maanantai 26. marraskuuta 2012

East Africa by Bus, part 3: Nairobi and Mombasa

For us used to Tanzania and big cities like Dar es Salaam and Arusha, Nairobi comes as a shock. It reminds me more of some Asian cities than Africa. It's surrounded by parks and modern shopping malls. It has residental areas that have supervision at the entrance, and inside you cannot tell if it is in America or in Kenya. 

Most of our time in Nairobi went just for getting used to it. We saw some very interesting things, such as a photo exhibition called Kenya Burning, portraying the last election riots. Here's the webiste of the exhibition. It was very thought provoking and surprisingly honest, being in a state owned gallery space.

Tall buildings in downtown Nairobi
Street view of Nairobi
The one thing that I didn't like about Nairobi is that it is more expensive than Tanzania or, I guess, rest of Kenya. Taxis in particular are very expensive, but the public transportation didn't look like a very good option either. And the hotels were not cheap. We found some midrange options in the city center, and saw some hostels a bit outside the city. If you want high end accommodation, you will not have any problems finding that!

Check out these cool storks that live in downtown Nairobi!
From Nairobi we took a bus to Mombasa. The company people recommended for us was called ”Coast Air”, even though it was a bus. They promised AC, internet and a luxury bus, so we were ok with paying a bit more than the other companies would take. Unfortunately, this is NOT what we got.

Internet didn't work. Half of the journey the toilet was out of use. Air-con didn't work either. Worst of all, they kept playing same comedy shows and musics very, VERY loud the whole way. The trip was said to take around 6 hours, truth was that it took 8. This, unfortunately, is very usual.

In Mombasa we headed to a hotel in the city center. This was a grave mistake. The city center is busy, noisy, and has next to nothing to see or enjoy. A walk in the Old Town was a spooky experience – after being used to Stone Town, it felt like a ghost town, or an open-air museum. There were people living there, but no hotels, no restaurants, and all the shops were closed in the evening time.

Fort Jesus in Mombasa
Example of an interesting building in the Old Town of Mombasa
We headed back to Old Town the next day, and went to the Fort Jesus – basically there is nothing else to do in the Old Town than to visit different museums. It was enjoyable though, and if we had more time, we would have visited the other museums too.

But we needed to head to the beach to get a look at it.

First we visited Bamburi beach, and did find one nice hotel to stay in. It's just that at that time, we didn't appreciate it enough and decided not to stay there. But after that, we saw what else Bamburi beach had to offer – and we were not too impressed! Depressing, badly planned hotels with ridiculous prices, one after another after another...

We ended up staying in Nyali beach. Not in the beach – it was full of big, big resorts. We stayed a bit behind the beach in a reasonably priced apartment hotel, which actually made us quite happy.

All in all, Mombasa was not the paradise I was expecting it to be. And I left it with a strong feeling that maybe there was more to it, maybe we didn't find the best spots after all. I truly hope so – or I feel sorry for the travelers who waste their money to be in these crowded hotels on this not-so-amazing beach.