Thailand – part 8 (of 9)

We flew with an Airbus A380-800 from Bangkok to Dubai. For such a mammoth plane the take-off and landing was remarkably silky.

part 8 01

I do not really like Dubai. It has no specific culture and is merely 25 years old, in its current format. Besides, I do not understand the locals’ arrogance. Oil was only discovered about 60 years ago and they’ve pretty much ran out of it already. So this is new money. In the bigger scheme of things, they’ve sat just the other day still in a tent in the desert eating dates.

part 8 05

It is however a land of plenty and excess. Think of a hobby or something you want to give a try and Dubai will offer it, even (snow) skiing. But they suffer from a bad case of chronic low self-esteem, because everything they do must be the biggest, the tallest, the smallest, the widest, and the shiniest. Like I said, “new money”.

Abu Dhabi is the biggest and richest emirate.

Just before the unveiling of the world’s tallest building (earmarked to be called “Burj Dubai”) the international credit crunch happened and Dubai found its petty cash tin empty. The king of Abu Dhabi (which is also the ruler of the United Arab Emirates), financially bailed them out, but Dubai had to pay with pride, hence why the building is named after him; Burj Khalifa (828m / 160 stories – Table Mountain is only 1 087 above sea level, which means if it was built next to the bottom cable station, it will tower past the top one)

part 8 06

What a mission to get into Dubai. If you apply for your visa online they want some R2 500, of which you get R1 700 back 4 days after your departure. Stiff, and this just to see a sand heap. If you use a Cape Town agency you pay only R500. Getting off the Emirates plane and taking the non-transfer route, they scan your hand luggage before you get to customs. What is it with custom officials always being miserable and rude? With passport and visa in hand we felt equipped and ready. Nope. After queuing for a bit, to reach the front of the line, the “very friendly” guy who forgot his towel on his head, said we must get a stamp. Pointing vaguely and with a lack of enthusiasm in a general direction. Righty then, I am ready to get on the next plane out of here. One would assume they would be grateful to get visitors to their bankrupt city, but clearly I am the only one with sound logic here. After a brisk hike with choice Afrikaans words exchanged, we reached the “eye scan” section. Another queue. Got to the front. Some slightly friendlier guy (also with towel) didn’t even look at us or our passports, grabbed the visas and stamped the date on it. So much for a free eye scan then. Back then to the first guy. Now he wants to know where we are going to stay. Him tapping vigorously on his keyboard. Got my brother’s address out and showed it to him. [Since the 2009 Indian trip to this one in 2011, my expat brother and family relocated from Chennai to Dubai] More tapping on keyboard. And a contact telephone number. Now he wants a contact telephone number!? Did I not complete a doctoral thesis back in South Africa on your visa application form with everything you ever wish to know of me or my whereabouts? Wasted sarcasm on this one who is trying to clear his throat every time he speaks – should really see a doctor about that. OK. OK, I’ll find it. It’s on my phone. Scratch in bag, find phone and switch it on. I was just about to unlock sim when he handed us our passports back and said we can go. So what was this? Silly little questions just to check my blood pressure? I was ready to hand him a urine sample.

Sweet, we’re through. Now just to get our luggage, smoke and find a taxi. Sounds easy enough. Nope. About 10 metres away from freedom (and a smoke), another guy with a throat problem, pointed at me and said I must have my luggage scanned. At this point, I had no fluent grammar left and just complied without unwanted commentary. Would you have it? 2 suitcases and my hand luggage went through the machine only for me to realize that fat bastard is having a chat with another towel guy and not even looking at the screen. The ways they find to entertain themselves. I had 2 cigarettes and it felt good.

Continue reading Thailand – 9 (of 9).