Thursday, June 21, 2007

And i hit the road again....

The Sultanate of Oman

Thursday 14th June 07, 1600hrs, I head to the Sultanate of Oman for a nite, in order to renew my visa in UAE. Here, one is allowed to stay in UAE for maximum 60days and have to exit and re-enter to renew the visa. The nearest country is Oman, Qatar and Iran. Going to Iran or Qatar is kinda expensive since both countries are accessible only by air, from Dubai. So the best and cheapest choice is to go to Oman. So there I was, with a friend of mine, driving a 450km journey to Muscat, the capital of Oman. At about 1720hrs, we reached the border town of Hatta, a totally different landscape than the pathetic Dubai. Here life’s seem to be mellow, surrounded by rocky mounting akin to Grand Canyon on a smaller scale, with desert on my left and right. Stopped for last fuelling at a Shell petrol station and purchased the required Omani car’s insurance for Dh100 and headed straight to the immigration check point at the border. Got my passport out and got it stamped. Well as simple as it may sound, it took the officer some minutes to count from 1 to 60. Reason being, I entered UAE on 16th April 07, and was given a 30days visa but here, that 30days is automatically extended to 60days. So upon showing my passport to the officer, he has to count, by fingers and toes in order to determine if 14th June 07 is more than 60days or not. I mean, with a blink on an eye, everyone of you should noted that 14th June was less than 60days, counted from 16th April. Unless, of course if there’re 33days in May! Anyway, the journey was continued without any hassled, even at Oman border post. Paid my visa to enter Oman for Oman Riyal 6 (which is equivalent to Dh60) and without further a due, I proceeded to Muscat.

I was told that Oman has a totally different landscape and culture compared to Dubai. The first scene to greet me upon entering this Kingdom was rocky mountain (which remind me of Afghanistan… ok ok.. never been there but seen it in CNN) and when I reached the civilization, there’re trees along the highway… along the 400km journey to Muscat. The only green you’ll see in Dubai is newly grown grass with lotsa dung, from cow or camel along Sheikh Zayed Road. The first the town I passed thru was Sinas, made a 3 o’clock turn at the main roundabout, heading to Muscat. Next was Liwa, another big roundabout. Then come Sohar, and yes another roundabout. Then, forgotted the town name but remember very well the nice roundabout and a few dozen more before I reached As Seeb, with a sign ‘85km to Muscat’. Head straight to Muscat, passing Bawsher town and Ruwi and then at the last roundabout, at the Great Muttrah, make a right turn and head to center of Muscat. This country has soooo many roundabout I can tell you that.

At the last roundabout, I saw the sea.. the Arabian Sea. Parked my car near the Muttrah Souq and the Rolex on my wrist shown 2215pm. Was so delighted cause, Muscat is only 3km from Muttrah. And since there is something eccentric bout Muttrah, I decided to make a short walk along the Corniche and snap some photos. Nice street, calm sea view and majestic old castle on the rock. But since it was kinda late, the souq was closing, so missed the chance to make the stroll down the souq. After a quick bite and an orange juice, the journey continued and in less than 15minutes, I reached Muscat. Totally eccentric! Basically there’s nothing in Muscat except for some government offices, Minister of Finance building and Sultan Al Kaboos castle. Yup, that’s the name of the King, Sultan Al Kaboos. But Muscat is so classic and I like it. Around midnite, head back to town, about 15km from Muscat and the daunting task of searching for a place to bunked. Hotel is basically expensive, a 3star is OMR30, 4star at OMR76 and I settled for a cheap one without any star for OMR25, about RM250. Mahal giler okay! You can stay in Concorde in KL and have 3 glass of ‘the best the tarik in town’ at Melting Pot with that kinda price! Anyway, that nite, I was dead tired, slept til 11am the next morning.

Being a Malaysian and not really aware of local culture, I head back to Muttrah Corniche area. It was a bit quiet on Friday noon there. The shops, most are closed and the Souq was still sleeping. One of two handicraft shops selling silver product were opened but the price is pretty expensive. Was interested with one particular pendant, round shape, with nice carving in silver and gold plated, selling for OMR6. Hmmm if in Kelantan, KR6 is RM6, but since OMR6 is RM60, it was to expensive and the shop owner doesn’t seem to be interested in selling the pendant as there’re a couple of mat salleh there buying something. Opps… terforgot.. KR means Kelantan Riyal, the currency used in Kelantan, the French’s Speaking Republic East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia ☺.

