Finally after a very long wait and uncertainty by the U.A.E. our visas arrived by e-mail. After checking the legitamcy we started to breathe a little easier. We were even able to reserve a hotel room for the start of our adventure on the 18th of January.
A hotel has been reserved and maps have been printed frrom Google Earth, just to make sure that the taxi drivers don’t take advantage of us tourists to9 get from the airport to the hotel.
Monday, January 17
Albert picked me up at 10 am this morning for our drive to Vancouver. The drive was uneventful as the roads were dry. We stopped in Princeton for an early lunch then carried on. At around 4 pm we arrived at the King George Aviation airport. Arnold was waiting there for us, so the three of us continued on to richmond, where we has a room reserved at the La Quinta hotel. After settling in the three us us went out for dinner at the Mongolian Grill. Then Arnold returned home and we wet back to the hotel as it was too wet to go for a walk. It was too late any way and we were afraid to walk to far as everything in the area is written in Chinese.
At 8.30 pm Albert realised that he had forgotten his camera in the car. So a quick call to Arnold to see if there was a way to get it back to the hotel, now we wait and see if Arnold can get it back to the hotel.
Tuesday, January 18th
We had a good sleep last night, a quick breakfast and a shuttle ride to the airport was completed without any hassle. While going through the security check, my brand new watch strap got stuck somehow on the sleeve of my jacket. That little incident broke the strap so now I have a pocket watch instead.
Our 11 ½ hour flight to Beijing went off without any problems other than arriving late in Beijing. There was to have been an hour lay-over here. Instead, we had some of the airport security personnel push us through the long line-ups as our flight to Dubai was waiting. It took less then 10 minutes to go from one plane to the other including the screening. We ran from one area, then down the stairs, through the screening onto a golf card and were rushed through the airport to our plane. The driver of the golf card even wanted us to pay him for the ride. We sort of told him to get it from the airport authority instead.
Once seated, we got ourselves ready for the 9 hour flight to Dubai. You know, 20 hours flying with no break does get a bit tiring.
Watching our flight path on the monitor, it seemed that we will be flying directly over Kabul, Afghanistan. Then over the northern border of Pakistan’ then eventually veering south to meet the northern shores of the UAE. Now to sit back and wait to see what type of a surprise our arrival in Dubai might bring if any.
First through their passport control, no problem, except that it was midnight. This mend that Al got through on the 19th of January and I on the 20th. The visas we bought worked great.
Next to pick up our luggage, so as we waited and watched the carousal go round and round we realized that there might be a problem. Alas, due to the rapid change that we made in Beijing, our luggage stayed there. Finally we had to make a report and hope for the best. The best they could due is hand us $50.00 each which we accepted of course, but the bad news was is that China Air comes in only every second day at around midnight. This means no luggage until Sat. morning. Oh well.
The Wednesday that was, does not really exist as we passed the International dateline while on board. There fore we will wake-up on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates or UAE on Thursday.
Thursday, January 20th
We awoke at 8 AM after only 4 hrs of sleep after a 20 hrs flight, but felt surprisingly refreshed.
By 9 we were ready for the town having just finished our breakfast. First thing to do is reconnoiter. We decided that the Metro would be the best way to go. By the way, the Metro, the only one in all of the Middle East was opened on the 9th second of the 9th minute of the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month in the year of 2009. Lenora and I usually buy a ticket on the Metro and saw no reason it couldn’t be done again. Our first ride brought us to the highest building in the world, the BURJ KHALIFA, over 828 meters high. We spend some time looking at it and wondering why, but came up with a similar answer that you get from a mountaineer when you ask them why they climb a mountain. Then we spend some time in one of the largest malls in the world, the BURJ DUBAI. It has over 1200 stores.
After that it was back to the hotel (3pm) for a rest and to decide our next move for tonight.
