Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Home for Christmas, NYE at Qasr al Sarab

We are leaving tonight to go home for Christmas. We booked our flights ages ago and decided to go with Qatar Airways to save money, but now I am regretting it. Its going to add a few hours to the overall journey, but hey ho (or should I say, hey ho ho ho), think of the money.

It's cold at home, but nowhere near as bad as last year when the snow came. So hopefully our traveling around will be ok. Home in Kent for Christmas, Boxing Day in Hemel with my family and then up to Coventry to stay at my daughters house overnight. Then to Irthlingborough to drop daughter number two off, then back to Kent. Also going to fit in dinner with one of my brothers and his wife who won't be around Christmas Day. So all in all, quite a bit of traveling to do.

The when we get back we will be spending NYE at Qasr al Sarab, an awesome desert resort, right in the Empty Quarter, or Rub' al Khali, near to the Saudi border. We have two nights there, including a Gala Dinner on NYE. Can't wait. Here's a few pictures of the resort...

 ... and here is where it is located (red place-marker) ...! Best make sure my camel is fit and watered !

Friday, December 16, 2011

Car Impounded (not)

I got a really strange call from my car lease company yesterday.

"Sir, do you have your car with you"

"err... yes"

"It's just the police have contacted us to say your car is impounded"

"Well, I can tell you I am looking at it right now and it is definitely not impounded"

"They say it was involved in a very high speed incident and then impounded. The impound period is now over and the vehicle must be collected. They have suspended our company trade license until it is collected"

"I think there is some mistake here."

"Sir, we will speak to them and get back to you"

A couple of hours later....

"Sir, we need to collect your car and take it to the police"

"umm... ok"

"They want to inspect the car"

"Would they not be better inspecting the car the have?"

"We have to take it sir."

So they duly took my car, gave me a replacement and since I have heard nothing.

Intriguing.. can't wait to hear the outcome!

Update: 18/12

Well they have now accepted that the car they have in their pound is not mine (good work Sherlock!) and have released the lease company's trade licence. What a complete waste of everyone's time! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shooting at Al Forsan

We went with a couple of friends to the Al Forsan International Sports Resort. The resort is awesome. It has shooting, wake boarding, karting, paint balling, equestrian sports, off roading, plus a pool and leisure club.

We were invited to go shooting, something we had done before at The Caracal Shooting Club and enjoyed it, so we thought we would go -and I was interested to see how Al Forsan had developed since I visited it while under construction.

There were more lanes at the club than Caracal, but I don't think the quality of the instruction was as good. 

There is a better choice of weapons here - I chose the .38 Smith & Wesson - for that authentic Cowboy and Indians feel!

Not a bad result I guess - especially pleased with the bullseye! 

Next time though I think I am having one of these! Telescopic, laser sight - yes! Always wanted to strike that crawling Action Man pose!

This weekend there is a World Championship Wakeboarding event going on, which looked pretty cool.

The karting track looks like it needs a go too!

There was some camel racing going on, on the TV inside. It shows the camels with the robot riders. When we went they had real jockeys, this was fun to watch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Abu Dhabi Big Band at The Westin

Last night the ADBB played at the opening of The Westin Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The hotel is located at The Abu Dhabi Golf Club. They provided the band with a "Green Room" which happened to be The Presidential Suite. I took a few piccies on my phone which by no means does it justice, but it was quite stunning. I think I'll book it for a weekend break :-)

Hallway that seemed to go on forever

Bathroom (one of them)

Private cinema (sorry about the guy changing!)

One of the lounges (with golf course views)

 Another lounge

Walk in wardrobe 

Outdoor space (one of them)

Another outdoor space

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Photos from Delhi

Here's an album of my photos from Delhi. I'm afraid I haven't had time to label them yet...

Trip to Delhi

Sairee Beach

I've just started to go through my pictures from our recent trip to Thailand. Here's a couple I took watching the sun go down on Sairee Beach, Koh Toa.

Friday, December 2, 2011

UAE National Day

Today the UAE celebrates 40 years of the union of 7 emirates into The United Arab Emirates. It is a hugely significant day for the Nationals and long term residents of the UAE. The progress made in 40 years is astounding - funded by the discovery of oil in the late '60s/ early '70s.

Much has changed, but many things have been cautiously maintain - and rightly so. They are passionately proud of their heritage and history.

I hope they follow their plan and spend money wisely to support the population well for the days when oil is no more, which inevitably will come.

Here's to the next 40 years!