With no place for lunch I head to Muscat for photo session and then to Sidab Street, another eccentric town 6km from Muscat. I was in an oasis! Cool weather, simply love the landscape there. Time to head home to Dubai! And since my stomach was a bit cranky, I head to the town area of as Seeb. Apparently, the whole of Muscat is made of few small town namely as Seeb, Bawsher, Great Muttrah and Muscat as the center. As Seeb is where all the shopping complex are and I went to a place called Markaz something something at 145pm…… and I was closed! A shopping complex the size of Llot 10, closed at noon. After getting something from M&S, I head to another center, named Muscat City Center and it was alive, at least with Carrefour. Carrefour is a big thing over here okay, so does in Dubai. Had my lunch at the foodcourt and I purchased me self a webcam! Yahoo…. I have a webcam now…. But I don’t have internet connection duh! Anyway, at about 1700hrs, I continue my journey heading back to Dubai and stopped by one or two nice roundabout.

Reaching the border around 2230hrs and head to Dubai straight away, as it was dark, no pitstop to snap photos. But while driving on Oman road, someone did snapped my pix… my car that is. The speed limit there is 120kmh, but since I’m driving at nite, I was thinking ‘wuddeheck! Try speed up to 140kmh la’ and I think twice I notice the flash light appeared from the speed camera. And to make matter worst, there’s hundred of the speed camera placed on the road… exactly on the road and not somewhere hidden. But I was kinda tired and wanted to go to my beloved bed as soon as possible. Anyway the Chevy Optra driven by me was a rented unit. Arrived home at midnite, after clocking 960km on the tripometer. What a journey eh? 960km in less than 48hrs.

Well, time is the essence and I don’t have much time in Oman, the Company should’ve given me a 4days 3nites paid trip instead in 2days and 1nite, so that I can explore more of Oman. Oman was totally different from Dubai. And the local I think if friendly Arab, and not like Dubai peoples. Full of poser and peoples from a country who drives anywhere but the correct lanes! And no one honking you any now or then, unlike Dubai, the car engine condition is second to the condition of the horn. The horn has to be tip top at all cost! Stupid eh? Well….. this is a stupeid kontree (well you hafta said it French lingua cos this is my French mate favorite phrase). All in all, Oman is a relax country, original country and not a state trying very hard to be something else. Making the trip to Oman, eventhough it was a brief one, an enjoyful trip. A country, is ‘travelable’ if the places are nice, the peoples are friendly and the foods are good. Oman might not have the kinda food I like (tomyam la, apa lagi!) but it is original and eccentric. Making my short stay there a fun trip.

Anyway, no good trip is like a trip back to home.

Friday, June 8, 2007

at last, it is a bit cold....

The name Gonu, a cyclone hitting cost of Oman. The speed, approximately 210kmh to 260kmh, a Category 4. Nearing the class of Katrina which hit New Orlean year ago. UAE is neighbor to Oman, and Dubai is only 6hours drive to capital Muscat. If you look at the world map, UAE is a coastline state. So, for the past 3days, UAE has been placed of red-alert and every Goverment agencies has been warned of the behemoth wind heading towards the Gulf. Fujairah, one of the seven Emirates (UAE are made up of seven Emirates), situated on the North side, has been warned on sandstorm and incoming Gonu. Here in Dubai, the temperature has significantly droped, by average 5º Celsius and daily temperature was around 37º or 38º Celsius and it is damn windy.

The condition is a bit okay than the normal harsh humidity and hot sun. Well the sun is still hot, but since there's wind and a strong wind, it cooled the condition a bit. Anyway, since i'm here on a desert land (or sand), strong wind means, dust (made of sand particle) are flown at high velocity. It is not a nice scene for persons who works in an open area. Painful i tell u! But so far, the danger of Gonu which was warned by the Goverment doesn't seem to affect Dubai much. Thank God! And today, it is still windy, but the sky has cleared and no more cloud sighted. Meaning, the sun beam is now penetrated directly to the earth surface, as usual.

I'm due to go to Oman next Thursday, and knowing that the landscape in Oman is way nicer than Dubai, i hope everything are still intact and Gonu doesn't really damaged the land there.

For the past few days too, since Gonu strike the Gulf, me and my friends spent most of the time indoor, actually, in a club. A Phillipino club named Maharlika. Entrance fee is Dh25 (cheap!) and beer is Dh75 per pitcher and vodka cranberry is Dh70 per pitcher. Cheap vodka eh? Well, it is cheap, but with cheap drink, comes lotsa side effect. Me and Cedric ordered a pitcher of vodka cranberry (last Tuesday nite) and 2 pitcher of Heineken. Everything seem to be ok on that nite, i even drove back home at 3am. However, the next morning, my head was glued to the pillow. And i still have to wake up early and go to site. At site of Wednesday morning, i can't do anything accept for sitting and getting a grip! From 730am til 9am and after a bar of snicker, at last i feel that i'm on terra firma again. Only then i can do my work. So does Cedric. We both conclude that, no cheap vodka anymore and will settle for beer only, the next time we go to club. Wednesday was a good dinner nite out. When to TGIF with some friends and had a good juicy (did i mentioned juice? Arghhh, i miss juice) rib steak and sisha (I don't smoke, okay) at an opened air coffee shop by Sheikh Zayed Road.

