Olov LindgrenTag Archive -

Bangkok – A city of diversity

Thailand-Bangkok 020

Random photos of our last two visits to Bangkok, Thailand…

All that glitters is Dubai

Burj Khalifa

Deserts? Indoor skiing-slopes? Worlds tallest building? Man made islands shaped like palm trees? Gold markets? If it’s possible to construct it, it’s in Dubai. The constant drive to be the best at everything they do, and often achieving that goal as well, brings your thoughts to Las Vegas, but the similarities ends there. Dubai is a mishmash of skyscrapers, gold markets, ancient Mosques and deserts.

A visit to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is a must. It’s an impressive glass building measuring a staggering 828m (2717 ft.) and is truly a symbol for Dubai’s aim for the top. The nearby Mall of Dubai housing a huge gold market, some 1 200 shops, theme parks, ice rinks etc. is a great way to ”escape” the heat for a few hours.

The seemingly unending cash flow and progressive investments has turned Dubai into an ultramodern city where progress is everything, steadily keeping both feet in traditional Islam beliefs but keeping a constant eye on life in the west. This is a city where almost anything can be bought if you have enough money but holding hands (man-woman), showing affection in public or showing to much skin is a big no-no.

One might expect to find the streets filled with emirati men in long white ankle-length shirts (Kandura) and emirati women in covered in black over-garment (Abaya). In reality this is hardly the case, indeed this is the preferred dress code, but most people you encounter in Dubai is the myriad of (mainly) Indian and Pakistani foreign workers.

Our stay in Dubai was limited to less then four days so we had to be effective. Arriving late in Dubai we walked around for countless hours trying to get a feel of what Dubai nightlife had to offer. Surprisingly the streets felt empty and one thing that caught our attention was the lack of women out at night. During our first 8 hours not a single one of the numerous people we encountered was female. Since roughly 30% of the population in Dubai is female we expected to see mainly men but it still felt different from back home in northern Sweden.

After countless of hours sightseeing by foot it became evident that Dubai is not made for pedestrians. The metro is one of best metro systems I’ve ever experienced but lack of connections and the rest of the city being made to cater cars and cars only makes commuting difficult. Soar feet is to be expected for people aiming for greener and cheaper ways of travel.

Trying to get to Burj al Arab, which is consider to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, took us almost 3 hours when relying only on walking and metro. We got to experience a beautiful sunset by the beach when we finally got there so I guess it was worth it.

If you love food then your gonna love Dubai. Almost every cuisine in the world is represented here. Ranging from simple food stalls to Michelin star restaurants you’ll hardly starve. As a vegan there’s countless of alternatives, I would highly recommend the Indian and Lebanese. Even places like McDonalds had some extensive vegan food options, though I advice you to try the local food before heading for the fast food restaurants.

During our visit we stayed in a district called Bur Dubai, one of the older parts of the city and the residence for the many expats working round the clock to keep the dream alive. After just a few hours into our visit it becomes clear how dependent Dubai is on their foreign workforce.

For Emiratis and multi corporations Dubai is the land of opportunities. Sadly, as in most cases, the future for the majority of the city’s guest workers is less bright.  With monthly salaries ranging from 100-200 USD it’s hardly the millions advertised. Working conditions has been described by Human Rights Watch as ”less then human” and it’s hard to ignore the evident gaps in social status when visiting Dubai.

Dubai is an amazing city and a bit of glitter and gold is always nice, but I can’t help but having a slightly bad feeling about where they’re heading. Waiting to board our flight to Manila, our next destination, I just can’t help but questioning, do this kind of progress always have to be on the expense of others?

***Update*** Serious wi-fi issues in Manila. Pictures coming:)

The start of a new journey

Taking off

The sun is shedding it’s first rays reflecting like a kaleidoscope on the glass buildings that seems to go on forever into the sky. Loud chants from the nearby minarets is echoing trough a maze of futuristic buildings, picture perfect gardens and traditional mosques. It’s 6 am in Dubai, and I’ve never felt longer from home.

How I got here started about 5 years ago on a trip around the U.S. We we’re soaring at 10 000 ft. over Los Angeles, heading for New York when it bit me. The travel-bug had sunken it’s fangs. I knew that I had to make time for some extensive traveling and see what the world had to offer. As always, life got in the way. For the next couple of years I did 2-3 weeks of travel a year, meaning some 49 weeks where spent working. Doesn’t sound like the long time travel dreams I was looking for, does it?

In early summer of 2010, on a similar trip, going from Stockholm to New York on a one week vacation to visit my girlfriend Lina, who was studying there at the time, it hit me. If we don’t travel now, it will never happen. We just had to figure out how to transform our thoughts into action.

The rough plan was to spend at least 3 months abroad starting around New Years 2010/2011.

Having a full-time job, which I was enjoying, and Lina being occupied with her second year of social studies at the university with 1,5 years left to graduation, we knew it wouldn’t be easy.

On top of this, some hard earned cash had to be saved up for a trip like this. Blessed with a partner living on a student budget, I was off to a good start. Though it didn’t take me long to realize that this couldn’t be achieved by just crunching numbers and skipping the occasional dining out, or splurging on the next hot gadget. The change had to run deeper then just saving up on little things, my whole perspective on consumerism had to be changed. The constant race to buy myself happier had to stop, or at least be severely slowed down. Suffering from a bad case of Apple- fandom and being an overall tech-junky, it would become quite a challenge.

Having gone vegan, cold turkey, 8 month earlier, I knew that dramatic changes isn’t that hard if you just go for it. Trying to apply the same mindset I used when I turned in a bloody steak for a plate of vegetables, I knew I had to focus on the essential.

What is it that makes me get out of bed in the morning? Is it the material objects I’ve been hoarding over the years, or is it the people I’ve met? The things I’ve done? The experiences I’ve had?

The answer was simple. I had to focus on Doing things rather then Buying things. Seems pretty obvious, but in our modern society stepping outside the box, trying to find a more aware, minimalistic approach to living was for me a major game-changer.

With the support of a great boss and co-workers I was granted 5 months off work and Lina put her studies on a 6 month hiatus. We got the ball rolling…

One thing led to another and in the beginning of february we took off for Dubai to begin our round the world trip.

To end this lengthy post (sorry for the jabbering) I think a proper introduction is in order. My name is Olov and I’m from a small town in northern Sweden. My expectations is to keep this blog updated as often as possible on my quest to live more, travel more, learn more.

Sitting on the porch of our hotel in Manila right now and slowly adjusting to life abroad.

Hope to bring you along for the ride!