Won’t bore you with same-same details of Ao Nang – suffice to say we came away slimmer and more relaxed!
We then had another 2 day stopover in Singapore. This time we avoided the theme parks, malls and the glitzy high-rises. Discovered East Coast Park, a 20 km stretch of reclaimed land running parallel to the bay near our hotel. Had to walk through the enormous city block of high-rise government owned units (the ones I mentioned with numbers rather than names) and under a pedestrian underpass to get there. Holy smoke – apart from designated bike and foot paths there were BBQ pits, camping areas, native forests, small restaurants, huge swathes of trees and grass all looking onto the small beach and then to the famous collection of cargo ships, luxury liners and working boats all anchored in the bay – hundreds of them which look spectacular at night. Just sorry we hadn’t discovered it before. Apart from walking, you can rent bikes cheaply to do the circuit. Next time! I was wrong to say Singapore was soulless – you just have to get out of the touristy places.
Next stop Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Umm….not quite sure how we feel about this place. Take a superhighway with multiple vehicle under/overpasses, perhaps 30 kms, 10km of which is lined with the largest, highest, glitziest skyscrapers and supermalls. Think Hong Kong, KL and Bangkok all lined up. At the rear of the skyscrapers are multiple housing estates, usually 3 levels but all look very similar. Everything, and I mean everything, the houses, the roads, the high-rises are sand/coloured. As said buildings are then surrounded by limitless desert and, for the 3 days we have been here, the haze has been very thick. This whole scene looks like a sepia photo. And this is only in the area around us. On flying out we realised we had only explored a tiny bit.
It’s been very hot and humid – around 40 degrees with very high humidity, sweatsville. That said pretty much all malls, restaurants and big buildings are linked by covered air-conditioned walkways from the air-conditioned trains, buses and taxis. An odd kind of reality. Very few trees or greenbelts, very few exercise areas.
Peter bought a “Go Dubai” card which, for about $260 each for a 2 day pass, allows you to enter various entertainments/sights at a discount. Consequently we’ve acting like tourists (bloody hell) going to as many things on the list (shades of Peter Howard here) so’s to make the thing viable. The worst was a Dhow Creek Dinner Cruise. The food wasn’t too bad, mainly dips and flat breads. Then comes the very loud Arabian music, perhaps 50 other tourists stuffing themselves, plates overflowing, a very amateur Arabian dancer who was actually a man. The final insult was a small beer cost $14 so we sipped on post-mix coke. Totally put us off cruising for life. The best was today – the Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world, 124 stories up the view was great although still hazy. We then went to Al Hallab Restaurant in the Burj Khalifa Mall, expecting a cheap café with dips on the menu. No fear - this was lovely, escorted to our beautiful table and served 3 main courses and a dessert (all totally Arabian) with many waiters buzzing around. So much food we only ate about a third but it was fabulous. Also hopped on the mono-rail out to Palm Jumeirah, the famous palm shaped area of reclaimed land jutting into the Arabian Gulf jam-packed with expensive hotels and houses for the mega-rich and famous. Did several other sights, returning both nights totalled. We got our money’s worth thanks to Peter’s infamous persistence.
Pullman Dubai Creek (and the staff) are great – again can’t get away from the supermalls – the back entrance comes straight off the mall on the 3rd floor. Don’t know if coming from Thailand where we’re very familiar with the customs and warm people, but this town just seems very unfriendly. Evidently Arabs only work in office/management positions, leaving the low-paid jobs to the Filipinos, Africans and Indians. I think probably every nationality has been indifferent or rude to us at some point. It’s also extremely expensive – going on a speed boat tour, had forgotten the sunscreen. $25 a small bottle of Nivea!! Public transport is fantastic, clean, airconditioned and very regular. Probably the only cheap thing here. A fruit smoothie in the mall downstairs cost $10!! Thank God for the Executive Lounge is all I can say!