20
Jan 11

UAE 2010 (once again) Day 1: Flying to Dubai, shopping, Burj Khalifa at night

Date: 12th November 2010

On Monday the 8th of November, 2010, I got a bunch of missed calls as I was preparing to head to office. When I finally did speak to the person, it turned out it was someone from VH1 India informing me that I had been shortlisted as finalist in their Linkin Park Ticket to Ride Contest!

But before that, she had a bunch of questions to ask: “Do you have a valid passport?,” “Can you fly at short notice?” and then asked around 9 questions about the band itself. After answering most of the questions, said she had to speak to the others and that she would call back in some time.

After the call, the only thought that came to my mind was: “HO-LY SHiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttttttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the 60-plus times I took part in the contest on Vh1 India’s Facebook page paid off!” I eagerly awaited the return call and 5 minutes later, it came.

She told me I was selected as the final winner because I answered the most questions!

Jeff Gerstmann Woohoo fistpump

"Woo-hoooooooooo!"

She told me I could take a guest too and so I chose my elder brother Nithin, who had never been to UAE. She also told me she would send me details on tickets, where we would be staying and how we would be going to the venue. First, we weren’t going to staying in Abu Dhabi, where the Yas Marina Circuit is located. Instead, we would be in Dubai.

Hey, I wasn’t going to complain. From there, on the day of the race, we would get picked and dropped via taxi. Cool, works for us!

After we hung up, I couldn’t hold my excitement and fist-pumped “Yes!”. This was the first time in life I actually won something big! Anyway, I headed to office and also prepared to get our visa arranged (we still had to do that ourselves).

For our Dubai visa, we approached DVPC by VFS Global, the exclusive service for all Emirates flights. We rushed all our documents to their office on Cunningham road on Tuesday afternoon and hoped we could get our visas by Thursday, since our flight was on Friday early morning.

Long story short, we managed to get our 96-hour/4 day visit visa (costs Rs. 3000 per person) processed by then.

On the dawn of Friday 12th, December 2010, we were in our Emirates flight from Bangalore to Dubai.

Star lit sky night from Emirates plane

It was a very star-lit night sky

Emirates breakfast India to Dubai flight

Early breakfast was pretty decent

We landed in Dubai at 7am.

Dubai airport tarmac terminal 4 construction

As if three terminals weren't enough

Dubai airport Emirates planes arriving in morning

We rode on the tarmac for nearly 5 minutes before finally stopping

We descended into one of those airport buses to get to the terminal. That ride took another 5 minutes — and my god was it cold inside that bus! It was mobile freezing chamber!

We finally got into Terminal 3 and made our way to immigration.

Dubai airport inside terminal 3 arrivalsI was a bit worried about visa because we didn’t get any official copy prior to our departure since everything was so ‘last minute’. But it was in our ticket and we faced no issues at immigration.

Dubai airport inside arrivals interiorsDubai airport inside terminal 3 walkalatorOnce out, we hailed a taxi and headed to Deira where our hotel was located.

We were put up at Fortune Hotel. We had breakfast and checked into one of our rooms (we got two individual rooms). First thing I did after stepping out was call up my parents and then inform my friends in Dubai that I had arrived. We didn’t rest for much because we only had one day to roam around Dubai.

We briefly caught up with my good friend Azhad, walked around Deira a bit and then made our way to the creek.

Dubai creek abra boat passengers afternoon ride

Dubai creek abra station Deira afternoon rideDubai creek trade boat afternoon skyDubai creek abra boat afternoon sky

Dubai creek trading ship

Though not the main port anymore, trade still goes through these waters daily

Dubai creek view afternoon Rolex towersDubai creek Bur Dubai mosque afternoon

Dubai creek Bur Dubai abra dockDubai creek Bur Dubai abra dock afternoonDubai creek Bur Dubai mosque abra speedThe abra ride costs just AED1 is one of the must-dos when in Dubai, be it in daytime or at night.

Once in Bur Dubai, I showed my brother the souq.

Dubai creek Bur Dubai market souq afternoonDubai creek Bur Dubai market souq entranceI’ve covered the souq a lot more in my trip from April. We went around a bit, bought some chocolates and made our way towards the Bur Dubai bus station.

Plaza cinema theater Bur Dubai

One of the oldest theaters in Dubai

We were in Bur Dubai to meet my friend Jassim, who had invited me and my brother over to his house for lunch.

He picked us up in his Mitsubishi Pajero.

Dubai inside Jassim's Mitsubishi Pajero

Dubai inside Mitsubishi Pajero dashboard interiors

With a mileage like that, it's a good thing petrol is cheap in UAE

Once at home, we were treated some fantastic mutton biriyani Jassim’s mother-in-law prepared. It was brilliant! Oh, there was chicken too. Equally delicious.

