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Getting around

Part 2: Dubai

20-21.12: Munich -> Dubai
22.12: Dubai
23.12: Dubai
24.12: Dubai -> Sharjah -> Khasab
25.12: Musandam fjords -> Khasab
26.12: Khasab -> Ras Al Khaimah
27.12: Ras Al Khaimah -> Dibba -> Fujairah
28.12: Fujairah -> Al Ain
29.12: Al Ain
30.12: Al Ain
31.12: Al Ain -> Liwa oasis
1.1: Liwa oasis -> Abu Dhabi
2.1: Abu Dhabi
3.1: Abu Dhabi
4.1: Abu Dhabi
5.1: Abu Dhabi -> Istanbul -> Munich

20-21.12: Munich -> Istanbul -> Dubai
Welcome Hotel & Aparrments, Dubai (Deira). 536 AED for a nice studio with a living room with kitchen (stove, microwave, water boiler, washing machine for clothes, fridge + freezer, two toilets (one with shower/bath), two LCD TVs, ironing board with iron, electronic safe which for some reason is locked, lots of nice furniture. Very nice place, good location. The only thing which is missing is a hair dryer. WLAN is available in the room, but is not free (20 AED/hour). Overall good value, also considering the peak season.
Weather: rainy in Munich, around 5C. Fresh in the evening in Istanbul, but not really cold. Some clouds in the sky in the morning when we approach Dubai, otherwise it's sunny and blue sky the whole day in Dubai (with a few scattered clouds).

On the way to the airport Shirley loses a tooth filling. We have no health insurance in Dubai (or let's say I'm not sure if our German health insurance covers also medical expenses in Dubai) and we don't know how much a dentist in Dubai costs, if you have no valid medical insurance. On the other hand there is simply no time to look for a dentist in Munich right now, so we just proceed to the airport.

We reach the airport at 4:30pm and proceed to the check-in. The check-in queue is not too long. After the check-in we proceed to the gate, then board the plane.

The Turkish airlines A321 Airbus is very full. The seat rows are very narrow, with very little leg space. Turkish Airlines are trying to pack as many people as possible into this plane. My knee is hitting all the time the (broken) magazine container of the seat in front.

The plane takes off with a delay of 25 minutes, but manages to land on time in Istanbul at 10:35pm local time.

Bus transfer to the airport building, followed by a long walk across the terminal until we reach the access to the transit area. Then we go through a security check (longish queue) and proceed to the gate. The airport looks tired and oldish and not very clean. Not as flashy as the airports in Munich or Dubai. We reach the gate at 11:40pm.

At 00:20am we board the plane to Dubai. This is an Airbus A321, still very cramped and narrow, but in a much better shape than the previous one. More modern and with individual, large LCD screens for each seat in the economy class. And it would seem that the seats are not reclinable. Still, Turkish Airlines is again packing too many people into this plane.

After a quiet flight we land in Dubai on time at 7am local time. I'm surprised by the local time, because I was thinking there were two hours time difference with Munich but in reality it's three.

The kids are very tired. Alissia doesn't want to get up initially. We end up waiting until all other passengers have left the plane, then I carry the small one in my arms to the terminal.

We go through immigration (very long walk, perhaps because we are not flying with Emirates), then manage to retrieve the bags by 8am. We get some cash from an ATM, purchase SIM cards from Etisalat for the smartphones (40 AED with 5 AED of airtime on them), then take a taxi to the hotel (36 AED).

The hotel is not far from the airport and in fact we manage to be in the hotel by 8:40am. Some discussion with the receptionist, because the check-in time is only 2pm. She briefly hints that we should pay an early check-in surcharge of half a daily rate, then steps back from this request and allows us to check in, stating that she is upgrading us to a higher class. However the room description matches exactly our booking.

So we are in the room at 9 something am, tired like hell after a night with very little sleep. We get settled and then go to sleep.

At 12pm I get up and take a shower and get ready. At 12:45pm I wake up Shirley and the kids. We go to the lobby and ask about a restaurant and a dentist. It seems there is a dentist around the corner.

In fact we reach this place after a brief 50m walk. The dentist (Muraqabat Dental Center) is open today, in spite of the fact that it is Saturday.

