Extended microbrew crawl…

I’m in the middle of a road trip from Minneapolis to New Orleans to help my efforts of making it to all 50 states by next year.  Here are some thoughts and pictures from my first 4 cities: Des Moines, Omaha, Oklahoma City and Little Rock.  Next up are Memphis, Nashville, Jackson and New Orleans.  Not entirely surprised but it’s beautiful to see beer and bikes everywhere…

Des Moines

1-Des Moines

Microbrew stop:  Confluence Brewing Company

Picturesque capital area with an eco-design concept.  Friendly people and who knew Crab Rangoon pizza at a dive Tiki bar could make so much sense.  Bike share, yes.  Microbrews mainly outside of downtown area.

Omaha

2-Omaha

Microbrew stop:  Infusion Brewing Company

ConAgra has a beautiful riverfront campus with a fountain that looks like a tornado from a distance.  The Old Market area feels more urban and less touristy than I expected.  Lots of water and art.  Bike share, yes.  Microbrews in Benson area outside of the city.

OKC

3-Oklahoma City

Microbrew stop:  Bricktown Brewery

Memorial to the federal building was tastefully done.  Bricktown is touristy in a bad way…but maybe my impressions were poisoned by being constantly harassed by what I call religious touts (extremely aggressive Southern Baptists whose apparent duty is to convert everyone in OKC).  They will even walk with you.  Can’t help but wonder if they were Muslim if the city would tolerate them.  Oh yeah, Myriad Botanical Gardens (actual name…not multiple) is beautiful and there are also some surprisingly modern skyscrapers (though the largest – Devon Energy Center – seems incredibly out-of-place).  Lastly, Midtown looked cool and lots of food trucks.  Bike share, yes.  Good Microbrews hard to find.

Little Rock

4-Little Rock

Microbrew stop:  Diamond Bear Brewing Company

I’m going with Pittsburgh of the South.  Like Pittsburgh, a surprisingly pretty and diverse city with blue-collar, friendly people and lots of color coordinated bridges over a river (Arkansas in this case).  I didn’t realize that Little Rock Central High School was so beautiful and is still an active school.  Bill Clinton Presidential Center is part of a new riverfront area that spills into the River Market tourist area.  I also visited “Big Dam Bridge” – a bicycling/pedestrian bridge just N of Little Rock that spans the Arkansas River and is “the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in North America that has never been used by trains or motor vehicles”.  Lots of bikers in Little Rock but no bike share.  Quality over quantity on Microbrews.

European Vacation?


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Koh Phangan is one of Thailand’s many islands.  We flew Bangkok Air (Fly Boutique, Feel Unique) in to its sister island, Ko Samui, and took a 45-minute ferry ride north to get to the island.  As far as I can tell the islands of Thailand (and especially Koh Phangan) are to Europeans what the islands of Mexico are to Americans – warm places to party for cheap.  But Europeans like to mix in “ecotourism” which doesn’t really exist here but is instead a nice marketing term for things such as hiking and elephant rides. We have run into Brits, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Poles and overheard many other unidentified European languages.  But not one American.  This is almost entirely due to proximity as flight time from San Francisco is 18+ hours not counting connections.  Let’s just say lots of speedos and motorbikes everywhere.

Carrie found an amazing unit at a resort that overlooks the beach and ocean and was just updated.  Probably one of the best values on the island.  I write this before bed and look forward to a relaxing last day here tomorrow before we head for the Maldives. Today we did an “ecotour” that included an elephant ride, playing with an ultra-hyper monkey, and exploring nearly the entire island with random sightseeing stops.  The initial plan was to stop at beaches and snorkel but heavy rain interrupted those plans and instead we ended up meeting our tour guide’s extended family and making some random stops not normally made.  It was a full, fun day,  And even though I generally hate guided tours of any type (whatevah, I do what I want) this was worth it as the island has no public transportation (other than renting a motorbike and pretending to be European).  It also came with a homemade lunch that included spring rolls and massaman curry so there’s that.

The ocean water is like a hot tub on hot days and perfect on colder days.  Our resort has solid, cheap food and the entire Thai culture is very focused on tourism so people are very friendly and service is generally great.

If you view the pictures you will notice boats with bizarre engines attached to them that appear to be car/truck engines.

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I’ve been fascinated by this since I saw them on the rivers in Bangkok.  They emit plumes of nasty smelling smoke and oftentimes struggle to run but apparently get the job done. They are called long-tail boats and do indeed have car/truck engines that are adapted for marine use.  I would like to take one of these on Lake Minnetonka and see what happens.

