(U.A.E) Skyscrapers, Desert, and Farewell…

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We took the ferry to come to U.A.E (United Arab Emirates) from Iran. When an officer from the immigration of U.A.E told me I don’t need to wear Hijab, I was so happy to get back my freedom. But excitement didn’t go long because Filip’s visa didn’t arrive on the system of the immigration. My cycling partner, Filip, who had cycled with me more than three months were from a small country on Eastern Europe, Montenegro that he had hard time to get U.A.E visa while I didn’t need the visa. Luckily he found the tour agency doing visa service on online, but he had to pay around $100 for visa and even he had to put $1,000 for deposit. Agency told him they would give $1,000 back if he didn’t make problem and leave the country.  But that expensive visa didn’t arrive when we got to U.A.E immigration.

I was wondering he would go to a jail or be deported. Kindly the officer made hotspot for wifi and he could contact to the tour agency. The agency told that he should wait because it would take the time. The officer was so kind that he waited for a few hours while every people left and the office was empty. I was having chat with the officer and later we became friend on Instagram. Finally he got his visa later.

We waited for a while at the office, so we had to cycle in the night. I must say it was the most dangerous riding to our host home in my trip ever. There was no any road except 16 lanes highway. There were many roads meeting to the main road. It meant we had to cross many times to go to shoulder between cars which were moving with the speed of 120 km/h (74.6 mp/h). We had to wait for the moment where there was space to next car. It was really suicidal. If the chain was jumping and my bicycle was stopped, I would hit by car quickly. Most horrible riding ever.

 

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We arrived at 29th of Dec that it was really difficult to find a host because of the end of year. We had sent more than 20 messages on Couchsurfing to look for a host and luckily Indian family invited us. In Iran, it was illegal to drink alcohol. So, we were so happy to have cold beer after two months no beer. Especially after most dangerous cycling today, to have homemade nice meal with lovely family was a big gift. The second from the right was Renee, who was so kind and sweet. Her husband was Ravi, who was so friendly to us.  Ravi was taking care of us well with cold beer and whisky every night for us who was so thirsty in Iran.

 

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At the next day, we went to see the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.

 

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There was a big aquarium at the inside of Dubai mall.

 

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Even a big falls with arts

 

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The mall was so busy with so many people.

 

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We wanted to spend the last day of year and a new day of year with fireworks. But it was full of people on the street. A security guy blocked one side of the road. But at some moment, suddenly temporary wall was broken and everybody could walk freely.

 

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Just before 30 minutes to new year, there was a big fire on the building. The security guy told people don’t take the picture. I was wondering it was terror or accident. I checked the news on my smart phone, but I couldn’t find any news. I felt horrified because I could see lights on many rooms through windows on the building. I wanted to come out to have happy new year, but it looks like horrible new year?

 

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The fire went bigger and bigger. I made called to my host but they couldn’t get any news either. I thought the fireworks would be cancelled because the fire accident was near.

 

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Unlikely my expectation, the new year party started. The fireworks were on the tallest building. It was weird that just at the next building there was a big fire accident on the building. But on this building, people made fire for fun.

 

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All people included me ,who worried about the fire accident, started and screamed with enjoyment these beautiful fireworks.

 

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Many different beautiful color covered the building.

It was very tiring on the way back because there were too many people. But anyway New Year was starting. At the morning, I checked the news, but it was said nobody died and only the outside of building was burnt. They said they don’t know why fire was starting. After this accident, Dubai has had a few more fire accidents on buildings in two years. I was not sure why Dubai’s building had more problems while other country’s skyscraper didn’t have any fire accident.

In Iran, youtube, google, and even Korean searching sites were blocked that I had to turn on VPN to change IP address to other country. Also I must wear hijab at the public place and covered my butt with long jacket. Once I came to Dubai, I was happy to have the freedom. But actually I realized Dubai was not much far from Iran. I did need still VPN because Skype and some websites were blocked. News article about former Crown Prince of Dubai died was blocked, too. Everywhere there were pictures of King like Iran. Also I could not know the truth after this kind of accident. The thing mostly I missed was Freedom after traveling for a long time at the middle east.

