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Archive by category "Asia"


  • 18/Apr/2019 at 10:00

Dubai is a city of the United Arab Emirates, that has become one of the main Economic centres in the World, and the leader in Middle East. This has a lot to do with the oil present in the Persian Gulf area, but also to its long tradition as traders in the region, which still is their main contributor to the GDP. The city has around 2 million inhabitants, and just 10% of them are locals. The rest have come from all countries in the world, mainly India, attracted for its extremely low unemployment rate and the many opportunities it offers.

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I had already visited the city in a 24-hour stopover coming from back from Asia, and I already found few things to highlight. This time, the stay took longer, although the visiting part was close to one day as well. The main difference was the weather, as the previous time, the wind direction brought fog and haze, which was less present this time.

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Something I have confirmed again this time is that the city is not designed for pedestrians. Distances are too long to be walked and many areas do not even have sidewalks, and their public transportation network is quite limited: two lines of metro, and an insufficient bus network. Taxis are quite affordable, on the other hand. Climate might be playing a role here, as my two visits have been in winter, which is the only bearable time of the year to be outside, but in summer people do not want to be waiting for the bus outside…

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The city is spread along the Persian Gulf coastline and consists mainly of skyscrapers, which is quite surprising taking into account they do have plenty of space as it is in the middle of the desert. These skyscrapers become the main attraction of the city, where the wealth is reflected in the size and design of the buildings.

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The best example of this is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world with 828 metres, which has become an attraction itself: not only as a viewpoint, but also with some light, sound and water spectacles that take place every evening with the building as the main character. Burj Al Arab is another famous building, due to its shape emulating a sail, and because it hosts the only 7-star hotel in the world. Sunsets are wonderful from the beach next to it.

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Dubai architecture is more than skyscrapers, though. There are several unique constructions, like the Palm Jumairah, a housing development with the shape of a palm, which is home for some of the most wealthy citizens of the world. Those that are not in “The World”, another development with the shape of the World, which is not connected to mainland, and therefore even more exclusive.

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Dubai does have an old part, which lies around the Creek, and where you can find several souks, being the Gold and the Spices ones the best known ones. Even the souks look nice, clean, and new. They have been restored, but keep the essence of a number of stalls mostly specialised in one type of goods. The gold one is quite unique, as it hosts plenty hundreds of stalls where jewels are sold.

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From here, we took the opportunity to do a boat tour around the creek, where we could see the intense traffic of boats acting as water buses, allowing people to cross from one bank to the other, yachts of locals enjoying their time, and a huge fleet of old and small cargo ships, that mainly bring goods from Iran (just a couple of hours transit from Dubai) and some small fishing ones. Aiming to revitalise this part of the city, some buildings with a resemblance to an old eastern town have been built, and are house now of many restaurants, shops and bars, where to enjoy a nice meal.

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After this second visit, I still think Dubai is not worth to visit, according to my taste. Nevertheless, numbers do not say so. During New Year’s Eve, there were 1.8 million visitors in Dubai (almost doubling their population), and during the whole year, up 18 million people visit the city. The city was full of tourists, and I still do not know what they do in a stay of, let’s say, 4 days… You’d better check it out yourself…


  • 18/Mar/2018 at 10:00

Taiwan is always a shocking destination for me. It reminds me to many other countries in the region, but to none of them completely. The island has belonged to China and to Japan, and both cultures are still present as of today. The way they use technology reminds me, on the other hand, to Korea.

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People look at their phones all the time, regardless of what they are doing: working, driving, eating in a restaurant, or even in a date. They can be chatting with an intense use of smileys and GIFs, reading blogs or news, or simply playing a game. This makes me reflect whether this is where we are going or there is a culture factor that makes this addiction more extreme here than in Western countries.

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At certain times of the day, you can see the streets full of children wearing their uniforms and, thanks to its safety environment, returning home on their own (in groups, though) from the school at a very young age.

