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Monday 14 Mar 2011
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Shawarma heaven

And so beginneth the latest travel blog... this time I'm heading to India.

I was supposed to have visited India first way back in 2004 as part of my pan-Asia-Australia-USA rtw tour, but alas I had to drop it from the itinerary when booking as the cost of getting there was excessive. Probably a good thing as (judging by the size of the India Rough Guide I bought at the time) it would have been an exhausting venture. And that's BEFORE reaching Bangkok.

So here I am in 2011, a little less naive and a little more travel-worn; used to the wily ways of rickshaw drivers and ready to finally take on one of the most fascinating countries in the world. As I've only got 3 weeks, I won't really be able to give India the time it deserves (3 months at least is recommended), but I hope to get a taste of the place by flying/railing to a select few spots and then maybe in future I can come back and do the place justice.

I also plan to get more than my fair share of some of the best damned foods known to man. As anyone who knows me can testify, I have a passion for hot food. Nothing can be too hot. Maybe I drank a gallon of wax during some crazy party that I can't recall back in Uni days, but my insides seem to be coated in an impermeable substance that allows me to get away with drinking bottles of Tobasco sauce for breakfast.
Now I plan to finally meet my match: the Bhut Jolokia pepper. According to the Guinnes Book of Records, it's the hottest "naturally occurring" chili pepper in the world (I say naturally occurring as there is a hotter pepper grown by a guy in the UK, but it's a hybrid he created himself... man-made spice doesn't count in my book). The pepper is so hot that's it's been weaponised by the India army. So, eh, I'll take two of those in my India Vindaloo thank you very much.

After my "rough" experience with Rough Guides back in South America, I've dumped my Rough Guide India and plumped for the one and only true traveller's guide: Lonely Planet India - a hefty tome... larger than Lonely Planet South America (!) (which gives some indication as to the depth of India). It's already proved it's worth in helping me come up with an itinerary (always an exhausting task when travelling on limited time).

Current situation

My flights to India from Dublin were remarkably cheap. Etihad have a deal whereby you can fly to Delhi for 505 euro return in March, great timing methinks! The flights go via Abu Dhabi, so I enquired to see if I could stop off in Dubai for 2 days on the way over to catch up with Niamh, Floyd and Neema. I could and it only cost 20 euro extra. So 525 euro in total. Fantastic! (the irony is that a return flight to Dubai on Etihad was still 750 euro when I last checked...)

So I arrived 2 evenings ago after a rather crushed flight over (I'm going to do my best to get a Fire Exit seat on the way back ... even if it means checking in 4 hours early. Food was good though and staff were really nice. I saw "True Grit" and "127 hours" on the flight (the latter while eating my dinner which probably wasn't the best idea).

Yesterday Niamh took me around Dubai to show me how much the place has changed since I was last here almost 10 years ago. And boy has it. In that time several new Burj ("Towers") have filled the skyline and miles upon miles of apartment blocks have sprung up. Surprisingly the building is still going on, even in these recessionary times, and cranes are everywhere. That'll be the handy cheap labour!

We took a drive across the new Palm Island to see the huge hotels that have been built on it. Some nice, some a little gaudy-looking. The place was a little like a cross between the Algarve in Portugal and Las Vegas. Apparently the island's a potential death trap as there is only one road in and out along the "trunk of the Palm tree". Should anything happen to that road, or should the bridge collapse, a lot of people are going to be fairly screwed.

Bus tours (in the style of double-decker buses) now ply their trade around the city, although I find it rather amusing that all the "sights" are really just the hotels and amusment parks. Why people would want to endlessly take photos of hotels is a little beyond me.

At sunset we sat overlooking a man-made lake around the base of the Burj Khalifa (formerly called the Burj Dubai until it was "gifted" to the Abu Dhabi ruler who fronted most of the cash for it) where a beautiful fountain-light show takes place every 30 minutes to opera music.

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is actually quite a beautiful structure and at night, when I first arrived, it looked like something out of Mega City One in the Judge Dredd comics. The Arabian haze in the air also adds a certain mystique to the sight.

We ended the day yesterday eating Lebanese food. The food was lush and I crammed so many shawarmas, tabouleh, kifteh, olives, lamb kebab, hummus, etc, etc, etc to last me well into next year. I'm still stuffed now at 12pm the day after, and the whole meal only cost us 40 euro. As Floyd would say "Dayam".

It's been really cool hanging out with the gang, especially lil' Neema. Got some really nice shots that I'll try to stick up later today. I'm off to Delhi tonight on an overnight flight (*shudder*) so tomorrow will be my first experience of India (albeit a sleepy one).



As most of my time preparing for this trip (about a month) was spent buying supplies, coming up with an itinerary, booking flights, etc I haven't had much time to get too deep into studying Indian history and culture, but I hope to piece it together as I travel along and hopefully won't get my facts completely wrong. From what I've read, the history of India is fascinating, ranging from Hindu/Muslim wars in the north (the vestiges of which can still be felt even today in the tensions between India and Pakistan) to the vast kingdoms and maharaja principalities in the south, and of course the effects of the British Raj.

This is going to be an exciting 3 weeks... as long as I don't get Delhi Belly!

1 Comment for this Travel blog entry

mum Says:

15 March 2011

Peter, glad you stop off with Niamh.
that's a good Lebanese
rest in Dubai.
safe onwards travelling and be careful of that bhut pepper!! No, you weren't born with a wax lining!! I warned you about cramped seats on
etihad! Have fun and take ca

In Search of the World's Hottest Chili

Travel blog by peterforan

Sacred cow chillaxing

Sacred cow chillaxing

... and other misadventures. A whistle-stop tour of India to get a taste of the north, south, Andaman isles, and some of the hottest foods known to man including the nefarious Bhut Jolokia chili.

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