And last nite, after woke up from an early sleep (around 9pm), the French guy enter my room as said (of course in French accent) "Wake up, lets go out", and it was 1130pm. So we head to Maharlika again (there's something about this French guy with Philippina's girl) and had 4pints of Heineken. No vodka last nite.

Well, it's not soo cold as in cold, but as per Dubai standard, at least something.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Why i hate Emirates and Etihad...

Emirates Airlines and Etihad, both are based in United Arab Emirates. The former is based in Dubai and has long well known for its top of the class service while the later is UAE national carrier and based in Abu Dhabi, the Capital of UAE. No pun intended, but for now, i hate both... word and don't get me wrong, i admirer both fleet. Reason being, both remind me of aeroplane, and both remind me of a mode of transport so fast and efficient it can transport human from Dubai to KL in 7hrs 30minutes. One of the work site is based beside Emirates airport at Al Garhoud, and it is soooo painful (seriously!) to see peoples going in and out of the airport and seeing the plane taking off. Reasong being, i miss home... i miss Malaysia. I miss my life and i miss u. Indeed.

Being homesick (or am i sick and tired of Dubai?) in a desert will bring a whole new meaning for a person to love the mother land. Since day one i step my foot on UAE soil (it was more to concrete slab at Abu Dhabi Airport), i've been missing what i'd left behind in Kuala Lumpur. And staying here in UAE, for a person like me who enjoy cooking and Thai food, i really crave for good food. Again, no pun intended, there're lotsa restaurant over here selling good food, but anywhere you go, the same menu is on the list. Shawarma, kebab, beriani, mandi, that fresh kobis, bawang and carrot with lemon and gharoof... to all of you who doesn't speak Arabic, it's called Kambing in English and goat in Malay. For me, all this food, be it from Yemen, Iran, Afgan, Egypt, Arab, Lebanon or wherever Middle East, it all tasted the same, with lotsa whatsoever spices. I really need a good dose of tomyam at Lala Seafood or Nasi Daging/Lidah Merah in Kampung Baru. Or a meal of bubur nasi... with telur masin, ikan masin, kailan osyter sauce.. damn that's what we called Yummilicious! Please my friend, come November when i'm in Malaysia, please don't offer me a treat at Tarbush, Naab, beriani or roti.... I'll go to mamak for maggi goreng (Mira, please accompany me yeah). Speaking of maggi, basically for the past two months, maggi has been a routine meal in the afternoon, since it is too hot to drive out for lunch and it's basically easy to prepare the maggi in a cup for a quick meal. Do i loose my weight? hmm well i think so... But some part did stay as big as it should. Wink Wink!

Last weekend (that'll be friday), myself with some of the housemate when for eyes-cleansing ritual at Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall. Since it was too hot outside, it was only ideal to stay indoor and visit some malls. At nite around 10pm, all of us head to Eat & Drink for dinner. Chinese fried rice and Fried noodle. Eat & Drink is a eating place selling Lebanon food and some of Chinese dishes. The food was ok, and i always frequent this place. The price is kinda reasonable, a plate of Beef Noodle for Dh12, plus Roman Juice for Dh8, again Roman = pomegranate = delima = ruby. After dinner, we all when to a supermarket Union Co-op, to buy some fruits. Well i didn't buy anything though, since i was not in the mood at all the whole Friday, me and my French friend were busy tasting all the fruits placed on the racks... From grapes, apricot, cherry, strawberry but not the apple or watermelon la kan. And we end up buying just the grapes. Luckily no one caught us tasting those fruits. And belief me, a KG of grape is about Dh10 to Dh14, depending on the type and quality. A KG of apricot or peach is around Dh12. But a Kg of Rambutan and Mangosteen is selling at Dh27.90! I guess i wont be tasting tropical fruit for a while....

Sleepy eyes.. it's time to head home.... ops.. not! To head to the house.. I don't have a home here.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Am i Jaded or i'm just Cryin'?

