I wish that opening image was mine folks but my helicopter was unavailable for the day :--)
So I write the first portion of the post almost entirely with three good friends back home in mind; Alex, Steve and Ben. I know that I'm going to have to put a half good case together here in explaining the post title to avoid a public roasting. Saying it was expensive just isn't going to cut this time although at £70 for a basic pass for both attractions, well, that's around three days living for an average backpacker so hardly numbers to be sniffed at.
Still, they'd be right, though. There was no way that I, a former sports car aficionado and F1 fan, would let a visit to Ferrari world miss me by. Having just dawned on me that some of you might not be familiar with Ferrari World, I trust the opening image (also shown below) helps in appreciating the scale and impressiveness of this...
Wow, huh. As for what it actually is, well it's basically a large amusement park and I quote, officially: "Ferrari World Abu Dhabi was created in tribute to Ferrari’s passion, heritage, excellence, innovation and performance".
It holds a couple of impressive statistics though, starting with it being the largest space frame structure ever built and then promptly not forgetting the world's fastest roller coaster resides here. Satisfied? So where did it go wrong for me? Well, it didn't at first...look!
So having made it to the ticket desk, it was there that I learnt a few things that in turn, had me step aside to consider my options. Evidently I didn't return and thus explaining the post title of me entering here but also not entering here.
The first nail in the coffin was a big 4" nail; the world's fastest roller coaster was shut for maintenance over the next two days. Da fuq. I ask the lady what else there was for me to do here and its at this point she brings out the map to point out a few things. She pointed out sections that were dedicated towards younger children, then to areas that were more family orientated and then to another section which appeared to offer 'hands-on' experiences but then they had to be booked in advance. Arrghh!
All things considered, it wasn't looking good and it certainly wasn't looking worth the expense! Still I took the opportunity to take a few more pictures before departing with my head slightly hung. Sorry lads but worry not, as I have something at the end of this post to make up for it, I promise.
Then there was the super-big water park that was near by. It's slightly cheaper when you buy a two day pass (for both attractions) but with Ferrari world looking unlikely, I thought I could justify extra expense for a single ticket to the water park. Except that wasn't meant to be either as tomorrow was 'Ladies day'. You gotta be kidding me! I had no swim gear, towel or anything else to go today.
After ten minutes of frustration, normal discipline was resumed having accepted this was now looking terminal but I still needed a mindset adjustment fix. Thankfully it came not so long after as a new plan started to take shape in my mind. The key to this failed acceptance was acknowledging that both experiences would be far more memorable (and enjoyable) with friends. Hint hint lads...
I'm therefore hoping that us four (and whoever else wants to join) will return to Abu Dhabi at the end of November for 3-5 days. The lads will know already exactly why November as this will be to tie it in around watching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix before enjoying these two epic attractions for the following two days. Could be quite a mini holiday lads, what do you reckon hypothetically?
Anyhow, to make up for my adventure park losses I had a couple of treats in mind which conveniently brings us on to...
Is food, drink and accommodation at all affordable in the UAE capital?
Well, I'm glad you asked :--) No really, I reckon some of the following will really surprise you as it has me.
You can get a decent 'well-known' hotel here for between £40 and £50 per night so not really sustainable (or even affordable) for a lot of backpackers. Get this though, there is however one hostel here. Yes, just one hostel in all of Abu Dhabi lol. Needless to say I booked in here a couple of days ago and indeed I remained here for a couple of days and until yesterday.
So there's a couple of things to mention here thinking back. Firstly the price was fantastic! £10 for a 4-share room! I paid similar in Albania and now in the capital city of the UAE!!! Surprised? Still, I was well aware that my £10 wouldn't get me a lot and so my fingers were crossed - especially after reading the following review which was literally days before my arrival. I'd be curious though to know though what you'd have done following this read. Would you have proceeded with the booking?
What's not too like? Lol.
Seriously though, I felt I was worldly enough to know to pay little attention to that which turned out to be the right decision. The manager proved to be Eastern European meaning that his tough, stern façade and personality can often be confused and mis-interpreted which was very likely to have been the case above as I found the chap to be nothing other than pleasant. As for the place itself, well it was certainly small. We're talking one toilet, one sink and one shower! (In a utility room). When you have three rooms that can fill 25 people, that's a potential big issue. Thank the Lord there was only like eight people staying there in total so this proved to be manageable. Oh, did I mention there was practically no communal space. Like an area one meter by three and that area was always occupied by an Egyptian looking to find work.
