Staycation at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi

This weekend, I got to spend a weekend relaxing, for once, at the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island. The decision was very last minute, but we felt like getting out of Dubai and seeing one of the other Emirates.

I have never been to the Park Hyatt in Abu Dhabi, but have been several times to the Dubai branch to use their dining and spa facilities (and also to attend a wedding there). The Park Hyatt Dubai is beautiful from the moment you get to the entrance and valet. I expected the same when we got to the Abu Dhabi Park Hyatt, but unfortunately it doesn’t have the same authentic arabic charm as its Dubai counterpart.

When checking in, we encountered the strange demand of giving AED300 as a “deposit”. We are used to being asked to give our credit card details, so they can use it to deduct all expenses when we check out, but this was something new and slightly annoying. We gave a credit card to pay the deposit and to also settle the room bill and went on our merry way to the room. The room was lovely. Everything I have expected from Hyatt properties on my travels. We took a ground room floor which had a balcony overlooking the garden and pool.

Dinner choices are limited at the hotel so we choose the Park Bar and Grill. Fortunately I had an Entertainer Voucher to buy 1 get 1 free main course so we could splurge a bit on the meal :). The food was delicious and the service fantastic; one waitress from South Africa was especially kind and helpful.

The night should have been joyous in the comfortable bed, but there was this bizarre dripping noise above us for the whole night. It was intermittent so couldn’t tell if it was due to pipes, a leaky bath in the room above or if it was between the ceiling and floor of the two rooms. It was truly irritating.

The next morning we spent chilling out at the beach and in the room. It would have been better if we had not received text messages from the bank at stupid o’clock (more of that soon).

Also we didn’t receive our complimentary newspaper. We couldn’t understand how they could forget a simple thing that they offer as a service!

At midday exactly, we started getting calls and knocks on the door that we had to check out..NOW! The hotel had obviously ignored the requests we had made in the booking which included “Late Check Out”. The hotel was not busy at all so they could have let us stay an hour or two, but nooppppe we had to leave pronto.

Now back to the text message we got. Remember we gave the AED300 at the start? Well after that we had a meal and a few drinks as obviously we were staying at the hotel. Well that deposit was used up so the hotel decided that rather than waiting for us to check out and check the total bill, that they would charge us immediately for any expenses we made during the stay. Plus they were deducting at silly o’clock so we were being awoken by the phone beeping. We were so angry.  At the hotel desk, we complained about the method of taking money off us without us check the final bill.

The reasoning by Park Hyatt (the Manager decided to join in to defend their position – quite condescendingly if I say so myself), was that they had a new policy that they would block the amount on our credit card as and when we used their facilities. The actual amount would not be deducted until we had checked out they assured us. The reality was that they weren’t blocking the amount, they were automatically deducting from our card as and when they felt like it. I have been to Hyatt hotels globally and other hotel chains, but never heard of this nonsense.

They were treating us like potential thieves who were planning to do a runner out of the hotel without clearing the bill and also they were deducting us for amounts we were unable to verify first. They may have deducted amounts which were not related to our room. If you have dealt with banks in the UAE, you know how much of an ordeal it is to get refunds for amounts that are falsely taken from your account or credit card.

The attitude and behaviour left a very bad taste in our mouth. The apologies were insincere. In the end, we viewed the bill, signed and left very angry. Because of the behaviour at this Hyatt, I have no desire to go to another one unless there are assurances that we will not be be treated like this and will receive better service from a 5* hotel.

What has been your experience with the Park Hyatt’s you have visited? Would love to hear your good or bad stories.

Update 12 October 2015 – I have received an apology from the hotel with regards to the complaints above. The policy on getting a deposit and then deducting as and when is supposedly an citywide policy in Abu Dhabi. I find it hard to believe this can only happen in one city in the country. It was good of the hotel to acknowledge my blog post and feedback from their survey.  

Would be interested to know if others have had to deal with the same payment/deposit policy in Abu Dhabi. 

Shelina

© 2015 Shelina Jokhiya | All rights reserved – This post is provided for the convenience of Shelo’s Cheeky Rantings readers. Any reproduction of the content within this feed is strictly prohibited.

Weekend Break to Kish Island in Iran (Vlog #3)

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The best lambchops on the Island

Last month my good mate G and I went to Kish Island, Iran for the weekend (she wanted a cool new stamp in her new passport!).