 

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I was invited for meal by Korean expat in U.A.E.

 

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It was Korean buffet that I could choose so many good things.

 

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He had lived in U.A.E that I could hear many interesting stories with expat view. One of things was about Alcoholic Drinks License. If people wants to buy drinks from alcohol store, they must need license.

I found some detail info about it on online.

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*Requirements
-You must be a non-Muslim and over 21 years old
-You must earn in excess of AED 3,000 per month
-You must be a resident of Dubai, and if your visa is stamped in another Emirate other than Dubai or if you are employed by a company in any of Dubai Free Zones you will require a NOC from the Police Station of your visa Emirate
-If you are self-employed you will need to provide a copy of your Trade License
-Applications for New License Dubai Liquor License
-Application forms can be picked up from MMI and African & Eastern (A&E) liquor stores, situated all over Dubai, often attached to shopping malls.

*You will need
-Fully completed application form with your company stamp and signature
-Photocopy of passport with valid residence visa (for you and your spouse)
-Photocopy of your labor contract as issued by the Ministry of Labor or salary certificate if you work in a Free Zone (issued by the Free Zone Authority)
-Photocopy of your tenancy contract
-One passport photograph (for you and your spouse)
-CID application fee of AED 160

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It looked so much jobs to buy Alcohols. As I heard, there was limit to buy some amount as well. But people like me didn’t need license to drink at the bar or hotel. It was just expensive than other country for drinks.

 

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After the lunch, we looked around Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. The sunset on the beach was really beautiful.

 

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There were many beautiful places in Dubai.

 

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Jin Tonic! When I introduced myself to people, I said “I am Jin”. Then people said “What? Tin? Kin? Cheen?” I don’t know why they cannot understand my accent and how to fix it. So I just said

“You know Gin Tonic, such a nice drink”

“Oh Gin!!!”

“But with J, not G”.

In Canada, my coworker wrote some memo to me and it was starting “Hey Gin..” I guess many of people would remember me as Gin. Sometimes I said “My middle name is Tonic. And first name is Jin”

 

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We left lovely family and moved to the city.

 

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We had to cycle here with so many lanes but it was less scary than last time because it was different road.

 

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There was subway in Dubai but distance to each stations and destinations was far that it was a bit uncomfortable.

 

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I used hotel luggage cart first time ever in my trip. His and my luggage were lot that it didn’t look like a traveler but refuge.

 

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It was view of Palm Jumeirah from the place where we could stay.

Here was the story how we could stay here. Shinhan Bank is one of biggest Korean bank. There was Shinhan Bank in Dubai and I got the contact from the manager of the bank branch. He invited us stay at his places for a week and this was the view from his place. It was so far my best view ever at the place where I stayed. And it was my first time I could understand why people work hard. If people make good money after hard work, their view can be fantastic.

Maybe I was lucky that my budget is small so that I can thank more to people’s any kind of invitation. If I were so rich to stay at this kind of place, I was not sure I could appreciate same as before.

 

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We were invited to Korean restaurant and had traditional Korean alcohol at the first night at his place.

 

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Choi, our host, lived in New York for many years before that he was really cool. Actually he was different from typical middle age of Korean male that he was not shy at foreigners. Even Filip told me Choi was so cool.

 

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We were visiting his bank branch and there was some rain in the morning on the way. There were so many skyscrapers in Dubai. I have never visited this kind of city before that it was just gorgeous.

 

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The tallest building was hidden by cloud.

 

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The view of his office was so stunning.

 

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Before the sunset, the color of building became more beautiful. All buildings were built with different styles. Filip studied architecture that he liked to see and take the picture of amazing buildings.

 

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Dubai looked like it was most developed and fantastic city.

 

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But actually there were some problems. In the morning it was raining. Then on the way back home late afternoon, the road was flooded. The road was built only for cars that many roads didn’t have place where pedestrians can walk. That’s was reason we had to cycle on 16 lanes highway.