After a very long travel day (over 24 hours) my next post will come from the Maldives. I’m looking forward to empty Malaysia Air flights…

Asia 2014

Bang(kok) for your Baht


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Within Asia I have visited Japan, South Korea, China, India and now Thailand.  Based on these experiences I describe Bangkok as a hybrid city with elements of many other large Asian cities but a distinct culture.  Bangkok has the organized chaos of Tokyo (lots of people who are all polite and queue up for lines), street food (and beyond) of Seoul, pollution and tourism of Beijing, and pockets of poverty and caring people of Mumbai.  It has the comforts of western culture (five-star hotels, luxury shopping malls) mixed in with the simple life of less developed countries.

We stayed at a boutique hotel similar to the Kimpton chain in the U.S.  Our room would have been hundreds per night in the states but was only $70/night for one of the best locations in Bangkok.  Food, lodging, massages and nearly everything else is incredibly inexpensive by American and European standards.

Bangkok is known for its many markets and we explored most of the largest including the Chatuchak Weekend Market (the largest in Thailand).  It’s very difficult to put into words how much crap (or merchandise depending on your point of view) is crammed into each section of a market that takes up many city blocks.  There are also food vendors nearly everywhere you walk throughout the city.  An added benefit is that Carrie and I love Thai food so it was not hard to stay nourished.

Our hotel was a block away from the central shopping district with one of the largest luxury malls in Asia.  This mall would compete very well with The Mall of America in MN.  Next to this was a mall full of counterfeit goods that I doubt was structurally sound and would certainly not pass a fire inspection in the U.S.  This is a perfect example of the paradox of Bangkok. Luxury malls next to counterfeit malls and BMWs next to Tuk-Tuks.

Pictures of The King of Thailand are more popular than Hangover 2 references (which are very popular – there is even an official tour).  Having reigned since 9 June 1946, he is the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history (taken straight from Wiki).  He was also born in America.

Everything I read said coffee culture is lacking in Thailand but I have found that to be far from true.  Coffee stands are ubiquitous and myriad options are available for iced drinks.  Pretty much every option includes sweeten condensed milk which is good for the taste if not for the diet.

I have never had a good dessert at a Thai restaurant in the U.S. so I assumed that like Japan sweet desserts are not a part of Thai culture.  But I assumed wrong – amazing sweet desserts like honey toast are available in every mall.  In fact, as much as I would like to say the best thing I had was Tom Yum or Tom Kha Gai soup…it was actually Sticky Toffee Toast.

After a day of exploring beautiful temples:

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we ended our stay with a head, foot, shoulder and neck massage (pretty much full body massage) that was part pain and part pleasure – just the way a Thai massage should be.  If Groupon ever makes it to Bangkok I can only imagine how many massage deals will be offered.  Our 90-minute massage was only $10.

In summary, if you save a modest amount you can retire to Bangkok to live a gluttonous life of eating and massages.  Maybe even at the same time.

Asia 2014

I left my heart (and cell phones and camera) in Rio…


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Rio Pictures (open in new tab)


 

My last blog post came on April 17th, 2013 from Saint Petersburg, Russia and I have some work to finish before I blog about my current trip.  This was our second-to-last stop on my around-the-world trip with my friend Kyle.  Technically we also stopped in Paris but this was only a long layover – just enough time to remember how great walking around the city can be on a beautiful summer day.

I had planned to add a final blog post from our final city – Rio de Janeiro – but lost my enthusiasm (and didn’t want to cause any worry) after we were mugged at machete-point on our walk to the National History Museum.  We had made it all the way to the museum before we were mugged at the corner.  Precisely at this location:Rio Mugging.

Just picture two guys with their phones out walking around Rio on what we would later learn was a national holiday – Tiradentes Day.  This meant downtown was empty and crime was easy – more specifically we were easy targets.  Earlier in the day we witnessed cops chasing kids at gunpoint and spoke with a fellow traveler who said he witnessed a mugging and warned us to be careful.  We were careful and used extra precautions as we had to exit a rough neighborhood.  In retrospect we let our guard down as we neared the museum as we were walking next to a major road that was directly across from Rio’s domestic airport.  

Two guys with large machetes suddenly appeared as we turned the corner and kindly requested we give them our phones and bags.  Luckily I had my wallet in my pocket but I ended up losing 2 cell phones (iPhone and Android), camera and accessories and a bunch of other smaller things.  Kyle lost his phone, wallet and bag.  We both backed up our pictures the night before so we didn’t lose many.

