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UAE – Dubai

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Dubai - prize from M&M reality

To be honest, Dubai has never been particularly appealing to me and has never been on my large list of places I wanted to visit. But when we won a trip to Dubai in March 2018, I thought, I will be happy to visit Dubai.

Date – 16.3. – 20.3.2018

Itinerary

  1. Departure from Prague
  2. Burj Al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Mall of Emirates, desert, Miracle Garden
  3. Gold & Spice Souk, Dubai Mall & Aquarium, Burj Khalifa
  4. Beach La Mer, Mosque in Abú Dhabí
  5. Departure to Prahy

Feeling happy having won a trip to Dubai? Not really :p

We were selling our big garden because we were not able to take care of it due to its size and we bought a small garden instead. We were not able to sell it through regular internet advertisements for some time so we thought that people probably like to pay the fees to real estate agencies (in Brno it is the buyer who always pays the fees to agency for the deal) so we decided to use the services of a real estate agency. My husband decided to conclude a contract with M&M reality. At that time, a real estate agent was telling us that if we conclude a contract by the end of the month, we had an opportunity to win a luxury trip to Dubai. At that time we smiled at it because we have never thought that we could be among the lucky winners.

Well, at the beginning I did not feel much happiness because of my husband who doesn´t like traveling and hates hot weather. My husband told me about the prize in this way “I will tell you something but you must not be angry with me and you must not force me into anything.” And then he told me that we won a 5 day trip to a 5 star hotel with half board pension in Dubai but that he didn’t want to go. Can you believe that? :p I decided to either try to find someone else or, in the worst case, to go alone. Unfortunately, it was not sure whether we could arrange it for someone else to come with me as my husband was the winner because he signed the contract with real estate agency. In addition my sister and dad could not go at that time and most of my friends are on maternity leave now. Although I managed to find a childless friend who wanted to go but a week before the departure, she caught a virus infection, so in the end she did not go because she did not manage to recover. So I decided to go alone. I was a little worried about it because I had never traveled alone, moreover by air and for the first time outside Europe. And on top of that I have really a terrible orientation but I thought I could manage it with map applications on my smartphone.

And because I don´t like traveling alone, I tried to put a post on Facebook to a travel group to see if anyone would be in similar situation, alone in Dubai and would like to join me for a city tour. And I was very lucky, Mrs. Lenka, a Czech who has lived in Dubai for 4 years, because her husband got a great job there, offered me a tour for 150 dirhams / day (900 CZK), which was a great price because the rest of the hotel paid for a trip with a travel agency 2000 CZK and they did not see so much. And thanks to Lenka, I have seen so much in one day that I would not have been able to see the same even in two days with travelling by subway.

Currency

I paid almost everything by card and I withdrew only a small cash from an ATM. I exchanged only 250 AED in the exchange office in the Czech Republic because they didn´t have more in the Prague exchange offices. I visited in total 5 exchange offices in the center of Prague and they had only 250 dirhams in one exchange office at Main Railway station. It was absolutely impossible to get dirhams in Brno as well. They had 1000 dirhams at the Prague airport but only a thousand-dirham note which was too much for such a short trip when I already had the 250 AED. I was quite surprised that finding dirhams in exchange offices is not so easy considering Dubai is a relatively popular winter holiday destination and a frequent junction for those traveling further to Asia or Africa.

Transport

Flight

I was flying from Prague with Emirates with the largest airplane Airbus 380. The weight limit was very generous compared to other airlines – 30 kg. I didn’t even use that limit for a 5-day trip, well, I wouldn´t be able to as I wouldn´t be able to carry 30 kg…

On the plane there was a huge offer of movies, blanket, pillow, wifi, possibility to charge the phone, all drinks for free and delicious food. Some people got drunk, because all the alcohol (beer, wine, whiskey, etc.) was free, well, typical Czechs… We landed in Dubai at Terminal 3, built only for these largest Airbuses. The airport was huge, after we got off the plane, we had to take a train to get to baggage reclaim. Although I flew alone and for the first time outside Europe and with a terrible orientation, and I was a little bit worried about it, it seemed that people had confidence in me as I was immediately joined by a few people who didn’t speak English and asked me if they could go with me not to get lost. Fortunately, everything was well marked and even at such a large airport it was not possible to get lost.

