A Travellerspoint blog

Zanzibar: the east coast

days 4 to 15

sunny 35 °C
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We stay at the swimming pool, while waiting for our bus. We reach the east coast, and follow a road that gives access to all the hotels. But there is nothing else here: no village, no shops, no restaurant, ... It looks like everything is done to keep the tourist inside his all-in hotel. The hotel is structured as a number of huge huts for the reception, bars and restaurants. .
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The rooms are spread in the garden, in small bungalows.
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It is very nice, although not as good as the one in Stonetown. The beach is just incredible, with white sand and green water. At low tide, you have to walk a couple of hundred meters, among shallow pools of water, while trying to avoid the sea urchins (and the salesmen) to reach the coral barrier that breaks the waves.
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But the coral here just looks like concrete, and doesn't look like the coral reef that you would expect.
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There is no private beach, but the gardens of the hotel are a terrific place to relax: you just select your chair, someone brings you a mattress, and then you move your chair under a palmtree for shade. Great!
Dinner tonight is on the beach: good local food, and african dances; the dancers seem to genuinely enjoy it.
Our cellphones do not work here (tri-band mandatory), and the hotel phone is very expensive (6$/min); we'll use the Internet instead.

Posted by ortho158 06:30 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Zanzibar: Stonetown

days 2 and 3

sunny 33 °C
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After our breakfast on the seafront, we start visiting Stonetown.
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Most places are within walking distance. We go through the Forodhani Gardens, now empty, but for the rubbish left from the cooking here, last night. It looks much more like a refuse dump, than a garden.
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We arrive at the Palace Museum, where we are nearly the only persons to visit.
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Here, school boys and girls who are going to visit the museum.
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Then another museum, the House of Wonders. The museums are interesting, but in a very decrepit state. We learn about the monsoon trades: the winds blowing (clockwise) south from India to Zanzibar, and then north from Zanzibar to the Arabian Peninsula and India.
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And we learn about Princess Salme. She wrote her autobiography in Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar . In short, she was raised in Zanzibar, then fell in love with a German; they fled to Europe, where her husband died in a tram accident. It's her youth in Zanzibar that is the most interesting. It's so incredibly racist that it becomes funny. Some examples:

  • it's absolutely necessary for the Sultan to keep a number of beggars: otherwise, how would he be able to satisfy the islamic obligation to help the poor?
  • there are a number of thiefs, drunkards, arsonists, ... among negroes. It is necessary to punish them. But how? Jailing them doesn't scare them, to the contrary: they will be happy to spend a few days in prison, away from sun and work. They will sleep, dream and gain strength ... so that they will be able to continue to misbehave, once free.
  • a noble lady will often feel sympathy for a foreign slave, provided that she is not a Negro
  • Hindus are cheaters, and very coward
  • etc

A view of Stonetown , from the roof of the House of Wonders.
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We walk through the maze of streets, and reach the old slave market.
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Not a lot to see: just a cave under under the church, and a modern sculpture. We find a cheap restaurant (recommended in the budget category in the Rough Guide to Zanzibar). It is awfully warm in the street, and we go back to the hotel. We have dinner in an Indian restaurant that we reach in near total darkness. A bit scary, especially when you are in Suicide Alley.
The next day, we visit a spice farm.
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It's not really a farm, but a jungle where they grow every possible sort of spice. At the end of the day, when the temperature becomes more tolerable, we leave the hotel for some shopping.
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I buy a T-shirt "Tintin in Zanzibar". As it's the time when tourists leave their hotels (or come back from tours), we are harassed by steet vendors, but it's not too difficult to get rid of them. We do not try to find the home of Freddie Mercury.
We have dinner near the Forodhani Gardens, in an excellent swahili restaurant.

