Friday, January 08, 2016

A Guide to Watching Fireworks in Dubai.

Hello everyone! So first up, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Yeah, I know this isn't very timely of me. I'm sorry. But you see, I was in Dubai bu...

Hello everyone!

So first up, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Yeah, I know this isn't very timely of me. I'm sorry. But you see, I was in Dubai busy doing Dubai-ish things. Like skiing of course.
And drinking Coke Light.
And you know, acting baller and fly.
Yes that's right. Anyway, a while back, Ang Moh James and I were wondering what we should do to celebrate the new year when he got the wonderful idea of going to Dubai to watch the fireworks. He then proceeded to show me this video of the 2015 fireworks. They are, AMAZING.

And the fireworks to ring in 2016 were supposedly going to be Dubai's most extravagant display yet. And you know, when Dubai wants to do something, it goes all out. As James put it, "Dubai is not known for its subtlety." And he's right.

I mean the place has the Dubai Mall which is over 13 million square feet, has a total internal floor area of 5.9 million square feet (55 ha) and leasable space of 3.77 million square feet (35 ha).

Or as I like to put it, TL;DR - the Dubai Mall is as big as my heart.
The Dubai Mall, Photo by Me.

Dubai is also home to the world's tallest building,
The Burj Khalifa, Photo by Me. 

And also the world's tallest hotel, which James termed as "the evil looking building".
The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Photo by Me. 
And no, sadly, the JW in JW Marriot does not stand for "Jacqueline Wong".

Yeah not very subtle at all. Why, the previous time Dubai decided to take the record for the World's largest fireworks display from Kuwait in 2014, Guinness World Records, said:
"Dubai's attempt [had] enough fireworks launched within the first minute of the display alone to surpass the previous record."
(Via Imgur).

Yeah. These people mean business. Anyway, I bet you guys know that going overseas to celebrate the new year is already hassle enough. So can you imagine the trouble you have to go through if you want to catch the largest firework new year display in the world?
(Via Giphy).

I thought not. Well, but that's okay. Because Jac and James went to Dubai to catch the fireworks and can tell you all the possible things that can go wrong and how to circumvent these obstacles. So here's how we did it...

#1 Morning recce.

So we woke up really early in the morning to go for a morning recce of the Burj Khalifa area. I say this like it was planned. But really it's because Dubai is 4 hours behind Singapore and we woke up waaay too early. But you know, this is how you get to see the Burj at sunrise.
So we walked around the Burj for a bit and it was great because the streets were empty and we could do whatever we wanted to. But you know, as we are quite loser all we did was to continue walking around and comment about how empty Dubai was in the morning.
"How many workers does it take to fix a street sign in Dubai?"

#2 Waste the rest of the day away.

As the fireworks only come on at, well, midnight, you need to find something to occupy yourself with during the time after your recce and before the main event. No ideas? Here are some suggestions on how you can waste about 15 hours in Dubai.

Walk around.

Take selfies.


Act touristy.

You know, the usual. I guess you can also choose to go back to your hotel room to take a nap, but that's not a very cool thing to do when you're on holiday.
(Via Buzzfeed).

#3 Hunt for alcohol.

So Dubai has its fair shares of bars and clubs where alcohol is easily available.
But well, not on New Year's Eve. If you want to get liquored up on New Year's Eve, it'll be a good idea to make reservations at the bar you want to go to, and be prepared to pay upfront and also through your nose. Don't believe me? Take a look at this like, rather normal looking restaurant.

And here are it's prices for New Year's Eve:

The exchange rate is about 1 AED = SGD $0.40. So you know, the cheapest package aka the first seating which doesn't include alcohol, come up to be about SGD $200 per pax. And this is for a restaurant which labels itself as a "Neighbourhood Eatery" mind you. You don't want to know what the entry for the more expensive restaurants are.
(Via Giphy).

#4 Try to find a Spot.

You think you found a perfect spot during your morning recce, WELL. Think again. While the streets were quiet, pleasant and empty in the morning, it's a very different situation at 6 in the evening. Yes. 6pm. People start camping in the afternoon and by 6 pm, the place is crawling with...just too many people.

#5 Back up Plan.

So unless you are barking mad, you would choose not to camp out for 6 hours around the Burj Khalifa with the hoi polloi. So you'd need a backup plan. Ours was to head back to our hotel in depression and then go out to the beach to watch the fireworks at the Burj Al Arab.
(Via In Dubai and Hello16).

