Monthly Archives: May 2013

Chat for Help – not really

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I was trying to find out if a local voucher site cobone.com had any vouchers for a “buy one get one” kinda deal recently….. couldn’t find a “search” area on their website…. But I did see a “click to chat” button…. Clicked it, and this is a copy/paste of our “help session” conversation (insert snarky tone here)….

Please wait for a site operator to respond.
You are now chatting with ‘Cobone – Ruby’
Your Issue ID for this chat is LTK12162036731X
Cobone – Ruby: Welcome to Cobone.com. How may I assist you today?
you: Hi, i am trying to search to see if Cobone has vouchers for Atlantis Palm Dolphin Encounters.
Debbie: I cannot locate a search function
Cobone – Ruby: we dont have search option
Debbie: Wow. OK. So how would I know if Cobone has a voucher offer for Atlantis Palm Dolphin Encounters?
Cobone – Ruby: you can navigate our site
Cobone – Ruby: we also send an email
Debbie: Ruby, does Cobone.com have any voucher offers for Atlantis Palm Dolphin Encounters?
Cobone – Ruby: w dont have for now
Cobone – Ruby: we might have it in the future
Debbie: thank you.
Cobone – Ruby: welcome
Cobone – Ruby: Thank you for chatting. Please contact us at anytime. Enjoy shopping at Cobone.com for the best deals and great savings
Chat session has been terminated by the site operator.

Smooched a Dolphin – and I liked it!

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What a sweetheart!

What a sweetheart!

Truly this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for us….. it had been on my list of “wanna-do’s” for a long time – so we just did it!  Oh. My. Goodness.  If you EVER EVER EVER get the chance to go swim and play with dolphins, and there’s ANY way you can swing it, just do it.  Don’t fuss about the money, just do it.

At the Atlantis Palm, where my friend Koral and I had gone to the Lost Chambers Aquarium they offer a number of dolphin experiences at different price points and levels of interaction.  You can select one that fits your comfort zone, from kneeling at the lagoon edge and having a dolphin swim up close to you, to an experience that involves two dolphins, each one nosing under one of your feet, propelling you through the water!  We arranged for an appointment early in the morning… 1030.

Dolphin Bay!

Dolphin Bay!

I will never forget seeing our dolphin Mani Lou for the first time…. She was a lot bigger than I expected her to be for some reason.  She loved me.  I know she did, because she smooched me and asked TBG for my number.  At least that’s what he said….. .  And once, when she passed me, she swatted my legs with her tail!

A couple of the trainers and a dolphin

A couple of the trainers and a dolphin

The animals’ trainers appear to care very deeply for the welfare of their critters – they take great pains to provide safety instructions that are understood by everyone, including the youngest kiddos there.  We had to attend a safety and informational seminar before we could get in the water with their critters – I was very glad to see the obvious care they took to assure the dolphins’ safety and well-being.

We got to watch her swim for a bit and do some cheesy dolphin expected-stuff,   but we were introduced and got to pet her, and watch her swim, – she’d rub up against us, roll over on her back for belly scritches….  And looked at me like she knew *exactly* what I was saying to her, thanking her for allowing me to come to visit her in her world for a little while, and for playing with me.  Oh. My. Goodness.  It was amazing!  She was all rubbery and leathery and smooth and scarred and warm – not at all the cold wet feeling I’d anticipated.  We were all wearing neoprene wet suit things, and oddly, I think we felt sorta like her in the water – that neoprene wetsuit stuff is almost like dolphin skin.

TBG danced with her, holding her flippers....

TBG danced with her, holding her flippers….

Then the dance was done!

Then the dance was done!

There were dolphin hugs, kisses, a dance and tricks – each making me giggle even more than the last.  TBG was really liking this interaction – it was great fun watching him, he was smiling and laughing at her, and was just having a great time and so was I!

Look at her, smooching on my guy!

Look at her, smooching on my guy!

One of my favorite photos

One of my favorite photos

We could have stayed there all day with her!

We could have stayed there all day with her!

Can't you just tell that she loves me??

Can’t you just tell that she loves me??

Oh My Goodness!

Oh My Goodness!

I threw the hoop and Mani Lou brought it back to me!

I threw the hoop and Mani Lou brought it back to me!

