Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dubai Dubai Dubai

You've probably realised that wherever in the world I live, I like to involve myself in the history of the place (hello Angel Meadows!) and I'm a voracious consumer of all sorts of information relating to anything that I love.  Whilst I was in Bali I raced through this fascinating book in a day.  My excited squawking was such that the girls instructed me to read all the good bits and facts out to them as they happened. This meant I pretty much read the entire book aloud!

And next week I'm attending an event featuring this book.  I'm not sure my desert family can cope with any more Dubai facts and tales from me. Oh well.  They're used to my geeky love of this place by now.  I hope.   

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Some photos of our beautiful Bali villa....complete with sunken baths, outdoor showers, private pool, and a team of staff.  No photos of the staff!

Eat, Pray, Bali

Ok, so here's the next installment in the global tour: Bali.  In summary, we had a fabulous time.  We rented THE most spectacular villa you've ever seen (think Cribs, then amplify by twenty).  Private pool , and a team of staff on hand to create breakfast every day (oh how I struggled as I groped for the toaster on my first morning back in Dubai!) and generally tend to our every need.  We'd been warned that the weather had been wet and rainy, and were horrified when we landed just after a recent downpour.  The universe, however, was smiling on us, and we were treated to scorching sunshine and blue skies for the whole five days.

We spent those five days doing the usual: relaxing by the pool, reading books, celebrity magazines, eating crisps, and drining g&t's.  We did venture out for a day of exploring to Ubud, a lovely town with ubiquitous temples and tat for sale.  And of course we dragged our sorry selves out for sundowners and scran each night in a variety of beautiful places,  my favourite being this.

We had a fabulous time, and completely relaxed.  Taking four extremely independent, opinionated, dare I say it CONTROL FREAK women and you'd think that you'd have a recipe for disaster.  Far from it.  It was an absolute treat to spend so much quality time with three of my favourite people, setting the world to rights, gossiping, and setting life goals.  So much so that the bright idea (gin-fuelled) of all chipping in and moving to a villa on the palm doesn't seem like such a bad move right now!

My verdict on Bali?  Well, I don't wish to sound ungrateful, it's a lovely place.  BUT.  I'm not quite seeing all the hype.  It's a very long way to go (about ten hours from Dubai, 16 from the UK), is very expensive when you get there (even we, used to paying Dubai prices for wine, baulked at 20 quid for a glass!) and when it comes to beauty - well I think Sri Lanka and parts of India trump it completely - and they're all much cheaper and easier to get to.  It's also VERY touristy (I think Julia Roberts is to blame for the crowds of Americans) even though we were very much of the beaten tourist track.  I'm not sure why anyone would think it was a honeymoon destination.

Anyway, we had a super super time and my itchy feet reamin unscratched.  Next week, I'm off to Jordan.  Egypt in January, Hong Kong in Feb/March.  The world map is slowly being conquered!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Boredom in the Skies

I'm at a complete loss as to why Singapore Airlines are constantly voted the world's number one.  Until the recent trip I'd never flown with them, but had heard great things about them, and we were all quite giddy about the journey.  Who knew they'd pale into insignificance compared to Emirates? (And no, I don't work for Emirates!) 

My main issues:
  • The entertainment system.  You can't pick and choose what you want, all the films and programmes are shown on a loop.  If you miss the first half an hour of a film, you'll have to wait until the end for it to swing back round again.  Rubbish, especially on a 7.5 hour flight.
  • The food.  DIRE.  I was served some slop which was supposed to be chicken in ginger sauce on the outward journey. On the return I had wised up and requested a low-calorie meal instead (chicken breast with pureed carrots - a vast improvement.  And you get it ten minutes into the flight leaving more time for wine drinking and snoozing)
  • The plane.  So old it had ashtrays in it.  
On the plus side, they were very generous with the wine, and the girls are stunning.  Their uniforms are fabulous and can even be bought in the markets of Chinatown in Singapore.  We actually had a girl-crush on one of them and had to enquire abut her eye make-up application!  And when you're travelling in a group you can definitely make your own entertainment if necessary.

I don't want to sound like a travel snob, but if i have the choice in future, I'll be flying Emirates all the way.

We Heart Singapore

I'm back! Did you miss me?  I'm currently reeling from too little sleep (not sure if it's actually jet lag.  More likely flying through the night and availing ourselves of a bit too much free wine) and adjusting to being thrown right back in the deep end where work is concerned.  Anyway, let's get onto the trip.  It will probably be the subject of a few blog posts, such was the hilarity and variety of what we encountered whilst away. Let's start with Singapore, shall we?

