Monday 17 September 2012

Day Thirteen - Wild Wadi Water Park

If there was a theme for today it would be water. Just like yesterday we spent the morning by the pool, but in the afternoon we travel to the Jameria area, our destination the Wild Wadi water park.

A cooler morning today by the pool
This is our second water park of the holiday and is the second of two in the city. It’s located along the coast right between the Jameria Beach Hotel and the Burj Al Arab. It’s an expensive day out as entry is over €40 but worth it for the unique slides inside.

One ride is in fact 12 or so connected rides. You travel around the parameter of the park in lazy river in rubber tubes and opt join any of the rides which you pass. The propell you up first rather then down, it’s extremely odd. Two other rubber tube rides require two or more people, so both of us rode them together. These where INCREIDBLE! The first passes you through funnels, around and around whilst the second spins you up over the edge of the tubes into the air. WOW. A new high trill ride, the Jumeirah Sceirah only opened this month and I decided to brave it. All I knew was it was it was a step drop and nothing else.

The Jumeriah Sceriah
Making the climb to the starting point I passed a few very nervous looking people who were talking each other into riding it. I was fast tracked to the front to discover this ride is rather unique. Unlike other slides where you sit down and push yourself forward, this one you start standing upright in a glass capsule. Speakers inside count down to your drop.
The capsule you stand in on the Jumeriah Sceriah.
Yes drop, the floor underneath opens and drops you vertically into the slide, propelling you down at speeds exceeding 80km/h. I was in bits but went through with it. It was the scariest 20 seconds of my life. I was shaking for a good ten minutes afterwards, but well worth it. WOW.
Leaving the Wild Wadi Park
We took a taxi back to the hotel, dropped and bags and ventured back to the Dubai Mall to round off the evening before hitting the hotel nightclub one more time.
A packed Zinc nightclub

Sunday 16 September 2012

Day Twelve - Relax Factor

We used the pool and the hotels leisure facilities to its fullest today. We had been getting into the habit of getting down for breakfast at 10am, returning to the room for a nap before heading out, but today we headed to the pool. It was glorious. The water is chilled whilst the air temperature was 42c+. The hotels pool and leisure facilites were excellent, well staff and well equiped.
The Buraj Kalifa as seen from our pool deck
After some relaxation we changed and jumped on the Dubai Metro for the Mall of the Emiriates. There we had lunch and wandered around the 1000’s of stores. We learned that french perfume chain store Spherora will give you samples of anything to take home, so we stocked up in addition to buying far too much of the local scent.

At the Mall!

Amazing spices to be bought
 Getting back to the hotel around 11pm we opted to stay in and watched prime time ITV from the UK (X Factor and Downton Abbey!!).

Streaming TV from home after midnight. XFactor there.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Day Eleven - IMAX and Souk

Today we took the metro back to the IBN Buttua Mall to see Resident Evil 5 in IMAX 3D. It was a great way to get out of the midday sun plus we don't have IMAX in Ireland and the film isn't released for another two weeks back home. The 3D was impressive when compared to the RealD which we have in Cineworld back home.
Vinnie at the Cinema 
IMAX Time!
After the mall we ventured to the old old part of the city around Deira. This part of town hosts the gold and spice souks. In contrast to the rest of the city it's lower in rise and very walkable. Narrow streets are packed with shops selling all kinds of Arabian Delights. The vibrant and live down here is remarkable. It's crowded with locals and tourists all hinting for that bargain yet it feels very safe. Highly recommend a visit to this part of town, which is often overlooked.
Gold Souk 
In the old Deira Town, this tower aids in ventilation
Patrick at the Gold Souk
You can cross the creek for 1Dhs in one of these wooden boats
Getting back to the hotel we took a dip in the pool before rounding the day off with a very late dinner at the Wagamamas in the hotel. The portions here are much bigger then home before a little dancing in the Zinc nightclub.
The hotel pool with the Burj Kalifa in the background

Friday 14 September 2012

Day Ten - Outlet Shopping

Still a tad wrecked from the relocation from Cape Town after breakfast we fell relaxed at the hotel before jumping in a cab for the Dubai Outlet Mall.

