A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Dubai

Day 1 – 2nd May 2009

overcast -42 °C
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After a gruelling 14 hour flight there was still surprisingly some excitement left in our weary minds. A taste of the obnoxious and inconsiderate on the plane was potentially a sign of what lay ahead. A relatively pain free ride through customs and the dreaded baggage carousel had us headed toward the exit in a streamline towards the taxi rank. The doors open and like a knockout blow to the head, the 42 degree temperature and relative humidity of what could only be described at the time as 400%, hit home with intensity. The skies were grey and murky. A sandstorm had hit the little old town of Dubai and the infamous skyline a mere blur through the haze.

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Arrived at the hotel, dropped our bags in the room and headed straight to the bar for a coldie. The hotel afforded us, well one of us a free drink on arrival, the other $15 after conversion… welcome to Dubai.

Vicki noticed a feline friend at the door of the downstairs bar and in a way only familiar to those that know Vicki, she kindly requested the staff let the Cat indoors. There was never a chance of failure. Now we were sharing our beers with the local Arab community, dressed in their customary outfits and enjoying a cold beer on a not so cold day and our little black, undernourished feline friend.

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Shower… ooh the shower, could possibly have been the best ever despite the distinct lack of water pressure.

Time for food. Our cab driver could not understand a word of English. My first opportunity to wax authentic Arab. I busted a rhyme and in no time (several attempts) we were on our way out for some local cuisine.

Again my Arabic vernacular was put to good use (or tested depending on your view), their dialect was strange (maybe they thought the same) but we got what we wanted. Vicki asked if smoking was allowed. A cheeky grin from the waiter then a screen around the table blocking us from public view and an ashtray appeared suddenly. Out of sight out of mind I guess.

What a feast, how the hell were two people meant to get through the bounty that had been presented before us? We did alright, I won’t say we ate it all but came as close as two hungry jetlagged foreigners could.

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Cramps. The most uncomfortable cramps you could ever experience and it could only mean one thing. You know and I know where I was headed. I’ll spare the details but lets say my conventional western toilet paper firewall was no match for the toilet seat free bowl. Just in time.

Shopping. Emirates mall. Home of the collagen injection. Mutton everywhere, top heavy with camel like lips. No wonder the western world has a bad wrap in these parts. These women were so far up themselves you could walk up and pluck an organ off their lifeless, self-indulgent bodies. Otherwise a very impressive mall.

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The cosmetics counter. Vicki’s relentless pursuit of the ‘perfect’ moisturiser lead us to a nice natured, gentle Lebanese bloke operating the Estee Lauder counter, Wassim. I don’t believe he was gay. C’mon there are no gay Arabs. He paid her the normal amount of attention due to a prospective buyer but then as if he could smell the Lebo blood in me, queried and identified my origins. The landscape changed a little now, we conversed for a few moments in Arabic then he began showering Vicki with samples and testers. All the good stuff too. Lots of goodies for a fixed price. He spoke to the doors of his den of treats: “Eftah Sim Sim”, he whispered. Translated “Open Sesame”.

Ski Dubai. Yep, these guys have money. An artificial ski resort inside a shopping mall. Very believable. I suppose if I too had obscene amounts of money and lived in a desert, I’d probably create my own snow filled happy place too.

Quick beer by the pool and off to bed after a visit from the maintenance crew about the water pressure.

Posted by samandvic 02.05.2009 14:17 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Dubai

Day 2 – 3rd May 2009

sunny 30 °C
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Coma. Coming back to the living was surprisingly easy. I may have fooled my mind into believing I had adjusted by heading straight to the gym but the pillows under my eyes told a very different story.

Burj Al Arab. Probably the most impressive piece of modern architecture to date. Exclusive to say the least. Words can not do it justice.

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Wild Wadi. What better way to shake off the jetlag and any remnants of our working lives than to enter an aquatic wonderland filled with waterslides and flow riders? Couldn’t have been more right. One of the slides propelled you to speeds in excess of 85km/hr. Glad I waited 30 minutes before swimming. Park Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

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Jumeira Madinat. We met Greg’s friend Brynn for Dinner. A beautiful setting and it was very clear that every Dirham spent in development was being slowly sucked from the unsuspecting patrons. Disappointed with my choice on the menu. I’m sorry but no fucken room for disappointment with those prices. Company was great and the setting was lovely. Good night.

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Posted by samandvic 03.05.2009 14:44 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Dubai

Day 3 – 4th May 2009 – Vicki’s Birthday

30 °C
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Gym again in the morning. What a way to start the day without having to worry about getting to work late.

Vicki’s Day. Off to the Gold, Textile and Spice Sooqs. Sooq means shop in Arabic so no wonder Vicki’s desire to visit on her birthday.

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Lunch. Nice little Arabic looking café with a private upstairs area that allowed you to dine in your own ottoman filled room. I was mixing it with the Arabs well now. I had made friends this time. The owner invited me to visit him in the Yemen with all living expenses accounted for. He also refused to accept payment for lunch. A nice gesture. I feel connected now. I’m in with the locals.

Sooqs. Are we in the Middle East or the subcontinent? Harassing, dishonest merchants all peddling their shotty merchandise at exaggerated prices. To be honest, it was difficult to even meet a local of Arab origin. They had infested the markets and seemed to dominate the population. Annoying. The boat ride across the ‘creek’ was nice. The gold sook’s a Mecca for gold lovers. My Mum and Sister Manel would have had a field day and certainly would have given the fuckers a run for their money. Still a good day. Lots of haggling and a few trinkets to boot.

