‘Its just you and me Baby’ – AuroRaman, 6th October 2010. Dubai, UAE.

And so our adventure began, six days ago in Dubai. Having bid an emotional farewell to our respective families, friends and our ‘home’, we hopped on the Airbus to meet relatives and take in a city neither of us had been to before. A good starting point to ease our way into impending travels. If I may so humbly make a prediction, every pre-conception you have of Dubai is probably true, and if it isn’t, they’ll build it for you.

The people are polite and professional. Service is key in this part of the world, which is refreshing after watching manners and common courtesy slowly evaporate in London over the years. Everyone we conversed with was fairly fluent in a host of languages. Food is almost fully imported, so our cheese fix was never far away and a host of cuisines were available to enrich the taste buds, which we took full advantage of.

The resorts, oh dear lord, the resorts! New stars had to be created in the hotel rating system to incorporate what Dubai’s finest have to offer. We kinda went on a whistle-stop tour of most of the big-hitters, each one vying to be even more ludicrously impressive and OTT than its neighbour. My personal favourite was the Madinat Jumeirah resort, a utopic man-made paradise complete with a canal system Venice wouldn’t kick out of bed for breaking wind.

Day one saw us arrive in Dubai to be picked up by my little cousin, Karan. By little I mean he’s a few months younger than me, not because he is 6’3 odd and built for a rugby scrum. The first thing you notice is obviously the searing heat and humidity, which I felt I should mention, considering we were fairly near the equator and surrounded by desert. Apparently this time of year is ‘mild’.

It was hard to believe we were travelling through what was once sparse desert, the landscape was nothing short of unbelievable. Think of a futuristic metropolis that wouldn’t look out of place in latter-day Superman films. Just without the flying vehicles, although they’re probably not far off…

Our arrival in the Jumeirah area and what would be home for the next three days gave us the chance to see my aunt Nindi, a very peaceful, beautiful and serene lady who reminds me a lot of my own wonderful mum, Taranjeet Uncle, a warm-hearted man who oozes calm and confidence, and Bhuaji, Karan’s grandmother and the quintessential matriarch of the family. Oh and how can I forget Sonu, the 17-year old Yorkshire terrier who I met on the day he came into the family.

After a much-needed sleep (Emirates do the most divine in-flight entertainment), my uncle Kawal took us to Jumeirah Beach to have a look round the famous landmarks/hotels in the area, and afterwards, lounge by the pool with a refreshing mocktail.

Kawal reminds me a lot of Robin Williams in full flow. Every other line that comes out of his mouth is either a witty comment or deprecating low-blow (for comedy purposes obviously). As he kept reminding us during our mocktail session, we needed to get on the hard stuff soon or risk ‘deportation’ for crimes against lack of alcohol consumption. His second name is Kohli. People call him Al-Kohli round these parts, which is rather fitting if you get the play on words.

That evening, Karan and Al-Kohli took us to a lovely outdoor bar/restaurant by the Creek, which is a river that separates ‘Old Dubai’ from ‘New Dubai’. We enjoyed a mixed buffet of Mediterranean and Eastern delights plus some fried stuff with cheese. Luckily for us, according to Kawal, we had done just about enough at the end of the evening not to get deported. Karan isn’t drinking at the moment and training hard, so apologies if your reading this mate, I know I’m hard work at the best of times, thanks for dealing with Drunk Ram so well.

Our penultimate day in Dubai saw us go on a desert safari in the golden sands between Dubai and Oman. In specially-fortified Jeeps, we were thrown around the dunes in maniacal fashion, only just being able to steady ourselves to see the fantastic view of a troupe of at least 100 cars like ours, fighting the sands at the same time. I found it rather hilarious that Stannie didn’t realise the drivers released the air from their tyres to counteract the punishing terrain. I knew that all along, I just neglected to tell her until it was obvious. Obviously…

As the sun was setting across the golden sea, we arrived at our next destination. The exterior reminded me of the Roman camps illustrated in the Asterix series of comics. Four wooden walls which housed an interior of a large dancing area, buffet, souvenir shops, shisha area and communal meeting points. Around the large dancing area were tables of 6 where we, the guests, could sit on Persian rugs and cushions and enjoy the festivities. Oh yeah, I also tore up the dune buggy track beforehand like a young, Indian Ayrton Senna.

Before dinner, Stannie had her first experience with Shisha smoking. I must say, for someone that believes ‘only bad people smoke’, she took to it very well. I may well purchase one when we get to New Zealand in that case. It’s that or a Playstation…

The next day, we went to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world. To do this, we had to enter the biggest mall in the world, which houses the biggest aquarium in the world. As we were going up the elevator at a rate of 10 meters per second, my insides started churning and I realised I needed the biggest shi….

The view from the top really encapsulated how much work had gone into making Dubai a thriving centre for luxury and decadence in the middle of an extreme environment. We were on the 124th floor out of 200+. You weren’t allowed any higher. I felt disappointed until I looked down. ‘Flippin’ eck!’.

Our last evening in Dubai saw us starting off with a few drinks at the aforementioned Medinat Jumeirah. The bar we went into was like one big Martini advert, except they were playing hits from Pearl Jam, The Police and Beastie Boys. Many people came up to Karan and Kawal to shake their hands, like a scene from The Godfather. I ordered a pint of Stella.

After having dinner at a family friends’ oriental restaurant, complete with covert drinking operations, we headed to what we kept being referred to as a place to view our ‘culture’. Now, the only thing I’ll say about this is that people can interpret the word ‘culture’ in many different ways. What goes on tour stays on tour.

I should mention, this was hopefully my last night of drinking whilst we are away much to Al Kohli’s displeasure (‘Vegetarian and teetotal? You disgust me’). I think it was a fitting send off, thank you dearest family.

I feel what surprised us during our trip was that although some of the most impressive feats of human engineering are on show here, there is also an approving nod to our natural world in a lot of Dubai’s steel. Buildings based on the shape of a delicate flower, the insistence of water being a theme in most constructions and an abundance of approving nods to Mother Earth’s animal kingdom in the world’s tallest towers and crystal-clear lakes, delight and confuse at the same time. It would befuddle even the most hardened tree-hugging, left-leaning, Guardian-reading, vegetarian hippy (do you know anyone that fits that description?).

The most enjoyable element of our time in Dubai, with utmost sincerity, was the conversation, banter and musings we engaged in with our family. The backdrops were stunning, but they pale into insignificance. It’s times like these that it hits you, New Zealand is going to be a lonely place sometimes.

In a land fit for the bluest of blood, our family still surpassed themselves with the care they took into making our stay as pleasurable as possible. Nothing was too much to ask for and we sincerely thank you for all you did for us. We were truly treated like royalty, my mate Ben would’ve been proud of the way his ‘little Indian prince’ was handled!

Hungover, uncomfortable and hot, we settled into the seats on the plane. One chapter down, who knows how many to go before we reach Middle Earth? Thailand please, Mr Pilot. I closed my eyes to reflect on the last few days. This is it, now we really are on our own. Six weeks of not knowing what lies ahead, bar meeting the incomparable team Politz-Damergi’s in Cambodia (looking forward to it guys). We miss our friends. We miss our family. But thinking about our future? What a rush! I turn to Stannie. ‘It’s just you and me Baby…’

S+R xxx