Day 516: The Burj Is The Word

31.05.10: UAE: Damien kicked me awake at the marvellous hour of 6:30am (5:30am in my still-in-Kuwait time zone) and after stuffing my stuff in my bag I headed out into the big dirty world.  Damien dropped me at the swanky new metro station (looks like a big silvery sand worm from Dune) and we said our fond farewells (although there’s a good chance I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks – I honestly don’t know what is going to happen next, but I’ll explain more tomorrow. My mission for today?  Ascend the Burj Khalifa (nee Dubai) – at 828 metres high by FAR the tallest building in the world.  I was told that tickets had to be booked in advance and that if you turned up on the day they would want £100 off you.  I got there at 8am (the eager beaver that…

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Record Breakers United!

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of meeting the legend that is Mr. Kashi Samaddar – the current Guinness World Record™ holder for visiting every country of planet Earth in the least amount of time. Top bloke!! What makes Kashi’s record even more impressive is that he did it all on an Indian passport – meaning that for some countries he would be faced with the nightmare of having his visa rejected for some lame reason and then having to wait SIX MONTHS before being allowed to even apply for a visa again! Kashi treated me to an amazing seafood feast at the Far East Restaurant in Dubai and we chatted for a good few hours about our various adventures… you think I’m mad – he’s gone places where angels would fear to tread. I asked him the questions I always get asked – favourite…

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Day 515: Encounter at Farpoint

30.05.10: UAE: The big task of the day was getting my bumper to bumper passport back to the UK so I can get a new one – if you’re keeping up, it’ll be my fourth. Mission accomplished (thank you DHL, you’re THIS much better than British Airways) I arranged to meet up with a certain Mr. Kashi Samaddar. Yep, the bloke whose Guinness World Record™ I’m attempting to beat. It took him six and a half years to visit every country in the world. Me? I’m up to country 158 out of 200 and it’s only been 17 months. (Although I am STILL firmly convinced it could be done in a year… if only I had a yacht…!) Oh yeah, and I’m not flying…! Sometimes I fail to see how monumental the task I’ve set myself really is – I mean, what other world record can…

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Day 514: Cyclic Redundancy Check

29.05.10: UAE: I arrived in Dubai at precisely three hours later than the bus company promised, but that just meant three hours more kip… which is never to be sniffed at. Dubai is pretty hot, especially when you have a backpack and a leather jacket tied around your waist – I was just asking for trouble… I frantically texted Damien, Helen Power’s mate in Dubai who had generously offered his couch for me to sully for a couple of days. Incidentally, I am thoroughly convinced that Helen should change the name of her house to Greyskull, for reasons to obvious to document here. Damien (I would find out later) was nursing the mother of all hangovers and therefore in no fit state to text back, so I spotted a nearby Subway and thought sod it and sat there for a couple of hours finally polishing off…

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Day 513: Curse of the Black Pearl

28.05.10: So with a day to kill, Tracy and I headed out to the museum of Islamic Art. As I’ve mentioned before, with a pretty much outright ban in place over depicting any living thing in a picture or a statue, Islamic art is concentrated around two disciplines – calligraphy and complex geometric shapes. When these two disciplines come together to create something as spellbinding and complex as the Taj Mahal, it truly is a joy to behold. What was particularly cool about the museum (certainly not the architecture I have to say, typical boring brutalist crap by I.M. Not-Very-Good-At-This-Am-I?) was the Pearl exhibition that was on. Before they found oil in the 1930s, the Gulf states paid their way through the pearl trade. A trade that had pretty much dried up over the preceding decades as cultured pearls for Japan had begun to dominate the…

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Day 512: There’s Always An Irish Pub…

27.05.11: As if Qatar hadn’t done enough to upset me, today it well and truly rained on my parade.  I was planning to meet up with friends I had met in Kuwait tomorrow in Dubai, and when I rang the SAPTCO bus office they told me that the bus left at 6pm. Good stuff!  I packed up my things and headed into Doha city centre, there to meet Tracy who I should have been CouchSurfing with last night.  We grabbed some lunch in a Thai restaurant and nattered about living in Qatar.  Originally from Vancouver in Canada, Tracy’s been here for two years.  It seems that Qatar suffers from many of the same problems as Kuwait – spoilt, lazy rich kids, dangerous drivers and an almost unbelievably stratified society. But, you know, in the greater scheme of things these are minor quibbles.  The governments here really…

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Day 511: Qatar On A Hot Tin Roof

26.05.10: Urgh me drinkie too muchie.  I’ve seriously put on a stone in the last six weeks, what with all my Dominos pizzas and KFC.  I need to get moving and get grooving before I turn into a big fat Jabba slug.  I found out that the bus for Qatar (only 40km across the sea from the island of Bahrain) would be leaving from Dammam in Saudi at 5pm.  As the next bus to Dammam was leaving at 3pm, this was going to make things awkward – Dammam is only an hour away, but it’s a bit of a risk as if the Saudi border guys wanted to make the bus wait, there wasn’t a lot I could have done about it – I could very well miss the bus to Qatar.  I therefore elected to take a taxi (at great expense – fifty quid’s worth…

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Day 510: Singin’ In The Bahrain

25.05.10: Oh yes, I’m back ON THE ROAD!  After saying my final farewell to the delectable Kassie I bundled myself on the 9am bus to Bahrain via Dammam in Saudi Arabia.  Panicking over all the horror stories I’ve been told about Saudi customs, I wiped all the TV shows and Hollywood movies off my hard drives (lest they contain kisses, witchcraft or a picture of a cross) and made sure I didn’t have a single used videotape on me (remembering Iran and Congo). In the event, they didn’t even open my bag.  Hilarious. I had my photo taken and my fingerprints scanned and that was it.  Easy as pie.  I arrived in the wholly unremarkable town of Dammam in the early afternoon and it wasn’t long before I was excitedly crossing the MASSIVE causeway to Nation 156, Bahrain – the Las Vegas of the Middle East.…

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Day 509: The Last Lost

24.05.10: I could tell you I got up bright and early and rang the bus company only to discover that there was no bus to Bahrain today (there wasn’t), but to be honest, even if there had of been a bus, I would have missed it on purpose.  I had bigger fish to fry.  A fish called Lost. Last January, Mandy and I made a pact to watch the last episode of Lost together, just like we watched the first episode together back in January 2005.  She was planning to fly out to meet me in India or China or wherever I was.  Well my enforced sojourn in Kuwait threw that idea out of the window.  Plus there’s the fact that we haven’t got enough money left to fly Mandy to Bali, never mind Bahrain.  So we did what we always do and muddled through –…

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Day 508: Deliverance

23.05.10: Tracking numbers are so cool.  I got to watch online as my passport arrived in Bahrain yesterday and then arrived here just after 8am today.  The DHL guys even called me and explained where I had to go to pick up my maroon booklet of doom.  As always, Andrea was on hand to help me out.  She picked me up and we grabbed the passport.  I checked it over and all was good. I had my ticket to ride. After picking Eric up from work, we headed into town to visit Andrea’s mate who fed us the yummiest sausage salad (chicken sausage of course, but whatchagonnado?) before Eric and I braved the bus station to find out times of buses to Bahrain.  Oh dear.  You would think that given all it’s immense riches Kuwait could afford a bus station that wouldn’t have looked fitting in…

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