Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Dubai / Abu Dhabi

If I were to go back to the UAE I wouldn't go in summer.  Yes it's hot which is annoying but because of the heat you really can't do much except leave your air-conditioned hotel to an ACed vehicle to an ACed shopping mall and then back home.  Which, really, you can do in any city.

In terms of Dubai vs Abu Dhabi - Dubai is very glamorous; huge flashy commercial and residential buildings everywhere you look, 8-lane freeways, hotels, shopping malls.  Dubai is quite small so everything is tightly packed.  Sadly no character at all - apart from some signs written in arabic you really could be in any metropolitan city.  Abu Dhabi somehow feels more homely - far less showy, more calm, and more real.  It's more of a sprawling city and you can see huge empty sand-filled lots everywhere.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi

If there is only one thing you see in the UAE, make sure it's the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.  It is truly breath-takingly spectacular and absolutely free.  You should know their dress code is strict.  The website says
Long, loose fitting, ankle length trousers or skirts for women and men. Women must wear a headscarf.
I thought I would be ok in ankle length pants and a short-sleeved t-shirt and scarf. But you actually need to be covered down to your wrists, so I was ushered into the basement to line up for an abaya which you just slip on top of what you're wearing (yes SUPER HOT). It may have been way too big for me but being in a mosque I actually found it comfortable. I would have felt out of place if I was wearing my normal clothes.

The mosque is made predominantly of a white marble with gold accents.  The beautiful blue reflection ponds on the outside reflect the blue skies.  The main prayer hall features humongous crystal chandeliers, beautiful carpet, stained glass windows and pearl inlays into the thick marble pillars.  

I would most certainly go back again.  I'd love to be there around sunset and get some pics with the lights on.  I'd also like to do the free tour they offer 3x a day.  I'm pretty sure this is just a tourist attraction and isn't actually used as a mosque but don't quote me on that.

Desert Safari

I did this in Abu Dhabi but you can also do it in Dubai.  There's a few operators but I think they are mostly the same.  They take you out to the dessert and do some 4-wheel-drive dune bashing.  It was a thrill and super crazy at times but honestly it went for too long.  I was done after 2 minutes but it it went for an hour!!

Finally it was dinner time - a classic arabic buffet which was phenomenal (probably average by their standards).  After dinner a belly dancer came out and wowed us with her hips.  They move as if independent from her body!!  Finally we ended the night with shisha (my sister choked on the smoke and couldn't stop coughing - hilarity ensued).

Not to be a complete Debbie Downer but if you're pressed for time, I would just do the two things mentioned above.  The rest of what we did was mainly to pass time (we were there for 4 days).

Burj Khalifa

Here you go.....

That's all folks

Friday Brunch

Friday is the first day of their weekend as their working week is Sunday - Thursday.  Many expats will go for Friday Brunch which involves a late boozy lunch at one of the million hotels (alcohol can only be served in hotels in the UAE).  It cost AED500 which is about AUD$180 so not at all cheap but it's a 3 hour all you can eat/drink fare with light entertainment.  Great if you eat/drink a lot which sadly, I don't.

Emirates Palace

I only really went to see the ATM that dispenses gold bars.  And I did.  And then I was done.

Old Town

Well it was really bloody hot when I went (50 degrees celcius) so I really didn't last long.  It's kinda like a ghost town there anyway.  Beautiful, but ghost-y.

Dubai Mall

Everything in Dubai is grandiose and over-the-top opulent.  Dubai Mall is a great example of that.  Yes that is a real dinosaur inside the mall.  Because why not.  It's Dubai.

Also a huge aquarium inside the mall.  Because why not.

Hierarchy is huge in the UAE.  Expats are clearly at the top of the pyramid and migrant workers are at the bottom.  Due to this, service is impeccable bordering on pushy.  I had a waiter literally standing nearby staring at me til I finished my cocktail and before I could place the glass down he had already taken it out of my hands and offered me another.  It's great in some respects but I found it quite annoying.

Cost of living is pretty high - at a nightclub they charged AUD$30 for a gin and tonic.  I guess if you work here and don't get taxed it's not that bad but it's a different story for tourists.

There is pretty much no crime but here is a freaky story.  I remember reading in the SMH a while back that a local Emirati woman stabbed an expat to death in the bathrooms of a shopping mall.  One morning my sister and I decided to pop into the tiny shopping centre round the corner for a coffee.  At some point we split up and I found myself walking through the mall by myself and randomly, the story of the expat being stabbed just came to me.  A few days later my cousin and his girlfriend were talking about the stabbing and how the perpetrator was executed and my cousin said to me "Oh yeah that happened at the shopping centre round the corner."

