A radio podcast of our travels through UAE, India, and Australia!
When I mentioned to a friend of mine in New York that I was going to the Emirates, his reaction was sharply aghast.
“Oh….I hated the Emirates.”
My heart sank. Why so bad? Was I wasting my time visiting the country?
“I went dune bashing. The driver thundered along the edge of a cliff and I was thinking, ‘No, surely he wouldn’t…’ but then, yes, he does – yanks the wheel to the right and we go flying over the edge. It was the scariest thing I’ve done. I hated the whole experience.”
I was somewhat hesitant following this account, embellished by Megan’s propensity to throw herself from high places.
I’d imagined our tour as simply a cocktail of sand and fuel. Instead, it was a complete “cultural” experience. I place “cultural” in inverted commas because it was a little rushed and box-ticking:
“Now you ride camels, now a dog show, now a falcon show, now look at the goats, now drink Arabian coffee and eat dates, now pat the eagles, now dress up in traditional garb, now watch a 7-minute doco on the history of the Emirates…”
Nevertheless, in a short space of time, I felt I had a glimpse of desert life, and retained an experience more holistic than just adventure sports.
On to the main event… It was somewhat amusing to see our guide, having just demonstrated traditional activities while wearing a Thawb, don a pair of shades and jump behind the wheel of a 4WD.
Dune bashing is a freeform roller coaster, the vehicle’s trajectory materializing in the glint of the driver’s eyes scanning for a suitable embankment. Only once did I feel unsettled: with the weight of the vehicle sliding forwards into a downhill slope and sand kicked through the window.
Overnight I camped under the stars, with a fireplace and chai tea, and in the morning woke to tackle the dunes barefoot. You really can just throw yourself down a near-vertical decline: giant, sliding steps, cushioned by the pillowed sand.
My remaining time in the Emirates was spent visiting a few of the sights of Abu Dhabi: The Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace and the Heritage Village. Again, Abu Dhabi is not really made for walking – so many footpaths have craters from construction, or simply end for no apparent reason.
I’m also discovering Megan’s hangriness – that sudden evaporation of energy that makes a girl wilt unless food be applied immediately. I guess in New York there is food on every corner, but traveling brings irregular mealtimes. I’ve learnt to carry snacks at all times…and that some things really do run on peanuts.
I’m on a bus! And it’s heading from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. With free WiFi. How times change.
Dubai is an architect’s dream. Futuristic buildings line the Persian Gulf in competition for the tallest, most unique design. Surrounded by desert plains, it’s a cleaner, more serious Vegas, where Internationals come for big business and luxury lifestyles.
It’s almost too clean…the streets below the Marina’s high-rise apartments where Megan and I are staying are designed for cars rather than pedestrians, making it a pristine ghost town. The most prominent bustle is from the hundreds of migrant construction workers trekking to their meal break, prayer time or back to the multitude of busses that will carry them to their accommodation.
Construction abounds in Dubai. Everywhere you look, new railroads, skyscrapers and other fantastical I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-that-is space-aged structures are forming. The metro looks like something out of Star Wars. Sneaking to the 97th floor of the Princess Tower (the world’s tallest residential building), I could see from The Palm to the Burj Al Arab (a hotel shaped like a ship’s sail), past Internet City, all the way to the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest man-made structure, at 829.8 m (2,722 ft)) in the hazy distance.
I hope to have more updates soon!
With my mind still saturated with the feature film edit I’d been working on, it suddenly sparked that at some point I’d catch a great view of NYC. I glanced out the taxi window and sure enough I was in that exact spot where the BQE rises above cemeteries with a line of sight through a clear night to a perfect New York cityscape: buildings jet black, windows vibrant, and iconic structures such as the Empire State, Chrysler, and Freedom Tower, glowing.
It was in that moment en route to JFK it hit me – that New York, that seemingly endless year discovering and rediscovering all aspects of the Concrete Jungle, had come to a close. That chapter has finished. What’s next?
