Friday, November 30, 2018

Things To Do In Nairobi

We are back to the states after our amazing trip to Kenya and as I was going through the hundreds of photos we took, I decided to come up with a list of some interesting things to do while in Nairobi. This list could be longer as there is a lot more that I did not cover but at least it gives you an idea of where to start.

Kenya National Archives

If you like art and history you might enjoy a visit to the Kenya National Archives which was established in 1965 and holds a large number of public records and archives that give you an opportunity to learn about the rich history of Kenya. It's open Mon - Fri 8:00 am to 5 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, entrance fee is Kshs. 50 ($.50) for Kenyan citizens and Kshs. 200 ($2) for non-residents.

Central Business District

If you like the fast pace of the city then consider a visit to the Central Business District (CBD). You can walk around the busy streets checking out the numerous shops, stop by one of the many restaurants to grab a bite to eat or just observe people. There is never a dull moment at the CBD and it gets quite crowded during the week as many people work and conduct business there, If you don't like crowds then try going on a Sunday when its quieter.

Nairobi Arboretum 

The Nairobi Arboretum is the perfect spot for you if you are seeking peace and tranquility. One of the few remaining green spaces in the city, it has walking/jogging paths shaded by trees and picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. You can also do some bird watching and get an opportunity to learn about the different species of trees. We went during the week and it was so quite and peaceful, during the weekend it is busier but I think its still worth checking out. Entrance fee is Kshs. 50 ($.50) for adults and Kshs. 20 ($.20) for children, the preferred method of payment is with a card or M-Pesa.

Nairobi National Museum

I would highly recommend a visit to the national museum because of what it has to offer. This museum does not only display the very interesting history and culture of Kenya but it gives you a very good opportunity to learn about the animals and birds found in the country, history of early mankind and also has a section for contemporary art. You could spend hours here and if you have kids, there is an area that caters to them. You can also walk around the museum grounds which happen to be very pretty and well shaded with numerous trees, entrance into the museum is Kshs. 200 ($2) for Kenyan citizens and Kshs. 1200 ($12) for non citizens.

Maasai Market

What is a visit to Nairobi without visiting the famous Maasai Market? this is where you buy all those lovely Kenyan jewelry, paintings, carvings, name it! there is a wide variety of lovely things to get here. Maasai Market has different locations within the CBD on different days so if you are not sure how to get to it on a particular day, ask around and someone will be sure to point out the location to you. This market is not limited to only the central business district, you can find it at various malls within the city as well. Beware that prices change according to location, items sold at a Maasai Market in an upscale area will certainly be different than those sold at let's say the CBD. Feel free to bargain here, don't be ready to accept the initial price that the vendors tell you.

Animal Watching:

If you love animals but don't want to or can't go on a safari, worry not because within Nairobi you can visit the Giraffe CenterSheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Nairobi National Park to enjoy some wildlife. The best part about it is that you can easily visit all three within the same day if you have a car. Driving in Nairobi is not for the faint of heart but thankfully there are other cheap options like Taxify and Uber that you can take advantage of.

Night Out:

Nairobi has a lot of bars and clubs that cater to different preferences, nightclubs run till very late so you will definitely need a lot of stamina to keep you going. Some of us retired from the night life so this is not my area of expertise but I got to reconnect with an old high school friend and she took us bar hoping before ending the night at this one club called Kiza that plays a good variety of African music from different countries. It was a fun night albeit tiring, we left at 4:00 am and people were still coming in!

That's it folks! this trip was indeed amazing and I am so glad we got to take it as I got to re-connect and bond with my family plus show my husband where I come from. We actually took a trip down memory lane with my family by visiting our first house where we grew up, it brought up so many priceless memories. I hope you have enjoyed my posts and do follow me on my next adventures as I have one last trip of the year in 3 weeks time so watch out for an update.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Hell's Gate National Park

Yesterday we took a family trip to Hell's Gate which is a national park that's about 2 hours away from Nairobi by car and lies on the edge of lake Naivasha. I have always wanted to visit this national park so it was really special that I got to do it with my family and we had so much fun! there was an option to drive around the park or ride bikes but we opted to drive because the park is pretty big and it was hot and dusty, not a good combination. Entrance fee for Kenyan adults was Kshs. 300 ($3) and non citizens $26..........yeah! that is quite a difference.

Even though we were in a car we would stop at certain spots and get out to admire the scenery and take photos. We saw zebras, buffalos, baboons and gazelles which were all pretty harmless but of course we had to maintain a respectful distance because at the end of the day you are within their territory so you don't want to get too close and pose a threat that would elicit some sort of reaction.

