Saturday, October 25, 2014

On Top Of The World - The Burj Khalifa SKY

From the highest viewing platform in the world, inside and out on a balcony of the tallest building in the world, you can see for miles and miles. The spread of Dubai's buildings, the sea and the desert, all at your feet.

I had agreed to going along to the At The Top experience with the girls, which reached the 124th floor; but then heard that a higher level was just opened at the Burj Khalifa a mere 5 days before we rode the elevators to these heights. 148 floors up, with an outdoor viewing platform, and an added view at the 125th floor - the At The Top SKY. So I did both!

The difference between the two was immediately obvious (apart from the price tag), when we were ushered into a plush Departure Lounge within Dubai Mall for the SKY experience at our designated visit time, and introduced to our personal guides. We were served Arabic coffee and stuffed dates, before we were split into smaller groups to take the ride up.

Walking past the crowds lined up for the At The Top experience, we were taken through the Fast Track lane, past the many screens and boards of information about the building of the great building, and to the specific elevator to the 125th floor. Once at this level, just 1 minute and 20 second after leaving the ground floor, we changed lifts to ascend to the 148th.

Greeted by a plethora of staff at this lounge in the sky, offering juice refreshments and morsels of treats such a tiny macaroons and baklava, we then took in the sweeping views from the floor to ceiling glass windows.

Taking a seat by the window and enjoying the service was the height of luxury, much of one half of this level felt like a posh hotel lobby, rather than an observation deck.

Taking ourselves away from the beautiful seating, we all started working our way along the windows in an anti-clockwise direction, picking out the bits of Dubai we had become familiar with from our touristy days prior.

We could see the buildings of Sharjah, and Bur Dubai, and then worked our way along the sea edge view.

Possibly the only vantage point of The World was found here, other than boarding a light plane for the experience. The World is the man-made island formation off the Dubai coast, a resort to resemble the continents of the world.

Looking out towards the Dubai Marina skyscrapers, and the iconic Burj Al Arab, we had the sinking sun as a backdrop for this, making the view even more magical.

Reaching the other side of the building, we could venture out onto the balcony and feel the heat whilst looking down on the world below. Here, the decked balcony had seats to comfortably enjoy the view - and railings along the edge, if needed! Watching the traffic flow around the spiderweb of roads, and the movement around the Dubai Mall fountains, felt like eavesdropping on the world below.

Once we had had our fill of the cracking view at this level, and enjoyed another juice to cool off, we took the elevator back down to floor 125, for some more views.

This level is pretty much empty space, letting the outside vistas speak for themselves. From here we could look down to the balcony on the 124th level, and all the people taking in the city views from there.

The shadows the Burj Khalifa made upon the ground all that way down below were very impressive.

The very top level available to the public (we were told there are office spaces and the like all the way up to the 160th floor) was far superior to the 124th experience. The higher level wowed, when I actually expected it to be fairly similar. Well worth the added cost, for the extra ear-popping elevator experience, and breath-taking views - in addition to the personalised service right through the experience.

Jouljet Notes
Serious Tip: Tickets for either level should be booked in advance online or at the ticket office in Dubai Mall, slotting into a specific time.
Time Spent: The information stated that we would have just 30 minutes at the top level, and then as long as we liked down on 125. In reality, no one moved us along from floor 148, and we enjoyed a generous amount of time up there, taking in the views.
Cost: The At The Top SKY experience is 400DHS, or around $124
Quirky Tip: It helped to have a bit of an internalised map of Dubai from my day of being a tourist in the city, which meant I knew what areas and buildings I was looking at from all the way in the sky.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Booze For A Cause, On My Birthday

A combination of some of my favourite Melbourne things are coming together on Monday night - one of my favourite bars, Los Barbubos, is hosting a Scarf fundraising event. This will support the initiative to assist young people struggling to find employment to develop skills and confidence in the hospitality field. A real leg up to people who need it, to get their working lives started.

Oh! And there is a food truck!

It also happens to be my birthday, so that sounds like the perfect way to gather and mark the occasion! See you there! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hanging Around - Kids In Honiara

These kids were just hanging in this tree in the afternoon I happened to visit the US War Memorial in Honiara. The memorial has many marble upright slabs, telling tales and displaying the names of those lost in battles that have occurred around Guadalcanal - the main island of the Solomon Islands.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Exploring The Shipwreck Of My Lady Lata II

Swimming above and around the rusted hull of My Lady Lata II, and it's rusting companion off Pangaimotu Island off Nuku'alofa in Tonga was like something straight out of the footage of the Titanic - on a much smaller, and up close scale, of course!

