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Monday, October 12, 2015

GAWA Day #27: Dubai to Istanbul

You have ups and downs when you travel around the world...or anywhere.  The comfort of my coccoon-like existence at 15 Craigside seems ideal when things go wrong.  For example, I had to wake up at 3AM to find my way to the Dubai International Airport at 4:45AM.  The place was already a beehive of activity.  

I checked into Turkish Airines and the lady could not find me on their computer.  After some consultations, they finally determined that the USA and Dubai computers are not always in sync...but they did locate my ticket and I easily passed through customs into the Business Class Lounge.

Then, my root canal tooth fell out.  My initial thought was, oh no, what do I do.  Once you get over the initial shock and determine you will live, it occurred to me that that tooth was dead anyway, and, as I feel no pain, I can probably survive without much anguish. I guess I will try to see a dentist in Istanbul.  It would have been worse if Turkish Air never found me on their flight list.

So in this troubled state of mind, here is a recap of my trip thus far:
  • In Japan, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok, I don't think I saw one insect.  In Dubai I finally observed a fly contaminating all those nuts and stuff in a market.  At 15 Craigside, if I dally near my car for any length of time, I get a mosquito bite.
  • I might not yet have seen a star in the sky.  The air pollution in these major cities is terrible.  The Air Quality Index for Istanbul is 51 today, not bad.  Honolulu today is 3, where you can see stars at night.
  • There are 15 Starwood hotels in all of Japan.  Dubai alone has 15, with 5 different Sheratons.  Incredibly enough, 14 more are in construction and scheduled to open by 2018.  The St Regis will be ready next month.  Dubai is about the size of Oahu, mostly desert, with one metropolitan area.
The Business Class Lounge in Dubai is, of course, over the top, too.  Here at 5:30 in the morning there must be 20 kinds of alcoholic drink dispensers, with a choice of at least half a dozen wines and a similar variety of beers.  The food choices are generous, and here you see half of the area:


Goodbye Dubai.  The flight was immemorable, the best kind.  However, the plane parked away from the terminal of the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, so you had to carry your bag down a steep flight of stairs and unto a bus.  There was a customs line for business class customers, which was long, but much shorter than economy.  After half an hour, the agent scowled at me and said:  WHERE IS YOUR VISA?  Visa?  So he sent me to the Visa Office, where the line was really long.  I noticed a sign saying only British Pound, US Dollar and Euros.  I only had Dubai and Turkish money with me.  However, I searched around my wallet and found $50.  Finally, a visa.  I went back into the business class line, which had doubled in size.  However, one of the officials saw me asked if I got my visa.  Yes...so he sent me to the front of the line.  Saved me an hour.  

I asked at the information desk where taxis could be found.  Very official looking person.  He asked me where I was going, and I said Sheraton near the airport.  He said he would get me a nice cab for 120 Turkish Liras (that would be $40).  Somehow I thought that was too high, so I said no and found a taxi.  It cost me around $5.  Hmmm...Turkey is not as honest as Dubai.  (You know, I never thought of it that way, but I couldn't in my mind find a spelling for the country, for I never associated it with that bird.)

Incidentally, I had a wad of old Turkish money.  At least ten bills of different colors that added up to several million.  It was in my Turkey file and I had not been to that country for probably two decades.  I found out they were obsolete, but the money exchanger at the airport said that a bank would change them for me.  After checking into the Sheraton Atakoy, I learned that there was a bank across the street in a large shopping mall.  Very organized.  Was it deflation or what, but I got 5 Turkish Lira for all that money I had been hoarding all those years.  A dollar and 67 cents.

This building has been here for some time, but Sheraton did a total makeover in 2008 and the place looks good.  My view:


Not a good day, but I have two more here and haven't decided what to do yet.

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