Day 16 on the traveling circus that is The Global Scavenger Hunt

Ahlan wa sahlan…Welcome!

The sun is setting on our final day in Dubai…

“You know what the business community thinks of you? We think that 100 years ago you were sitting around in your tents in the desert, chopping off each other’s heads and that in another 100 years time, you’ll be back there.” (Matt Damon in Syriana)

And what a jarring juxtaposition from India it has been. On one had in India we had: surprising, authentic, cultural, enlightening, traditional, colorful, astonishing, unexpected, extraordinary, quaint, overwhelming, vibrant, chaotic, vivid, intriguing, enriching, sublime beauty…and interesting. On the other hand, you have Dubai.

Now I completely get and love the balls of autocratic ruler Sheikh Mo’s Dubai vision thing: if you build it—they will come. The motto being a developers wet dream: bigger, taller, more and the more modern the better. It is a land of untold megaprojects, a city of superlatives, of massive ego megaprojects where vanity bling abounds. It is a place designed to flatter Westerners with international luxury brands and pleases us tourists superficially (the annual month long Dubai Shopping Festival and “seven star” hotels say it all) since it rose from the unforgiving desert in less than three decades to, well, what it is today—“the fastest-growing city in the world"! (Their quotation marks.) That said, my deceased mother always told me that if you don’t have something good to say, say nothing. So I will…

So, here is Dubai in pictures…because sometimes a picture is worth a 1,000 words—sometimes not.


Hmmmm....

Camels have been replaced...

There is a method to the madness...

Food always transcends...

Will it work?

The tallest ziggurat in the world...

Some Not so Random Thoughts of the Day:

-Hard to decide where to eat here today in Dubai? Johnnie Rockets at the Dubai Mall, the Cheesecake Factory at the Mall of the Emirates, Applebee’s at Wafi Mall, TGI Friday’s at Dubai Marina Mall or CoCo’s at Diera City Mall. Or maybe you prefer Tim Horton’s, Coldstone or Pizza Hut? It is just like all the choices I have when visiting Orange County…or Las Vegas...only more of course.

-Okay, I am just wondering, but why do people pay to go up to the top of tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

-Just remember, that when you are traveling in a Muslim country, one must truly know the difference between haram and haraam...one meaning forbidden or sinful and the other meaning a holy place. I am just saying...

-I finally figured out where all the modern day oasis in dry Muslim nations are: at the Hyatt's, InterContinental’s, Radissons, Hiltons, Four Seasons and Shangri-La's...
 
-There is a bar here in Dubai aptly called Dar Al Harb (aka the realm of the infidels).

-I have noticed over the years of coming to Dubai (and all the nouveau riche Gulf States for that matter) a new type of language rising due to the massive influx of cheap foreign laborers (87% of Dubai’s population)…not Spanglish as it would be in States, but Arabenglish...

-Muslim fashion statements: it is 100 out…why do the men get to wear white and women black?

-My sense is that here in the Gulf States that freedom of expression is notably stronger than freedom after expression.

-I heard today from a reliable source that Lebanon's Bekka Valley is the new Napa, correction, make that the new Mendoza of wine regions of the world...

-Aren’t hotels odd buildings; no locks on the front door—they are always open!

-Bellman in the 21st century are funny dudes (especially in the age of roller bags), think about it: you take your luggage from your house to airport, onto the plane, off the plane, thru the airport, into the cab, and pull up at the hotel...let’s say you traveled 6,000 kilometers or more--now the bellman finally sees you when you arrive at the hotel and wants to help you cover the last 10-meters of your journey for a $5 tip of course! Gee whiz.

-I realized today that I have been felt up more by airport security than the happy hooker…

-You know you travel a lot when you can smell jet fuel on your clothes when you open your bags…

-Make no mistake, there will be no Arab Spring here (for good or bad), but one can sense Dubai's bipolar personality…a brewing social/cultural-divide between  a free trade zone which caters heavily to Western tastes and lifestyles and Sharia law; between the international marketing allure of tourist permissiveness and the sensibilities of conservative Islam. Whether Dubai circa 2014 is a utopia or dystopia…time will tell?