We also got an opportunity to do some hiking which was so much fun albeit tiring but none of us was complaining because the scenery was too breathtaking. We had to get a guide to hike around the gorges because they advice to go with someone who knows their way around and in case of any accident they would be able to get you help as soon as possible, our guide was this really sweet older guy who was telling us the history of the land and made us appreciate our surroundings even more. 

Family........nothing quite like it.

Mummy dearest, she was a trooper throughout the hiking and you should have seen how energetic she was, even my husband was impressed. 

We came across a herd of buffalos and I had to take a picture before they freaked and stampeded away. Turns out its mating season so when a male would see a female it would run toward her and this would cause the rest of the herd to also run thinking there was danger because of the sudden movement.

That's it folks! at the end of our hike we had some lunch that we had brought with us then headed back to Nairobi. It was an all day trip and by the time we got to Nairobi it was around 9 pm, we had started our trip in the morning. Today is my last day in Nairobi before flying out, this trip has by far been my best trip of the year and I will definitely make more effort in visiting home more often.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Kenya has so many natural resources and is full of potential, it's been so inspiring to see the entrepreneurship of people my age. This trip has really motivated me.

I always make a checklist of things I want to see or do during a trip and I am glad I got to check off so many things that were on my Kenya "to do list." It's not my last time here anyway so I will have another opportunity to finish items on that list and do even more.

It's funny how you take things for granted until much later when you realize what you had. There are so many things I took for granted when living in Kenya and its only when I left that I realized what I had been missing out on. 

I am glad that my husband really likes Kenya, during this trip I made sure I showed him many different places and exposed him to a lot of things so he can have several perspectives of the country. There is still a lot more that remains to be seen but at least with what he saw and experienced he got to really appreciate the country and the culture. There is always that stereotypical image that the west portrays of Africa as a whole so unless one travels and has an open mind, they have a very narrow and skewed vision of all African countries. That narrow minded and condescending narrative is very annoying but what I can do on my part is educate those around me, the impact may not be big but it's better than nothing.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Koroga Festival

Today was such a fun day, I attended Koroga festival with a friend where I got to hear some really good African music from different countries. Koroga (in Swahili means stir) is a festival that celebrates great African musicians from around the continent and is held bi-monthly. I have always seen such fun photos and videos of music festivals in Nairobi on social media so you can imagine how excited I was to know that I could check one out while here. Even more exciting was the fact that Salif Keita the great Malian musician was going to be playing at this particular festival. Tickets at the gate were Kshs. 3000 ($30) but advance tickets were half price, since this was such a last minute thing we had to pay the gate prices which sucked but what are you gonna do? suck it up!

The festival hours were 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm and we got there at around 2 pm which wasn't so bad as we knew the main act that we were more interested in was going to be performing much later, plus the place wasn't so packed yet. We grabbed some food and drinks from one of the various food stalls and managed to get a table with a large umbrella to protect us from the sun. From our seating area we could observe all the going ons around the festival grounds which was pretty interesting, I saw so many cute fashion statements! that's the good thing with music festivals, you get to see it all and this one was no exception.

The great man himself, Salif Keita and his band. If you don't know anything about Malian music.....get with the program.

That's it folks! the music was good the food was good the crowd was cool and the whole vibe was just fun. I couldn't have asked for a better way to pass a Sunday.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I love Nairobi and being here just reminds me of how much I had missed it, it's fun re-discovering this city. To make matters better it's now so much easier to get around if you don't have a car because of Taxify and Uber which are extensively used and are cheap. Download either one or both of these apps and you are good to go.

There is also another fun music festival called Blankets and Wine that I would have loved to check out but unfortunately they already held it prior to me coming to Nairobi, Ooh! well, there is always next time.

It just seems like there is a lot of new money circulating in this city and I am not talking about small change, I am talking some serious money here. There are also many more foreigners living in Nairobi than I remember.

If you have money you can lead a very good life in Kenya, I suppose you can live a good life just about anywhere if you have money.

I follow various Kenyan vloggers on youtube and it was just so surreal running into some of them at the Koroga festival. For the most part I kept my distance out of respect but I did say hi to one particular one and told them that I was a fan.

Its been so much fun catching up with my childhood friends and reminiscing about the good old days. Times like this is when I become so aware of my age, where did the time go?