 

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I felt like U.A.E (Specially Dubai) are the country with the widest gap between rich and poor in the world. Many foreigner officers and professional workers made $5,000 per month. They didn’t need to pay tax that they would take all salary to their bank.

Workers with wearing nice uniform and speaking perfect English at expensive restaurant and hotel made around $300~$400. Many people hiring those people told “They are lucky to work here because they make three to four times more money than in their country.” But Dubai is one of most expensive area for grocery shop and other things.

When I was in Walmart, I got shocked because it was too expensive. In my memory, there were two places which were the most expensive in the world. The one was Easter Island which was famous for the Moai, big statues because it was middle of Pacific Ocean. And the other one was Dubai. But Dubai is not middle of nowhere that there were lots of flights from all over the world. I could not understand how come people can survive here with $300 in Dubai. Even many of them saved some money from $300 and transferred money to their home town for their family.

Dubai is the best example for perfect capitalism. Many people made $300 while many other people made $6,000. Everything must be run by only money. The most important here was only money. Expat cannot get citizen whatever they work here 20 years or 30 years. If they cannot find a job, they must go back home. This was rule of perfect capitalism. The rule of city is that you would not pay tax so it is okay to kick you out if you cannot make money.

I was wondering how many people were sacrificed to build this luxury city. I kept thinking “This is most luxury and amazing city in the world.” But on the other hand, I felt too bitter. I believed that Dubai was miracle city because they made most fantastic city on the empty desert. But actually maybe this was not miracle. It was only built on blood and sweat of slaves.

 

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We were invited at another dinner by Korean young expats.

 

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It was so delicious food. I was invited many times for meal by Korean expats. Filip asked me why Korean wanted to invite for restaurants all the time.

In Korea, whenever we met, we usually asked “Did you eat something?” Maybe for us most important thing was to make sure you are not hungry. So if Korean wanted to treat the guest, then they wanted to bring the guest to the restaurant.

 

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Even we were invited by Korean sous chef at the restaurant of Atlantis the palm hotel which was one of most famous and luxury 5 star hotel in Dubai. There was evening dinner buffet at Saffron restaurant which was about $70 per person. Filip was invited, too. I thought it was most expensive restaurant in my life.

 

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I did enjoy so much good foods.

 

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There were so many different kind of foods that I only chose something interesting.

 

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Dessert at the end

 

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This five star hotel was so luxury and amazing. After dinner, we looked around the hotel.

 

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Maybe dinner was not enough for him that he wanted to eat whole fish.

 

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Aquarium was like the ancient ruins of the lost city of Atlantis

 

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When about restaurant finished, chief Hoon and we went to drink beer near.

 

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Hoon on the center of the picture started from nothing. He worked at Toronto restaurant at the beginning. But he studied and worked hard and finally he was working at one of most well-known five start hotel.

 

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He showed some other hotel which was another luxury hotel. Hotel room’s balcony was just connected to swimming pool. I cannot imagine how it would be amazing feeling to jump from the balcony.

 

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Good thing about small country was that people could connect to each other well at the abroad. One night, we went some party at his country people’s meeting.

 

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This was other side of the view from our host’s place. There were a few fireworks because of beginning of year.

 

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For me, the most fantastic view was here, Marina bay. It was just unreal. Reflection of the building on the water was so beautiful, too. Choi, Filip, and I ran together around 10 k. What a miracle that I made new record for the speed. I started running one year ago. At the first running, I could run only five minutes. But after one month, I could run without stopping for one hour. The speed was very slow though. I didn’t run for a year. So I could not understand how come I made new record for the speed. (I checked the speed with Nike running app) To run with nice people at gorgeous city lights was fantastic.

 

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For a week, we had good rest at his house. We enjoyed nice pool at the building, were invited for meals by good people, and had fun at the beach near the hotel which looked like a sail boat. After such a nice vacation, we were on a bicycle again.

 

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Just before leaving, we went up building and looked at beautiful Marina bay.

 

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We passed some beach on the way out of Dubai city.