-Finally, note to self: When in Dubai, remember that PDA’s or kissing on the beach with a hottie (or your wife, hopefully one and the same says the editor) could land you in jail.

Nuff said

Okay, event news…all the teams have checked in and are safe and sound (okay, still a few with nagging effects from India) after a full and busy day here in Dubailand.

We have an interesting day set for tomorrow as we reposition ourselves for a final hard five-day Par 6 European leg. But, before they get to Europe, we have a fun little 6-Hour Layover Challenge (Par 1) set for Istanbul, Turkey. After that, we are off to Budapest, Hungary to begin the next leg.

More tomorrow when we get to Budapest!

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!



 

Closing the books on India....with one week to go!

Friday April 25 –  Belated edition

(Okay, I found a beer somewhere in this hostile liqour environment, slept a solid seven and recovered from my frustrated angst and miraculously recreated last nights disappeared blog.)

Good evening from Dubai. It has been an interesting day.

We began with breakfast with a giant Buddha head in Delhi and end tonight with a creek side dinner here in United Arab Emirates (UAE). In between, stuff happened…as it is prone to do traveling around the world over 23-days.

We have a few travel casualties, a few bruised egos, a few road-weary travelers and a few breathless adventurers.

Wild Tigers were seen...

In India, just organizing simple things takes time and usually more than a few people—when sometimes one would suffice if they just followed through. There are rules and regulations (no matter that no one seems to pay attention to any on the roads) and no place more so than at airports. What do they say about foolish consistency?

Alternative modes of mass transpo...takes 2 hours--not 7!

Anyway, we made it out and landed 3 ½ short hours later in Dubailand. A few folks are sadly suffering, more than a little under the weather succumbing to various heat and food and India-related maladies. It happens to everyone at some time when traveling. Their only solace right now is that this too shall pass…but none too soon to those afflicted.

That said, the travel world championship continues, and following the peer reviews, we have our difficult Par 7 Indian leg results to reveal.

Deals made...

The India leg was a true test of our competitors Travel IQ…that intersection where experience, instincts, acquired travel knowledge and intell garnered from the debriefing of other fellow travelers meets real world application. Situational awareness is critical and adapting to new environments key. Some teams did really well, some not so good.  Frankly, some made some rookie mistakes and India clearly separated those that could from those that wish they could.

Forts conquered...

I was amazed what some teams attempted and equally amazed what some teams achieved. I was surprised and also relieved that everyone made it back after four days of getting India all over them. It was not easy. So congrats to all the teams, and especially congrats to the five top placing teams.

In fifth place, working oh so hard and having the bruises to prove it are Team Heckarewee (Leslie & Dan) who earned 1,445 points. Feel better guys.

In fourth place, and completing the most Indian scavenges (but not the most bonus scavenges) were our defending champs The Ogopogos (Gerry & Phil) who accumulated 2,115 points. Get better Gerry!

In third place, impressing the heck out of me time and time again with their tireless tenacity were Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) who amassed 2,125 points. Great job guys and thank you for helping out with all the media interviews yesterday.

In second place, the tried and true savvy veterans working smartly on their second Global Scavenger Hunt campaign, the Retired Traveling Chicks (Kim & Maria) earning 2,200 points.

And a stunning surprise, earning the most Bonus Scavenge points ever (2,500 super special Road Official Wedding Points) on top of your 80 earned points...and winning the Indian leg going away were the back of the pack team The Wanderers (April & Travis), who’s getting married in India venture truly surprised everyone.  Congrats April & Travis…


I kid

It is truly fitting that the winners of the event’s most difficult leg ever in over a decade of competition that has taking event competitors to over 60 nations of the world, are our three time former champs Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey). Amazing work guys earning 2,575 challenging points…you have truly mastered getting around India.

