Everything comes alive in South Africa at night. My first experience clubbing in Africa occurred at the KONG nightclub in Johannesburg. This club was just like any night club you would go to in the States with a mixture of African and American hip hop (mostly American). I loved clubbing in South Africa simply because I like to watch the locals dance. South African’s dance in a way that I have never seen before. It’s as if their body is driven by the beats and they do what naturally comes to them. I’m obsessed!
Shop 5, The High Street, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, 2076
We also went to a really cool restaurant named Moyo which stands for “Heart” in Swahili. Moyo is located in Melrose Arch. The food is mouth-watering good. The dessert table was oozing with sweets, from cupcakes to chocolate fountains and the entertainment was excellent. There are live bands that serenade you as you eat and encourage you to get on the dance floor. To top off the experience, the waitresses come around, while you’re waiting for your meal, for an authentic tribal face painting experience.
Living Room was one of those things on my itinerary that I did not get to do while in South Africa. Usually, I don’t write about things that I did not experience for myself, but this seems like such a cool spot in one of the hip Maboneg districts, and I don’t want to keep this discovery to myself.
As soon as we arrived in Soweto, we were led to the dining section to eat. Bunny Chow, was on the menu, which is a chicken stew in a bread bowl. Delicious! A series of huts shielded us from the sun as we dipped our bread into the well-seasoned stew and drank water to cool off. About 5-chickens surrounded us clucking around the premises. Hello Soweto!
One of the first things we learned in Soweto was the Zulu greeting Sani Bonani. It’s what everyone says to each other, whether you’re friends or strangers, as an acknowledgment of some sort. We decided to do a bike tour in and around Soweto, which allowed us to spend time with the locals and learn some history. The name Soweto is an acronym that stands for South Western Townships. Soweto is home to very famous South Africans including Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, and Desmond Tutu.
If you’re looking for a bike tour in Soweto, I highly suggest the Soweto Backpackers.The tour was freaking amazing and taught us so many things. The tour guides became some of our good friends by the end of the trip. We loved everything about them. http://www.sowetobackpackers.com/
The discovery of gold during the late 1800s in Johannesburg is what added so much value to the city. However, colonizers from all over the world including the Dutch and the British exploited the country and the people of its resources and enforced a system of segregation that would have lasting effects on the culture and race relations for years to come. An increasing number of blacks were evicted from the city of Johannesburg and forced to live in the surrounding townships like Soweto. Allegedly, many blacks were evicted because of a government-induced spread of the Bubonic Plague. These townships were underdeveloped and unsanitary. The government tried to further their oppression in Soweto by separating the men from the women. This would reduce reproduction among blacks.
We progressed through the neighborhood, despite learning all these hard truths and noticed that the locals were filled with joy. Big bright smiles covered their faces. Some even told us how proud they were to see black tourists (that was the funniest thing ever). There was such unity in Soweto; the atmosphere gave me so much energy. The people were so friendly. They danced for us and surrounded us. They commented on how funky my Biggie Smalls shirt was. I felt like I was home, with my brothers and sisters. I was so content.
Yet, I could not ignore how impoverished my people were. Walking past the local grocery store, I stepped over their sewage, draining throughout the village. The people had communal bathrooms that they shared. The babies were in need of shoes. One of the little girls had on a skirt that was 3-sizes too small and exposed her. The homes were tiny. I couldn’t fathom that people lived in those conditions. I felt helpless but their smiles and their zest for life encouraged me.
The legacy of Apartheid is alive in Soweto. You really see the effect that this system had on black people. The unemployment rate is over 53%. There are abandoned apartment buildings that are the equivalent of $50 USD a month but remain empty because it’s not affordable for the locals.
Yet there is hope for Soweto. My tour guide was 27-years old, born and raised in Soweto and he is smart enough to be the president of South Africa one day. He loves his people and he knows the dire situation they are in. We talked about politics and Malcolm X during our tour. He was well versed in America’s grim political situation as well, laughing at the prospect of Trump becoming president. He took us to a spot wherein 1976 the Children of Soweto began protests against the government, because of the introduction of Afrikaans. Afrikaans is the language of the oppressor and they did not want to assimilate to their culture. Many of these students lost their lives at the hands of police. One of the most notorious of these students was Hector Pieterson whose lifeless body was carried by Mbuvisa Makhubo and his sister Antoinette Sithole.