 

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There were too many expensive cars of which I didn’t know the name of company in Dubai.

 

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Today again I cycled on the dangerous road. Car didn’t look dangerous on the picture, but their speed was about 120km/h (74.5 Mile/h). The only time we could get was one second to cross. No any mistake would be acceptable here.

 

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We couldn’t find a safe place to sleep around the night. We asked at Mosque if it was possible to set up the tent at the corner of parking lot. Then one Indian guy invited us at his house and gave some dinner.

 

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Once we went away from Dubia, U.A.E looked different. Big building disappeared and the desert was coming out.

 

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The way to Abu Dhabi was quite easy. We just followed main highway and it was not dangerous.

 

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Abu Dhabi was still under construction at many places.

 

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There was Ferrari world in Abu Dhabi. Entrance fee was very expensive. I didn’t know much about cars that it was not necessary to visit though. Also there were already some cars around to see that it was enough for me.

 

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F1 was opened for free to cyclists two times a week. I wore sunglasses to look cool in the night. haha.

 

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Security guy told us that it was not allowed to cycle with luggage. There was big lockers that we could put all our luggage in one locker. All bicycles of people were expensive race one. I cycled so hard ever for five minutes to overtake them. But after that I was out of energy.

After two rounds, I became bored and I thought to cycle same round again and again was not fun.

 

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We found a host from Couchsurfing again in Abu Dhabi. He was from Egypt and he showed us a few places. People who came to Abu Dhabi usually visited this place, Grand Mosque.

 

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It was just gorgeous ever. It was started building in 1996 and finished in 2007 that it was not historical place. But it was top 1 for luxury mosque.

 

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Abu Dhabi Grand mosque held three world records.

Largest dome in a mosque in the world
Largest Chandelier in a mosque in the world
Largest Carpet in the world at over 5,600m2

 

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I felt like everything must look luxury in U.A.E.

 

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Even people had to eat gold to make their organ looking luxury.

 

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After visiting palace

 

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We had nice dinner together with him and his friend.

 

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We met Portuguese manager of the bicycle shop who was working as mechanic at F1. He invited at the bicycle shop and tuned his and my bicycle for free.

 

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There was indoor climbing that we could enjoy it.

 

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Thank to Adventure HQ :)

 

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This was U.A.E money. There was other kind money but it was only what I had when I took the picture. The host of Abu Dhabi was going for business trip for two weeks and he let us stay at his place while he was out of U.A.E. The next country we were heading to was Oman. I could enter Oman 30 days without visa. But again it was hard for Filip. He did need visa.

Unlike Dubai visa, there was no any information for Omani visa. We visited Omani embassy in Dubai. But they told us that they didn’t work about Omani visa. He called many tour agencies but all of them said no. It seemed he should join a group tour at the tour agency to get a visa. Time was flying but we couldn’t find any information. Later he found that it was possible to get visa if he has sponsorship with local people. He found someone on Couchsurfing. But there was only one week left before visa expiring. The local guy worked really extremely SLOW for sponsorship visa and Filip was bit slow too. I ran out of patience to see two guy’s working speed.

 

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We had to move to the border because visa was expiring soon. There was not enough time to get sponsorship Omani visa that he made a plan to extend his U.A.E visa first. There was something special building on our way to the border.

 

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After sleeping at the desert for a night, when I woke up, there were camels hanging around.

 

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I didn’t have the chance to talk to local people in U.A.E. The population of local people was 19%, 23% was Arab and Iranian, 50% South Asia, and others 8%. Most of service job was done by foreigners so that I could not talk to any local people. So I was wondering that those people on camels were local people or not.

Actually I talked to local people one time. It was in Immigration at the port. The office worker turned on Hotspot and waited until his visa was arrived on the system. That was only experience and the local guy was really kind and friendly.

 

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There was long line of camels.

 

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Desert was always so beautiful every time I visited.

 

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Good thing to have a partner was that I could get my photo.

 

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Bad thing to have a partner was that my partner must take the picture when I fell off.

