Well, here I am in sunny London (and I do mean that literally - the weather has been quite nice!).
It was such an epic trip to get here so let me take you back...
On Monday 11 May, I flew out of Brisbane, bound for my first stop in Abu Dhabi. It was so hard saying goodbye and by the time I got on the plane, my eyes and nose were very red and I had almost lost my voice completely. I was more worried about them removing me from the plane and taking me to quarantine to worry about what I looked like. The poor man who sat next to me asked me innocently where I was going and I burst into tears! Then he said to me, "It's no fun travelling when you're ill". Now certain they are going to whisk me away for swine flu vaccinations, I quickly said, "I'm not sick!", then proceeded to cough, sneeze and blow my nose for the entire flight to Singapore! The change over in Singapore was pretty uneventful and on next leg to Aub Dhabi, I did something I have never done before...slept on the plane! I must have really needed it!
Kirstie and Matt met me at the airport in Abu Dhabi and took me back to the flat in the city they share with their gorgeous puppy, Sam. That night, I slept for about 3 hours and woke up at 4.30 the following morning...good old jetlag!
My first day in Abu Dhabi was hot and we headed out to visit The Grand Mosque, which is apparently the third largest in the world. It was amazing! Kirstie and I had to wear an Abaya and headscarves and remove our shoes before we could go in. The pictures do not really do it any justice.
The Grand Mosque
Inside The Grand Mosque
After The Grand Mosque, we drove out to Dubai, where Kirstie had booked us two nights at The Crowne Plaza at Festival City. We took the "scenic route" (read as "got lost on the way") to the hotel which was beautiful and the staff were so friendly. We dumped our stuff (or, I should say, the porter kindly brought our bags to the room, thankfully as my suitcase was 30kgs!!) and headed out to Mall of the Emirates for some air-conditioned shopping! Inside the Mall of the Emirates is Ski Dubai, an indoor ski slope and snow park. We just had to check it out. Picture this: I was wearing shorts and a shirt, and to go in we had to wear a beanie, gloves, a long black ski jacket and boots (remember, shorts!!). Overall, it was not the best look! The snow park was so much fun and we even got hunted down by the papparazzi, who con you into buying the photos when you come out. It was a great experience though, and I still have the beanie and gloves to show for it, and even a small photographic reminder. The Mall was massive and we stayed there for about 6 hours before coming home and having a well-deserved swim in the pool.
View from the hotel room to the pool area
Me in The Mall of the Emirates
The next morning, we drove out to see the Burj al Arab hotel on it's own island off Jumierah Beach. Truly amazing. The scale of this place just takes your breath away!
Then it was time for more shopping and it was off to Dubai Mall for us. This Mall is probably the biggest I have ever seen or imagined in my life. This mall had it's own indoor aquarium and underwater world...unbeliveable! We spent about 7 hours in this mall and I swear we did not walk past the same shop twice and I don't think we even saw all of it! My poor feet...
The Burj al Arab
My poor, tired feet!
But no rest for my feet just yet. After Dubal Mall, we drove out to Al Karama where there is a market that's not very well known to tourists. This was a first for me. We park the car and Kirstie takes me to see "her handbag man". We go into this shop and Kirstie heads straight for the back of the shop and opens up a change room door and asks the guy if she can see the "good stuff". We're led through the changeroom, and a hidden door to a very narrow staircase that takes us up to the top floor, filled with designer knock-off handbags and watches. I got a great deal on a "Gucci" watch...very nice! The rest of the market was full on. We went into another shop and while Kirstie was trying on t-shirts, the Indian guys who ran the shop found out I was from Australia and started to quote cricketers names to me! I didn't have the heart to tell them that I can't stand cricket and those names mean absolutely nothing to me!
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped in at yet another mall for tea, then had a much-needed spa at the hotel before crashing into bed.
On Thursday, we drove back to Abu Dhabi and I had a nice day at home as Kirstie and Matt had a wedding to go to and in keeping with the culture of being in a foreign place, I ordered Pizza Hut for tea!
On Friday, the first day of the weekend in the UAE, Kirstie and Matt took me to Emirates Palace for morning tea. This place is huge! Once again, the photos can't do it any justice. It has to be said that the bathrooms are amazing! After morning tea, when we were leaving the Palace, we saw the official motorcade of the President outside, with no less than three Rolls Royce's...as one does if one is the President!
Kirstie and me at Emirates Palace
The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the next trip...mine to London and Kirstie's to Thailand.
But that can all wait for another post...