Content-type: text/html Ray Manning

Tuesday, November 27, 2018 8:02 PM

Abu Dhabi

I get up early on Wednesay and get to the airport extra early (because today is the day before Thanksgiving and bad planning on my part). But the entire trip runs smoothly though I see the airport continue to get more and more crowded as my flight time approaches. I keep walking for almost two hours in the airport because I'm going to be sitting for so long on upcoming flights. I catch a flight to Amsterdam and the elderly lady next to me continues to infringe on my seat space and poke me. But what am I going to do with an elderly lady? I walk quickly through the large and discombobulated Amsterdam airport and get on the final flight to Abu Dhabi. They guy sitting next to me grew up in Long Beach and is a sound engineer for the concert that typically follows the Abu Dhabi F1 race. Eventually I get to Abu Dhabi and customs, backage claim, and taxi hailing are super efficient. Soon I'm in my hotel room near 10 pm but I go for a short walk to a convenience store for some extra water.

I wake up at 5:15 am and lay in bed for quite a while. This happens why I fly east - I tend to wake up a bit early. At a reasonable time I start walking towards a park/mall area. In this area I don't see anybody else walking. I get to the mall and park area and am somewhat disappointed. So I grab a taxi and head for the old central market. I was hoping for one of those old trading mrkets for textiles, jewelry, shoes, knick knacks and etc. Not because I want to buy anything, but it would be fun to wander around. Unformtunately the old central market has been refurbished into a traditional new sterile mall. But I start walking around the outside blocks of the mall and find more of the little shops that I wanted. And I find many mosques. In this area there are many people walking and I greet many with a "Hello" and a typical Arabic greeting and everyone smiles back at me and responds with the traditional Arabic response. I'm trying to "fit in" with the locals. EVentually I get tired and buy some chips and a coke and sit on a curb and watch the world go buy. And then I do some more walking and finally hail a taxi to go back to my hotel. This is a Pakistani driver so I can use a few words of Urdu with him, though it turns out he speaks a lot of English. So far I've had a Ugandan driver, an unknown driver, and a Pakistani driver here in Abu Dhabi. And I also note a large contingent of Philiipino workers here.

On Saturday I have an Indian taxi driver and Nepalese taxi driver. I get to the Yas Marina circuit early and wander around and watch the GP3 support race. Finally the F1 cars come out for Free Practice 3 (and later for Qualifying). This experience reawakens in me the reasons why I fell in love with F1 many years ago: the sights, the smells, the sounds, the glowing red carbon fibre brake pads, and the unbelievably short braking distances. There are literally tears welling up in my eyes for the feelings and experiences that this live experience brings back to me. During the event I meet a Japanese man whose name is Satoshi Honda. And I keep teasing him that he is really the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto who invented Bitcoin 10 years ago. He gets a kick out of this. Coincidentally he's staying at the sme hotel as I am, so I ask him to email me for Sunday to share a taxi ride and halve the costs if our schedules match up. Leaving the circuit is not the disaster that it was in Malaysia for MotoGP a few years ago. It takes some time but it's fairly smooth. Rather late at night I meet up with Person Al_Ph and we talk about work and family and life and relationships and other fun things. We enjoy each other's company that we hang out until 4:30 in the morning when Person Al_Ph has to leave for work.

I start Sunday slowly. I walk over to a convenience store and buy some supplies, read some news, and set my laptop up for "development" work during the trip. I must not be awake, because it takes me three tries to find the typos in a path name. I find the bug that has bothered me for a while and I fix it and move on. Near noon I get out the door and find some taxi partners to share the cost to the Yas Marina circuit with. The race is fun as there is some good overtaking, different strategies, and a few drops of rain. It's great to be back at an F1 race! Today is more croded getting out of the circuit and when I get to the taxi stand I get beaten to a first taxi by another person. (It was a tie, but I step over to the next taxi inline.) And then I get literally taken for a ride by this taxi driver. When the fare has reached a round number that is approaching twice the correct fare, I open the door at a red light and start to get out. I hear a "What are you doing" but I just toss the correct fare into the front seat, get out, and shut the door. Then I open the door back up and just say, "That wasn't very nice what you just did". And I start walking. Fortunately the traffic light changes and the taxi driver is forced to move ahead and I can take an evasive direction. I walk a bit and find another taxi driver and get to the hotel with no problem. As I'm getting out of the taxi I tell the taxi driver what happened and I say he might be waiting here for me. And I continue to thank this taxi driver for getting me out of a difficult situation and I merge with a crowd of asian athletes going into the hotel. (And I have the thought that this double fare scam wouldn't have happened to me if I had taken the first taxi. And I also realize this is the first time I've been scammed. As I'm laying down for sleep I realize that I was scammed by a taxi driver in Thailand once. But the total scam amounts were about $10 in Thailand and about $15 here in Abu Dhabi.)

I walk to the nearby convenience store on a cool Monday morning and pick up supplies (since they are certainly cheaper there than at the hotel). The lobby is completely empty when I start out and 20 minutes later the lobby is completely full. I guess a lot of people have flights that leave late in the morning. I spend most of the day in the hotel working on some websites and progressing my way through making this new process functional. Finally I check out of the hotel and go to the airport though it is still way early for my flight.

I notice that there are no flights leaving the Abu Dhabi airport for the couple of hours that I relax and daydream and people watch. And then about 40 flights pop up on the board for departure times in a 15 minute window. I guess this region is where a late night departure makes sense whether you are going east or west. When I get on the plane to Mumbai, India, I sit and watch the chaos. I've never seen so many people who are in the wrong rows and in the wrong seats. It seems everyone has to ask the flight attendants where they sit. I guess I should have expected this when I saw a group of 5 travelers asking which gate they were going to and they got three different answers. The chaos is finally ordered and we get off the ground and land in Mumbai. As soon as the wheels touch the ground there are people starting to get out of their seats and open the overhead compartments. The flight attendants get people back down and somehow everyone gets to Mumbai without injuries. It's 2:30 in the morning and I have a couple hour wait for the connecting flight so I keep walking around (so that I can sleep for an hour or two on the plane) and continue to see more chaos of people being unable to find thier gates. I would have expected this back in Abu Dhabi where quite a few of the people looked like poorer and less educated people trying to negotiate an airport and maybe not having a grasp of the language and characters. But here in Mumbai, everyone is Indian and they can't figure out where their gates are.

I eventually get a flight to Bangkok and start the two train process to get to my hotel. There's a Canadian tourist who is on his first trip to Thailand, so I help him navigate the trains and get him in the right direction. At the conclusion of the first train ride I give my number to the Canadian Curtis in case he gets into trouble. And then I continue on to my second train. There's three Thai people who were on the first train (who I helped out also) and now they coincidentally are getting on my second train and going in my direction. They leave the train before I do but not before big smiles and waves all around. I relax for a bit in the hotel. Later my Thai friends are busy, so I wander around a bit, eat some good Thai curry, wander around more, and then go back to the hotel.