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Published: January 23rd 2016
Day 1 - Tuesday 19th January 2016
Off finally on a new adventure nearly 3 years since our return from South America. Our plans for our new trip took lots of twists and turns before we finally settled on one that we both felt happy with and to add a bit of sparkle to it we opted for some time in perhaps the most opulent over the top city in the world – Dubai.
Our trip started like all others before and perhaps like nearly everyone’s trip, an early morning rise and a taxi to the airport. All went well till we went to check our luggage in and get our boarding pass. All of a sudden a one way ticket to the UAE was a problem, the guy checking us in questioned us why we did not have a return ticket and where we were going to next. We casually as we could answered Oman, Iran, Central Asia and then soften it by saying onto Europe while he tapped around on his computer. It actually felt like he was trying to hold us up while he did some security checks on us,
did he think we were off to Syria? He eventually viewed our onward plane tickets to Iran and flicked through our heavily stamped passport. We both for a while saw us being rejected, interviewed by the Federal Police and getting a taxi home but luckily we were given our passes and a green light to the start of our next adventure.
The flight like all economy flights was a shocker. A 9 hour flight to Hong Kong and then another 9 hours to Dubai got us there at 10pm. Despite feeling shell shocked and in a bad state of sleep deprivation we managed to manoeuvre through passport control and pick up our bags. Trying to leave the terminal several guys were trying to hassle us to take their taxi. Showed one of them the details on our hotel and he suggested a fee of 250 Dirham (A$100), nice try. Next one quoted 175 Dirham, but we kept walking and outside got an official taxi to the hotel for 40 Dirham, probably still too expensive but boy did that guy get us to the hotel in record time. Knew he was in a hurry when he nearly took
out a crowd on a pedestrian crossing at the airport, and one of them was a woman pushing a pram. He pushed his car up to nearly 100 km/hr as he roared through the traffic and along the way nearly tore the side out of another car before belting the mirror off yet another.
Splurged on a nice hotel for our first few nights, staying at the Landmark Grand Hotel in the suburb of Rigga. It is no 5 star resort that most people consider or imagine when you think of Dubai, but our budget wouldn’t quite stretch that far. The room is large and clean and we soon had the contents of our backpacks strewn everywhere before finally crashing into bed around 1am. Day 2 - Wednesday 20th January 2016
Despite getting no sleep yesterday and getting to bed late last night we were awake at 7, and keen to start checking out Dubai. The breakfast at the hotel was a good surprise, with heaps of variety and great coffee. I nearly did a back flip when I saw bacon was available but it was actually a mock
bacon made from beef.
The plan for today was for us to just ease into the trip with a walk around our end of town. The hotel we are staying with is in the suburb of Rigga, which is on the Dubai Creek and wedged between the airport and the suburb of Deira which is sort of an old school trading area. Doesn’t exactly sound flashy but it is an area that makes for interesting walking.
First on the agenda was picking up bus tickets to Muscat for Friday, probably could have got the hotel to organise it but the bus station was only a twenty minute walk away so off we went. The guy at the ticket office for the “Oman National Transport Company” could speak some English so there was no major drama with getting them and it was a great first walk so it was a win-win. From here we backtracked a bit and walked onto the spice souq. The traffic is fairly horrendous and it can be a bit of a battle to cross streets, but there are a few overhead bridges and some are actually air conditioned. Seems like
a huge waste of power on a day like today when the temperature is a beautiful 24 degrees but come the middle of summer and I bet crowds would gather inside the bridge to escape the outside heat. In this city even the bus shelters have air conditioning! For all the traffic and being surrounded by huge high rises, hotels, shopping centres and restaurants there was hardly anyone else walking the streets, it all seemed rather surreal.
Soon discovered where all the people were when we got to the spice Souq. Stupid me thought it was going to be a sort of ye olde spice markets but it was just a touristy bazaar selling souvenirs, trinkets and the occasional spice. The hassle from desperate store owners was a bit much, and as much as they annoy you, you do feel sorry for them, when there is so many of them selling exactly the same thing to disinterested tourists. Wandered onto the gold market which was a bit more interesting, and there was some truly dazzling pieces for sale. Would have been curious to find out the price on some of the jewellery but not sure how hard
you would need to haggle and how much of a tourist/sucker tax is applied to the pricing. It was great diversion walking around staring in at all the gold but eventually the hassle from all the hawkers trying to sell watches drove us out.