Then, I got to scritch her under her chin.  Well, her throat.  Do dolphins have a chin?

Then, I got to scritch her under her chin. Well, her throat. Do dolphins have a chin?

Watching the small children that were also in this experience was enthralling.  Some were scared, some just a bit nervous, but one little girl was quite bold and eager….. I think her example helped the less-excited ones to be a bit less apprehensive.  Once engaged, they were an odd sort of a matched pair – the dolphin and the child.  I believe that there was some strange communication that happened between them and it was truly a special thing to observe.

Pretty snazzy looking armbands, huh?

Pretty snazzy looking armbands, huh?

This was truly one of the most fun things I’ve done here in Dubai.

This is what we look like right after we played with the Mani Lou!

This is what we look like right after we played with the Mani Lou!

Bucket List:

Swim with Dolphins – check.

Dubai Dragon Mart

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Dubai’s Dragon Mart

www.dragonmart.ae

Really big warehouse/madhouse full of really cheap stuff!  Pretty much if it’s made in China, it’s been unloaded here.  At 1.2 kilometers  in length, it is the largest hub for Chinese products outside of China.  This market is truly huge, contains over 3500 individual shops, and is generally open from 10 am till almost midnight.  You can buy wholesale or retail here, and bargaining for the best price is a must!  Here’s a picture of the dragon-shaped facility – notice that even the end of the head is marked by a “tongue”.

aerial view

aerial view

 

So, what do they sell you ask?  Everything.  Our experience there started with a perk from the bank we use here in the UAE – if you are an HSBC customer with a Platinum Advantage credit card, you will receive valet parking at no charge for as long as you shop.  This is about a AED17 perk, so drive right up to one of the orange cones beside the “valet parking full” signs that they must use to simply block the lanes.  They’re really not full.  Plus, you won’t be adding a long walk after your shopping, and this is a big deal, so take advantage of that HSBC perk!

Oh, out front is a cool fountain with a globe and a dragon wrapping itself around the globe – pretty cool for photos, and the entrance is dramatic.  If you’ll look off to the sides, there are also some small outdoor kiosks, and the prices there were better than many shops inside!

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pretty cool dragon, huh?

pretty cool dragon, huh?

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

 

First stop was a costume jewelry section – the facility is roughly separated into like shopping, all the tools in one section, all the jewelry in another, etc.  I say “roughly” because it was likely the original plan, but once a shop owner has a shop, they’re gonna sell everything they possibly can.  Little separation.  I took a couple photos of some “pageant jewelry” that I thought my friends in Alabama in the US would appreciate.  I did resist the desire to buy a monstrous tiara, though – they are truly CHEAP here!

Definitely had southern Pageant Jewelry!

Definitely had southern Pageant Jewelry!

fabulous fakes, to be sure

fabulous fakes, to be sure

shiny crystal earrings

shiny crystal earrings

chandelier earrings

chandelier earrings

 

And, unlike most of the shops in Dubai staffed by friendly Phillipina women, it’s staffed by generally unhelpful, young Asians, I assumed they were children or relatives of the shop owners, who were almost all Chinese.  Oddly, it was really really difficult to get their attention, they were all glued to their phones, texting, gaming, watching videos…… After several attempts to interrupt one video-viewing young lady in a kiosk that had some batteries that we wanted,  TBG was frustrated and asked me “How do you get their attention??”  I said “like this”

“Hello.  How much??”  Loudly.  Almost rudely.  And weird, because it’s not my style.  But, it got her attention and she grudgingly put down the phone, removed one earplug and looked at us.  Didn’t stand up because that would have been WAAAAY too much trouble, you see.  And as soon as we asked for something, she shook her head “no” and went back to her phone.  So, we didn’t know if they actually *had* the battery we wanted, or if she simply didn’t want to be interrupted.

Oh, this sign made me smile……

A sign from one of the merchants at Dragon Mart......  the "Goats Grinding Wheel" just made me smile.

A sign from one of the merchants at Dragon Mart…… the “Goats Grinding Wheel” just made me smile.