I went along with a couple of lads from Fafa Island Resort, and battled through my non-swimmer status to be able to float around the impressive half-submerged ships.

There are two of them, but My Lady Lata II is the most well-known, stuck indefinitely just off the edge of Pangamotu, which makes for interesting viewing from the basic visitors resort and restaurant on the shore. My Lady Lata II was caught up in a cyclone some 12 years ago, and there she has stayed, half exposed to the air. The second ship that you can see, just next to the upended Lady, ran into mechanical trouble, and there it remains some 7 years later.

Having the railings of the deck of either vessel appear in my snorkelling goggles was well worth battling my fear of drowning, and swimming in the depth of the ocean.  Rusted, but still essentially intact, the light from the sun shining down gleams through the windows and doorways, in an eerie way. Even from the surface, I could see the details of the stairways and ladders, and also the new life forms of fish and the like in and around both hulls.

There is a strange beauty in seeing a man-made object abandoned like this, with nature continuing around it, and making it home.

Jouljet Notes
Serious Tip: I went across with staff from Fafa Island Resort, who were on a day off - however you can get across to Pangamotu via a daily boat in the morning, returning in the afternoon, from Nuku'alofa wharf. Many daytrippers do this each day, but especially on Sunday, when then rest of Tonga closes down for church.
Time Spent: We went across the Pangamotu from Fafa for a couple of hours to include lunch, but our swim was probably about half an hour to 45 minutes, being as long as we could stand the idea of the itchy little jellyfish like organisms in the water all around us near the ships.
Cost: A day trip across to Pangamotu from Nuku'alofa is $20.
Quirky Tip: A better swimmer than me could get closer, and swim in and around the cabin of the ship, which looked pretty amazing!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Miss Nughu On A Sunday

She followed me around with her friends, when I walked through her village on Nughu in the Solomon Islands. I went to see the village, and what the people were up to on their Sunday. She then returned to her job for the day, bringing vegetables home for the family dinner, wrapped in big banana leaves - but stopped for just a moment for a hello, and a photo. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hibiscus Of Fafa

Throughout the tiny island of Fafa, two different colours of hibiscus floated down from the trees dotted around, and appeared in my path across my week there.

On both sides of the island on the beach, and also dotted along the path through the centre of the island, which was dense in parts with rainforest foliage.

These flowers often lined my path back to my fale from the restaurant or shared facilities, or lay around my private accommodation area, below the hammock and around the banana lounges.

A reminder of how tropical the island was, these flowers added to the overall special feel to the island getaway in Tonga - peaceful, pretty, and perfect!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Urban Workshop - Open House Melbourne

Melbourne manages to mix the modernity of new, sleek skyscrapers with the history and beauty of the previous structures in many instances across the city - The Urban Workshop in Lonsdale Street is one such example.

Glass and newness is the appearance of this building from the street, but stepping into the foyer for a peak into the secrets of the building during this year's Open House Melbourne, I was greeted with timber-featured cafe, and the stone interior marking the history of this block. Little did I know that there was so much more to the space, as my tour took us through all the quirky details.

Walking in from the street, I noticed the wording under foot in stone - and was later informed that this lettering is an ode to the former slum and red light district of the large city block - Little Leichardt.

Within the foyer, as our tour commenced, we were taken to see the cesspool artefacts, held in a circular display cabinet. We were told of the extensive archaeological done on this site, in the early 2000s - which my little sister was involved in around her studies - before the tall, new building was built over the top of it.

This area was one of the first, vibrant neighbourhoods of Melbourne, with homes and businesses, and brothels, within the grid of narrow back alleys.

Our guide showed us the round plaques around the new modern foyer of this city building, where clusters of things were found during the excavation, such as a concentration of dolls, for example, where they know a family cottage once stood.

Then the cabinets in the centre of the foyer displays the array of bits of bobs also found during the dig - everyday living tools, from household items, to coins, and even preserved plant forms. From this, the dig team have pieced together much of the life from those days, a major part of the history and beginnings of Melbourne.
From the ground floor, our tour was taken up to the 33rd floor, where we were allowed to check out the office floor of Australian Super - the sweeping city and Dandenong Ranges views from the board room and their open plan office space, to the bird's eye view of the CBD from the break-out lunch and break room end of the building.

How would anyone get any work done with such a view?

Another great behind-the-scenes look into a Melbourne building - although many of the ground floor features of this could be seen by walking in off the street, for the very curious.

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