I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.
I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.
Dubai Adventures - Day 2
I'm never going to be awake early in the morning so I can visit the museum if I keep getting back to my hotel at 12:30am, and blogging about my day. And yet that's what I'm doing right now.
Today was my second day in Dubai, and I discovered that Dubai has westerners, women, and arabs; they all hang out in the malls. After sleeping in again (goodness, I was tired), I decided to go to the Mall of the Emirates (the one with indoor skiing in middle of the desert), and then make my way by foot to the Burj Al Arab area, which I estimated was a 2.5 km walk, and hence pretty easy.
I caught a taxi, as the distance was much too far to walk, and I had no idea which bus to catch. I had a great chat with the taxi driver; he was from Nepal, had moved to Saudi to work (not far from where I was working), and was now in Dubai. I asked if he had any family here, and he laughed. Apparently Dubai is so expensive, especially with rent, there's no way he could support a second person; the plan is to work here as long as he can stand it, and take his savings back home.
It seems that with the global financial crisis (GFC), while Dubai still has lots of taxis, it's lacking the tourists who normally use those taxis. The GFC and the drop in tourism is something I'd heard from a few sources now, and it's clear that a lot of Dubai depends upon the tourist trade.
When I stepped into the Mall, it felt like stepping into America. It had American shops, American food, and American people. Actually, as I was to discover after talking to a few of them; the majority of the westerners were from the UK. Almost everything in the mall had prices similar to what I'd pay back home, and like most malls, most of it were things I had absolutely no interest in at all.
Luckily, I found one of my objectives for the day, and that was a free wireless hotspot. I eventually found the access point, it's just outside the cinema, and the SSID is "yournetworkname". I used it to call home (again, hurray for VoIP), and after a good chat ran down my laptop battery. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my external battery (it's heavy!), so any remaining communication had to be done via a hand-held.
The other discovery I found in the mall was an arabic gift shop, which was filled with local wares and tourists. Amazingly, I actually enjoyed browsing here; this certainly wasn't stuff I'd see in Australia (or anywhere else), and the prices were extremely affordable. There was also a hilarious collection of art-work out the front of the door. Words can't do these justice, so you'll just have to look at the photos (coming soon) and see.
I purchased a selection of gifts and while often it was easy for me to say "$x will like this", I discovered that was very hard when $x = 'jarich'. Eventually I went for the shotgun approach, and got her one of everything.
Somehow, after two calls home, some IM chats with friends, a selection of gifts, some photographs of the ski slopes, and some chats with the locals, it had got rather late, so I decided to set out on my walk. This was made more challenging by the fact that my laptop had a flat battery, and that's where my maps were located, but since the Burj Al Arab is the world's tallest building, it's not hard to spot and walk toward it.
I should correct myself there, it's not hard to spot. Walking toward it was hard, since there were huge multi-lane highways, and construction work, and no obvious way to actually walk there. I could (and in hindsight, should) have got a taxi there. It would have cost AED 10 (about $3.50), which would have been a bargain for the XP I would have gained visiting it and the nearby Souq Madinat.
As it was, I ended up walking fruitlessly in what was essentially the wrong direction. Eventually I stopped for some food outside the Lulu Hypermarket, where the serving staff of the fast-food place I frequented were delighted that I was from Australia, and gave me detailed information about the busses in the area, and were generally awesome. They were from the Phillipines, and collectively were the nicest people I've met all trip. It's just a shame the food wasn't.
Having found the bus (AED 2 rather than AED 45 for a taxi), I looked forward to being able to see all the huge towers along Sheikh Zayed Road, which is the home of some of the most opulent hotels and establishments. Consequently, I was dreadfully disappointed when it decided to go down Al Wasl Rd instead, which doesn't have much sightseeing at all. Eventually the bus pulled into the Bur Dubai bus station, which I had never been to before, but which I knew was walking distance from my hotel.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't know in which direction my hotel lay, and due to an inefficient hashing algorithm being used in my brain, I couldn't recall the name of the street with my hotel, either. I knew I was staying in the Ramee Apartments, but apparently Ramee is a chain with a number of Dubai hotels. Plus, my laptop battery was dead, so no checking maps for me.
Luckily for me, I was in Dubai, so I just walked across the road to the mall (Dubai has plenty), plugged in my laptop, and fired up Google Earth with all my cached maps. The bus stop was only 600m from my hotel as the crow flies.
On walk to my residence, down a surprisingly deserted street, a man approached me from an alleyway. From experience I figured this probably meant he wants to sell me a 100% genuine fake rolex, although for a moment where I wondered if people get mugged in these parts, and there was a reason nobody else was walking down this street.
"Excuse me, but do you speak French?" Okay, I really didn't expect that. I admitted I didn't, and wondered where this conversation would go. "Oh. Then do you have a hotel?" I started to wonder if French-speaking, homeless tourists were common in these parts. "Yes, I have a hotel. I'm walking there now." "Oh. Are you sure? Because if you need a room, I have a room you can rent. It's very nice." "No, really, I do have a hotel." "Oh, okay, where are you from?" "Me? Australia. How about you?" "I'm from France."
Suddently, the conversation made sense. My new acquaintance was over here working, and with rent prices being so high, he was looking for a room-mate. He would have been most happy with someone who could speak French, but I'd do. If I was unhappy with my hotel, or sticking around in Dubai, he'd be happy to split the room costs with me, 50-50.
We had an interesting chat, and I pointed that I could see my hotel and was about to turn down one of the streets toward it. We wished each other a good night, and I dropped past the 24 hour Super Happy Mart to replenish some supplies for breakfast.
Tomorrow I should try to wake up early and visit the museum, but based
on prior experience I'm not sure if I will. Failing that, my plan is
to catch a bus or taxi to Jumeirah Mosque, check out the beach, and
then walk through the back-streets of Al Bada to Sheikh Zayed Road,
which should put me in the heart of the "down-town district". I'm sure
I can find myself some trouble from there.