The view from our hotel room, not as impressive as the last, but the location is better.
As mentioned before, the taxi service here is first rate. Uniformed drivers, air conditioned cars and cheap. The meter starts at 3.5Dhs (70cent) and increase very little for each KM. An average journey will set you back a few euro at most. In some cases it's cheaper and quicker to take a taxi then public transport, plus you won't break out in a sweat.

You can't help to see this building as you travel around downtown Dubai
The Dubai outlet mall is best reached by taxi, en route you will pass by the the proposed and yet to start Dubailand and Universal Studio Park. Unfortunately recession hit Dubai hard in 2009 and only the entry gates were installed. Apart from that the theme parks are just desert.

Dubai Outlet Mall
The mall is admittedly not as fancy as those downtown, but it has all the brands at discounts up to 90% off. We couldn't resist the temptation and picked up a few items. Brands included Superdry, Gap, Tommy, Puma etc. As an out of towner you can receive a bonus discount card from customer service. Highly recommend the shop trip out here.

Before heading home we swung by the Dubai Mall for some Waitrose shopping then headed home. We popped down to the hotel nightclub, Zinc at 1:30am. It was packed. The music was western. People smoke and drank freely and danced around in revealing outfits in complete contrast to the Islamic morals outside.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Day Nine - Double Dubai

We are back in Dubai! We never thought the holiday would take a twist like this. We landed after 5am and hoped to through the airport quicker then the last time as we knew our way. Granted we did get through passport control very quickly but the wait for the bags delayed us. We didn't really sleep on the overnight flight which wasn't the best. It was one of the older Emiriates planes with an older style entertainment system. They even cut back on our food, when our meal arrived it was minus a meal, this was the vegetarian option, basically the trimmings which everyone else got but no main. Very odd. During our flight the iPhone 5 was announced on our information/news screens.

As our new hotel, another Crowne Plaza is very central and connected to the city metro, we took the train as opposed to a taxi. It's only 300 metres from the metro to the hotel but that isn't easy when its 111F/42C outside.

Check in isn't normally until 2pm, but as priority members we managed to check in after 7am, got an upgrade to an apartment suite and breakfast added for this morning. Bliss. Even the Internet is free here compared to Cape Town.

After a feed we went to sleep, setting the alarm for 1pm. Everything in Dubai is open until at least midnight so you miss nothing having a late start to the day.

We headed to the IBN Bututta Mall on the outskirts of the city. The metro connects it. It's divided into 7 or so areas based on congenital or country themes ranging from China to Egypt. After a few hours here we headed back to the hotel to make use of the leisure facilities.

We dined in Trader Vics, which is part of the hotel. It was jammed. Thursday are the start of the weekend here and all the locals were out drinking the night away. Our hotel is a little hub of nightlife activity sporting several bars and clubs. All free for us to enter as guests. Dubai again never fails to surprise is, the club was jammed.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Day Eight - So Long South Africa

Check out was 11am, but we sorta ignored that as we had paid in full for the last day (trying to get a refund for it).
Internet vouchers in batches of 100MB or 500MB at the apartment.
The internet appears to be  rationed in Cape Town or at least at our apartment. 
We got up early, packed then organised a taxi to take us to the Canal Walk Shopping Mall. Taxis are not cheap here in Cape Town, when on meter the fare does rise quickly. If you know the rough amount you can agree a fare up front to make a saving.

Inside the Canal Walk Mall
The Canal Walk Mall boasts 400 stores and is meant to be the biggest in the area. The main reason for heading here was to visit the Kingsley Heath store, the African version of Abercrombie & Fitch. Turned out there are two imitations here, both with similar layouts and pumped fragrances in the air.

