By Christine S. Dayrit  www.philstar.com

In the early 1900s, King Rama VI envisioned a wondrous utopia called Dusit Thani. It is the inspiration for all that we do.” Thus, Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui, Dusit International’s founder and First Lady of Hospitality, declared in 1949. With her question, “Why shouldn’t I be the one to build it?” she pioneered the legacy of bringing the unique heritage of Thai hospitality to the international stage today, changing the face of the industry forever.

Sixty years later, whether your needs are business or leisure or you opt for sanctuary or feast, you are offered an oasis of wonder on earth located right in the heart of the city of Dubai, dubbed the Land of Dreams. Welcome to Dusit Thani Dubai, the iconic five-star hotel that combines Arabian luxury with Thai design touches. As a Friend of Thailand awardee for international media, I certainly salute this synergy.

Napoleon Bonaparte once proclaimed “The word ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist.” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who inspires people to reach for the stars, certainly agreed. Goals are simply defined as dreams with set deadlines. If the mind can conceive it, you can believe it will be done here in Dubai. It is a country where superlatives are common  it has the largest airport, largest shopping malls with dancing fountains, indoor aquarium and snow ski slope, the world’s greatest concentration of construction machines, most exciting new buildings per square kilometer, the world’s biggest man-made island, world’s largest indoor gold souk, the horse race with the richest prize purse and  last but not least  the world’s most astonishing tower with 124 floors, the sky-rocketing Burj Khalifa, a building that simply dwarfs all its predecessors.

From the executive lounge of our favorite hotel in the city, the Dusit Thani Dubai is the only hotel from which one can enjoy fabulous unobstructed views of the city’s most popular attraction, the Burj Khalifa. Our dear friend Millie Romualdez-Culanag Dusit Dubai’s winsome revenue manager, shared with us the triumph of this architectural marvel, a precious gift of unity and harmony among the UAE. More than just the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa is an unprecedented example of international cooperation, symbolic beacon of progress, and an emblem of the evolving, dynamic and prosperous Middle East.

The Burj Khalifa’s observatory on the 124th floor, aptly called “At The Top,” offers unrivaled vistas from the azure waters of the Gulf to the golden sand dunes of the Arabian Desert and beyond. Kiran Kor, senior coordinator for sales and marketing for “At The Top,” led us to the enlightening multimedia presentation that chronicles Dubai’s exotic history and the fascinating story of Burj Khalifa. From the reception area in the spectacular world’s grandest and luxurious Dubai Mall, take the 65-meter-long “travelator” that transports you through time, from the earliest days of Dubai to the present. Moving at 10 meters per second, adrenalin surges during your vertical ascent to the observation deck in a high-speed elevator. Dramatically, the floor-to-ceiling glass walls reveal awesome 360-degree views of the city, desert and ocean. At night, dazzling lights and stars illumine the mise en scène leaving you spellbound. Check out their special telescopes that allow virtual time-travel visions of the scenes beyond and below.

Equally mind-boggling is the fact that the tour of the Burj Khalifa starts from the ground floor of the Dubai Mall, whose tagline is “Welcome to everything.” The region’s premier shopping is a lifestyle and entertainment destination with more than 1,200 stores and a host of world-class attractions. The Dubai Mall, barely five minutes away from Dusit Dubai, is a unique venue where a 21st-century gold souk is set off against the world-class Dubai Aquarium. My youngest sister Yvonne even donned a scuba diving suit and joined an adventurous group that fed the sharks inside the aquarium.

With the capacity to hold 10 million liters of water, Dubai Aquarium inside the Dubai Mall encompasses the marvels of the ocean ?oor and its diverse collections of marine life. With tanks measuring 51 by 20 by 11 meters, it features the world’s largest viewing panel  32.8m wide and 8.3m high  and has landed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Dubai Aquarium has more than 33,000 living animals, representing more than 85 species including over 400 sharks and manta rays combined. Other attractions include the Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest dancing fountain that shoots water to heights of more than 500 feet. Another attraction is the Spice Souk that brims with aromatic spices from India and across the Middle East.