Transport in Dubai

Dubai is really big and on foot you can’t really get anywhere, places you want to see are far away. The guys I met there wanted to walk through the whole palm island on foot and because they didn’t prepare well for the trip pand have not read too much about Dubai, they didn´t realize that Dubai is that big. But after an hour of walking in a 30°C, they saw that the end of the palm island with the Atlantis Hotel was still far away, and they understood that it would be better to take a taxi.

More information about transport in Dubai (in Czech) – https://idubaj.cz/doprava-po-dubaji

Metro

Perhaps the most convenient and cheapest way to get around Dubai is by metro. Metro works well, and since it’s Dubai, they must have something extraordinary as usual – so the whole metro is fully automated, ie. without drivers. But it is not a classic metro that would run everywhere underground, only 9 stations run underground, the rest run above the ground. Metro has 2 lines, green and red.

They have also carriages only for women and children. However, it is not completely separated from the rest of the carriages but there is only a line where the part reserved for women and children begins.

As far as fares are concerned, it was best to buy a silver card, costing 25 AED, of which 19 AED were pre-charged. The card can be recharged in vending machines or in a stand directly at metro stations. This card is valid for 5 years and can also be used on buses. When exiting, the card must be put to the reader as well in order to correctly mark the fare.

Taxi

The taxi is here at very affordable prices. I used a taxi only once and 10 km journey from the beach La Mer to the beach at Burj al Arab cost only about 180 CZK. Anyway, just to be safe, before I got into the taxi, I asked for the approximate price of how much it would cost. So if you travel in 2-3 people, it’s not expensive. The metro is fine but the network is not so dense, and once you get out you will still need to walk quite a lot on foot to reach the place you want to visit. You can find a taxi in Dubai everywhere. When you just walk on the street, taxi drivers probably feel that you have not estimated those distances in Dubai and stop by themselves and ask if you want a ride.

Buses

There is also an extensive network of buses in Dubai, but I didn’t use them. I only tried for a while their absolutely cool stop. The stops are fully air-conditioned, so I´m sure everybody will appreciate that in this hot weather. If I went to Dubai in summer when it is almost 50°C, I would probably sit there, and I would spend my vacation here :p 

Hotel

Double Tree by Hilton Busines Bay was really beautiful 5 star hotel, almost new, opened approximately 6 months ago. This couldn’t be compared to 4 star hotels I know from Greece, perfect equipment, I found here for the first time an iron and ironing board, every day they were putting to the fridge 2 bottles of water and they were also providing the small bottles with shampoo and shower gel every day.

Day 1 – Departure from Prague

On Friday 16.3.2018 I went to Prague to the airport, which I have not known yet because so far we were using a tiny Brno airport for our vacations…. I was looking forward to the flight because we were flying with Emirates with the largest Airbus 380. Even though the weight limit was very generous (30 kg), I decided to go on those few days with only 7 kg cabin luggage so that I wouldn’t have to check in.

After arriving in Dubai, a small bus took us to the hotel. We were a group of about 16 people, i.e. 8 winners. I got to bed at 2:00 in the morning and the next day I was supposed to meet at 10:30 with Lenka to do a tour of Dubai.

Den 2

Lenka picked me up at the hotel. I admired her ability to drive across the whole Dubai where many times there are even 6 lanes in each direction. She was able to drive without any problem even without GPS. During the trip she was stopping at many places so that I can take a picture. During the drive she was talking about the life in Dubai and about the places we were passing.

Madinat Jumeirah

Close to Burj al Arab we visited Madinat Jumeirah (https://mapy.cz/s/3rdUO ), which is a hotel and also an Arab market.

Burj Al Arab

First she took me to the beach at Burj Al Arab – https://mapy.cz/s/3rdUr,  one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Then we came closer to take a picture of the hotel but only from outside because only accommodated guests or those who have booked an expensive dinner can  get in.

Palm Jumeirah

Then we went to Palm Island (Palm Jumeirah – https://mapy.cz/s/3rdUT), which is an artificially built island 5×5 km. Palm Jumeirah is considered a luxury neighborhood but those who have luxury villas right on the beach in the individual leaves of the palm tree can´t even bath because of the large number of jellyfish. I took a picture of the well-known Atlantis Hotel (https://mapy.cz/s/3rdUZ) and a little further away I took photo of the biggest ferris wheel in the world which is still under construction.

