(Sorry I'm going to have to make this short as the power is out and I've just been told there are one a few more minutes of battery... yeah, still in a developing country)
I flew Emirates to Delhi via Dubai and having a ten hour layover, I had to leave the airport. My flight landed at 6am and my next flight wasn't until 3:30pm. I figured I would go grab breakfast somewhere and then an early lunch with a little sight-seeing before heading back to the airport. Not so simple. First it took over an hour to get from the airport to downtown and more importantly, second, it is Ramadan - nothing was open to eat! I'm used to Mali and being respectful to the Muslims who are fasting but at least there they accept that there are other people who aren't fasting and as long as you're discreet, it isn't a big deal to eat and drink. Dubai on the other hand, you can get a fine for eating or even drinking water in public. After hitting up some hotels (too expensive) and then a mall (food court closed) I found a Carrefour (a large supermarket) where I could at least guy some food (I found TimTams!!!) - anyhow, after getting this lovely food, it was by now almost noon and I was starving.
However... i couldn't eat my food! I asked around where I could hide away for a few minutes but the only suggestion I got was go sit in a bathroom stall! Eventually, I found a closed restaurant where I hid to eat. Next, I was off to the airport for my flight! And thus was my experience in Dubai! The mall I choose to go for their food court also was the one with Ski Dubai - wow, talk about something extremely out of place!
Overall, my opinion of Dubai is: not worth it. If you're en-route to somewhere else and can stop there for a day, sure. Otherwise, it is just a giant shopping mall with crazy buildings that shouldn't be there. On any undeveloped land all you have is sand - essentially, the entire place was sand and they've built this crazy city where it doesn't belong. Sure the tallest building in the world is there but really - Dubai isn't worth it. If you want to go driving on sand dunes or ride a camel, there are better places.
My time in Dubai did have a highlight though: when I was back at the airport and went to sit down to wait for my flight, I sat down and looked up to find none other than a Cinnabon! Talk about fortuitous! That totally made my day. Remember, I'd been living in Africa for more than two years - Cinnabon was one of those things I dreamed of having... not something I really ever went to in the states, but live in Africa for two years and you'll understand.
Well, the batteries seem to be lasting (no fast high pitched beeping yet) so I'll keep typing...
I arrived in Delhi about 9pm on the 6th, a day and a half after I left Ghana. My wonderful aunt arranged to have someone pick me up and I'd found a place to stay using couchsurfing.com. Really a great introduction mostly because it let me ease into India. Sure it is my first time here, but it wasn't as much of a shock as it would have been for someone coming from Europe or America - Africa is different sure, but it wasn't as in my face as it could have been I suppose.
I took it easy in Delhi and only really got out to sight-see my third day there (my second was a monday when everything is closed). I didn't really have any plans upon arrival as to what I would do with my next month in India. In fact, I hadn't even opened the outdated lonely planet from 2003 I got just before leaving Mali. Some people might be shocked to hear that I didn't really have a plan (whatsoever) but really, some of my best trips have been ones where I just figured it out when I got there... and I did just that. The woman that so graciously offered me here hospitality and a place to stay when i arrived took me to a friend's house the next day. That friend used to write for guide books in India and lead trips in the Ladakh region of Northern India - needless to say, she was a bit inclined to suggest traveling up there and the next day I bought a ticket north to Leh.
Little did I realize what I was getting into! For starters the airport I flew into is the highest commercial airport in the world at almost 12000 feet! I would have to adjust to the altitude, ok I'm from 8000 feet in Colorado, shouldn't be too big a deal... oh wait, I've been living at sea level for the past two years - nope, I arrived a little after 6 am, was checked into a hotel and lying in bed by 7 where I stayed for the next 12 hours! Wow. I have never been away from altitude for so long that I really felt the effects - sure I've had a small headache or a tiny shortness of breath but this was a whole nother level. Now I know, and can really sympathize with all those tourists coming to Aspen. (I will say that 12000 feet is a little different though...) :-p The view out the window was magnificent by the way - I'll try and get some photos up when I head south and internet isn't so expensive.
Next, I had to borrow some clothes so I didn't freeze when I got here. 12000 feet means pretty cold - I wasn't planning on coming up here (remember, I didn't have a plan and even when did think about what I might do, going north where it's cold was pretty far down my list). When we landed, the pilot annonced the local weather: 3 degrees! (37 F) It was a bit of a shock to say the least. Delhi was 40 (104 F) and I'd just come from Mali where during the hot season, it got up to 52 (125.6). I'm now about to leave tomorrow morning and I've asked for additional blankets just about every night since I arrived - I'm up to at least 7 and I'm still cold in the morning! I'm going to have some adjusting to do when i get back home to colorado, but at least there I'll have some proper warm clothes...
Leh feels like Tibet. It is nestled in-between Pakistan and China in the Himalayas and there are lots of beautiful monasteries perched on the sides of mountains. Amazing. Again, I'll try and get some pictures up another time. Part of the reason I came here right away was there has been a festival here with lots of traditional dances and other various activities. The other, and more important one is the later I waited, the colder it would be.
I'll just say that it was great and I'm really happy I came. I'm ready to get going though as it snowed a bit today and as we'll be driving south over some of the highest motor-able passes in the world (over 5000meters/16400feet) - it is time to go. I don't want to be stuck here for the winter! Of course, I'm really just ready to see more of India!
Ok, the beeping started on the batteries... Oooo! Before I forget, I saw the Dalai Lama today! (No time to proof-read so sorry for any errors!)