We have visited most of the Middle East at some point over the years, so our choice was limited. However, we found that we could see Iran without a visa, as Kish Island is a freezone, and the flight is only 1 hour from Dubai.  We flew on Kish Air which is scary! The plane is old and seems like it should be in the scrapyard but it got us to and from Iran in one piece!

We had seen that you had to cover up as a woman to go to Iran, so we decided to buy new abayas. Wearing our abayas (with simple leggings or jeans and a top on underneath) all weekend was the best thing ever. Our suitcase has never been so light and it was so easy to get dressed every day! However, we were more covered up than most of the women on the island! As you can see from the vlog i finally mastered how to wear the shayla on my head as well without it falling off too often!

The first day we saw the area around our hotel and also went on a free tour (provided by our hotel) around the island. The tour included a trip to see a Greek ship that went aground by the island (it’s a windy tourist destination!) and an underground cave which was supposed to be a new town!

A part of the underground cave

A part of the underground cave

We ate well on day 1 going to two good restaurants and eating lots of kebabs and rice (with butter on it). The lamb chops in the picture above are the best on the island…supposedly and we can confirm they were amazing plus the singing men were not bad either.

As we had seen the island on day 1, we decided to go to the ladies beach. On this beach we saw more nakedness than you would see in a nudist beach in France but without comfortable sunloungers! Also there were several security women happy to touch us up to make sure we werent smuggling our cameras or phones onto the beach. As my life is on my phone it was a pretty boring 3 hours on the beach. G was happy reading her paperback book!

Talking of life on the phone, nearly everyone had a Samsung or Iphone in their hands (embargo pfft) but unless you have vpn on your phone there was no way to access Facebook or Twitter (however you would get Facebook notifications – so annoying). Whatsapp worked fine which was good and they had wifi in certain areas of the hotel and in cafes.

Anyway here is Kish Island with a bit of commentary by me!

Enjoy!

Shelina

© 2015 Shelina Jokhiya | All rights reserved – This post is provided for the convenience of Shelo’s Cheeky Rantings readers. Any reproduction of the content within this feed is strictly prohibited.

Escape to Istanbul

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One of the non awesome things about living in the UAE is the loneliness. You leave your friends and family to start a life of working and occasionally playing. The cities especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai are transition towns. The majority come here to make lots of tax free money, play around, top up their tan and then go back or forward around the world. One minute you have a group of friends and the next poof you are sitting alone in your big apartment writing a blog.

Being solo most of the time results in me either going home to England to see my family and friends (and shopping of course) or holidaying solo as I have done on numerous occasions (Copenhagen, Australia and Japan were a few of the solo trips). It’s not awful and it makes you a stronger person but you sometimes need someone to talk to other than yourself and those voices.

Miraculously, there are other people who are like me and light has come to the tunnel of holidaying by way of a company called Escape Travels. Set up by a dude named Fajer he has organised holidays in the Middle East, Asia and Europe for like minded individuals mostly solo who want to explore places near the UAE and meet cool people. My lovely mate Mr C told me about the group after he had been to Lebanon for skiing, India and very recently Ethiopia so I thought I would give it a try.

 

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Luckily the first trip that came up was to Istanbul, which is somewhere I have always wanted to go. As is normal with me, I went all spontaneous and booked the flights and trip within half an hour of seeing it online and bada bing I was going on a holiday with a bunch of strangers. Mr C introduced me to a few of the peeps who were going on the trip the weekend before which was good so when I saw them at the airport I wasn’t a complete shy loser.

There were 27 in the group including Fajer with people ranging in ages and backgrounds. We did do a count of the nationalities (which I cant remember) but it was a large motely mix. Unbelievably there was only one English dudess and it was me! :). Of course there were a few people you don’t want to see again let alone add on your Facebook, but the majority were lovely down to earth peeps out for exploring the city and enjoying themselves.

We stayed in Sultanahmet which is the old town and supposedly in the European bit of Istanbul (which was weird to acknowledge but ok). You couldn’t swing a cat in the hotel room and it was very basic but supposedly all hotels in the area are like that.