Once there they tell us to come back on Monday, because today they are full. We explain the situation, i.e. that a filling dropped from a tooth. Some discussion, some waiting and then after about 10 minutes Shirley is admitted for a checkup.

I'm expecting that they briefly check her tooth and then give her an appointment hopefully for later today, but this dentist (a young lady) ends up completely fixing the problem, by cleaning the tooth and filling it again. And they are using modern materials (same colour of the tooth, not amalgam).

About 40 minutes later Shirley is back with the problem solved and the bill is only 300 AED, which is even a bit cheaper than the cost of a similar treatment in Munich. I must say I'm impressed. This dentist staff is really flexible and friendly, and charges very reasonable fees.

It's 2:30pm when we get out of the dentist's lab. There is no time now to have lunch somewhere and after that head to Burj Khalifa, because I'm in the 3:30pm slot. So we take a taxi to Burj Khalifa and plan to have lunch there.

This time it's quite easy to find a taxi (31 AED) and we quickly reach Burj Khalifa. I realise that the Sheikh Zayed road (the one passing by the "valley of the skyscrapers") is actually a motorway, with a top allowed speed of 100km/h.

Around 2:50pm we arrive at the Dubai Maill, which is adjacent to Burj Dubai. It takes some time to walk through this mall and reach the food court, because this complex is so huge. I'm quite hungry, but at the same time I have to rush if I want to be at the Burj Khalifa entry point on time.

I queue up at a KFC restaurant and grab a sandwich and a drink, then head to the Burj Khalifa entrance. It takes a while to find it because it is in the lower ground and there are quite few access points to the lower ground.

In any case I manage to be there on time and collect the ticket. Then it will take a full 40 minutes before I reach the viewing platform. Lots of people today. A Chinese tourist shows up with a ticket valid only for tomorrow and is turned back.

I'm on the viewing platform until after 6pm, because I want to take some sunset and blue hour photos. The blue hour is very short (maybe just 10 or 20 minutes) on this December day, which happens to be the shortest day of the year.

Then I rush back and meet again Shirley and the kids at 6:30pm in the food court area. There we have some dinner.

We then proceed to the supermarket where we buy some food for the breakfast tomorrow and a recharge for the SIM card. We are back in the hotel around 8:30pm.

22.12:  Dubai
Welcome Hotel & Aparrments, Dubai (Deira). False fire alarm this morning (see below).
Weather: some clouds, windy, otherwise mostly sunny the whole day. A bit more fresh than yesterday.

At 9:18am a fire alarm wakes us up. We walk down the stairs in pyjamas, together with all other hotel guests, only to hear that this was a false alarm. So we head back to the room and have breakfast (and the fire alarm will ring a few more times this morning).

At 12pm we get out of the hotel and take a taxi to the Deira City Centre mall, arriving there at 12:20pm. This is a not so new and not so big (compared to the other malls in Dubai) mall in Deira. We spend some time there and have some lunch.

At 1:45pm we head to the metro and purchase a day pass (AED 16/person). The idea would be to have a look at the Dubai metro which was only completed a few years ago.

The Deira City Centre metro station is new and quite flashy. Trains seem to pass every 5-10 minutes. The track is initially underground, then emerges and continues on pylons. Nice views of the skyscrapers.

We get off at the Mall of the Emirates around 2:40pm. This mall is actually not that far away from Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah beach, almost in walking distance. But never mind we'll take a taxi to Jumeirah beach.

It turns out that to get a taxi you have to walk into the mall (a few hundred metres of walking), then cross half the mall until you are able to reach the taxi stand. Then the taxi driver makes a big detour, initially driving for quite a while inland, away from the sea, before making a U-turn and driving back towards the sea.

Either this taxi driver is trying to cheat us, or the road network in Dubai is highly inefficient. And I start asking myself if perhaps it would have been faster to simply walk to the beach from the metro station.

Anyway, we are on Jumeirah beach at 3:17pm. There the kids immediately rush to the sea and start playing with the sand. A beach holiday is something we should do more often with the kids.

We are on the beach until almost 4pm, then take a taxi to the Ibn Battuta mall. This is actually quite far away (was thinking it was closer to Jumeirah beach). The distances between things here in the Dubai area are actually quite big. Even the malls are big, lots of walking.

