Dubai = New York + Las Vegas?

Dubai = New York + Las Vegas?

And there was God, ok Allah in this case to be correct. And there was Sheik and Sheik created himself an artificial kingdom in the middle of the desert, he paid slaves, gave them a little bit of fun and luxury and there it was, biggest showing off arena on the planet Earth; Dubai. Otherwise, when travelling, I like to let the path  lead me in the most interesting way, so I don’t prepare myself too much for the places I’m visiting. I love to feel the place with all my senses without having an opinion in advance. But that number of documentaries, like on the subject of Dubai, hasn’t been filmed about anything else in the world, so unfortunately it was almost impossible for me to avoid all of them. Yet they all talk about the same thing, Skiing place in shopping center in the middle of the desert, hotels where spending a night costs like something that it would take ordinary people a lifetime to earn, artificial island in palm shape, tallest building in the world, biggest this biggest that….

Sheik who wants to show the whole world how much money he has and how powerful he is. So it’s not a surprise that place attracts  all kinds of moral scum.  It’s all true,  documentaries didn’t lie, I saw it all;  luxury, all the places they were talking about and all kinds of people visiting it.  Dubai   is definitely  not on a places to visit  list, for typical backpackers or those looking for exotic or  cultural and historical heritage while traveling, on the other hand desert itself is not some natural wonder.  But since I strongly believe, that every single place on Earth has something to be seen and becomes a place where you can learn something new, if you know how to look, I have decided to accept the invitation from a friend who went living there and tried to find something I would be fascinated by. Personal satisfaction, something that  would distinguish Dubai from everything else.

I knew  I wasn’t going to find that something in a sail-shaped hotel, copies of Venetian canals, shops offering everything you can imagine, biggest concentration of the most expensive cars in the world, or even not in the tallest building in the world; Burj Kalifa. Although the view from Burj Kalifa was more than impressive (my suggestion is to book a visit in advance on the web, since it is much cheaper option than just showing up there). Don’t get me wrong, I do like shopping and I adore fast cars, but still I don’t judge people on the clothes they are wearing, cars they are driving or money they are earning. I just knew the city must have something else too, it was true, in the end I didn’t leave Dubai  disappointed.

I felt some special vibe in that circus. Everybody who lives there and are not being locals, comes there with some reason and just for some time, or are just being tourists. There really aren’t people from other countries who have plans on staying there forever, since it is actually impossible because of their laws, that just don’t allow you to get their citizenship. But exactly for this reasons city has this crazy pulse. “I’m here just for a while, as long as it’s fun..” so when I have multiplied this sentence with millions of often young and attractive people from all over the world, I realized why everything seemed so wildly and unrestrained. For me Dubai was like a strange mixture of New York and Las Vegas.

Glitz and madness  is almost the same as in Vegas, but it is a little finer version without casinos and fake Elvis Presleys, but crazy night life is possible every night. Everything is always  available, so let’s say you remember at 4 am, that you are missing cigars, juice, yoghurt, condoms.. anything, you just call the number and it is being delivered to you in ten minutes, and delivery is free, I don’t even have to mention that it is totally normal to come to a restaurant at 2 am and get everything as it was 2 pm. This maybe wasn’t the story in each restaurant, but there are enough of them like that. Besides the fact that it never sleeps, the thing that reminded me of the  Big Apple  was the presence of every possible nation, skin color, religion,.. for sure one of the places you would call multicultural. Traditional Arabic robes on men, together with  enormous number of half-naked tourist girls, on the other hand numerous completely covered Muslim women, all together make a patchwork of cultures even richer. All of them walking around shopping centers at the same time and around those rare places where you are able to take a walk. The lack of the places where you are able to take a walk is one of the biggest disadvantages of Dubai. You are doomed to cars or public transportation.