Dubai Jassim family

Our gracious hosts (the adults i.e., the kids didn't care much for our presence)

After an extremely satisfying (and heavy) lunch, Jassim offered to drive us to our next destination.

Dubai Jassim driving PajeroDubai construction progressingDubai Al Riyadh street overpass

Dubai Raffles pyramid hotel

Raffles Dubai hotel, attached to Wafi Mall

Dubai skyscrapers buildings skyline shadow

Never tire of this sight

Dubai building for sale

Dubai festival city building

We were on our way to Festival City

Festival City was the only major mall I didn’t visit the first time I came to Dubai, back in April.  Also, the mall houses Dubai’s IKEA store.

Dubai Festival City parking Pajero vs Hummer

The Pajero faces off with the soon-to-be-extinct Hummer

Dubai Festival City Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant

Popular British chef Jamie Oliver is opening a restaurant here

Festival City is another mixed-use development, comprising of a mall (of course), residential apartments, offices and even a marina.

Dubai Festival City marina panorama

(Panorama comprised of 6 shots)

Dubai festival city marina yachts

Dubai Festival City Intercontinental Hotel

There's a Hotel Intercontinental here

Dubai Festival City water canal

A water canal offering boat rides as well

Dubai Festival City water boat rides

Plenty of eateries by the water canal too

Once inside, the store offerings weren’t that different from any other major mall in Dubai.

Dubai Festival City mall water wires panorama

This was pretty cool though

Dubai Festival City water wires long

Water trickles down these wires and makes a sound when it touches the ground

Dubai Festival City mall storesDubai Festival City floors

Dubai Festival City Ikea store

Why we came to Festival City mall--IKEA (There is no IKEA store in India, yet)

Dubai Festival City lit up trees

After nearly an hour inside, we were done with our shopping

Jassim quickly took us around to show us some more unique ‘water fountains’ inside Festival City.

Dubai Festival City water fountain streaming

Dubai Festival City water fountain structure

But this big one takes the cake

Dubai Festival City unique water fountain closeup

That's a thin stream of water flowing all the way down

Dubai Festvial city inside eventsWe were running late and Jassim had to head back home. So after quick stop at an electronics store, we headed back to the car parking.

Dubai Festvial City Lacoste Paris galleryDubai Festvial City at night moonDubai Festvial City Intercontinental Hotel nightDubai Festvial City water canal at night

Dubai roads driving night

Next stop, Dubai Mall

Dubai clock tower roundabout at night

Dubai's old landmark

Driving on Sheikh Zayed road at night

Sheikh Zayed road, where all of Dubai's new landmarks are

Dubai Pajero sky roof open

Sky roof open...

Dubai Jassim driving Pajero night

... volume up!

Jassim dropped us off at Dubai Mall and we said our goodbyes.

Dubai Mall entrance NithinWe had booked our entry to Burj Khalifa’s At The Top for 8pm. But we quickly went around the mall before that.

Dubai Mall aquarium world record

First we passed by Dubai Aquarium

Dubai Aquarium Guinness world record plaque

The Guinness Record for the World's Largest Acrylic Panel

Dubai Mall Aquarium world fishes diverDubai Mall Aquarium ceiling decorationMy brother wasn’t really interested in going inside the aquarium. So we continued up.

Dubai Mall Christmas decorations

Dubai Mall Denon LG showrooms

My brother instead wanted to check out home theater systems

He was tempted to pick a unit which cost half of what it costs back in India. But given the size of the entire package (and fearing customs,) he dropped the idea.

Dubai Mall digital runway screens

Funky runways huh?

When it was time, we made our way to the At The Top counter in the basement.

Dubai Mall Burj Khalifa model At The TopDubai Mall At The Top experience NithinMy brother isn’t staring at a white screen, watch this video for what you really see.

Dubai Mall At The Top observation deck which floor

I didn't get it the right the last time but this time I vowed to point to where exactly the observation deck on Burj Khalifa is

Once we reached the top via the fastest elevator in the world, I switched to video:

This is the view at night in photos.

Burj Khalifa At The Top view at night Dubai

Dubai Mall from top at night

Dubai Mall's roof goes green at night

Burj Khalifa At The Top view highways

The Address hotel Dubai at night

The Address hotel

Burj Khalifa At The Top view financial centre at night Dubai

Dubai's Financial Centre

Dubai Financial Centre buildings at nightBurj Khalifa At The Top observation deck at nightDubai labour camps at night

Sheikh Zayed road offices at night

Drive up further you reach Dubai Marina

Burj Khalifa At The Top observation telescopes

You can use these to get a simulation of how the same view looks in daylight

Dubai Sheikh Zayed road flyover intersectionDowntown Dubai The Address residences at nightAfter 30 minutes on top, we made our way back down.