Dubai Marina

Then we went to Dubai Marina (https://mapy.cz/s/3rdV3), one of the new luxury quarter with skyscrapers and is located on an artificial bay. There we took a boat for 10 AED and I took pictures of huge skyscrapers from a boat.

Mall of Emirates

Then we went to the Mall of Emirates (https://mapy.cz/s/3rdV5). We had lunch there for 31 dirhams in a fast food restaurant but it was great and I was glad I had the oportunity to taste local cuisine. In the mall Lenka also showed me a ski slope with artificial snow. They just have everything in Dubai. There was also a bobsleigh track at the ski slope. People were all in the same clothes they lent there because the locals of course don’t have winter clothes at home. The ski slope is used quite a lot by the locals and, for example, schools teach children to ski here at the time of physical education. In the Mall of Emirates we went to Carrefour, where I bought souvenirs – dates in chocolate, 6 kinds of camel milk with different flavors and spices, which were much cheaper here than in the Czech Republic. Lenka advised me to buy everything here, because everything in the markets is overpriced and the locals are no longer willing to bargain for a low price because they are used to tourists from Western Europe who do not bargain too much. I was also excited about an ordinary Carrefour hypermarket, I have never seen such a large hypermarket, it is not comparable to regular hypermarkets in the Czech Republic. I was also surprised that besides the cashiers, next to the checkout counter they also have an employee who puts your purchase in plastic bags.

Desert

Then we headed into the desert. Traffic signs caution camel I have seen on the road made me laugh. Also, at the crossroads between the side and the main road, they had a strip of metal tubes to prevent camels from entering to the main road – their feet would slip on the tubes. I was also surprised that the locals are used to have a barbecue in the desert. There were vans on the road selling wood to people. When we reached the desert, we went to the nearest dune and because we didn’t have much time, I took a few pictures and we headed back to have enough time to visit Miracle Garden.

Miracle Garden

Miracle Garden (https://mapy.cz/s/3rdVh ) is a gorgeous place with beautiful flower arrangements, such as the shape of houses, bear, Micky Mouse and Airbus 380, which was listed in the book Guinness World Records as the largest flower arrangement in the world. Lenka chose great timing to see Miracle Garden by day light and dark as well. After the tour, we headed back to the hotel. I was really happy for the trip with Lenka because I didn’t have to be alone all day and I could see much more that I would be able to manage by myself using the metro.

Miracle Gardenhttps://www.dubaimiraclegarden.com

Ticket – 50 AED

Day 3

Souk

The next day, having tips from Lenka, I went to Souk (markets) in the morning and in the afternoon I wanted to visit Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, which is located nearby. The metro was about 2 kilometers which is not far from the hotel but it was not easy to walk on foot in Dubai because there were few pedestrian crossings on the roads and if you didn´t cross the road on a right place, you could go even 5 kilometers more to find another crossing. That’s why I used the hotel shuttle bus which was going to the metro station several times a day. I met 2 French ladies in the bus and started to talk to them, unaware that meeting them would save me from going to the hotel on foot in the evening. I also met another older couple of Czechs in the bus who also went to the markets and because they did not speak English, they asked me if they could join me. I didn´t refuse because I liked the company.

We took the red line from 26 Business Bay and at 19 Khalid Bin Al Waleed we changed to the green line (stop 26) and continued to stop 24 Al Ghubaiba (https://goo.gl/maps/CWb7WffmpsAVMmjp6).

I bought a silver card in metro. The metro is really modern, fully automated and without drivers. Mostly it goes above ground, only about 3 stops on the way to the markets was underground. We got off the metro on purpose one stop before the markets (24 Al Ghubaiba) to take advantage of the super cheap water taxi called abra (https://goo.gl/maps/vLiiNYJ4dVEVzRur8), a small boat that transports from one bank to the other the second for just 1 dirham (0,25 EUR).

We first visited Spice Souk (https://goo.gl/maps/kh61EnN5xxWWLfVPA), a market with spices and other souvenirs. It was quite hard to pass without buying something, there wasn’t a seller who wouldn’t try to entice you to go to his shop… They were selling cashmere scarves a lot and as we were passing the shops suddently I could see I had a scarf on my shoulder as the salesman wanted to show how soft cashmere is.

