15 July 2010

Travel Thursday: Kenya {Mombasa}

The view from our hotel lobby!

When we were in Kenya, Jonty & I went on a little weekend adventure to Mombasa, the country's popular beach side town. We took an overnight train, which was an adventure in itself (I'll tell you about it next week). When our taxi dropped us at our hotel, we were in for a bit of a surprise. The hotel receptionist informed us that, since we're not Kenyan residents, our room rate (already not cheap) was higher than we were quoted. (This is because Syano's sister's friend - a Kenyan resident - got the rates for us.) Isn't it bizarre that there are different rates for residents & non-residents? It's just like at Nairobi National Park. Well, at least they're honest about it rather than trying to swindle more money of of people. We waited in the lobby, hot & tired after a long night on the train, not to mention mildly annoyed that we were wasting the little time we had in Mombasa, for an hour while the receptionist talked to the travel agency, then to the manager, and so on. Thankfully, we were given our original rate.

The beach was spectacular. White sands & warm water: it doesn't get much better than that!

And there were camels!!!

However, along with the camels came camel ride salesmen. And boat trip salesmen. And shop salesmen. The beach was lined with people trying to sell us stuff. On our walk down the beach & back, we were approached at least five times. To be fair to these guys, (a) it was off-peak, so they probably weren't making much & (b) most people traveling to Mombasa are actually wealthy enough to spend money like that.

We did actually book a snorkeling outing with one guy for the next morning. After deciding to book, he told us that the price he quoted (2500 Kenyan shillings, about £25/$37) was actually for each person, not for the entire outing. After haggling & practically fighting & eventually just getting up to leave, we got our price. The outing was really nice. We left around 8:00 in the morning, when the air was fresh. The sea was warm & the boat ride to the snorkeling spot was very relaxing. No sea turtles or sharks showed up, but we had fun snorkeling nevertheless. My favorite part was watching the tiny crabs crawling around in the boat while I let one foot trail in the water and breathed in the ocean air.

On the way back to the beach, I chatted with one of the two guys on our boat. He told me that he can drink four (big) bottles of beer, & that the local favorite is coconut wine, made only in the village. The boat we were in was made by his grandfather! He's from one of the eleven coastal tribes. Their tribal dishes mostly consist of freshly caught fish and vegetables. The fishing boat comes in every morning at 11 o'clock. Kenya, according to him, is the most corrupt country in Africa. (I begged to differ, but what do I know?) What struck me the hardest was how bitter he was about the Haves (versus the Have-nots) in Kenya, & in a way I couldn't blame him.

Our hotel room left a lot to be desired, especially considering the price. For example, TV wasn't plugged in, & when we tried to remedy that ourselves, we found that it didn't even have a Kenyan plug! But at least we had a mosquito net. And this oh-so-amazing view:

On our second, & last, day in Mombasa, we mostly hung out by the pool. (We didn't go to the beach because we were tired of being hassled.) It was really hot outside, & mellow (but not cold) in the pool. We read books, listened to music, & drank/ate fresh coconut (omg yum!). It was suuuch a nice day!

The evening before, we took a walk to Nakumat (aka Wal-Mart) & bought some fresh bananas & oranges. I actually will never be able to fully enjoy a banana here ever again. The ones in Kenya were so sweet & flavorful. Mmmm... I'm salivating just thinking about them.

We walked into the town but didn't see much because (silly us) we chose to go in on a Sunday, when everything is closed. I'd love to go back & explore a bit more.

Some general thoughts on Mombasa: Quite touristy. Very dusty. (It was a colonial town.) Big Muslim population. Friendly people, but usually trying to get money from you somehow. Very hot.

Oh yeah, & the mosquitos there are ninjas! I got bit by lots of them (especially at the train station), but by the time I looked the little guy was gone.


I can't wait to tell you about our epic train journey.
You. Will. Die.


1 comment:

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