I spent one day in Bishkek after my extremely hot Marshrutka back from Almaty, wherein all of my chocolates and candies from Anzhelika melted into an undefined soupy mass. In Bishkek, I stayed in a neighborhood south of the city as Bakytbek was spending time at Issyk Kul with his family. It was nice to check out the new neighborhood, and I didn’t go downtown at all. As per usual, I managed to spend almost precisely what I had withdrawn, leaving 100 som extra for contingencies.
When I decided to buy a flight through Dubai with a ten hour layover, Brent asked “Why? Dubai sucks!” This question was correct, but I enjoyed it thoroughly all the same. I have found that mindset is extremely important for, well, life. In traveling, knowing what is available, what I want, and where the two coincide can temper expectations to an appropriate level. My relentless optimism in Kyrgyzstan worked wonders, and Anzhelika’s naivete opened many doors in Kazakhstan. Whenever friends ask me for tips on traveling in Japan, I tell them to not try and save money there. If you want that 1,000 yen ramen, get it. If you want that handicraft, buy it. Everything is beautiful and worth it, and that is why it is “expensive”. For Dubai, I knew it would be desert plus money, and tempered my expectations accordingly. I decided to go straight to the Dubai Mall and look at the building.
The building was sufficiently ridiculous. My camera was equally unable to comprehend the the absurd height in panorama mode. The mall was sufficiently ridiculous. Hong Kong themed mall Elements taken to ridiculous extents. I spent a very long time just wandering the various destinations. The Waterfall. The Ice Rink. The Dinosaur skeleton, because of course there’s a dinosaur skeleton in the mall. The Souk. The two food courts. I took regular opportunities to marvel at the building from the pleasantly air conditioned mall (nothing absurd like the overly air conditioned Thai malls).
I embraced the capitalism of Dubai and did buy. Right away I saw a Kinokuniya and new my fate was sealed. I bought more beautiful pens, origami paper, a book, and just barely held myself back from buying another Totoro. I bought Maaloks. I ate in the Food court and had a lovely exchange with the cashier at Loqmato, who very kindly offered to let me pay 1.5 dirhams less for my dessert so that I’d have exactly enough change to return to the airport by metro. As one of my favorite kinds of free tourism, I took the aboveground metro to the far end, 42km from the airport station, and back. The views weren’t terribly interesting, however, as the extreme humidity, sand, and high pollution limited visibility to around one kilometer. My drawings attracted interest as always, as I used the opportunity to draw other passengers.
On my return to the airport, I was greeted with a nasty surprise. Despite arriving 2.5 hours early, I scrambled just to make it in time to my gate. The bus from the airplane to the terminal had taken 20 minutes, so I took the hour before takeoff check-in time seriously. I got off the Metro in Terminal 3, where I had arrived, only to be told that I needed to get to Terminal 2. If flying through DXB, be aware that Terminal 2 is not connected to Terminals 1 or 3 (which are connected to each other), and that there is no direct public transport to Terminal 2, either. You must either take a taxi from Terminal 1 or 3 for the 8km ride, should you happen to have cash on you (which I did not). If not, you can purchase a metro ticket via card to Abu Heil and walk about fifteen minutes in extreme heat and hilariously high pollution, asking people along the way as the signage is poor. I was quite frantic at this point as I saw the airport in the distance (Terminal 3, apparently, from the other side, but I didn’t know that), and it looked to be at least a forty minute walk at speed. At this point it was only 70 minutes until departure. I began flagging cars down and amazingly everyone stopped. The first man apologized saying he was going elsewhere, the second truck driver also, and the beautifully dressed young man simply asked “What happened?” and listened compassionately as I poured out all the ridiculousness concerning the terminals – I had wasted time walking to the interterminal bus which it turns out only connects Terminal 1 and 3 – and he took me to the airport, just two minutes away by car after a sudden turn. I thanked him profusely.
In line with the consumerism of Dubai, also be aware that Terminal 2 has only very hot water in all of its bathroom taps and no water fountains, meaning you will have to purchase water.