After a pretty good first night’s sleep I had a scheduled day of rest before the workshop I was teaching started. I decided to keep it pretty low key and save any real touristy things until the day after my workshop. However, I realized that they probably played ultimate frisbee in Dubai. Sure enough, after a bit of digging I found a pickup game of ultimate frisbee on the beach. Perfect right? I wanted to see the beach anyway and so why not go play some beach ultimate, meet some new people, and experience the Dubai beach.
Turns out, it was the perfect decision. I took an Uber to the beach which worked quite smooth on the hotel wifi. Sadly, my international plan on Verizon didn’t do anything for me. It was just a waste of money even though they said I’d be fine in Dubai. The Uber was really smooth though. The guy arrived really quickly and I made it to the beach in great time. I was lucky we didn’t have traffic, because some other days I was on the metro and the traffic was awful. I guess I chose the right time and direction.
The beach in Dubai was awesome. It did remind me a lot of Waikiki in Hawaii. The beach was this nice white sand and the backdrop was this concrete jungle of hotels and stores. The ultimate on the beach was fun, but I forgot that it would be blazing hot and that I’d need a few gallons of water to really enjoy it. Luckily, the other players were really nice and shared their water with me.
We played until the sun went down and got to enjoy a great sunset. There were also fun things like a camel that was giving rides to people on the beach.
Right before the sun totally set, we decided to take a little swim. I thought it would be nice to cool off in the water. Boy was I wrong. The water felt like warm bath water. Pretty amazing that it stays so warm. I was told to also watch out for jelly fish. I guess they have a bunch of them. I was glad I didn’t meet any of them. The shocking thing was how cold you felt when you got out of the water.
After disc, my new frisbee friends who came from all over the world asked if anyone wanted to go for drinks or juice. I didn’t have anything to do, so I was game for doing something. As a mormon it was pretty nice to be offered juice. I guess the Muslim influence is strong there that they’d offer a non-alcoholic option after frisbee. Plus, the juice place sold some triple layered, chocolate, caramel, and I’m not sure what else cake. I bought it and shared it with the group. I loved their observation that the American desserts are always so indulgent. Yes they are! Pretty fun to make some new friends from Germany, Canada, Russia and the Philippines in Dubai.
After my long plane ride to Dubai, I was told I could easily take the Metro from the airport to my hotel. I used the free wifi in the airport to see if that was true and to make sure I knew where I knew where I was going. By the way, I’ve found that Google Maps has done a really good job with metros/subways these days. I checked out the map and it definitely looked easy. So, I decided to be brave and try the metro to my hotel.
Before hitting the metro, I had to pass through immigration which was actually quite easy. I’m also now registered for quick entry into Dubai. Next time I go (in August) I’ll be able to just scan my passport and not have to wait in line at all. That will be nice. Although, I think I’ll have Kristine, so I’ll probably have to wait for her. I’m told the lines at immigration in Dubai can be hit or miss on how long you wait. It was pretty fast for me.
Luckily I was able to go with all checked luggage so I followed the signs to the metro. There was a nice information booth where I could buy a ticket and ask which metro I needed to take. Of course, I learned that they didn’t take American Express and so I had to use my Visa debit card which I think charged me an international fee. Lesson learned. There were a bunch of places that didn’t take American Express. I should have known that Visa is everywhere you want to be.
The metro was about the easiest metro I’ve ever done and I’ve done them in NYC, Chicago and all over Italy. All the signs were in Arabic and English, so there were no issues with reading any of the signs. It was super simple and I felt really safe. Here’s a picture of the Dubai metro station from my hotel room:
The trip on the metro to my hotel and once I was in my hotel, I would have thought I was in any big city in the US like Chicago or New York. There were a lot of really big buildings and the hotel was just like any hotel you’d find anywhere else as far as amenities. Luckily, it was a nice hotel and it only cost me like $50 a night. Of course, I was there in the hot season they tell me. Here’s some pictures from my hotel room and the street in front of my hotel:
Speaking of which, it was definitely hot. After getting to my hotel I went searching for food at about 10 PM and it was still really hot. On the edge of sweating hot at 10 PM. Pretty crazy. You’d think I’d be use to it in Las Vegas, but even Vegas doesn’t get that hot.
I walked up and down the main street in front of my hotel searching for food. There was a wide variety of food and I’m a picky eater. So, I thought I wouldn’t tempt fate that first night and I just wanted to get something quick before I went to bed. I finally chose to get some pasta and breadsticks from Pizza Hut. I figured that would be safe.
Boy was I wrong. The pasta was awful and the breadsticks were almost ok, but there was just something that wasn’t quite right. I was disappointed, but the breadsticks got me through the night.
