Exploring Dubai
in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on 27th January, 2012

It was raining hard in London. There wasn't any hue to speak of in the view from my flat looking out at London's East End. My minicab driver was 35 minutes late when I had called another firm to book a replacement minicab. The driver excused himself telling me "It's very confusing".

I listened to music on my iPhone on the way to the airport. Some songs which had lost their lustre had new life now that I was listening to them in a different context. A song in an office can only sound great for so long, but when you're about to set off around the world then it's a bit different.

I had, at times, eaten at Pret three times a day when I was contracting in London. At the airport I had my last breakfast I would be eating there for some time. At one point my gate for my first flight was called. At this point my time in England ends, even while still in an English airport. When I arrived at the gate everyone looked out of place in London but very much the sorts of characters that make up any Latvian town. Within minutes of sitting down the only language I could hear being spoken was Russian. I'm not sure if the Latvian speakers are quiet people or if they took an earlier flight. There were a few characters that I just absolutely found to look downright dodgy. I felt I needed to keep an eye on my bag at all times throughout the flight.

When we touched down in Riga it was almost pitch black in the sky. There were a few flood lights at the airport exposing the huge mountains of snow and the wind which blew away at them. There was some snow on the ground in Canada when I was there four weeks ago but every day was sunny and I was hardly out in the evenings. Seeing this environment made me feel like we'd landed at the North Pole. I don't know how anyone can stand living through a winter like that.

All of my bank cards and pieces of identification fell out of the X-ray scanner at the airport and a guard had to help clean them up off the ground. When I got to what I thought was my gate there was a sign saying a bus would pick us up and there was a phone we could call to order it to arrive. I picked up the phone and it started ringing through, a voice on the other end of the line answered and told me it'd be with us 40 minutes before the flight. When the bus arrived it picked up transferring passengers for Dubai and Moscow. I was impressed with how the beautiful blonde girl escorting us on the bus ride could switch between Latvian, English and Russian so well and with psychic accuracy detect the native language of each person she was speaking to.

Our flight landed hard at Dubai airport. There were two visa halls that I went through. The first was full of Indians and Africans pushing in huge crowds to have their eyes scanned and scrutinised over before being let in. There was a guy in this first hall trying to grab all Americans and Brits and send us upstairs to a less menacing border control. After a 25-minute queue I got through to a guard who was laughing away with his mates while he was inputting my details. He asked his coworker in Arabic how to spell the "tschik" portion of my last name. Within ten minutes of that I was in a £6 taxi to my hotel. I checked in and had to hand over my passport for safe keeping.

I had only checked in at 4:30am but by 11am I was awake. I told myself that today would just be a mall shopping day and I didn't want myself to feel pressured to knock out any decent photographs. I caught the Metro from Union to Dubai Mall. Just before I entered Union metro station I could see the tallest building on earth at my destination. It seemed massive from a distance.

The train was packed. The whole train is one big carriage where you can walk the whole length of it but there wasn't really much space. It was weird seeing doors labeled "Women and Children only" on a public transit system. The English announcements were the same person who does them on a lot of long distance trains in England and whoever forecasted capacity and usage of the train thinks rush hour on the Central line in London is a little piece of heaven.

When I got to Dubai Mall metro station there was a bus for the mall but it was rushed by so many people that I opted to just walk. Before I knew it I was in front of the tallest building on earth which was next to the mall. I thought to myself that 800 meters doesn't seem that high anymore. The building looks a bit skinner than I thought it would be. I guess length without girth can be a letdown. I picked up some new shoes at the mall. You can see the differences in prices when there isn't a 20% VAT on everything.

Afterword I caught a train over to the Burj Al Arab. There was a small but very impressive mall next door with a lot of pools on one side and a harbour on the other side. I think the lion share of the good pics I took today were from this area.

Getting a taxi home was something else. No one would queue for a cab and drivers were being picky and kicking people out of cabs once would-be passengers sat in them. I got in one and asked the driver to take me to the nearest metro station, he replied by saying he's going off duty. I begged him to do this one last job but he refused. When I got out there were loads of people cramming for taxis.

I practically jacked another one jumping in the back seat and demanded to be driven to the Internet City Metro. The driver drove to the motorway next to the station, slammed on the breaks pulling onto the hard shoulder about 80 meters from the metro side entrance. He dumped me out on to the motorway, left me to jump the barrier and walk through the raw desert the rest of the way back to the station. The cab ride was £3 so I didn't mind.

The metro ride back was amazing, I stood with only two Russian girls blocking my view of Dubai's skyline the whole way home. The sun was setting and it felt like I was seeing what the world will look like in 500 year's time.

Today I've managed to spend £7 on food and £7 on transport, I'm well under budget and glad for that.

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