Thursday, April 12, 2012

Visitor Adventures: The Wonder Bus

Groupon is dangerous. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Groupon is a discount website that offers 50% or more off all kinds of stuff - manicures, gym membership, hotel stays, and lots of recreational tourist stuff like ... the Wonder Bus.

I first saw the Groupon for the Wonder Bus and laughed out loud because it reminded me of the Ducks in the Wisconsin Dells. It's a bus/boat tour that promises to take you on a tour of the city and then a tour of the Deira Creek in Dubai. And because the price was 55% off, I couldn't resist, and maybe I should have.

After a mad dash through Hardees for some lunch, we found their ticket office and got our seat assignment tickets. The office was very small and a little run down, which already set the scene. It's amazing how quickly I've come to expect sparkly and new here. I'm sure the place looked just fine to the group of tourists getting ready to board, but to me it looked worn out and in need of some updating.

After a few minutes wait, the bus rumbled up. Oh boy ...

 We got on the bus and to our seats, which were a bit dirty and ripped but fine and settled in for the 'city tour'. It was once we got on the road that I realized I had made a mistake buying those Groupons. Our guide must have attended 'cheeseball tour guide camp' because he started out by asking everyone to introduce themselves and sing a song! WHAT? Already preparing to refuse, I relaxed when I saw that he was only picking on the kids to sing (and most of them refused, I might add). I think this whole show was designed to distract us from the fact that there really wasn't any city tour, just a drive through part of the city to get to the entrance to the creek.

To be fair, he did point out the Heritage Village, which is where we were headed the next morning, so that was helpful and a few other things, but all in all, the 'city tour' was a bust. For example, how can you call it a city tour of Dubai and not go past the Burj Khalifa?

In any case, we soon made it to the creek and with a cheesy 1-2-3, we splashed in. I think this was supposed to be the highlight of the tour - miraculously morphing from bus to boat ... it wasn't that cool, but I might just be cranky this morning. :)

The tour of the Deira creek was a bit more interesting. This is one of the few areas of Dubai that seems to have some history to it. Not everything is brand new, huge, expensive and plated with gold. The Dhows (old fishing and trade boats) are the same as they were 50 years ago and bring some culture to the creek that you don't find everywhere else. Then, these are juxtaposed with the streamlined Transit boat that's used to shuttle people back and forth across the creek. The first photo below is the Transit boat and the second, a traditional Dhow. Most the Dhows are now used as dinner cruise boats. You can sign up for lunch or dinner and a float along the creek (a better idea than the Wonder Bus for our next visitors).

 And just as we're enjoying the scenery and thinking, "okay, this isn't so bad", we're passed by another Wonder Bus and reminded of just how silly we all look out here.

But we survived the trip and got to see a fair amount of the creek, which was the intent. Not sure I'll do it again, but a fun story to share at least. :) And another reminder to stay away from Groupons!

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