Speaking of age, I was reminded of mine yet again at the festival watching all these young hip girls with their cute outfits and latest dance moves. It was fun watching them and being reminded that at one point you were like one of them and now you are like their much older uncool sister.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Mombasa, Kenya

We have just come back from Mombasa, Kenya's 2nd largest city that lies on the coastal region of the country bordering the Indian Ocean. We stayed at the Voyager Beach Resort which we had booked through We arrived in the early evening and decided to take it easy on the first day by soaking in the beautiful scenery and do absolutely nothing else.

On our second day I talked to the reception at the resort about the possibility of exploring the main tourist sites in Mombasa and they arranged to have a taxi come get us. The taxi driver gave us various suggestions then said he would take us to the sites we wanted to see and wait for us as we explored at our own pace, then drop us back at the resort. The first stop was at the famous Mombasa landmark of elephant tusks located at the city center, for some photos. These tusks, which are made of aluminum (you didn't think they were real did you?) were built in 1952 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's visit to the city and if you look at how the tusks are shaped you can see they spell out the letter M for Mombasa.

Our second stop was at Fort Jesus, a military base in Mombasa built in 1593 by the Portuguese and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage cultural site. Entrance here was Kshs. 200 ($2) for Kenyan residents and Kshs. 1200 ($12) for non residents, we had the option of getting a guide to explain the history of the fort or walk around by ourselves. I opted for a guide so we could appreciate the fort more as he explained the history, it's a long history which I will not get into but here is a detailed link for anyone that's interested in learning more. The guide we got had been recommended by our driver and he was an older gentleman who was hilarious and made the tour more fun, he was also very enthusiastic about taking photos which was good as we didn't end up feeling like we were bothering him with photo requests.

Layout of Fort Jesus

After having our fill of Fort Jesus the guide took us on a tour of Mombasa Old Town right next to the fort. Mombasa Old Town is a historical tourist attraction and walking through the narrow streets we got to see and learn about the various cultural mixes and influences (Portuguese, Arab, Indian and British) which was very interesting. The streets were like a maze and the guide was telling us that it's very easy to get lost if you are not from the area or familiar with the area, I know I would definitely get lost if I was left to navigate those narrow streets by myself.

After our tour of Old Town we decided to head back to the resort, it was super hot and silly us we didn't carry sunscreen so you can only imagine how burnt we got. We paid the guide $15 for the tours and $30 for the taxi driver, the whole experience lasted about 4 - 5 hours and even though the sun did a number on us, it was all worth it. At least we got to cool off by the pool and indulge in some much needed cold drinks before calling it a day

That's it folks, on our 3rd day which was our last full day I met up with a couple of friends from high school that I hadn't seen in almost 20 years! we did a lot of catching up and they showed us around more sites in Mombasa. All in all, the trip was a success and everything went according to plan.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Mombasa is HOOOOOOT!!! and humid so carry lots of sunscreen and be prepared to be dripping sweat 24/7. Thank goodness for the air conditioning in our room which provided a very much needed cool off, not all places have air conditioning so have that in mind.

There are certain things you will see at the coast that will unsettle you initially and maybe with time you might get used to it or not. You will see a lot of mismatched couples, I am talking about very old foreign men or women with very young African ladies or men. In some cases the young partners appear under age and its just so unsettling and plain disgusting, let me not sugar coat things. These young partners are looking for money and a better life trying to escape poverty while these older partners know the existing desperation so they take advantage of it. They are both using each other but c'mon who really has the upper hand here? 

You can get to Mombasa by flying which takes about 40 - 50 minutes from Nairobi or by taking the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) which takes almost 6 hours, the express train is only an hour shorter. We ended up flying because I waited until last minute to look up train tickets and they had all been sold out, to be honest I wasn't looking forward to the long train ride so flying worked out perfectly.

By the 4th day which is when we were leaving Mombasa, we were both so tired of the heat and constant sweating that we couldn't wait to get to Nairobi which is way cooler and fresher, weather wise. Our flight was at 10:30 am and we got to the airport at around 9:15 am, we were informed of an earlier flight leaving at 9:40 and the attendants offered to get us on it if we wanted. You should have seen how excited we were, we just wanted out!

When booking a resort read the fine print especially if the deal is too good! turns out the deal I booked was for half board meaning lunch and drinks were not covered (we had to pay out of pocket for this), we could only partake in breakfast and dinner. Good things is their breakfast and dinner buffets were pretty extensive so we were able to indulge and I personally could do with no lunch but my husband who gets grouchy when hungry was not at all pleased by this half board business.