JOURNAL : Sept. 2004
14 September 2004 :
Hello from Heathrow. Well, after a few days madly rushing around, I'm now taking the chance to relax for a few hours before embarking on my trip, and the first flight (to Dubai). A big thank you to all of you who have sent their best wishes to me - very much appreciated. I've got a great family and a great bunch of friends, and for that I'm extremely grateful. I'll therefore try not to forget about you all over the coming months !!
For those of you who I didn't manage to see over the past few weeks, apologies - it's just been a bit manic.
I'll try and keep this website updated on a fairly regular basis, although please bear in mind that I may not always get easy access to the internet. Keep fingers crossed ....
15 September 2004 :
Enjoyed a very comfortable flight overnight whilst I lost three hours due to the time difference, I gained some very welcome sleep, courtesy of the flatbed on the plane. Landed on schedule at 7.30 (local time). I was able to get swiftly through passport control got the passport stamped (nice to know I could stay up to 60 days if I wanted to). My arrival at the baggage carousel coincided with my bags arrival (why does that never happen at Edinburgh or Gatwick?!), and then I hopped straight into a taxi. Thank goodness it was air-conditioned the temperature was already at 29degrees, and the heat haze all around signified it was going to be a very hot and muggy day. (It ended up at 38degrees).
Arrived at the Jumeirah Beach hotel in one piece, despite the lane-changing antics of the taxi driver. I tried as best as possible to ignore his driving abilities, and kept my eyes looking out of the car window to see all the impressive buildings.
Dubai has been transformed over the past 20 years, and further construction is due including a re-creation of the world map, with man-made islands big enough for hotels and villas. Bizzarre. (Apparently, you're too late to buy the British Isles, which is rumoured to have already been bought by Rod Stewart!)
I spent the rest of the day getting my bearings, and admiring the view of the Burj al Arab hotel (shaped like a huge sail) right across from my balcony.
Attempted to sort out internet access from my room, but failed miserably. I therefore went to hunt down the business centre, where I succeeded to send a few e-mails. Don't think I'll use it again, as it cost me £1 for 3 minutes access, and the keyboard didn't even have a '£' sign !
Booked into the Al Khayal restaurant for dinner as it seemed to be the most appropriate for the country I was in - "Good evening Mr.Jeremy". I decided that I would try out the arabian options - all looked very appetising on the menu, apart from the 'Crisp baked whole sparrows in garlic sauce'. 10 different starters (hot and cold) - small portions of each, but still enough to feed a horse or a camel - all served together like a mezze or tapas - perhaps the chef has been to International Starters in Leith ??
Returned to my room, and flicked on the TV to BBC World, to find that some hunt supporters had charged onto the floor of the House of Commons - tally ho!
16 September 2004 :
After a good sleep, and a hearty breakfast, took a walk out to the end of the marina. Another beautiful day, albeit a tad too hot.
Got the man from the hotel's I.T. team to sort out my laptop - silly me, I was using a phone cable instead of a network cable ! So, I've got broadband access for 24 hours which is great, and as I've just taught myself how to compress picture files (courtesy of Adobe Photoshop) you can also now see where I am !
Spent a few hours relaxing on the beach - the temperature hit 38 degrees for the second day running, and you'll no doubt be delighted to know that it was even 32 degrees in the sea.
The hotel runs a number of courtesy buses, so I got on one for the city centre. Front row seat meant that I got a great view of the road, but for those of you who know how much I love being a passenger, I kept putting my feet on the imaginary pedals ! (I think the coach driver must've gone to the same driving school as Wednesday's taxi driver).
Ended up at the main shopping mall, which had more shops than you could sheikh a stick at. (In a way, it was just like Bluewater in Kent, Cite Europe in Calais, or even the Gyle in Edinburgh - but at least three times the size). Many of the usual shops were evident (you know the sort .... Debenhams, Carrefour, IKEA, Body Shop etc), but thank goodness there were plenty of the local variety to investigate.
I decided not to buy a traditional carpet, and I resisted the stuffed camel - after all, I'd have to hump it round the world with me for many months.
17 September 2004 :
Took breakfast today down at the Beachcombers restaurant, and then relaxed under a parasol on the beach reading my daily copy of the English-language edition of Gulf Times. You will therefore deduce that I've not made much progress in my attempts at understanding Arabic. The paper was full of international news, but I did scan the classifieds just in case someone was offering their camel for sale ... one careful driver, good bodywork, fuel-efficient ...
Went to the gym (yes, I did !), and a swim. Decided I needed a siesta after all that exertion – only trouble was I slept for too long, so missed the bus ride into the city to see the Gold Souk market. Still, it would’ve meant traipsing round for about three hours, knowing that I wouldn’t have bought anything anyway. I’m still intending to travel light.
I visited the Dhow and Anchor pub in the hotel for a bevvy and a spot of late lunch (well, it was really early dinner), and then went for a walk outside the hotel. Well, as I live and breathe, who should I bump into ? None other than Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen – he was apparently in the area to do a home improvements exhibition. Managed to exchange a few pleasantries (and told him my hotel room didn’t need re-decorating), but no photo taken as I’d left my camera behind. Some things are just meant to be ! He said he thought I could’ve been a stalker, as I had just walked along the path past some bushes - maybe he actually thought I was waiting to stab him or something ? (memo to self – remember to carry camera and knife in future !)
The hotel’s daily newsletter is forecasting scattered clouds tomorrow, with air and sea temperatures 37 degrees and 32 degrees respectively. Probably a bit different back at Portobello, methinks.
18 September 2004 :
The final day in Dubai has already arrived, and thoughts beginning to turn towards packing and the flight etc.
I managed to get myself a lift on the buggy going across to the Burj al Arab, and succeeded in having a good look round inside. Took the lift up to the 27th floor, and the views were just simply amazing. Not only did my own hotel look like a miniature, but I got a reasonable view of the Palm Tree resort along the coast. It's hard to put into perspective just how big that whole construction project is.
The inside of the hotel is sheer luxury, and I can see why it's the world's only 7-star hotel. (A couple more photos in the Picture Gallery)
Once I had packed (and after a spot of lunch in the Dhow and Anchor), I took the taxi back to the airport. Bit of a wait for the flight, but it gave me the ideal opportunity to catch up on some reading about Bangkok. Also delighted to get an e-mail from Gillian who I used to work with in Edinburgh. She has been travelling round the world for the past year, and is going to be in Thailand for the next week or so. Not sure if we'll be in the same region, but who knows ....
Having got used to about 6.5 dirhams to the pound, I've now got to get to grips with 70 bahts to the pound. I've also now got to adjust to a more normal existence after the luxury of the past three days !
The flight to Bangkok is 7 hours, but it routes via Mumbai (previously Bombay) and I'm not sure yet just how long we'll be stopping there.
© Jeremy Cousins, 2004-2014