UAE: Esfahan, Iran to Dubai, UAE, 10 June 2009

When I first planned the trip to Iran, I had planned for us to go back to Tehran, so that we will be in Tehran the day we are supposed to fly back to the UAE. But after asking a couple of people – and also because we like Esfahan and Dibai House so much – it is entirely possible to take a bus from Esfahan to the outskirts of Tehran, hop on a cab, and get to the airport for a mid-day flight. They have express buses that leave pretty regularly. We travelled with Hamsafar Travelling Company. Just ask around and you’ll find that out. It was brilliant, as we did not need to return to Tehran and get back out to the airport, which was about 40 mins from Tehran anyways.

Another day in the UAE, yet another mall. We checked back into the Holiday Inn Express Jumeirah, and then hopped onto a cab for Mall of the Emirates, as we heard so much about it. Also, we just needed grub. It was pretty uneventful. There were a couple of things about this mall that amazed me. First, the cars parked outside the mall probably costs at least 10 million bucks. Well, only the fancy ones like the lambos and ferraris dared park in front of the mall. Everyone else went to the garage. Second, they had like a pretty big ski park INSIDE the mall. Amazing.

A short note about UAE. There are dry emirates, and there are non-dry emirates. ‘Dry’ emirates are those that don’t have alcohol, don’t serve alcohol, etc. ‘Non-dry’ emirates are those that have alcohol. Dubai is not a dry emirate. Just a note for those who need their booze.

We had a substantial dinner at Chili’s (I know, I know), walked around a little, and went back to sleep off our food coma. Greece, be prepared for us tomorrow!

Fancy Cars Outside Mall of Emirates

Ski Park in Mall of Emirates


UAE – Dubai, Sharjah, 05 June 2009

Whatever we paid for Holiday Inn Express was definitely worth it – we enjoyed our breakfast, although it had a more continental flavour to it. I don’t usually enjoy continental breakfasts; but this one, I liked.

Anyway, here’s where things fall apart – I didn’t do any planning for Sharjah (and the other two had no clue where they were most of the time). No accommodations, no nothing. I think I didn’t plan this part, because all my online searches returned nothing palatable. All I knew was, we had to get there, so we won’t miss our morning flight out of Sharjah to Tehran.

My initial austerity plan of taking a bus to Sharjah fell apart quite quickly. We just decided to take a cab there. It is kinda tricky when all you can tell a cab driver is “drive me to Sharjah, I know not where”. Anyway, I think we ended up telling him something like the Central Market or something, as I read that there are some cheap accommodations available. Well, that didn’t really work out, so we walked, and walked, and walked. We finally stumbled upon Al Mulla Suites, took a look at the apartment, and liked it. We scored a deal – 85 USD for a huge one bedroom apartment, with kitchen, and could easily fit in 4 people.

After dumping our bags, we headed back to the Central market, and ended up at a bryani place, which was excellent. It was just our second day in the Middle East, but I did form some new impressions. UAE (particularly Dubai) is really a country of migrant labour – I made it an exercise to basically ask every new person I met where they came from. Not once in the two days I was there, did I get the same country. The impressive list included: Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Philippines. Also, one does get a different sense of time, as we found out, trying to get lunch. Everything was closed, because it’s Friday, i.e. the day of worship. They have their weekends on Friday and Saturday, and work on Sundays. That differently messed with my mind a little.

Anyway, we passed out from a food coma. I woke up a little earlier than them, and decided to head out, and take a look at some of the interesting mosques that they have. It was a nice stroll, as I observed migrant workers lounging on the lawns on their day off, amidst a city full of building cranes and new construction. I also grabbed some dunkin donuts.

The sleeping beauties woke up in time for us to grab some dinner. And after dinner, we went to the Central Souq for a little walk. The Central Souq had a bit of a Far East Plaza in a souq kind of feel. Interesting.

Fruit and Vegetables Market, Sharjah

Fruit and Vegetables Market

Single Suite in Al Mullah Suites and Apartments

Single Suite in Al Mulla Suites

Mosque, Sharjah

Mosque in Sharjah

Ladies of Sharjah

Ladies of Sharjah

Interior of Blue Souq, Sharjah

Interior of Blue Souq

UAE – Dubai, 04 June 2009

Prior to going to Dubai, I always had the impression that it was this city whereby everything was mega-scale. After all, all that I read in the news about Dubai was its attempts to create islands of the world, and the tallest building of the world. In short, I was expecting one-upmanship architecture.

My first impression based on contact did not change much, as we first set foot at the airport. Everything – elevators, arrival halls – was mega scale. They had like goldish Roman columns in the baggage retrieval area man.

Anyways, we scored a deal on Holiday Inn Express on Jumeirah, which worked out to be about 50 SGD per person for a triple, inclusive of breakfast. It was a deal, considering how much everything else cost in Dubai. While getting there was a little bit of an adventure, as the cab driver didn’t know where to go, otherwise, we were pretty happy with our choice – it was comfortable, and just big enough for the three of us. After dropping our luggage and freshening up a little, we hopped on to their complimentary shuttle to Dubai Mall, to explore the land of mega malls filled with everything.

Eh, well, I’m not a huge fan of malls, but Dubai Mall was big. I like how parts of it were designed like a traditional souq. Some of the other crazy things they had in that massive mall included a full-sized aquarium with a human conveyor belt, and an ice-skating rink. I basically chose to induce my krispy kreme madness, and chilled with a book there. I think H and B both got something. We also took a peek at the Burj Al-Dubai, the tallest building in the world that is being constructed. It was insane trying to photograph it. We had to stand like really, really, really far away just to get it all in.

Anyways, after spending some money on a Nando’s chicken lunch, (and others burning a hole in the wallet with shopping) we decided to save money, hit Waitrose, and packed back some potluck dinner. It was definitely a lot of fun having dinner in our cosy hotel room. So, that ends our first day in the Middle East.

Dubai Airport

Dubai Airport

Burj Dubai

Burj Al-Dubai

Krispy Kreme Donuts in Dubai Mall

Krispy Kreme Collection

Potluck Dinner at our Hotel Room, Dubai

Our Potluck Dinner

When the Detour is the Highlight: UAE, Iran, Greece, 04 – 24 June 2009

So, Emirates Airlines was having a super sale, whereby tickets to Europe were going for as low as 800 SGD. This was gonna be my last chance for a long holiday before I am done with my MA programme, and hit the real world. So, what the heck. E and I agreed on Greece. But I had some other crazy plan involved – a detour to Iran! I always wanted to go there after reading The Complete Persepolis. Since I found a cheap flight on Air Arabia from Sharjah, and managed to rope in some partners-in-crime (oh, my powers of persuasion), I was all set. Here goes!

04 June: Dubai, UAE

05 June: Sharjah, UAE

06-07 June: Tehran, Iran

08-10 June: Esfahan, Iran

11 June: Dubai, UAE

12 June: Athens, Greece

13 June: Athens, Greece

14 June: Hydra, Greece

15 June: Tinos, Greece

16 June: Mykonos, Santorini, Greece

17 June: Santorini, Greece

18 June: Santorini, Grecce

19 June: Crete, Greece

20 June: Crete, Greece

21 June: Crete, Greece

22 June: Kalambaka/Meteora, Greece

23 June: Kalambaka/Meteora, Greece

24 June: Athens, Greece