Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dubai UAE

Anyone that knows me know that I love cities. Dubai is one of those cities that I had heard so much over the years and hoped I would get to go there one day. It turned out that Emirates (airline) doesn’t charge any extra on your tickets if you stop over in Dubai for a few days (their way to bring some extra tourism to their country I guess – Emirates is UAE based). When we found this out, it was a no brainer that we’d be stopping there for a few days.

Going from India to Dubai was basically going from one end of the spectrum to the complete other side. From poverty to extravagance. It is interesting to see how an extremely wealthy country uses their wealth. In the case of Dubai, it was to create the craziest, most futuristic city they could. We found a really cool hotel that was just opening so it had “opening rates” that made it affordable to us. We only had two days, but we made the most of it and saw everything we had hoped to.

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This was the view from the roof of our hotel.

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We first went down to the marina area – the newest, ritziest part of Dubai. I think these were all condo buildings.

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Buildings as far as you could see, about a fourth of them were under construction with people working busily on them.

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This one one (above) was my favorite. I am excited to see what it looks like when it is finished.

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Next we walked up the shore a mile or so to see the icon of Dubai…the Burj Al Arab (well at least until they built the Burj Khalifa…you’ll see that soon).

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Unfortunately it was rather windy and sand stormy, but it was pretty amazing to see this thing in person…the 7 star hotel built on its own little man-made island. The cheapest room I could find there was $2000 per night on a discount website. They won’t let you in unless you have a reservation to eat there or are actually staying there. I tried to get in, but no luck…so we admired from the beach. The Arabian Sea was so beautiful – so blue.

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Next stop was the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa – all 828 m (2,717 ft) of it. That’s like half a mile. It was just insane to crink your neck up and try and see the top of it.

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It was located right next to Dubai Mall, and this Downtown Dubai thing they created which is this huge Lagoon with dancing fountains that is surrounded by all sorts of huge buildings. It was really cool. We ate dinner at a restaurant right at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa on the Lagoon. You had to pay like 50 bucks to go the top which included a wait of a couple of hours, so we just decided to admire it from the ground.

a clip of the dancing fountains

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This was the dress of most of the men out for a night on the town. It was so cool to see the men in these and the many of the women in full on burkas. That’s just how they do it. So interesting.

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It looked absolutely amazing at night.

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Here is the night view from the roof of our hotel. Pretty amazing skyline. The Burj just makes everything else look tiny. In reality though, the buildings that look small were really tall buildings.

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The next morning we ventured into Old Dubai. This totally reminded me of Jerusalem and cities I have been to in the middle east. The Spice Souk was amazing. Every spice imaginable – I mainly just liked it for the photos.

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These colorful old boats bring everything from electronics, to toys, to furniture to Dubai from Iran. There were tons of them on the water there getting unloaded.

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We headed back over to Dubai Mall to see the rest of the mall and to see the fountains at night. The mall is huge. It is over the top and insanely extravagant. This is a chocolate store. Amazing. Then we saw the rest of the crazy stuff in this mall including:

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Touch screen 3D maps/directory of the mall.

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An Olympic sized ice rink.

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A 3 story fountain with statue divers.

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An insanely huge aquarium FULL of fish…

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Including sharks…you can pay to scuba dive in this sucker.

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Candy stores galore, and every store you can think of. We were amazed to see Magnolia Bakery (what the what? (the famous NY cupcake place) – so we got some banana pudding and went out and watched the fountains.

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We took one last photo, said our goodbyes to the Burj and jumped in a taxi to the airport to catch our midnight flight to JFK. Holy Cow that was a long flight, but it wasn’t too full, so we were able to spread out a bit.

