Saturday, November 27, 2010

Part 17 - Still in search of the shoe!

Today was my day out - my bro-in-law dropped the Pajaero for servicing and took a taxi to office. On the way he dropped me on the back side of Times Square Center - no, it's not the New York Times Square - this was another mall! I got off at the signal and it seemed like I was just about hundred metres behind the building in a deserted area. The sun was blazing. I walked briskly towards the mall but was met by a fence after 50 meters. Asking a construction worker for how to get to the mall, he said I'd have to walk a long way around or go through a little opening into a construction yard which would take me to the main road. I opted for the shortcut and was guided by some workers to a small tower that resembled a watchpost.
"Uppar ja," they gestured and I climbed up.
It again seemed like a dead end and they made hand gestures to look the other side - there was a ladder! After about 20 minutes of walking I reached my destination - phew; I was exhausted - it was 11:30am.

The mall was relatively tiny according to Dubai standards. It was in the shape of a square (guess that's why the name had a Square!) with just a couple of floors. The biggest shop was Sharaf DG - the electronics giant. Nothing interesting in the food court and no shops of interest either. The only thing useful was a nice complementary map of Dubai with all shopping malls marked. My sister called up and I asked her to check for film timings in the Mall of the Emirates (it had a theatre) and from the map I knew it was walkable. The "Hurt Locker" was running and there was an afternoon show starting in an hour. I walked out of the mall and I didn't really require the map because the dome of Mall of Emirates was visible. There were a few construction workers sitting in the shade of a building, next to which was a construction site. Most of them seemed to be Indian and they were seated in a huddle taking a well deserved break, judging by the sweat they were soaked in. A few of them had small tiffin carriers with rice - they were huddled on the footpath drenched in sweat but enjoying every morsel. Working in this heat for even a few hours would be very demanding - those of us working in an ac are quite lucky.

The road was a highway and to get to the Mall of Emirates I had to cross the highway - there was no pedestrian crossing in sight and no traffic signal either. With the speed at which cars were flying there was no way I could even run across the road - and even when I took a couple of steps onto the road, none of the drivers slowed down. It took 15 minutes for me to get an opportunity to run across the road! Huff...

The cinema complex had many small theatres and there was no crowd - you don't expect a crowd on a working day. It was similar to how theatres were in New York - you can pretty much just walk in anytime, get a ticket and jump into a show - very much unlike Chennai. The movie felt pretty much like a documentary that revolved around a bomb detecting squad. Probably the fact there was no other strong contender and given the fact that this was about Iraq scenario might have given it the edge in sweeping through the Oscars. Junk food was my lunch.

The next day was also my day out; I took the RTA bus this time to head back to the Dubai museum area where I had seen a lot of shops. I felt shopping is a lot of fun when you have something specific you are searching for. I was enjoying the quest to find a good pair of sports shoes; focus is the key and I was prepared to spend upto Dhs 300.

I found a pair of shoes in the first shop I entered but it felt a little tight.
The shopekeeper insisted, "It will expand as you use."
Huh, that's what they always say to make the sale.
"It's expensive also," I commented.
"I'll give 10% off on it."
I nodded my head and as I was about to walk out, I noticed a Chinese lady struggling to communicate with the saleman. Most salesmen could speak broken English but they were all comfortable with Hindi. With the little Hindi I know, I acted as a translator between the two of them and the sale was done!
When I was about to leave the other salesman shouted out, "I'll give it for 300."
He had started with 400.
"It is very hard to find large sizes."

After searcing in a few more shops I found one shop with a board, "Special rates for special sizes" and they had one pair for Dhs. 180 - it was a branded shoe and I wondered if it was a fake. But it didn't feel as if the shop sold fakes. I have the habit of wearing the shoes and walking around for a few minutes before buying shoes. And this felt odd on my left foot - something with the arch made it feel uncomfortable while walking. And so I continued in my quest and came to another shop with a dynamic salesman. He had the exact same model for Dhs 300.
"Left side feels uncomfortable because of the arch."
"No problem; we have Adidas sole pads to make the arch flat."
It did feel comfortable but the shoe price was too high.
"250," he said.
"If you can find it anywhere for less I will buy it from you for Dhs 250"
I was tempted to take the challenge but just walked out. You really had to bargain in this street to get a good price.

