Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dubai and Hatta (Oman)

I've just spent two weeks in Dubai, very much enjoyed the sunshine and warmth after Europe!! Lots of days were spent at the beach lazing in the sun. Initially the hotel shuttle took us to Jumeirah Beach Park which costs 5 dirhams to get in (about 1 pound), then we discovered that there was a free public beach right next door which became our new beach haunt! The shuttles were good, and the first hotel was about 2-3km away from both the beach and the mall if you missed them! The second place we stayed at had a rooftop pool so we used that instead.

I found a CS event to walk around Old town which we joint up with and really enjoyed. We saw the fish markets, Gold souk , caught a dhow boat across the creek, went to the Dubai museum which I think is the best local museum I have ever been with, especially for the price. In the fish market the men were trying to sell me squid, fish, and lobsters and then in the gold souk I got hassled about buying gold, watches, fancy handbags, slippers and all sorts of things.

We made a friend on the CS walk who invited us the next day to drive out to Hatta (Oman) with him and his sister which we did. I have never seen mountains anything like these before! It looks just like someone got a wheelbarrow full of dirt and tipped it over in piles!! We drove out to the Wadi (dry river bed) and had a bit of a look around. I probably would have gone for a swim but there were a few local guys sitting above watching with their camera phones and I didn't particularly want to end up on youtube, so passed on that offer.Very arid area, but beautiful in its own way.

The taxi drivers were often quite chatty and good to find out information about the city. One guy told us about the "fake grass and fake flowers" everywhere, and how they put it down overnight, put chemicals and water ontop, leave them for a few weeks then pull out and re-do. I'm assuming that is because of the harsh environment that they don't last that long. They were actually real! Another driver explained one day how there were so many fancy cars around, but no one paid cash, the bank always pays (with loans).

Ever night between the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) and Dubai Mall there are fountain shows, that change every 30 minutes between about 1800-2200. Managed to see all of 2 shows, and then bits and pieces of a few others. We didn't realise at first that they had different music for each show! One of the shows we saw was choreographed to Michael Jackson Thriller!

Dancing Fountain below Burj Khalifa

The malls in Dubai are insane they have so much to do and see (or shop if you're into that sort of thing). Dubai mall is so big it even has an ice rink and an aquarium in the middle of it!! You can see more of the aquarium from the outside (it is 3 levels high) but by going inside you get to walk through the tunnel and go through a bit of an underwater zoo. They had all sorts of fish and water - born creatures including a bunch of penguins, a big burmese python we got to hold and even massive piranhas in an open tank - OH&S health and safety hazard perhaps??!

Attempt of panoramic shot of the aquarium in Dubai Mall

We did alot of walking around Dubai, partially to save money and partially because it made sense because the layout of the roads often meant that you had to drive 5km out of your way to turn around and go in the direction you want. Even though taxi’s are quite cheap (about $2-5 per trip on average) it does add up after a while. Right at the end we began to use the metro and found that to be extremely worth while. To get to the airport (about a 30 minute trip) cost about a dollar!

Burj Al Arab 7 star hotel

The most notable walk that we did however, was definitely the 7 hour walk we did early on in our visit. We didn’t actually intend to walk that far, but discovered by accident that every single map available in Dubai is EXTREMELY out of proportion!!! We thought that it would take us about 2 hours when we looked at the map.We started out with the thought of walking down to the palm to see what that is all about and if we could see the islands from the mainland (you can't). Turns out that the palm is just all residential apartments, hotels and private properties. We then ended up walking to the Emirates mall (circled) and after dinner caught a taxi home. I think it was at that point that we realised just how far we had walked as it took aaaaaaages!! The emirates mall is where SkiDubai is - a massive indoor snow centre. I forgot to take a picture of it though, and in the end didn't give it a go.

Dubai map (not to scale) of where we walked in 1 day - 7hrs

On the last day in Dubai, we put my pack in a locker and wandered around the Mall, looking at shops, playing with all the toys in the toyshop.  We were going to watch more of the fountain displays except they were cancelled for the night because of high winds. I accidently threw out my locker receipt with a pile of other receipts at the end of the night. I only realised I had done this while having a coffee just before picking it up!! I was a bit worried, but luckily they did give it back after showing my ID and describing it and showing my signature!

Playing with toys in the toyshop

It is an interesting place, but I doubt whether I will return. I think it was good to see what it was like, but I found that I got bored quickly as once you explore the malls (and there are MANY malls in Dubai), see a bit of the cultural aspects, there isn’t a huge amount to do unless you have lots and lots of money to splash around.

Apparently it is nothing for an individual to spend 400 dirhams a night (at a pub/club) which is roughly about 80 pounds. It was interesting speaking with expats from various nationalities living in Dubai. The majority of the time, it seemed that money was their motivation for being there, to get a bigger car, a bigger house, fancy clothes, fancy bags. I’m not really a shopping person and malls tend to get boring after a while. Seriously, I got stressed out one day when we were trying to buy some thongs/ flipflops/sandels as I didn’t want to spend more than about $5 and couldn’t find anything below $20-30!! Not a shopper. Just seems like a waste of money most of the time.

The flight back to Australia went relatively smoothly. A bit of turbulence, but other than me not being able to sleep, the flight being 25 hours with 2 stopovers in china it went pretty well. I was getting pretty antsy by the end of it and stood in the aisle alot! Anyway watching probably thought I was a bit crazy because I could just not sit still any longer!! It is a long way. But I made it.