The food hall in the Canal Walk Mall

Leaving our Habouredge Apartment
We didn’t stay too long at the mall, got back to the apartment and checked out. We took a taxi (agreed up front on the price) to the airport for our 18:50h flight back to Dubai. We did get to the airport some 4 hours early.
Cape Town International Airport
Cape Town International airport isn’t great for wasting time, but we had fun visiting the same stores a few times over. Security is very light, we passed through their screening process rather quickly, too quick in fact, which concerned us. Perhaps it is only on European/US routes where security is taken more seriously.
Cape Town International Airport 
It’s an overnight flight to Dubai, taking over 8 hours. We arrive after 5am local time and look forward to continuing our adventure back in the safety of United Arab Emirates. Goodbye South Africa; Cape Town was a beautiful yet divided city which hopefully can move on and built itself without locals and tourists living in fear.
Reading the Cape Times at the airport

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Day Seven - Table Mountain and Robben Island

Table Mountain - Clear for once!
There are two ways to get up Table Mountain, hike or take a the cable car. Guess which option we took. Getting up very early for a long day of sightseeing we took the 9am tourist bus direct to the cable car base station. Today for the first time in a week we’ve been told, the mountain had no cloud cover, as a result the queue had formed by the time we got up.

It takes 5 minutes to rise up to the submit, some 1 km high. The cars themselves can carry 65 people each and have a rotating floor inside so everyone can take in the breathtaking views.

The Cable Car
The view down from within the Cable Car
Millions of years ago cape town was underwater, with table mountain being the only bit of land, acting as an island. The views from the top are incredible and highly recommended on a clear day.

From the top, Robben Island is 11km out from the land on the left here.
Patrick on top of Table Mountain
Vinnie on top of Table Mountain
Table Mountain

Posting the letters home from the top of Table Mountain. It's a UK post box.
About to take the tour over to Robben Island
From the mountain we descended down to connect with the tourist bus onward to the V&A harbourfront. We booked tickets over a month ahead for the Robben Island tour as it sells out well in advance. Robben Island is located some 11km out into the sea, made famous as the prison which housed Nelson Mandela. The boat ride out wasn’t too pleasant. No seats as such, just boards or standing room and the ocean crossing is far from smooth. Definitely don’t take this crossing on a full stomach.

Robben Island

Vinnie on Robben Island, our tour bus behind
The view of Cape Town from Robben Island
It took 45 minutes to get to the Island where we were divided into groups of 50, boarded a bus and taken on a 45 minute tour of the Island. Our guide was a political activist who was well traveled and knowledgeable about world politics including Irish. From there we ventured into the prison itself where an ex prisoner during the apartheid talked about how they were convicted and treated. Another 45 minute tour followed, finally ended in a viewing of Nelsons Jail Cell.

Nelson Mandela's Jail Cell

It was a very long afternoon, taking over 4 hours to get to Robben Island, tour and get back. All we really wanted to see was Nelsons Cell, which lasted a whole 10 seconds. Robben Island is a nice to see, but not wholly recommended. The boat crossing back to the mainland was rough, but we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the Atlantic ocean.
Sun set as seen from the boat 
Sun set over V&A waterfront
That evening we ventured out to an american styled dinner called beefcakes which hosts a weekly bitchy bingo show. We arrived half way into it, but play the final two games. Thankfully the venue was only a 5 minute walk from the apartment as we didn’t fancy roaming too far into the city at night.

Like most things here, the show was over early, by 10pm, and we were home to prepare for the return flight to Dubai tomorrow.

Monday 10 September 2012

Day Six - The Cape Town Tour

Todays highlights:
  • Sightseeing Bus Tour of the City
  • Stunning winding roads along the Atlantic
  • Breathtaking views over the city from the cable car station on Table Mountain
  • Sun Set from Camps Bay over the ocean
The table cloth over Table Mountain 
After a good nights rest we woke to glorious sun shine. The apartment has windows facing all directions except north. The morning sun arose from the ocean lighting up Table Mountain that was quite stunning. A tablecloth-style cloud covering lay across the top of the mountain; this is common for this time of year.