Mabrook UAE!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Watch where you point your camera

Visitor 'took pictures of armed forces headquarters'

Haneen Dajani

Nov 29, 2011 ABU DHABI // A visitor who claimed he was only taking pictures of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque appeared at the State Security Court yesterday accused of illegally photographing a public building.
The man, who was not identified in court, denied taking photographs of the nearby Armed Forces General Headquarters, claiming: "I was taking photos of the mosque."
His lawyer asked to postpone the hearing to prepare his defence. The case was adjourned until Monday.
The man's case comes during a year when there has been three similar cases.
A Korean architect was recently charged with photographing the Iranian and Syrian embassies, which he said was done for architectural purposes, as his company was building the new Korean embassy in the capital.
In February, an Iranian tourist was charged with taking photographs of the Presidential Palace in Ras Al Akhdar, near the Corniche. The man told the court he took photos of the palace out of "admiration of the structure of the building" and that he did not have any "bad intentions".
A week later, two Bangladeshi men stood in the same court accused of taking photos of the Yas Marina Circuit.

Now, I'm not going to exactly identify where the GHQ Armed Forces HQ building is (for fear of getting in trouble myself!) - but all I will say is that it would be pretty easy to have it in the same photo as the Grand Mosque if taken from certain angles. I doubt a lot of people even know what the building is and give no second thought to it being in their picture. The building is even right next door to a new high class hotel being built, where I am sure from certain bedrooms you could pretty much look right into the building! I often wonder how they authorised the construction of a hotel so close to the GHQ building. Do they value tourists more than their national security? The area is much more of a "touristy" area now, so it would probably make sense to think about moving the GHQ to a quieter, more secure area. 
Having said that, I did some work with the UK Ministry of Defense in their Main Building in Whitehall, which is right on the embankment in London - however, you wouldn't get arrested for photographing it, well I didn't anyway! 

Lady Gaga in Delhi

There will still be more to come from my recent trip to Delhi for the F1, but here's just a few more.

We were out one evening and had gone to visit one of the local tourist markets (Dilli Haat). It was a nice market with a good atmosphere and not too crowded.

We bought some really nice things (leather goods, shirts, ornaments etc) and then went to get something to eat from one of the food stalls. Having looked at all the food outlets we selected the one we thought looked the cleanest!

I had a really lovely curry, roti and the trimmings!

After dinner we walked around a bit more. Then I saw a bit of a kerfuffle and a lot of very excited locals. I heard someone say "I think she is a film star or something", so getting me intrigued, I asked someone else who it was. They told me it was Lady Gaga! She was in Delhi to perform at a venue after the F1 and had decided to do a bit of shopping herself. I managed to get within about 6 feet of her I guess, without upsetting her 8 foot gorillas who were guarding her! So I took some snaps, but unfortunately (some may not think so) most of them are from behind. I was most impressed with her Louboutin heels - nice!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Superb video of the Emirates

I would highly recommend a look at the video linked below. It has been beautifully crafted with some fantastic views of the country. The website has more behind the scenes pictures and info on the production.

Emirates Winter

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sign of the Thais

I thought I would share some of the interesting signs from our recent trip to Thailand....

Home from home (UK)

Not a tasty prospect

'nuff said !


Obviously a serious problem in Thailand!

Looks safe to me!

Caroline's nurse in hospital (not from SuperPussy)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ridiculous news story of the week - so far!

Censors' claws out for film

The animated film ‘Cat in Boots’ launching in cinemas has its title changed from ‘Puss in Boots’ by local regulators

The animated film ‘Cat in Boots’ launching in UAE cinemas tomorrow has had its title changed from the original ‘Puss in Boots’ by local regulators because of religious and cultural concerns, according to a movie industry insider.
The original title of the comic adventure film, a spin-off from the Shrek series, was taken from a popular children’s story.
However, residents who have watched trailers of the film and are familiar with the title ‘Puss in Boots’ were puzzled after seeing posters advertising the movie under the new title. “There were serious concerns about the title. They felt that it would not be in good taste to a section of the public who might find it offensive owing to their religious and cultural orientations,” an industry source told 7DAYS.
The word ‘puss’ can be used as western slang with sexual connotations. The film is being distributed in the UAE by Gulf Films, a leading film distribution comp­any in the Middle East. An official at Gulf Films said the firm received instructions from the production company Dreamworks Animations, to change the title of the movie to conform to the religious and cultural sensitivities of the region, but none of its content has changed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hospital stay needed in Bangkok

I will post info about the rest of our holiday in Thailand later, but for now I will start at the end. On our last day in Thailand yesterday we went shopping again at the MBK shopping centre to buy Christmas pressies for our kids. As the afternoon wore on Caz got increasingly worse pain in her abdomen. She thought it was just indigestion, but by the time we got back to our hotel (Ariyasomvilla Hotel) she was crippled over in pain.

