Delhi to Dubai to London

Dubai Airport

Friday 1st April 2011

Delhi Airport
Delhi Airport

Delhi airport is enormous and very well organised  – a far cry from the old place – and after a couple of very relaxing hours in the Business Class Lounge the flight was called for departure about 15:30 for a 16:15 departure.  It wasn’t too far to the gate but the whole airport seemed deserted with an absolutely enormous duty free shop and some rather smart Indian souvenir shops, with one fronting a health spa.  Deserted.

Emirates flight 517 to Dubai was actually quite good today – the staff almost worked as a team, and the senior cabin crew member was English, which gave a nice homely feel to the trip.  Most importantly everyone received a full service and yet we had an hour to relax after the meal service, which is a total difference to the outbound flight where we were almost landing before all the trays were cleared in.  Both this and the outbound flight were both 100% full – it is just the crew that make the difference.

I was handed a Business Class priority passport queue pass when we disembarked – very nice touch – and went off to explore Dubai, as I had allowed an 8 hour connection to go and have a look around before my flight to London at 02:30.

My verdict on Dubai  – its not for me. In fact I hope I never have to set foot in the place again.  I took the Red Line metro from the airport to one of the interchange stations where I thought I would try the Green Line as far as Dubai Creek – so much the star of Michael Palin’s Round the World in 80 Days.  After going up to street level and back twice I realised that the Green Line hasn’t been completed yet although it appears on all the transport maps without even a mention that it isnt open.

Dubai Airport
Dubai Airport

Luckily I bought a day ticket for public transport otherwise I would have been forever wondering if I had the right ticket for the next part of the trip.  Most rides are paid by Oyster card equivalent – a contactless smart card which is used to enter and exit the station. The brand new metro seemed excellent at first,  but it soon became obvious that it is far too small to cope with the demand.  I tried to stay on for a ride to Dubai Marina, but it was far too busy so I was pleased to be able to get off at Dubai Mall which I had also heard of.  Two other things of note about the Dubai Metro.  It is driver-less and despite being absolutley mobbed, there are very few hand rails inside so presumably everyone has to hold everyone else upright.  Oh yes and  third – it has a Gold Class which is by individual ticket only but at least you can get a seat, and another carriage is for women only – something which also features on the buses. How different things can be from one country to another.

Burj Khalifa Dubai - Worlds tallest building
Burj Khalifa Dubai - Worlds tallest building

The one high point, if I can call it that, was to realise that Dubai Mall is also the location of the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building, which stands out against the otherwise normal high rise area.  It is a breathtaking sight – probably worth the metro trip just to see it.  As for going up to the observation deck?  No chance.  When I checked online a couple of days ago the first tickets available were for Saturday unless you wanted to turn up unreserved and pay 400 Dirhams – thats almost 70 pounds.  No thanks!  I just can not believe how busy Dubai is – maybe due to it being Friday but I can’t help thinking what is must have been like here before the Metro.

The metro station is nowhere close to the Mall – theres a so called shuttle bus which I took expecting it to be a couple of minutes trip.  It dropped off under the Mall – which I took a quick look inside.  I don’t know if its just because it was Friday but the place was packed tight with people all wandering around.  It may be the World’s biggest shopping mall but it was awful so I went back to the shuttle bus which joined a 3 lane highway for a 45 minute traffic jam back to the metro station.  I probably don’t need to describe how happy that made me feel.

So 3 hours after starting out I was back at the airport with a mere 5 hours to kill.  I passed a couple of hours in the Emirates Transit passengers’ restaurant where all econonomy class passengers with connecting fights can get a free meal.  Quite a nice touch but some people were behaving like animals shovelling down platefuls of food and leaving the remains scattered all over the place.  Not surprising therefore that they wanted to throw everyone out at 1am to have a clean up.

Dubai’s duty free shops appeared to be amazing on first inspection but they are just full of the same tat sold world over at hugely inflated prices.  Apart from tobacco, the spirits were no different in price from the UK supermarket special offers – certainly not anything here to make me want to spend any of my dirhams.

And so I passed the final hour wandering to the gate and making sure that I didnt fall asleep and miss it.

The 777-300 was completely 100% full so all hope of a spare seat or two was out of the question.  I was not impressed with the seat pitch either.  My legs were touching the seat in front, but there is some clever mechanism which allows the seats to recline without hitting the person behind – they slide forwards as well as tilting, so it wasn’t quite as bad as I was fearing as well as seeming to be softer than those on the Airbus A380.

