Our remaining time at Palolem Beach in Goa was pretty uneventful, and our last day was spent just sitting around waiting for the 6pm train to depart. We had to check out of the room at noon, so we had about five hours to just sit, and I think it was during this waiting period that I discovered the problem with India. Well...one of the many problems with India. I'll start by once again saying that everyone in India is very nice and friendly. This part I have no problems with. The problem is that 98% of the people also want your money. There are a few people, mainly students and a few wealthy Indians who are nice just for the hell of it, but the vast majority are mainly interested in getting their hands on some of your rupees. Every time someone approaches us, we just wait for them to get to the part where they try to squeeze some money out of us. And they always do. It takes some people a little longer than others, but eventually, they all try to get it out of us somehow. After a while of this, you get really sick of ending all your conversations with "no, I don't want to see your store" or "no I don't have any rupees to give you" or "no, I don't want a taxi/room/restaurant/drugs/prostitutes."
As we got nearer to Mumbai, the problem only got worse, and the people got more persistant. By the time we reached our last day in Mumbai, I'd pretty much lost any tiny amount of faith I had in people. Between lying taxi drivers, cheating touts for hotels, scamming restaurant waiters, and obnoxiously persistant drug dealers, I'd just had enough. I'm not going to go into all the various stories, but these people really are telling blatant lies to try and get pretty large amounts of money out of us. It's unfortunate that the worst of this had to happen at the end of our journey, as it sure left us with a terrible impression of India.
In my opinion, some of the only good things about Mumbai were some of the more ridiculous offers we received. I've heard it's much worse in Delhi, but Mumbai is plagued by guys aggressively selling oversized balloons. They'll follow you down the crowded streets and sidewalks, sometimes even bumping your head with the balloons until you can finally lose them. If their English was a little better, I'd be really interested to know what the hell they think I'm going to do with a huge balloon on the streets of Mumbai. Another favorite was a guy who asked me if I wanted to buy a cow. He may have been crazy, but when I gave him a shocked look, we pointed to a cow pulling a cart down the street and again asked if I wanted to buy that cow. "Um...no thanks.I don't need a - well wait. How much?" He offered it for 150 rupees. Under $4 seemed to be a pretty darn good deal to me, but before we could get into more details, the guy said something about how he wasn't allowed to be seen near the store we were stopped in front of, and he wandered off. I guess I missed my big chance to buy a cow.
For most of the time in Mumbai, we were so annoyed that we didn't bother to take many pictures, so I only have a few. Trust me, you're not missing anything by not seeing it. In any case, I was glad to be getting out of India, and the next morning, John and I caught an early cab to the airport. Once again, the driver tried to screw us out of a few more dollars, but we were determined not to let our last transaction in India go poorly. We gave him the agreed upon price, which was slightly too much in the first place, and walked away. John and I parted ways, and I headed off to my flight to Dubai.
For those of you who have never been to Dubai, let me tell you. It kicks ass. It's one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and this fact is immediately apparent when you get out of the airport. Any space between the buildings is occupied by cranes that are constructing more buildings. Emeratis don't seem to understand the concept of 'not a skyscraper' and as a result, it's tough to find a building that's under 20 stories high. Most are closer to 100.I spent most of my time there with my head tilted back and my mouth open. The city is also pretty much spotless, and crime really isn't a big problem. The people sleeping in the park are mostly businessmen that are on their lunchbreaks from work.
Dubai is also pretty much the definition of an international city. Around 85% of the population is made up of non-citizens. We don't hear too much about the place, as it's pretty much on the opposite side of the globe as us, and there's enough going on in the middle east without wasting time on the United Arab Emirates. Emirates Air is kind of taking over on this side of things, pretty much covering everywhere between London and Hong Kong. In general, the UAE, and Dubai specifically, looks like it's well on it's way to becoming another Las Vegas type location. It's centrally located, and makes a great place to have an international airport stopover or business meeting.
Also, unlike much of the surrounding areas, Dubai is pretty darn relaxed as far as culture and laws go. Alcohol and clubs are easy to find, and you're just as likely to find girls in mini-skirts as women with every inch of skin covered. It seems like everyone speaks at least four or five languages, and on top of all this, it's in the middle of the desert. Nothing but sand dunes surround the city for miles and miles. When you're bored, check it out on Google Earth. It's interesting to see all the manmade islands and unique buildings.
When I arrived, the temperature was at a sizzling 48 degrees Celsius. If you don't feel like doing the math, that's over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I caught a cab to the mall, and spent about an hour wandering around and enjoying the air conditioning. I was also finally able to get a decent hamburger at the Chilis, and even broke down and went to see the new transformers movie. Not great, but it was nice to have a cool place to sit down for a few hours. When the movie ended, I checked out a bookstore and briefly flipped through the Lonely Planet guide to Dubai. I made a mental picture of the map (which I almost immediately forgot), and headed out of the mall and down the street. The temperature had dropped at bit from when I had arrived, but was still hovering around 110 degrees. I had left my bag at the airport, so I could wander the city with absolutely no clue where I was for as long as I wanted. When I felt the need to return, I only needed to call a cab and get back to the airport where I would be sleeping. I spent a few hours wandering through the various souks and watching the sun go down over the water.
The airport was one of the nicest I've ever been to, and I had no trouble killing a couple more hours before trying to get a little rest. I'm writing this from Ghana, so I'm happy to say all my flights worked out with no problems. Hopefully I'll be able to get some pictures off of my camera soon and get them up here. Take care out there.