Dubai shopping centers, like most everything in Dubai, are spectacular and completely over the top. Dubai Mall is the largest in the world with 1,200 shops and restaurants. With the imposing Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) right outside, you could easily spend a week in Dubai Mall taking in all the shops, souks, fountains, ice skating, and of course, people watching.
A day trip with Sam’s Tours (samtours.com) is an alternately thrilling and relaxing water adventure. Rise early to depart on a speedboat, whizzing through the majestic Rock Islands with their plumes of grass sprouting from limestone mushroom heads. Stop to snorkel and you may catch a glimpse of an elusive sea turtle or a family of black-tipped sharks, two- to three-feet long and as curiously cautious as you.
Babeldaob is Palau’s largest island — about three-quarters the size of Guam and Fish ‘n Fins (fishnfins.com) offers the only off-road eco tour of the island. Rise early for a wild ride off-road in a military-usage Polaris, which is a great way to see the island.
Palau is a destination like no other in Micronesia. The chain of islands is small and remote, but developed for comfortable, western style tourism. Palauans are strict guardians of the island’s pristine and delicate terrestrial and aquatic ecology. What has coalesced at 07°20 north of the Equator is nothing short of phenomenal. Locals are quick to boast about the island’s ecological charms, often rhapsodizing about its unique beauty.
Just minutes away from the record-breaking Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall (largest in the world), is Dubai Creek — a throwback to Dubai’s origins as a port of trade. Wooden vessels still ply the working creek and a bustling spice and gold souk awaits visitors and residents in the mood for something, well, a little more authentic.
The newly built, old-style Souk Madinat Jumeirah was one of my favorite spots in Dubai, even if it screamed “Epcot.” Lusting over turquoise from Afghanistan (expensive), admiring the Burj Al Arab in the distance, and gazing at gondolas gliding up the canal was a perfect way to spend a hot and lazy afternoon. This attraction is just one more example of how Dubai tempers materialistic extravagance with retro-leaning regional motifs. Color me impressed.
If you love architecture, you’ll love Dubai. Riding the metro through the heart of the city feels a bit like being on the set of “Star Wars” (that is, if it wasn’t all CG). It was unreal. As you can see, the construction has a global feel with a dash of Big Ben, Chrysler Building, a taco (okay, that’s probably supposed to be a boat), and even dolphin- and candy bar-shaped buildings.