What an Eid vacation it has been! I know half of Riyadh must have joined the exodus out of the city for the week-long (paid) vacation that was upon us and I was among them. It has been more than a year since my last vacation and I have been itching to go on a break for the longest time. Luckily, I got someone who took me along this trip and I was psyched! Even though I have already visited the UAE in 2012, I was only able to discover Dubai because that’s where I was staying that time. I only spent one night in Abu Dhabi to watch the MDNA concert. This time around, I stayed in Abu Dhabi for the most part and spent only one day in Dubai. But my oh my, did I rev it up in Abu Dhabi!
Contrary to popular assumption, Abu Dhabi is actually the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is only the largest city. I’ll give Dubai the sophistication and ultimate cosmopolitan feel but when in Abu Dhabi, I felt that there was a sense of balance with the chill and chic. A good mesh of the vibes of LA and NYC combined, if you ask me (just in theory though, since I have yet to be in those cities :P). City vibes aside, everything I was able to experience in Abu Dhabi was an assault to my adrenaline. Haha, leave it to the humdrum city girl to finally get some adventure in her life once again. As I was initially writing this entry down I thought I could make it in one sitting but as the words flowed, no – one entry is not enough. So let me do this in parts starting with my first day in the city of AUH.
I’m no longer going to write about how to arrive in the UAE, since that’s already been covered by one of our popular posts right here. I was fortunate enough to have a generous host, couple Luke and Mary – who opened their house for us to stay in. (Thank you guys!) So I can’t talk about staying in a hotel. Let’s just start with DAY 1:
Al Forsan International Sports Resort
While the obvious tourist destination in Abu Dhabi would be Ferrari World, my friends and I actually started with Al Forsan International Sports Resort. Coming from the Abu Dhabi International Airport, it was only about 10 minutes away. But if you’re coming from the city center, the trip would take at least 25 minutes and might cost you around 40 AED. I have never heard of this place before but upon entering, it did live up to its “International” name. It’s a huge sports complex as the name implies and it listed several outdoor and indoor sport activities – motor sports, paintball, archery, range shooting, horseback riding and wake boarding. The guys wanted us to try the Go-Kart racing and while an uncertain lil’ me was worried because I have had no driving experience whatsoever! I don’t even know how to ride a bike. But in the true Pink Tarha spirit of doing something new, I took a deep breath, said a short prayer and signed up. Go-Karts go for 110 AED per person as per their summer promo. On regular days, it’s 150 AED. Take note, there is also a very strict height requirement of 1.4m and above. I almost didn’t make the cut! Hahaha. #shawty
To the uninitiated, Go-Karts are small, four-wheeled vehicles that are powered by engines and can be driven around a real race track. Of course, I had no idea how intense this was going to be. As far as I was concerned, the only racing I knew is that from GranTurismo in the comforts of a Playstation 3. 😛 We had to enter our “racing names” in the system and get the proper racing attire. Considering how humid it is in Abu Dhabi, I was questioning myself on why I was putting myself in polymer material, not to mention the head bonnet you need to wear before putting on the helmet. I truly felt like an astronaut as I walked out of the dressing room. Even mimicking that grand scene in the movie, ‘Armageddon’ as the characters were slow-mo walking into their spaceship. Haha!
So I am finally in my Go-Kart and I am trying not to freak out. Srsly. There were eight of us who were going to race and we had to listen to the instructors and safety briefing before setting off. I repeat, I have no, as in ZERO, experience in driving prior to this. But kali-wali, the green light is lit and vroom vroom we go!
We had fifteen minutes to race and I was taking my time. The first few laps had getting a feel of how to maneuver the damn thing. But once I got the hand of the curves and turns, I was able to cruise (not race) just fine. Yes, I cruised, because I didn’t have any plans of dying yet. LOL. Though the other people around me seemed to have a death wish. Even bumping me more than twice. Yes, they were the hares and I was the tortoise. Now I finally know what they meant about driving in the open road. After all, its just like how they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Hahaha, I am so not meant to be a racer by saying that. The only time I pushed hard on the gas pedal was when I was nearing the entry line again because it was spot-on straight. But when the curves came, I’d stop and turn in the meekest way possible.
And whaddya know, I finished FIRST! Kidding. First in LAST place. 😛 I took out my helmet and realized my hands were a bit shaky from holding the wheel for too long. My head was sweaty and I had to gasp a few times to get a good breath. I finally saw my friends and we were all laughing at how fun it was. They even had more fun my way when they saw my race time. Unaffected, I said, I like being alive, thank you very much.
Our real main goal of the night was to try the Go-Karts but before leaving, I decided I wanted to try the range shooting. I’ve always wanted to try and learn how to shoot a gun (even when I was on vacation in the Philippines, I’d always scout for gun schools but never had the time) so to not let the chance pass me by, Mary came along with me to the shooting range. It was located on the lower part of the complex and we could see an audience section separated from the shooting area through a thick glass. To register, you need to present your valid UAE ID or a copy of your Passport and pay the fee according to number of bullets and gun to be used. For me, I took on the 25 bullets + 9mm Pistol package (175 AED) since it seemed easier to use than say, a shotgun. I was super excited to experience gun shooting UNTIL I went into the briefing area to get my protective glasses on and heard the gun shots. Terror tingled in my parts as I realized how scary this actually is. Include the fact that I actually have a phobia of balloons being popped, what more in a shooting range where guns are fired by the minute? I tried to keep my composure as I put the ear mufflers on. Focus, just focus — was all I could tell myself. And I tried my best not to jolt whenever I hear one of the gun shots being fired.
Since I was a first-timer, the instructor advised me to use a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol. He taught me how to properly handle, aim and load the gun. I had 25 bullets and a target to hit.
For a newbie, I think I did okay. I could have done better, but considering that I had to handle my fear in the middle of the guns firing in the room, two hits to the bull’s eye area is good enough for me. Interestingly enough, while I had so much excitement going in to the range, when we finished, I realized that guns are really not for me. I mean, I didn’t imagine it would be as nerve wrecking as it was in there. So lesson learned: TV shows like CSI ad 24 make it look easy. It’s actually not. For me at least.
And so the night ended with us boasting of our accomplishments (and mishaps) as we headed home for a good night’s rest. We could’ve gone for the paintball if we had more people with us and the wakeboarding too. But it was already an action-filled Friday night and we needed to get some rest as we were scheduled for the infamous Ferrari World the next day! More on that on my next entry. 🙂 Stay tuned!
Thanks to some of the photos provided for by ©Bigboy.
Al Forsan International Sports Resort