Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Aurora Hunting: Exploring Doha & Review of Ramada Encore Doha


We arrived in Doha around midnight with our flights to Kuala Lumpur only departing the next day at 8 pm. We purposely planned in this long layover to allow us to see Doha since we've never visited before. Immigration formalities through Doha was relatively quick with visa on arrival available for Malaysians albeit at a cost of ~$30 USD per person that was settled through credit card.

There were no Hiltons or Accor hotels that we usually stay in available in Doha so we had to look at other options. The prices of hotels like the Sheraton and W which were in the newer parts of Doha were beyond our budget so we settled for the Ramada Encore instead. As usual with our non Hilton and Accor hotel bookings, we booked through giving us another one night credit so towards a free night.

Ramada Encore - The colorful building in the picture.

We had pre-arranged a pick up from the airport with the hotel that costs a reasonable ~$15 USD. It was probably more expensive than taking a taxi directly at the airport but with an midnight arrival, we figured the convenience of someone waiting for us to take us to the hotel was worth the money. On arrival at the hotel, check-in was prompt with a friendly front desk staff welcoming us. He briefly explained the hotel facilities which included a gym and pool and reminded us that breakfast was included in our rate. Pretty good service to start with..

First impressions on the room were good. It was clean, modern and new. We were happy that the bed was on the firm side allowing a good night's sleep to follow.

The gym was small but had enough equipment if one wanted to work out. The indoor pool on the top floor was not only a nice escape from Doha heat but provided some nice views of old town Doha.

After breakfast, we walked to the nearby Souk. The walk would have been an easy 15 minute walk if not for the searing heat. Large parts of the Souk was actually nicely air-conditioned which made it much more bearable when we got there. The Souk sold a large range of things including clothes, shirts, gifts, pots, pans, etc but nothing really stood out for us to buy.  There were also a couple of restaurants including a Haagen Daz which seem like a good place to hang out and people watch when it got cooler later during the day.

Pictures of the Souk:

After a much needed shower when we got back from the Souk, we checked out of the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon at the City Center Mall. The mall is a ~15 minute cab ride away in the "newer" part of Doha allowing us to visit that part of town. The mall itself wasn't too exciting but was the best option to spent the rest of the day considering the heat outside.

Overall, Doha honestly wasn't that exciting. It kinds of reminds of us Dubai but without the bling and huge malls and other touristy attractions. It's always good to visit some place new but we were disappointed with Doha. It's not on our top places to come back too and even if we transit through Doha in the future, don't think we're going to make an effort to some out of the airport especially with the stiff $30 USD visa fee.

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