By the end of the tour, it was time for us to learn about Zulu culture. We dressed up as Zulu Kings and Queens and drank from a canteen filled with a traditional Zulu beverage, that sort of tasted like a beer. It was a spectacular end to an overall empowering day.
My friend Jessica and I met up with some amazing ladies from the South Africa Glitch Gate group that I mentioned in a previous post. We had dinner at The Carnivore Restaurant in Misty Hills Country Hotel in Johannesburg. The drive was about an hour-long but the experience was worth it. Our taxi was about 460 Rand round trip, which was the equivalent of $29.00 USD.
Taxi’s in South Africa: Uber’s are cheaper than regular taxis in South Africa. Due to the WiFi situation out there, it wasn’t always easy for me to catch an Uber, but the cost was almost half the price of what your average taxi would cost. My taxi reference in the above paragraph is the quote for a regular taxi. However, when I started using Uber, I was paying about 3.00 USD at some point for my cab rides.
The Carnivore is a family-style restaurant that allows you to try the meat of different animals including Zebra, Crocodile, Antelope, and Deer just to name a few. The meal commences with a soup or honey bread and proceeds to the main course which is a salad, baked potato, and meat! If you’re wondering, the zebra kind of taste like beef, the crocodile tasted like a chewy chicken, the antelope, I had it mixed in rice, it sort of resembled paella. Eating deer was just too weird for me. Up until that trip, I’ve never encountered zebras or antelopes but I see deer’s running past me on the highway all the time. In spite of this, I tried the deer meatballs. Dessert was a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream. The waiters were friendly and brought around the meat on a stick. They were dressed in striped aprons and sun hats. They really blessed us with hospitality.
I really loved the vibe of this restaurant. Upon entering, you have to walk through a long corridor filled with historical biographies of very important figures in South African history ranging from Shaka Zulu to Nelson Mandela. The bios are accompanied by oversized bronze statues representing these men and women. As you progress into the restaurant you’ll notice it’s adorned with South African artifacts and keepsakes in glassed window cases.
After dinner, all the waiters took pictures with us, and waited patiently until we were ready to leave. It was the perfect meal to welcome us to South Africa and the ladies we had dinner with were awesome!
I stayed at the most lavish hotel in Johannesburg. Here’s how:
Apparently, African Pride Hotel in Johannesburg is the best hotel the city has to offer, and I got to stay there for a few days. I didn’t intend on it. What happened was I had a booking for its sister hotel Protea Fire & Ice Hotel in Melrose Arch which is more of a girly boutique hotel, way cheaper, however, they overbooked me. So the hotel offered that I stay at African Pride. Lucky Me! On the ride to the hotel, the driver explained how fortunate I was to be staying at this hotel, local celebrities, and really distinguished people tend to stay there (pretty cool). This was especially important to me since, I was solo for the first couple of days on my trip, so I wanted to make sure I was in a lodging that was safe and very secure.
Arriving in the neighborhood of my hotel, Melrose Arch was a treat. The atmosphere is so alive; there are restaurants all over the area, and people are just happy.
However, I have to be honest and share that I encountered my first problem while checking in. Somehow my debit card reached its limit for the day and would not allow me to pay. So I had to pay in cash, according to the hotel’s exchange rate, which was ridiculous, a complete ripoff. Either way, I was just happy once I was able to check-in, get free Wi-Fi and get ready for my night on the town as a solo traveler.
The rooms at African Pride are really innovative. The walls are exposed brick. The bathtub is in the bedroom, which to some might be creepy but to me it was perfect and it’s just an overall cool space. It felt like a cute little studio apartment. The lighting was also really cool as well, I believe it was green. The room had treats, including some fruit and m&ms. I didn’t get to explore much of the hotel, but it’s a pretty dark hotel. Not illuminated by much light. The pool area is bright, but people don’t really go in the pool, they just sunbathe in the bungalows. The hotel is pretty small, well-secured, and definitely a comfortable stay. The staff was cool. Not overly friendly, but okay. Was it my best hotel experience? I don’t know. I feel like I’ve had better experiences but the decor of this hotel is beautiful.
I’ve been thinking about my travel bucket list this week. Where do I want to go? How can I check off these places within the next couple of years? Travel has become extremely important to me. I always wanted to see the world but now that I’ve seen a part of it, I want more, almost like an addiction. See below my travel bucket list: