Web designer, developer and digital nomad. I also like films, live music, taking photos and making cocktails.
Some thoughts on Dubai
I originally wrote this while I was in Dubai, the first stop on my trip East.
I’m not going to say anything groundbreaking here but Dubai seems to be a bizarre city of contrasts and extravagance, and yet it’s also quite a fascinating place.
Women in burkhas stroll through the enormous shopping malls alongside Russian WAGs in figure-hugging skirts, while Filipino housemaids look after the kids at home. Young Emiratis tear their Ferraris past the lines of taxis driven without fail by Bangladeshi or Pakistani immigrants. Western tourists sunbathe on the beach, while South Asian construction workers labour in the blistering hot sun building the next luxury attraction.
The racial segmentation and gaudy consumerism remind me somewhat of the caste system and consumption-driven dystopia in Aldous Huxley’s “A Brave New World”. But as some of the taxi drivers explain, at least here they feel safe from crime, and the little that they earn is still more than they could earn at home.
The effect of petrodollars is clear to see. How else could a small fishing town of 40,000 become a metropolis of more than 2 million in just 50 years with more skyscrapers than either Hong Kong and New York? It must have been a city planner’s dream to have been involved with Dubai from the start and help it in its endless quest to provide water-front properties for everyone who can afford one. It certainly feels like a real-life version of SimCity.
As a tourist it seems there is little to do but shop, sunbathe, eat or go to one of the outrageous (seen as we’re in the desert) attractions, like the water parks or artificial ski slope. For some that is holiday heaven, but I tend to look for something a bit more fulfilling…
Several questions linger in my head throughout my short stay:
• Are all the apartments in the hundreds of skyscrapers actually full? Because it seems rather quiet…
• Where does all the fresh water come from to fill all the swimming pools and attractions? Desalination and all those air conditioners must be incredibly energy intensive…
• Have they built and done enough to ensure Dubai’s success even when all the region’s petrodollars have gone? The jury is still out…
Whatever my thoughts on the place, the real reason I’m here is to visit my old friend Jack and fiancé Rhiannon, before continuing my journey onto Thailand.
We spend a lovely long weekend together. There is lots to catch-up on, including their upcoming wedding which won’t be until 2015 but I’m proud to say I have an important role to play - co-best-man! More on that later!
We enjoy lots of good food, ranging from one of Dubai’s infamous buffet brunches to a cracking cheap vegetarian curry house where we are the only Westerners.
On the Saturday afternoon Jack and I indulge in a trip to Wild Wadi water park, which has two particularly good slides that get the heart racing.
On Sunday evening I take an overnight flight to Bangkok. I’ll be there for a week of sightseeing (and bit of work) before heading up north to Chiang Mai, where I will be based for some time.
This will be my first visit to Thailand. I’m excited and only a little bit nervous.
• Is Bangkok really as hectic as everyone makes it out to be?
• Will my dream of being a digital nomad become a reality?