The funny story about Pizza Hut though was that I texted the Crash Wife that the Pizza Hut had like a 24 page menu. I didn’t note that it had about 3 items on each page, but the menu was thick. I guess she told Crash Kid #1 about it and so now when anyone asks me about Dubai and he’s around he quickly informs them that the Pizza Hut had a 24 page menu. It’s always funny to see what kids glob onto.
That was night one in Dubai. I honestly felt like I could have been in any big city. I thought it would be much different, but I found that it felt almost the same. That was a surprise for me.
Next up is what I call Dubai Honolulu and Dubai Las Vegas.
As I mentioned, I was blessed to be able to travel to Dubai to teach a 3 day workshop on Electronic Health Record (EHR). Over the next week or so, I’m going to try and document the adventure for those following along at home. Plus, hopefully I can provide some advice for those who plan to travel to Dubai in the future.
Today I’m going to start off talking about my experience flying on Emirates. I was actually lucky to fly to LA on Virgin before switching to Emirates to go from LA to Dubai. I’ve always been a big fan of Virgin and they still did not disappoint. From the safety video chock full of dancers from So You Think You Can Dance (Premiere of SYTYCD is today!) to the ambiance of the plane including the live TV, it’s a great flight experience. I could see why Emirates would partner with them and Jetblue for their connecting flights.
I was super cautious and chose to fly into LAX on the early Virgin flight and so I had a 6-7 hour layover in LAX before my flight to Dubai. I should have just taken the flight that got in 3 hours early and risked missing the flight because of some delay. Turns out that LAX’s international terminal ticketing area is an awful place to wait 6 hours. The only redeeming quality was that the wifi worked well. Inside the LAX international terminal was awesome, but Emirates ticketing area didn’t open until 3 hours before the flight. That means I was stuck hanging out with hundreds of others in the ticketing area until Emirates opened up and I could get my boarding pass. Needless to say, there’s nothing fun about waiting in an airport. At least not for me.
Once I got through security I was greeted by this amazing video show on the wall of the LAX international terminal. It was the crazy vaudeville style performance projected on the wall like it was a skyscraper. I would have taken a picture or video, but I had to go and catch my flight. Plus, I needed to eat before the flight (since there was no food in the LAX international ticketing area).
While waiting for my flight to board, this massively annoying security alarm kept going off. It was so loud, I was talking to the Crash Wife on the phone and a few times I had to tell her to repeat, because I couldn’t think with the buzzer being so loud and annoying. Plus, what’s the one place you don’t want to hear an alarm go off? The airport! I saw a security guy show up and start looking around to see what set off the alarm. As you can imagine, it wasn’t comforting to hear the security alarm going off right before you board a plane.
I learned from my avgeek brother that I was flying on an Emirates Airbus A380-800. For those of us that aren’t avgeeks, it was a massive airplane with multiple floors. Thankfully I had a window seat so I could lean against the wall and sleep and had a little extra room on the side. Although, the Airbus A 380 is so massive that the wall is actually pretty far away and not ideal for leaning against so you can sleep (at least not for me). (Side Note: I still want to invent something that lets you comfortably sleep on an airplane. I think it’s probably something leaning over, but not so far that you’re uncomfortable like when you lay on the tray).
As I mentioned, I loved the cool Emirates flight attendant outfits that added to the whole experience. I’m sure they are annoying for the flight attendants, but it definitely leaves an impression. Each seat also had a pillow, blanket, and a small care package that included a mask, toothbrush and little towel. Plus, to start the flight they came around with a warm towel. I wasn’t quite sure why I’d want a warm towel at the start of the flight, but I figured I’d do like the locals were doing and wipe my face down with the warm towel. Maybe my neighbors on the flight appreciated me doing it.
A 16 hour flight can never be considered a good thing, but Emirates did it as well as you can do. Their in flight video, music, news, etc options (they call it ICE) were really quite good. I wish they had live TV, but I know they’re working on that. I think I watched at least 7-8 movies over both flights. Good thing I had a lot of movies I wanted to catch up on. I created a nice playlist of music and once or twice almost started singing and dancing along. I’m sure my fellow passengers appreciated my restraint.
I did try the in flight wifi on Emirates. It was what you’d expect on a crowded flight. They give you 10 MB of free internet and then it’s only $1 for 500 MB of internet. I splurged on the $1 internet each time. I tried my laptop and wasn’t that successful. Of course, I realized later that when you’re traveling over the North Pole there’s a satellite dead spot since the satellites orbit around the earth near the equator (thank you physics). So, I might have been trying during the dead times. Either way, my phone worked pretty well with the wifi. I could text Crash Wife (although, she was asleep for most of the flight) and get and reply to email. It makes some sense that the mobile device which uses less data would work better.
As part of Emirates in flight offering they have some cameras mounted on the plane so you can see what’s happening outside as you take off, land, or even watch below you. For much of the flight all you see is sky and clouds, but for take off and landing it’s pretty cool to see. Plus, it was cool to see outside since when I opened my window all I saw was this massive wing. I literally couldn’t see anything but wing because the wings are so big. Here’s a look at the in flight tracking and outside cameras in action including a cool picture of what it looked like landing in Dubai.
