One of the things I remember growing up in Mombasa is watching Bollywood movies, and seeing how India is. The different cities shown and the progress, and we can here all the stories of India but nothing prepares you like visiting India yourself. I have been in New Delhi for a week now and everything that I sort of knew about India was irrelevant. I learnt a lot and there are three things that I noticed during my first week.
Most people don’t speak English, it becomes an issue trying to communicate to people. Even though I find that fascinating because they are proud of their language, they don’t have to conform to everyone. They speak hindi mostly, in hospital, offices and even in the shopping malls, but it becomes difficult to converse with the locals and even to try to get the right information across. A lot of information gets lost in translation.
From the little shopping I have done, things are way cheap in India. Prices are reasonable and quality is not bad. I had a chance to visit Nehru place, the biggest IT Hub market in India. People from all over India shop for electronics at reasonable prices. You will find all kinds of electronics, from Laptops to Cameras and CCTV. I was able to get electronics and camera accessories at very reasonable prices. Also, Amazon has established itself in India; they have a full functional system. I was able to shop and also look into different products that were available. They deliver to various locations, with payment on delivery option on some orders. I am looking forward to visiting other open market for cloths and other items I might need.
The one week I have been going around I have noticed that drivers lack driving etiquettes. They do not follow traffic rules or regard pedestrians. You have to be careful when you are walking; they just turn into streets in high speed. Sometimes they don’t honk for you to move, they can almost knock you down. This includes all drivers, including rickshaw, motorbikes and car drivers. They drive without considering other people who they are driving or other drivers on the road.
This is just a week long review; I am looking forward to explore New Delhi. I want to visit Lotus Temple, India Gate, Qutb Minar and maybe drive up to Taj Mahal. Also go shop at the different open market and shop more.
sights from my first week in New Delhi
Since I came back to Kenya 2011 after graduating, I have been planning to go to the Lamu cultural festival. But each year something happens and I don’t get to attend. Gratefully, this year I had a chance to attend the 17th Lamu Cultural Festival. The festival started on Thursday November 16th to Sunday November 19th. The festival is about celebrating the island culture and showcasing the different traditions that have been passed on and persevered generation after generations. From the variety of Lamu delicacies to the dhow races and heena paintings, each activity showcasing the vibrant Lamu culture.
Lamu is located on the northern coast of Kenya, one of the world heritage sites (landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties). Lamu is the oldest surviving Swahili town in East Africa and the only coastal settlement to retain its original character. The narrow alleys, the donkeys and Swahili culture make Lamu unique.
Three Important things you need
I arrived in Lamu on Wednesday 15th November, a day before the festival kicked off. I wanted to settle in before the burst of activities started, and before the Turn.Up Travel #LamuIGtour crew arrived. There three things that I noticed were significant during the festival that I needed. Small things that make a huge impact on your stay in Lamu or the nearby islands.
- Change- make sure you travel with change, notes of 50’s or 100’s. Getting change is very difficult; you can waste your time walking around looking for change to pay for a boat ride or a food vendor.
- Sunscreen – we were staying in Shela, every day we would take a boat to Lamu for the festival. Thanks to Nivea East Africa, for providing sunscreen for the #LamuIGtour crew. I needed the sunscreen protection from all the boat rides from Shela to Lamu, and all the walking in Lamu town for the festival.
- A good camera phone: as a person who likes to report in real time the Tecno Spark came in handy. The 13mp camera on the Spark gave me an opportunity to capture amazing shots where I was able to share on my social media in real time. Tweets posted in real time:
Lamu Cultural Festival Activities
The 4-day Lamu cultural festival was full of activities to experience throughout the day, from the sea front activities to the various concerts at Mkunguni square. Each activity giving you a unique experience of the Lamu culture, to see some of the activities captured check #LamuFest on all social media channels. This year’s theme is Amani na Maridhiano (Peace and Co-existence), to promote peace in the region. The different activities that you will see and experience are:
Donkeys are common form of transport in Lamu; most household will own a donkey or two to use to transport goods around the island. To measure the swiftness of Donkeys, participants are entered in a donkey race at the sea front of Lamu Town. It’s all about the balance and control to reach the finish line first. Anna’s Abdalla h was the winner for the 2017 cultural festival Donkey race. He emerged position one last year and this year consecutively.