Burj Khalifa elevator floors fastOnce down, we walked past the other displays as you make your exit.

Burj Khalifa ground displaysBurj Khalifa vision inspiration peopleBurj Khalifa ground video displays

Burj Khalifa escalator downBurj Khalifa exit walkalatorThis was the second time for me ‘At the Top,’ a more detailed description of the experience can be viewed here.

Once out, the Dubai fountains were on show.

Dubai Mall fountain show at night

The shows are every half an hour

Dubai Mall Christmas tree decorations

Islamic country, but they still deck a heck lot of lights for Christmas

Burj Khalifa in the dark Dubai

The tallest X'mas 'tree' in the world

We took the shuttle bus from Dubai Mall to the metro station. Even though we were tired and sleepy, we still decided to quickly check out Mall of the Emirates — four stops from Dubai Mall.

Mall of Emirates shopping mall nightWe were here mostly to check out the Virgin Megastore. Last time I was here, I spent quite a bit on video games. This time, we just picked up some blu-rays, a music CD… and then some more video games.

Mall of Emirates Ralph Lauren storeBy the time we were done with everything, it was 10:30pm. We had to get back, have dinner and then figure out how we were going to pack all our IKEA goods.

Dinner was shawarmas, which though better than the stuff you get in India, wasn’t as good as the ones I grew up eating in Bahrain. The Egyptian joint we picked it up stuffed it with french fries and wrapped it in kuboos instead of Lebanese bread. These were the kind of shawarmas pretty much everywhere. I don’t know, they were inferior in my opinion.

After dinner, I roamed around a bit in search of empty carton boxes big enough to hold our IKEA purchases but despite asking just about every cold store in our vicinity, the best I got were water bottle boxes. I came back with one but realized it was grossly insufficient.

Next morning, I had to call up my friend Azhad for help.


21
Dec 10

UAE 2010 (once again) Day 2 – Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi F1 and Linkin Park concert

Date: 13th November 2010

If you are wondering “Errr…. where’s Day 1?,” well, I wanted to push this one out because it contains a large chunk of why I was in  Dubai and Abu Dhabi for a second time this year. Long story short, I won a contest on VH1 to fly all the way to Abu Dhabi during F1 weekend to watch Linkin Park, one of my favourite bands, live in concert.

All the details of how I got here will be in the Day 1 post. [EDIT: Day 1 is now live]

Since we had shopped a bit yesterday, we had to spend the morning trying to find a carton to fit all of our IKEA shopping. We met up with my friend Azhad who took us to a cargo shop to find us a large box. After we bought one, we made our way back and then headed out for lunch.

For lunch, Azhad took us to a Syrian restaurant in Al Rigga.

Aroos Damascus restaurant Al Rigga Deira Dubai

This was the restaurant

Aroos Damascus Syrian restaurant Al Rigga Deira shawarma

And that is a LOT of meat

Aroos Damascus tables outside Syrian restaurant Al Rigga Deira Dubai

Azhad and my brother Nithin at the table to the left

As fans of Arabian cuisine, we ordered a few items unaware of just how much food was coming our way.

Syrian Arab lentil soup dal

First up: Lentil soup (dal)

Aroos Damscus restaurant Al Rigga Deira starters Dubai

Then, salad and a diamond shaped bread

Fattoush salad Arab restaurant Dubai

Next, fattoush salad

Arab restaurant kuboos bread Deira Dubai

With healthy supply of kuboos (Arabian bread)

Arab restaurant fresh fruit juice kiwi

Then our juices (the green one's Kiwi fruit; it's what I ordered)

Arab restaurant hummus mutton

After that, our hummus with mutton kheema & grated almonds

Aroos Damascus restaurant Deira grilled chicken

...and finally, the 'main course' -- one full grilled chicken

By the time our ‘main course’ arrived, my hunger was already taken care of. All I could think of was ‘how the hell we were going to finish that bird!’.

And just as we began to dig into it, I get a call. It was our taxi driver, for our pick up. We had to tell him to wait at least 15 minutes as we were having lunch… and that we had an entire chicken to go through.

Sadly, even 10 minutes in, we knew it was hopeless. We would have needed at least an hour of slow eating to finish all the food that was on our table. Or according to Azhad, we needed our friend Jassim.

The bill came to around Rs. 1200, very reasonable considering what we ordered was enough to feed 4 to 5 people. After we paid up, we quickly made our way back to our hotel where our taxi was waiting for us.

Now, we were expecting a taxi. We weren’t really expecting this:

Lincoln towncar black Dubai

This was our ride

Lincoln Towncar limo interiors

Not bad. Not bad at all.

We dashed off to Abu Dhabi via Sheikh Zayed Road.

Sheikh Zayed Road tunnel lights inside car

Sheikh Zayed Road tunnel light from inside carSheikh Zayed road from inside car

Emirates towers building from car

The Emirates twin towers

Sheikh Zayed road metro station

This is what Dubai's metro stations look like

Sheikh Zayed road small building contruction

Construction activity has slowed down...

Sheikh Zayed Road Gloria hotel rooms for rent

... because there is still plenty of over-supply

Sheikh Zayed Road offices for lease

Still no takers

Sheikh Zayed road empty buildingThe real estate scene hasn’t seen much improvement since the last time I was here.

Sheikh Zayed Road leaving Dubai

Burj Al Arab from inside car

Burj Al Arab in the distance

Sheikh Zayed road Dubai Marina skyscrapersWe drove past the impressive Dubai Marina and entered Jebel Ali zone.

Sheikh zayed road Ibn Battuta Mall

Seen at Ibn Battuta Mall

Sheikh Zayed road Jebel Ali offices Jafza view 19 twin towers

Dubai Hummer stretch limo rent

Okay, so our limo wasn't as pimp as this one...

Sheikh Zayed road radio tower

Not a whole lot to see on Sheikh Zayed road...

Sheikh Zayed road vehicles

... besides cars

Sheikh Zayed Road is one heck of a highway. For one, it’s really straight. So it’s filled with a lot of speeding cars. And despite being extremely wide, and UAE’s strict code on the way you drive — accidents are still common.

We lay witness to one one this trip.

A Toyota Yaris lost control, swerved right across two lanes, rams into a Mercedes convertible, and dangerously reverses back on to the highway. Everybody brakes. Fortunately we were slightly far behind and the Yaris did eventually come to a stand still.

Sheikh Zayed road accident Mercedes

The Merc that got rammed into

Sheikh Zayed road accident Toyota Yaris crashed

Dunno how he lost control

The police car quickly made its way towards the accident site…

Sheikh Zayed road accident truck overturn

...from *another* accident it was tending to

So yeah, just because you have awesome roads, don’t assume its accidents-free.

An hour-long drive later, we were in Abu Dhabi.

Getting to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi by taxi

IKEA Abu Dhabi near Yas Island Ferrari World

Damn you IKEA! Here too?!

Ferrari World La Rossa roller coaster

La Rossa -- the fastest roller coaster ride in the world, part of Ferrari World

We actually asked our driver to drop us at Ferrari World because we had time and didn’t want to head to the Yas Marina Circuit so early. Plus I had to check it out, sine the last time I was, it was still under construction.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi front side

Ferrari World mall entrance reception

The entrance leads you to a mini-mall

Ferrari World mall escalator stores

But a lot of stores were yet to open

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi main entranceInside Ferrari World Abu Dhabi entrance

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi main lobby

The ticket counter is to the right

Ferrari World Ferrari store Abu Dhabi

They have a pretty big Ferrari store to the left

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi Formula 1 model car

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi Formula 1 model car

This was in front of the Ferrari store

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi interiorsFerrari World Abu Dhabi main exit

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi gates to theme park

You pass these gates to enter the theme park

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi old Ferrari grand prix racing car

After checking out the store, I made my way to the ticket counter.  The tickets to Ferrari World come in ‘general’ and ‘premium’ classes — the only difference being the premium admission give you access to a VIP lounge. Otherwise the general admission costs AED225 (Rs. 2500) and entitles you to unlimited rides. Not bad, compared to how expensive other world class theme parks cost.

But I still felt compelled to ask the ticket receptionist if it was worthwhile if we went in today. She replied that we’d need at least 2 hours to go through the whole place (Ferrari World is the largest indoor theme park in the world). Also, the main attraction at Ferrari World: La Rossa — the fastest roller coaster in the world, wasn’t (let’s just say) functioning perfectly. There were stopping it intermittently to run check ups.

Now, I know Ferrari World had just opened during this year’s Grand Prix race, but I didn’t feel like paying AED225 to be a crash test dummy at 250 kmph. So I decided to skip it and check it out next year. Hopefully by then all the chinks are sorted out.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi entrance hall

We made our way out

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi logo Mithun

That's me ^_^

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi cascade walk

There was an open area we felt like checking out

Ferrari World fountains water walkFerrari World fountains water cascade outside mallFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade walk waterFerrari World Cascade walk fountains waterFerrari World Abu Dhabi dome creekFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade walk signFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade open areaFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade water fountains

Ferrari World cascade walk fountains Nithin

My brother Nithin

It was nearing 5pm at this point, so we decided to leave.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi mall to entrance

Ferrari World bus to Yas Marina circuit

They had buses to Yas Marina Circuit

Inside bus to Yas Marina circuit Abu Dhabi

The buses go all around the circuit stopping at all the entry points

Entering North Stand Yas Marina Circuit

We got down at the North Gate entrance

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi road to Yas Marina

Which isn't very far from Ferrari World

North Grand Stand Yas Marina circuit parkingEntering North Grand stand Yas Marina Circuit

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix F1 ear plugs guide

This is what you get as you pass the gates: ear plugs and a guide

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Yasalam

This is where Linkin Park is going to perform

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit atmosphereAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina Circuit drag race displayAbu Dhabi F1 experience Yas Marina circuit eventsAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit go karting

Abu Dhabi Yas Marina circuit sunset

It was time to go in

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit M gateAbu Dhabi F1 experience Yas Marina circuit drag carsAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit drag racer

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Yasalam Linkin Park stage

They were running a sound check and you could hear Chester test his vocals

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit North Grand stand lounge

This is the lounge area for North Grand Stand ticket holders

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit North stand

Yas Marina Circuit North Stand panorama view

This was the view from our seat

And this is the action we saw:

Our seats were great, we were at the grand stand at the North section of the track. The vantage point is a good one as you get to see the cars coming in from a distance (though in a matter seconds, they’re already at the turn) and then you have the long straight stretch where you get to see them accelerate.

First thing that really hits you is the noise. I experienced this during the Singapore F1 back in September. I loved it there, I loved it here as well. Of course, you have to love cars to to enjoy the sound of a lightning fast engine. Otherwise you’d be deemed ‘weird’.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit north gate panorama

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina Lewis Hamilton St. George flag

Since this was the crucial final race of the season, the Brits obviously had Lewis Hamilton's back

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit north stand flags

Not that the Spaniards and Canadians were far behind

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit big screens

They had screens broadcasting the rest of the circuit

They had commentary on the speakers too, but because of the noise from the cars, you won’t hear it until the cars pass.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit evening

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Red Bull car

Red Bull racing was doing pretty well

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Force India car

Force India wasn't doing that bad either

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Ferrari cornerAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Lotus carAfter seeing cars zipping by and listening to engines for nearly an hour, I went inside the lounge to have some of the gourmet food on offer.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina North Grand stand lounge food

Gourmet food in very tiny potions I might add. But you can take as much as you wanted.

The whole affair was very posh, with German waitresses and what looked like local celebrities (or posh posers) in the lounge.

After having a bite and drink, as I walked back, I suddenly stopped. And I do mean suddenly stopped. I literally froze.

I turned to my left and in front of me were two guys. One, a fairly large, tattooed white bald white dude and next to him, a regular looking Asian guy, fairly tall. Dressed in formals, he looked like a guy who probably worked in an IT firm. I looked at him and they both both looked back at me. The white dude  sitting next to him nodded as if to say: “No”.

But in my excitement, I said ‘hi’ and that I had one question to ask him. I began to prep the camera when he smiled and said: “No Interviews”. The bodyguard was about to get up so I put my camera away and just asked him. He answered and then I asked him if I could take a photograph. The bodyguard said “No,” but he said “It’s fine,” gave my camera to his bodyguard and asked him to take our photograph.

The bodyguard pressed the shutter and it didn’t click. The guy joked: “He’s not very good at this” and asked his bodyguard to take the shot again.

So who was the guy?

Mithun with Mike Shinoda Linkin Park Abu Dhabi F1

None other than Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park! The ONE guy I was hoping to meet!

I thanked Mike and told him how much I liked their new album and said: “Keep experimenting” to which he smiled and said “Thanks”.

First impressions. Wow, he’s taller than I thought (I’m 5′ 6″). Plus, he’s changed a lot since his Hybrid Theory days.

Oh, what was the one question I wanted to ask him and finally could?

“When is Linkin Park coming to India?”

Mike said they needed find the right promoter and figure out the logistics to try and cram it into their tour schedule. It wasn’t a very convincing answer so I asked him whether they had ever considered touring India, to which Mike replied: “Oh yeah! Of course!”. I told him Linkin Park has such a huge fan base in India and he nodded his head: “I know…” with a smile. He said it will happen and assured me the band would tour India — but he just couldn’t tell me when.

Oh well, at least he knows we’re dying to see the band live in India.

As I went back to my seat, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. When I got the call from Vh1 telling me I had won, I was so hoping to meet the band. But I was informed there would be no meet & greet. And despite all that, I still got to meet the one guy I wanted to talk to. I know for a lot of girls its Chester Bennington, but for many hardcore LP fans, it’s Mike Shinoda — the unofficial spokesperson and leader of the band.

I told my brother Mike Shinoda was inside and he got a glimpse of him too, but neither of us disturbed him again.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit night race

The race was at its final laps

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Ferrari McLaren Red bull race cars

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit at night

The qualifiers had ended; Vettel took pole postion with Lewis Hamilton in second

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit photographers

That's the kind of lenses you need to cover an F1 race

We got up from our seats and went back into the lounge to get a good view of where we were heading next.

