After a 15-hour flight from Dallas, I had an 8-hour layover in Dubai, which included a hotel room that I used only for a quick shower and change of clothes- in order to afford me more time to tour Dubai. To make the most of it, I asked a cab to be my driver and take me from site to site for the next 4 hours. I hadn’t studied much beforehand, so I let him decide what to show me. My driver was from Pakistan and spoke just enough English to make a conversation possible–which I was very grateful for.
After the first couple of stops, I realized he was only taking me to the typical touristy places…we stopped at the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world), and the Dubai Mall (a place I came to appreciate later on the trip), and the self-invented “7-star” hotel, Burj Al Arab. Although incredibly impressive, I wasn’t inspired to take out my camera, like the rest of the tourists.
After snapping a few obligatory pics, I asked my driver to take me somewhere I could find more of the locals working, shopping, and hanging out. He knew the perfect place, although by then, I had only a couple of hours left before my continuing flight to India. We went to an old spice market, Dubai Gold Souk, off the Dubai Creek. It was exactly what I wanted to see. After walking through the market, I spent some time talking with a few locals working on their ships–old, wooden ships equipped with electronics like refrigerators & TV’s. I found most people to be very friendly–some even asking me to take their picture. The man pictured above insisted I take several shots of him puffing on his cigarette. In these brief moments, I felt farthest from home as I took in the completely different country and culture.
At this point, I allowed my driver to leave. I planned to walk around on my own and then grab a new cab just before I needed to be back at the airport. About half-mile out, I was confronted by a man from Iraq. He boldly pronounced to me that he was from Iraq and was waiting for some kind of adverse reaction–I wasn’t sure if he thought I should be excited, upset, or interested. But, I honestly had no reaction. After a few looks and exchanges, his curious disposition changed and he asked me to take this picture with his friends…an interesting moment for sure.
The images above display the stark contrast between the more urban, modern setting you find at the Mall of Dubai and the traditional, cultural experience near Dubai creek. Notice the Burj Khalifa and the skyline in the background of the boats. It seemed like Khalifa was visible from any point in Dubai.
On to India …
Not knowing if I’d ever make it back to India, I was committed to working hard and playing hard–to make sure that I really experienced the people and the culture. Because I was scheduled to work almost every day I was there, this meant I had to make sure my driver stopped at interesting places at night, en-route to the hotel after a day of work. Once I was dropped off back at the hotel, my driver was gone and it was nighttime … not a good combo.
Pictured above is a scene of a typical morning from the street surrounding my hotel…literally just outside of Leela Palace–where I stayed for the 10+ days. While walking the streets, I was frequently asked if I was lost and if I needed directions back to my hotel :)
Below are a few images from the back seat of my car. The driving–or being driven in India- was a completely new experience. The scenery felt surreal at times. I snapped at least a couple hundred pics from my iPhone.
Unlike the U.S., the driver always has the right-of-way over pedestrians–and there are a lot of pedestrians. It made crossing the busy streets nearly suicidal. Also, there are lanes but they are for decoration only. If you can progress by squeezing into a small space, you squeeze, regardless of any painted lines. Honking – everyone honks. It’s purpose is to communicate to other drivers that you are in the vicinity. In hind-site, I probably saw hundreds of near-accidents, but never any actual accidents. I guess that means their system works.
Baseball is to America as cricket is to India. It was always on TV, the radio, and being played in the streets and parks, both by children and adults. My driver pulled over near this park so we could watch the game- I might have even jumped in and played a little. :)
Riyaz, my driver, took this pic (click for link). I gave him a quick lesson on photography and he gave me a lesson on cricket. He rattled off about at least 15 shots while I took a turn at bat. In this one I’m actually in the frame–in focus, not so much.
Pictured below is the 85-year old Russel Market, plus the downtown Bangalore bus hub. I described this place on Facebook as “not Plano [Texas].” Walking these streets is when I never felt further from home–the sights, sounds, and smells were totally foreign. Recently, Russel Market was partially destroyed by fire–causing the streets to shut down for the first time in years. After touring it alone, I then brought a few of my local colleagues, who had never been, to “experience” Bangalore.
Over the weekend, I took a road trip down to Mysore – the old capital of Karnataka–primarily to visit the Mysore Palace and a few ancient Hindu temples. The 2-3 hour ride down was as interesting as the destination. Leaving Bangalore gave me an opportunity to see the village/farm life that probably hasn’t changed in centuries. I saw oxen-pulled wagons along the highway still bringing produce & supplies to the surrounding markets, sugar and silk farm lands harvested by hand, and women carrying plastic vases on their heads filled with water procured from a loose water pipe in the village center. We didn’t stop much en route, but drove slow enough to see the sights. Because of traffic, the less than 100 km drive took over 3 hours.
To wrap up my post, here are a few pictures from the business side of my trip … and to be honest, when I think about my time in India–I think of my hotel and my time at the office. Typically, I wouldn’t have pictures to share, but this day we pulled out our cameras (including phones) to capture a few moments of brainstorming our next mobile app idea. We ended with some great ideas …