The Current 2014 Event Standings (AI—After India):

And now Dubai…an easy, plush, soft Par 2. From 5PM Friday until 9PM Saturday night…28 hours what could happen?

More about Dubai later….and I have a lot to say too!


Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

Live from Dubai

Hello all. It is Friday night here about 11PM (1:30AM) for us traveler.

I want to apologize for a technical glitch that has just made me lose over an hour of writing and my entire post this evening. (Thank you #$@#! Microsoft .word!! Thank you #$@* anonymous hotel connection!) Sadly, after a long day transitioning from Delhi to Dubai and dealling with a lot of team drama, I simply do not have it in me to re-write what I wrote or post what was posted--and somehow lost. Accept my apologies...please.

That said, congrats to Zoe and Rainey (Team Lawyers with Borders) for winning the brutal India leg in going away championship style. Here is the current 2914 event leader board standings.

I hope I can somehow reccover ehat was written and repost tomorrow. Until then...good night.

Cheers,

The India Leg has concluded...next?

Thursday April 24 –  

India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.” ― Shashi Tharoor

Wow! That is all that can be said about our last four amazing, jaw-dropping, life-changing days here in India. Teams have returned from traveling hundreds of kilometers (some smartly and some not so smartly) attempting to complete over 125 challenging scavenges. They are humbled, ass-kicked and utterly amazed by India. A few are indeed dealing with Delhi Belly--get well soon!

 I don't know who said this, but it is our events measuring stick that: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the places and moments that take our breath away." (Anonymous?) Spades of deep breaths here in India…

All the teams checked wide-eyed and wobbly at the designated 6PM deadline here in Delhi at the LeeLa Palace New Delhi. Congrats went out to the newlyweds and peer review assignments were mad and press interviews conducted.

Teams have 14 hours to recuperate until we catch an 11AM flight to…

Brief asides:

-Not a good sign when the hotel room you just checked into has an amenity that are bright orange…ear-plugs!

-My sense is that travelers probably think too much about India while in India...maybe because they time spend so much time in traffic jams and that makes one reflect so?

-India is so special they have six seasons: spring, summer monsoon, summer, autumn, winter and winter monsoon.

-I was told today that India has in fact never invaded any country in its long history...Hmmm, I seem to remember something about the Bloody Birth of Bangladesh (aka East Pakistan) in 1971?

-Like fruits and vegetable? Little know fact, the wholesale market at Azadpur is Asia's largest market. Almost 3,000 trucks bring in fruits and vegetables here daily to over 30,000 vendors…

-Why do I see mangos everywhere…but nowhere to eat—especially at my hotel?

-Delhi is a BIG city, but rather schizoid I think…a labyrinth of teeming narrow streets and alleys in “Old” Delhi completely contrasts with the imperial city of “New” Delhi of tree-lined roads and fountains?

-Hard to dispute when a driver agrees on a price and takes the cheapest way their…his priority is money not time; whereas the tourist cares about getting there quickly…be damn the cost. That old time vs. money equation we have mastered in the West…or have we?

-Telling my son today about my first tablet I got when I was six—he’s 8 and wants one--it was an Etch a Sketch!

-Why do old Volvo’s, the picture of liberal environmental and safety considerations have the carbon foot print the size of Donald Trump's ego?

-I realized today that I simple miss film photography…I know digital is convenient, but looking at scrolling digital pictures on my computer today was not good...it seemed to hypnotize me into a type of stasis of nostalgia--of both horror and regret too—of  the past. Don’t know if that is a good thing?

-If India every rebrands, it could be called Kramastan?

Okay, thank you for indulging me…we are off to Dubai. Only one traveler has been there before. Should be interesting.

More later, I mean earlier….

The Current 2014 Event Standings (BI—before India):

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

Ladies & Gentlemen we have a wedding!

Congratulations to Mr.& Mrs. Travis & April Knight...