Abu Dhabi Yasalam Linkin Park concert venue

There were people already making a beeline for the concert gates

Abu Dhabi Yasalam after F1 race

As I walked out I saw Mike again… and Dave Farrell, the band’s bassist! Dave smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up, probably after noticing my Linkin Park t-shirt and I wished him all the best for the show and that I was looking forward to it. I was tempted to ask for a photograph again but the bodyguard kept looking at me everytime I passed by. Oh well, he’s doing his job.

Walking towards the venue, I came prepared and fully charged with my camera and lenses… but unfortunately, there was dude announcing on the speakerphone that DSLRs and other high end cameras were not allowed in. Crap.

So, I hesitantly hand over my camera to the counter and make my through the gates. Hundreds were getting their alcohol (on sale for 21 and over only) and though there were a lot of people at the venue, everybody had enough space to move about freely.

Me and my brother chose a spot a bit far away from the speakers and right in the middle.

Yasalam Linkin Park Abu Dhabi concert panorama

They were showing promos of who all had come before... (yes, the Jonas Brothers were here before LP)

We could have gone further up front but I was going to be recording videos on my phone and staying too close to the speakers only meant “brrrrr brrrr” in recordings.

The stage itself, as you can see above, was quite impressive.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert warm up

They had a DJ spin out some good hip hop to warm up the crowd.

After half an hour or so, the DJ leaves the stage. The crew come on, clear everything and the crowd begin to cheer. A lighting rig comes all the way down, two guys get into seats on either side and the rig goes up again.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert stage setupAfter some more waiting, finally, the show begins:

They opened with The Catalyst, the first single off their latest album A Thousand Suns.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert

After that, the crowd went crazy for the next song

And when I mean ‘crowd,’ I mean me, my brother and a few young Arabs around me. I was seriously aghast the whole crowd wasn’t jumping up & down.

But then again I reminded my self that this concert was only open to Formula 1 ticket holders, most of whom were 30-plus. Not exactly your core Linkin Park fanbase.

Abu Dhabi formula 1 Linkin Park concert chester on stage

Man, Chester can scream his face off!

I didn’t record every song in full, intentionally. I had to conserve my phone battery and I didn’t feel right about recording the entire concert as though I was going to bootleg this or something.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert Mike Shinoda

"Hey, I met that guy!" :P

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert Joe Hahn

The awesome Mr. Hahn

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert Chester Bennington

Of course, some songs I had to record in full.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert stage lights

The lighting was just as good as the music

This was the ending set:


After a very brief break, the band were back on stage for the encore.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert band stage

First, they performed one of my favourite songs from the new album:

…before closing out the show with some more of their biggest hits!

Nearly an hour and 45 minutes later, the show was over. In that time, they played pretty much all their singles (except for “Breaking the Habit“). The band said their goodbyes and left the stage. Everyone except Mike Shinoda that is, who would spend nearly 10 minutes or so shaking hands and greeting fans in the front row. What an awesome guy.

We left Yasalam, collected my camera bag and managed to contact our taxi driver who had come all the way from Dubai to pick us up.

Abu Dhabi Formula one buses after race

They had plenty of buses plying from the venue to Abu Dhbai city and Dubai

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 bus service to city

But there were quite a lot of people queuing up for them

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Ferrari world at night

We had nothing to worry about...

Inside Toyota Previa taxi Abu Dhabi

... 'cos we had comfortable private ride back to Dubai. Tee hee.

Leaving Yas Marina circuit Abu Dhabi

It was past 11pm, time to leave Yas Marina Circuit and Abu Dhabi

As we drove back, I couldn’t help but think back on the past few hours. Sure, we were tired as hell, but what a weekend! Landed in Dubai yesterday, went around, shopped, today witnessed a Formula One race on a Rs. 40, 000 ticket (which we got for free) and then watched one of my favourite bands perform live (again, for free)! But most of all, the moment that did it for me, I met Mike Shinoda and got a photo with him! That was good enough.

On one hand, I enjoyed a evening with a decent crowd with no pushing or shoving and an amazing stage setup. On the other hand, the concert could have used a better crowd. But thinking about it, I can’t fathom how much I would have hated the first Linkin Park concert in India — with thousands of their young fans who are going to go absolutely apeshit because they waited for so long to finally get a glimpse of their rock idols. (I pray Linkin Park plays at least 3 venues when they land in India)

Every artist uses the “We’ll be back” line at the end of their concerts. Some do, some don’t. Linkin Park will be back in UAE for sure. And next time, it will surely be for their real UAE fans at some event more suitable like the Desert Rock Festival or a stand alone concert.