It is true that these are being characteristics of many major cities, but somehow they are more expressed in Dubai than anywhere else, so there it was; something that distinguishes it from other places. Being that multicultural as it is, made it really interesting for me, and for a moment I had an idea of spending some years of  my life there. That bubble exploded  when I realized my life would come down to visiting shopping centers, beaches and maybe gyms, or partying all the time. So I would need to have an extra strong reason to live in a place like that, since there really aren’t things like cultural or art scene, theaters or museums. Ok there are some, yeah Sheikh bought some of them too, but as you can conclude, you cannot buy a soul or built it over the night. Only art that is blooming there is the art of comfortable life where everything is customized to your needs, it’s all there for you in every moment, as long as you are respecting their rules. For my hypersensitivity it would have been better if I hadn’t been noticing  slaves in the shape of underpaid Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and many others on whose backs was the desert perversion built. To notice this, only thing you have to do is to take a public transportation instead of taxi, which is by the way very cheap. There are too many underpaid workers , who work all days and nights long in order to make Sheiks world functioning.

Public transportation, where you will have the opportunity of meeting these other inhabitants of Dubai is again different experience than any other public transportation. Everything is so clean that I really needed some time to realize that this was a public train, something I have never seen before. Everything by the rules, first wagon only for VIP tickets, second one only for children and women, and then for others. Nobody really doesn’t eat or drink anything or makes any kind of noise. Everybody are following the rules, since the police officers are walking around all the time checking out that everything is in the right order. I prefer crazy public transpiration I am used to in other major cities, but this is good cause you really don’t have to worry about your wallet being stolen or anything else bad happening to you.

First thing I did in Dubai were the beaches. Technically speaking it is just one long beach along Jumeriah road, but since there are just several places where it is being a public beach, you get a feeling that there are more of them. Actually most of it just belongs to hotels, so this one beach is divided into different parts.  Great sand, but after all it is desert, if not here than where else should it be good? On the other hand sea is really nothing particular, really doesn’t bring up the need in you to stay  long inside of it. The one I liked most was Jumeriah public beach, with a great view on Burj Kalifa and rest of the buildings on famous Sheik Zyhad Road. But all together  really not one of the beaches you just must visit during life time.

But Man, what a jogging trail! Made out of some material that is almost like a rubber, so your knees don’t suffer, and right next to it the one where you can walk or roller skate. They were obviously thinking about everything. Only thing you might find strange on the beach, nobody’s kissing or exchanging any kind of tenderness. All forbidden! I wondered just for a moment how do they check this things, didn’t wait too long for my answer, officers walk around  here too.

If you are tourist, every night here looks almost the same, you start it with a dinner in of the hundred restaurants in Dubai Mall or on front of it, where you watch the show of dancing fountains with loud music along, right underneath  the tallest building in the world, so all together does look impressive. If you are able to ignore millions of people around you. Hate to admit it but fountain show is more impressive in Dubai than the one in Vegas, after all Sheik  must have proved he can do better. After that you continue with clubs and crazy nights out.

When the night falls  hypocrisy in Dubai reaches its maximum. Everything is about the rules again, you are not allowed to kiss in clubs, you are not allowed to drink alcohol anywhere else but in clubs or hotels, if officers see you being drunk, you can go straight to jail. But then again, Dubai is one of the best places for parties in the world. Clubs are amazing, music is good, booze is not as expensive as you would expect it, girls can get in most of the clubs for free, with many free drinks for them. Trust me, for guys there is not a better place to get easily girl for a night, all of them are here just for a while or for fun anyway. As long as they are not kissing in the clubs everything’s allowed, it’s not a secret that you can easily order “Roxanne”  just by dialing some different number than the one you dial when you need yogurt  in your apartment.

From all the tourist attractions they have to offer  I did the desert safari. One of the most typical things to do while being there. You get picked up by a Jeep, where ever you want, they drive you to the desert and thorough it, you get to ride a camel, watch belly dancing and great local dinner in the middle of the desert. And then they bring you back where they picked up, all together for really ridiculously cheap price, since there are really many agencies offering almost the same, so you won’t do wrong no matter which one you choose.

At the end what to say about Dubai? With all good and bad things about it, even the ones like me, who aren’t being fascinated  by the money and power of Sheik can find something for themselves. It sure is one of the places worth of visiting, not maybe for too long, since there  aren’t many diverse things to do, but to have fun for few days, the right place.

