A Travellerspoint blog

Come on Dubai!

Safari in the Arabian Desert.

semi-overcast 38 °C

Good flight to Dubai, service on board much better than trip over so Emirates are now back in Robs good books. Arrival at Dubai however was very ordinary, the number of planes coming and going has obviously grown much faster than expected and the airport is no longer anywhere near big enough. So the plane lands and you think great can't wait to get off and then it taxis for another good half hour and pulls up in the middle of nowhere. You then have to go down steps from plane onto tarmac with all your hand luggage which on the return trip is a lot because you had to spread the shopping around. To top it off its 11pm at night so some people are quite cranky and it's a very humid 32 degrees Celsius. Then a man starts yelling at you to get on one of the buses, so welcome to Dubai. Everyone and their luggage is jammed in like sardines with most people including us standing and trying to hold on to something to keep your balance. The air con was on but it did not cope with the quantity of bodies on board so the 30min ride to the terminal was not pleasant.
You walk into the terminal and as I think I mentioned on our stop over on the way to Italy it is very impressive and then you see the queue for the passport check. Dubai airport has what they call "smart gates" which are state of the art self serve security checks that are meant to get you through in 3 seconds. The staff were so busy trying to help people get through these exceptionally gifted gates that there were nowhere near enough left to man the counters to check the passports of foreigners. We landed at 11pm we arrived at our hotel at 1.30am. Hence the "Come on Dubai!" get your act together. At the very least provide more buses to take people to the terminal.
Now if Dubai was a third world country and didn't have the funds or technology to build another airport you could accept the delay. But when it has the tallest building in the world, a man made island in the shape of a seahorse, the first underwater houses ever to be built and one of its shopping malls has a 6 storey high ski field inside it the question begs where is the second airport? Apparently construction has begun and it will be ready in 2020 for the World Expo, because, as with most things (airports excluded) here they like to do everything bigger and better than anyone else in the world.
Never mind lets not dwell, we only had one full day with 5 hours sleep to explore Dubai so we were determined to see something. Wandered around shopping mall next to our hotel, had a coffee while watching people ski in the snow. Fortunately my good friend Sue recommended a desert safari so I had booked us into one while we were still in Italy. If I remember correctly Sue suggested a self drive dune buggy safari but when I saw the photos online and noticed the driver and passenger wearing helmets I thought maybe not. Rob has a habit of cracking helmets with his head still in them so I chose a safari in open 1950s Landrovers with drivers instead. Very thoughtful of me really as he does love old cars. I could have chosen air conditioned vehicles but you know me I love adventure.
We had such a wonderful afternoon and evening. We drove through the part of the desert which is a conservation area and National Park. Miriam our guide explained all about the flora and fauna. Before it began I should mention we were given traditional head dresses to wear and metal drink bottles full of iced cold water to drink. We stopped for photo opportunities in the dunes with a drone following our every move so that they had a video to sell us at the end. Then we arrived at a spot where they had carpet with cushions laid out on the sand for us to watch a presentation on falconry and it's history in the UAE. At this spot we were given wet towels for a quick wash and champagne glasses full of apple and date juice which was delicious. There was more iced water to refill our bottles too. After this fabulous presention with an amazing sunset in the background we headed off to a Bedouin Camp for dinner and a traditional local celebration.
The food, the dancing, the music, traditional coffee/bread making, henna art and all of the cultural experiences you could join in with were excellent. It was such a good example of Eco tourism at its best. So while it was a quick trip to a very small part of the United Arab Emirates it was another highlight to add to a very long list from this trip overseas.
While I have learned a lot while travelling in the past 4 weeks more noticeably I have discovered how little I actually do know. So these Christmas holidays I have a list of things I want to learn more about. Did you know that camel racing is the National sport here and that up until it was banned in the 90s due to frequent accidents, children from 6 to 8 years of age were used as jockeys. Now the jockeys are made of rubber and while the camel is in one lane on the track it's owner is in a car in a lane next to it so as they can communicate with it via radio.....just like they do in car racing. The owner also controls the jockey and can make it whip the camel more if needed. All that effort and no gambling allowed, I presume the trophies must be very impressive.
Tourism is now 80% of the GDP here, oil makes up only 5% as they realised about 10 years ago they needed to create a society that was not dependent on oil as they accept it will run out sooner rather than later. Only 20% of the population is made up of locals most are from India and Pakistan. The government is trying hard to increase the local population. If a local marries another local the government pays for the wedding, provides them with a free home, cash bonus, free lifetime health cover and for each child they have they get more money plus all their educational costs covered. However, they don't get anymore money for any more wives they take after the first one just if they have more children. It is expected that all wives be treated equally so whatever you give one you must give the other. Unless of course you tell whoever you gave the gift to not to tell the others.....can you imagine.!?
Okay that's enough fun facts for now time to go to bed and get ready for the big flight home. See you in Australia. Love to all. XO
PS Thanks for your comment Heather from NZ.

