Saturday, December 17, 2011

How I won (and lost) the Dubai metro jackpot

So, I'm flying emirates. Now how did that happen? Surprisingly it was not the cheapest but one of the cheapest options to get me where I wanted to go at the time I wanted to go and when I found out that I can have a stopover at no additional cost in Dubai and fork my flight it was a no brainer.  And while I was expecting all the shopping options (yes, you can get all the bling-bling or hello kitty or a combination of hello kitty with bling-bling on board) the entertainment system just blew me away. Latest movies? Check. Old time classics? Check. Bollywood, tagalog or Arabic cinema? Check. Mad men season 3 or rather peep show? Check. The latest Bon Iver, The Vaccines or TV on the radio album? Sure. So I charged my iPad at home with the master chef season that I planned to finish on board and now I am sitting at 30.000 feet listening to The Clash’s white riot on the emirates 70s punk rock podcast while charging my iPhone on the USB connector. As you do. It was a bit of a downer though that the shiraz from the Barossa valley was served too cold. Unforgivable. I'll never fly emirates again. Ever. O.k., adam and the ants are singing stand and deliver and I am on my second serving of Shiraz. Emirates, I think we can sort this out. And while yoshimi is battling the pink robots lamb rendang is served. It's not that bad actually. But it would be tragic if these evil robots win.

A friendly bloke at Dubai immigration stamps me in after enquiring about Amsterdam's coffee shops and the red light district. My transsiberian travel mate Mathew is expecting me at the carousel where my bag is circling. He arranged a driver and a hotel for us since he had some vouchers left that expire soon. Sheraton Jumeira beach. They apologize that they cannot upgrade us to a better room with a sea view for the night and offer a bottle of wine on the house in return. Apologies accepted. My accommodation will be all downhill from now on for the rest of the trip...

view from the Sheraton

So I'm off the following morning to explore Dubai. It's Friday. Holy Friday. The metro does not start running until after lunch and I take a cab to the souks which are also closed and so is the museum in old Dubai. After a walk by the creek I decide to catch the metro (shocker: you're not allowed to carry fish) to the world's biggest mall and the world's tallest building (warning to the reader: there will be many tallest, biggest, most expensive etc. in this edition. It was unavoidable). Ticket for 2 zones = dirham 6,50. Insert dirham 20 note. Machine prints ticket. Machine gives change. Machine gives more change. Machine does not stop. I won the Dubai metro jackpot! The guys at the ticket counter seem alerted and walk over. “machine not working correctly” one of them explains. We carry 6 hands full of change to the counter. I get a fraction of it back. You win some. You lose some. Probably the guys at the counter won the jackpot after all...

something's fishy here

Dubai to buy?

The metro stops at a few (Norman Foster designed, no less) stations before I get off at the Burj Khalifa/Dubai mall stop. Mental. I stare at a 829 meter giant. A shuttle bus drops me at the Dubai mall. Did I mention it's the world’s largest? Well, it is. Name a brand, it’s there. So is the world’s largest suspended aquarium, an ice skating rink, 22 cinemas and prayer rooms. It's the beginning of my trip, I'm not in a shopping mood and leave.

Burj Khalifa. it is tall.

feeding of the sharks, aquarium, Dubai mall

The next day we park Mathew’s Ford Mustang next to the Porsches and Ferraris in the car park of Abu Dhabi’s zero emission Masdar city and change vehicle to a driverless electric car that takes us around the project of a future clean tech world. Wind towers catch the air to cool down the area, everything is solar powered and high tech. Blade runner. Some issues need yet to be resolved: so far the solar panels need to be cleaned by hand from the desert sand to stay operational. Not by Emiratis I guess.

Solar powered building in Masdar city, the waves shall provide shade

Electric car, Masdar city

getting high in Dubai

Before heading back to Dubai airport we take the world’s fastest elevator at the Burj Khalifa to the (right!) world’s highest outdoor observation deck. Which is only half way up the building on the 122nd floor. Stunning views. Back down you can buy gold at a vending machine.

gold to go

bye, bye, Dubai

It was interesting, but if you ask me what is typical for the emirates... I don't know. Ferraris? Starbucks? Gold vending machines? The media selection on emirates flights is great though.

Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

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