Walked back to the hotel along the foreshore of the creek where dozens of the old timber dhows were being loaded up. Most of the cargo was wrapped up large cardboard boxes, but we did spot truck tires and fridges. It was a long hot walk home and we made a diversion to a large mall near the hotel where we picked up some supplies. For dinner we found a restaurant about 15 minutes away that had a great selection of Middle Eastern and Indian food. Got a great feed with soft drinks for about $30 AUD. Day 3 - Thursday 21st January 2016
Up early and pigged out on the breakfast buffet once again. Today we are off to the flashier end of town with a visit to the Dubai Mall, but no limousine for us, we are taking the Metro. Our hotel is
located almost next door to the “Union” Metro station so it was only a short walk away. It was a little confusing working out what ticket to buy but thankfully the ticket seller sorted it out for us. Trains on the Metro line run every 5 minutes and is generally packed tight with people. We didn’t get the first train that came along as it was just too crowded but the next one was a bit more manageable. Our trip started underground but we were soon travelling on an elevated line where you could get a good view of the business end of town. This isn’t the largest city in the world but it is probably the fastest built city. It is claimed that at the peak of construction in 2008, there were 30,000 construction cranes in Dubai, which constituted 25% of the world’s crane population. I had read that the GFC slowed things down a lot, but from what we could see from the train, the foot is back on the accelerator. The thing that is amazing about the level of construction is remembering that this city is built on the edge of a desert and that every piece
of this city was transported in here. Along with material, the thousands of workers who immigrated here that had to be fed and housed, water had to be sourced, hospitals, schools, etc, etc. You can sort of see how once this city started moving there was almost no stopping it. It is truly hard to believe that the bulk of this city wasn’t here 40 years ago, except that the skyline is filled with cranes and you sense that this may still all be the beginning of even bigger things.
At the present the pinnacle of all this construction work is the Burj Khalifa, the World’s tallest building and the adjoining Dubai Mall regarded as the largest mall in the world (based on floor area). The mall has over 1200 shops over 4 floors and also has its very own indoor amusement park, aquarium, dinosaur skeleton and ice rink. There is a great selection of shops and we spent several hours wandering around window shopping. Michele was tempted on a top end handbag with a top end price but figured it didn’t really match her backpack so she restrained herself. Unlike Michele I have never been much
of a shopper so it was with a sense of relief to escape the confines of hell and go outside to gawk at the world’s tallest building. Depending on who you are the Burj Khalifa is either just a Freudian phallic symbol, or a magnificent piece of engineering. To me it is possibly one of the grandest buildings ever built and the architects did a fine job in creating a piece of beauty that can be seen from any point in the city. Opposite the Burj was the burnt out wreck of “The Address” which was half covered in shadecloth to hide the worst of the damage from the New Years Eve fire. Looking at the mess it was hard to believe no one was killed, little did we realise at this point that we would soon be caught in our own (small) fire drama.
Contemplated sticking around to have dinner at one of the restaurants around the mall but figured we were best to save our dollars and our legs were sore so we headed home. Had dinner at the same place as last night before picking up some supplies for our early bus trip tomorrow.
The early starts and long walks sort of caught up with us and we were in bed by 9, which was a good thing because at 3.30 in the morning we were woken by a muffled siren and a voice saying something. Initially we just thought it was next doors clock alarm going off but after a few dazed seconds we realized that voice was saying something about “evacuate”. Damn that’s a fire alarm! Jumped out of bed and despite all our common sense we threw on our clothes and boots first before heading out the door. We were on the 5th
floor and as we descended the fire stairs I could see the corridor on the 4th
floor full of smoke so this was no drill. When we made it down to the ground we all stood around in the foyer with some of the other guests while the staff ran around calling at each other trying to figure out what was happening. After only 10 minutes we were told we could go back to our room and that there was no danger. There hadn’t been any fire brigade and it was just the young staff that was sending
us back to bed so we were a little concerned, but we needed our sleep. Couldn’t use the lifts as they were still in lock down so then had to trudge up 5 levels of stairs, which had us wide awake. On the 4th
floor smoke was still lingering around and it distinctly smelt like apple tobacco so we guessed that some of the guests were smoking and may have set the carpet or something else on fire. By the time we got back to bed it was nearly 4am and we contemplated just sitting up but instead made an attempt at sleeping in preparation for our early bus to Muscat Oman.
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