Dubai | Mall of the Emirates

Day 6 After we explored Old Town.... We headed back to the metro, got lost, tried to get a cab, couldn't get a cab, then got a cab and finally made it to the metro.  We stopped for pizza at the World Trade Center before heading to the Mall of the Emirates for some uber tourism.  Geoff wasn't originally too keen on seeing Ski Dubai, but I was.  It's architecturally ballsy to create a snowy hill and black diamond runs within a mall.  And, to both our surprise we found a Shake Shack at the Mall of Emirates.  Can you believe that?  We don't even have it in California!

Dubai | Old Town

Day 6 After we made it to the metro....

Geoff's "Dubai in a Day" itinerary took us to Dubai Museum, which, from the outside, appeared to be a sad building with artifacts scrounged up to make a "museum" but it was quite the opposite.  I was thoroughly impressed by its architecture design which led end-users through an informative experience through city and town and souq and desert.  Caught up in the informative part of the museum, I forgot to take any pictures, but trust me, it's worth the 10 dirhams (app. $ 2.50) admission.

In need of some refreshments, Geoff's itinerary took us for a nice walk through old Dubai to Basta Art Cafe, which interestingly enough was in my "Three Perfect Days in Dubai" itinerary.  And it did not disappoint its double recommendation.  The Basta Art Cafe is set in an open courtyard with a very serene atmosphere.  I can't remember if there actually was one, but in recalling the environment I feel like there was a fountain, or maybe it was just so peaceful that my mind added it.  Either way, it was nice.  I enjoyed a very delicious mint lemonade (I think… I forget at this point) while Geoff drank a tea.  We sat for a bit soaking it all it.  Somehow I felt like we escaped away from Dubai to another city or country or something.  It reminded me a bit of Europe.  I wondered if any locals visited this place and watched tourists like I do at my coffee shop in San Francisco.  One thing I'll remember about Dubai is that as metropolitan as it is, it still has the calm of a town, and that thought struck me as I sat there listening and watching without detecting a single city-like noise or commotion.  I left Basta Art Cafe quite satisfied.

We consulted a map and continued to the old town, which at the time I thought it was the actual old part of town.  It was more like a Disneyland, a caricature of what the old Dubai may have been.  It seem we went "after hours" as most of the little buildings were closed.  However, some vendors were still out trying to sell me spices and artwork which indicated my former conclusion that I was in a fake town erected for the education (or exploitation) of tourists.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed it.  This is probably the day where I actually started to take a lot of pictures.  Who wouldn't?  As contrived as the town was, it was beautiful.  It was stunning… gorgeous… charming.  I liked it. :)

check in tomorrow for the rest!

Dubai | Ghost Town

Day 6 So it's taken me a bit of time to catch up on my Dubai trip, but I'm determined to finish detailing my trip for memory's sake.

With Dave in Abu Dhabi, Geoff and I ventured out into Dubai proper for some exploring. After a taxi ride to the travel agent to book a tour, we walked towards the nearby metro station. In my opinion I think it's rather odd to have a metro in Dubai. The city in general is not the most conducive to pedestrians, so I'm curious what locals do on their approach to and departure from the metro. As Geoff and i walked from the travel agency to the metro (probably about one city block away), I couldn't figure out where to walk. Most of the sidewalk was missing and in its place rubble and untrodden dirt "paths". I carefully traced Geoff's step, considering in the back of my mind that I did not want to sprain an ankle on vacation. Along the way I stopped Geoff for the occasional touristy picture of the skyline, in a way trying to capture the contrast between luxury and bankruptcy in Dubai's architecture, the over-the-top next to the abandoned.

Upon entering the station I found a good amount of commuters, which was also strange to me because I wondered where they came from since I didn't see any other pedestrians or sidewalks or even any parking lots. By and by my experience of the metro was rather nice. The stations were beautiful and the train was efficient….. and air conditioned. I was a happy camper. :)

check in tomorrow for the rest!

Dubai | the journey.

Day 5

Dubai was one my only trips where I was completely free of work (well, aside from emails). I intended to work for the duration of the trip, but some bad luck in the computer department prevented that. Still, most of the time I was left to my thoughts. And, of course, as I've mentioned like a broken record, I as an introvert love to think. I like to ponder and observe and contemplate and formulate and extrapolate.  My trip afforded me a lot of time for that, especially on the car rides.  It kind of amazes me sometimes how I can just sit for hours looking.  I never liked that game "I spy", but I sure do do a lot of it.  I like to take mental photographs of the environment of a moment.... the sights, smells, the sounds, the feel.