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Taipei is a futuristic city and the capital of a country which has a complicated political situation. China thinks that they are still part of the country, while some Chinese citizens consider it worth it to enter into a war to reconquer the island. In any case, you do not feel they are under a menace, unlike other areas in the region (for instance, Seoul).

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This last visit to Taipei offered me the opportunity to discover it a bit better thanks to some free time, and wander around Taipei. I enjoyed the tasty street food in one of its many night markets, climbed Mount Elephant to see the sunset over the city, with the Taipei 101 (once the tallest building in the world) as a key element in its skyline, and just sat and enjoyed the hectic activity of the local people in their daily routine. I also visited the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and headed to Tamsui, a small nearby town with older buildings and temples, and with a lot of seafood due to being closer to the ocean.

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One thing that keeps surprising me when I am that far from home is the amount of information they have about Spain. The driver that took me to the company I was visiting was a young guy, who had never been abroad. He had never been outside Taiwan. Still, when I said I was from Spain, he immediately linked it to Cataluña, and he was really aware of what the situation was. I think there is a lot to learn from their education that makes everyone have a keen interest on what happens regardless of how far it is. My impression is that we are only really concerned for those news that affect countries like ours.

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For instance, we are not aware at all of the typhoons they are constantly exposed to. I have been twice in Taiwan, and both times my return or some of my work there was in risk due to a typhoon approaching the island. In both cases, the typhoon did not hit Taipei in the end: either because of a sudden change of direction, or because of the typhoon weakening before arriving.

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This last time was a combination of both cases, and the typhoon brought a lot of rain, but something still manageable: companies remained open, and I could fly back home in time.

India (8): Udaipur

We could not stop looking to the elderly couple sitting in front of us in our hotel in Udaipur during our first breakfast there. We do not consider India as an easy destination for grown-up but young people as us, and were surprised of their presence there. Of course, we started talking to them, and they told us they were staying in Udaipur for a few weeks in their several months long trip in India. We did not know what was more surprising: them staying for a few months in India, or more than 3 days in a small city as is.

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The reason to stay long in Udaipur became clear to us after we explored it. It is a nice and modern town, which gives more space to the tourist to decide (space in the most physical and straightforward meaning of the word), and with beautiful surroundings, while having a stress-free time. A good holiday destination, and perfect rest place for this couple who live in Canada, but were originally French and German, and who have been all around the Globe.

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Leaving the hotel, we went down through the street which was a ghat, a street leading to the water of the lake. Surprisingly enough, we found a group of around 200 people, dressed up with their colourful dresses in what seemed to be a religious celebration. People were happy, and the children asked us to take pictures of them (and also with them).

All this happened near the Pichola lake next to which lies Udaipur, and which has several palaces around and in the middle of it. One of them is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, and it is literally in the middle of the lake: the only way to access it is by boat. A boat similar to the one we took to see Udaipur from the water, and see what else had the lake to offer (not much after all).

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The evening was the most entertaining one in the whole trip. Thanks to our friends from Canada, we booked a traditional dance spectacle and it did exceed our expectations. The dancers danced with huge pots on their heads, with rhythmic and precise movements while juggling with their hands. Apart from the dance, we also enjoyed a small theater play, and a puppet show. The theater plot was about one of the Hinduism Gods, Shiva, and is one of the ways, Hinduism traditions were made popular to everyone. After the spectacle, we spoilt ourselves with a nice dinner in an amazing rooftop restaurant at the lakeside.

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There are many ways to visit and live India, and there are many Indias. Delhi is not Varanasi, Varanasi is not Agra, and Agra is by no means Udaipur. It is now up to you to decide what to see. At least, you can decide.

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India (7): Jaipur

Jaipur is the market of India. The main streets in the city form a huge bazaar: shops after shops, making your life easy to buy anything you think of. As a tourist it has a couple of spots within the city border, but the main reason to come here is the Fort Amber (what else) a few kilometres away.

