99 – DXB to home

5th Mar, on plane to KL

Slept in. Went up to the lounge, printed my flight tickets, and in general lazed around while waiting to go to the airport later in the afternoon. I was just talking to Fabian earlier and i realised the first Singaporeans I met on this trip was back on Day 1 were Tristan and Geordie, on the KL to Abu Dhabi flight. Then they are linked to Fabian whom they met for the first time in Yemen and subsequently traveled together for a bit over there. And now on Day 99 i’m ending my travels with Fabian at Dubai airport. Kind of like coming round a full circle for me. I’m not sure whether you know what i am ranting about, but yeah, i find it amusing.

Checked in luggage with no problems. I took out my yellow fever vaccination papers and put them in my hand luggage just in case i get stopped at KLIA. Walked around the airport’s duty free shopping area for a bit, but really i was just looking past the shops.

Malaysia Airlines, decent and actually pretty good service. I’m typing this from the plane. I imagine i would be a little jetlagged later today since its 2am in KL and im still wide awake! It’s a 7 hour flight. I’m comfortable enough, but my peeling skin is really getting to me, since it itches like heck and i feel like scratching the layers off. Try to catch some sleep now. Signing off.

98 – One round around Dubai

4th Mar, Dar Al Sondos, Dubai, UAE
Today was spent all over Dubai, courtesy of my good host =). I was chaffeured around the city. First to Dubai Mall, the largest around. I was left to wander for a bit inside the mall, to look around. And there was plenty to look at. Inside was of course every single conceivable shop you could think of. Besides window shopping,  I also people watched. Besides tourists, which i think formed the majority of the people roaming around, there were also the local Emiratis, plus all the service and retail workers, many of whom were Filipinos. Other shop tenants were arabs, and many were of Indian or pakistani origin. Pretty much a cosmopolitan city, and in striking contrasts to the places i’ve been to. Here, the eastern, western, arabic worlds all meet and coexist together.

When i had enough of getting lost inside the mall, which includes a fountain, aquarium and an ice skating rink. I made my way just outside to the promenade leading to Souk Al-Bahar. From here, you could get the best views of the Burj Khalifa, the talling building in the world.

Later in the afternoon, i made my way to the Mall of The Emirates. By then, i was pretty mall-saturated and just relaxed with a Costa Coffee. Oh, and Ski Dubai, the indoor ski park, is located here.

In the evening, we went down to Mina Al-Salam, a really upmarket hotel, with room corridors that stretched on and on and on. Next was the Madinat Jumeirah, with bars, lounges, under fantastic dim lighting, with the buildings in a consistent architecture that evokes the old arab souqs. Inside is a shopping area, made to look like a traditioanal indoor souq. It is pretty upmarket here, with the twin hotels, and i must say, a fantastic ambience.

Then i was whisked to the Palm Jumeirah, that patch of land made to resemble a palm stretching outwards into the sea. Yes, its great to travel by car and having our own guy to drive us around, instead of taking a bone jarring bus on bumpy roads. Ok, back to the Palm. It was mostly residences, but at the last frond of the palm was Atlantis. Yes, Atlantis, which happened to be the site of a really posh, (even more posh!), hotel and shopping area. The highlight was a huge see through aquarium, more than 10 meters high. Inside were all manner of pelagics. From reef sharks, spotted and black mantas, barracudas, a whale (!!) and a host of other fishes that i could not identify. It was pretty awesome, like diving without the need to get wet.

Then i’ve got to mention this one ice cream place, Cold Stone Creamery. Just because of the way the staff do their business. They toss the ice cream in the air, throw ice cream around, dance with brooms, and in general are having a load of fun while they work. It reminds me of Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. And the smoothie i had was good too!

From there we went to JBR, Jumeira Beach Residences, which is located by the beach and is a stretched of eateries and restaurants, where the yuppies hang out. It was pretty late by this time, but the place (it was thursday night, the start of the weekend here) was packed. Everyone was out in full force. Nice (and i mean nice!) cars, well dressed expats, fashionable locals, just having a drink and socialising.

Pretty much covered most of Dubai today, definitely a lot more than if i had been traveling around by metro myself.

97 – When you’re happy and you know it clap your hands

3rd Mar, Nice hotel, Dubai, UAE
In the morning, i packed and took the airport transfer that Milimani Backpackers arranged for me (1200 KSH). It’s around 12km to the airport, and i had my own car and driver dropping me there. Paid my tab (my internet tab was free since i fixed their router, haha).

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is a pretty nice place. I checked in, got stopped at the security baggage check when they asked me to open up and declare my bangles. I was still wondering why they were so particular about my souvenir bangles when i heard ‘ivory’. The Chinese tourist ahead of me had his suitcase full of plastic bags of food. He had bags of biscuits which the security guy asked him to open. Inside, wrapped in foil, are chunks of ivory. Wow, what a way to smuggle through the airport customs.