You know what's coming next then folks...
With the money saved from Ferrari world and the Waterpark (and the fact that I'm very close to the end of my trip), I booked myself into a hotel for the last two nights and boy, did it feel like a treat! I had a bath, a robe, access to a warm swimming pool and they provided an almighty breakfast. I couldn't stop smiling for hours, days even. As the pool was located on the 5th floor, I had views down to the bustling city below.
If there's one thing travel makes you appreciate it's just how many things we really take for granted.
I've typically eaten street food here which is no different to most countries I've visited but thankfully, I didn't have to worry about cost being an issue and often it's been decent quality too. With heat reaching 38 to 40 degrees standard, fluids are also obviously essential and often more desirable than food. In places like Morocco and Egypt I would occasionally treat myself to a fresh orange juice as they were affordable but other than that, bottled water is what I drink. Strangely, I can now add the UAE to that surprising list of countries offering affordable juices! To the point where you can get a pint sized freshly made juice (of any flavour) for the price of £2 GBP. At that price, I didn't even once feel the need to ever order 'small' lol.
As for the other type of drink, well they don't sell alcohol on the street in the UAE so that's that one answered.
"You get out what you put in"
What is it with end of travel experiences? Do you remember that one of my most treasured, memorable experiences last year was literally in my last week of travel - after 8 months on the road. Well guess what? Yep, the exact same thing has happened this year...the odds?
Newer readers not familiar with one of my final posts of last year, do come back to this 'Magical Meteora' link at the end of the article as it's certainly a picture-inspiring one...
So you know that saying 'you get out what you put in', well, that was certainly the case here. Well aware that Abu Dhabi hold a Grand Prix here, I desperately wanted to visit the most expensive F1 circuit every built.....but how!? You can't just rock up to a security guard and say 'Please Sir, I've come a long way...'.
As such I took to the Internet in the vague hope of something, anything before eventually stumbling on an article that immediately grabbed my attention. Here then are three before, during and after pictures with the latter culminating in a genuine, unrehearsed (slightly knackered) smile.
Need any more clues as to what I did on this final Abu Dhabi evening...!? :--)
Folks, I discovered that once a week this awesome place allows for people to cycle around the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit and that day was this day on my final night. Don't get me wrong, I'd have still stayed longer if it was later in the week! Hugely excited, this sounded too good to be true: I didn't have a bike to bring, what about the cost of attending such an event? Could I hire a bike and if so how much? Still so many unanswered questions but not for long. Research confirmed that over 400 bikes and helmets are available for people to come and enjoy this experience with as little inconvenience as possible. What's more, it was free...! No wonder it was so popular with family, friends, couples, cyclists... just about everyone. The ambience here was just wonderful.
The only annoyance was that I had to wait in a queue for 25 minutes to get my bike. So whilst this confirmed it was a super busy, super popular event, when you were out on track it never once felt congested. Even the heat was no longer an issue. You see unlike the 99% of people arriving here by their own transportation, I had walked from the Yas Mall, past Ferrari World and the Water park to reach the circuit so I'd already walked for a hour and 4KM later prior so needless to say I was already completely soaked through! By the time I'd queued to get my bike, day and turned to twilight and twilight and turned to night. At this point, the temperature would have been 30 degrees and so that was relatively cool.
Know that something like 90% of the following pictures is me 'happy-snapping' whilst actually riding well-aware that I could topple over at any moment. Not wise but somehow it worked and probably only because I was buzzing! The adrenalin (and my smile) were constant the moment I sat on the bike to the moment I dismounted it.
I left the circuit really feeling fantastic but at the same time, I'd have given anything to have had the lads with me to enjoy this experience for themselves. That said, if they pull their fingers out, this might one day become a reality for them too. Speaking of reality, well it's started to kick in a little as this is very likely to be one of my final few articles. Time then to move on and head back to Dubai for this, my final city of the 2016 journey :-(
Thank you Abu Dhabi, it was a real pleasure...