Deputy Editor Catherine Langley sips sundowners in Bangkok
When you live in Dubai, everywhere you look there is something that will make you gape. From the Burj Khalifa to the Burj Al Arab, we’re surrounded by awe-inspiring architectural structures.
The only drawback of living in one of the most visually astounding cities on the planet is that when I visit new places, the architectural ‘highlights’ seem pale by comparison. It’s for this very reason that visiting Sky Bar was the top of my must-do list on my recent visit to Bangkok.
The world’s highest open-air bar is located on the 63rd floor of The Dome at Lebua. Though Dubai dwellers might scoff (our highest bar, At.mosphere is located a whopping 122 floors up) the definitely Sky Bar holds its own in the world’s best bars ranks.
With 360 degree vistas of the entire city I was keen to get there early to enjoy the sunset. Watching the lights come up over the city was an amazing sight, made all the better by the assortment of tasty cocktails on offer.
As well as its enviable panoramas, Sky Bars’ other claim to fame is that it was featured in the movie, The Hangover II. As a nod to its Hollywood connections, the mixologists at the bar created the ‘Hangovertini’, which is a refreshing choice come sundown.
As one of the most popular haunts in the city it goes without saying that Sky Bar is a busy spot with a wild crowd of patrons. The good news is that the unusual cocktails and the stunning views definitely make it worth the visit.
Where to stay: Perched on the edge of the Chao Phraya River, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is located in the heart of city. A one-night stay at this hotel starts at Dh1,575. For details visit www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok.
Sub-editor Elizabeth Elphic takes a bus journey through the Big Apple
On coming back from a recent trip to New York, it wasn’t the amazing buildings, bright lights or Time Square’s colourful characters I was talking incessantly about, but rather my conversion to the hop-on/hop-off open-bus way of sightseeing. It’s much cheaper than taking a taxi, and why spend time whizzing around underground when you could be taking in all the sights along the way, while learning something about them too? But best of all were the tour guides.
This wasn’t a soundtrack-accompanied journey, but one with real New Yorkers from all backgrounds adding personal insights into what it is really like to live there. They ranged from the younger generation facing being forced out of their apartments as rents increase, to older guides who have lived through all the dramatic changes in the city.
While some were hilarious, others shared personal stories of loss in 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, while still others were obsessed with architecture or could tell you exactly where scenes from popular TV shows and films were set and how much rents were in upmarket buildings.
There are so many of these buses that I never saw the same tour guide twice and so even if I had to go through an area more than once, I still learnt fascinating new facts about it.
The guides also point out good places to eat and attractions at each stop, so even if it isn’t on your own itinerary, you might still want to hop off and explore.
With my 48-hour pass (which cost $59 – the equivalent of three one-way taxi trips to Times Square from my hotel) I managed to get to grips with the layout of the city, visited every attraction I had on my New York bucket list and learnt more than I could have from any guide book.
Where to stay: New York has a plethora of amazing hotels, but one of our favourites is The Surrey, which is nestled in the Upper East Side. A one-night stay in this trendy spot starts at around Dh2,350. For details visit www.thesurrey.com.
Sub-editor Anna AbouZeid says returning to Rome was a trip down memory lane
When I was four we went on a family holiday to Rome. It was me, my mum, my dad and my baby brother, who was just a couple of months old at the time. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed venturing round with my parents and was a good little traveller, even then. But that holiday was a bit of a nightmare.
It was unbelievably hot that August – so hot that even Romans were fleeing for cooler climes. Basically, the city was deserted. But we – a crazy Canadian family – were there, soldiering on. One day we visited the Trevi Fountain.
My mum had shown me pictures in library books of all the places we planned to visit, but when we arrived this giant Baroque fountain took my breath away. I’m told I asked my dad, “Is it older than you and Mum?”
Legend has it, if you throw a coin into the fountain, you are ensured a return visit to the city. I threw one for me and one for my new baby brother. Sure enough, some 20 years later I returned, but this time the city was magical.
A cool February day, there were hordes of people tossing coins into the water. The streets were alive, the pasta was piping hot and the cobbled streets were romantic. I tossed a coin over my shoulder into the water. I can’t wait to return. This time I won’t wait so long.
Where to stay: If you’re travelling in style, book into The Westin Excelsior, Rome. This plush hotel is located on Via Veneto – one of the city’s most expensive stretches. A one-night stay at this hotel is priced at Dh1,560. For details call +39 06 47081.
Senior designer Melany Demetillo-Reyes took a movie tour of Malta
“So how was Malta?” my friend asked when I returned from a recent trip to the Mediterranean island. “Familiar” was the word that came to mind, because while it was my first visit to Malta, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it. With sun, sea and sand, this pretty Mediterranean paradise has long been a favourite of film scouts for major movie and television productions.
Walking around the capital, Valletta, our tour guide gave us the low-down on how these very streets were the setting for numerous episodes of hit TV series Game of Thrones.
Other locations outside of Valletta have also graced the silver screen, such as Fort Ricasoli – a 17th-century fort used as a setting in major epics Troy and Gladiator.
While I was desperately trying to concentrate on what our guide was telling us about the history of the area, my mind kept wandering to the likes of Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe. What I would have given to be a damsel in distress when those two were in town.
Next was the Popeye movie set. Lesser known than some of the other projects, the 1984 film starred Robin Williams as the sailor from Sweethaven. While the cameras and crew have long since left, the movie set is still intact, and visitors can walk through Popeye Village (pictured above).
We also found time for some non-film-related sightseeing including a Blue Grotto boat trip on the southern coast. Another high (literally) was standing on top of the Dingli Cliffs – the highest point on the island.
With so many beautiful areas, it’s easy to see why Malta has become such a hit with location scouts. I expect we’ll be seeing it on screens a lot more in the future.
Where to stay: After a day of sightseeing in Malta, chill out at the Corinthia Hotel St Georges Bay. With magnificent views of the Mediterranean sea, a one-night stay at this resort starts at Dh600. For details visit www.corinthia.com.