Then we went to the textile market and to the Gold Souk (https://goo.gl/maps/djmYiFhJRU8r63BF6). We saw there the world’s largest ring, listed in the Book Guinness World Records. Around noon we went back by metro, I said goodbye to the Czechs and I continued to Dubai Mall.

Dubai Mall & Aquarium

I took the red metro line again and got off at 25 Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall (https://goo.gl/maps/tqatkVMkYekcn7iR6).

After getting off the metro, I was going to Dubai Mall, and although I was walking quite fast on a escalator belt, the journey took me 20 minutes. So if you go straight to Burj Khalifa for a specific time, you need to have a time reserve because it takes time to get out of the metro and walk to Dubai Mall. Dubai Mall is the largest shopping center in the world, so with my orientation I thought I had to find the entrance to Burj Khalify first so that I wouldn’t have a problem finding it in the evening.

But when I first came across the Dubai Mall Aquarium, I decided to go there first so I wouldn’t go from one place to another. The aquarium is visible to all visitors of Dubai Mall from one side. In addition, there is a paid section that goes through an underwater tunnel with a length of 48 meters and you can see sharks, rays and other marine animals as you walk through the tunnel. The entry was in 2018 for 110 dirhams. I was buying the ticket there, there was a quite long queue but it wasn’t that bad and I didn’t even have to be in the queue for the whole time – after a while in the queue, a lady asked me if I wanted to buy the ticket from her. I was wondering why someone was selling tickets like that when the official ticket offices were a little further away. But the lady said that they are selling the tickets in this way as well, she had a normal payment terminal, so I bought the ticket with her and I could go straight in.

Dubai Mall – https://thedubaimall.com , https://www.radynacestu.cz/magazin/dubai-mall/

Dubai Mall Aquariumhttps://thedubaiaquarium.com/en/Default.aspx

Dubai Mall Aquariumonline  ticket https://tickets.thedubaiaquarium.com/index.php?lang=en

Dubai Mall Aquariumonline ticket (year 2019) – 130 AED

After visiting the aquarium, I wanted to find the LG floor where is the entrance to Burj Khalifa, the world’s highest building (828 m). I found it without any problem, everything was well marked. Then I went to take a photo of Burj Khalifa from outside and take a quick look at Souk Al Bahar (https://goo.gl/maps/2fHM2tZnXFj3dtzx9).

Then I was looking for a restaurant because I was really hungry. Unfortunately, I did not see anything with the local cuisine and I did not want to spend too much time looking for a suitable and not too overpriced restaurant, so I went into the Greek restaurant on the ground floor where I found souvlaki menu for 58 dirham (otherwise prices here were much higher).

Then I saw the waterfall, the ice for skating and hockey, the world’s largest candy store, the souk and the real skeleton of a dinosaur.

I was running out of water, 2 liters for the whole day were not enough, so I went to the Waitrose Supermarket to buy some water (https://goo.gl/maps/Va7EhQKRYfGT1rJUA). I saw there a Pork shop – pork can be bought in Dubai only at 3 locations in a separate area where Muslims are not allowed to enter. And even though it is a Muslim country, the size of the pork department and the pork selection were much larger than the whole meat department in the Czech hypermarket.

Burj Khalifa

I bought a ticket to Burj Khalifa on the Internet one day before the departure because I heard that it was much more expensive directly in the ticket office in Burj Khalifa (I don’t know if it’s true, I didn’t check it out). I didn’t want to risk finding out on the spot that the tickets I chose wouldn’t be available for the time I wanted and would be even more expensive than online, as they wrote everywhere on the internet, so I wanted to buy tickets online.

As I didn´t know if my friend will travel to Dubai with me, I was buying tickets on last minute, just one day before departure, i.e. 3 days before visiting Burj Khalifa. The tickets were still available but not for all the times so that you could choose exactly the time you want. Especially those times when the entrance fee was cheaper were sold out.

More expensive admission was from 15:00 to 18:30. But I did not mind and decided to pay extra, and I chose a more expensive time at 18:00 for 210 AED (instead of the standard 135 AED) to see the view from above by light, dark and sunset.