Posted by Darlene Elder 13:14 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

Miss or not?

Final ramblings from Italy

sunny 19 °C

Just a random list of what I/we will miss about Italy.
It may or may not be in order of priority.

  • huge choices of cheap great wine
  • the sound of corks popping (no screw tops in Italy)
  • daily Aperol Spritz/ regular shots of limoncello
  • great food with so many choices
  • Italian people ~ hospitality/ generous nature/humour/ unpredictability / whatever goes attitude
  • fantastic shopping and tax refunds for tourists who boost their economy (Robs in a long queue now at airport claiming his Alpinestars shopping)
  • great weather
  • the thousands of little back lanes that lead to constant new discoveries
  • architecture, culture, art, history, all the WOW factors
  • beautiful countryside with olive groves and vineyards everywhere
  • gondola rides
  • going to opera in shorts (uncouth Rob not me)
  • church bells ringing
  • going by boat to the airport (third time was a charm)
  • litre glasses of beer
  • travelling with friends
  • trying to use a new language
  • the fact that they treat their dogs like humans~access to all areas
  • eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Won't miss.

  • steps
  • looking down from great heights
  • dragging luggage around
  • public transport (In Italy's defence that sucks everywhere)
  • waiting in queues
  • occasional waft of sewerage
  • the dark back lanes late at night when we were the only ones in them
  • showers that are so narrow you can't lift your arms up to wash your hair
  • trying to keep up with Rob when he is on a mission
  • pushy tourists
  • crowds
  • cakes for breakfast

We absolutely loved Italy would highly recommend it to anyone.....grazie Italia.

Posted by Darlene Elder 15:13 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

L'acqua Highway

Well today was an experience. I was expecting the hiring of a car, driving on the wrong side of the road and finding our way to the Alpinestars factory a bit of a challenge but the trip to the airport proved interesting too.
We decided to hire a car from the airport because we had been unable to find a car rental office at the bus station. All airports have hire cars and we knew we could catch a water taxi there so we assumed it was the easy option. We had got quite used to putting around the canals and islands on a water ferry and presumed the water taxi would be similar. Remember everything I said originally about land based taxi drivers and road users in general in Italy, then add water and high power speedboats. Let's say the trip to the airport was an adventure on its own. We went on the public water taxi, there are also private water taxis which cost over 4 times more and they flew past us like we were standing still. So you have numerous boats travelling to and from the airport each creating a wake which creates lots of bumping and rolling.
When I enquired about the return ticket to the airport the girl at the ticket office appeared confused asking me twice if I wanted to go and then come back. Then the man checking our tickets when we boarded pointed at the section that indicated return and looked at Rob strangely. Rob said yes we are returning, the man shrugged his shoulders screwed up his face and walked away. Clearly most people only go to or from the airport but surely we can't be the only ones buying a return ticket? In hindsight I think that once you have done the trip you aren't in any hurry to do it again but not us oh no we will have done it 3 times! Tonight's water taxi driver thought he would make it a little more interesting by taking both his hands of the steering wheel while the boat was speeding along to take photos of the sunset. Not once but several times.
By comparison the drive was fairly relaxing we did have our first argument a minute in because I told Rob to turn left and not right. Sitting in the front passenger seat which is usually where I drive from totally confused me with my left and rights! In the end I gave hand signals according to google maps and avoided the use of the terms left and right. We selected a route that had no tolls to avoid that added complication and drove on largely country roads. However by avoiding the motorways and tolls for some reason you end up going through a roundabout about every kilometre or less. We got very excited when at one point we drove on a stretch of 2.4kms! It's as if the people building the roads decided to punish anyone who avoids the tolls particularly tourists like us because going through the roundabouts the "wrong way" seriously does your head in.
We made it and Rob was like a kid in a lolly shop. He did not know where to start first and kept going from one section to another calling my name to look at something and then rushing off somewhere else. It was very like shopping with Julie and I had to keep saying "focus on one thing at a time and make a decision, stop getting side tracked". Needless to say he had a pile of stuff on the counter by the end, telling the sales assistant he was buying for his mates back in Australia (liar, liar pants on fire). He doesn't have that many mates.
We headed off to check out the village of Asolo but it all got a bit hard as you have to leave your car somewhere and walk in. Lunch was well overdue so with the help of a very lovely shop owner we found a real winner. It was like a dodgy country pub back home but with Italians. It felt like we had walked into an Italian family kitchen where they just kept bringing out more food. They didn't speak English, there was no menu, we heard risotto and steak in their excited Italian exchange so we said yes to both. The risotto was scrumptious and then the cook wheeled out the steak on a trolley it was the 1kg massive tbone that they love to do. He then arrived with a platter of vegetables and of course more bread. You could see how delighted they all were with the spread they put in front of us. The steak was cooked to perfection and the whole meal experience was a lovely surprise addition to our day. Of course when we paid, the owner insisted on treating us to a melon liqueur a bit like limoncello. When he poured us a second one I said "he is driving" pointing to Rob. As you would expect he shrugged his shoulders and laughed. He poured himself one and we clinked glasses.
Google maps took us back to the airport a completely different way after we finally found Alpinestars head office for another Rob photo opportunity. It was during this confusion that we nearly had a head on but fortunately me screaming "you are on the wrong side of the road" snapped Rob out of his preoccupation with finding what is essentially just another building with Alpinestars on it.
The different drive home had slightly less roundabouts and even included a stretch of 13kms without any. The countryside was so beautiful and our destination took us into the foothills of the Dollarmites (mountain range) with all the shades of Autumn on display.
Another good day. Rob has just finished packing and distributing all the shopping to meet our baggage allowance. Fingers crossed. We fly at 3.35pm tomorrow afternoon arriving in Dubai around 11pm for 2 nights then home. Can't wait to see everyone. xo