Pretty spectacular, but not what we flew all the way to freaking Dubai for. We wanted to see fireworks shooting out from the tallest building in the world! Not this still quite good fireworks by the beach!

But still, not a bad idea as far as backup plans go.

So anyway, let me tell you how our night panned out...

5:00 pm

We had dinner at the Marina and went hunting for alcohol. Because new year celebrations aren't celebrations unless you have alcohol.

The search was futile. All the restaurants were non-alcohol serving establishments, and all the bars were closed for New Year Eve parties and you needed a reservation waaay ahead of time. It was extremely sad.
(Via Buzzfeed).

But we persevered and took a cab from the Marina to Downtown Dubai. And that itself was a challenge. You see, it was new year's eve. And you know how it can be sometimes hard to get a cab on the eve of a public holiday in Singapore? Well that rule applies to Dubai as well. There were, NO CABS.
(Via skymet).

And also,  Dubai was closing all the roads leading to the Burj Khalifa. So you know, some of the cabs that we did see didn't want to take us Downtown because they'd just get caught in all the madness.

6:00 pm

Yeah life is tough. But we eventually managed to cab Downtown and it was INSANE. All the roads to the Burj were closed, the were huge crowds of people all milling around and everything was just a huge mess. And there was no way that you could access the bars around the Burj because there were different officials shouting lots of conflicting instructions.
(Via giphy).

6:40 pm

James and I gave up on finding alcohol in the Downtown area, and also on seeing the fireworks because look at us. Do you think we are capable of surviving like crazy crowds? Just look at us. We're delightful. We wouldn't last 10 minutes in a mad crowd without getting trodden on and possibly trampled to death.

6:45 pm

So began our trek back to the Business Bay station from the Burj Khalifa. Ordinarily, we would have gone to the Metro station at the Burj Khalifa but that station was closed to manage the fireworks crowds, and everyone had to use either the Business Bay or Financial Centre Metro Stations to access the Downtown area.
So back to the story. We were walking to Business Bay to take the Metro all the way down to our hotel near the Sharaf DG Metro station which was about 20 km away. A bit sad and dejected, but mostly okay.
(Via giphy).

6:50 pm

On the way to the Metro station, I spotted this hotel which I had previously seen online when searching for hotels with bars overlooking Dubai.

And they had some obiang light show going on at the pool deck, so we decided to check it out. I mean, since we were already there right? And it really was on the way to the station. So we popped in.

For context, here is where the hotel was in relation to the Metro stations.

7:00 pm

So we went up and the staff at the hotel were really friendly and welcoming. They were more than happy to let us join their pool party! Of course, there was a 300 AED (SGD$120) entry fee per pax, but considering other places were charging thrice that, it was quite reasonable. And it came with 4 extremely generous drinks! Oh and the view was magnificent.

7:15 pm

So James was fiddling with his phone when he noticed that I wasn't doing the same. Because horror of all horrors, my phone had died! And it was extremely tragic but I was quite happy standing around and taking pictures.
(Via giphy).

7:30 pm

James came back from the toilet and went, "I am quite worried about how we're going to get back considering the number of people we saw Downtown at 6 pm. Wait here. I'm going down to check if they have a room available."
(Via Gif Me More).

Apparently, what triggered this line of thinking was, "Oh, too bad we don't have a room or Jac could pop down to charge her phone."

7:45 pm

James came back and very excitedly informed me that they had a very expensive room. He wanted to check if I was okay with getting it.
(Via giphy).

I was okay and so he went down to get it.

8:00 pm

James came back saying, "THEY RAPED ME ON THE PRICE." Apparently, in the time he came up to check with me and went down again, the price had increased by SGD$200 okay.
(Via Giphy).

Unfortunately not. Anyway, we couldn't check in because we didn't have our passports with us, so we finished or drinks and walked to the Business Bay Metro Station to make our way back to the hotel.
You had to queue up to get into the Metro station because there were so many people. But, small issue. No biggie. Our Metro cards also didn't work when we were trying to tap out of the Sharaf DG station because they had done something to the gates at Business Bay, but still, small issue. Easily resolved.