I did pick up some wickedly-kitschy artificial floral stems that will make an excellent corner accent when I finally get around to making that happen.  Also got a small speaker for my ipad for when I want to watch movies or TV shows, and some forms to put inside pillow covers.  And a Dyson-look-alike fan for something outrageously cheap, like $40 US – crazy.  I did not buy any of the “Prada” bags or the “Jimmy Choo” shoes – I thought that $60 US was just waaaaay too much for a genuine “Prada” bag…. <snort>

Oh, and a couple of really huge silk jungle plants, I forget the names of them – they’re tropical, but stupid expensive in the States, I’d shopped for them before.  I tend to murder indoor plants, so silk is the way for this gal to shine.  I snagged both these beautys for only AED350, IIRC…. That’s about… um….. Just under $130 for them BOTH.  Shoot, I’d found the cost in the States to be more than that for just ONE.

a smidge dusty, but the price was REALLY good!

a smidge dusty, but the price was REALLY good!

nice plants, huh?

nice plants, huh?  And yes, those are TBG’s bigass boots I forgot to crop outta the photo.

 

There’s also all sorts of food-ish choices in the middle of every section – popcorn, corn (!), gelato, tons of fresh fruit cut-up.  Resist them, go upstairs to “Charley’s” and get a toasted sub.  Yum.  http://www.charleysme.com/

The escalators were oddly-decorated but interesting, and there were some Chinese entry-points that were fun.

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All in all, a great shopping place for things where quality isn’t critical or you’re looking for nothing in particular.  Or if you’ve got an entire afternoon to just wander around and look at stuff.  It’s sort of a Chinese Wal-Mart, but pleasantly confusing.

The Nutmeg Incident

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Those of y’all that know TBG know that he is a *firm* believer in “more is better”, right?  So, if the directions tell you to use a “pinch” of something, two pinches would be much better…….

He was gonna stop at the store and called to ask me if I needed anything.

“Nutmeg.  Just some nutmeg.”

“OK….where is it??”

“Spice aisle, baby…. In the spice aisle!  Just need some nutmeg for French toast”

(see, now I’ve got him associating the spice with something he wants to eat, so he’ll not only remember it but look forward to it… and think I’m planning meals for him.  I’m a wiley woman!)

“OK, nutmeg.  French toast.  Got it.”

Now – I didn’t think a single thing about this again till he got home and handed me the bag triumphantly….  But it was a lot heavier than I’d expected for a jar of nutmeg, you know??  I was expecting this……

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But what I ended up with are these…..

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Lots and lots and lots and lots of these!  Like, enough of them (still in their shells!) for everyone I know to have a lifetime supply……

So, I learned to crack them open and grate them to use them.  Man, is it fine to have freshly-ground nutmeg – the fragrance and taste are ever so much nicer than that little jar, but I’ll never tell TBG that – I just chide him about “The Nutmeg Incident”……lol.

The Burj Al Arab (Tower of Arabs) – Video inside

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My friend Koral and I decided we wanted to go to the Burj Al Arab for High Tea.  You know, that big sail-shaped incredible looking building sitting on its very own *island* off the coast of Dubai?  The only 7-star resort in the WORLD??

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Yup, that’s the one.  Now, being a 7-star resort and all, they are not gonna let any ole riff-raff in off the street.  No siree bob.  Shoot, this is a resort that has a fleet of TEN white Rolls Royce Phantoms as their airport transfer cars!  As you approach the causeway to gain access to the resort, you have to have a reservation of some kind, and have your name on the “list” at the guard gate.  Otherwise, you’ll be directed to complete the “drive of shame” – turning around and leaving…… in the direction that’s NOT towards the Burj Al Arab. L  But us?  We had reservations, and our name was on the list, so we were waved on.  Here’s what it looked like as we approached…. And yes, I wish I’d taken our reservation paper off the dash, too, it would have made for *much* nicer photos…..

*sigh*.... isn't it just beautiful??

*sigh*…. isn’t it just beautiful??

This is the short causeway across the water to the island that the Burj Al Arab is situated.  There's also a walkway to the right.

This is the short causeway across the water to the island that the Burj Al Arab is situated. There’s also a walkway to the right.

Looks like Koral was zooming along, doesn't it?

Looks like Koral was zooming along, doesn’t it?

You can see the sides of the man-made island here.

You can see the sides of the man-made island here.

Are ya getting an idea of exactly how BIG this thing is??

Are ya getting an idea of exactly how BIG this thing is??

