Tag Archives: impressions

Dubai: first impressions

I have never been too interested in Dubai. No appeal. All those really tall skyscrapers and super-modern flashy buildings don’t cut it for me.

So why did I decide to spend three days in Dubai on my way back to Europe? Well: with Emirates being my airline of choice in the last few years, I had seen the Dubai airport many times already and thought it was time to step out and see the city. And tick off another country for my travel map ;-).

I arrived in Dubai in the very early hours of the morning, after a 7-hour flight from Saigon and missing Vietnam already. Walking in the empty streets of Deira (the old part of Dubai) to reach my hotel from the metro station was awkward. It was 6am and there was hardly anyone. The few men I saw stared at me like I was an oddity.

Dubai didn’t stand a chance at that point. The fact that my hotel receptionist recommended the Dubai Mall for my first trip out into the city didn’t really help either. Waitrose, Marks&Spencers, Monsoon,  Holland&Barrett: am I back in London already?!?! Nonono, this is not what I am interested in, I can have it all back home.

UAEPhotogallery_001On the plus side though, the metro system in Dubai impressed me and within an hour I was already familiar with procedures and station names and able to move around confidently. Get a ‘nol’ card, top it up, then touch in and out at the various stations. With only two lines, Green and Red, it was quite easy to navigate.

In the following days I discovered that Dubai had something for me too. Keep following me if you want to know what it was :-)

Impressions of Saigon

First of all let me explain why I insist on using the old name ‘Saigon’ instead of the city’s post-war name of ‘Ho Chi Minh City’. It has nothing to do with its significance in history. It’s just shorter and quicker to say/type. End.

Regardless of how you call it, this incredibly chaotic and buzzing with life metropolis is the most modern and quickly expanding of all cities in Vietnam. It reminds me of Bangkok.
But my very first impression on my first visit here last December was: “Omg, and now how do I cross the road?!”.

And now how do I cross the road?!
And now how do I cross the road?!

It was quite terrifying! Hundreds of scooters, motorbikes and cars swarm around you as you try to make your way to the other side. Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are ignored in equal measure. Crossing the road becomes a fearless act of faith: if I believe that I will make it safe to the other side of the road, I will! And as you start walking slowly but at steady pace amidst the traffic, you realise that drivers are so used to avoiding pedestrians that the risk of being hit is actually quite low. And what initially seemed some sort of mission impossible easily turns into a mission accomplished.

Being back here after three months since my first visit is strange. The receptionist at the guesthouse still remembers me from my first visit, making me feel at home. Pham Ngu Lao (the backpacker area) and the city centre look so familiar. I still managed to get lost a few times while walking around town, but there’s something interesting to see at every turn so it’s not all bad!

Here’s some more photos.