Friday, December 8, 2017

Dubai in the superlative

We often transit at Dubai Airport  when flying Emirates.  We had however never gone outside the airport to tour Dubai because we were always in a hurry to reach our destination. But in this long distance trip to USA with 89 year -old Yeye, we planned deliberately to break up the journey to make it easier for him.  So we opted to stay 2 nights in Dubai on the way to USA.  We stayed at  the Millennium Hotel near the airport  Booking the hotel online was my first attempt after  a 20 years hiatus. I was quite encouraged to get a good discount RM1,300/- off the price quoted by the hotel. It was conveniently located near the Red Metro train line. Our encounters  here showed the Dubai always strives to reach for  the superlative - for example the world's the tallest water fountains, the biggest mall, the tallest tower, the most luxurious hotel etcetera . Hmm......

Our first point of interest was the ski mall at the Mall of the Emirates. Why? Sometime ago, Yeye had asked us in all our many travel trips with him, why we had never taken him him to experience winter and snow. We told him frankly - we weren't sure if he could take the cold weather actually so we had always deliberately travel in spring or autumn and NEVER in winter. But going to a ski mall was fairly safe since we could take Yeye out if he could not handle  the cold. It was -4 degrees at the ski mall. He enjoyed the ice sculptures and the cable car ride up. We took him out after 2 hours there. Yeye  was glad to be in the warm again. We did mention that if he were in an winter scenario, he may not be able to get out of the cold  so quickly.

Yeye happy in the cold and properly attired

On the ski lift chair.
We next headed for the  Dubai fountains at the Dubai Mall - the largest mall in the world in downtown Dubai. The world famous beautiful fountains are the tallest fountains in the world at 900 feet which is equivalent to 2 football pitches. The fountains are designed by WET Design the same people who designed the Bellagio fountains of Las Vegas. We rushed to catch the last fountain show at 11.00 pm.The spectacular fountains play against the beautiful backdrop of the lit Burj Khalifa in the night sky to the oohs and aahs of the audience.

Jason and Yeye with Burj Khalifa in the backdrop

Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure in the world
at 828 meters. The Dubai fountains are
also the tallest fountains  in the world
The next morning, we took the metro back to the same mall to see the Dubai aquarium and to check the prices of stuff we wanted to buy. When we reached the hotel and checked the distances and number of steps we had walked, we realized Yeye had reached a record 24,424 steps and he looked healthier despite having walked so far.

Fishes swimming behind me

Yeye at the Dubai aquarium

Note the distance from the Metro to the mall.
We walked this distance 4 times.

Yeye achieved a record number of  steps walked
due to the long distance between the
Red Metro line and the Dubai Mall, 
That evening, we went for an exciting desert safari in the setting sun. We went in a convoy of 3 4WD vehicles. The tyres of the 4WD were slightly deflated for better control.The driver skillfully maneuvered the 4WD  and cruised and drifted in the soft desert sand amidst by the screams of the passengers. The drivers parked the vehicles and we explored the area. It was a beautiful sunset scene over rolling sand dunes. The wind blew the fine sand through our fingers. Feeling the strong winds and the fine sands, we understood how sand dunes were formed in the desert. We had a traditional dinner and watched several fire dances. Yeye had several encounters with camels, including the one where we mounted the camel and went for a ride.

The camel and Yeye studying each other -
Yeye with open mouth and the camel with nozzled up mouth.

Desert safari in the setting sun

See the fine dunes in the sand.
Desert safari use the term dune bashing sometimes

Jason against a backdrop of sand dunes in the setting sun

Yeye had a very exciting camel ride.
On our return trip to Dubai on the 12th of October, Joseph was our very kind and superb host. We got into his sports Mercedes and he took us to view various luxury sport cars.

Can you recognize the car makes?

Joe then drove us to the Wave Hotel at Jumeirah Beach to view the Burj Al Arab. We enjoyed the sunset and the breezy wind. The Burj Al Arab is reportedly  the most luxurious hotel in the world. Its sailboat shape is the icon of Dubai and there is a helipad at the top.

The Burj Al Arab

The iconic sailboat shape of the Burj Al Arab with
the helipad at its top.

Yeye posing with the date palm

Satellite pic of the Bur Al Arab built again on reclaimed land.
Joe then took us to eat mandir rice which was very yummy. This was our favorite meal in Dubai. Thank you Joe.
Good friends bonding over great food

Some towers take on the shape of NYC towers 

Yeye and his golden carriage

Joe then took us to the world famous Atlantis hotel built at the edge of the palm tree shaped reclaimed land off the Jumeirah beach.