I stuck my Dont Disturb sticker on, so I missed the meals – a chicken roll and a muffin after take off and an omelette or scrambled egg hot breakfast – with all the trimmings – very nice looking too.  I guess I dozed for a couple of hours but as we came up over Turkey there was 90 minutes of turbulence which made it almost imporssible to go back to sleep especially sitting in the back.  Staring at the screen 3 hours 50 minutes until arrival, 3 hours 49 minutes until arrival, 3 hours 48 …. and trying to block out the muffled sounds of sick bags being used.

So the flight was OK – I can’t blame Emirates for the weather , and the service was quite good – with excellent inflight entertainment too.  But the long day starting in Delhi and ending at Heathrow with such an anticlimax in Dubai meant this didnt turn out to be the grand finale to the trip which I had hoped for.

Never mind.  With 420 rupees left over and a six month visa there’s always a chance for another try!

Jodhpur to Delhi

Jodhpur Station

Thursday 31st March 2011

Me at the Midtown Restaurant Jodhpur

I decided to keep my room for another night, as the train to Delhi wasn’t due to depart until 22:30, but of course I didn’t want to stay the whole night.  This threw Yogis Guest House into a state of confusion as they wanted to charge me half price for staying after checkout time, but they wanted to add this to the three nights which I was prepared to pay for.

They were simply unable to grasp the concept that I had only stayed two nights, yet was prepared to pay for three.  Over and over again.  Frantic phonecalls to try to find the boss.  After twenty minutes I had to  switch to being in charge again.  I wrote down on a sheet of paper Tuesday Night 800 rupees, Wednesday Night 800 rupees, Thursday Night 800 rupees.  Total 2400 rupees.  OK?

Yes sir.  Then you pay only half price for today. 2800 rupees.

Oh for goodness sake it is only Thurdsday day time today…

… finally they gave in, but were totally convinced I was trying to con them.  I therefore insisted on written receipt which caused another ten minutes of mayhem while they refused and even told me it was illegal. I waited patiently until the necessary form was completed in triplicate.

Out in the heat of the night, I walked down to the station, leaving just long enough to find the Midtown restaurant which I had failed to locate a couple of nights ago.  Finally I found it – the Rough Guide makes it look like it is on the road outside the station, but instead it is actually on a main wide road directly opposite the station.  A good find it was too – very clean with promises of all vegetables being washed in purified water etc.

Jodhpur Station
Jodhpur Station

Back to the station then – the train 14060 Jaisalmer to Delhi Express was the longest train I have ever seen.  At least 24 carriages.  A dozen were arleady standing on platform 1 about half a mile away – these were the carriages starting from Jodhpur while the rest of the train had arrived on platform 3 before being taken away and brought back into platform 1.  Thanks the the new LED displays which mark the location of each carriage, I was happy that things were going to work out OK, but it was about 10:45pm before carriage HA1 appeared at its allocated space.

HA1 is a good carriage number.  It designates a split first 1AC and 2AC carriage, with three compartments in First, and twenty berths in 2AC, and despite looking like a typical wreck, this one was only a year old, according to the builder’s plate.  Unlike the rest of the train which was either sleeper or second unreserved, and therefore very busy, this carriage was a little cool calm oasis, where most of the other beds were already occupied and everyone was asleep.

2AC Carriage, Indian Railways

I made up my bunk and climbed in and slept all the way until Delhi with vague recollections of stopping at Jaipur at 5am.

We came in to Old Delhi station on Platform 1 which is where I first came in to the station two weeks ago.  Other Europeans in the train were convinced this couldnt possibly be Delhi, and so remained sitting,  but I knew the way, up over the enormous footbridge and onwards to the main station at the far side, where I collected my bag from the Cloak Room and headed for breakfast.

The final leg of the journey was starting – a rickshaw to New Delhi Station to catch the Airport Express Metro back to the airport.  A quick security scan before being allowed into the station, 80 rupees fare paid and within 30 minutes of arriving at New Delhi Metro, I was at the airport.  My blue token was rejected by the exit machine though so there was a minor crisis in which I was required to go to Customer Services who wanted to see the printed ticket issued alongside the blue plastic chip, which I had fortunately retained.  They were able to tally the token to the printout and therefore let me through but it just goes to show that in India, never throw anything away.

Delhi Airport is immaculately presented – I had treated myself to a Business Class upgrade as far as Dubai which gave me access to the brand new Emirates lounge with as much free food and drink as I could manage, and comfortable chairs with wifi. And so here I am sitting for the last hour before the flight departs.