The Lamu archipelago consist of various islands, the residents use dhows to move from the islands. You will find the different kinds of dhows from Jahazi, kasa and Mashua , depending on the size of the dhow. A Kasa dhow race and Mashua dhow race are held at the cultural festival, the race is not about winning but to show team-work, resilience and patience. The Mashua race winner for Lamu Festival 2017 was Faizuun from Faza in lamu east. The second position went to Atfa from kizingitini and subira from bwanjumwali respectively. Kasa race winner was Marlin and Jahazi race winner was firdaus from patte in lamu east.
Along the Lamu town sea front, you will find different food vendors selling different Swahili delicacies. You will find viazi via karai, bhajiya and different cooked fish. The prices range from 10 shillings a piece to 500 shillings depending on the purchase.
If you are fan of henna, you will find ladies around the sea front who can do your henna. They offer different designs on the hand, feet, arms, back and anywhere you desire. The prices range from shillings 400 and above based on the henna pattern design.
The various festival sponsors are also given an opportunity to showcase their services and products at the sea front of Lamu town. You will find the various companies branded tents offering special offers and discounted services. Corporate companies such as Safaricom, Skyward Express, and various Banks were present at the Lamu Festival 2017.
Concerts and Dinners
Concerts and Dinners are mostly held at Mkunguni Square or the Fort. The governor’s dinner was held on Friday to officially open the festival with the India High Commission as Guest of Honor, then followed by the Gotipua dance a traditional dance form in the state of Odisha, India. The main concert was on Saturday featuring offside trick as the main entertainment.
To enjoy the cultural festival, you need to plan in advance, find a local who will help you find an affordable accommodation and show you around. Also, it’s not about the festival but also doing other activities around the islands. I went on sunset sails, seafood grill at the beach and many other activities that were curated by swahiligal, who is a local in Lamu. She is always ready to help with Lamu activities. Plan ahead for the next Lamu Cultural Festival, ask for recommendations and look for great deals early.
Lamu Cultural Festival 2017 moments:
My mother was born in Nakuru and grew up there, every April holidays I would be sent to Nakuru from Mombasa to visit my mum’s side. At that time I was living with my grandparents of my dad’s side, it was always fun to travel. I decided to go back to Nakuru after 20 years, the last time I was there was 1997 which after my mum’s side decided to move to Mombasa in early 2000.
We left Mombasa on a thursday evening with an express bus from Mombasa to Nakuru, with a just a half-hour stop in Nairobi. We arrived in Nakuru 6am, it was a cold morning. We took a tuktuk to our family’s house. I spend Friday and Saturday just meeting family and getting adjusted to the weather, it wasn’t that cold but it wasn’t like the Mombasa weather.
On sunday, I got a tour of Town to industrial area and stopped at Westside Mall. Opened in 2011, this expansive shopping mall covers more than 22,699 sq meters, 2 retail floors, 3 commercial office floors, separate food courts, large atrium, roomy entrance and corridors. Also found three places good to take kids for an afternoon lunch on a weekend.
- Grill Park– A Nyama choma and kids park in one place. You can take your kids to enjoy an afternoon at the park while you enjoy the different Nyama Choma.
- Graceland Hotel– You can take kids swimming and enjoy the outdoor setting while enjoying a meal from their restaurant. The rates are reasonable.
- Oyster Shell– A friendly restaurant with good ambiance and food for a family day. They have a good lounge for young teenagers.
The next day on Monday, I met with Nakuru Photographer/Blogger Ben Omwaka (@Benstake) at a coffee house called Moca Loca. The coffee house had nice ambience for evening out, or late lunch. They have a band playing every Friday and Karaoke every Saturday. We ordered milkshake, got to know Ben on things he does.