 

India, Udaipur- Magical drink in Venice of the East

India, Udaipur- Magical drink in Venice of the East

After being absolutely fascinated by the city of Udaipur, I was able to find the reasons for fascination in several facts;  it was the first trip I didn’t take by myself during life in India, which made me feel more secure, friends I was traveling with were the best possible traveling partners and I  tried a magical drink

Even so , the truth is that after coming back from India and traveling to many other Indian places with that same group of friends, Udaipur still remained for me, but also for many other people who have explored India, one of the places that shouldn’t be missed while in India.  Friends I was  with in Udaipur made the experience complete, since they were ready to become a part of all kinds of adventures with me during  several days we had spent there, but the city itself really offers a lot on the other hand.

India is most often described as colorful, explosion of colors and scents, full of contrasts… it’s all truth, but unfortunately the contrast  often comes down to a collision of great wealth and terrible poverty. Udaipur confirms all of this, but in a milder form than other cities I have been to in India. Another great thing about the city is the fact that majority of things worth of checking out is within the walking distance, so you won’t get that often into a fight with rickshaw drivers, who always want to take more money from you then they should. The most popular place in the city is the Lake Palace,  on an island in the middle of  Pichola lake. Today transformed into very expensive hotel and a home to one of the James Bond movies. It’s a typical Indian scene when you see people washing clothes in the lake on one side and that same expensive palace on the other one.

Only by looking at these photos you can already realize why is Udaipur known  as  Venice of the East, while the number of the tourist walking around the city is almost something like the number of them walking around in Venice. You might often get a feeling of not being in India at all. Even I usually really don’t find hordes of tourists as something appealing, after living for some time in India it was amazing to meet people from all around the World. Next best thing about walking around the city in the evening is the fact that you can actually do it carefree, which really isn’t often the case with many Indian cities.

Udaipur is in Rajasthan, where alcohol isn’t forbidden as in Gujurat where we lived. After “relaxing” with beers, adventures were about to start… As soon as we left the restaurant and stared walking towards hostel in which we had arrived earlier that morning, problem number one; nobody remembers the name of it, so we couldn’t find the address or the phone number or even take rickshaw to get there. Ok, we were about to rely on our blurry memory. We have walked the distance from the hostel to the restaurant anyway. During night all that narrow streets looked just the same, so it was more like mission impossible.  We were relaxed, night was warm and the only thing we did about our situation was laughing- the beauty of safe Udaipur, if we were in some other Indian city it might have not been that funny.

Then we’ve met them; sacred cows, in India all the cows are sacred any way and there isn’t a street were you won’t be able to meet them. We had all the time in the world and the male part of our team came to a “brilliant” idea, discovering if the cows would attack back them if they “attacked” them? Indian cows always attack you if they feel annoyed!

Few moments after that we were something like spider-man, again laughing enough to get the attention  of the policeman walking around who didn’t find it amusing as much as we did. After few threats he became soft on the part that we were lost, so he took us to a place where his colleges were, something like main square. With their bad English and our bad memory we were trying to get us back to hostel . Next scene several policemen and us walking around trying to find our hostel, until: TA DA! There we were! After paying them some rupees, since it was expected form us anyway, we were about to start with our new adventure.

There was Indian/ Muslim wedding in the street right next to the hostel, at least we thought it was wedding. Of course we crashed the party and everybody were amazed to have us there except the bride, since we became the stars of the evening, instead of her.