For the immediate future, it’s Dubai, Abu Dhabi, India, and Australia. After that, we’ll see…
Any Torontonian will tell you the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is the perfect time of year for a city visit. Fall has just kicked in, Hollywood stars grace the streets, and the influx of visitors makes the downtown area swell with carnival buzz.
I spent the first few days celebrity-spotting the likes of Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and a myriad of other silver screen giants on the red carpet (and, I confess, even attempted an iPhone snap of Colin Farrell arriving at my hotel). Ontario is the third largest entertainment sector in North America and chances are you’ll stumble onto a movie set. Walking down Richmond Street West, I encountered a motorbike chase sequence for the upcoming flick Kick-Ass 2.
As one of the most highly regarded film festivals in the world, TIFF has a history of selecting Oscar contenders. This year’s Blackberry People’s Choice Award went to the Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence-led dramedy,Silver Linings Playbook. I saw fifteen features, but could hardly make a dent in the smorgasbord of 372 films from 72 countries. After sitting in a dark theater for a week with perfect fall weather teasing me through Scotiabank Theatre’s huge glass panels, it was time to trade star-spotting for city sightseeing!
Here are a few things to see and do around Toronto beyond visiting the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
CN Tower EdgeWalk
My most thrilling activity was the EdgeWalk around the CN Tower, holder of the Guinness World Record for “Highest External Walk on a Building.” Once you trust that your safety harness is strong enough to hold the weight of a bus, leaning off the edge won’t feel so terrifying. Exposed to the sun and wind, and with no safety railing, the EdgeWalk gives you a guided introduction to the city as well as an adrenaline rush to brag about. Video and photos are included in admission. Here is video of me taking the city in stride!
King & Queen Streets
Fortunately all the TIFF theaters are located within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Toronto. King Street boasts a vibrant nightlife of clubs, bars, and cafes. Comedy club The Second City on Mercer Street has the sharpest show I’ve seen for a while: deft performances and swift lighting changes set to improvised live music.
As you head north of King Street, stop for a flat white (a latte without foam) at the Dark Horse on John Street. Two more blocks and you’ll find King’s parallel counterpart—Queen Street—renowned for its boutique shopping.
BATA Shoe Museum
If the idea of a shoe museum makes you think of trailing your girlfriend down Fifth Avenue on a Saturday morning, think again. The BATA Shoe Museum on Bloor Street takes an anthropological approach to footwear. From Ancient Egyptian sandals, to Gothic poulaines, Renaissance period chopines, and Tudor-age sabatons, even the more carpetry footwear of Buddhist, Christian, and Shinto priests, walk for centuries in the shoes of diverse world cultures.
Shoes from famous people the world over have found their way into the collection: Justin Beiber’s high-top Supra Skytop II sneakers, Marilyn Monroe’s sexy red stilettos, and even the simple plastic thong sandals from His High Holiness the Dalai Lama. If you’re interested in history, people, cultures, and pop icons, chances are it will be you dragging your girlfriend along to the footwear exhibition.
If you have time, the Royal Ontario Museum next door contains Canada’s largest collection of world culture and natural history. There are exhibits specially designed for kids, and the foyer contains the largest dinosaur cast on display in Canada—the Futalognkosaurus, measuring over 105 feet.
Gooderham Building & St. Lawrence Markets
Moving east to the wedge intersection of Front and Wellington Streets, you’ll find the Gooderham Building, Toronto’s equivalent of New York’s Flatiron Building. Though nowhere near the size or scope, this 1982 structure is frequently featured in postcards with the city’s modern skyscrapers as backdrop. Across the road is St. Lawrence Market, recently named “the world’s best food market” by National Geographic. Try some peameal bacon, also known as Canadian bacon: cured boneless loin rolled in ground yellow cornmeal.
