27.11.2011 28 °C
The problem with tall buildings is that, well they are tall, extremely tall in some instances. Whilst this revelation may not come as a shock to many of you, it does present some challenges. For example the problem with being so tall is that you can see them from a very long way off. The Burj Khalifa is one such example. This monstrous marvel of modern engineering can be seen for up to 50km in all directions.
Why is this a problem?? Well I could see the building from my hotel balcony and felt it would be an interesting place to attempt to walk to today. That’s why. Because after a couple of hours random walking the damn thing didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I’m sure it was, but things that are a long way off tend to keep looking that way until you get rather close. Add to this the fact that those crazy Arabs like building residential areas with dead end streets, and the trip becomes all the more challenging. On more than one occasion I wandered down a road only to find it ending abruptly. I even gauged one possible tentative foray by the volume of traffic preceding me down it. I figured that a vast number of vehicles going down a road was a decent indication that it went somewhere. Right?? All I can surmise is that someone in that particular complex must have been having a party, or that everyone was going home for lunch at the same time.
Burj at sunset from near my hotel.
I can be quite stubborn when it comes to matters like this, quite stubborn indeed. It turns into a challenge between the city and me, and I’ll be damned if I was going to let the city win. The downside to this style of thinking is that Dubai is in fact not an evil omnipotent force out to make my life as trying as possible, and has no idea of either my struggles or growing hatred. It wouldn't actually care at all if I caught a taxi the rest of the way. This is actually quite counter productive to only myself, but there you go. So after wearing a decent sized hole in my foot (why do I continue to wear these things if they always give me blisters??), lots of swearing and mild questioning of my personal sanity, I made it to the tower. It turns out that it was only 6km as the crow flies, though I figure that I covered 10-12 on my meandering path. The Burj Khalifa is an impressive thing to witness up close. It was completed in 2010 and stands at over 828 meters tall. (This was from the official website and reads like someone who owns something large and spectacular but doesn’t want to give too much away. “So how tall is your building??” “Oh somewhere near 828m, one doesn’t like to brag you know”). Either way it is quite amazing to look at.
Now after half a days random march, there was no way I was not going to get to the top of this thing to have a look around. That is after all the whole point of tall buildings. So I entered the attached shopping mall (of course) and spent a maddening hour trying to find out where you had to go in order to gain access to the big building. (For those who care you need to go the LG level, sacrifice a chicken, click your heels three times and say “Take me to the bloody tower lift or I am going to hurt someone” to the nearest mall employee.) Once I arrived at the lift I was quite dismayed to find that you need to book tickets in advance, days in advance it seems. There was an electronic board near the front desk which relayed the dates and times that one could purchase tickets for a trip to the top. Today was sold out, as was tomorrow and the next day. Time, I felt, to turn on the charm. (This by the way has never yet worked out in my favour, but as I said I can be quite stubborn).
So I approached the nice young lady at the front desk, gave her my best smile and asked politely if there was a chance that she could sneak me in on a trip today.
“Of course” she replied with a smile “You can buy an immediate ticket and go up right now.”
“That’s excellent” I said quite happily, so there is a first time for everything after all.
“That will be 450AED” came the response.
“I’m sorry did you say 450??” I inquired, rather a little shocked. The price on the board was for 100AED, this was over 4 times the cost.
“Yes of course, the cost for a pre-booked ticket is 100. For an immediate ticket you pay 450.” She said quite happily, in the manner of a policeman who is giving you a rather expensive ticket for something quite innocuous before wishing you a nice day.
“Ahh” I replied, once again realising that charm does really not work for me. Still I am not one to let something like cost get in the way (did I mention stubborn??) so I handed over the money, retrieved my ticket and headed through the turnstiles.
Firstly I have to say the staff on hand are quite friendly, and the lifts are the most amazing things I have been in. Most lifts that go any higher than 10 floors tend to do so with the kind of urgency that leaves you a little queasy and descend at such a rate that they leave you with the feeling that you are really only a hairs breath away from the speed of an actual free fall. These lifts not only went over 120 floors in one go, but did so in such a refined manner that at no time did I even feel like I was moving. This is quite a feat and really deserves more attention than they get. As for the view, well at first I was a little disappointed that we were not at the actual top, but still it is impressive. After all how often do you get to be this high up without the need of a parachute?? I challenge anyone to go to the top of this thing and not think “Holy crap that is high”.
Not quite at the top
Views from the top of the Burj Khalifa
So I stayed on the viewing deck for a period, enjoying the view and taking note of the type of people who visit Dubai. For a start this place oozes money, it just unfortunately didn’t ooze any my way. I have not seen this many well-dressed people in one place ever, and the last time I saw this much Louis Vuitton gear I was in a market in Thailand (though I think some of that was maybe fake). In fact, everywhere I look in Dubai the people are the same. I am way out of my depth here when it comes to fashion. But then again this seems to be where the rich come to show off. So after walking around for a while, admiring Dubai from above, I ended my time on the viewing deck and descended back to ground level. Was it worth the money, of course it was. For starters I had invested the best part of a day and a bit of blood, sweat and creative vulgarity in getting to this thing. I have paid more to walk over the Harbour Bridge in Sydney and have wasted more money on big nights out than this cost me. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to the top (almost) of the worlds highest building and highly recommend it to anyone that finds themselves in Dubai for a period.
This is of course completely relative. For the more organised amongst you, I recommend maybe booking in advance. You get the same experience for a lot less money. Otherwise don’t get discouraged by the sold out signs, a little charm and a lot of cash will get you to the top anyway, and it is definitely worth it.