This kind of experience is something you can’t plan, you can’t pay for it, there isn’t a guide which will suggest it and the most important you won’t experience it unless you’re open minded enough and your heart is filled with love for all the cultures and people in the World. But if you are, that kind of experiences are the best you can get while traveling. While talking to the other guests we had found out that it was their version of bachelorette party. More kind of a traditional rituals grooms family does with a bride a week before the actual weeding. Grooms family comes to visit the bride and her family. Even though it was a party there was only Masala  chai (Indian tea) and water offered, but still we were having more than amazing time, with a lot of singing and dancing while enjoying the privilege of being able to be a part of it. I’m really not able to tell you when to be in Udaipur to experience the same, but I can tell you  what not to miss in the city…

Since it’s the city of the lakes, taking a bout trip around the Pichola Lake, is a kind of an obligatory and it provides you  with the best view of the city and all of the palaces. Besides, the trip also includes visiting the most beautiful palace on the island in the Pichola Lake. Jag Mandir is the name of the place and when it was built in the 17th century it was a place where royal family would organize parties. It doesn’t come as a surprise that it was turned into a luxurious hotel, just like the Lake Palace, but even so I don’t know when I liked it more; when approaching it  or when were exploring every single part of it including some forbidden passages. The boat that takes you  there and picks you up comes every half an hour, yet even few hours wasn’t enough for us.

 

In the city itself you shouldn’t miss the City Palace which was being built for 400 hundred years, while getting more and more colorful and luxurious. It used be a home for Kings and their families and today is a place where you can learn about their history and Indian culture. On the other hand I found it more amazing from the outside than inside  and it has an amazing view on the city  and lakes on the other side.

In the city center something you just can’t miss is big Hindu temple (Jagdish Temple),  it might not be the best temple you’ll see in India, but if you’re already there it’s worth of checking out. While the space in front of it is something like the main square in some other cities around the world. This is also one of the interesting facts about India, their cities are not similarly conceived as ours, you often cannot identify the main square, it’s all really different on that part of the World.

During the evening you really don’t want to miss traditional dance show and since it’s is held in the museum ( Bagore Ki Haveli), the place itself is interesting already.

Magical drink, the Bhang, can be bought on the streets of Rajasthan just as it was some usual drink. This is strange just because of the fact that it is being made out of marihuana balls mixed with lemon juice, sugar and water, at least these are the ingredients I’m familiar with. It tastes like lemonade, but the effect of it; well I might be still living in India if it was to be found that easily on the streets of Gujurat.

After trying it I have realized why some young people from western world find it hard to leave India. I actually don’t smoke marihuana cause it just makes me feel sick, but this was something absolutely different, literally some other dimension. After drinking,  it works in the way that as more sugar you take  ( like sweets or sweet juice) more high you get and if you wish to get back from the state in which you almost die laughing,  you drink yogurt  or water with lemon. But the thing we weren’t aware of;  it has a bit postponed reaction and when it started it was already a bit  too late to realize that we have overreacted with the sugar and some of us with the amount of the Bhang itself. Consequently the Indian cooking course we took right after drinking it on the street became another adventure, besides the fact that we weren’t even paying any attention on a woman teaching us to prepare the Indian meals, we were talking in a language only we understood.  It’s really hard for me to find the words to describe you the amount of the laughter we had during that cooking lesson, so the best you can do is to try the drink yourself while in India.

Another thing more than worth visiting is the Monsoon palace, for what you will need to take rickshaw, since it’s  few kilometers away from the city, but it’s not the palace itself that will leave you speechless. Actually on the entrance where you are picked up by a car taking you there it doesn’t look promising, but closer you  get to it, you come to conclusion that it’s about the hill where it is, more than about the palace. The only problem you’ll have is to decide where is better view? On the side towards city and the lakes or on the other side on endless Aravalli Hills. Of course the best time to be there is during the sunset.

At the end I can add only one more thing, the city has absolutely won me over and I even haven’t visited the number one spot, according to many visitors; Jain Temple Ranakpu. So, if ever in India, Udaipur is something you don’t want to skip.

 

For the ones traveling there : 

The best time to visit the city of Udaipur is from September till May and it’s also  easy to find the way to get there from other cities by train or by bus. You also won’t regret if you visit Jagat Niwas Palace restaurant. I don’t think I have ever suggested some restaurant like this before, but this place is far more than just a restaurant. The place looks amazing and it gives you  the best view on the lake while also being one of the best sunset spots in the city. Furthermore the food they have was one of the two best meals I had during life in India.