The staff at the hotel were excellent and responded quickly. David, the Hotel MD took us in his car to the Bumrangrad Hospital which was just round the corner. The hospital is large, very modern and seems well run. Incidentally, Bumrangrad will be operating the new Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi when it is built.

They did tests and scans and concluded that Caz had multiple gall stones and an inflamed, blocked gall bladder. Within a couple of hours she was in surgery having her gall bladder removed. She will be in the hospital for a couple of days and then she will need a couple more days before we can fly home.

We had only been saying yesterday morning that we felt like we didn't want to go home yet and would like to stay longer, but this was not what we had in mind!

She must be feeling a bit better today as she is already telling the nurses what to do with her drip and insisting that she is going downstairs for a fag! That's the Caz I know :-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Delhi Grand Prix Reality - A Fan's View

Much has been written about the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in India that took place this weekend just gone. I attended the race on the Saturday and Sunday, but I am afraid I came away with a view which seems to differ strikingly from what I have been reading, which made me wonder if I did, in fact, attend the same GP!

I have read that the drivers thought the circuit, and track in particular, was great. This I can believe. The track had a good mix of fast corners and long straights which make for good driving. The only complaint was the amount of dust on the track, which made life difficult if they strayed off the racing line, but that in itself is not a major issue. Oh, and a few stay dogs on the track during practice made for some additional interest!

Below is one column from the Times of India which was typical of the local reporting.....

I saw lots of Twitter posts from Indian nationals who also seemed to think it was a fantastically well executed first GP. I wonder if it is because it is so far removed from the day to day life that Indians experience that this was indeed, for them, a brilliantly organized event - "flawlessly executed".
From my point of view, as a fan that has been to other GP venues, I found the event lacking in many ways. 

Getting to the venue wasn't too bad, if you are ok with the general lawlessness of the Indian driving style which is anarchic to put it mildly. We took a car to the park and ride parking, which was about half an hour away from the circuit. We decided not to wait for the bus to fill, but instead took a tuc-tuc. Others took whatever travel mode they could!

Once inside the circuit the first thing that struck me was the lack of any architectural value in the main grandstand structures. They were basically huge concrete slabs and a curvy roof. But nothing inspiring or daring. The general workmanship of the construction was also not up to much. Frankly I thought the whole place looked like it was 10 years old already. 

Apart from the main grandstand, all the other stands were just scaffolding structures that appeared like they were temporary. There was no paving around them, so with thousands of people walking about them over the weekend, you just got consumed by dust, that in addition to the smog that engulfed the place at all times in all parts of Delhi.

At other circuits I have been to you can walk to the central "village", but here you had to catch a bus that circled the place. The buses looked like they were 40 years old and the number of them was woefully inadequate. Consequently, they got overcrowded and made for a very unpleasant journey.

Leaving the place after the race was the worst experience of the whole weekend. Firstly, we had to board one of the "circular" buses to get the the place where the buses for the park and ride were leaving. There were scenes of utter chaos as people clamoured to get into the inadequate number of buses. Then once in a park and ride bus we sat in a queue of buses and waited. And waited. And waited!

It took us 2 hours to eventually exit the circuit. Another hour to get to the park and ride. And about another hour and a half to get back to our hotel. By then we had just about had enough!

For Indians, it was a very proud moment. To be seen to be "up there" on the International stage hosting a global sporting event. However, if they want to be on the International stage, they have to provide an experience that rivals their International peers. For me, as a spectator, they failed to achieve this. It left me never wanting to return. Which is a shame, it could have been so different. I have heard it said "it was only the first time - it will improve" and "for their first time, they did a great job". No. Abu Dhabi did a great job first time - and I did go back the next year - and would have gone back this year if I hadn't doubled booked our holiday to Thailand! Others said "yes, but Abu Dhabi have loads of money". Well, there is no shortage of money slushing around India these days, so I don't think that is any excuse.

"India has ways of doing things right" ?? Vettel, are you sure?

For their sake, I hope it does improve and become an event that stands up against any GP in the world. But I am afraid I won't be there to see it. I have definitely "been there, done that".

I will do another post on other aspects of the trip to Delhi. But for now - one highlight. I did get to see Lady Gaga at one of the Delhi markets! Gotta love those shoes.....!