There you have it, the last stop on our incredible trip. The world is an amazing place. I wish we could just travel all the time, anybody want to hire us as your travel writers?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Delhi– the city of wires

Next stop was Delhi. We drove rather late into the night from Agra down to Delhi. We stayed is a rather interesting hotel that, well, lets just say it was interesting. Not quite what we were expecting. Delhi is kind of the like the Washington DC of India as it is its own state and that is where the Indian government is headquartered. There is a rather lavish area that includes all of the embassies and the presidential palace, then there is Old Delhi, which was one of the craziest, most congested parts of a city that I have ever been in in my life. It was amazing. You’ll see what I mean in the photos below. Unfortunately, we were all feeling a little sick this day, but we toughed it out and had an amazing day. We started off our day attending church at one of the branches in Delhi. I think there are eight branches there. It was so awesome to be there with our brothers and sisters in India. Though the cultural backgrounds were completely different, I couldn’t help but feel like I was there with my brothers and sisters in the Lord.  I just felt this overwhelming spirit of gratitude to God for the opportunity that we have to worship Him no matter where we are in the world. 

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On our way from church to Old Delhi, we stopped at a pharmacy – drank a couple bottles of Indian Pepto Bismol and we were set. We passed these slums which were beautiful in their own way. Built right into the rocks.

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We stopped at this huge minaret – Qutb Minar.  They started building it in 1193 and took a hundred years or so to build. The carvings (scriptures from the Koran) were so amazing and pristine.

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I had to sneak a photo of this guy’s awesome tshirt. I love English tshirts in foreign countries. This one rivals some of the ones I saw in Japan.

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On our way into Central Delhi we passed this statue. Raj (our driver) pointed out that is the picture that is on Indian money. In the statue, Gandhi is the leader and he is being followed by the leaders of other world religions.

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The Presidential Palace. This place was HUGE. Something like 600 rooms.

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The World War II Memorial.

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Now we get into the crazy stuff. We got to Old Delhi, jumped on these bicycle rickshaws and rode into the masses. Here we saw everything from people bathing on the side of the street, getting haircuts/shaving, selling tires, you name it. So awesome.  I will let the photos do the talking (sorry some are a bit blurry, the rickshaw was bouncy).  Notice the wires. Wires EVERYWHERE.

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Playing hide and seek with this little boy in the well. Behind him is the largest mosque in India.

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Can you believe all of those people? This was in the middle of the day – not particularly rush hour or anything.

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Kids playing cricket on the grounds of the mosque.

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Fences didn’t get in the way of their cricket game. Holy Cow India loves cricket!

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Here’s a video standing in the middle of this street.

Old Delhi Craziness

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Our rickshaw driver took us by a shop where Julie and Kristi learned how to wear Saris.

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Our awesome rider/driver. He talked a lot but we couldn’t understand most of it. He smiled a lot though, so that was good.

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A little shopping strip area we stopped at to buy some last minute souvenirs. I tell you, everywhere is just packed with people.

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This is Raj, our driver as he dropped us off at the airport (the guy taking the picture did an awesome job).

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This is about how we all felt as we waited to get on the plane. Luckily, we avoided the Delhi Belly until our last day in the country.  From here, we all flew to Dubai – we said goodbye to Noah and Kristi (they flew back to LA while we stayed in Dubai for a couple of days). I know I mentioned this at the beginning of my posts on India., but wow, this trip will forever change my perspective on so many things. Seeing the incredible things that are happening at Rising Star, seeing the light in the eyes of each one of those students, their eagerness to learn, and the selfless people that run the school and organization, all of these things, just so amazing. Then traveling to places I only dreamed I would ever actually see. The fort at Jaipur, the magnificent Taj Mahal, the streets of Old Delhi. Wow. This world is an amazing place. The best part of all of this was having Julie there with me, and being there with Noah and Kristi. Those two are amazing. This is a trip we’ll reflect on for the rest of out lives. Hopefully we’ll get to travel with them a lot more in the future. They make life fun – they are afraid of nothing, everyone loves them, they are hilarious, they truly care about other, and they are just plain cool.

Thanks for joining me on the blogocation of India, I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have (going back through the photos and remembering the experience). Dubai is up next.