UAE - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 103
Monday 23rd June
One of the pleasant things about staying in a nice hotel is the nicely laid out breakfast buffet that is included in the price of the room. There’s nothing better than starting the day off right with a really good, hot, English breakfast. Alas, our day this morning would not start off great. The receptionist had neglected to tell us that ten o’clock was the cut-off point and so our well-deserved lay in this morning robbed us of the pleasure. This launched me immediately into a rotten mood and we ended up starting the day with an argument with each other. Sandy ‘went out’ and we ‘enjoyed’ some private time away from each other for the rest of the morning. We’ve encountered this situation before and a couple of hours of ‘time off’ always seems to do us both the world of good. After Sandy came back, we continued the rest of the day without incident.
As sometimes happens during these little marital tiffs, some things are said that might otherwise not be heard and Sandy, quite accurately, pointed out a floor in my character that has been slowly growing over the past couple of months. I do have the tendency to want to complain a bit too energetically whenever I’m engaged in any kind of dispute. Such was the case this morning when I called the reception desk to ask about breakfast. When the voice at the other end of the line told me that it was too late for breakfast, I complained that we had not been informed about the cut-off time. I asked if it would be possible to arrange breakfast through room service instead and was told that we would have to pay for it. Since it’s supposed to be included in the price of the room, this simply wouldn’t cut the mustard and I debated fervently to the point of requesting to talk to the hotel manager. Perhaps it’s the travelling lifestyle but I do tend to get more and more irate when something relatively trivial goes wrong or, more accurately, when I don’t get my own way or lose a battle, as was the case with the breakfast issue. Sandy has a hard time dealing with this and let me know about it this morning. This is something that we will have to find a compromise for.
Sandy returned to the hotel after this morning’s walkabout with a copy of the coveted Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This no doubt did wonders to improve her mood since she has been drooling over the possibility of obtaining it for some weeks now. Dubai is a modern and extremely well developed city with all the modern conveniences. Accordingly, our hotel is located less than a hundred meters or so from the nearest McDonald’s and this is where we chose to have lunch. We sort of have a love/hate relationship with the various America fast-food franchises. The food isn’t that great but is often a welcome relief from the local food that usually doesn’t agree with one or other of us.
One of the main attractions here in Dubai (from our perspective, at least) is the Wild Wadi water theme park. We decided to make today the day to explore this liquid oasis of fun in depth. After polishing off the McDonald’s, only narrowly determining where the food stopped and the packaging started, I scouted the area for a taxi driver to take us there. It wasn’t hard to find one since we are situated in a relatively busy part of town and they are all over the place. Almost all taxis in Dubai operate on a meter, irritatingly enough, which makes negotiation pretty much obsolete – to a lesser person perhaps. Not content to accept this, I stopped several taxi drivers to gauge the cost of the fare and the going rate seemed to be around thirty-five Dirhams ($9.50). I thought this was a bit pricey (everything here in Dubai is pricey compared to pretty much everywhere else we’ve been) so I set myself the somewhat ambitious goal of finding a taxi that would take us the fifteen minute journey for just fifteen Dirhams ($4) instead. It’s now nearly impossible for me to accept the advertised price anymore and I tend to want to forgo a purchase in favour of having to swallow the asking price. I was starting to get despondent after three drivers in a row drove off almost laughing at the DR15 suggestion and was about to give up (and I do so hate that). I could feel Sandy’s annoyance at my persistence starting to drill into the back of my head when, finally, a taxi driver that stopped agreed, albeit exceedingly reluctantly, to accept the offer. He must have been on his way to that part of town, perhaps, but whatever his motives, it was to our advantage and we got in.
We arrived after a brief dash across the emirate and finished the journey with DR32.50 showing on the meter. Since we had already agreed on DR15 up front, I handed the driver the two notes that I was already sporting and we parted company – us happily but I’m sure the driver was biting his tongue.
The cost of the entrance to the water park was on a par with the Orlando theme parks with the main difference being their integration of some pretty nice technology. We were issued wristbands with a little plastic disk on them. By holding the little disk in front of various readers throughout the park, we could lock and unlock our lockers, rent towels, pay for food and merchandise and so on. We ‘loaded’ each disk with DR50 and anything left at the end of the day would be refunded to us. It’s actually a very nice feature for us as well as the park. It makes things easy for us since we don’t have to carry cash around (running back and forth to the lockers to get some and put it away again so that it doesn’t get wet). The park owners must love it since it disassociates the act of spending from the concept of money. Accordingly, it makes it easier to spend money. I deliberately kept this in the back of my mind during the day so as to compensate for their strategy. Yes, I know, I’m a very sad person.
