Selasa, 08 Desember 2015

Travel Diaries: Doha, Qatar - Miami, USA

Doha, Qatar - Miami, USA

Surreal image from the excellent ‘Qajar Women – images of women in 19th century Iran’ exhibition
at Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Doha
Doha, 7 a.m., 28th October, 2015: LOVE ME LOVE MY LAND ROVER.
I have never seen such elegant city gents, all dressed identically: form-fitting white crimplene muu-muu with Philip Treacy turbans and navy-blue silk tassles dangling down their backs. They seem to be carrying prayer beads, but in fact they are iPhone cords just pulled from their white Land Rovers.
Qatar is hands down the best place to transit on any long haul out of Bali: QATAR AIRWAYS (brilliant.....I finally got to watch Downtown Abbey Season 5) has two Dreamliners daily out of Denpasar. Doha airport is calm and crisp — great architecture and excellent support services, even the Kenyan airport limo drivers are charming. The downtown hotels are great value and, when you wake the next morning, there is a gorgeous harbour, part Gotham City part Sinbad and the Heli Pilot production set, with I.M.Pei's masterpiece the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) as centerpiece!
City gent dressed for work in downtown Doha
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View of M.I.A from the corniche
Surreal image from the excellent ‘Qajar Women – images of women in 19th century Iran’ exhibition
at Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Doha
The museum looks like a stack of shoe boxes from the outside, but inside it is a treasure trove of Islamic — modern architectural detail. Like an Arab Medina house, or Riyad mini-palace, there is a central void (in this case with glass  roof over) and exhibition rooms off the corridors on all three floors that line the central court.
The cafeteria on the ground floor overlooking the bay — with food by Alain Ducasse and interiors and uniforms by Phillipe Stark — is sensational. On the fifth floor is a gormet restaurant by the same team.
One can easily spend three hours drinking in the visual splendor of this museum.
The permanent exhibitions — which include ceramics, timber and carved architectural elements, arts de vivre, jewellery, textiles and carpets, from the 7th – 20th cenctury, from Spain to Java — are truly comprehensive, outstanding and beautifully displayed. In each room are small video monitors showing objects in detail allowing one to focus and admire single artworks, as if one were holding them.
Today the special exhibitions (everything is free) are of ‘The Chase’ (hunting), ‘Qajar Women in 19th century Iran’. There were amazing domed ceiling projections and special movies in each room. The bookshop and giftshop are incredible too — the book on modern architecture in Qatar an eye-opener.
Sadly the ruler who did all the art collecting and commissioned all the fine architecture is no longer but his legacy continues.
2/3 the way to Europe from Jakarta, and almost halfway to the East Coast of the Americas (North and South), Doha is, for my money, the best reststop for these long hauls.
Unlike it brassy neighbor Dubai, Doha is small, refined and tranquil. There are old souks and luxury malls to explore, and some fine resort hotels too.
Another ultra modern museum is slated to open next year.
Interior courtyard of the amazing M.IA., Doha

Great modern art outside one entrance to M.IA., Doha
See Video Museum of Islamic Art DOHA, QATAR, October 2015:
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29th October 2015: A Museum-like airport
The Doha International Airport is a joy to use: even the beautifully toilets have bowls of fresh flowers and dashing attendants. The business class lounge is a sprawling masterpiece, designed by the feted Antonio Citterio and Partners.
Oh that all airports were this good.
In town I stayed at the Best Western the former Coral Hotel — near the corniche, a stones throw from the Museum of Islamic Art — Lavish breakfast, decent rooms, helpful of vague staff.
Doha International Airport
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My 14 hours flight to Miami on Qatar Airlines was a delight — they are a truly five-star airline unlike our baby-cub pretender ‘Garuda’, which is all show and no go as far as I am concerned. That Adi PMS music in the cabin just HAS to go. It’s been a decade already! There is going to be a revolt!
Where was I?.............Yes, Miami Airport. What a dump. But improved. But a labyrinth with long queues everywhere. Avoid at all costs.
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Some views of the Naples Botanical Garden, Florida
30th October 2015: To Naples Botanical Gardens, Florida.
My drive to Naples along the Tamayami Trail (otherwise known as Alligator Alley), was an ex-New Jersey Jew, straight out of central casting for the Sopranos. We had Cuban ribs at the cafe 10 kilometers along the Freeway and, near Naples, he showed me a Manatee in a roadside canal. A first!
In Naples the Botanical Gardens folk put me up at the recently zooshed-up Inn on the Fifth.
“I see you’ve had Delores del Rio’s decorator in” I commented on arrival.
“I’m new here,” countered the check-in chick, “I wouldn’t know who that was”.
My Candi Ceto ruinscape in the Asian Garden section of the Naples Botanical Garden, Florida
See Link video:
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The Gay Blade at work
The Asian Garden I did five years ago with a gang of Balinese commandos has really grown in and looks fabulous in a rather wild and wooly way.
I spend four days glueing it back together with a team of the tropical world’s best gardeners, led by ironman Brian Galligan.
For lunch everyday we’d go to the local Mexican for superb tacos; in the evening I was forced to go to one of the retirement community twenty odd excellent restaurants and imbibe yummy new world wines. Such a treat after the drought of prohibition Bali.
From Naples (Fort Meyer Airport, 45 minutes away, actually), I flew to Dallas then on to Sydney — 16 hours on a Qantas Gay 380 which was heaven on a stick. Qantas now has the best lobby music in the cabin, food and entertainment system.
I arrived fresh as a week old cabbage and went straight to Wylie’s Pool Coogee for a dip.

Old Naples Beach at sunset looking over the Gulf of Mexico, Florida

Tropical mansions abound in Coral Gardens, Miami

Tablescape with Walter Burle Marx painting behind in landscape du jour, Raymond Jungle’s studio