Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flying to Dubai

8th December 2007:

I was rather hoping that I’d start getting into the Christmas mood in Australia this year but nope: its still surreal seeing Santa in a big red coat surrounding by people wearing only shorts or bikinis :) So, I’m going back to the northern hemisphere for a bit of normal reality.

Seeing as I’m traveling soooooo far, it would be a waste not to stop off somewhere along the way. I've already been to Thailand and have gone through North America, so for a change of scenery this year it will be Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai seems to be an up and coming place, boasting the worlds most luxurious hotel (7 star!), the world's tallest tower and there's even a massive man made island in the shape of the world(!) Fancy owning all of North America and living in your own White House? Now's your chance!

My travel buddy for the trip is Lisa and together we flew with the UAE's national carrier, Emirates. I have heard a LOT of great things about the Emirates airline. How was the reality? Like most things, some of the expectations turned out to be true, others were mere wishful thinking. Naturally each seat had its own built-in LCD display panel. Having them touch screen was a pleasant surprise, but they did suffer from the same problem all of these displays have: when the person in front leans their seat back you can no longer properly see what you are trying to watch :( Still, I have never come across such an impressive entertainment system: it worked for a start (Qantas, you should take some notes) and had over 175 movies to choose from that you can start/stop/pause as you want. If you don't fancy a movie, you can also look through cameras mounted in the plane's nose and undercarriage to see where you are going or what you are flying over. As we were flying overnight there wasn't much to see, but the takeoff and landing was dramatic! Also, some airlines only switch the entertainment system on when the plane is flying: not so here and being able to watch movies while waiting for the plane to taxi during takeoff and landing was a welcome distraction. To be fair, much of this technology is down to the airline manufacturer so maybe I just lucky and ended up on a new plane with modern gadgets.

The in-flight meals were also some of the best I've had on a plane and we stared in wonder at the real metal cutlery we were given, even metal knives! However, they could have provided more meals and I have found the premium ice-cream provided by other airlines to be a great addition: sadly there was none on our flight :( Also interesting was that there wine/beer/spirits were not mentioned anywhere and in stark contrast to a Qantas or BA flight, nobody that I noticed had a glass or wine with dinner. Lisa did spot one or two later, but they were the exception rather than the norm.

The flight had a scheduled flying time of 17 hours and we had a one hour's stopover in Bangkok en-route. We were flying overnight and as were flying west we followed the darkness all the way: it was probably the longest night I've ever experienced. I did love the airplanes interior at night time though: most airlines just dim the lights, but for ours they first changed the light to a subtle red/pink colour (to simulate sunset) and then a couple of minutes later changed the lights to a dim dark blue/purple and they even had stars (miniature white lights) visible in the roof: very impressive!

Overall, flying with Emirates was positive but then they do charge more for the experience. We arrived into Dubai a little bit later than scheduled due to fog but it was nice and early in the morning and was just after sunrise: the perfect time to start exploring.