Dubai driving Sheikh Zayed road night

An hour of cruising at a 100kmph later, we were in Dubai

Once back in our hotel, we quickly went out again to grab some shawarmas and some juice for dinner. We didn’t have anything planned for tomorrow other than packing and heading to the hotel.

Yeah, it would have been nice if we could have stayed back one more day, saw the Sunday race and watched Prince perform afterwards. (We had tickets for all 4 days; Kanye West performed on Friday but we couldn’t have been bothered to drive all the way to Dubai for his inflated ego). But I just couldn’t afford to. I had to head back to office on Monday and then on Tuesday night, had to catch my postponed flight to Thailand for my next trip.

All in all, a hectic but memorable experience.

Oh, and finally, thanks VH1 India! (Especially Aparna)


02
Aug 10

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

Date: 10th April 2010

After a tiring previous day (and only hitting the bed at 4am), I got up early to receive my parents from Bur Dubai bus stand as they were visiting from Abu Dhabi. Since today and tomorrow were all going to be ‘family time,’ we were going to be staying with my father’s friend, in his nice, posh little flat in Karama.

Once we all landed at my father’s friend’s place post-lunch, we rested for some time before heading out.

It was back to Dubai Mall for me — but for my parents, despite having lived in Abu Dhabi for nearly an year, it was going to be their first time experiencing Dubai Aquarium and At The Top of Burj Khalifa.

First up, the aquarium: Dubai Aquarium from entrance outside glassDubai Aquarium little girl baby shark

Dubai Aquarium little sting ray Acha touch

My father really enjoyed being this close to sea creatures

Dubai Aquarium narrow sting ray tube

Dubai Aquarium under sting ray face

That's what a stingray's face looks like

Dubai Aquarium dome lots of fish

Dubai Aquarium divers working

Well, hello there!

Dubai Aquarium darkness Dubai Aquarium from outside Dubai mall crowdsFor more photos and videos from inside Dubai Aquarium, check out my first post. Next up, we waited for our turn to go up the Burj Khalifa.

Dubai Mall At The Top gift shop parents

My parents at the At The Top gift shop

Burj Khalifa statistics At The Top entrance

Burj Khalifa statistics Story in numbers facts figures

200+ storeys; 95kms - from where one can see the top of the spire; 12,000 slaves... sorry, labourers; 57 elevators; 500,000 tonnes - weight of the empty building

I had booked for an evening slot for the At The Top visit, hoping I could see Dubai all lit up. But as we got up, the sun was still very much above the horizon.

Burj Khalifa parents At the Top view

Regardless, my parents loved the view

Dubai Financial Center from Burj Khalifa evening

Dubai financial center

Burj Khalifa floors above At The Top

That's how many floors there still are above the observation deck

Burj Khalifa sunset over The World islands

The sun setting over the yet to be completed The World islands

Burj Khalifa tourists watching sunset

Watching the sun set from atop the world's tallest building is a great idea

At The Top Burj Khalifa tourists watching sunsetDowntown Dubai construction site from Burj Khalifa For more photos and videos from At The Top, check out my first post.

We finished our tour of Burj Khalifa, made our way out and to the Dubai Fountain site. The $200 million-plus Dubai Fountain is an attraction built on the artificial (duh) lake just outside Dubai Mall.

Dubai Mall The Address hotel at night

The Address hotel in the back

Dubai mall Dubai fountain site at night

The crowds wait for the show to start

Built by the same people behind the famous Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, Dubai obviously had to up the ante. So these fountains shoot water up higher, 500 feet high (150 metres)!

Shows are every half an hour between 6pm to 10pm. Here’s the show I saw: Since it’s free, and since I can’t afford to go to Las Vegas just yet, this was great!

Burj Khalifa Mithun parents portrait

Me and my folks in front of a massive concrete & steel Christmas tree

Burj Khalifa glowing dubaiAfter the show, we made our way to the buses that drop visitors to the metro station.

Pink Porsche Dubai mall parking

Why, why would someone do that to a Porsche?

Burj Khalifa glowing at night dubai

Architectural beauty

The next day with my parents…

The next morning, I took my parents to Bur Dubai for some shopping and to show them around. Bur Dubai souk morning

Bur Dubai souk father pushing cart

My father considering 'post-retirement' work

Bur Dubai souk morning wide angleBur Dubai souk morning shopsBur Dubai souk station morning Bur Dubai souk Indonesian shop

Bur Dubai souk Chinese man with father

My father bothering some random Chinese dude for a photo

After showing them the souk station, I took them to the Hindu temple (photos of both can be seen in my first post). Bur Dubai Hindu temple tourists Bur Dubai souk Hindu temple entry exitBur Dubai Hindu temple entry exit Poojasri fashions

Bur Dubai souk park parents sitting

Taking a break from all the walking

Bur Dubai morning old buildingBur Dubai mosque roadBur Dubai mosque blue sky

Bur Dubai creek morning pigeons

Pigeons by the creek

Bur Dubai creek pigeons bouysAnd with that, we were done. Took a taxi and headed back to my father’s colleague’s place. He offered to drop us off near Jebel Ali power station, where we had been invited for lunch by our relatives.