This is the view from *almost* underneath this structure.

This is the view from *almost* underneath this structure.

Before I forget, the website of the architectural firm and designer (Tom Wills-Wright of WS Atkins)that designed this building has some awesome information on it – take a peek if you’re just geeky enough to be curious about whether it’s built on sand or bedrock, and why it was designed to look like a sail, and why it was placed on an island, instead of built on the beach…..and exactly what that “sail” is constructed from and how it stays so clean.    Now the designer also has a personal site which has got some crazy-cool stuff on it as well… don’t miss it!

Oh, and lookie here…. You know TBG is a helicopter pilot right?  GUESS WHAT was on the helipad running as we drove up?  YUP!  A helicopter!  You can *just* see the tip of one of the rotor blades on the helipad hanging off the side of the structure.  We were convinced it would take off as we approached and since Koral’s hubby is a pilot too, we’d have the MOST meaningful photos ever.  So we sorta hung back and drove slowly, and waited and waited….. and it shut down.  *sigh*  Oh well,  we heard it as it ended up taking off while we were inside the hotel lobby.  Made me smile.

See the edge of the helicopter's rotor blade??

See the edge of the helicopter’s rotor blade??

When we drove up, the number of extraordinarily exotic autos was pretty surprising, you’d expect them to all be parked as soon as they arrive – the entrance area is actually quite small for the Burj Al Arab.  You drive up, the valets open your doors, you get out and they drive off.  There are staff members to direct you to wherever you need to go, and will answer any questions you may have.  It’s quite busy, but didn’t seem frantic.  Oh, and there’s a colorful camel just to the side of the entrance which made me smile.  The walls are of glass, and the outdoor columns are pretty cool looking.

Now, something tells me that these are "fire" columns.

Now, something tells me that these are “fire” columns.

The nation's rulers

The nation’s rulers

these portraits flanked the entrance

these portraits flanked the entrance

Ya think it's just coincidence that this hotel looks like a big ole wave?

Ya think it’s just coincidence that this hotel looks like a big ole wave?

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All shiny steel and glass outside.

All shiny steel and glass outside.

cars waiting for their drivers

cars waiting for their drivers

Much closer view of the cute camel tucked back off to the side of the resort.

Much closer view of the cute camel tucked back off to the side of the resort.

This walkway also hosts golf carts.

This walkway also hosts golf carts.

Lovely fountain in the center of the round-a-bout

Lovely fountain in the center of the round-a-bout

looking back towards the beach from the resort

looking back towards the beach from the resort

a much better photo of the sides and edges of this island.

a much better photo of the sides and edges of this island.

As we entered the lobby through a revolving door, we were greeted by staff members in the most lovely uniforms I’ve ever seen.  Jewel-toned and opulent looking – the costumes truly matched their environment.  They were both warm and welcoming to us, and encouraged us to enjoy their lobby and public areas.  Understand, there truly is VERY LITTLE “public area” in the Burj Al Arab –  the lobby is quite sizeable, and there are beautiful water features with “water snakes” very much like Disney has at Epcot – and there are matching aquariums on either side of the water feature and escalators.  But it’s not huge by any means.  Restaurant entrances are to the left and right, and we were directed to the escalators, across the upper level, and to the elevators for a ride down to the Ground Mezzanine level.   OK….. here are some photos…..

all shiny and bright....

all shiny and bright….

see that red leather sofa?  Wait till you see a bigger photo of the curve it has....

see that red leather sofa? Wait till you see a bigger photo of the curve it has….

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this is the ceiling over the main area of the lobby.  Just stunning.

this is the ceiling over the main area of the lobby. Just stunning.

Rooms start just above the mezzanine level... there's a coffee shop/cafe there.

Rooms start just above the mezzanine level… there’s a coffee shop/cafe there.

OK, so we’re still looking around, and starting to look up…. holy cow!

looking up through the atrium

looking up through the atrium

aren't the colors divine?

aren’t the colors divine?

a little closer

a little closer

wow - that's the very top!

wow – that’s the very top!