The water park is fantastic. There are several attractions that are unique that we have not previously encountered at any of the numerous water theme parks that we’ve been to in the past. It’s a tad smaller than some of the other parks we’ve experienced but on the whole it was a thoroughly enjoyable day out. One of the highlights was learning how to surf on a body board without actually moving anywhere. A wall of thrusting water comes gushing down a slope onto which you dive with your body board and try to stay there. Finding the right balance and technique takes a few attempts and the wipe-outs are quite amusing, even if a little undignified. Another nice feature of the park is all the interconnected water tube flumes. No need to climb endless stairs with these since they go uphill as well as down (although we’ve been to places that employ this technology before) but the real nice thing is that the water pool at the end of each flume is the same water pool for the beginning of the next flume. Theoretically, then, you could spend the entire day inside your inflatable tube without ever leaving the ride - fantastic.
The Wild Wadi theme park sits beneath the shade of the world’s tallest and ‘only’ seven-star hotel – the Burg Al Arab. In fact, the two properties are owned and operated by the same company – much like everything else along this stretch of the Dubai coastline. It’s an enormous work of engineering art and towers over everything else for miles around. It is well over a thousand feet tall and has a helipad at the top. Guests of the hotel’s most expensive penthouse are flown from the airport directly to the top of the hotel via complimentary helicopter. At $25,000 per night, the complimentary transportation ought to be good. All throughout the day, I was contemplating what it would be like to actually spend a couple of nights there. Of course, it is far too expensive for us and we would never get the opportunity to indulge. Or would we? As the day progressed, I kept thinking to myself just how amazing it would be for us to finish our trip in style. There is still plenty of money in the bank and even though it would be a significant outlay, it wouldn’t kill us. At $600+ per night in one of their deluxe suits, complete with private butler, however, it would not be cheap and would represent a month’s worth of travel in just two days – excluding any extras such as meals or whatever. After we left the park, we decided to give their reservations desk a call to see just how much it would cost. They quoted a daily room rate of DR2200 ($600) excluding a 20% additional charge for taxes and such. This was the best price they could offer but they also suggested that we call one of their affiliated travel agents. Travel agents are often allotted blocks of rooms and dates and can oftentimes offer better prices – much the same phenomenon occurs with Las Vegas hotels also. I called their recommended travel agent and was given a US Dollar rate of $580 per night but this would be inclusive of all taxes as well as breakfast. After a brief chat with each other, Sandy and I decided that we would go for it and to hell with our budget. What better possible way could there be to end our trip in style? We will stay for two nights in one of the most famous, and not to mention expensive, hotels anywhere on the face of the planet. We have now arranged to be picked up from our hotel tomorrow morning at eleven o’clock. Quite ironically, since we just decided to spend over $1,100 for two nights in a hotel, I haggled with the guy on the phone about a $20 pick-up charge that he was planning on throwing in. After some intense negotiations, he lowered and eventually dropped this charge. It really doesn’t get any more surreal than that.
Having secured our rather expensive deluxe suite for a couple of nights at the incredibly prestigious Burg Al Arab hotel, we left in search of the public bus-stop to take us back to the hotel – talk about surreal. It’s OK to fork out over $1,100 for a couple of nights sleep but why spent $10 on a taxi when the public bus will get us back to the hotel for less than $1. It was actually quite fortuitous that decided on the bus. Just a few minutes into our journey, after having to wait fifteen minutes in the intense heat and humidity, that Sandy spotted a Chilies restaurant. It became our plan to each at Chilies this evening since Sandy noted the presence of the restaurant chain in one of the hotel brochures. With no time like the present, we got off at the next stop and sat down to a very enjoyable trip down memory lane. Almost everything about the restaurant was exactly as it is at ‘our’ Chilies back in Jacksonville, Florida. Our meal was the same as it always is, right down to my habitual club soda with lots of lime. Delicious. We’ve really missed our usual American restaurants and food since leaving the land of opportunity this past January. The hour of so that we spent at Chilies was just what we needed to lift our spirits and put us both back in a positive frame of mind.
Back on the bus, then, and our next destination would be the famous gold and electronics souqs of Deira Dubai. It was by now getting late and getting off the bus several stops too early didn’t help much either. We eventually found the souqs that we were looking for but due to the lateness of the day, failed to capitalize on our enjoyment of the area and so we took a taxi back to the hotel.
My next log entry will be from inside the huge, famed, hotel that looks like a ship’s sail thrusting high into the skyline from a man-made island just off the coast. Needless to say, we are both looking forward to the experience.