I don’t remember much about the muggers other than how large their machetes were and how close they were to my face. But it was almost a business transaction.  I wasn’t afraid, just upset, as I got screwed in this transaction.  In a few seconds it was all over and within another few seconds a car pulled over with a family who had witnessed the mugging.  This Brazilian family tracked down a police officer and drove us to our hotel. So a random act of violence was immediately followed up a random act of kindness.  All hope in humankind (or Braziliankind) was not lost.

After we frantically changed passwords to our accounts (we both had laptops in our room) we went to the tourist police station where they have English speakers in order to report the crime.  By getting an official police report I was also able to use Visa’s purchase protection for the new camera and related items I had purchased for the trip (and were stolen) and ended up getting a $500 check in what was an incredibly easy process.

Brazil and especially Rio struggle with a huge income disparity.  This has been covered by the media extensively with the country hosting both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.  But to see it in person is still eye opening.  Favelas (slums) compete for space with over-the-top mansions.  And Rio is also one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.  So this obviously does not help their crime rate.  The important thing is that they just wanted our stuff….not our lives.  That’s understandable.  Not justifiable but understandable.

Aside from this incident or maybe in a weird way because of it we had a great time in Rio.  The beaches (and people on them) are beautiful and the city has an energy that is probably unique to Rio.  I refused to let the mugging change my habits and it added some adventure to the end of our journey.  I didn’t have much left to lose anyway so the next day and night I walked the streets without a phone or much worry. Most things in life are independent events…like slot machines…but most people fail to emotionally (and sometimes intellectually) grasp the concept of independent events.  I think I have this one down…that’s why I’m not afraid to go back to Rio and why I’m boarding the first of 4 Malaysia Air flights in two days.  I hear the flights are empty so maybe they will put us in the nice seats…

Чрис Флынн

According to Facebook, Чрис Флынн is my name in Cyrillic (Russian).  Chris: Чрис Flynn: Флынн.  I’ve done a lot of pointing in Russia.  Very few people speak much/any English and as you can see non-English signs are pretty much useless as the language is very difficult to read.  Numbers are interchangeably used as letters as well as unknown symbols.  Funny thing is that although I can’t speak or read Russian I blend right in here.  I’ve been asked for directions over 10 times…I lost count…but people quickly realize I’m not much help.  You need to carry your passport and registration papers (hotels need to register you) at all times in Russia.  Supposedly the police are very corrupt and will demand to see passport and papers from people who don’t look Russian.  Obviously this hasn’t been a problem for me, as long as I don’t talk.  Everyone in India thought I was German.  They would yell “German?” as I walked by.  I knew I could pose for a German but it’s good to know I can add another country to the list where I can blend in.

We left Bucharest for Moscow last Friday and Moscow for Saint Petersburg last Monday.  Tomorrow (Thursday) we leave our hotel at 4am for a flight to Paris.  We spend the day in Paris and then have an 11:30p flight to Rio De Janeiro.  We have 112 hours (4 nights, 5 days) in Rio and then head back to Minneapolis.

Moscow:

Flying into Moscow I was amazed at the thick forest that preceded/surrounded the airport.  It looked like Northern MN from the air.  I remember watching a documentary on the battles fought in these forests surrounding Moscow during WWII.  There is still snow on the ground in both Moscow and Saint Petersburg but it’s quickly melting.  The center of Moscow is Red Square and that area is fairly stunning.  We spent a lot of time there.  We also saw an amazing modern ballet performance at the Bolshoi Theater.  The theater was hot, there was little leg room and a terrible movie only in Russian preceded the ballet.  But it was still a great experience and the performance itself was fantastic.

Moscow was probably the second most expensive city I’ve been to.  The first was Reykjavik, Iceland before their financial collapse (2003).  But Moscow is a close second.  A very small soda at a restaurant was a minimum of $7USD and I had a modest lunch at a little Italian place called Sbarro that was over $15USD.  BTW, this had to be the largest Sbarro in the world.  Moscow also has the largest McDonald’s in the world.  People in Moscow flock to the few cheap food options available.

The Moscow underground is extremely ornate and unique.  The first station we exited the train at had a huge portrait of Stalin on the ceiling with chandeliers everywhere.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chandelier in a metro station before and they are common in Moscow’s.  Riding the metro is the one thing in Moscow that’s cheap – around $1USD for a ride to any zone.

