While Q is having fun in Vietnam, I stayed at home and participated in a few of rather interesting events during my work (i.e. job searching) breaks: Desert Challenge, hiking trip in Oman, and Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
My friend G and I went to the Desert Challenge as valued customers of our bank, which was one of the key sponsors. It was an annual off-road rally with vehicles of different categories driving up a 300-meter-high sand dune with, take this, a 50-degree incline! The goal is to get the fastest time - sounds simple enough, but it turned out as a new driver, I didn't have a good level of appreciation of how difficult it was until the first two cars blew up their engines before even reaching the half-way point. I was told the engines were about 800-900 hp each, lasted about 30 hrs for their life cycles, and cost some ridiculous amount of money. It is one of those AD phenomenon - so environmentally unfriendly and bizarrely intensive, I found myself having trouble pulling away from it at the end of the night. Among the total of about 40 carts and 4x4s, my estimate is that about 1/3 of them managed to blow up their engines spectacularly - including the winning 4x4 just before it crossed the finishing line. FYI, the fastest time was around 9.7 seconds. G joked that his second-hand jeep wouldn't even be able to do that fast on a paved flat road. Here is the video clip of some guys practicing before the actual competition and here are some photos. Yep, that's sand play for ya.
A few weekends ago, a few other friends and I went to Oman together for a hiking trip. It was our first time, so we took it easy and enjoyed a 4-hr round-trip hike to an abandoned village. The area we were in was know as the local Grand Canyon - a lot of bare rocky mountains with sharp and huge drops. At night, the temperature dropped to just above freezing, and it was actually terribly cold - I think my body got acclimatized a bit too quickly. Here is the photo album. That was us playing in the rocks.
Then this weekend I volunteered at the AD Golf Championship which was hosted at the AD Golf Club. I am not a gulfer, in fact, I often spell the word wrong (so much for having a spellchecker!). I did it for a nice walk under the sun and an opportunity to meet other community members. AD shocked me again with a green grass covered 18-hole golf course - I couldn't believe my own eyes when I first saw it! I was assigned as one of the marshals (that's the people holding the "Quiet" signs and walked the course with assigned pair of golfers). For you golfers out there, I was with Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington. All in all, it was a pleasant day and I did manage to talk to a few expats, but not too much since most of the time I had to hurry and catch up. Here is the photo album, and that's fun on the grass.
Besides the above events, a few things worth mentioning include: watched a Dutch movie "Ober" at a European Film screening - international movies are rare opportunities here and are much appreciated by film junkies like myself; offered a casual beginner salsa lesson to a few friends taught by yours truly at our apartment; and survived driving in a terribly-flooded Dubai after some record amount of rain (see photo below): 500 car accidents were reported by 10 am of the rainy day within the city and I saw at least a dozen crashed cars in about 100 km highway stretch!
I shall continue to survive and update you with more "interesting" stories from Abu Dhabi.