After our Milkshakes, we decided to go to Lake Nakuru gate. Since I didn’t plan for this trip, I couldn’t get a car for a game drive. But at the gate you could see a lot of Baboons wondering around. We decided to walk further up to see Nakuru from the Lake View point. The view was amazing seeing all the buildings. It was just after 2 pm, the baboons were returning from looking for food from the neighbourhood.
Nakuru had changed in the last twenty years, even though I found places like Gilanis and Tipsy still existing. I was glad I got to enjoy the few days. I will definitely go back and do a full tour of Nakuru, Gilgil and Naivasha.
Day one: Friday Check-in
We woke up Saturday Morning in peace and tranquility, no city noise just quietness. We showered and got dressed and headed to the restaurant area for breakfast. We placed our order, I ordered the Veggie Brekkie – homemade beans, grilled tomato, avocado , toast and farm butter. I loved the fact that it tasted like home food, not like other hotels. You can choose different breakfast combos depending on your preference. You can find their menu here- Distant Relatives Menu
After our breakfast we were given a tour of lodge, the different accommodation. They have safari tents, private room and dormitory. All the rooms have names, like Mbirimbi, Pilipili, Tangawizi and etc. The bandas and private room are ensuite, tent and dormitory use the public toilet and shower. The Bandas are fully equipped with a table and chairs, plus towels for each person. The makuti roofs make the room cool but on hot days you can use the standing fan on the side. All tents have a mattress, either for one person or for two people. The rates are affordable:
There is an outdoor pool with a lot of lounging area to relax after a swim, or you can use their beach volleyball area and play a game or two with friends. Inside the reception area, you will find different seating areas to catch up on those readings. I love Distant relatives because the ambiance gives you total relaxation. I was able to relax and unwind while I enjoyed my weekend. After the tour, we relaxed in our Banda till late afternoon we had our lunch then we headed to the nearby Fumbini Giriama Village.
We walked around different houses and smaller villages, getting to know the Giriama Culture and the people living in the area. We met families with their children, we saw small schools that were built by volunteers and other sightseeing. We stopped by a group of men who were having Mnazi, a local Palm wine. It is created from the sap of various species of palm tree, which is then fermented to palm wine. It is a Giriama heritage passed on from generations. We had a chance to drink the Sap which was still fresh and non-alcoholic, but it was too bitter for me. We then continued walking enjoying the hills and different scenic places. We then reached Giriama paradise right before sunset.
Giriama paradise is a small house with a view of Kilifi creek, the sunset was magical. They have chairs facing the ocean over the cliff, you can just be lost in the sunset. Great place to clear your mind and soul, it gives you peace of mind. We just sat in silence as we watched the sun set behind the horizon, the orange hues disappearing behind the cliffs of the other side. As darkness engulfed us, we had dinner of Maharagwe, chapati, ugali, mchicha and chicken. We had a nice friendly dinner. After, we walked back to the lodge where we decided to swim for a while as we enjoyed the cool night.
Sunday was our last day but we wanted to make it a perfect day, we had breakfast by 9:30am. By 10:30 am we were off to snorkel in the sea with our captain- Captain Issa. We took a dhow from the lodge beach and we sailed to the marine park. We passed the Kilifi Bridge which looked different from a different view. We stopped by Bofa beach, something about me is I have a fear of drowning but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from seeing the marine life. So to calm my fears, we were given floaters which helped a lot. We geared up and went in the sea just snorkeling away while watching the different types of fish swimming. It was a whole different eco-system under there, it was mesmerizing to see the different life existing. The different coloured fish, the corals and other marine life such as Sea Urchins etc. It was definitely an amazing experience, I was glad I managed to think of a different way to conquer my fear. After hours of swimming, we went back to the lodge where we changed and headed to Kilifi town and left back to Mombasa.
I truly enjoyed my stay at distant relatives. I would recommend everyone to go there and stay, considering their prices is very reasonable. You will come back home with a sense of happiness and relaxation.