Published: October 6th 2012October 6th 2012
As all my photos are being uploaded to Flickr, I'm just putting two types of photos on the blog pages. The first type I'm calling 'My View' - and will be whatever view I find myself with while penning the blog. Admittedly, this one came not while writing the bulk of it (hotel bar), but instead from where it was finished and edited, up on the rooftop pool.
I write this opening entry of my second volume of travel blogging from a hotel bar. Yes, Dubai has an uncanny nack of forcing even the freshest faced travellers into the dingy habitat of the depressed businessman and opportunist prostitute. Having paid over £6 for the pint in front of me, it's with a steely determination to make it last that I aim to write this entire entry between sips.
The flight over was pretty decent. Gatwick was pleasantly deserted, although the plane (a B777-300er for those interested) was full. Chernobyl Diaries proved a poor choice on the inflight entertainment front, but standards were swiftly improved by the cinematic tour-de-force that was 'Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story'. I didn't get much sleep, but who could after having heard in excruciating detail the meteoric rise of former Watford defender DeMerit?
Thankfully, we got early check in at our hotel - the Premier Inn and napped until about lunchtime. It may not be the Burj, but no complaints accommodation-wise. Spotless room, Sky news, free internet, and a view over the airport. I'm pretty much in my element.
But what of Dubai itself? Those of you
The second category of photo will be Room View. Whatever abode Soph and I find ourselves in. They definitely won't all be as comfortable as Dubai's offering.
who know me will know that I'll go out of my way to justify a shortcoming in a destination, or convince others to look beyond their prejudices. The problem with Dubai is that, it really is a bit shit.
Dubai will be the most expensive place we will visit by some distance. But what do you get for your money? Is it naturally beautiful? Certainly not. A man-made gem? Not unless you like dusty concrete highways and a disjointed skyline made up of wholly separate skyscrapers. What about ease of travel? Well the metro system is undoubtedly efficient, and reasonably priced, but that is only so good if it doesn't take you anywhere you want to go. Every single point of interest seems to be a metro plus taxi ride away. The system that appears to run along the coast, actually runs parallel to the coast three kilometres inland. This highlights the relative difficulty in navigating around Dubai. Maps of the place are highly deceptive as to scale, and being such a long, thin place, it's easy to miscalculate the proximity of locations.
You want culture? Well you won't find it here unless your idea of culture is rampant consumerism. Sophie and I enjoyed a walk around the gold and spice souks, and along Dubai creek which felt as authentic as Dubai could offer - but the reality is that much of what we saw was there for the benefit of tourists.
Friendly locals? Not a chance. Dubai is populated by migrant workers from the sub-continent who look like they long for their homes in Delhi or Colombo (and who could blame them?). The native population meanwhile is, in our experience, leering, rude and pretty classless. They're like the lottery winner who buys a pink Range Rover because they don't know what else to spend their money on.
In fact, Dubai itself is a big pink Range Rover. Expensive and ultimately pointless. I have no doubt plenty of people come here and enjoy it. But you can enjoy fantastic luxury in any location. For the independent traveller however, free from confides of a 5* compound, it all feels a bit soulless. It seems apt that our highlight so far was spending sunset at the rooftop pool of our hotel. The views (and hopefully photographs) were awesome. It was a great way to cool down after a long, hot, dusty Dubai day.
All of this isn't to say we aren't having a good time. We're young, free, and away for 4 months - we're having a great time. But travel wouldn't be travel if every place was as good as the next. I've been enough places to make an objective assessment as to where one such place falls on the world scale. The fact is, on first impressions, Dubai doesn't deserve to be as high as its PR machine would have you believe.
I'll check in again on the way to Hong Kong, by which time a trip up the World's tallest building, and a few more poolside sunsets may have tempered my view on Dubai slightly.