Last Tuesday, me and some friends went to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. After KL, Singapore, Bangkok, Bali (both Hard Rock Hotel and Cafe), Sydney and Jakarta, i've visited the 7th HRC, which is here in Dubai. A nice restaurant, not like Kl, Bangkok, Jakarta or Singapore. The food was good, typical HRC dish. Had a nice taste Spain wine Torres, a Dh175 per bottle shared with the French guy. The house band was from OZ, they were ok. Basically, i had a whole load of fun time and was kinda pissed. A bottle of wine and 2pint of Heineken for 2 person....

The rest of the week... hmmm with summer kicked in already, nuthing much is happening. 43deg C is the minimum temperature in the day time and easily rose to 46 i reckoned.

And they said, June, July and August is the worst. Hmmm why i'm here in Dubai????

But on Thursday nite, 31st May 07 i had another whole lotta fun time during the Aerosmith gigs. About 10,000 peoples was there, more or less. The show kicked start at 2220pm and curtain closed at 0010am. Arrived at the Dubai Exiles Rugby Club around 7ish pm, had a plate of Beriani mutton for Dh8 and head to the entrance. Get myself tagged. Oh yeah, i went there with a friend name Remy. So, since we were there kinda early, about 3hours before the show, we head to a small field, by the entrance hall, get ourself a pint of Budweiser for Dh30 and 'lepak' on the field, counting the stars and 'kutuking' the already drunken Mat Salleh. There're row and row of Harley Davidson parked outside, and a promo by Harley too, Fatboy at Dh80k. Downpayment at Dh8k, installement for four years at Dh2.3k per month! Tempted!

Anyway, before i start with the story bout the show. Let me bring you all to a tiny attention. Aerosmith, a group of rocker, as old as me. They started our somewhere in the early 70's. Known them for ages but really get hooked to the song in 1994, The Big Ones album. And since then, i've been listening to their song, everynow and then.

Aerosmith concert in Dubai? An Arab land? You gotta be kidding me! Well, i was surprised myself when i walked into Virgin Superstore (the sell loads and loads of CDs), to notice that Aerosmith is coming to town. Without fruther a due, i grab myself the ticket, which was Dh195 for standing at open field. Standing in a cage underneath Steven Tyler's armpit was Dh995. Sitting at the back was Dh395. And standing in the second row was Dh295.

Remy and i enter the pit around 9ish and there're already load and loads of peoples, mostly Westerner. Some Indian, some Philippinos, maybe Malaysian and 1 or 2 Arab. In total, i think there're about 10k attendees, filling the field. The DeeJay played out tunes from the end 80's era and early 90's to the liking of most of the rockers, or aged rockers. Aerosmith bandmates, by now are around 60 years old. Old fart but good one. Peoples who turned up for the show last nite, the youngest i think was 5years old, the oldest around 60's and teenagers from high school. Peoples who wore high heels, dress, gothic.. hmm not really an Aerosmith items. But what i can sum was, peoples in Dubai is hungry for entertainment, any sort of Western entertainment. So, when there's a big and famous band put up a show, everyone will have to attend for the sake wanna be part of the events. Rest assured, of all the attendees last nite, only half were Aerosmith fan. The rest... teen girls n boys, peoples wanna have booze and party outdoor, peoples wanna be seen and poser. Yup, Dubai have a lot of posers. Someone who is hardly himself or herself and trying very damn hard to be someone else... or something else, as a matter of a fact!.

2220pm the first song kick start and i can't recall what song was it. Was kinda high on Bud. Followed by Jaded, Falling in Love in So Hard on the Knee, I don'w Wanna Miss a thing (remind me of Amargeddon 1998) which were song from today, and when good 'ol Steven sang Cryin' and showed Alicia Silverstone pics on the big screen, the crowd really when wild. That was the highest moment in Aerosmith era, the end 80's and early 90's. Then all 3 screen showed a canyon pics and cloud to the tune to riff guiter by Joe Perry, it was time for Livin' On the Edge. The closing end of the show, the band played sone from the 70's ie Sweet Emotione, Dream On etc which got the 50's and 60's year old lads and lasses to rocks! Closing was a show of belly dancing by a girl (damn hot body!) with Steven Tyler trying so damn hard to mimick her moves (hs body is not hot at all!). The show end at 0010am.

It was a good show, considering they're 60 years old and confidently and energetically put up a strong perfomance. Worth every penny spend for the tickets. The downside of being in at a gigs full of Mat Salleh, hmm peoples getting drunk over a pint of beer. But one good thing, they're just drunk and minding their own business. No ugly scene at all. And since it is a hot and stuffy nite, you have girls in mini skirt (damn mini okay! Just an inche from the pussie line!), girls in bikinis, guys without shirt, guys soaked and wet, everybody did had fun last nite.
Pity, they didn't sang AngeL.....