I'm going to assume that you haven't been - if you have - this may bore you. In a nutshell, I LOVED Singapore!!!!!  Reasons why:
  • It's a solid 30-35 degrees, all year round, with lots of sunshine and blue skies. It was actually scorching whilst we were there.  Yes, it does rain, and it's very humid, but the great weather means that you have the outdoor lifestyle all year round, not for only half the year like you do in Dubai.  Hello roof top bars, hello strolling the streets..which brings me onto my next point:
  • You can walk everywhere.  It's a proper city, with (shock) pavements, walkways, it's all designed for the pedestrian.  We spent many happy hours walking around just absorbing the vibes and the personality of the place.  Which brings me onto my next point:
  • Singapore is COOL.  What do I mean?  Everyone looks good, not in an anodyne, labelled-up kind of way, more in a cool sneakers and unusual jeans, interesting make-up and hair kind of way.   It feels a bit like New York. Which brings me onto my next point:
  • It has a big city feel and vibe.  There's something in the air that's palpable.   And it's hard to ignore.  It's such an interesting mix of cultures and people.  Which brings me onto my next point:
  • It's very multi-cultural, just like Dubai.  We saw all nationalities working and living together in one melting pot.  And there's something fascinating about that for me. Which brings me onto my next point:
  • It's a very cultural place.  Not only do huge modern skyscrapers jostle for space next to older areas like Arab Street and Little India, there's art galleries, a symphony orchestra.  The cultural section of Singapore's Time Out goes on for pages and pages, not like the paltry efforts of Dubai's.
  • And my last, but very important point: it has BEACHES.  Yes, head to the beautiful Sentosa Island for the day and you'll see Singapore's bright young things kicking back in lush beach clubs and cool bars.
Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not knocking Dubai.  Anyone who knows me knows just how much I love this city and the Middle East.  We all squeaked with excitement when the plane touched down here, and I spent the afternoon of my first day back mooching around one of my favourite parts of the city: the creek.  It's just that as an ex-pat,living in an autocratic city where your whole life revolves around a visa that is to a large extent out of your control, you never really know how long you'll stay.  I'm nowhere near done with Dubai.  But I think I may have found the answer to: where next?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reality Check

I know I've often joked about never being able to live in a cold country again, but the longer I live in Dubai, the more this has seeped into my conscious.  And last weekend (whilst lying on the comfy sunlounger by the Chedi pool) cemented this for me.

This has led to some very interesting conversations with various members of the desert family where we've evaluated our finances, lives, and generally had a long hard look at ourselves to see whether it really is feasible.  There's no easy or quick answer to that (probably no, at the moment) but it has led me not only update the excel spreadsheet which contains all my worldly goods, but also to think more about where I'm going to make home for the rest of my days.

My favourite blogger can either read my mind or has my apartment bugged as she's written about this today.  Very interesting food for thought.

PS Photo above is me, freezing to death in Whitby. Not sure when. I think it may have been the defining moment in deciding I need to live in sunnier climes!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

More Heaven...

Just a few more Chedi shots...I'll leave it here before you devour me with jealousy...!

If There is a Heaven...

Realised that in the midst of the general craziness that is life in Dubai, I've completely forgotten to update you on our trip to The Chedi.  It was exactly as you might imagine.....from the moment the giant chauffeur-driven Benz arrived at Muscat airport, to the moment it dropped us back, the entire trip screamed pure, unadulterated, grown-up, stylish luxury.  Made to feel all the more decadent by the fact that we were the only group of friends who were having the experience - it's very much a coupley kind of place.  And as many of the couples looked like a text-book reason as to why you could seriously stay single for the rest of your life (no talking, no eye contact, no FUN!  You're in THE CHEDI people, lighten up!) this really hit home. 

We spent the entire time ooh-ing and aah-ing in our luxury suite, which is possibly the most romantic place I've ever slept (hello Melissa!) savouring the foodie treats they dropped off for us every few hours, and trying hard not to nose-dive into the (complimentary) decanters of booze.  The pool was to die for, as was the breakfast, the lunch, the overall service, the grounds.  I could go on.

Of course one of the keys to all of this was the company: there's something particularly special about friends with whom you are just as comfortable gassing away about the really important things in life, lying in silence, or squawking over the latest celebrity break-up.  I'm blessed.

There are a couple of small observations I have about the place, which in NO WAY detract from how fabulous it is...BUT, when you're paying 1500 quid a night for a suite (plus an extra double room, so call it a round 2000 quid a night) you expect everything to be perfect, no?

Glasses: none in the suite. Tumblers for the liqour, but no wine or champagne glasses.  In a suite.  There is wine in the mini bar.
Slippers: cheap throw-away numbers that I last encountered in a Crowne Plaza.
Robe: not fair to say cheap, but thin and waffly.  Not thick and fluffy.  Maybe this is a personal thing.
Beach: not enough sun loungers to lie on the beach when we headed down at 11 am.  Staff refused to move some for us.  After a lot of discussion, the staff did help us, and we ended up by one of the lovely pools, so no sweat, but at 2k a night, I'd like to lie where I want to...and that was the beach.