Oh WTF.  So creepy.

That's the end of my UAE story.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

London Postcodes

At first glance, a London postcode looks so odd.  They comprise of numbers and letters and have a space in between.  Now that I've been here a few weeks I've kinda worked it out.

Source: http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Life/Accommodation/London.htm

London is neatly divided into different areas - the city centre and then radiating out from there are postcodes starting with N(orth), E(ast), and W(est).  There are further breakdowns such as NW, SW, SE.

Here's a postcode I made up:

N1 8JK

N1 refers to the area just north of the city.  Strangely enough, these postal code areas don't seem to align with boroughs (think 'groups of suburbs' in Sydney speak).  For example in the area in which I live (Angel), most of the suburb has a postcode starting with N1.  However there is a part of the suburb towards the southern end that uses the city postcode EC1.  I'll discuss city postcodes later.

There is then a space to indicate a break between the general area and the more specific area.

The letters after the space seem to be a random combination of letters and numbers that literally identifies the street in N1.  In London all you need to do is know the street number (let's say 12) and the postcode N1 8JK and it's possible to find out exactly which building it is.  Oh but of course there are exceptions.  One street (depending on the length) might have a number of different postcodes.

Because postcodes are so specific, there is no need to list your 'suburb' or 'borough' on your address.  London addresses commonly look like this:
Mrs Jane Doe
Flat 8, Amber Court,
London N1 8JK

City postcodes
I expected the city postcodes to start with C.  Instead, they are broken down into EC (East Central) and WC (West Central).  There is no C (Central).

Taxi Drivers
Apparently these guys go through intense training and have to sit multiple exams in order to work as a cab driver.  They are tested on the aforementioned postcodes.  Cab drivers will know from memory, exactly where to take you if you say '10 N1 8JK'.  Insane.

Outside London metro
As you can see from the diagram above, once you leave the London metropolitan area the postcode prefixes become less neat and orderly.  They do, however, stand for what the area is called.  For example above N is the postcode EN which stands for Enfield which is the area just outside London metro to the north.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


A few days ago I was able to move into a flat and finally unpack after living out of my suitcases for the past 9 weeks.  Relief is a huge understatement.  Never before have I appreciated having a towel rack to hang my bath towel or hangers to hang my clothes up in my wardrobe.

The flat is a 2 bed/2 bath so I get my own bathroom.  The room itself is smaller than any room I have lived in in Sydney but decently sized by London standards.  There is a TINY built-in wardrobe, a bed, a chest of drawers and shelves.  There is no way I could have lived like this in Sydney but having almost nothing in terms of material possessions in London, the storage in the room is more than enough.

The bathroom is absolutely huge, even by Sydney standards.  I love the mirrors, the generous benchtop space, the stone tiles and the heated towel rack.  

I bought myself this acrylic makeup storage from MUJI as a little housewarming present to myself.

The flat is in a gated area with concierge (who signs for all packages and I just pick them up whenever).  There is also a Virgin Active in the complex so when I start earning pounds I will probably sign up.  I really would have no excuse not to go to the gym given it would take me 20 seconds to get there.

I've moved to an area called Angel which is about 4km north of the main financial hub in the city where I will (hopefully) likely be working.  I should be able to walk to work in 35 mins or so.  The closest tube station is a 7 minute walk down the road.  Being so close to the city also means buses are aplenty (and much cheaper at £1.50/ride instead of roughly £3 for a trip on the tube).

Angel itself is buzzing with activity.  There are 2 supermarkets within a 30 second walk from my flat.  There's a multitude of shops - H&M, GAP, French Connection, Marks & Spencer, Accessorize, MUJI, Reiss, Boots, Argos (which is a department store on crack).  There's a few cinemas, I think 5 supermarkets in total, markets on the weekend, and a ridiculous number of cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants.