Saint Petersburg:

Saint Petersburg is laid out similarly to Amsterdam or any city with lots of rivers and canals.  It’s a beautiful city but would be a lot more beautiful if it were clean (more on that later).  It’s the northernmost major city in the world with a population around 5 million.  It does not get dark until after 9pm….in April!

The weather has been beautiful (60s) but I’ve been amazed to see nearly all Russian’s in parkas and heavy winter coats.  I’ve been wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt rolled up and have still been warm.  Apparently we do it differently in Minnesota.

There is a lot of history in Saint Petersburg and it’s home to one of the most impressive museums in the world – The Hermitage.  Next to the Louvre in Paris it’s probably the most impressive museum I’ve been to when you factor in the works and the building itself.  Definitely an all-day venture to see all of the works – they boast that they have over 3 million total pieces of art.  That includes every single coin and miscellaneous piece but that number is still mind-boggling to me.

Saint Petersburg is much less expensive than Moscow.  One of my favorite travel activities is shopping at supermarkets.  I think this experience gives you a great feel for how locals live and eat.  I purchased a lemon drink at a supermarket in Moscow for around $5USD.  This same drink in Saint Petersburg was around $2.50USD.  So it was nice to have our rubbles go further.

Russia:

Russians have been very friendly – as friendly as you can be without speaking the same language.  However, I have witnessed some random acts of violence.  Pretty sure these are common and alcohol induced.  One guy randomly punched a cardboard box that was sitting in a dumpster and it then went flying into traffic.  And on a metro some teenagers started fighting with each other.  So that stereotype was reinforced.

Something that Moscow and Saint Petersburg have in common is that both are very dirty and polluted by U.S. standards.  Part of the issue is that the cities are thawing out from long winters.  But Saint Petersburg is filled with dog poop and its rivers/canals are filled with trash.  The city is also just generally dirty.  Lots of nice cars but they are all covered in a thick coat of dirt and the buildings are as well.  And the air quality of both Moscow and Saint Petersburg leaves something to be desired.

Travel:

The Boston Marathon bombings have been on the news channels 24X7 here.  After being in cities with major international events happening (Seoul/DMZ, Cairo, Mumbai (building collapsed)) and watching the news in each city you get a different perspective on how important U.S. policy is around the world and on how much the world follows the U.S.

I hate forced/empty patriotism but travelling makes me realize how fortunate I am to live in the U.S.  There are lots of great countries but there are also lots of countries that have major issues.  Most cities in the U.S., including Minneapolis, have clean air, pure drinking water, clean streets and general order.  This is more than most of the cities we have visited.  We have only been to four cities where the drinking water is supposed to be completely safe to drink – San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul and Dubai.  And the last time I breathed completely fresh air was in San Francisco.  Tokyo and Seoul are generally good, especially in parks, and Dubai just has lots of sand in the air but the rest of the cities range from terrible to noticeable.  Looking forward to Minnesota air…..

I should have much better Internet in Rio and will post pictures when I get there.

Happy to be in Europe…

After flying from Dubai to Dammam to Cairo we arrived in Cairo on Sunday afternoon.  We only had 2 official nights in Cairo with a 2:25am flight from Cairo to Bucharest on Wednesday morning.  We leave Bucharest tomorrow afternoon for Moscow.  This is the toughest part of our trip with only 2 nights in each city and difficult flights.  We finish the trip with 3 nights in Moscow, 3 nights in Saint Petersburg, a day layover in Paris and 4 nights in Rio.  So we are looking forward to the next and last stretch of the trip.

After landing in Cairo, on our exit of the airport we were mobbed by myriad taxi drivers who, to say it nicely, wanted our business.  I negotiated a little with the least annoying one and we were escorted to our taxi.  The taxi ride to our hotel was one of the scarier taxi rides of my life.  Like Mumbai there were no lanes and general chaos but the stakes are higher in Cairo as there are opportunities to go much faster and our driver was determined to make good time.  Upon arrival at our hotel we had to pass through security.  This was a common occurrence on our trip as we had to do the same thing at our hotel in Mumbai and at every metro stop in Beijing.  We stayed at a dated Hilton right near the heart of Cairo – Tahrir Square.  The lobby was full of people smoking hookah’s – a pretty cool site.  Our room looked much like how it probably looked when the hotel opened in 1981 – lots of wood cabinets.  But overall it was a nice room.  It overlooked The River Nile.  A great view but they party every night on the river so we slept to blaring Egyptian techno music.

