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Sydney, Singapore, Dubai

World Trip Two

Thursday, June 4 2009: Katoomba-Sydney Airport, Australia

The Blue Mountains on a clear day.

Would you believe today was the first day, while in the Blue Mountains, that the overcast sky lifted. This gave us our first real glimpse of the magnificent views the area has to offer. On our drive to the airport we stopped at Wentworth Falls and feasted our eyes on the splendor of the vista.

Lush green forests, which we had walked through, multicolored cliff faces, which we had climbed, cascading waterfalls, which we had listened to, and bird filled treetop canopies, which we had dreamed about. All these things were made visible to us on the day we left the Blue Mountains. Oh well, it made us determined to come back to this place.

We must come back to this place.

We had time on our hands as we arrived at the Sydney Airport hotel. So we decided to visit where it had all begun, for the European Australians, Botany Bay. Cook had landed here and so did Phillip. But Phillip chose not to build his colony here but rather a little further north of Botany Bay.

I had never been at the entrance of the bay before, so it was a treat to stand where the tall ships of the first fleet had once sailed by and anchored near. And a fitting place for Julia and I to end our trip around Australia, at its European beginnings.

Friday, June 5 2009: Sydney-Singapore

Our hotel.

By 7:00 pm we were swimming in the pool at our hotel in Singapore. The water was warm and the air was 31 degrees Celsius or 88 degrees Fahrenheit. We flew with Singapore Air and it was a reasonable flight with reasonable service. Not as good as Air New Zealand but nowhere near as bad as United.

It took the better part of nine hours to fly from Sydney to Singapore and it was a mostly smooth flight. Our swim in the pool revived us after so many hours on airplane. At dinner we broke our alcohol abstinence and had several glass of wine, which put us back into our rundown state. So, after dinner we were really ready for bed and slept like logs all the hot sultry night long.

Saturday, June 6 2009: Singapore

One of the seemingly endless shopping malls.

Goodness me, Singapore is a shopping Mecca. We picked up a street map before we left the hotel in the morning, but it was near useless. What we really needed was a shopping mall map. Singapore is like Minneapolis, but for the exact opposite reason.

In Minneapolis all the stores are connected so you can get around the town in winter without going out into the cold. In Singapore you can get around without ever leaving the shopping complexes to brave the humidity and searing heat outside.

Raffles Hotel, a building from another time.

When Andy, Julia and I visited Tokyo, last year, Andy was drawn to the Akihabara district to shop for electronics. But compared to Sim Lim Square in Singapore Akihabara is more like a supermarket in the old USSR; barren and empty. Andy, if you read this you must go to Sim Lim Square. Julia and I wandered around the hundreds of electronics stores for hours. And we bought many little gadgets to make our gypsy life a little easier. But the most amazing thing we bought was a conversion cable for my cell phone. I will not bore you with the details but I have been looking for this device for ages. As I was explaining to Julia that I really did not think they would have such a device, I turned around and there it was, right in front of me; simply amazing.

All day we window shopped with only a break to see the new Terminator movie (which was very good) and to visit Raffles Hotel. Raffles goes back to the days of the British rule of Singapore; a time of empire. You can still see the influence the English had over the place. The electric power plugs are British. They drive on the left hand side of the road. And I knew without a shadow of a doubt that England had left an indelible impression when I saw a sign at lunch that read: "Leave your used crockery here"; those Brits. Just to add to the mix; Raffles Hotel was built by four Armenian brothers and no Asians were permitted as hotel guests until the 1930s!

Sunday, June 7 2009: Singapore-Dubai

Welcome to the Hotel Dubai. You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.

We ate dinner last night at Jumbo Seafood in the East Coast Park district. It was recommended to us by a local. The place was full of locals, all sitting outside enjoying the sea breeze that flows in from the Phillip Channel while feasting on every kind of seafood.

One of the restaurants had a sign that said: "If it swims we serve it." After dinner we walked by the seafront and marveled at, what at first I thought were house lights on a distant shore, but were in fact lights from the thousands of cargo ships anchored just offshore in the Phillip Channel.

Jumeirah hotel complex. Like Vegas, only different.

Today, we flew from Singapore to Dubai. Our route flew us over the Bay of Bengal, India, and the Arabian Sea. Interestingly, Dubai is just south of Iran, just across the Straits of Homuz, which is too close for my liking.

The flight took the better part of 8 hours and made me feel like cow in a cattle car; it was very full of people and unspeakable smells.

The Burg Al Arab Hotel. Rooms start at $2,500 per day. I hope the Internet is free.

Once in Dubai we took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. On route we got a good glimpse of downtown Dubai. Gordon Bennett, there is,lots of money being spent in this place. The architecture is amazing with tall trendy skyscrapers popping out of the sandy desert like prairie dogs. But it all seems forced and surreal. We eventually checked into our hotel the Al Qasar Madinat Jumeirah.

It is like an Islamic Las Vegas without the gambling and where you have to pray five times a day. The weather was so hot and, unbelievably, very humid. I guess the humidity comes from the hotel's proximity to the beach. After dinner we saw earth moving trucks replacing the beach sand that had been washed away during the day. Now That's service! There are 7 hotels in the Jumeirah complex and 50 restaurants!

Monday, June 8 2009: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The very warm waters of the Persian Gulf.

In Dubai you do not go outside; it is just too hot. The only exceptions to this are: if you are cheap imported laborer working in the building industry, or if you are a tourist hanging out at the beach. We did not go sand-boarding down Arabian sand dunes. Nor did we bother taking a taxi over to the indoor ski center to go snow skiing. It is just too hot in Dubai.

Rather we applied our suntan lotion and crawled up under a cabana on the beach for the day. Plunging into the sea water was like getting into a warm bath. If fact it was so warm that there was no relief from the heat in the water. I found the only way to get cool was to get wet in the ocean and then lie on my towel in the hot breeze.

We leave Dubai for Vienna tonight at 1:45 am in the morning. Yes, it is a horror flight; there is always at least one when traveling. The flight gets us into Vienna at around 7:00 am Viennese time. I am not looking forward to this flight. We will try and make the most of our time in the hotel before the onslaught begins.


Trip stats

Miles Flown: 18,773

Miles Hiked: 182

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 4,152

Miles Sailed: 110


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