Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Phoenix, Senora, Dubai and Dushanbe

From my review on Trip Advisor-- There a lot of things to enjoy at the historic Biltmore.  The resort was built in the 20’s in the middle of nowhere close to the fledgling
city of Phoenix. Every President since Hoover has stayed here according to the photos.  Nothing to show Obama has been  here as yet though.

The design influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright has gone through several renovations as surely might be expected mostly in the way of expansion and blending into the original architecture.  The wide grassy open courtyard is perfect to sit out in the early morning and late afternoon to enjoy gazing into space or enjoying a cocktail in the evening or partaking with the very expensive coffee shop in the morning.  

The highlight of our Phoenix visit was to take a balloon ride in the early morning which included a nice lunch in a small patch of desert.  We watched as the balloon was being filled, surrounded by other balloons in the process.  Hot Air Expeditions was the company and they are first class in every respect.  I highly recommend a balloon ride to anyone’s bucket list.
I rented a car and then drove to Senora, staying in the Enchantment Resort surrounded by the red rocks.  At the higher elevation, the temperature was only 98 during the day which was about ten degrees cooler from Phoenix.  We drove into town for lunch a couple of times but sitting out on the deck at the resort having cocktails was a real treat.

A heli ride was a real treat.  I took many great photos of the landscape from my advantage sitting next to the pilot.  Here is one of the Enchantment Resort we stayed at.

We also took a plane ride over the Grand Canyon.
Next was our trip to Dushanbe via Dubai.  It is hard to describe our experience in Dubai without using all the superlatives in my vocabulary. Until now, the Peace Hotel in Shanghai has been our favorite place to stay, however, the Palace Hotel in Dubai cannot be beat for the professionalism of its staff, its location next to the largest shopping mall in the country, and to witness the ever changing views of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa at 2722 feet.  From the lighted display at night to the daylight with the relentless sun striking the aluminum clad exterior, the enormity of its undertaking is just awesome.  We visited the 148th floor and later the Palace booked a special lunch for us on the 123rd  floor at a fine dining restaurant “The Atmosphere” where we found the views just as awesome as from the 148th floor. 

We pretty much stayed around the Palace except to venture to Ski Dubai where I skied indoors for about an hour and grew bored with it all.  Besides skiing there was a place for children to play in the snow accompanied by mothers in their black burkas covered over with a snow jacket.  Quite a sight.

One final view of the Palace Hotel which is located in the center of the photo, starting from its entrance from the road, past the blue water lined with palm trees to the main entrance.   The long blue strip next to the water is their swimming pool.
   We left for Dushanbe late at night aboard Fly Dubai and arrived about 3:30 AM.  Atlas the Sheridan Hotel failed to pick us up but we managed to catch a ride.  Our stay there started out very bad to the extent that we threatened to leave.  A discussion with the assistant manager where we listed our several objections led to them correcting everything and bending over backwards to see that our expectations were met and they were.  Judith met with her colleagues to hammer out a proposal to get funding to improve HIV prevention amongst migrate workers who work in Moscow.  She was busy most of the time but we ate out a few times and we were taken on a 3 hour road trip along the Varzob River there, where we saw many, many dachas that are apparently owned by rich businessmen and corrupt government officials.  We passed a palace like dacha owned by Putin.  
Picture with me is Mabott the driving force behind the effort to help his countrymen and was our driver along the Varzob River.  He is a medical doctor and has risen to some prominence to the point he complains about all the meetings he has to attend.  He is one of the good people of the earth.  In Moscow, he took us to this huge bizarre on the outskirts of the city where many Tajiks work.  And by the way, the bizarre is filled mostly stuff made in China.
We found the food there absolutely wonderful, fresh eggs, fresh vegetables, juicy fruits, which we attributed to short supply lines.
We were given a special escort through the National Palace which was filled with magnificent rooms.  I took several photos but none of them can capture the scope and sweep of the grandeur I saw. 
The weather was very pleasant during our stay with warm days and cool nights.  We enjoyed sitting out on the hotel patio during cocktail hour and the sun went down.  Dushanbe is surrounded by mountain ranges one of which protect the country from Afghanistan which borders to the south.

We left Dushanbe in the middle of the night probably on the same Fly Dubai flight that we arrived on 5 days hence, and arrived early morning in Dubai when through passport control quickly, then waiting 45 minutes for our luggage and after placing through x-ray machines again, wondered out into the heat looking for our pre-arranged ride from Palm Tree Resort.  Alas, there was no one to meet us AGAIN.  We found a driver hanging around the taxi line and he was soliciting and the price was right, so off we went.
The Palm Tree was about 45 minutes north of the airport and we were a bit too early to check in when we arrived.  The Palm Tree was a totally different experience in that there were lots of families.  We learned to come to breakfast early to avoid the noise.  Also there were other places eat other than breakfast and we visited all of them at least once.  We booked a boat ride on the canal in Dubai the night before we left.  It seemed strange to be on water in the middle of a dessert country, but it is reflective what lots of oil money revenue and some imagination can provide. 
I would also comment that 2/3 of the people that live in the U.A.E. are immigrants from all over the world.  They are the working class.  I usually asked a person what their home country was and they came from everywhere, Philippines, Miramar, Nairobi, Kenya, Ukraine, India and other places where having a job is not an easy task.  
Finally I offer a sunset photo that I hope captures the dessert heat and atmosphere at the Palm Tree resort.
We are scheduled to travel to Qingdao, China towards the end of October next, where the Germans made their mark with one of the best beers in Asia.  On the way back we will stop in Seoul, Korea and visit the 38th parallel. 

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