8:30 pm

We reached our hotel, packed our bags, and headed back to the Metro station. It was okay. We had to split up to fit into the train because there was more space for me in the Womens' cabins.
(Via Imgur).

But you know, every bit counts when you have not much to spare.

8:40 pm

Mild panic because the train didn't stop at Business Bay like it should have and went straight to Financial Centre. I thought I was imagining things and thought that I had missed my stop or something. But no. As it turned out, they had closed the Business Bay Metro station without giving any warning. And so we ended up being about 4 km away from our hotel.
And so began our long trek back to Business Bay.

9:10 pm 

We reached Business Bay. To get there we had to walk through an underground tunnel and plough through crowds, weave our way through the maze of picnic mats carpeting the pavements, and try to avoid the random people who had arranged themselves in comfortable positions on the ground.
And we saw a huge crowd of people at the entrance of the bridge. Apparently, the officials had suddenly decided to shut the only bridge across the huge multi-lane highway which had huge construction sites right smack in the middle. And yes, I said SITES.

9:27 pm

So after about fifteen minutes it became pretty apparent that they weren't going to open the bridge of the Business Bay station. Which was really stuoid because you could still see people arriving on trains from our spot behind the glass door. Yeah that's right. We had to take the only train which just happened to inexplicably skip the Business Bay station.

No there really wasn't. But the next bridge to cross to the other side of the highway was at the Burj Khalifa Metro station which you know, we had already passed earlier on damn it. But there was nothing we could do. So, we doubled back.

Through the throngs of people that we had already pushed past once.
(Via Medium).

9:30 pm

So as we were pushing through the crowd that had gathered around the Business Bay gates, we spotted this very cool light up display of one of the skyscrapers near by.
(Via Yahoo).

It looked very cool but we didn't think much of it.

9:35 pm

Oh. There's smoke! Fire display! How cool is Dubai?!

9:45 pm

OMG it's a real fire.
(Via The Times).

9:50 pm

We finally reached the bridge at the Burj Khalifa, and it had been unsurprisingly closed as well. Okay. Whatever. We just continued heading towards the next station where the next bridge was.

Yeah after a while you just accept that luck isn't anywhere on your side and resign yourself to fate.

10:05 pm

James and I crossed an expressway which was closed for the fireworks. I think the expressway was some secret place to hang out to watch fireworks because there were pockets of people here and there. Too bad. Now I too know your secret.

And yeah, also the occasional fire engine.

10:10 pm

We crossed the road! And this marked the start of our second trek towards Business Bay, this time on the correct side of the road. Oh and this was the first photo we took after crossing the road.
And so started our 4 km trek back to Business Bay.
James, "I bet they'll cancel the fireworks."
Me, "No, they won't."

10:45 pm

We got to our hotel! We checked in, got our room key and headed up to our room, only to find the door ajar with cleaning supplies scattered randomly around the room and housekeeping was nowhere in sight,
(Via Buzzfeed).

Okay but no worries right? All we had to do was to make a call to reception to get everything sorted right?

10:55 pm

So I made the call. And the dude at the reception was like, "Your room is registered to Mr Hoji. Can you come down?"
(Via Hexjam).

James, "We're not leaving this room. This is the only room left. And I've already paid for it!"

So we stayed in the room and watched television while housekeeping faffed around and cleaned the room around us. This was what was on television.
So we spent lots of time watching that as we sulked in our room and waited for them to sort things out.

11:05 pm

We couldn't be arsed to sit around any longer because we had drinks waiting for us in the bar. So James went down to sort everything out while I stayed on guard in the room.
(Via Giphy).

11:15 pm

James came back! The room was our and we happily trooped down to the pool to drink lots of alcohol!

12 midnight

Anddddd we got to watch our fireworks.
And. That was essentially how we spent new year in Dubai. Oh. If you were wondering, the smoke that's sort of obscuring the Burj Khalifa is from the fire at The Address.
And this was how The Address looked like the next day.

It's a good thing no one died!! Anyway, the moral of the story is, Jac was right when she said that Dubai wouldn't cancel the fireworks.

No, I kid. What we can learn from this can be easily summed up in a quote by James.
Okay. I hope you enjoyed reading about our New Year adventure in Dubai! I will now leave you with this good song. About how to deal with problems as they come up.

I'm going to meet James now. As in James plural. Both Chinese James and Ang Moh James. Goodbye!

❤ Jac.

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