 

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We were close to the border. I had cycled with him more than three months. Sometimes we had small argue about when to eat and where to sleep. But we overcame all hard things together and came here together.

 

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When I had the problem, I always went through and found the solution. So I believed that we would enter to Oman together. So I cycled with smiling.

 

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We found the host again through Couchsurfing at the border town. We went to shisha cafe with the host. Who won on this game? ME!

(I don’t smoke, but I just have shisha sometimes for fun. Usually just one or two times a year. But on the middle east, at least one time a month.)

 

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Filip’s birthday was coming and his visa was expiring soon too. I didn’t need visa for U.A.E and Oman that I could do visa run if I wanted to extend visa. But Filip couldn’t do visa run because he needed visa for all country, Iran, Oman, and U.A.E. There was no way to go without visa to him. So he went immigration to extend visa at the border town. It was not possible.

It was so bad day that it was his birthday! I always solved the problem, but there was nothing I can do in front of visa problem. I bought some surprised gift for his birthday and I wanted to give him at dinner. But I just gave him at the afternoon because it seemed we could not cycle anymore together.

We wanted to try last thing. We just went to Omani border and asked he could get visa there. But it was not possible either. Tomorrow his visa would expire that he must get out of the country by flight. If he made the problem, he would lose $1,000 deposit which he gave to tour agency to get U.A.E visa.

His embassy was so kind that ambassador sent a driver to take him for dinner in Abu Dhabi before. Ambassador were helping him at everything to leave him U.A.E safely as well. It was opposite of Korean Embassy. Korean diplomats all over the world were unfriendly, unhelpful, and extremely arrogant. I was not sure why his embassy was so kind. Maybe because his country had small population or other country embassies are kind usually?

 

I didn’t have problem with visa generally because my passport was easy. So I couldn’t feel when people from other countries said it was so hard to travel because of visa. But while watching him, I got too much stress that I could understand finally.

I really didn’t expect that we had to have farewell suddenly.

 

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It was our last moment. There was one local people who was helping us at the border town. He let me sleep at his house. I didn’t know that I would have the chance to sleep at local people’s house. I felt traveling was kept going while feeling sad. There were nice garden and two big houses because he had two wives. There was a big guest room as well.

Just before he bought flight ticket at the midnight, we talked on the messenger. He was considering to go to Sri Lanka because he could get E-visa. But he wanted to go back home, take some rest, find sponsors, and come out again. I told him maybe it would be difficult to start traveling again because home would be so comfortable. But I could understand that he must be so tired. I saw some travelers going back home after having problem with visas. It must be too frustrating.

He said let’s meet in Iran after a few months.

 

To cycle with someone was more than marriage. I am not talking about emotional thing, but about the amount time spending together. We spent 24 hours together. If people get married, they would work at different places and meet different friends. But we cycled together and met same people.

After spending time together with him 24 hours for three months, it was time to say good bye.

Could I see him again???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Epilogue

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Promise was broken with him. He set down at his home and got a job. So was he failed? I never think like that. I don’t believe that people have to travel the world. Filip was happy to see his dog, spend good time with his family and friends, build carrier as architect, and join triathlon again. There was no reason to travel to find happiness. The most important on the life is to enjoy now. It doesn’t need to eat gold cake, be rich or travel the world to be happy. Under the condition people have food and house for the life, then people would success if they can enjoy their life. I believed that he is having another success life now. I couldn’t meet him again, but I thank that I had some good memories with him. That’s enough.

[2015/12/29~2016/01/27 (D+1610)]


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Good post. I was in Dubai in december 2016 too. The highways are absolutely crazy. I waited for 20 minutes at one spot that I could not cross.

    • Hello Iohan,
      Yes.. it is crazy… the most dangerous road! 20 minutes sounds too much.. It must be scaring and nervous. But I am sure everything was fine because you left comment here.. hehehe :)

  • Love it! I hope to go through the U.A.E. There are other countries I want to go to, in the area (particularly one), but just have to get it all done in the right order. Thankfully, I’ve got two passports.

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