We reach the mall at 4:15pm. I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed. Was actually expecting a bit more from this mall. Not so flashy, a bit old, only one level, but very, very big. Lots of walking to get from one end to the other.

Probably because the temperatures in the summer are so unbearable, people here make huge malls, the size of several football fields, so that people can spend most time inside these malls and never have to go out. These malls probably consume lots of power for A/C in the summer.

At 5:45pm we finally leave the Ibn Battuta mall and head towards the metro station. In the metro train we discover that there are sections for women and children only. I wonder where families travelling together are supposed to get rid of the fathers. Some arguing with Shirley who tells me that I'm not allowed to sit next to her.

It's around 7pm when we reach the Burj Khalifa train station. We are planning to have a dinner in the food court of the Dubai Mall. It turns out that this not such a good idea, because from the metro station to the food court it's a very, very long walk. Of course all in A/C spaces, and in fact it feels like being in a huge airport, but it's just to far away. We have to walk for at least 10 minutes.

After dinner we go to the supermarket, where we buy some food for tomorrow, then take a taxi back to the hotel.

23.12: Dubai
Welcome hotel, Dubai. It seems that there is not enough hot water for a shower. After a short while, the water in the shower becomes lukewarm.
Weather: the weather forecast for today was rain, and in fact the morning is clouded and foggy. Poor visibility. By noon the sky starts to open and after 2pm it's sunny again with only a few clouds. Windy and more fresh than yesterday.

Due to the jet-lag Shirley and the kids have difficulties to get up at 10:30am, or perhaps they are still tired from yesterday's activities. We have breakfast and leave the hotel at almost 1pm.

We fetch a taxi to the airport and I head to the Budget car rental, because I want to retrieve the rental car. The car is Hyundai Sonata, with plenty of boot space. I also purchase the Oman insurance (300 AED, because they count the two days in Oman, 24-26.12, as three). Then the guy explains all additional fees and charges I have to pay. Budget even charge a fee of 45 AED for parking at the airport. I wonder why this isn't included in the car rental price.

At 2:15pm we are finally set up and start using the car. The idea would be to go to a beach (the closest is the Jumeirah public beach), eat something than head to the creek for the sunset.

We reach Jumeirah beach at 2:40pm. This is a nice clean beach, with fine light sand. Very big and wide, and the seawater is very clean.

We settle there for a while and rent a beach chair for 15 AED. The kids immediately start playing with the sand and the sea. The seawater is not cold, but there is a damn fresh wind blowing today, so I'm a bit concerned the kids might catch a cold.

At 3:30pm start leaving the beach. By now the small one is freezing a bit because her swimsuit is wet and cold wind is blowing. I cover her with my jacket and bring her to Shirley who is handling the big girl.

It turns out that Shirley lost the underwear and trousers of the small one. So we have to change our plans, because we can't walk around with a naked 5 year old girl. So we decide to drive back first to the hotel.

It's 4:10pm and it shouldn't take that long to get back to the hotel, since the distance is only a few km. In practice, it takes much longer than expected to reach the hotel.

Part of the problem is that the maps of the Sygic car navigation system we are using are out of date. Then I'm not used to the Dubai way of driving and the Dubai road network. And I'm also not used yet to this new car. Lastly, we end up being stuck in the traffic jam.

In any case it's almost 5pm when we finally reach the hotel. We have only had breakfast today, and Shirley and the kids are quite hungry. So I just drop my ladies at the hotel and drive to the creek.

This time things run more smoothly and I manage to be there by 5:20pm, with enough time for choosing a good spot for the sunset photo.

Plenty of boats are anchored on this side of the creek. Some are restaurants, some take tourists for a trip along the creek. Then there is sort of an open air market with stalls selling miscellaneous stuff.

I spend an hour along the creek, then walk back to the car. This time it takes much longer to reach the hotel, because there is so much traffic. I end up being stuck in traffic jams and only reach the hotel at 7:10pm.

I have a dinner at a Chinese restaurent near the hotel, then at 8:30pm get to the hotel. In the evening I fetch some cash from an ATM, which I use to pay the hotel room bill.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day: we visit Sharjah, the Sharjah desert park, then drive to Khasab (Oman).

Copyright 2014 Alfred Molon