Friday, January 21, 2011,
The weather looked threatening this morning. Who ever it was that said it doesn’t rain in the dessert obviously has never been in the dessert. Again we took the Metro today only today we visited the Palm Island Jumeirah. We couldn’t take the Metro until after 1PM as today was Holy Day. Once at the bottom of the Palm tree we had to hire a taxi to get us the rest of the way, all the way up the trunk of the Palm to the very top. My gosh, is that palm tree ever large The island is 5miles by 5 miles. What a feat in engineering that must have been and it still is not 100% done. If you want to see opulence then you have to come here, this is really something else. Billions have been spent here, as well as in many of the other structures. On the way back we first took the mono-rail to get off the island, then a taxi and again the metro. I took many pictures for those of you that want to see them but they won’t be ready for a bit.
Having a quick look at the islands that form the world, I can see why they have not yet sold but a few. The bare islands depending on what part of the world you want to purchase, the cost goes from 10 million for the smallest to over 100 million and this is for the bare land, you still have to build your mansion.
Saturday, January 22
As soon as possible after we finished breakfast we walked to a travel agent to book our future flights to Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait before returning to Dubai. This has to be accomplished in the next two days.
From there we walked to the City Centre shopping mall to purchase tickets for the “Hop On, Hop Off” bus. This would be our goal for the day.
Just so you know and a few of you have asked, no, not everyone wears the traditional clothing. For that matter it doesn’t even reach 10% and that goes for both male and female. Today due to the influence of the western culture as well as tourism and other influences most people dress as you and me. I would think that 95 + % also speak fluent English although Arabic is their first language. In other words the country is bi-lingual which puts Canadians to shame. Almost like Europe where everyone speaks two, three or four languages.
For those of you that thought that Dubai was dry (liquor) that also is not true. Liquor is only sold in the hotel bars, or hotel rooms but not in the corner convenience store as it is in the rest of the world, except Canada, not that that is necessarily bad.
To get back to today. We hopped on the bus and headed for the beach area which is considered the new Dubai. This is of course where we eventually saw the 7 star Burj Al Arab Hotel. The smallest room here to rent is about 700 sq meters and the largest is just over 700 sq meters. Here you can pay up to $ 14,000 a night, close to the amount that Al and myself are paying. The bus carried on to the Palm Island again so we did not Hop Off.
By the way, Palm Island or Palm Jumeirah has 30 five star hotels and receives close to 20,000 visitors a day. Some consider it the 8th wonder of the world.
From here we carried on to the Mall of the Emirates. It has 450 stores and over 70 restaurants. This also is where the only Ski Hill is located, the only one in the Arabian world. There is a total of 23,000 sq meters of snow here for your pleasure 24/7.
Ahh, to us guys it was just another mall so we did not Hop Off. Next came the Burj Dubai Mall, the largest in the world with over 1200 stores. Yes we did Hop Off here, not to go shopping of course but to buy some lunch and purchase a ticket for Tuesday to go up the Burj Khalifa Tower. We’ll inform you of that later. I will say that it has the fastest elevator in the world, 18 meters/second, so it won’t take long to get to the 124th floor observation deck.
After this we Hopped On and carried on to the old part old Dubai around the Dubai Creek. Here there are numerous gold markets (souks) and ships that still ply their trade as they did for hundreds of years in their wooden boats. That filled our day.
When we arrived at the City Centre Mall, we Hopped Off for the last time and walked back to the travel agent to see what had been accomplished. To our surprised she had it all completed. Then back to the Versailles hotel.
Sunday, January 23
Today would be a slow day. We had to make sure that our future flights had all been booked and that that a few more hotels were reserved in the other countries.
We had a leisurely breakfast, at 10 AM walked to the travel agent then on foot explored the Dubai Creek duty free port. What a busy place this is, you talk about organized confusion. A few hrs later, Al and I took one of the small boats that serve as water taxis across the creek, which is an ancient tradition. Eventually we made it back to the hotel. Later that evening we went out for dinner and watched a bit of a carnival. At present there is a shopping festival in Dubai from Jan 20th to Feb 20th. That is the reason there are so few hotel vacancies.