Next I went into an Adidas outlet and tried a couple of shoes. The salesman was very helpful but I didn't find a pair there either! The salesman said, "You can try out at the outlet mall. There they will surely have large sizes."
"Outlet? Where?"
"The Outlet Mall," and he gave me a rough address for the place.
The confidence and certainty in his voice made me feel confident that I would find my shoe there.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Part 16 - Atlantis, the Palm

At night, after my brother-in-law returned from office we drove to Atlantis. Atlantis (called Atlantis, the Palm) is a resort on the man-made island called Palm Jumeirah (the structure in the pic is the resort). Most of you would have seen the structure of the Palm Jumeirah - the man-made island in the shape of a palm tree with branches coming out. A beautiful underwater tunnel takes you from the mainland to the island. There were plenty of residential apartments here - all of them looked similar. There was an aqua theme park and an aquarium called "The lost chamber". We headed for the aquarium. Parking was free if you bought merchandise or tickets for some minimum amount. A van took us from the parking lot to the Atlantis resort. The resort had a nice design, as seen in the snap to the left.

(Video showing the apartments on the Palm, Dubai with apartments costing even a million dollars! All the buildings will appear to be the same and you might think it is just like you find in any city - but remember that all these buildings sit on the Palm Jumeirah which is like a man-made island!)

The aquarium was housed inside the resort. The entrance to the resort seemed more like a shopping mall with the ColdStone icecream outlet right at the beginning. The place was ambient - lights were neither bright nor dim. The decorations and architecture inside gave the place a mystic feeling. The entrance rates fee for the aquarium were pretty high. The guy at the counter quoted the rate for us all and my bro-in-law said it wasn't right because he remembered seeing lower rates online. The counter guy said that these were the final rates and said it was the same quoted online. My bro-in-law then asked for discounts and on enquiring found that for a particular credit card they give a good discount. If we hadn't asked we wouldn't have got it for sure! Ask and you shall receive!

The resort room rates start from Dhs. 1600 upto 20,000 for the presidential suite! And the aquarium entrance rate is around Dhs. 100 per head! They claim to have around 65,000 species of marine life inside.

When we entered, the first item on view was a large cylindrical tank with plenty of small fishes. My niece was frightened - she feared to go near the tank. My nephew after some prodding tentatively touched the tank. The lights were very dim inside but the ambience was good - the tanks had enough light that probably made it appear to the fish as if it was still daytime - there were some weird statues and on the ceilings some weird shapes and carvings. The price was probably for the ambience! Don't expect this aquarium to be informative because none of the exhibits have a description about the fishes inside. Strange as it may sound, being present in a room with so many fishes around gave a soothing feeling - the mind felt relaxed watching fishes swimming in the huge tanks. The design was such that at certain places you feel as if you are walking under the ocean because there are fishes swimming above your head!

My favourite fish was the Nemo look alike (from Finding Nemo movie) - the orange and white striped fish looked beautiful. Even in the souvenir shop, it was the Nemo stuffed toy that looked cute. There was one area where there were horshoe crabs and few fishes in an open basin filled with water. You could touch the fishes and feel them - there was an employee present near the basin. I touched a few of the fishes but was hesitant on touching the crab. When i did touch the shell of one it didn't budge an inch. The ambience was great but the price is expensive.

We stepped out into the hotel area; crossed some shops and came across a posh looking restaurant. My bro-in-law stepped in. We were courteously led by a watiress to a table. The ambience in the restaurant was also great - just the right lighting. Going thro the menu, we ordered for a large pizza and a bottle of Perrier sparkling water. I thought sparkling water meant some highly purified water but it tasted sour - it is some form of carbonated water. My bro-in-law had expereince drinking this and he liked it. The rest of us were having it for the first time and we didn't like it. They gave some bread sticks and bread slices which tasted good. These bread baskets were free with all meals - something like the masala pappad we have in Indian restaurants. The sticks were tasty and crispy. The pizza tasted great but again expensive - for the amount we spent on having a snack filler we could have had a full fledged meal for two people elsewhere - poshness costs money!

We took a few snaps, explored the mono-rail station and headed back to the Pajero.