Right next to the Hilton was a neighborhood that could best be described as a shantytown.  We walked through it one day and this was actually the only place we walked in Cairo where we were not bothered by touts (more on those later) but the shantytown was pretty depressing – huge mountains of trash and random junkyards of rusted parts out of old cars on the side of the street.  It was very odd for this neighborhood to be right next to the Hilton – one of the largest (if not the largest) hotels in Cairo.

The Pyramids were truly amazing but Cairo was not enjoyable.  I look forward to talking with our friends who were in Egypt/Cairo pre-revolution.  While many people on the street were nice to us the city of Cairo is a wasteland.  Metro stations have no/limited lighting because of vandalism and there is trash and graffiti everywhere.  Our driver threw a bottle of soda out of the window – based on the amount of trash we saw I think this is what everyone does.   And the air quality is only slightly better than Beijing.

I just saw on the BBC that tourism in Cairo is down over 25%.  I can see why – I assume the city was not like this pre-revolution.  If the government had any control and wanted to increase tourism they should do something about the touts – they are aggressive, annoying and everywhere.  But the government doesn’t have much control right now – several Egyptians pointed this out to us.

Back to the pyramids – I knew they were close to Cairo but I didn’t realize how close – the city basically surrounds them.  Lots of touts to deal with but to borrow a South Park line, the pyramids are pretty god dammed impressive.  We went into the tomb of the second pyramid.  The tomb was empty except for the sarcophagus and some graffiti left by some jerk (an Italian explorer who broke in in 1818).  We were all alone in the tomb and it was pretty cool to realize what was above us.  One thing – tomb entrances were not designed for tall people.  Maybe the most impressive part of the pyramids was to see how large each of the limestone blocks was.  Truly amazing structures.

On our walk back to the hotel at the end of the day a store owner started talking to us.  He asked us where we were from and we made the mistake of saying U.S.  We had been going with Canada as nobody has a response to that.  One guy said, oh, it’s cold there, right?  Other than that it’s usually a conversation stopper.  But this time we said U.S. and he told us about his sister in California and a bunch of other things.  Even though we knew where this was going we agreed to check out his artwork.  He wanted to give us some because he was celebrating his sister’s wedding.  To make a long story short, after some spirited conversations with the guy, I ended up paying about $13 USD for some artwork that was supposed to be free.  I kind of wanted the art anyway but let’s just say I have some cognitive dissonance about how it all went down.  And I have a feeling his sister gets married every day.

I thought that was the worst I would be taken advantage of in Cairo but I was wrong.  When we got to the airport we were asked to pay a bribe to get through security.  We refused and because of this we had to wait 45 minutes before we were allowed to clear security.  At this airport you have to clear security before you check-in.  To my astonishment, even after clearing the first line of security we had to deal with touts.  People tried to take our bags and “help us” find our way.  They would then want money..or worse.  We made sure not to let anyone grab our bags.  Eventually we were able to check in and make it to our gate.  Although the entire time at the airport was generally unpleasant.

Upon arriving in Bucharest my friend Kyle realized that his bag had been rummaged through and they stole his digital camera.  Luckily I didn’t have any valuables in my checked bag – only clothes and bathroom stuff.  But once I opened my bag in Bucharest I realized that they also rummaged through my bag – it appears all that they stole was some allergy medication (Claritin) and a razer.  I’m guessing the guy who we refused to pay a bribe to had something to do with this.  But there appears to be corruption everywhere at the airport so it could have been anyone.  Needless to say we were happy to get the hell out of Cairo and into Europe (Bucharest).

We arrived in Bucharest early yesterday morning.  After leaving our bags at the hotel we went for a nice walk and found a park.  I’ve never been so happy to be in a park.  The park was clean, people didn’t bother us and the air was fresh.  It was amazingly enjoyable to breath.  Maybe I’m spoiled with clean Minnesota air but Beijing, Cairo and Mumbai all had horrible air pollution.  For that reason alone I would never want to live in any of those cities. I read an article that said Bucharest was voted the ugliest EU capital city.  I have to disagree – I found it pretty beautiful with lots of parks and a Champs-Élysées like roadway that’s actually longer than the Champs-Élysées in Paris.  But maybe my perspective is skewed after our experience in Cairo.

We have had great weather in Bucharest and have walked a lot of the city.  We visited the Romanian Athenaeum and the Palace of the Parliament – both very impressive.  My only issue with Bucharest is everyone appears to smoke.  We are going to have a few drinks tonight but are not looking forward to our clothes being unwearable afterwards.

