Prepaid GSM
Getting around

08.12: Munich -> Dubai
09.12: Dubai
10.12: Dubai
11.12: Dubai -> Kuala Lumpur

Overview and overall impression

We made a three days stop in Dubai on our way to Malaysia. I thought that it would have been interesting to have a look at Dubai for a few days and also wanted to break the long flight to Malaysia into two parts.

I was somehow positively surprised by Dubai, which is indeed a place where you can spend a holiday (in the cold season). Dubai has nice beaches and a clean sea water and probably an interesting interior. The downside is that the cost of living in Dubai is high.

Pre-departure plan

This time I leave without a precise idea of when I'll be where. I'm rather planning to make a stopover in Dubai, then continue to Malaysia, spend two days in KL getting the Vietnam visa there, then fly to Siem Reap, do Angkor and then travel to Phnom Penh, Saigon and from there go north to Hanoi, before heading back to KL.

Dec 8 Munich-Dubai
Dec 9-10 Dubai
Dec 11 Dubai-KL
Dec 12-13 KL Get  Vietnam visa
Dec 14 KL-Siem Reap
Dec 15-16 Siem Reap
Dec 17 Siem Reap-Phnom Penh
Dec 18 Phnom Penh
Dec 19 Phnom Penh-Saigon
Dec 20-22 Saigon
Dec 23 Saigon-Hue
Dec 24-25 Hue
Dec 26 Hue-Hanoi
Dec 27 Hanoi
Dec 28 Hanoi-KL
Dec 29-Jan 3
Jan 4 KL-Munich

Dubai is quite pricey  - the price level is more or less on the same level as here in Germany, with taxis however being relatively cheap. We paid 68 Euro for a double room in the hotel and around 8-10 Euro for meals.

Money  / Exchange rate (December 2006)
1 Euro = 4.73 dirham
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

It's easy to get cash with a Maestro/Cirrus ATM card all over Dubai, as there are plenty of ATMs.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
We didn't try buying a GSM prepaid card, although I suspect that these cards are available.

Internet access
Internet cafes are available, but not that easy to find.  Prices range between 3 and 10 dirham per hour.

Mostly sunny, with more or less spotless blue skies. On the first day there was a thin clouds layer in the sky. Warm, but a bit too fresh to swim in the sea for my tastes. Quite windy.

Health / Vaccinations
Probably none required for Dubai (we didn't get any immunisations for the trip to Dubai).

VISA / Entry requirements
A VISA on arrival is available for citizens of most delevoped countries as well as of some commonwealth countries. Citizens of other countries need to apply for a VISA in advance.

Very safe place, no risks. No harassment by beggars or other people.


Getting around
Since the distances are big and public transportation is underdeveloped in Dubai (there is no underground for instance), we relied heavily on taxis, which are relatively cheap in Dubai. It is however not easy to get a taxi in Dubai, as there are not enough of them.

08.12: Munich -> Dubai

We leave home shortly before 6pm and reach the airport around 7pm. At 7:15pm we queue up at the check-in counter of Emirates. There is no long queue, but it still takes a while to get three adjacent seats, as the plane is quite full. At 7:50pm we have some dinner at the Nordsee fish restaurant. We then go through passport control and security. The security freaks make a body search, patting everywhere even if they are using a metal detector. They ask to open the small rucksack and inspect the content.

At 8:55pm boarding begins. No big waiting time, but then in the plane we have to wait for quite some time, as the plane is only scheduled to take off at 9:40pm. The seats make a better impression than the seats of Thai Airways and there is an LCD screen for every seat. However the service is better with Thai Airways, because they serve more drinks and don't keep you waiting so long with the finished food tray on the table. We are stuck for a while with this dumb food tray and cannot get out. Alissia finally starts sleeping at 00:30am.

09.12: Dubai
Hotel San Marco, Dubai. 68 Euro for a small double room, clean with TV, fridge, bath+shower, some furniture, A/C. The room is overpriced compared to what you get in other countries and outside the road is noisy and every now and then planes fly above the hotel. But on the other hand this is Dubai, where everything is expensive and the hotel staff is helpful and does not complain when we check in at 8:20am (usually the check-in time is 2pm) and they provide us with an extra mattress for Alissia at no extra charge (they have no baby bed).
Weather: sunny and cloudy, fresh-warm, I'd say a bit above 20°C, apparently warm enough for some people to swim in the sea. Quite windy, a bit too fresh to walk around with shorts and T-shirts.