Posted by ortho158 07:41 Archived in Tanzania Tagged zanzibar Comments (0)

Arriving in Zanzibar

day 1

sunny 34 °C
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We wake up at 3am, for our flight at 6.20am. Uneventful flight with stupid video programs (except a Wallace & Gromit): Love Boat, Friends, ... Somewhere over Ethiopia (?), we fly over a huge river. We ask a cabin attendant what it is, but she doesn't know. It is most probably the Blue Nile.
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Arrival at Zanzibar at 4.45pm.
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A bit of usual confusion at Immigration, and a lot at Baggage Claim: there is a small counter, 10m long at the most, where all luggage is deposited; and, in front of it, 100 or so passengers trying to identify and pick their luggage.
A ten minutes ride brings us to our hotel in Stonetown. Great hotel: we even have sea view from our room.
It's dark now (the sun goes down around 6.30), and we go to the Forodhani gardens. It's a place with tens of eating places, very crowded (nearly exclusively by local people). We are very unsure about the freshness of the meat and fish, and we decide to look for a real restaurant. This is not obvious in a city that you don't know, and in the dark (the streets are not very well lighted). We find one with an Italian name, that offers also local food. Next to us, a group of 22 Italians, who eat pizzas, french fries, ice creams and drink limoncello. We wonder why they bothered to come to Africa. We have biryani and squid: delicious.
Back to our hotel.
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Posted by ortho158 08:09 Archived in Tanzania Tagged zanzibar Comments (0)

Last days in Indonesia

days 14 to 16

all seasons in one day
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It was usually raining in the afternoon, but today it's in the morning. We stay at the hotel for our last day in Lombok, and we watch surfers.
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We have better weather in the afternoon, and then we are lucky: we have a very nice sunset, with a view on Mount Agung, in Bali.
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We couldn't book a direct flight from Lombok, and we are going to spend one night in Bali. At the airport, there are mutiple TV screens, all showing a different program, with the sound volume set at an unbearable level, so that Josette is forced to use earplugs.
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We are brought to a large hotel in Sanur, have dinner there, and go to sleep. There are so many guests that we have to queue for breakfast (not enough tables, ...). I take a walk along the sea. There is a nice clean path, bordered by souvenir shops and restaurants, linking all the hotels.
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This is definitely not the place where I would like to spend a beach holiday.
We leave for the airport, and discover that the different places around the beach area are connected with six-lane highways, ginving also access to modern shopping centers. Not my idea of a paradise on earth. At the airport, the loudspeakers do not work any better than in Lombok (horrible Larsen effects).
We leave from Singapore, where we will have to wait very long hours for our flight to Europe. We have more than enough time to discover all the facilities of the airport, including its gardens.
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13-hours flight to Paris. Compared to Changi airport in Singapore, CDG looks like a third-world airport: congested, huge queues, ... We take our luggage, find our bus, and leave for Brussels.

Conclusion
We loved Java. There are a lot of interesting places (but you will have to travel long distances), and their people are very nice. The motto (or philosophy) of Indonesia is Unity in diversity, and Java illustrates it very well.
Bali has suffered too much from mass tourism. There are still some places that deserves a visit, but I can't imagine why a European or American would like to spend a beach holiday there: there are better places closer to home. Of course, it's not so far for the Japanese and Australian ...
Lombok is a good place for a beach holiday (or rest, after a tour), but you have to hurry: mass tourism is already appearing there.

Posted by ortho158 07:04 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

the Gili islands

day 13

all seasons in one day
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We are going to the Gili islands today.
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We leave Senggigi by taxi, and follow the coast, which is superb. We take a boat and reach Gili Air.
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We do some snorkeling, from the boat. It is less impressive than what I expected: the water is not so clear, and there aren't so many fish. We continue to another island. Snorkeling again. It's better, as there is wreck here. But it's not a ship wreck, it's the wreck of a pontoon. What does a pontoon does here, so far from the shore?
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We continue to the third island, where we disembark.
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A number of hippies here, and bored-looking people who drink their cocktail while looking at the ocean. No cars here: bicycles and horse-drawn carriages.
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We find a restaurant, and even dare to visit the toilet.
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Sunbathing on the beach, and then back to Lombok.
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Posted by ortho158 02:46 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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