Just as a matter of interest, no-one pays income tax. No sales taxes or any other tax.
Monday, January 24th
We got up rather early as we knew the day was going to be long. Al and I had purchased a ticked for a day to join a small group for a ride to Abu Dhabi. The bus picked us up at 8.30AM and we were on our way. Speed limit is between 100/120 K/H on a 4-6 lane highway in either direction. Arriving in Abu Dhabi I was treated to see one of the most beautiful mosques that I had ever seen. The carpet inside is one piece, but it took just over two yrs to complete by a total of 1200 women working on it daily. The exterior is exquisite. No matter what a religion one is, or is not, you just have to admire the architecture and work that went into it. The mosque was built between 1996-2007.
The Sheik paid for this place of worship out of his own pocket. Talking about the sheik, the royal family has a total of 1455 servants. The plates for his cars are numbered 1-200, his private airport is very near by and so are his private jets. There are three palaces next to each other covering a massive area.
We stopped at a museum, as well at a enormous hotel where ordering a breakfast starts at $ 100.00 and up. By the way, the hotel is full. After having lunch at a mall we continued seeing a bit more, then it was time to head back to Dubai.
On our return to our hotel, we quickly checked out, only to be told that they now had room for us but the next place we had reserved had already been paid for.
So we moved to the area called The Old Gold Souk. This is the area along the Dubai Creek where Dubai was first stated, and it shows. We had one H of a time finding the hotel between the busy alleys and the throngs of people in these places, including many’ many tourists. We were now in the Muslim quarters.
Yes, after a few questions from the right (?) people we were able to find a pub. On the way to the pub, a very nearby Minaret opened the loud speakers and out came a the songs to call the faithful to prayers. Albert almost fell off the sidewalk after hearing that. He asked what it was, and I told him that it was his wake-up call, and left it at that.
With breakfast out of the way we decided to take the citybus instead of the Metro or a taxi.
We left the hotel with over 2 1/2 hrs to spare, thinking we could kill the extra time at the mall before our 11.30 Am reservation to go up the worlds highest building. Due to a convention in the city there was so much traffic that we got to the Burj Khalifa tower with only minutes to spare.
Then up we went in the world’s fastest elevator (18 mtrs in one second. This was a real thrill. When the doors were opened we were treated to this awesome view..
Al and I stayed up here for approximate one hr as the wind had finally taken over
Tuesday, January 25th
While I was writing this blog this morning, there was this horrible sound and it was only 4.30 Am.
The sound was extremely loud and as Albert woke up and asked what it was I told him it was his wake-up call. Yes the first of five daily calls to pray started at 4.30AM. Al tried to go back to sleep, while I continued blogging with the chanting going on almost next door.
Today will be a do nothing day. Late in the afternoon we have to get to the airport for our departure to Muscat, Oman
We stayed in our room rather late to work the “net” Then it was off to the Gold Souk to see if any purchases should be made. Alas, when one sees so much gold, it turn ugly. There for it now was time to do some people watching and walk around our favourite areas before we picked up our bags.
At 3.30 we rolled our bags onto the city bus and headed too the airport.
No trouble at all anywhere, so we’re able to get stamped leaving the country. Security here was also much more relaxed so I had no problem with it.
Since there was a bit of time to spare, we browsed through the duty free store. Between the two of us we found the hard liquor section, but as almost always seems to be the case, things were not that much less.
I asked one of the attendants if liquor was allowed to be imported (learned that lesson in Russia last year) and the answer was yes. I then asked if it was allowed into Qatar and the answer was NO. That would mean that the two of us would have to drink the entire bottle in 2 days, so we declined. Heck, had we bought that bottle we probably would have seen the inside of our hotel for the next 2 days instead of the country.
The flight from Dubai to Muscat, Oman took only ½ hr and I’ll report from there when we leave