The last picture above shows our flight path to Dubai. It was a bit of a surprise to me that we didn’t fly around the world, over the US and Europe. Instead we went North over Canada, the North Pole, then Russia and then down to Dubai.
I guess I should comment on the food on the flight. Emirates still offers full meals. I guess they kind of have to feed you on a 16 hour flight. People raved about the quality of the Emirates food. I wasn’t surprised when the food was high quality airline food, but airline food nonetheless. For me as a picky eater, that meant I could force down about half of the food. Next time I’ll be bringing more snacks along with me. At least the rolls were always good. Plus, on the way back they gave us these little margherita pizzas that weren’t bad either. They did well considering they have to feed a few hundred people in a small space at 30-40k feet.
There was almost a revolt by some passengers by me when the flight attendant didn’t have vegetarian meals which they’d “specifically requested months before.” I couldn’t help but laugh at how angry they were at this awful situation. Considering it was airline food, maybe it was better that they didn’t get the food. Although, they eventually found the vegetarian meals somewhere.
I was surprised how many kids were on the flight as well. My sympathy to all those parents. Although, the kids weren’t a major issue for me. Maybe there just weren’t any around me. It was pretty nice in the Dubai Emirates terminal, they had all these kiosks with free strollers that families could use to get around the airport.
All in all, I was quite happy with the service on Emirates. It definitely is one of and possibly the best airline I’ve been on (and I’ve been on most). It’s still an airline and still a 16 hour flight, but I can only imagine how much worse the flight would have been if I was stuck on some other airline.
I’ll be heading back (with the Crash Wife I think) in August to do the same workshop again. You can be sure I’ll be booking on Emirates. This time they offered a chance to upgrade to business class for $1000. Business class has lay down seats, so I have to say that it was pretty tempting. It’s probably better that I don’t experience business class on Emirates. If I do it once, I probably won’t be able to stand going back to economy class. Better to not know what I’m missing.
I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve always wanted to travel to Dubai. I’ve heard so many amazing things about it and seen so many of the amazing things they’ve done that I’ve always wanted to see it with mine own eyes. I think I’ve probably also been heavily influenced by Amazing Race which has been there over and over throughout the years.
A few months ago I was offered the opportunity to teach a 3 day workshop on Electronic Health Records (EHR) in Dubai. I was absolutely torn on the idea. First, 3 days is a long time for any training of any kind. Did I really want to teach an EHR course that lasted 3 days? Second, it’s a long way to go to Dubai. The long way would be great if I was taking Crash Wife with me. Then, I’d have my best friend with me to share in the experience. Logistically, I just knew there was no way she was going to be able to go with me (at least this time).
I finally decided that if they’d pay me the right amount, I had to take the opportunity and go to Dubai. I also checked out the outline of the program and I realized that I really did have enough things to talk about for 3 days. I guess I should since I’ve been blogging about EHR for 10 years and published about 8000 articles on the subject. I think that fits Dubner (Freakonomics) description of an expert is someone whose spent 10,000 hours on a subject.
I’m literally waiting in the international terminal at LAX. In 30 minutes I’ll be boarding an Emirates flight to Dubai. It’s a 15 hour and 50 minute flight for those keeping track at home. This morning I took the short hour-ish flight from Las Vegas to LAX on the beautiful Virgin America airlines. The big downside is I’ve been spending all day at LAX waiting for the connecting flight. At least I had internet to keep me entertained so I could work.
Waiting at the LAX international terminal was a lot of fun. Every few minutes you get a group of flight attendants from around the world passing by. For example, the Emirates flight attendants (pictured below) just walked by:
Don’t you love the uniqueness of the world? I’m really interested to see how my flight is on Emirates. I’m told they could be the best (or at least one of the best) airlines in the world. Even my aviation loving Crash Brother said so. Although, can you ever define a 16 hour flight as good? We’ll see.
I asked how much it would cost to upgrade to business class or first class. They said that business class was usually $3-5k more and that first class was more than it. I think I might have to include that upgrade in my next trip (and yes, they already want me to do it again in August). A lay down bed on a 16 hour flight would be really nice.
I’ll be in Dubai for 5 days (1 day of traveling on each side). 1 day for rest and to adjust to the time change. 3 days doing my workshop. 1 day to check out Dubai. I have a feeling that’s not going to be enough time. We’ll see if it gives me a taste and makes me want to come back over and over or if I get the taste and feel like it’s enough.
I’ll do what I can to document the adventure. Sometimes dreams come true. I guess that’s the case for me today. Although, for some reason my dream didn’t include the 24 hour trip there and 20 hour trip back. I guess that’s the problem with dreams.