E-mail From Dubai and
Hong Kong...
December 1, 2007

I have to admit that I didn't have extremely high expectations when going to Dubai. Why was that?
Well, I went there three years ago and absolutely loved it. But that was a time when everything was so
new to me – the mosques, the Arabic writing, the souks, the hookahs and sheesha, the camels and sand
dunes, and (of course) the 'awe factor' I felt when I would look at the Burj-al-Arab. Never mind the fact
that I was there with one of my best friends and we were living quite the posh life with the resort we
were staying at (got to love Ramadan rates). I wasn't really sure that another trip to this city could
compare to what I felt the first time around. After all, I have now seen my fair share (and then some)
of mosques, souks and Arabic writing. And while I still have a great love for my one-humped friends,
we all know that seeing camels is far from something 'new' for me these days. And then I needed to
factor in that several people I know that have been to Dubai recently have been far from impressed.

So that was why I was keeping my expectations to a minimum.

But would you believe that I came away with almost a better experience this time around?

Of course it was lacking the presence of my friend Alex that I was here with last time (yet so many
places brought back memories of her that always put a smile on my face). But this time around I stayed
with a friend I met during my trip last year. It was so nice to be able to stay in a house versus yet
another hotel room. And the location happened to be perfect – close to Jumeira Road near my beloved
Lime Tree Café, the Jumeirah Mosque and lots of news stores and cafes that weren't here the last time
around. I instantly felt comfortable – kind of hard not to when I already know my surroundings and
the bus system.

But this time I didn't feel like I had to be as much of a tourist. I didn't have to do the desert safari. I
didn't have to go to the Creek area with the souks (yet I still ended up going – but it's not like I felt like
I had to). I didn't have to pay a pretty penny to grab a meal at the Burj-al-Arab to see what the inside
looked like. I didn't have to hire a taxi to take me out to see and ride the camels at sunrise (what can I
say – I'm a girl who's extremely fascinated with camels).

Since Alex was on a business trip when I arrived, I decided to relive one of my favorite scenes from my
last trip out here – watching the Burj-al-Arab change colors once the sun went down. I arrived and
worked some magic (in the form of lying and saying I was a guest) to sit on the beach chairs as the sun
was about to set. 2+ hours passed in no time as I just laid there and stared at the massive building that
was constantly illuminating a different color. I could not get enough of it (though I finally had to since I
bought a ticket to see a show with West End performers at the theatre there – it was quite crazy to
think that I was in India just that morning!).

This trip was a bit more about checking out the new developments of this ever-growing city. Alex was
quite a tour guide once Friday (which is the Muslim-country equivalent of our 'Saturday') rolled
around. His driving tour started at the Burj Dubai – the tallest building in the world that is around 160
floors. It is still in the construction phase – but the glass is starting to be put on and it is going to be
beeeee-autiful! And it is also quite a sight to see the hotel, lake, office buildings, etc that are being built
next to the building.

The driving tour also took me to the Palm Island – and we got to drive down the 'trunk' of it. The
'Fronds and Crescent', however, are not open to non-residents. One side of the island has amazing
views of the Burj-al-Arab; the other side has views of…a monorail type thing (sucks for them- to pay all
that money to essentially live next to a train). An area at the end of Jumeira Beach that was nothing
more than an around-the-clock construction site last time I was here was now a complex with mass
amounts of new tall residential buildings, shopping and more hotels. We grabbed drinks on the Dubai
Marina while looking at views of the skyline (I still love those Emirates Towers).

The next day I was entitled to one touristy attraction – and that would be the indoor skiing at the Mall
of the Emirates. I mean, come on….where else can you take an escalator in your ski boots to get to the
slope? Once the revolving door opened to the ski run, the smell reminded me of an ice skating rink (I
feel I can attest to this since I spent everyday for ten years in such a place). Anyway, there was one lift
to go on and you had a choice to either go on the run to the left or to the right. Since it had been years
since I last skied, my first time down the hill consisted of the perma-snowplow position. I am sure Alex
was thinking 'What the hell is this girl doing?' I was improving each time down and by my fifth time, my
skis were almost parallel with each other (the key word being 'almost'). Initially I thought a two-hour
ski pass was a limited amount of time. But believe me…after an hour of doing the same thing over and
over, it was almost time to hang up the ski boots.

The next day was when I was going to do the thing I was most looking forward to while in Dubai.
Something I had never done before in my life. Something I have wanted to do for years. Something
that I wanted to save for a cool and 'different' location. What was this 'something'?


I have to admit that my sympathetic nervous system is lacking a bit of something as there was never a
moment where I even got as much as one little butterfly in my stomach. What is wrong with me? We
were thousands of feet in the sky in a tiny plane that I was about to be falling out of. Oh well. I'm not
complaining about not being nervous – it gave me a chance to fully appreciate that camels I saw when
our plane was taking off, the sand dunes to one side and the bright blue Arabian Gulf with natural sand
islands scattered around to the other side. Yup, this was a worthy place to jump out of a plane. I
laughed and used many expletives to Eugene (the Russian man strapped to my back) to describe how
amazing the whole thing was the entire way down. At one point he asked if I like roller coasters. I
thought this was just his way of making conversation. I told him I loved them. Then he maneuvered
the parachute to move at an angle and speed of a steep drop on a roller coaster. Once again, more
laughter ensued. Minutes later it was over. It was only when I was back on land when some adrenalin
kicked in. I can't wait to do this again.

This pretty much wrapped up my time in Dubai. It was also filled with nights of bars and clubs and
mornings of hangovers. Just how it should be.

Then I moved onto Hong Kong. There really isn't much to say about my time here because I mostly
took advantage of sleeping in. Three different mornings I woke up at 11:30am. But it felt oh-so-good to
get the rest. I didn't feel like I was a tourist here – I just wanted to take in the Christmas spirit at the
malls and roam around. I stayed with friends and had other friends here, as well. A bunch of us went to
the horse races at Happy Valley on Wednesday. I was 0-for-7 as far as my betting went – this was
eased with knowing the bets were only the equivalent of $1.50 US and the pints of beer in the beer

This would also be where I would meet up with a couple of my friends from San Francisco whom I'm
going to Vietnam with. It was so great (yet so normal) to see friends from home. My time here was
spent with yet more bars, clubs and hangovers.

Now I am at the airport waiting to board my flight to Saigon where I will meet up with my friends (who
are already there)…at yet another bar. I loved Vietnam so much last year I can't wait to go back! And
this time it will have the component of experiencing it with my friends – yahoo! (To my Yahoo friends
– this was my little way of making it up to you every time I say I'm going to 'google' something.)

On a side note, something really, really sad happened last week (though some of you already know).
Remember my beloved Antarctica trip on my beloved Explorer? That very boat was the boat that
ended up sinking last week after hitting a submerged piece of ice. Luckily everybody was rescued. But
seeing pictures of the boat triggered unexplainable emotion in me (as it did with my other friends from
that trip). So I guess I am now going to also have to find another way to get to the Arctic since that was
going to be my mode of seeing that area. (Here's one article from last week relating to the incident: http:

With it now being December, the holiday season is now about to be in full-swing. Want to wish
everyone a great holiday. And while you might criticize it, just remember that there are people in the
world (read: ME) that don't have the luxury of listening to those wonderful Christmas songs while
carrying out day-to-day activities so enjoy every minute of it!!!


P.S. Once again, a big THANK YOU to Suzanne, Daniel and Alex for taking me in!