We land in Dubai almost on time at 6:30am after a sleepless night (only Alissia could sleep). Everything runs smooth (you don't have to fill out a form when going through immigration), but we only manage to leave the airport around 8am, mainly because of the long immigration queue. It appears that the dirham (the local currency) has exactly the same value as the Malaysia RM. The taxi trip from the airport to the hotel takes about 20 minutes and costs 31 dirham. After settling down in the room we take a rest until noon.

Around 2pm we leave the room and have something in the restaurant of the hotel. The food is so-so. Shortly before 3pm we start our sightseeing of Dubai and we try to walk to a shopping complex along the creek. What looked like a small distance on the map, turns out to be a big distance to walk on foot with a stroller and a small child. After a couple of stops asking people for directions (most people we ask do not know the directions) and an ice cream stop, we finally make it to the creek at 3:40pm. Nice view of the water and the buildings. To cross the creek with a boat the fee is one dirham per person, but the boatsman does not return the change when I give him five dirham ("ok, ok...."). It appears that Dubai is a very expensive place for living. The prices for everything are high, at the same level as in Germany and in some cases even higher.

Around 4pm we try to take a taxi on the other side. Not so easy to catch a taxi in Dubai, it does take some time. At 4:10pm we  are finally in a taxi and drive to the Burj Al Arab, arriving there 25 minutes later (45 dirham). I ask the driver to drop us off somewhere on a beach to the west of the Burj Al Arab, because this is the right position for the afternoon sun, but the driver says that the beaches to the west of the Burj Al Arab are only accessible to guests of the hotels there, so we end up getting off at the Jumeirah beach. This is a very nice beach with white sand and clean water. It's 4:50pm and we end up staying there until after sunset. Alissia enjoys a lot playing with the water.

At 6:05pm we start looking for a taxi. That's not so easy, because there are few taxis there. In order to find a taxi we have to walk to the main road. From there we drive to the Deira City Centre shopping complex. This is a huge, confusing mall with lots of shops. Very easy to get lost. There we look for a restaurant, and initially choose a noodle restaurant. Checking the menu it appears that the prices are very high (40 dirham for a dish of Singapore noodles, which in Malaysia or Singapore costs a fraction of that). We go to another restaurant and even there the prices are high. Never mind, if at least the quality was in line with the price, but unfortunately the food is so-so.

At 9pm we are in an Internet cafe, where I check my emails (10 dirham for half an hour). Quite complicated to get there, as we have to walk through a hotel and the Internet cafe is in a bowling club (???). Finally at 9:20pm we go back to the hotel with a taxi.

10.12: Dubai
Hotel San Marco. Heavy street noise in the evening at 11pm, with several cars honking.
Weather: sunny the whole day, almost spotless blue sky with an occasional thin clouds layer. Warmer than yesterday, around 3pm it gets windy.

I get up at 9am, take a shower and get ready. At 9:45am I wake up Shirley and go down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. At 10:05am Shirley joins me and manages to get some breakfast before they close the buffet. Back in the room Shirley gets ready and we leave the hotel at 11:40 am. It then takes a very, very long time to get a taxi. We only manage to get into a taxi at 12:25pm, that is 45 minutes later. Then there is a traffic jam (apparently Sunday is a regular working day in Dubai, with the weekend days being Friday and Saturday) and we finally arrive in Jumeirah beach near the Burj Al Arab hotel after 1pm. By the way, "Jumeirah" is the name of all beaches in the western part of Dubai and there are also several Jumeirah mosques.

We spend one hour at the beach, with Alissia playing in the sea water (I guess we'll have more beach holidays in the future). A bit after 2pm we take a taxi to the Mercato mall, a very nice mall in Italian architectural style we spotted on the way to Jumeirah beach. We reach the mall at 2:20pm and have lunch there. On the upper level there is a food court with several fast food chains (McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza hut, KFC, etc.), where we have lunch. There is also a children play centre (16 Dirham for two hours), but children younger than four years old must be accompanied by a parent all the time, so we cannot leave Alissia there.

At 3:15pm we leave the mall and jump into a taxi to the next place, the Jumeirah mosque (this time there is a taxi waiting outside the mall). The Jumeirah mosque is kind of nice, but non-Muslims can only get inside with an official guide of the Dubai tourist association/organisation and only twice a week at 10am (Sunday and another day). We don't spend much time there and take a taxi to the next place,  the "Skeikh Saeed Al Maktoum House & The Heritage Village", arriving there at 4pm. Sounds very interesting on paper, but in reality there is not much to see there, just some houses recently built in local style and several tourist shops.

