Thursday, May 20, 2010

An interesting week or so

I've just about caught up with things since the UK trip and being tour guide to our visitor.

I've always enjoyed the tour guide thing wherever I've been living. I guess most people are similar, we tend to get a bit blasé about the city we live in and things we see every day we pass by rather than looking at them.

Showing people around means you have to look at and talk about the attractions so it refreshes our own appreciation - or otherwise - of the city.

As I always do I tried to give a flavour of the two totally different Dubais, the city and New Dubai.

We trundled around Beach Road, Al Wasl, SZR and sat on the beach near Burj Al Arab for the obligatory tourist shot. Visited Mercato, Ibn Battuta and Mall of the Emirates. Spent time in Madinat Jumeirah and Dubai Marina, toured Media/Internet Cities/KV. And of course Burj Khalifa, Old Town Island, the aquarium and gold souk in Dubai Mall.

Then for the flavour of the city, an abra ride across the Creek and time in the souks of Deira and Bur Dubai, a visit to Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort and a couple of hours in Satwa.

I tried to give the same kind of variety with the three dinners we had time for - Indian, Arabic and the international buffet at Al Qasr. It's disappointing food there but the building and decor is so good that overall it makes a good last evening impression for visitors.

Having a visitor also highlighted the fact that while most companies here are way out of touch with modern communications (websites lierally years out of date and non-reply to e-mails for example) some of them are on top of it.

Emirates Airline has a good interactive website, it's relatively easy to find what you're looking for, you can choose & reserve your seat when you book, get your boarding pass online which reduces the queueing at the airport. They have good updates on the volcano ash cloud too.

There was also news a couple of days ago that Emirates have extended their online booking facility to allow their passengers to apply for a visa online. That story's here.

DNRD has a great idea with the e-gate card to get you through the airport without having to queue at Immigration desks. There's the occassional blip when it refuses to recognise your fingerprint and you have to try again once or twice, but it's a whole lot better than the queues at Immigration.

You now have to show the machine the barcode on your boarding pass in addition to the e-gate card itself. I had a message on my mobile that said there was a change to the system, with a number to call for further information, so DNRD is also using new communications system well.

The running about on SZR meant that I got the usual reminder that my Salik account needed topping up, so the RTA is also aware of how to communicate with us.

So, amazingly, is our bank. Actually going into the branch and trying to deal with people - especially if you have a problem to resolve or a question to be answered - throws up the usual 'customer service' problems.

But we took money out to transfer back to Oz (a much better deal from the local currency exchange than the bank itself offers) and even before the cashier had put the money in an envelope my mobile rang with a message telling me how much had been taken from my account.

I was impressed with that.


Mister Aedan said...

"...the RTA is also aware of how to communicate with us" - to an extent, but trying to find a bus schedule from them, or any information about the water taxi service to DFC that they supposedly launched this week, is a challenge. Their website leaves a lot to be desired in terms of updates too.

Seabee said...

True, and that's the kind of bad website design and non-update that I mentioned, and have complained about many times in the past.

Why do they do it?

George McKee said...

I'm new to the area and find it curious that the local exchange companies give you a better rate than the bank. In Portugal, it's the opposite. Is that just your bank charging you more or is that true for all banks there?

Seabee said...

George, I'm not sure whether it's all banks. Mine gives a worse rate plus a higher charge than the exchange.

Shalini said...

So which part of Dubai did your visitors prefer?

Seabee said...

Shalini, they preferred the old parts. All the visitors I've shown around, without exception, have said the most fun and memorable part was the abra ride across the Creek.

Shalini said...

Yes, the abra ride to the souks on either side is one of my favorite things to do in the city as well.