Atlantis Hotel lies at the outermost fringe of reclaimed land
in the shape of  a palm tree. The Burj Al Arab lies to its North East.

We saw a replica of the glass art  - originally from  Seattle

Golden and opulent

All too soon we had to get ready to fly home to KL. We left Byblos Hotel in the Al Barsha area for the airport.

Yeye reminded us to take a pic of him with our pickup car.

Enjoying a meal before we board

Yummy food 

Our long trip ends with this  giant lovely lily bouquet in the lounge
Thank you God for taking us safely halfway across the globe and safely home. Thank you for the wonderful weather, our wonderful friends and family in Dubai and Cleveland and for keeping Yeye in excellent health throughout. We offer up  heart felt thanksgiving for a lovely and memorable trip.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New York City , New York.

New York City can be confusing at times to visitors who have come several times including myself. But this last trip cleared up lots of cobwebs in my mind and clarified my understanding. Why? Well, we  had to be able to take Yeye to explore NYC with minimal exertion as well  explain to him where we had taken him.

NYC follows a grid line roughly. Avenues run north to south beginning with 1st Avenue on the East. Streets run  roughly east to west with the bigger numbers up north beyond 200+ streets.  Manhattan   ( island of many hills in native American language) in NYC is divided roughly into downtown, mid town and uptown areas. Midtown is generally classified as from 3rd Avenue to 8th Avenue and from 34th Street to 59th Street. Let's hit the pavement!

We flew in to JFK airport from Dubai and was quickly couriered to Evens Hotel near 2nd Avenue and 42nd street. Evens Hotel is a strategic midtown hotel and if you walk all the way east to First Avenue, You see the United Nations Complex. Good start for navigation. We bought Big Bus Hop on Hop Off tours that came with 3 rides and a bonus cruise to Lady Liberty. We managed to do the day midtown and downtown tours with the cruise and a special night tour.

Starting  the Big Bus Tour departing from
stop No 17 - the United Nations Plaza.

The only McDonald sign in Mandarin in NYC.

Father and son at the 9/11 Memorial Park.

We disembarked to see the 9/11 memorial park. Yeye reminded us he wanted to see the financial district and we backtracked to see the Charging Bull. Yeye asked for Wall Street and we backtracked again. We thought we had covered the necessary sites in the financial district but Yeye said " No, there is a particular building the newscaster always stands in front of . Where is that building?." We had no idea but Yeye showed us that building - the Stock Exchange. Hmm - Yeye is a first time visitor to NYC but he is smarter than  both of us combined. He definitely knows what sights he wants to see and reminds us to take him there.

Yeye with the Charging Bull.

Together with the defiant Fearless Girl
(who is a new face on the block.)
 staring down the Charging Bull.
Girls won't be cowed!

 Yeye strikes an interesting pose. Contrast his pose
 with that of the statute behind him.

We searched for  the Stock Exchange Building
We then took the subway to Chinatown where we enjoyed  springy wanton noodles with roasted duck. Yummy! Yeye was so happy to eat his first Chinese meal here and to find a Chinese newspaper. He hadn't read a Chinese newspaper for days - a ritual he really missed on this trip. We also bought mini moon cakes for Ken Jon and Francesca.

Savoring every bit of the wanton noodles.

Red route is the downtown route. We boarded at 17 at United Nations Plaza
and picked up passengers at 1 where the downtown ,
midtown(purple) and uptown(blue) routes roughly merged.

We walked to Battery Park (near 13) and boarded the cruise. We were so happy when the cruise arrived on Liberty Island, right next to the statute. We decided wisely not to disembark when we saw the crowds lining up to get on board the ship again. We had such lovely sunny weather with clear blue skies and I am truly grateful. The last trip in 2015, the photos of the Statute was so dismal because of the rain and grey clouds.

Lining up to get on our cruise ship Miss New York.

Yeye turns his head to capture as much
of the Statute of Liberty as he could

We were surprised when the ship docked on Liberty Island

The crowds lined up in the hot sun  to board the ship on
Liberty Island. We decided wisely not to disembark.

Lovely flowers but they are not orchids

We managed to return to our strategic hotel and caught some much needed rest before beginning our night tour. New York by night. We started from the M&M near Times Square. We really painted the town red using the free Big Bus night tour.