Since Alissia has to take a rest we stop in this place anyway for some time. This place is along the creek and there are several boats waiting for customers. The owner of a big boat offers to bring us around for one hour for 150 Dirham, which seems a bit pricey. Some time later, at 4:45pm,  we settle on 30 Dirham for a trip on another, smaller boat (are we still paying too much?), which later become 50 Dirham, because the boatsman "extended" the trip. Surprisingly Alissia is still able to sleep on the boat (she actually sleeps in the stroller), despite the noise and all the shaking. It's around 5pm and right now the sunlight is at its best, with great views of the skyline of Dubai and the creek waterfront. The creek is a very scenic area.

At 5:15pm the boatman drops us off somewhere which must be near the Al Fahidi fort (Dubai museum, Grand mosque, Diwan (Rulers court) Bastakia quarter, Meena bazaar according to a tour programme). This appears to be an area with several reconstructed "heritage" buildings and tourist shops. We are there until 5:40pm, then start walking to the Burjuman shopping complex. It takes a while to walk there, because we only manage to arrive at 7:15pm (I sort of regret not having taken a taxi).

The Burjuman mall is - just for a change - very high class and elegant. Are all malls in Dubai so high end? Is everybody in Dubai so well-off? Virtually all restaurant and shops/malls we have seen so far are of the classy/pricey, sophisticated type. And most of these classy restaurants we have seen are empty or almost empty, while the cheaper fast-food places are well-visited. Maybe there are not so many wealthy customers in Dubai after all? Or perhaps these classy establishments can operate profitably at very low usage rates, because running costs (i.e. wages) are low? In yesterday's Japengo restaurant we saw a large number of cooks - large compared to the number of customers.

There is also a building boom right now in Dubai, with lots of new buildings being built everywhere. I wonder who is going to live there, because Dubai, yes, it's kind of nice with all those sophisticated malls and restaurants, the beaches are also nice, but I'm not aware of any major industrial base in Dubai, so what is the economy based on here and why should people choose to buy property here? Dubai gets extremely hot in summer and is probably really pleasing only in winter...

The Tandoory chicken Shirley chooses is not good, meaning that it has almost no taste. It seems to be prepackaged food. We get it from a fast food Indian food outlet in the food court of the Burjuman mall.

At 8pm we leave the mall and take a taxi back to the hotel. Big detour, as apparently there are no bridges over the creek (only a tunnel I'd guess), then some traffic jam and we are only back in the hotel at 8:50pm. I spot an Internet cafe close to the hotel (only 3 Dirham/hour) and check my emails until 9:20pm.

Tomorrow we have the flight to KL at 9:10am, so we'll have to get up early (we set the wake up call at 5:45am). I end up sleeping after midnight, as I'm busy browsing through the images, deleting the bad ones, burning the first DVD with RAWs and writing the travelogue.

11.12: Dubai -> Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Boulevard, Midvalley Mall, Kuala Lumpur. 245 RM for a very nice room with everything, including a baby bed. There is also a cable Internet connection in the room, but you have to buy a prepaid card, which probably is not cheap.
Weather: sunny with a clouds layer in the morning in Dubai. Not too hot in the evening in KL (it has been raining).

We start the day after a short night with a wake up call at 5:39am. We get ready and are down in the lobby for check out at 6:50am. Then the hotel staff helps us get a taxi, which luckily doesn't take so long this time. At 7am we are on the way to the airport and arrive there at 7:20am despite some traffic jam initially. It's interesting that the roads in Dubai are already quite full at 7am.

We get out and there is some initial queue, so that we only are at the check-in gate at 7:35am. Then we have to wait a long time in the queue and only finish checking in at 8:10am. Then we get through immigration, where again there is a queue and by the time we start walking towards the gate it's 8:40am. Then it's a long walk towards the gate 37. At the gate there is again a queue, because we have to take a bus to the plane. We are finally in the plane around 9am.

The plane is a quite new Boeing 777, with big LCD screens and power sockets in the chairs (!). Wow, I have to say I'm impressed. Now it's possible to use the 6 hours of the flight in a productive manner, for instance doing some power-intensive image processing which otherwise would drain the batteries of the notebook quite rapidly. Overall the level of service offered by Emirates is much higher than the one of Thai. The seat is high-tech, with a video-on-demand service with a big library of movies to choose from.

The plane only starts rolling at 9:40am and takes off shortly before 10am. The flight runs smoothly and we arrive in KL with a short delay at 8:20pm. Then it takes a long time to retrieve the luggage, because the baby stroller is only returned very late. We get out of the luggage retrieval area only at 9pm. After some checking we buy a ticket for a limo to the hotel for 92 RM (simple taxi is 67 RM), because we have so much luggage.

We arrive at the Boulevard hotel at 10pm. There Sara, Shirley's sister is waiting for us. She has already checked us in, so we can go straight to the room. After that we have some late food at a Starbuck coffee shop.

Copyright 2007 Alfred Molon