 

Now, our reservation was for the Asian Afternoon Tea, AED285 per person.  It is served in the Junsui Asian Restaurant,  one of the 9 restaurants in this resort.  It was actually so very cool that I’m gonna write about it separately.  Also, there’s a ton of food porn photos that will go along with it.  <smile>

We took the escalators up to the next floor, past the aquariums on either side, and looking down on the lobby area, it’s pretty interesting looking seeing the carpet and big curvy sofa from this angle….. oh, and here’s what some of the gorgeous insets on the floor down there looked like…..

Some close-up detail of the flooring just inside the doors.... of *course* it's gold, silly!

Some close-up detail of the flooring just inside the doors…. of *course* it’s gold, silly!

As we stepped off the elevator, the “public areas” were clearly indicated by “no photography” signs towards the open café looking over the lobby from the mezzanine level.  That’s cool – but it was a beautiful looking little café, and I’d like to return to try it.

one of the restaurants

one of the restaurants

Tons more photos of the mezzanine level…..

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The lights at the base of these massive support columns change color!

The lights at the base of these massive support columns change color!

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After the escalator ride, there is a quirky little water feature in the center of the walkway, filled with various pieces of glass that looks like sea-glass. But look at what you’re walking on to get there!  Awesome tile work.

Simply stunning tilework here, isn't it?

Simply stunning tilework here, isn’t it?

my favorite water feature - on the mezzanine level.  It reminds me of the "water snakes" I see in EPCOT at Walt Disney World.

my favorite water feature – on the mezzanine level. It reminds me of the “water snakes” I see in EPCOT at Walt Disney World.

My favorite water feature there.... did you go to the designer's website and read about it?

My favorite water feature there…. did you go to the designer’s website and read about it?

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The colors are exactly like the ones in the atrium!

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and look! There’s the water tubes!

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Between the lights and the water, I was mesmerized

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Just too pretty to stop taking photos, right??

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Tiny little loose pieces of glass

 

The colors and placement exactly mimic the coloring of the atrium area when you look upwards…. Now this thing was designed to shoot water up 50 meters!  I read about it on the designer’s website.  Really cool and entertaining….I think I have a video of it!

Now, if I remember correctly, I saw a TV special about the design and building of this tallest hotel in the world – the atrium inside – the room walls, not the sail part – was originally white, stark white.  And when HH visited, he asked for more color.  Or I could be making that part up, but it seems like I remember it…….

We crossed past the water feature, and passed by some very luxurious-looking shops to where the bank of elevators is located.  All mirrored and shiny, this was beautiful.

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Transition area from the mezzanine to the elevators and shopping.

Transition area from the mezzanine to the elevators and shopping.

Well *certainly* there's a Rodeo Drive here.... sheesh!

Well *certainly* there’s a Rodeo Drive here…. sheesh!

 

At the far end, there was a woman behind a desk in a cordoned-off area.  I asked her what that area was, and she said “private elevators”.

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Snuck a peek out of the window in the "private elevator" area.

Snuck a peek out of the window in the “private elevator” area.

Lovely glass sculpture/laser rendition of the hotel was enclosed in glass….. I tried to capture it in photos, but it was tough.  Pretty interesting looking though.

Side view of the crystal replica

Side view of the crystal replica

Swavroski crystal Burj al Arab.  Mercy!

Swarovski crystal Burj al Arab. Mercy!

Donated by Mr. Swarvoski.  Frankly, I didn't actually KNOW there was a Mr. Swavroski.

Donated by Mr. Swarovski. Frankly, I didn’t actually KNOW there was a Mr. Swarovski.

OK, our elevator’s here, and Koral and I are headed to the Junsui restaurant for our Asian tea!

Just so you know, a one night advance booking for a one-bedroom suite here (least expensive room) will set you back a cool $1951 USD  non-refundable and payable in full at the time of booking.  But included in that price is the following

“• Personalized butler service. • Sumptuous breakfast buffet for two in the privacy of your suite, Junsui or Bab Al Yam Restaurants. • Full range of Hermes luxury amenities for her and him. • One complimentary bottle of red wine or Bateel juice on arrival. • Complimentary in-suite tea and coffee facilities. • Fresh fruits, Arabic desserts and dates. • Complimentary internet access (Wi-Fi). • Unlimited access to Wild Wadi Water Park”

For me?  Not likely that I’ll ever spend a night here, but my experience there was certainly fun, entertaining, and a once-in-a-lifetime event.  Hope you have enjoyed seeing it as I did!