If you’re a city-lover, Toronto in September provides the perfect mix of clear fall weather, Hollywood glamor, nightlife, shopping, and cultural activities, all within a relaxed atmosphere where you’re constantly greeted with a friendly, “eh?”
Photo credits: St. Lawrence Market via Shutterstock; All other photos courtesy of David Joshua Ford
Took a trip to my filmic mecca. Saw the sign. That is all.
Finding inspiration on the steps of John Ernst Steinbeck Jr’s (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) childhood home.
He was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). He was an author of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and five collections of short stories; Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.
Eucalyptus trees in California!! There are so many Eucalyptus trees in California that combined with summer’s heat, I feel like I’m home in Australia! Also present in South Africa and Brazil, this is the unsung little Aussie export! Photograph taken at Secret Grove, Santa Barbara
Taking a bite out of the big apple. At Apple.
I was expecting tech mecca. Instead, the Apple headquarters were more like a university campus…nothing particularly flashy from the outside. I guess that is reserved for places like the 5th Ave New York store…
The field where 400,000 gathered in 1969 for Woodstock.
I get so bored of travel journals. People writing about the exciting times they had in destinations you don’t really care about. I’ve been really slack with mine. Two reasons… 1. I’m on holidays, and the majority of what I do is eat fish and drink beer whilst planning the next meal. It tastes great, but you don’t really care, see? I can even show you a picture, but it doesn’t look particularly special either. And 2. I’m a perfectionist. Meaning, that if I decide to do something, I will do it to an excellent standard. But that takes time…..which brings us back to beer and fish…
I did work a little bit. I have a wonderful bunch of new photos, but I’ll want to fuss over their colour before I show you. This is tedious on my 2006 MacBook… so I’ll wait until I have a new MB pro in the States. A few weeks away. Technolust.
But for the moment, here is one image I like.
Highlight of my time in Chiang Mai (standby for boring self-indulgent) was an 800+ km motorbike ride over 6 days along the Burmese border and back around in a loop. Scenery and winding roads through Mae Salong was particularly stunning. Here’s a photo of me being photographic in a suitably exotic location.
I’ve developed a love affair with bikes. They are so visceral. I love the grind of the engine and the freedom when you throttle down the highway at 110km/hr through that crazy Asian traffic. It’s a great thinking space. Embedded in the elements of sun, wind and rain (and the occasional bee embedded in your neck), you feel proactive – you are making life happen. That’s a very twenty-something guy thing to say…
My great loves of Thailand have been fish, beer and karaoke. There is something compelling about belting your lungs out in front of a room full of drunken middle-aged Thai businessmen. Here is an incomplete list of our warblings:
- What a wonderful world
- With arms wide
- Quando Quando Quando
- I will survive
- Summer lovin
- White flag
- My heart will go on
- Just the way you are
- I got you under my skin
- Love me do
- Love is in the air
- Walking on sunshine
- Life is a Rollercoaster
- Love is all around
- I’m yours
- Cruising Together
- Grease mega mix
- Dream a little dream
- Save the last dance
- Distant sun
This is a good illustration of children’s ability to collaborate and
I am visiting a children’s home in the hill tribes in northern
Thailand. We hosted a number of games with the kids and tonight wound
up playing boxes – you win by joining dots to complete boxes. My ten
year old competitor had never played before and I thrashed him.
Maybe it’s the excitement of banding together to beat the white guy,
or maybe it’s a culture that shares a little more…either way I was
impressed that the new kid would sacrifice all his moves to set his
friend up to win the game.
An 8 hour flight Sydney-Bangkok. Two films and a bit of sleep. Lots of water, some passable food. Now I’m working and waiting for my connecting flight to Chiang Mai. Most of the shops in the airport are closed and cleaning up…except Starbucks. But they have a powerpoint, and that’s the main thing I was looking for. I must say…I’m a little disappointed in myself that I have a phone number already! Always connected…always on…doesn’t feel like I’ve travelled far…