Saturday, 26 September 2015


  • They don't lay-by here.  Fullstop.  They don't even understand what the concept is.
  • Poundland only sells things for £1, unlike the Dollar Shops in Aus
  • "Hi, how are you going?" is ALWAYS met with a blank stare and silence.  They don't know what you're asking.  Try "Are you alright?" instead
  • UK gogglebox is terribly unfunny compared to the Aussie version.  Also no eye candy.
  • Online shopping here is set up so well.  You can buy online and pick up instore, you can have it delivered next day or elect a specific time and date for delivery.  You can get your groceries delivered.  You can get refunds for most things no questions asked.  If you need to return anything there are multiple ways of doing this and they are all free for the consumer.
  • For someone who is petite with wide feet, I can actually buy clothes and shoes that fit me well here.  A number of retailers have petite lines of clothing and wide fit shoes.
  • Food in general is pretty bland.  For a good feed I'll choose an ethnic restaurant (any ethnic restaurant from Chinese to Lebanese to Thai).
  • Coffee is rubbish.  I'm trying (slowly) to switch to tea
  • I know I've said it before but public transport here is reallllllly good and efficient and quick
  • You can pay for public transport by just tapping your credit card instead of tapping your Oyster card on the card reader things
  • Always take an umbrella.  Always. Take. An. Umbrella.
  • There is so much on - every day.  I absolutely love that.  I've always been a big city person, can't ever imagine myself living in the country.  And I often felt like even Sydney wasn't big enough.  On a rainy weekend there wasn't much to do.
  • Oreos taste better in London.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

London shopping list

I'm not buying anything at the moment because I would have to pay for it I AUD at the current horrendous exchange rate, but I've been collecting a list of things to buy once I'm earning £ (please employment gods let that be soon).

New Look Faux Fur Parka £39
Asos Petite Ultimate Parka $55

Miss Selfridge Khaki Parka Coat £69
Black wedge sneakers:
Nike Dunk Sky Hi - £85 but seems to be sold out in London so I might have to stalk ebay
Ash Bowie suede wedge trainers £175
Long down jacket:
Uniqlo long down jacket $79
Long wool coat:
No idea yet - just a standard long wool coat in a boring neutral colour

PS - it seems we can finally post non square photos to Instagram. As much as I've been waiting for this day, now that it's come my OCD has kicked in and I want them all to be square #ocdlife

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

London: the good, the bad and the downright ugly

First impressions count.  And unfortunately my first impression of London is lukewarm at best.

The Good:

  • Public transport - between all the different modes of transport London has got this down pat.  You can literally get anywhere in London using public transport.  It's easy, quick, reliable and reasonably-priced
  • Consumer's dream - customer service is much better here than Australia.  With most online retailers you can get free shipping or pickup from one of their stores.  Their sales are more impressive too.  Not to mention a lot more variety/options.
  • Public spaces - they have loads of parks and public spaces where you can sit and eat lunch/read a book/people watch.  Just a shame that it's not park weather for most of the year :(
The Bad:
  • At the current AUD/GBP exchange rate everything is soooooo expensive.  From my AUD$7 small takeaway coffee to my AUD$850 500 thread count sheet set (also - bedding is hideously expensive here - no idea why).
  • It's cold.  Yes I'm being a baby about it.  But I caught a cold one week after summer ended.  What is up with that.
The Ugly:
  • Ok.  Where do I start.  I am currently living in a room in a flatshare.  I'm paying £330/week for a room that's half furnished, about 3m x 4m, in a flat that doesn't have hot water or wifi, has a broken (ie warm) fridge and broken furniture.  Oh I forgot to mention the toilet that's blocked/when you flush it, it comes back up the shower drain into the shower.  A fortnightly cleaner was promised who hasn't come in 6 weeks.  The door to my room is broken and I can't close my bedroom door.  I'm sharing the flat with an inconsiderate couple who have not washed their dishes in about 5 days, who leave yoghurt and ham out for days on end, who have made the floors in the flat black with god knows what.  Not loving real estate agents right now.

Friday, 4 September 2015

New City, New Hair

If I'm honest, I'd been wanting bright pink hair for some time. And what better time than when you move country and have a month off in between (so your investment banker manager doesn't have to reprimand you for the inappropriateness of your hair colour).

It was a DIY job and by that I mean I have an awesome sister who DIYed it for me. 2 rounds of peroxide and a jar of Manic Panic later....

Of course the colour faded after only a few days. By the time I reached the end of my month off, it looked like this:

As much as the pastel pink and peach hair was actually growing on me, I knew it was time for the chop.

Had an interesting experience at the hairdresser. In London if you don't make a reservation you can just walk in and ask for the next standby appointment. I only waited a hour or so (went shopping and came back). Instead of paying the full £66 (haircuts in London are fucking expensive) I just paid £28. Not bad for a consult, wash, head massage, blow dry, cut and style.

Fresh to death and ready to attend job interviews with my lob!