I decided to go up at 17:15 to be up on time, fortunately it was ok to go up at this time already. I submitted a printed email at the ticket office and they gave me a ticket. At the ticket office there was no queue at all. Then I had to wait about 20 minuts for the elevator, which was quite ok, because in other cheaper times the standard waiting time was one hour or more, so I did not regret the more expensive tickets.

The super fast elevator went up to the 125th floor in 1 minute 10 seconds. Upon leaving the elevator, I could see the place where will be visible the sunset. Photographers were alrady sitting on the floor ready to take photos of the sunset. It was about 17:45 pm, so I decided to go to other parts to enjoy the views and then return to see the sunset, because according to the Internet, the sunset was supposed to be at 18:57 that day.

The view from above was absolutely breathtaking, I took many photos and then I went down the stairs to the 124th floor, which is the highest outdoor viewpoint in the world (at a height of 425 m). I managed to make better photos there, because between the glasses there was a small space just for the cell phone. At 18:00 and 18:30, I enjoyed watching the singing fountain below us and then I decided to go back upstairs to see the sunset.

Well, as soon as I went up to the side where the sunset was supposed to be, I found out that the sun dipped below the horizon already :p  I missed the sunset… Strange, according to the Internet the sunset was supposed to be at 18:57, but already before 18:30 the sun set behind the horizon. …

Never mind, I was looking forward to see Dubai from above in the dark and I have to say that the illuminated Dubai was also absolutely breathtaking, so I really didn’t regret more expensive tickets to see both the view in the light and in the dark as well.

From the top there was a beautiful view of our hotel as well. At the same time, I was trying to find out if I could walk from Dubai Mall to the hotel in case I would not find a shuttle bus going to our hotel because the bus station at the main entrance was huge and there was no indication where exactly our bus would stand. It was only 2 km from Dubai Mall to the hotel, but I was wondering if there would be any crossing on the third road from Dubai Mall. I thought I would walk the road from the beginning to find a crossing. Taxis were not expensive here but I found it strange to take a taxi just for 2 km … After enjoying the view, I queued up for the elevator again, and when I saw the queue, I was hoping to be down before 20.00 to see the singing fountain from below. Fortunately, I made it and I was about 19:45 downstairs and found a free space from where I watched the beautiful singing fountain (in the evening it is from 18:00 to 23:00 every 30 minutes).

After eight o´clock, I quickly headed for the main entrance. Well, not so quickly, because there were crazy crowds and it was pretty hard to get through them. I was surprised that I wasn´t lost and I remembered the way back to the main entrance. When I came in front of the main entrance, I was shocked to see the number of buses and I had no idea how to find the mine. So I had to go through the entire station from start to the end. I had 20 minutes to find my shuttle bus. I went through the whole bus station, but I couldn’t find my shuttle bus. I just didn’t see my bus even though I went through the bus station back and forth three times. I was quite tired already so I didn’t want to walk anymore but when I didn’t find my shuttle bus, I went to the main entrance to the Dubai Mall to go from inside to Souk Al Bahar, where I knew there was a pedestrian crossing and from here I was going to walk because I didn’t want to pay a taxi for such a short distance. On the way to the main entrance, there was hope that I would not have to walk because I suddenly saw a shuttle bus from our hotel.

I began to wave at him and I rushed to him, but the driver seemed not to see me. Fortunately, he was going very slowly and suddenly he stopped. I was happy that I didn’t have to walk. Once I entered to the bus and I saw French ladies I met in the morning – they told me that when they saw me, they told the driver that there was that girl from Czechoslovakia from our hotel, and asked him to stop. I was already tired, so I was glad I didn’t have to walk and look for a place to cross a huge road. No wonder there were only a few of us in the shuttle bus, I asked the French woman, where there was actually the shuttle bus station and they said that nowhere. There was no place for our shuttle bus, so the driver he picked up only those who noticed him like me.

Upon arrival at the hotel I had dinner in hotel restaurant. It was again absolutely excellent but I have to admit that the choice was not nearly as big as the Greek 4 * hotels because this was a smaller hotel and only few guests had paid half board pension. This evening, other winners, two boys of my age, joined me for dinner, so I was glad for the company and we agreed to go to the beach together the next day.