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Taxi. What a dick. This guy took us to the wrong hotel and of course wouldn’t admit responsibility. I told him that I would be happy to pay the charge on the meter if he dropped us at the CORRECT hotel. He refused to stop the meter. He thought it perfectly alright to pay double the fare. The ultimatum put simply was that he stop the meter, drop us off at our hotel and get paid or stop the car, let us out and get nothing. He opted for the latter. Lots of shouting and honking of the horn until we just jumped into another cab. He rushed to the driver door of the second cab and continued yelling and screaming. I kindly offered to give him the option again but he declined. His parting words were: “Fucken no pay fuck”.

Desert Safari

Hummer. Picked up at the hotel by a big black Hummer. I hate the things on common roads but this vehicle was built for just such an occasion so it seemed ok. We shared the car with a nice couple from the palms, Jen and Fon (Belgian and Thai).

Screaming over the dunes at high speed. Steep drop offs and sharp turns made it feel like a roller coaster but one that went for an hour. I loved it, a veritable treat for any boy with a propensity for speed and thrill. The girls struggled. Their intestines churned with every turn before finally giving way to a mandatory pit stop allowing for some projectile vomiting. Wipe of the mouth and we’re off again. A bit of sand boarding, a camel ride and on to the desert camp for a bbq and some belly dancing.

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Shisha. Included in the price but not provided. I insisted and we got but not easily, not without a fight and not without an extremely disgruntled driver. What the fuck were we doing with a Sri Lankan driving us through the dunes of Dubai anyway? Greedy, selfish and no Customer focus. A wanker in the end.

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Not tainted by the driver’s lack of etiquette, we enjoyed each others company and the series of scheduled (and non-scheduled) events then headed back for a drink at the Palms with Jen and Fon where Jen began a lecture in effective email management. A topic sparked by his constant and dependent use of the ‘Blackberry’. I must admit, he had some good tips but our Blackberrys were locked away in the bottom of a drawer back in Australia. Exactly where they shall remain. The Palm village is a beautiful little spot and again we were reminded of how much money had been pumped into modern day Dubai. Cocktails were good and so was the company. Thanks again Jen for grabbing the bill. We’ll repay the gesture one day.

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Atlantis on the Palm. Magnificent splendour and opulence… you could also call it extravagance but really whatever you call it this hotel was a treat. The indoor aquarium and outdoor pool area were showstoppers. Nice way to end the night. No more aggression or controversy.

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Posted by samandvic 04.05.2009 15:00 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Dubai

Day 4 - May 5th 2009

sunny 30 °C
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After a lazy morning we made our way to Dubai International Airport in a Chauffeur driven Lexus (yeah, yeah). We couldn’t help but start to feel a little sorry for Dubai as we headed out. What they have tried to build is truly unique and quite bold to say the least. Dubai was an extreme example of the old meeting the new. Pre and post oil if you will. The immense elaborate structures were amazing but the effect of the global economic downturn could cripple the realisation of their dream. They took incredible risks and lets hope they can complete what they set out to achieve.

The influx of help from the subcontinent unfortunately does not compliment the dream of creating a tourist haven comparable to no other. We found that money took precedence over all else with the imported help. Genuine warmth and basic hospitality was absent from any form of service provided unless you were in the exclusive spots but boy did they make you pay for that. The locals we encountered were a pleasure to deal with.

Posted by samandvic 05.05.2009 15:04 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Istanbul

Day 1 - 5th May 2009

sunny 18 °C
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Plane ride of only 4ish hours cowered in insignificance when compared to the 14 hour flight to Dubai. We arrived relatively fresh and ready to experience the city. It didn’t have the skyline of Dubai, relatively flat as a whole but we almost instantly felt the aura of the city once known as Constantinople. Contrast between structures built by the Ottomans and the Romans was most apparent but you could also see remnants of other Dynasties.

Taxi. Talk about a moustache, these guys can grow them! What a guy, not much English but he made up for it in effort. “Hotel in Istanbul? 20 Million people in Istanbul. Maybe 1 Million hotels in Istanbul (slight exaggeration). Sultanahmet? Cankurtaran? Beyazit? Beyogli? 20 Million in Istanbul. Very big… maybe one million hotels” This went on for a while (in a cheeky yet polite way). “Not sure, dude. Can we just call them?”

Hotel. Small room but great location and the price was right.

Kebap (kebab). Could have mistaken the place for Sydney Rd Melbourne for a minute there. Kebab heaven. Many choices and very cheap! What a welcome change from Dubai. Our first meal including drinks and tip: $20. You beauty!

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We got ripped off buying fake perfume. We knew it was fake and thought we’d buy it to ‘fabreeze’ our clothing. We simply paid too much. Nothing too drastic but it was good to be grounded before hitting the Bazaaars.

Shisha (water pipe) or 'Nargileh' as they call it here (Arabs refer to it as Argileh). Yep, as always take an Arabic work, whack a letter in front of it and call it your own. I didn’t go there with the locals. I read a bit about their National pride before coming here and didn’t want to disappear this early in the trip. I’ll save the trash talking for Aiden and Engin.

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Eriwan Nargileh. What a gem of a find. A couple of minutes from the hotel. It was like a community hall for Shisha smokers filled with hundreds of colourful, decorative artefacts. The building appeared to be historic (origin unknown). Sat with the locals, enjoyed my favourite apple flavoured Shisha and a cup of Turkish coffee. Awesome little haunt even for the non-Shisha smoker.

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Posted by samandvic 05.05.2009 15:07 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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