Inside the waiting area after i checked in now. I was trying to prevent the need from changing any more kenyan shillings, so i was keeping to a budget over the last couple days. So now i was pretty famished after eating my spaghetti. On the plane, i ordered Beef Salami Combo (22 AED). The flight was 4 hours and UAE is one hour ahead of Kenya. AirArabia is a ‘no-frills’ airline that now flies to 30 countries. I think they are pretty impressive in being able to cover so many places since they started out in 2003. As of now, they cover the GCC, India, bits of Africa, a substantial number of European cities and even central Asia. They are based in Sharjah, and Casablanca (for their European destinations). And heading into the UAE from Singapore is pretty straightforward. There are many transport  links within the UAE for transfers between Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

I reached Sharjah airport at around 8pm local time. I’m probably very lucky. There is a bus new service that just started yesterday (Route 111, 2nd March) from Sharjah Airport to Al Rashidiya Metro Station. It passes by Al Quasis Sonapur station. The fixed price for all journeys? 10 AED. And it is oh so convenient. 50m from where you exit the Arrival area. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/darticlen.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2010/March/theuae_March4.xml&section=theuae

At the Rashidiya metro, i gave a call to a friend Fabian who offered to put me up at his place. (Fabe if you’re reading this, thanks buddy!) This meant saving a bomb on Dubai hotels. He picked me up from the station, and it was basically smooth sailing from there. We went out for dinner at an Indian restaurant, beef pepper masala, yum. It was a completely different scenario from the last couple weeks. Nice hotel, airconditioning, facilities, no mosquitoes and a very relaxed atmosphere.

Here’s a shot of my towel after 3.5 months, and the hotel towel. Both are clean, and whitish.

2 – Wandering Abu Dhabi

Here I am right now, sitting in CaribouCoffee, in the middle of Marina Malls shopping centre. Off the breakwater in Abu Dhabi. Visited the giant flag pole overlooking AD’s central area, but the Heritage Centre there won’t be open till 4pm cos of Eid holiday. The beachfront is under construction to make it a swimming area. I figure when I return here in Mar it will probably be ready. =P

Had breakfast after taking the 901 bus (3 AED from outside Terminal 3, 1 hr) down from airport to the city. Roti Prata set 8 AED! off the little shops. With Tristan and Geordie, who left for the airport thereafter.

Me I made my way to the Breakwater, where this mall is. I tried to upload pics onto Flickr and here’s the message that popped. “Access to this site is currently blocked. The site falls under the Prohibited Content Categories of the UAE’s Internet Access Management Policy”. Wha?

I’ll add on to this entry when there’s a chance…Heading off to Sharjah later. Before that I’ll pop by the Emirates Palace, maybe.

28th Nov 2030pm, Sharjah Airport Departure Lounge
At Sharjah airport, which resembles more like a budget airport terminal compared to Abu Dhabi’s relative grandeur, waiting to check in. It’s 8.30pm UAE time (1230am Sg) and i am bloody exhausted. It could be the jet lag, or (coming to) two consecutive nights of sleeping on airplanes, or some 3 hours of bus rides today. Or even hunting around for AirArabia’s pickup point in town (its across the road off the eastern wall of Qasr Al-Hosn (white fort). It could be walking down half the distance of the corniche just now (didn’t get to go in the Emirates Palace, cos of the crowd and i was probably too shabbily dressed with my giant pack to be allowed in). Ah…i know the reason. It’s the damn bag…My thighs ache and i just want to get on the plane so i can sleep. (4.5 hours flight this time –> and i reach there at another ungodly hour (0130am). I am REALLY looking forward to a nice clean hotel bed at Alexandria where I can just sleep for a bit and get a proper shower. It would be great to finally settle down on one location for a couple of nights.

1 – AirAsiaX we will go!

1: Flights

Hello all. The SG to KL flight was delayed by an hour, due to weather. Its a good thing I gave 4 hours allowance then. Reached LCCT at quarter to 7 with plenty of time to spare for dinner. Checked in the bag. I don’t feel comfortable with the weight. Firstly it seems like too much weight. Secondly, its a bit top heavy and bulky. I’ll try to adapt and adjust. Better get used to it, that and I’ll try to drop off some weight along the way.

Met up with Tristan and Geordie. Both on the same flight out to Abu Dhabi. From there we split, I make my way to Alexandria while they’re off to San’aa.

Right now Im in my first AirAsiaX flight. 2200hrs set off, reaches 0130 hrs. Its a 7.5 hr flight on a budget airline. =). The plane itself is an Airbus 340 instead of the usual AirAsia 320 models. Larger, with two aisles to walk down. Best of all, it’s half empty, so everyones sprawled across 3 seats. Me i took up 5 seats. Pretty comfortable for a relatively long haul flight.

Reaching Abu Dhabi at 130am later, will stay about the airport till there’s light then make my way into the city. I’ll need to catch the 4.30pm bus to Sharjah Airport.