Now, call me hard to please, say I've been Dubai-ed, and also throw into the mix the fact that I'm a PR person who is perhaps more conscious than the average consumer when it comes to customer service.  And feel free to ignore all of the above.  It's a fabulous place and I'd recommend it in a heartbeat.  If only I had unlimited time and money.  Next stop: Singapore...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Breaking News

You probably caught Dubai in the news over the weekend: the 'suspect' packages from Yemen that were stopped at the airport...hello Middle Eastern stereotypes all over the news!  We were in the Chedi in Muscat when the news broke (pictured left is the bath in our suite: have you ever seen anything like it?!), and sat up until 2 am sipping champagne and watching the story unfold.  Let's be clear, if the world is going to end, there are much, much worse  places to be stranded.

We were gripped by the story, and as well as discussing various theories behind and around the story (truth, lies, media manipulation), one thing was paramount.  We all took it as a personal affront and attack on our home.  Let's be clear, it was obviously nothing in comparison to September 11th, or the London Bombings in 2005.  But, just like the London bombings, there were people that I loved back in Dubai, and just unlike the London bombings, I actually live in the city under threat.

 I rushed to reassure my parents that I was ok, but the news hadn't even reached Jersey!  Thankfully the whole incident was over extremely quickly without too much drama.  I know it's my own fault for reading the rag, but I was still dismayed by the comments on the Daily Mail (always more frightening than the actual stoires themselves).  With every story like this, we take a few steps backward in the eyes of the rest of the world.  A shame.

Office Excitement

The office has been in a frenzy this week.  No pay rises, no bonuses...much more dramatic than that: they're filming  Mission Impossible 4 right outside my office building.  So far this has involved:
  • A helicopter hovering, for literally hours, right next to the Burj Khalifa (see photo)
  • Someone (Tom, according to the Mail, I'm not so sure) dangling off the side of the Burj Khalifa
  • The entire office stampeding to the windows every five minutes to see what is going on
  • The entire downtown area grinding to a halt as passers-by and office workers drop whatever they're doing, to look up
I'm not exaggerating, it's been brilliant.  Someone (not me, but only because I forgot, I now have a reminder in my phone) even brought binoculars in today.  Well, it's not easy to see up to the 125th floor, where they're filming.

Despite the fact that I live right next to the Burj, AND work right next to the Burj, I have yet to catch a glimpse of the loveable homo midget himself.  He has been spotted in various places around Dubai: the ski slope (?!), Okku, and apparently, even getting turned away from Zuma for not having a reservation (don't believe this one). 

Let's also not forget that I (along with 9 million other people, admittedly) applied to be an extra in the film.  Can you IMAGINE the excitement if I get the call???  Goodbye PR, hello Hollywood!  Watch this space...

Men in Uniform

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a uniform is usually hot.  With the exception of policemen, I think it's fair to say that firemen, pilots, the military, all of these professions and their relevant uniforms can transform average looking men into men you'd look  more than twice at.  Think classic (Richard Gere in Officer and a Gentleman), think action (Tom Cruise in Top Gun) or think just plain brawn (the Baldwin brothers in Backdraft).  They all had raw sex appeal in spades.  One ex of mine confessed he'd never been as popular as the time he went to a fancy dress party dressed as a fireman.

And it goes across continents.  I'll always remember the first time I took my mum to New York (where firemen are on every street corner, and the drone of the trucks is constant background noise).  As we emerged from Macy's, there was a whole host of fire engines outside.  My mum was impressed.  "They're holding AXES!!" she exclaimed in excitement as she elbowed me out of the way for a better look.

Whilst I remain unimpressed with the (admittedly) limited exposure I've had to uniforms in this region thus far, there is one very interesting Middle Eastern equivalent: the dish dash.  I don't know what exactly it is about this outfit that appeals quite so much to me.  And to be fair, all of my female friends.

It's probably a combination of things: the elegance as men swish by, the fact that it seems to be ubiquitous to combine the dish dash with mirrored aviators, a sharp beard, and THE most hypnotizing aftershave you've ever smelt.  And just like firemen, it can transform an ordinary looking guy into a hot one.

A fact I realised today as I drove into a carpark with a colleague.  The man who greeted us (dish dash clad) looked, to me, like an arabic god.  My colleague nearly crashed the car laughing.  "Kelly, you've got to get past the costume," she said.  On second glance, she had a point.  Maybe we should all stick to Jamil (pictured left).  Every girl needs one.