Thursday, October 1, 2015

Been here, done this

Here I am, back again (sorry about the long silence - selling a house will do that to you) - and I'm back in both senses: yes, that is Dubai in the picture, and yes, I have been here before. Several times, in fact. And whereas I'm at the age now where I'm beginning to get a bit antsy about revisiting places when there are still so many destinations in the world I haven't been to for a first time - and that time is running out - whereas all that, there are certain compensations in returning to known places.

A major one is that the pressure is off to rush around doing as much, seeing as much, as possible, taking notes and photos, and thinking of story lines. Been there, done that means that I can relax, like a real tourist, and mooch and rest and shop if I want to. Which I've done, today!

But also, as I'm in the company of a Dubai virgin, we've  done the Big Bus tour which, as usual, has its pluses and minuses - the latter that it's SO HOT here that even when the bus is buzzing along it's still pretty stifling up there on top; also that it's so often stuck in traffic that there is no buzzing happening at all; and that the generally interesting commentary is accompanied by a jangling Arabian music background that really does get jangling, nerve-wise, after a couple of hours. But it is a good way to see a city, get its layout sorted, get good views, and expend little energy in doing so.
There was one new thing: up the Burj Khalifa to its newest observation deck, the highest in the world at 148 floors. That's the view from it, above, of the fountain and a bit of the Dubai Mall, taken on my phone because that's all I could fit through the gap in the glass panels. Yeah, high, long views out in all directions, impressive - but I thought it wasn't hugely different from my previous visit to the 125th floor last time. And then I went down to the 124th and took this with my camera:
So, yeah. It's higher. Plus you get a drink and a stuffed date. Is it worth it for an extra AED200? Depends on how highly you value bragging rights, I suppose. And if you don't, at all, or simply don't fancy losing count of your ear-pops as you whizz upwards at 10m/sec, then you could just mooch round the mall and look at the fish in the aquarium, and the infinite variety of scarf/robe outfits worn (or not) by the local women, and listen to the screaming children (do they scream more here than elsewhere? It feels like it. Or maybe I'm just jet lag-sensitised).
Back on the bus, with time to think about such things, it seems that Dubai is like Las Vegas, for real - with just as much desert, except with less in the way of casinos and alcohol, naturally (we filled in some bus-waiting time at a local café where we drank a can of Bavaria 0.0% - proudly labelled "non alcoholic malt drink" - which was actually pretty decent). Vegas is all about pretending, for fun - but here, though there are a few mock-Chrysler buildings and a Big Ben lookalike, most of the buildings are as crazy and bizarre as in Vegas but they're real buildings full of offices and hotels. Scarcely a straight line or right angle to be seen. These ones, seen from the relaxing dhow-cruise part of the Big Bus tour, aren't particularly striking (poor choice of word) but guess what? They're called the Twin Towers. Creepy.

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