Cambodia- Koh Ta Kiev - Absolute escape from the reality...

Cambodia- Koh Ta Kiev - Absolute escape from the reality...

I’m not sure if it’s about always smiling inhabitants, nature, exotic destination or something completely different but I was amazed by the number of young people from all around the world who were exploring interesting Cambodia. Among all the islands and hidden places I had the opportunity to drift away in this beautiful Kingdom, Koh Ta Kiev (island) was for sure one of the most unique places in Cambodia. Many of people exploring the country usually don’t go there, which is just another advantage of it, of course there are visitors , but no crowd or people obsessed with taking selfies and posting on Facebook or doing some similar  stuff ( don’t want to use another “s” word).

The beauty of the island also lies in the fact that posting is not even possible on the island, you are miles away from the internet and you just have to adopt yourself to people on it and feel the vibrations of Koh Ta Kiev and energy on it. Still since the island has many “things” to offer, more than certain there are rumors about it among backpackers traveling around Cambodia, even if they didn’t have the chance of getting there.

If  by any case you have missed  “The Beach” movie with Di Caprio, where group of people has a world for themselves on a hidden small island, a world ruled by their own rules far from the civilization we know today, if you have missed it, watch it. And the ones who are still dreaming about the idea, take some money you need and run to Koh Ta Kiev. Something like that does exists, but in Cambodia , not Thailand. The island is in Thai gulf , around 10 km away from SihanoukVille, popular Cambodian port and summer resort on southern eastern part of the country. As for the country itself the best part of the year for traveling there is during dry season, something like November till April, otherwise rain might get between you and enjoying it.  Driving on a boat towards island  is already interesting and it takes about an hour from Otres Beach ( popular beach – part of  SihanoukVille) , where you will always find a boat to take you there. Besides you will for sure meet local fishermen on the way there and get to know with their tradition of fishing. And closer I was getting to the island  more was I realizing why this was the island my friend mentioned as the one where I just  have to go.

I still hadn’t put my feet on the sand while getting off the boat, but I could have already smelled some amazing food being prepared, combined with the smell of weed which everybody smokes there and which is being breed on the island without any issue. The energy on the island is something that made everyone prolonged their staying at least for a day more than planned. No wonder ’cause just after few hours there, you  forget about everything and leave it all behind, at the same spot where you left every sign of modern civilization. Joel, everything except typical American guy, holds a “resort” where I was staying and a good part of the island. With the tree houses where you  will sleep  for around  5 US dollars per night he has his own crew living there with him and making you feel as if you had found a new home. It doesn’t stop here,  they even have their mini manufacture of normally forbidden Absent. How? Everything is possible in Cambodia if you know who to give money to, which as you can assume isn’t always good as in the case with the Koh Ta Kiev. He basically gives some money to the army, which island belongs to and they leave him alone.  After just few hours which I have spent drinking at the bar every person who stepped on the island after me had the same question ; “Hey are you dude that makes his own Absent?”   So, it didn’t take too long for me to realize that the island wasn’t popular only for the beautiful nature.

Yet there weren’t more than 15 of us there all together which was more than awesome and with all the stimulation for easier way of forgetting problems, Joel also takes care that you eat an amazing food. Man was a cook in Italy for several years, consequently for just few dollars you  can enjoy great Italian cuisine. Since there are also local people living and working for him , you can have the taste of local food too.

It wasn’t just about the food, booze and weed or even the amazing nature around me, the way they were thinking about every single detail, simply makes you  feel like you’re at your new home, just having a huge outdoor house. You just become one with the jungle around you, there are no boundaries between you  and the nature. You  sleep together  with birds, all kinds of bugs,  mice and other animals, but no snakes around you , at least I haven’t seen any.

When the night falls, things become even more interesting … Guitar gets its own five minutes of glory, you easily forget about the electricity, there is enough of it only for the fridges, or if you really need to charge your phone. After a night underneath the stars, in the middle of nowhere hangover is much easier  to handle when you awake with the view you do and it takes just few steps to dive into the sea.