Back at the Dusit Dubai, we enjoyed the lavish breakfast of freshly baked pita bread with hummus, moutabal, feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, honeyed bread and butter pudding, thick creamy yoghurt with Dusit Dubai’s gregarious Leon Salinel and Nattira Anakasiri. One notable feature of the hotel is its unique room key which takes the shape of the architectural design of its building. A popular landmark that magnificently stands out, when you show the key to the limousine driver, they know it’s the Dusit Thani Dubai hotel.

Chanin Donavanik, CEO of Dusit International said, “Our distinct world-renowned brand of Thai hospitality has captivated thousands of tourists and travelers from the Middle East, particularly the UAE. This successful growth is an exciting opportunity for us to bring Dusit legendary brand and unique Thai hospitality to the region. Epicurean excellence beckons here. From the royal courts of old Siam to present-day Thailand, Royal Thai cuisine has always been an integral part of Thai culture. Benjarong at Dusit Thani Dubai offers authentic Royal Thai cuisine in a traditional setting, complemented by gracious Thai hospitality.” The spicy tom yang goong soup, shrimps with garlic and black pepper, duck curry, fish cakes, Thai fried rice, sticky rice with mango is simply delightful.

My dear friend Ligaya Tabirao of Meteor Tours, arranged our unforgettable desert safari experience through Dubai’s White Sands Tours and Travel proprietor Sunny Augustine. My sisters Michelle and Yvonne led our group in the spirit of girls-just-wanna-have-fun aboard a sturdy Land Cruiser as our experience guide/driver Asero took us on a thrilling journey through the dunes to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. We hopped out of the vehicle resembling nomadic Bedouins but, in the modern-day version, we looked like a pictorial straight out of the latest Sex and the City film. Like giggly collegialas, we posed by the dramatic caramel-colored sand dunes, shared the limelight with the doe-eyed genteel camels and partook of traditional Arabic food like balaleet, (sweet noodles with egg), grilled meats, dates, chebab (traditional Arabic bread) and ghawa (Arabic coffee) in the middle of the Arabian Desert. After watching the surreal sunset as the dunes turned crimson, we looked forward to the pampering and loving ways of the gracious staff at the Dusit Thani Dubai who put an extra Patchi chocolate treat on our pillows for our saccharine ending.

Before bringing Yvonne and Michelle to Dubai recently, I was an accidental tourist in Dubai October last year. I represented our jewelry company Miladay Jewels in the jewelry trade shows in Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, eager to learn new trends in design and production. There was a one-week gap between the scheduled events in Dubai and Istanbul. Being the only Filipino passport holder in the international group of delegates, I had to stay in Dubai alone for a week while the rest of my colleagues flew to Hong Kong. Once I leave the UAE, I can only return after 40 days to this wonderland. It feels like a home away from home, being in a haven where our fellowmen work and extend the gracious hospitality we are well loved for.

For a family destination for our New Year’s sojourn, this is certainly an entry in the utopian travel ledger. A place that every member of the family, from the young ones to the “young once,” will certainly savor. All diverse interests and preferences will be satisfied with a fine array of international cuisine to suit all palates as well as culture, adventure, entertainment, shopping, architecture, places of praise and worship like Victory Christian Fellowship, Catholic churches and more. One is spoiled for choices.

Boarding the impressive Dubai Metro, that resembles a speeding luxurious bullet train, I feel I am in transit to space as I gaze at the cloud-busting Burj Khalifa and recall that just 50 years ago, this was all desert land. It is high time to visit Dubai, a utopia where the unbelievable becomes believable. After all, there really is no such thing as impossible.

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E-mail info.dtdu@dusit.com or check their website www.Dusit.com for Dusit Thani Dubai.

Call Ligaya Tabirao, GM of Meteor Philippines Inc., for visa, travel and tour arrangements to Dubai at 687-4596/687-1743, 0918-9125177 or e-mail meteorphils@gmail.com.

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