a fraction of the price.
It’s also possible to shop outside of a shopping mall. Dubai has many traditional Arabic souks, located in Deira and Bur Dubai. To access these souks, shoppers can hop on to the abras or small boats – there you’ll find everything from gold to textiles, perfumes and rare spices.
For those looking to go on holiday next year, it would be worth considering booking your Dubai holidays 2013 and exploring the unexplored. There’s opportunity at every turn in Dubai, if you’re prepared to look for it.
Thailand is another country of sublime diversity. Many associate Thailand with raucous neon-painted full moon parties, buckets of Sangsom whiskey and red bull and the hedonistic craziness of Bangkok or the beach area of Patong – much to the chagrin of the Thai locals. However, there’s an altogether calmer side to Thailand and its islands.
The island of Phuket is often thought of as one of the more rowdy islands, due to its tourist beaches of Patong, Kata and Karon. Popular with young adults, these beach resorts are similar, say, to Brighton or Newquay; there are cheap and cheerful chain hotels, budget places to stay and a myriad of bars and nightclubs at which to dance the night away along the shoreline. However, Phuket is also home to some excellent and isolated beaches, and Rawai, at its southern tip, is a perfect place to stay for a couple of nights before you take a longtail boat to one of the islands.
If you prefer to sip your cocktails on an unspoilt beach rather than in a neon-lit bar, then Thailand has numerous to choose from that are only a short putter away from Phuket Island. Koh Lae, also known as Coral Island, is worth a day-trip to explore its own reef just off the beach. For diving fanatics, Koh Tao and Koh Nanyuan offer some of the best diving spots in the Gulf of Thailand.
For those in search of the unspoilt beaches commonly seen in photographs, Koh Kood provides somewhere truly remote. An hour by boat from the mainland, Koh Kood offers holidaymakers in search of paradise everything that they could possibly want: deserted beaches, simple and fantastic restaurants with authentic food and Chang beer, and those clear and still waters synonymous with Thailand.
Whether you like chugging your drinks out of a bucket or sipping them through a straw, Thailand has something to offer everyone. Book your Thailand holidays 2013 this year, and don’t be afraid to step off the beaten track.