Tuesday 1 November 2016

Number 85(1): Visit the World's Tallest Buildings

Completed 11 October 2016
Update 1: The Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Burj Khalifa or خليفة‎‎ برج. The world’s tallest building, reaching 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) high and one part of my bucket list goal of visiting the tallest buildings in the world.

First up, I'd like to acknowledge that the UAE has some serious issues, ranging from women's rights, illegality of sexual freedom and its immigration policy, however due to the nature of this post I'll be focusing on my experience doing "touristy" stuff but I felt it important to acknowledge.

So all of this actually came about when I discovered my flights to Ukraine that I had booked to complete something else on my bucket list would stopover in the United Arab Emirates. I started thinking, if I'm in the area I might as well take a couple of days and spend some time to check out the country and complete a few other items from the bucket list.
Now I had to research UAE since I had not planned to be visiting, first my flight was landing in Abu Dhabi, not Dubai so had to work out how to get there and back, second booking a good company for another thing I could complete while I was there 23(b) "Spend a night in the Desert".

Many days and weeks later, I was in flight bound to my destination of Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Now trying to work out how to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, was not as simple as I later discovered it turned out to be. So for the sake of anyone reading this, I'll let you know the easiest ways to get back and forth from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Option A: Etihad Shuttle Bus This is your best bet, if you have flights with Etihad Airways. There is a booking option on their website where you can book the shuttle on whatever dates you are travelling on, but it does require an Etihad booking code.

Option B: UAE public bus This one was tricky to find out about online, but basically you have two options which are fairly simple and only 25/30AED each way pp.
The E101 bus goes from the Abu Dhabi Bus Station (Opposite the Al Wahda Mall) through to the IBN Battuta Station (Red Metro Line).
The E100 bus goes from the Abu Dhabi Bus Station (Opposite the Al Wahda Mall) to the Al Ghubaiba Bus Station (Green Metro Line).

Alright, so with all that sorted let’s talk about my actual adventure. I got to the Dubai Mall a few hours before my "At the Top" booking was scheduled, so I had some time to wander, explore and grab a bite. If you're a "Shopping Tourist" you will love the Dubai Mall, but unfortunately I'm not so it was a bit of a "Meh" experience for me.

But I wandered around and killed time before heading over the entrance to the "At the Top" experience. Now the first thing I noticed was the queue, it was so long. Luckily I had bought the special ticket where I went to level 148 and 124/5, which the queue was much much shorter and fast tracked by comparison. Although even then, there was multiple lines to queue up in. one to get into the area, one to go into a small, but nice waiting room, and then again to pass through security but we still got fast tracked through all of these which was nice.

So in the aforementioned small waiting room, we got a quick safety briefing explaining seemingly (but knowing some tourists, probably not) obvious things like "Don't throw stuff off a 148 story building", then moving through security and walking across to the entrance. Along the way there are some nice facts and infographics about the building and its construction which was quite interesting.

Eventually we got to the elevator that takes you from the ground floor to level 125 in about 60 seconds, with an incredible projection/video display of the heights of the rest of the world’s tallest buildings, it was amazing to zoom past Big Ben, the Empire State Building and then the Petronas Towers. Probably closest thing you will ever experience to the glass elevator from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Then another short wait for the final lift that was going to take us from level 125 to the "Sky deck" at level 148, sitting at a pretty incredible 555 metres high and the world’s highest outdoor observation deck.
I spent a bunch of time at level 148 taking photos and just appreciating the view and magnitude of where I was, as it slowly moved towards sunset, before heading back down to level 124/5 to see what it was like.

So the first thing that happens on 125 is you are posed in front of a green screen for a "silly" photo and it's not just one, they have like 4-5 different photobooths setup. I'd like to take a few seconds to share my thoughts on this... First up as a photographer, I had absolutely zero interest in doing things like this yet it took multiple "No thank you" and "Not interested" to get past them all. Secondly what’s the point in getting photos taken in front of a green screen when you are actually at the place in question, getting photos of yourself in front of a green screen showing the Burj Kalifa... while you are at the Burj Kalifa seems rather pointless to me?

Apart from that first impression, I other thing I noticed on levels 124 and 125, was the amount of people that were there. It was packed, people and families everywhere and the external observation platform literally looked like the crowd at a music festival, with people packed in shoulder to shoulder. All of a sudden I was completely grateful for spending the extra money for the "At the Top - Sky" over the standard ticket. I walked about for a bit, had a look around and tried grabbing some night shots before heading out. Then I saw the queue to exit, except lo and behold I was even more grateful for the more expensive ticket as I jumped into the fast track queue to exit, only waiting maybe a few minutes as opposed to what looked like would be forever.

So I headed out, all the way back down, went and grabbed a bite and had a look at the building down at the fountains and shot some photos. Overall, a super touristy thing to see but still worth seeing, especially with the "At the Top - SKY" pass.

With that, one part on Number 85 was completed although there is lots more to go with that one before it's fully complete.

85. Visit the World's Tallest Buildings

  • ✓ Burj Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirate
  • Russia Tower, Moscow, Russia
  • Freedom Tower, New York
  • Taipei 101, Taiwan
  • Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai, China
  • International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong
  • Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Sears Tower, Chicago
  • Jin Mao Building, Shanghai, China
  • Two International Finance Centre, Hong Kong
  • Citic Plaza, Guangzhou, China
  • Shun Hing Square, Shenzhen, China
  • Empire State Building, New York
  • Central Plaza, Hong Kong
  • Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong


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