I look at this picture and remember the leather of the taxi seats, and the texture of the thick fabric hung over the seat of the driver.  The dust in the air gathers like a deep fog devouring the buildings until all you see is the open desert in front of you.  It smells of heat; I know it sounds odd to describe the smell as heat, but that's what it reminds me of.  It smelled warm, like I was surrounded by layers of laundry dried in the afternoon's sun.  But I feel the sweat gathered around my ears evaporating in the cool of the air-conditioned car.  It's quiet, but also noisy.  The sounds of my thoughts are distinct and calming.

I thought a lot about myself.  How I could sort myself out.  How I could figure how I felt.  A friend once said to me, "Just feel."  And honestly, I don't know how to.  And years of adversity have pulled me farther away from the ability to feel, let alone understand or trust the emotions I do muster to feel.  It's strange how I can be so in touch with myself sometimes and other time I just have no idea what's going on with myself.  There's a lot of things I want to accomplish in the world; I wonder if I'll be able to tackle it all.  I wonder how long I'll be able to be debt free.  I wonder if my carpal tunnel will make me incapable of using a camera or a computer. I wonder what I'll eat for lunch.  I wonder where I can find some white chocolate.  I wonder quite randomly and freely.

As crazy as my thoughts were in these car rides while in the middle east, I continue to maintain a good level of peace and happiness.  And I attribute much of that in my faith in God.  There's probably a bunch of you who've just rolled their eyes, but it's true.  I think everyone has something they believe in.  Maybe it's science or themselves or logic... and I think that's great for them.  But God has always been reliable in my life, and I'm thankful that amidst the crazy of my life, he continues to calm and encourage me.

The end. :)

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The skyline was so uniquely elegant in Dubai.  I loved it.

Dubai | Burj Al Arab

Day 5 On this fifth in Dubai, Geoff, Dave and I headed to a water park, Wild Wadi, which was located by the coast.

On our way there, I spotted the Burj Al Arab (the picture below).  It was so beautiful and majestic.  I remembered learning about this building in my Environmental Controls class.  The lecturer spoke about how the design was manipulated to optimize its energy efficiency.  He called the concept "sailing", coined because of how the building looked.  I was amazed to see it in person.  Wild Wadi was actually very close to it, so when we were walking around the park I saw some great views of it.

It was kind of strange to think I had applied to architecture jobs in Dubai back in 2008/2009 when I was still actively looking for architecture jobs.  I never thought I'd visit for any reason other than for architecture.  I love how life surprises you.  It's better yet, because a ton of the construction projects in Dubai looked abandoned;  a lot of the projects stopped for lack of funds.  It made me sad to the all the unfinished construction projects.  But at least I saw my Burj Al Arab. :)

Admittedly, I was pretty scared to have a day's activity surrounded around being in the water.  If I recall correctly, the first thing we did was go on a lazy river to get to the first "ride".  Even that was scary for me.  (I'm such a wuss.)  All it is a slow moving "river" that you float along in on an inner-tube.  I've been on rivers before, but the unknown factor of this water park freaked me out a little.  I managed to make my way through it on my own.  But when we got to the more intense part of it, I opted to go with Geoff in a double. (You know, just in case I drowned, so someone would know where to find my body.)

The ride was actually rather interesting.  In the beginning of the sections jets of water propelled your raft up a "hill" then you'd slide through series of tubes on your way down.  It was fun.  Scary, but fun.  I think I nearly lost my bottoms each time we went through the jets.  We went through all the sections before heading to two more rides.  For the two we walked up a high tower where we'd start the ride and we'd also all be in the same raft.  The first one I was scared of, but it was fun.  The second one was terrifying.  Our raft slid up on the side one of the tubes nearly vertical before falling and doing the same on the other side of the tube.  Thrilling!  I enjoyed being in the water in that hot weather, but ironically, it seemed like that day had the coolest weather.  The last activity was a leisurely "pedicure".  The park had a small section set aside for these tanks of fish that like to eat dry skin off of people.  I know it sounds gross, and it kind of is.  You keep your feet/legs in the water and the fish come at you and nibble at you.  With my ticklish feet, it took some getting used to, but my feet were soft afterwards.  Success!

All in all I enjoyed myself, and best of all, I survived!