Hot Air Ballon Festival, Page Arizona

Today has been the most fun day of this road trip so far. When Johannes and I stopped in Page, AZ, last Monday, I saw a banner that announced an upcoming hot air ballon festival in town. I am a big fan of hot air balloons and had wanted to go to the biggest balloon festival in Albuquerque with 650 balloons (The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta) in October but unfortunately couldn’t make it. So, without further ado, I changed my plans and instead of going back to Zion for two days, I decided to stay longer in Page.

The Page Lake Powell Hot Air Balloon Regatta had about 60 hot air balloons this year and it was such a beautiful sight. A lot of the balloons I have seen so far had big sponsor logos on them – but almost all of the balloons at this festival did not have logos and had the most beautiful colors (except for the Coca Cola one).

Right after the morning briefing, when all the teams were getting their balloons ready for launch, I met the official photographer of the event, Paul. He invited me to tag along with him, which was a great opportunity to not only hang out with a photographer who has been taking pictures of hot air balloon festivals for many years and to talk about his experiences but also to meet some of the pilots. I was even allowed to go up for a bit in one of the balloons after its flight was over. The pilot told me about the requirements of becoming a pilot and it seems doable. I keep thinking that it would be so much fun to join a team one day or to create our own. I am utterly fascinated by hot air balloons and the teams. Everybody pretty much seemed to know each other – like a big family. One of the reasons why the US is my second home is that it is so easy to talk to people and to have good conversations with strangers.

The weather was very cloudy this morning and the light was ok but not perfect. There is another launch tomorrow morning and the weather is supposed to be sunny. It will be interesting to see the difference. Unfortunately, Johannes took our 70-200mm/2.8 home with him because my photo backpack was already extremely heavy and we did not think about it being quite useful for the festival. Next time then. I am definitely planning to goto Albuquerque next year and am already trying to motivate some of my friends to join me 🙂

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What I learned today…

  • Find out in advance from where the balloons will launch (Website, Facebook page, Teams – usually easily identifiable as they usually wear team shirts)
  • Bring all zoom lenses

On the bucket list…

  • Go to Albuquerque Festival
  • Find out about other unique balloon festivals
  • Join/found a hot air balloon team

The Mall of Dubai – Mall of Superlatives & Extravaganza

The Dubai mall surely is one of the most spectacular malls in the world. Among other things, it houses an aquarium, two theme parks, a cinema and almost two thousand stores  Food-wise, you will find almost any kind of food you can think of at the enormous food court as well as the over 400 restaurants and franchises, such as Cheesecake factory and Cold Stone Creamery.

Dubai Mall Wonders IV

Walking underneath hundreds of colored umbrellas.

When it comes to fashion, you probably expect to only find everything to be on the expensive side, yet, Dubai has no VAT an therefore, even brands that may be quite expensive in your country are more reasonably priced in Dubai. You will likely find any major and popular brand in this enormous mall, which is divided into different sections.

1. The Village

The Village is an indoor & outdoor street scape, styled like a typical pedestrian area with small shops and a retractable roof. Of course, a regular shopping street would not have been spectacular enough, so they decided to add a layer of colorful umbrellas above the ground floor to create a stunning and unique effect. Also, if the roof is retracted and it starts raining, you won’t get wet.

If you enter the hallway on the right of this photo, you will end up at a full size ice rink, which will host hockey matches, ice skating discos or even soccer tournaments depending on it’s daily schedule. The second floor houses the KidZania and the SEGA republic indoor theme parks as well as a 22-screen movie theater.

Looking over the Village passage.

Walking through The Souk

Walking through The Souk

2. The Souk

The Souk is a dimly lit labyrinth of small stores, designed to look like an unrealistically polished version of a historial arabic market (souk). Jewelers and fashion stores in this section offer more traditional merchandise than in other parts of the Mall, but since that would not have been unique enough, they added the 7 meter high “Dubai Dino”, a dinosaur imported from Wyoming, where it was discovered at the Dana Quarry in 2008. With its impressive age of 155 million years, it offers an interesting contrast to its brand new surroundings.

The Dubai Dino

The Dubai Dino

Not only at the Souk but across the entire mall you will find elaborately decorated atriums extending over the upper three floors, thereby creating bright open spaces.

The Souk Atrium at The Dubai Mall

The Souk Atrium at The Dubai Mall

3. The Waterfall

The Dubai Mall does not want you to find what you are looking for immediately – it wants to keep you entertained as long as possible. How else can you explain massive installations like The Waterfall, spanning 30 meters in diameter and 24 meters in height, extending over all four floors of the mall?

Dubai Mall

Look at those Theeth

Look at those Theeth

4. The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo

Speaking of water, what would the biggest mall of the world be without an oversized aquarium? The Dubai Mall hosts the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, with a spectacular 32.8m by 8.3m acrylic viewing panel open to the public and a stunning walk-through tunnel under the shark basin. The underwater zoo features water animals from all parts of the world, including the over five meter long “King Croc”, a huge 40 year old crocodile rescued from a municipal park in Australia, where it was starting to become a problem as it grew bigger. He didn’t want his picture taken when we came by, though. Maybe next time?

Leo, the lionfish

Leo, the lionfish

5. Everything Else

Believe it or not, we did not come to The Dubai Mall to take pictures. In fact, we spent almost an entire day there without even getting the camera out because we were exhausted from our travels in Kenya. When we came back on the second day, we took most of the above pictures and also couldn’t resist to take a few shots of store displays. All throughout the Mall, stores are not just stores but unique and sometimes unbelievably detailed sceneries competing to display the products in the most original ways. Below are two candy displays we found particularly interesting.

Candy Paradise I

Candy Paradise

Lots of Candy

Lots of Candy

Have you been to the Dubai Mall? What was your favorite spot?

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