I’m in Abu Dhabi again. Yes, for the fifth time. If there was a ranking of which international city I’ve visited most outside my residence in the UK and Malaysia for the past 5 years, Abu Dhabi would easily ranked first. After this many visit, I really don’t know what else to do or visit. Or rather strangely, didn’t have enough energy to do something more different apart from the usual sightseeing.
Abu Dhabi is really a contrasting city, in materials term. This is the city built out of black gold. Loads of it. 98.2 billion barrels of it to be exact. It’s easy to understand that Fortune magazine and CNN had named the city as the world’s richest. Despite the extreme wealth, the division between its population is too significant.
Back to the story, I think by now I’ve done a bit of everything. From having high tea at the super plush Emirates Palace to having a good, filling yet dirt cheap mixed grill dinner at one of the many restaurants the city has to offer. From window shopping at the Gold Souk to buying a toothbrush and groceries at a local bazaar frequented by immigrants from East Asia. Heck I’ve also managed going to its coastal beach doing nothing and slept soundly at one of the many benches on the Corniche in the heat of a 40 degrees sun.
Despite that, there’s a few things that hasn’t been done. Watching Sebastian Vettel leading the pack yet again at the famous Grand Prix, riding the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World, jet skiing (which I don’t do anyway but I see many Emiratis doing it) or riding a helicopter for a 20 minute US$200 joy ride above the ever-growing cityscape. Gladly I’m not rich and I don’t intend to pretend like one too. Skip it is.
So what’s new this time?
Well first I did cycle along the Corniche for an hour or so. The bike I’ve got was fantastic. A lot better than the bicycles I’ve often use in London. The price is not that bad too. Costing AED 30 for an hour, it is a great way to cover the length of Corniche without tiring your feet. Wouldn’t mind doing this again next time.
Secondly and more importantly is that I’ve managed to get maximum sleep. Yes, it’s the first time I’ve slept so much whilst travelling to a city. And guess what, it feels really good. In fact, I know I’m good at it! I’ve also haven’t rushed to do anything. Obviously there were plans to go to Al-Ain to see the lush green oasis and also visiting Sir Bani Yas Island to see the wildlife over there. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough urge for me to do so. I’m a man of completing tasks. I’ve been doing it at work for the past 5 years or so. It’s very rare for me to skip a task. This time it’s different. It’s one of those days when I feel the bed is the best place to be. Apart from it’s happening on two consecutive days instead of one.
This made me think why there are many travellers out there who swears upon slow travelling. It’s addictive and really compelling. Having said that, I’m not one of them. Just because I didn’t spend time doing much in a foreign city doesn’t mean I’m doing slow travelling. It can’t be, it’s my fifth time to the city anyway. Having said that, I could’ve only wished I could do the same.
Feeling numb during your travels is a blessed in disguise. I’m enjoying it. How often do I appreciate seeing local immigrants sitting alone on benches or the pavement of a city doing anything but nothing. Watching the world goes by fast upon them. Or the bicycle vendor chatting up with a friend in the heat of the desert sun waiting for a non-existent customer to hire a bike in the middle of the day?
This relaxing time made me reflect upon myself. It’s easier to reflect when you’re in a foreign environment. I’ve had quite a stressful month owing to work and moving houses. It’s good to take a time out regardless wherever you are. I’m actually writing this article from a Starbucks in Marina Mall. Two hours before, I was eating a good bowl of ice cream at the city’s infamous Baskin Robbins. I did the same yesterday too. I wished this happens more often. I would love to experience this in a different city, probably in a city I’ve never ever step my foot onto before. But I know it’s quite impossible if you’re time poor.
Have you experienced slow travel? How did that feel?