Three Days in Dubai – Ten Highlights

We arrived in Dubai at the interesting hour of around 8pm and quickly disembarked from my somewhat disappointing flight in United Business First from Washington-Dulles.  We were given express passes for immigration, but this didn’t seem to matter much.  The walk from the gate to immigration is pretty substantial, and by the time we reached the immigration hall, every line was massive — including the “express” line.  After about a twenty-minute wait time, our passports were stamped and we were admitted into the United Arab Emirates.  We breezed through customs and made our way outside to the curb where our friend picked us up for three amazing days in Dubai!

I’d been to Dubai before, but this time I was with two great friends from Grad School — and friends with whom I make my annual pilgrimage to Oktoberfest in Munich — so I knew this weekend might be somewhat aggressive.  We and a jam-packed weekend that featured some late nights, excessive meals, pricey cocktails, and sight-seeing.  Here are some highlights of my weekend in Dubai…

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A Layover in Bangkok – Six Hours in the City

As previously noted, we spent the first part of our layover at the THAI Royal First Lounge, but with twelve hours between flights, I wanted to get into the city a bit just to experience a little of the utter chaos that is Bangkok.  We left the lounge and headed for Thailand immigration, where our passports were stamped.  From there, we headed towards the taxi cab queue, but decided to play things “safe” and talk to one of the “official” airport transport / tour agents.  This is a surefire way to pay more for transportation, but we didn’t really feel like dealing with language barriers and preferred to pre-pay for a driver for the day.  We ultimately arranged for a driver for six hours for about 3,000 Thai Baht (~USD$100)– though that’s relatively expensive, we were happy to pay it, as it was pretty simple and easy for us. Continue Reading →

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago?: Eight hours in Rio de Janeiro

TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


My TAM flight arrived in Rio de Janeiro Terminal 2 a little after 6:30am, and I decided to proceed in the direction of transfer passengers despite the fact that my connecting flight to Santiago didn’t depart until 3:00pm.  I wanted to spend a bit of time in the lounge to charge my iPhone up since it would be functioning as my camera for the day.

Since I had been to the Rio airport a few months earlier, I was familiar with its layout, and knew exactly where the lounges were.  As I tried to check-in to the Smiles VIP lounge, which I used last time while traveling TAM, I was advised by the agent that there was a new lounge next door for TAM and LAN passengers, and that I could access that lounge as a Star Alliance Gold passenger.  So I popped on into the “SEA” lounge next door and was admitted quickly.

There was a small spread – almost identical to the spread in the other lounge, consisting of small appetizers, Brazilian pastries, and an assortment of drinks. The chairs were pretty uncomfortable, and the lounge had a pretty cold feeling to it.   It’s honestly not a lounge in which I’d care to spend much more than an hour.  However, the Wi-Fi worked great, and I was able to charge up my iPhone quickly.

Mission accomplished.

After about 45 minutes, it was time to trek into the city.  First thing was to find a place to store my luggage while I was gone.  I proceeded through immigration after a bit of initial confusion, and found the MALEX luggage lockers.  These are located outside on the departure levels of both Terminals 1 and 2.  You can get a locker for 12 Brazilian Real (about USD $6).  The exchange rate is approximately USD $1: 2..15 Brazilian Real at the present time.

I then looked for the blue bus with a yellow crown on it, the Real Auto Onibus.  This bus is really easy to take, and only costs 13 real each way.  It runs every 15 minutes, and normally takes about an hour to get to Ipanema or Copacabana, but since I was taking it on a Friday morning during rush hour, it ended up taking about an hour and a half to get to Ipanema.

The bus dropped me off right in the middle of Ipanema Beach after multiple stops.  The bus goes downtown, the Santos Dumont Airport, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Barra.







After walking to the end of Ipanema, I decided that it was time for a couple beers and an early lunch.  I settled on one of the many kiosks lining the beach.   Lunch was nothing special – a chicken sandwich (lame, I know).

Part of my lunch

Part of my lunch

It was a beautiful morning, and the beach really looked enticing.  Due to my limited time on this layover, I’d have to forgo getting in the water and save it for my next trip to Rio over Labor Day.

The water looked real nice

The water looked real nice

After lunch and a couple beers, it was approaching noon.  I figured that I had better start making my way back to the airport.  In order to get a bus on the way back, one must find the blue, “Real Onibus” bus with the destination of “Aeropuerto Internacional”.  They come by every 15 minutes, but there is no rhyme or reason as to where they actually stop.  So the best way to flag down one of these busses is to position oneself near a traffic light and wave like a crazy person when the bus is approaching. Again, it is 13 Brazilian Real (~USD$6.50) each way.

I boarded the bus, and we drove back along Copacabana.  There was much more activity along Copacabana on this day, and I briefly regretted not going there instead.  Oh well, I guess I’ll have to save it for the next trip.


Sandcastle on Copacabana welcoming tourists.  Rio is home to the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics

Sandcastle on Copacabana welcoming tourists. Rio is home to the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics

Anyway, the trip back to the airport was a little over an hour, and I arrived about 1:30pm.  After a quick trip through security and immigration, I headed back to the “Sea lounge” for a quick snack and a Fanta (when in Rome…).  Fifteen minutes later, my flight to Santiago was ready for boarding and I headed to the gate.

Overall, this was not a bad way to spend an eight-hour layover.  Instead of staying in the rather drab and boring Rio airport, I got to hangout along one of the more famous beaches in the world.

Not a bad way to spend the morning, that’s for sure.