With the help of two lovely guides (ok the man asked if I was pregnant so not that lovely :S) we got to see the Blue Mosque (did u know the Turkish don’t call it the Blue Mosque only tourist do), Topaki Palace (which houses Moses’s cane and Prophets Muhammad’s (pbuh) footmark) and also Hagamet Sofia (formerly a church and mosque and now a museum of sorts).

Tip no 1 – If you go to the Blue Mosque and you want to pray the ablutions/wudu area is on the right hand side down the stairs and underneath them sort of. I asked five people and walked around like a crazy woman till I accidentally found the damn place. Also the area for women to pray was full of twit women lounging about and not moving out of the way so not the best experience when praying but hey at least I  did it.

Afterwards a few of us went to a rug shop to spend copious amounts of money on proper rugs. Tip no 2 – the dodgy b’s at the grand bazaar rug shops and even in Dubai will claim you are buying a silk rug when most probably you are buying cotton on cotton rug. Check the label, the feel and whether it changes colour when looking from one side of the rug to the other. There are other tips but that is all I can give you on this blog. Just be careful and spend a bit more if you can for a proper made rug.

The Grand Bazaar was bazaar. It was full of tourists and lots of Turkish shopkeeper men who could turn from charmers to vicious snakes in one second. I had one shopkeeper start ranting at me and then told me to go “F myself” when I walked away from his skanky looking magnets. It was so strange a response that all I could do was look baffled. Even the blokes neighbor shop keepers were stunned by the reaction. If you shop around the outskirts of the bazaar its quieter and you get a nicer  service.

However, if you can resist going to the Grand Bazaar I would recommend you bypass it and go the spice bazaar which was smaller, quieter and nicer. Also they had lovely spices, organic soaps and bits and pieces. Also if you are at the spice bazaar walk near by and you will get to the pet market and garden market which were totally unusually! I have been to many markets but never seen anything like these markets. (That was tip numero 3)

We also went on a boat and cruised around the Bosphorous checking out the big bridge, seeing Asian Istanbul and European Istanbul and some beautiful houses by the waterfront. The view was spectacular and being UAEians (yes that is a new word) we had a boat all to ourselves. We couldn’t mingle with the public you know.

 

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Another great trip was going to Galatea Tower to see the sunset. The walk was painful especially up the steep hill to the tower but the view was lovely and afterwards we could see in the square drinking and sitting in circles with the other hippy Turkish people singing. It was so refreshing to just chill out in public and not be worried about our silliness resulting in arrest.

Eating and drinking was cheap. On the last night we went to a good restaurant  and spent less than 20 quid on a main meal, dessert and drink. Of course there was also the beautiful bakeries with baklava, Turkish delights and Turkish coffee to taste and savour.

 

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Being with a group I could also go out at night and enjoy the nightlife without worrying about being alone as a woman. We went to the area, which is full of shops (which are open till very late), bars and restaurants. The group had split after eating at the restaurant on the last night but somehow a lot of us ended up back together in this open roof club dancing to euro tunes that I have not heard (I’m a bit behind in my euro pop music right now). The great thing about Turkey like in Dubai is that the music is a mixture of western, Turkish and Arabic music.

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The final trip for me was to a Turkish Hammam. The hotel guy and coffee shop next door guy were trying to get us to go to their respective hammam’s. We eventually went with the hotel guy and his affiliated hammam, just so we could come back and check out later without any hassle. The hammam was old school but not up to sparkling cleanliness standards as you get in Dubai. I got to walk around butt naked (its liberating for a western like me! the other ladies were a bit more prudish!), scrubbed to the inch of my skin and massaged like I was a rag doll. Not the most comfortable experience but an experience nonetheless. If you can, try and go to one in a big hotel. If that’s not possible, just take it onboard as an experience and that it wont be as pristine as the Ladies Club in Dubai or Elizabeth Arden in London.

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Of course 3 days is not enough to see this huge city but it was a good taster to build on.  Being with the cool crew was good as I made new friends to meet up with in the UAE and got to enjoy and share my holiday with other people which was refreshingly nice. I highly recommend you get your arse to Istanbul and if you can go with a group even better.

Going with Escape Travels was awesome and saved the hassle of organizing yourself and if you are a normal person you get to meet other normal people. If you are interested go to:

http://escape-travels.com/home/about

Or the FB page

https://www.facebook.com/EscapeDubai