M&M at Times Square is the beginning point
for many tour routes

Yeye amused by the police on horseback.

Broadway on 53rd Street
 The night tour was a non stop route - non hop on and hop off. Seeing New York skyline by line is spectacular and beautiful and quite different from the noon view.
Chrysler signature roof top

Empire State Building

The real and original Time Square is always
glittering with electronic advertisements.

Little Italy merges into Chinatown.

View of Lower Manhattan from the bus 

NYC skyline by night

When we next returned to NYC from Cleveland on the 10th October, we stayed at Rows Times Square,NYC hotel on 8th Avenue,44th Street. This hotel was even more strategic to explore NYC from. We saw the SIA captains and air stewardess stay here by the hordes. We had our favorite Chinese restaurant "The Dim Sum Palace "nearby on 46th Street. Do you know 3-5pm is happy hour dim sum and you get half price off? After our happy hour,we walked to Columbus Circle on 59th Street and entered Central Park. We exited on 5th Avenue near Peninsular Plaza and enjoyed the high fashion  on 5th Avenue.

The weather on the flight to NYC was really good.
From the plane window I could see the river glistening
 like gold as the waters reflected the bright sunlight.

Yeye at the Columbus Circle.
This is the geographical center of NYC.

Cyclists in Central Park

Yeye on granite rock slab in Central Park

Peninsular Plaza

Sherman Memorial in background

Trump Tower
We returned to the hotel and left Yeye there to rest while Jason and me walked down to Macy to purchase our luggage bags. We clocked 25,606 steps today. Our smart phones are indispensable in accessing all these places and also in getting the discounts.NYC prices for branded luggage are WAY cheaper than Malaysia or Dubai. Most stores match online prices even though they may not have a sale.The next morning saw us in Madame Tussaud Wax Musuem on 42nd Street just east of 8th Avenue. Yeye was very happy there taking photos with many famous characters. From his requests for photo takes, I realize sports, political figure big on his list. I was surprised when he ask to be photographed with several beautiful famous ladies. Hmmm...Yeye is a very colourful character.

This was without Yeye. It was also lower than the
2015 record in NYC of 29,000 steps.

At Madame Tussaud.

With Marilyn Monroe

Imitating Charlie Chaplin

Striking the same pose as Einstein

Jason with Picasso and Hemingway

For once I feel smaller size.

Nelson Mandela

Messi would be near to his favourite

With our famous Trump

We had a nice Japanese lunch and proceeded to Grand Central Terminal. We tried out the whispering galley corridor and Yeye was astounded  by the acoustic! I  and him stood at diagonal arches about 40 feet away. He could hear my whispers on the pillar . Wonders of Physics.  Apparently many romantic marriage proposals have been whispered through these diagonal arches. Sorry no video. We  enjoyed Rockefeller Center and St Patrick Cathedral. Rockefeller Center has 19 buildings with a central Lower Plaza with the fountains and the skating rink.

Yeye at the Whispering Galley in Grand Central Terminal

He's not looking at the camera. Something has caught Yeye's eye.

Wefie at Rockefella Plaza Tower

Autumn golden feel at the Lower Plaza

Yeye with the statute of Prometheus amidst the fountains
behind the skating rink.

Huge pumpkins and mums are part of the fall decorations

Yeye with St Patrick Cathedral in background

Standing below Atlas bearing the world

The statute of Atlas bearing the weight of the
world on his shoulders opposite St Patrick.

Mum amidst mums

That night Eugene Tan took us out to a yummy dinner at the Ramen noodles restaurant. Yes, warm Asian food  is always lovely! As usual, there were many Caucasians at the Asian restaurants as usual. After dinner, we had time to wander to Time Square again. In fact, I think we went to Time Square at least 7 times this season. My phone shows we walked 25,606 steps but Yeye skipped the journey to Macy.

The yummy buns before the ramen. Thank you Eugene!

Times Square always have people dressed in interesting costumes.

Lining up (while sitting or standing) to get
cheaper tickets for Broadway is a way of life.

Street art and all kinds of creativity abound in NYC streets.

We left NYC in a luxury limousine chauffeured by a dapper suit clad driver. The driver was more smartly dressed than us. People watching is quite a fun activity on the streets of NYC.Staying so near the heart of NYC have made us a little bit more savvy about New York.  I am no longer blurred as to where we went. I truly enjoy the learning that comes with bringing Yeye around this dynamic town.