Round the World with Chris Arnold: Dubai stopover
On the last leg of his whirlwind round-the-world trip, Student Flights client/videographer/graduate Chris Arnold touches down in the Middle East for a 48-hour stopover in Dubai. The architecture appreciator ascended the famous Burj Khalifa, hit the sand dunes in the desert and even managed to get some zzzs to help him get back in the right time zone. Not a bad effort for someone who’s just been to 15 cities in 32 days and is about to start a new job in a matter of hours! While Chris didn’t get to see as many pimped-out cars as he’d hoped – it was still pretty epic. Here’s his lowdown on the global city of Dubai.
Dubai is known for its impressive buildings and its encroaching skylines, and we know you were looking forward to checking out the buildings - how did they rate?
They were so sweet! It’s just such a crazy city with so many huge buildings. There’s a bunch that are all together down the main street, which are super impressive in their own right, but are all completely dwarfed by the Burj Khalifa, which is all anyone focuses on when they look to the skyline.
It’s weird how spread out all the buildings are though. Compared to Manhattan, where they’re all so closely packed, here there’s huge distances between them all. To get to the famous Burj Al-Arab is a huge trek out of town. But thankfully cabs are a quarter of the price here (compared to NYC) so it’s still affordable enough to backpack around.
Did you ascend the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building? Did you feel all Tom Cruise à la Mission Impossible? What was the view like?
I absolutely did go up it. It’s only about 35 bucks - so worth it. The view is pretty amazing, but it’s always so hazy that you feel like you can’t see as far as you should be able to. But you can catch a glimpse of the Palms and of 'The World' group of islands. And there are these video telescopes that give you info on each landmark when you point them at it. But no, I didn’t feel like Tom Cruise as such - there was always a pane of glass between myself and the outside.
You were in Dubai for a whole of 48 hours, right? Can you tell us a bit about how the round-the-world extraordinaire Chris Arnold deals with jet-lag versus sightseeing?
Dubai was rare. The hostel was booked out so I ended up having a room to myself at a hotel for the first time during the trip. Which means you can sleep at any hours you want to without worrying about others coming into your room. And I was pretty wrecked by this point so I ended up sleeping a lot and having late starts to the day.
Was Dubai as you expected or did it surprise you?
It was more spread out than I expected, and I didn’t see as many awesome cars as I’d hoped. But it all depends on where you stay and who you’re with, I guess. One awesome highlight was the dune tour I went on. You head out to the desert in LandCruisers, and you go flying over the sand dunes. Stopping along the way for photos and sand boarding, then you camp out there, ride a camel, have an amazing Middle Eastern meal, and see some cultural dancing. It’s a pretty sweet experience.
Did you experience any cultural shock after being in Europe or is Dubai largely Westernised these days?
No, the city itself is very Westernised. I was staying in the old part of town so it felt a little more Middle Eastern I guess, but everywhere else was English-speaking Western culture.
Dubai is well known for its nightlife scene, did you get a chance to check out any bars or clubs on your stopover?
I got in fairly late the first night, and then I spent the next two nights at a sports bar watching the EPL (English Premier League). That was fun, and it was quite a good sports bar.
Did you pick up any souvenirs or hit up the shopping malls?
I spent a good amount of time walking around the Dubai Mall, but it’s just so huge. I considered getting a glass version of the Burj to take home, but I was running considerably low on cash at this point, and I’ve got a shocking track record for getting souvenirs home intact.
If you could describe Dubai in 5 words...
Hot Sand and Architectural Wonders.
Would you go back to Dubai for a longer holiday?
I reckon so. There’s a lot to see and do around there if you plan it well enough. For me, it was all about seeing the main buildings and trying to fit in a dune tour, whilst also relaxing in preparation for coming back and starting a grad job the next day. But it’s so worth seeing. And it’d be sick to check out Abu Dhabi too.