Tony heads out to take photos of the alleyway so Trina can find us. They are a big help, but Tony still doesn’t realise he is taking pictures of the back entrance. Trina meets us after breakfast, it is great seeing her again, eight years since we first met in China. We walk down to the Gold Souk at the end of the street to get hassled at every step, most of the stuff for sale here is fake. We head for the parking building, and it is then that Tony realises his mistake with the streets. Doh, haha. We spend about 20 minutes waiting to get out because the traffic in the narrow street is busy, and cars are leaving one at a time as other vehicles let them in. Once we clear the area it is much better, and Trina tells us that the newer part is a grid system, with the streets around here banned to large trucks. They are relegated to three blocked over, and only small er delivery vehicles are allowed on these roads.
Taxis are all government controlled and the fares regulated, mostly run by Indians, the lower half of the car is sandy coloured, and the roof is colour coded by company. Pink topped taxis are driven by women only, and will only carry women and any children that accompany them. Petrol is about $1 a litre, and prices are set at the beginning of the month by the government. Petrol attendants fill your car, and take your money out at the pump. Cash only, and quite cheap as prices are regulated, they are part of the RTA transport system that runs the metro, trams and buses.
We are off on a tiki tour, Dubai style. First stop at the Sail, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, a famous landmark luxury hotel tower built on reclaimed land. We are amazed at the extent of land reclamation that has, and still is, happening. We have a paddle in the Arabian sea, and then head off to the Palm, the man-made island in the shape of a massive palm tree. We drive up the “trunk” to the Atlantis Hotel as massive complex at the top of the palm. They have an aquarium here, and a movie theatre is screening Aquaman, there is even a large Aquaman statue outside the theatre.
Trina takes us for a drive along the outer frond so we can see the marina development more land being reclaimed. We head back to the mainland and decide to head for the Marriott as Phil told us there were great (free) views from the 52nd floor restaurant. We stay for lunch, and are watching the skydivers come in (they leave from an airstrip at the marina and skydiver over the Palm). As we watch one of them goes into a fast horizontal spin, and Tony yells Jesus Christ, this doesn’t look like it is going to end well. But at the last minute the parachute pulls up, and it is a safe landing. They must have been part of a club, because most tried this, still didn’t make it any easier to watch!
The view over the Palm is stunning, but it is very hazy from sand and heat. The extent of the land reclaim here is even more mindboggling from this vantage point, where can see where the marina is being extending out. We go to the other side of the building to look down on the old marina, and are in awe of the guys working across from us on a new skyscraper, 60 stories up. OSH would have a pink fit if they had to manage H&S on this site!
Down below we have a walk around the marina and are amazed by the architecture, especially at the site of a building that has a twist in it. Trina drives us over to Burg Khalifa and the Dubai Mall. Everything here has to be bigger and better than anywhere else. They will take a design and modify it to make sure it is bigger. The Opera house looks like the bow of a ship, and the chandelier inside is five stories high. We are at the world’s tallest building (for now), and the world’s biggest mall, a mall that wasn’t big enough so they have just extended it. We are staying on here to see a couple of shows, fountains are up first, then the light show on the building. The shows are so good, we stay to see them twice. The fountain show is choreographed to music, Arabic and then then one is English. We watch the Arabic one, and come out to hear the English one is playing to Baby Shark. O.M.G. The light show on the tower is disappointing, but then we realise it is only a warm up, and the real one goes off. This is fantastic, except for the Baby Shark earworm Tony now has to suffer.
We go back into the mall to find the metro. We know there is one here, we have seen the signs. We probably have to walk a couple of kilometres to find the bloody thing. There is a Star Wars exhibition, Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers, Tony is in his happy place. We stop in at an electronic store to check out prices of sd cards for the camera. A quality 128gb one, fast speed cost NZ$54.50, about half what is at home.
It is time for home, we have been out for nearly 12 hours, and it has been a fantastic day, thanks for the tour and lunch, Trina. We are aiming to be home by 10pm, hopefully the streets will be a bit brighter if the shops are not shut yet. Goodbyes all round and we head off on the long, long, long walk to the metro station. Would not like to think how far we walked just to get there. We get tickets for home, and ask about the day pass, but the woman doesn’t know what it covers, at first she says metro only, but then says everything. We think we will ask elsewhere.
We are back in the hotel just after 10pm, a few shops are still open, and we are encouraged to visit them.
05 May – Sunday
A rest day for us, sort of. Still not caught up with photos… We have breakfast and head back to the room, we need to snooze a bit longer. Mid afternoon (after the siesta is over and the shops reopen) we head out to the Creek. We want to ride the traditional Abra across to the other side to see what is on offer. This side it is very vibrant, but the shops are all spices, scarves and (probably fake) watches. There are a lot of electronics, quite highly priced some of it, so probably legit. Not taking a chance though, and it has been pointed out Tony does NOT need anything. Need has nothing to do with it! The only thing Tony would like is a wee tripod with bendy legs for the camera, and if it takes the phone too, then that is a bonus. So far the prices are not far off what we would have paid in Australia.
At Dubai Creek we find the Abra station (traditional boats), but there is a persist guy there trying to tell Tony that the only boats leaving from here are for a one hour cruise (AED66, $28). Tony tells him he is going across, but the guy won’t take no for an answer, so we leave the scammy bastard and go for a walk through the souks (markets). The souks are packed with tourists and you get hounded every step. Just smile and ignore, hard to do when they start draping cloths over you, or thrust goods into your hand. It does get frustrating when you show interest in something that they are not always straight up with the price, avoiding answering until they have tried to get a few more items in the shopping basket. It does get tiresome. There is a “souk” for everything – spices, herbs, gold. Man oh man, you should see the bling here. And it is the real deal, millions of dollars in each window.
The other thing we noticed when walking the streets, apart from being pounced on if you so much as blink in the direction of a store keeper!, is that they seems to have very few actual customers. And the (many) staff are just standing around… waiting. One block here is full of “wholesale only” stores, and we can’t figure that one either. Two or three staff, and no customers, in most of these shops. We wonder where the sales, and income, comes from for these fellas.
Local women shoppers are scarce, in fact we hardly see a local woman in the streets at some times of the day. There are groups of men everywhere, doing sweet bugger all it seems (same the world over eh?). The shops are open until 10pm, and then the streets become very dark as the blingy shops close up, but we have never felt unsafe (cameras EVERYWHERE!).
We decide to go for a feed, but restaurants and cafes are scarce in this quarter. We stop for a burger, they have taken a leaf out of the McDonalds advertising book, and nothing looks like what you thought you were ordering!
We see a couple of scrawny cats, VERY obviously male (ahem), usually well battle scared. We realise that we have seen very few animals, not even dogs. Lots, and lots of pigeons and mynahs though.
We get back to the hotel to find that someone has seen the moon, and it is now Ramadan. The noise from the mosque across the road is constant tonight, but strangely it is not annoying (yet). They keep it up for quite some time, but is done by the time we are ready for bed.
We had expected that Ramadan would be called while we were here, we timed our arrival slightly early than first planned (if you can call what we do planning). We are happy enough to work with it, but would probably drive us silly after a while... We plan to leave on the night of the 7th, and made sure we ticked off anything that might be affected before now, just in case.