Day 4

Beach La Mer

In the morning we went with the guys to the beach by hotel shuttle bus because the beach was 6.5 km away (La Mer beach – https://mapy.cz/s/3reVj).

After we arrived at the beach, I had to admit that this is the most beautiful beach I have seen in Dubai. The water was warm. I found some shells for my son, there were quite a lot shells but rather smaller ones. Around 14:00 we decided to look for a restaurant somewhere close to the beach. There were quite a lot of restaurants but guys didn´t want to walk in 30 C° so they wanted to eat right in the first “restaurant” we found. Unfortunately I found out that they only had hamburgers, sandwiches and hot dogs and I don’t eat anything of that… they said they just don’t go elsewhere and that I have to choose something in this restaurant. So I just had a burger with meat and mushrooms, my first one and I hope the last burger in my life. It was quite ok but it will never be my favorite food.

Then I took a taxi to go to beach close to Burj al Arab where I was supposed to meet with Lenka. She wrote me on Facebook the previous night if I would like to see a mosque in Abu Dhabi (https://goo.gl/maps/KHvQFzSZxdSjhiaJ8 ).

Of course I could not refuse. Great that I could read her message because the next day I wondered why  Facebook and messenger was not working and only at home I realized I had a message in my email saying they had a suspicious login from Dubai and my account had been blocked before I confirm by a click in the email that I signed in from Dubai.

Dubai is big, so it wasn’t possible to walk to the beach, because it was 10 km from beach La Mer to Burj Al Arab beach. Fortunately the taxi cost only 30 dirhams (7 EUR). The taxi driver was from Bangladesh and he was pretty talkative, he managed to get from me quite a lot information for such a short trip – for example if I am married and i fit was a marriage from love or if my parents arranged the wedding with my husband parents. I had enough time, more than one hour before Lenka was supposed to pick me up. On this beach, however, there was a red flag and huge waves, so swimming was not allowed. But I wasn´t bored as I spent the time by collecting shells, there was really many shells and they were quite big, I have never found such anywhere in Europe.

Mosque in Abú Dhabí

(Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center)

At 16:30 I went to Abu Dhabi with Lenka. It was about 1.5 hours by car. The mosque was really beautiful, I didn’t expect it to be so big. We had to get off before entering, so we were walking barefoot and also we had to wear an Arab robe. The timing was great again because even here I had the opportunity to see the mosque in the light and in the dark as well, both had their particular atmosphere, so I was glad that Lenka planned it this way.

When we were leasing I had oportunity to taste caramel ice cream from camel milk, it was very good but quite expensive (16 dirhams). Then we went back to Dubai.

Mosque Abú Dhabíhttps://www.szgmc.gov.ae/en/Home

Opening hourshttps://www.szgmc.gov.ae/en/mosque-opening-hours

Free entry 🙂  

Day 5

Departure to Prague

In the morning, the hotel bus to the airport was supposed to leave at 5:50. Some Czechs overslept, so other Czechs who did not speak English, asked me if I could tell the receptionist to call them. Because they did not pick up the phone, they went upstairs to bang on their door. Fortunately, they were already awake so they managed to catch the bus. At check-in they told me that the seats were already assigned, so I was sitting elsewhere than the guys. Upon boarding the stewardess asked me if I was flying alone and if I could swap with the lady to sit next to her husband and offered me a window seat. I was glad for this seat because there was a beautiful view of Turkish mountains during the flight. When we were approaching Prague, I was a bit shocked by snowy Bohemia between Prague and Brno, it was a bit of a shock to return to 0 ° C at the end of March (20th March) while in Dubai it was 30 ° C. The flight was great again, I even had a delicious lamb to eat.

And because this Airbus is really big, baggage reclaim takes quite a lot of much time and I spent 50 minutes waiting for my backpack which I had to check in on my way back because I wanted to bring my shells to my son. One of the reasons why waiting for baggage lasted such a long time was that the Vietnamese seem to have their parcels shipped in this way and there were a lot of huge boxes from Vietnam on the belt.

So I was excited about the trip and even though I was flying alone, I was alone only for half a day from my entire stay. I had never planned to visit Dubai before, I was not attracted to see it and it was not my dream holiday destination but I liked it very much.

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