Posted by Darlene Elder 15:18 Comments (1)

Dinner and The Opera

And a gondola ride!

semi-overcast 17 °C

The opera was really lovely. We have never been before and while this was by no means the real deal it gave us a "best hits" kind of experience. It was a selection of the top 10 arias and I was surprised that I recognised 5 of them. The musicians and singers were obviously very talented dressed in costumes that were so beautiful in their detail. They managed a number of costume changes which added to the experience. I never really expected there to be so much comedy in opera. Their facial expressions and body language were hilarious.I always thought there was a lot of drama, death and unrequited love in opera. No doubt they chose the lighter ones for the tourists.
Of course you have to do dinner and the opera so we found a really nice restaurant and had another delicious meal. Marg said she was disappointed in the food in Venice but we have found it to be as good as any other area. They continue to give you heaps of bread with each meal and since Milan they have started to add packets of very thin breadsticks. Last night they gave us 4 rolls and 4 pkts of the breadsticks (4 in each) which is way too much for 2 people but they do tend to over cater in Italy which may explain the lack of scales.
Today we went on a bus trip to the mainland area of Venice and visited a designer outlet shopping complex. We were very taken aback when we arrived because it was the exact copy of one the Kadon family took us to in Cincinnati. It must be part of a worldwide chain because everything about it was identical except there were more Italian brands. We did some more shopping and got some hand held luggage scales. Looks like we will make our baggage allowance limit....just.... depending on what Rob finds tomorrow.
We finally got round to grabbing a gondola ride and it was actually really relaxing and enjoyable going around all the little canals. Someone up ahead of us paid for a serenade so we had that as an added bonus. The sound of the accordion and singing seems to bounce of the building walls travelling long distances down the canals. Very nice. I tried to get a man with the full uniform including the hat but we ended up with one with a man bun. Rob did get a photo of me standing with a very obliging one who had a hat. He even stopped talking on his mobile for the shot.....another reason why they find tourists so annoying. Now that I think about it there were a number with man buns, that's how they avoid wearing the hat!
Having a lot of trouble loading photos at the moment, wifi in Venice is a bit dodgy. Sorry. xo

Posted by Darlene Elder 10:32 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Holiday Mode

Not a whole lot to report today we have slowed down our pace as we approach the end of our holiday. We did a bit of checking things out today. We went to see where our new hotel is that we move to tomorrow. I booked this hotel months ago for our last two nights in Venice before we knew we would be here for 5 nights. So now we know where we are going and how many canal crossings and steps we need to get our luggage across.
We checked out where we plan to get our gondola trip from and took the water ferry back to the bus station we arrived at to see if it was at all possible to catch public transport to Asolo which is where the Alpine Stars factory and head office is based. For those who have no knowledge of motorbikes this is somewhere Rob really wants to go. They make all sorts of motorbike gear. As expected from our online research while it is only an hour and a half away it would take us all day by bus or train with no guarantee of getting back to Venice in the same day. So guess what we have hired a car to go there on Saturday.
Apart from that we did a bit more shopping. Rob is getting a bit stressed about our luggage allowance. I did suggest we buy one of those hand held luggage weighers before we left but he said there are always scales in hotels etc. Have not see a set of scales the whole time we have been here.
We had our first non Italian food today we decided to grab a sandwich and have it back at our apartment when we came across a very busy little take away selling kebabs. They were yum and Rob was very pleased you could choose a spicy variety. He has stopped whining about the coffee he has given up on that now he is in search of spicy food. Tony our very first driver did say you have to go much further south to Calabria and Sicily for spicy food. Not sure why because there has been fresh chillies everywhere.
Sorry have to dash we are off to the Opera...it's a must when you are in Venice. xo

Posted by Darlene Elder 09:16 Comments (1)

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