For the first time in the holiday we prepared our own breakfast (we had brought our own Irish Corn Flakes!). Still on alert over the previous day, we used the vantage point we have from the apartment to observe local behavior. Tourists and locals mingled outside. The tourists did stand out. At traffic intersections men dashed around primarily white-coloured cars to sell all sorts of newspapers and goods. Elsewhere men in brightly coloured uniforms cleaned pavements; others watched over car lots, others just waited by street corners. It seemed relatively safe, but we took no chances only taking a little money out with us. For the first time in 14 years I left home without my phone or mobile Internet access, relying on a paper map that I was too frightened to take out

We used the view to observe local behaviour before heading out!
We tried to look local and walked with purpose. We retraced our steps from the previous night to visit the supermarket. We walked in the middle of the road to get the best view around corners in case of gangs. We did get accosted right in front of the store, but thankfully made it in safely. Spar stores back home aren’t known for their upmarket styling or selection, this one was. It had everything including a very large vegetarian and vegan selection from “Frys” foods, which are actually a local company here. We had bought their foods before back home, but the selection here was phenomenal. We made a point to return back to the Spar at the end of the day to stock up on food for the apartment. Outside the population was primarlly black, inside this store however, the customer demograph was white. We did continue to see a trend in white/black throughout the city and did feel uncomfortable in places where we stood out, as if we were not welcomed.

Venturing into the city center we made certain to stay close to groups of professional looking people. But this didn’t stop the homeless or less fortunate from hassling us at every opportunity. Worse was at traffic lights where we were captive to their attempts to gain money or food from us. Venturing into a small local mall we stood out like a sore thumb being two of the few whites there. Inside one store we oddly had to get a dated sticker placed on our coke bottle that we had brought in with us. Prices here were very cheap, so we picked up some snacks and continued on with the exploration.

O'Driscolls Irish Bar
The plan was to find the famous Long Street and soak up its atmosphere. Feeling thirsty I tried to find a coffee shop. This is near to impossible in the city. Coffee culture doesn’t appear to have made it here in Cape Town. All we could find was a McDonalds in a shopping mall that used to be the main train station at one point. They do have McCafĂ©s. Opting to sit inside for a while we grew nervous as we noticed a few men outside looking in at us since our arrival. We felt we were being watched. Thankfully there was a second exit straight out to the street, so we made a dash for it in an attempt to locate the sightseeing bus tour and safety.

On the Bus Tour
Township - or slum area
The Atlantic Shoreline 
We’ve taken quite a few of those red bus sightseeing bus tours over the years but the Cape Town one has to be one of the best. A two-day ticket gives you access to two main routes, one city the other coastal (in addition to a vineyard/wine tasting tour and canal cruise). We kept to the main city and coastal tours, taking in the coastal first. Something we discovered on this tour is the white population of the city tend to live on the Atlantic coast areas, like Camps Bay. Here perfect white sands hug the shoreline whilst massive waves roar in from the Atlantic carrying in freezing cold waters from the South Pole. These coastal areas and the V&A docklands area are meant to be the most tourist friendly and mainly white orientated. You see the theme again. This sadly is really a divided city. This explains what we experienced yesterday as we are staying on the fringes and arrived right in the heart of the central business district via public transport.

Hout Harbour

V&A Waterfront
Mug and Bean for a maple cinnamon latte
The scenery here is breathtaking. Cape Town is a beautiful city once you look past its rough edges. Table Mountain with its 12 apostles facing out to the sea provides a dramatic backdrop dominating the skyline. Our bus tour took us around all the major sites including botanical gardens and district 6. The city line even took us up to the cable cars on Table Mountain, however as it was 5pm by the time we got up there, the cars where closed for the day.
V&A Waterfront
South African Countryside

Vinnie on the Bus Tour
Camps Bay
We took the bus back down to Camps Bay were we alighted for a stroll along the perfect white sandy beech and watched the sun setting over the ocean before rejoining the bus back to the V&A waterfront and heading back to the apartment before it got too late. By this stage we were becoming more confident with the city, knowing where to avoid and how to react. However, we still found ourselves restricted at night, it was just too dangerous to venture into the city by foot.

The start of the winding roads along the atlantic shoreline
V&A Waterfront
Nelson, Vinnie and Coke Status
The Wheel of Cape Town at V&A Waterfront
Tomorrow we have an early start as we plan on taking the 9am direct bus up to Table Mountain to attempt to take the cable cars up.