Yet another sub-optimal bit of planning due to all the last-minute changes on this trip was the realization, only after I got to Abu Dhabi, that I should have overnighted there, instead of doing just a day trip. That would have given me more time to see the Emirates Palace (hotel/tourist trap), the gold souk, and also saved a good bit of driving back and forth from Sharjah, letting me go straight to the first day of the Dubai Airshow at Dubai World Central (DWC) airport. Plus the Ritz-Carlton is almost next door to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and I had one free night certificate left with Marriott to burn.
Instead, having driven back to Sharjah the night before, I started the day a bit late. Afternoon tea the famed Burj Al Arab started the day.
The inside of the Burj Al Arab is both grand and kind of gaudy, maybe less ridiculous than it was when it first opened in 1999-- in fact it could probably do with some refurbishing, as its competitors have tried hard to catch up (it's not even the top afternoon tea recommendation in Dubai!). The sail design, the height of the atrium, the expansive view back to shore still win points, but less so than before. Service, while excellent, also isn't quite as impeccable as you'd hope for the price. In the end, it's definitely not worth the hype, but as one of the only vaguely affordable ways to actually get inside the Burj Al Arab, I guess you could say it was worth it, especially if you're a fan of afternoon tea.
Next stop, The View at The Palm Jumeirah for sunset. Right down the road from the Burj Al Arab, it was a surprisingly good view of The Palm Jumeirah, the nearby Dubai Marina, and the Burj Al Arab. The palm frond-shaped angles of the viewing glass is less than ideal, but the view was still worth it. About the only nitpick is that the signage inside the Nakheel Mall parking lot could be more clear just how far you still have to go to find the entrance. (the late afternoon crowd being extra-crowded due to some social media star being present, I don't blame on The View!)
Finally, navigated Dubai's crazy rush hour to the crowded International City and Dragon Mart to meet up with Rick for dinner. Dragon Mart is a buzzing marketplace of tiny sellers competing for your business, reminded me of many Asia shopping "malls" where it's less about big stores and more about a zillion little stalls packed with aggressive merchants. Rick seemed to love it, especially the chandelier stores that were so brightly lit you wanted sunglasses to walk through!
After extracting ourselves from Dragon Mart, the China cluster of the extensive mid-rise, mixed-use cluster of buildings making up one-tenth of International City was downright low key. We found some solid Chongqing food for cheap, down to the plastic containers instead of proper bowls. Definitely could have explored some more-- there are nine other country-themed areas that make up International City. And one mild surprise was finding familiar brands such as Happy Lemon and The Alley (milk tea chains) inside International City's China cluster, not just local restaurants!