View of The River Nile from our hotel balcony:

Cairo Night

Pyramids:

Pyramids

Graffiti in Cairo:

Graffiti

Park in Bucharest:

BucharestPark

View from Palace of the Parliament:

Palace of the Parliament

 

Better/Faster/Stronger in Dubai

Dubai is a land of shopping malls, Italian cars (not Fiats) and world records.  Here are a few of the world records that I saw:

  • Burj Khalifa – world’s tallest building
  • Burj Al Arab – world’s only 7-star hotel (debatable)
  • The Dubai Fountain – world’s largest choreographed fountain system
  • Dubai Metro – world’s longest fully automated metro network
  • Palm Jumeirah – world’s largest artificial island
  • Dubai Mall – world’s largest shopping mall by total area
  • Ski Dubai – world’s first indoor black (ski) run

It was a very busy 2 full days in Dubai.  Friday included the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, tea (dinner) at Burj Al Arab and a walk to Palm Jumeriah.  Saturday started with the monorail to the Atlantis Hotel and the end of Palm Jumeriah followed by Mall of the Emirates and The Dubai Fountain.  My friend/travel partner Kyle did not feel well so I was on my own for most of my time in Dubai.

Dubai has a beautiful metro system but its reach is limited.  It is also the busiest system I’ve ever ridden on….busier than Tokyo and Beijing.  I did not expect that.  Most sane people would take taxi’s to cover distances that the metro does not cover but I like to walk and only used the metro and my feet to navigate Dubai.  I conservatively walked 20 miles in 2 days.  But some people are even crazier and run 26.2 miles in half a day so whatevah, I do what I want.

Some random thoughts on Dubai:

  • Very weird mix of modernism/consumerism/tourists and traditional Arab values.
  • Slow Internet everywhere.  And they have an area called Internet City.  Maybe I just visited the wrong places.
  • Lots of Russians.  And they think that everyone speaks Russian (most appear to speak very little if any English).  I had a random conversation with a waiter from the Philippines who randomly brought up how annoying this is and I had experienced the exact same thing earlier in the day when a Russian started yelling at a street vendor in Russian and the street vendor just shrugged his shoulders and said “English!”.  Moscow and Saint Petersburg will be interesting…
  • The Dubai Mall makes the Mall of America look like it should be condemned.  It’s one of the most over-the-top places I’ve ever been – soccer field, skating rink, aquarium  amusement park, water fall, medical clinic, grocery store….I could go on and on.  It’s truly immaculate.  And the next biggest mall in Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, is also over-the-top.
  • Burj Khalifa is a lot taller than the next closest building:
Rank Building
City Height (m)
Height (ft) Floors Built
1 Burj Khalifa Dubai 828 m 2,717 ft 163 2010
2 Makkah Clock Tower Hotel Mecca 601 m
1,971 ft 120 2012
  • Tea at Burj Al Arab was fantastic.  The Burj Al Arab is widely considered the world’s nicest hotel – it’s very impressive.  It was the world’s tallest hotel when it was built and it’s built on an artificial island.  Tea in this case was actually a 3-course dinner consisting of a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with Devonshire clotted cream and homemade jams, french pastries, and tea and espresso drinks.  The best part of the meal was the freshly baked scones and wide selection of tea and espresso drinks and these were all unlimited.  The total cost was 325 AED or around 90 USD.  The only way you can visit the hotel is to reserve a room or make dinner or tea reservations.  Seeing that rooms start at over $1,000 USD/night this is by far the cheapest way to see the hotel.  And at $90 the meal was actually a good value.  However, slow water refills (needed for my long walk to the hotel) and very slow free Internet meant it was not perfect.  You would think the world’s nicest hotel would have decent free Internet…  BTW, I sat next to a soccer coach who was talking to a few of his players.  One of the players hopped into his Ferrari on my way out of the hotel.

Going to the Pyramids tomorrow….

Here are some pictures from Dubai.  I also posted a bunch of pictures and videos.

Burj Khalifa:

Tower1

Taken from the top of Burj Khalifa:

dubaifountain1

 

Chris Dubai

Burj Al Arab:

Burj Al Arab

Atlantis Hotel at the end of Palm Jumeira:

Atlantis Hotel

Ski Dubai at Mall of The Emirates:

Emirates Mall

The Dubai Fountain.  Taken from the balcony of Dean and Deluca in the Dubai Mall.

Dubai Fountain

Near Media City Amphitheater.  Train was playing their encore song as I took this picture.  Shortly after that a security guard said I can’t take pictures and told me to delete all of them.  I pretended to do that.

Dubai Media City

Metro (always packed like this).  With creepy guy in foreground:

dubaimetro