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I have observed a phenomenon in many parts of the world, and Jaipur was not an exception: similar businesses tend to concentrate in closer areas. You can find a street where you can only buy fabrics, another one full of shoes, some others full of kitchen accessories… There must be a good reason for all this, but theoretically, as my friend Luis says when promoting his website: you do not want to have your direct competitor so easily reachable by your customer, do you?

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While wandering around the streets behind the bazaars we stumbled with the Maharaja’s Palace, which had a big poster announcing the 18th birthday of the Maharaja. Some research on the topic showed us that although the Maharajas in India have no more political power, they still have influence, respect, and especially wealth. Near this palace, we found the Hawa Mahal, a beautiful building with significantly colourful windows, facing a main street in Jaipur. The purpose of this building was no other than allowing the women from the Court enjoy the life and processions in the city without being seen. Things change for good.

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The actual main attraction in Jaipur is the Fort Amber, probably the most remarkable fort in India, not only for its location, but also for the decorations inside. You can reach the fort entrance either by walking, or riding an elephant (although there are a lot of voices against the treat that have these animals), or even by some jeeps… We went for a walk and was not that tough.

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Jaipur is not a must in India, but a needed and welcome stop in such a long trip. This happened in several places (we had plenty of time to rest), and hotels with nice rooftops are always a safe bet to recover energy before our next and last destination in India…

India (6): Agra, home of the Taj Mahal

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After the oasis in Khajuraho and Orchha’a, Agra meant going back to the India we had known a few days before: big city, traffic, and noise. Agra was the capital of the Mogul empire for a century, and the heritage of that time makes them be a popular destination for travellers all around the world: the Taj Mahal. One of the non-argued Wonders in the world, and which can be a reason on itself to put India as your next destination.

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The Taj Mahal is considered one of the most expensive and beautiful (from a material perspective) proofs of love in the history of Humankind. It was ordered to be built by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his wife. A colossal white marble building that can be seen from several spots in Agra, and which looks fascinating from all of them. If you see the video, you can see one of the most hair-raising moments of the trip, when you cross a gate and the Taj Mahal appears in front of you… It is hard not to immerse into the picture-taking hysteria around you. When getting closer to the building itself, you are jealous of not being able to take the same famous picture as Lady Di with an empty complex, although we did a homage to it.

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As this was one of the main drivers to come to India, we carefully planned our stay in Agra around Taj Mahal. We stayed just 1 km away from the least crowded gate in a hotel with a swimming pool with views to the Wonder, we made sure not to be the day it closes, and we were before the daybreak to make sure we could avoid the hordes of visitors, and if possible, we could see the magic building change its look minute by minute, as the sun lights it from different angle. Some piece of advice for you regarding this: if the day is foggy (quite frequent), there will be no such thing as those changes, and it may not be worth to get up that early. Moreover, instead of queuing to be the first ones, you can easily be there 30 minutes after they open the complex, and you will avoid queues… If you are not a morning person, don’t thank me for this advice.

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The century of ruling the Empire from Agra left the city a few more stimulating spots apart from the Taj Mahal. Its fort is one of the most refined ones in our stay, as it incorporated styles and tastes from different dynasties, which combined the red and the white stones with a noteworthy result. Also, if it was not for the proximity of the Taj Mahal, the known as Baby Taj would be a major highlight in Agra.

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Before leaving to Jaipur, also by car, we asked the driver to stop in the Fatehpur Sikri complex, which is in the outskirts of Agra. This complex lies in a high hill, and it is formed by a fort (yet another one!), and a mosque. The fort is a concatenation of buildings and vast halls, with very few people inside. If I were more into art or architecture, I may have discovered the subtle differences with the other forts in India… but it is not the case. On the other hand, the mosque was a terrific choice. Its entrance, facing a vast valley, and steep steps gives you the feeling of entering a rural major mosque, full of tourists, and probably because of that, full of activity.

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A pleasant way to finish our visit to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, which we will for sure remember regardless of how many years go by. A more than justified Wonder of the World.

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