Drums, strings and songs awoke us in the Port of Apia, one of the Samoan Islands. A large group of locals in colorful blue, white and red costumes were dancing and singing on the pier to bit us travelers on the Queen Victoria welcome. A rainbow lent special lighting to the performance, and stands with colorful trinkets and clothes were calling to us. We eagerly watched, listened and photographed. And after a hearty breakfast admired their wares.
The island is lusciously green with an annual rainfall of 114". Quite deservedly, they call it The Pacific Paradise. Cook Island and Bali Hai are part of the group. The ocean’s water was invitingly warm, much more so than the ocean surrounding Hawaii.
After a day in Auckland, a fine city with more sailing vessels than any other, we sailed to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand’s North-Easterly tip. A group of 144 enchanted islands make up the chain, truly a haven of beauty and peace. They are green and tropical, fanned by refreshing ocean breezes. An easy-going and happy people enjoy life at a contented, leisurely pace.
Dubai, my last stop, is a large city of two million, right in the middle of the desert, exhibiting its enormous wealth in extraordinary architecture and gigantic luxurious shopping malls. Taxis abound and are cheap—gasoline costs 78 cents; the major streets have seven or eight lanes in each direction and are packed with cars, mostly new ones. During the three days we spent there, dense smog clouded the sky. "How orange the moon looks," I exclaimed when we arrived around six in the morning to the taxi driver in a nun-like, white and pink uniform, "It's not the moon," she replied, "It's the sun."
Dubai's Hop-on Hop-Off buses provide audios that point out the city sights and allow you to get off and hop back onto the next bus to continue your long journey.
The Dubai Historical Museum gave an interesting glimpse into its 4,000-year history as a fishing village. Its great wealth and sudden growth dates to more recent days when oil was discovered and Sheikh Saeed of the Maktoum family summoned the world’s best architects and craftsmen to build his city.
It features the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khadafi, and some of the most luxurious hotels. No local markets or stalls, but extravagantly elegant stores representing every luxury brand you can think of. Countless shopping malls extend over many acres. You may pass a 100’ Aquarium swarming with fish right across from Dior, or you may stop in at a skating ring or a snow-covered hill equipped with a lift where you can ski down a modest slope, while the sun outside is baking the city.
One third of the city’s population is foreign-born. Its crime rate is one of the lowest. Construction is still going strong.
The city is attracting many sporting events. No camel race, though, while I was there. When I passed the tower of a Minaret, which grace most every block, I heard the musical summoning to prayer that occurs five times a day, and observed men in white garb and turban, no women, entering the sanctuary.
My favorite feature of Dubai is its Dancing Water. In the evenings when the lights of the day fade away, the sound of classical music summons visitors to the waterfront of the tall Burj Khalifa. And the water fountains, bathed in soft colors, begin to dance. You forget the smog and the crowds and the sales promotions, and rejoice in a mystical world of enchantment.
Nonetheless, it’s grand to be home again,