Inside Mr. Nandakumar's Peugot car with sunroof

Inside Mr. Nandakumar's Peugot

Once again, it was a drive on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Emirates Towers Dubai from car

Emirates Towers

Glass building Sheikh Zayed roadGlass building construction Sheikh Zayed roadSheikh Zayed road tall buildingSheikh Zayed road row of buildingsSheikh Zayed road Dubai Marina construction

Dubai Hard Rock cafe Sheikh Zayed road

Those guitars used to be where Dubai's Hard Rock Cafe was

Sheikh Zayed road office towersMetro line train Sheikh Zayed roadDnata travel center Dubai office twin towers

Jebel Ali station flat view

The view from my uncle's flat near Jebel Ali power station, where he works

After lunch, we decided to check out Ibn Battuta Mall, which was nearby. This was the last major mall I had yet to see and the one my friends highly recommended, just because it was different.

The mall business in Dubai is, let’s just say, quite cut throat. For such a small state, Dubai has some of the largest malls in the world. And since just about every mall offers the same set of stores, mall operators come up with differentiators to draw the crowds in.

What’s the differentiator for Ibn Battuta Mall? For one (if you haven’t figured out already), it’s named after the great Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta. The entire mall is themed after his travels across China, India, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Andalusia with a section dedicated to each zone.

We parked near the China entrance. Ibn Battuta mall parking lot DubaiIbn Battuta mall Chinese entranceIbn Battuta mall Chinese corridor China courtEach of the sections have a lobby with a major attraction specific to that zone. This is what the China court looks like.

Ibn Battuta mall China court panorama

Panorama comprised of 6 shots

The main attraction here being a replica of a Chinese sailing ship supposedly used by Ibn Battuta in his travels. Ibn Battuta mall Chinese ship modelIbn Battuta mall Chinese boat fountainIbn Battuta mall China court ship

Ibn Battuta mall Grand cinemas IMAX

Ibn Battuta Mall houses the only IMAX screen in Dubai

From China, we then moved on to India. Ibn Battuta mall India court from ChinaIbn Battuta India court shopsIbn Battuta India court lobbyIbn Battuta India court dome chandlier

Ibn Battuta India court elephant rider

India Court's big attraction

From India into Persia. Ibn Battuta mall Persia court from IndiaIbn Battuta mall Persia court kids roomsIbn Battuta mall Persia court main dome Ibn Battuta Mall Persia court armillary spherePersia Court’s big attraction is a replica of a Starbucks Coffee outlet*.

Ibn Battuta Mall Persia court dome Starbucks

*just kidding

From Persia, you have two paths to Egypt. Ibn Battuta Mall entry Egypt court

Ibn Battuta Mall Egypt court street lamps

Both paths eventually meet

Ibn Battuta mall Egypt court corridor

The Egypt Court houses a lot of history, facts and trivia about Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta mall Egypt court trade middle agesIbn Battuta mall Egypt court across North AfricaIbn Battuta mall Egypt court life of traveller

Ibn Battuta Mall Egypt court travel mapIbn Battuta mall Egypt court pyramid

Ibn Battuta Mall Eqypt court lampsAnd finally Andalusia.

Ibn Battuta mall Andalusia court entryIbn Battuta mall Andalusia court corridorIbn Battuta Mall Andalusia court ceilingIbn Battuta Mall Andalusia court center statue

Ibn Battuta Mall Andalusia court fountains

Andalusia Court's main attraction

Ibn Battuta mall Andalusia court flight ceilingWith that, we had conquered all five regions of Ibn Battuta’s mall. So we made our journey back, passing by more displays.

Ibn Battuta mall Andalusia court India displayIbn Battuta mall Eqypt court display

Ibn Battuta mall China hall pillars ceiling

Back in China Court

Ibn Battuta China hall ceiling

Ibn Battuta Mall truly is a must-see in my opinion. It was a good move on Nakheel Properties‘ part to use a theme like this to set the mall apart from Dubai’s other shopping centers.

Once out of Ibn Battuta Mall, we wished our relatives goodbye and took the metro to Bur Dubai bus stand. I was heading back to Abu Dhabi.

Dubai bus to Abu Dhabi at night

And with this, ends my Dubai sojourn — for now.

Next posts in this series:

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

Previous posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

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