I am at the Grand Bassam near the largest city Abdijan, in the country of Ivory Coast. I have been here now for five nights and four days, I need to decide of feel the compulsion to decide what to do about my Hotel. As is my security self-imposed custom, I am not very choosy when I first enter a country, I choose a room from the Lonely Planet, take a taxi to the room, then stay the first couple of nights until I can do a security reconnoiter.
I first stopped at the Auberge de La Plage du Parrain, and even though it was my first Lonely Planet, security induced decision, the place was so gloomy I could not stay, walked down the road two building in the Hotel called the Wharf and got a room after a lot of hard negotiating to a price of 15,000. The Parrain was asking 8000, and this sounded good for Wharf, although to me, the room is worth 5,000 and I am paying 15,000.
Parrain room has a world value of about 2000 and the Wharf has a world-compared price of 5,000-8000 per night.
This is my dilemma, I am paying 7,000 over what I feel is a fair price. On the other hand, I just left India and feel like I got something stuck on my skin and it took five days of living in this Wharf Hotel to clean it off my skin.
India cities really annoy me, I consider them slimy, therefore I need a stress reduction to remove the slime, and the swimming pool has help to remove the slime here at the Wharf. I also have to admit, room number 7 has the best shower I have encountered in a few years. Not the cleanliness of the shower, the water pressure and hot water. The water is so hot I can make instant coffee directly from the tap. I suspect this room is right on top a big hot water tank and I get the hottest water, while the luxury room may be a long way away. I am not sharing the water with anyone; the hotel is empty and this means hotter water in many ways. However, the water pressure is also great.
This beach reminds me of the Pie de La Cuesta, Beach north of Acapulco, many real nice features, however some really bad ones also. They both are outside a major city, which is nice for shopping or to find them strange things you need. Both seem to have a mist beach or a salt air windy beach. This is really bad for a computer, the wave here bang or crash on the shore, creates a mist, the mist floats on the air covering anything close. I have a large number of palm trees, then a large swimming pool, then a parking lot between the water and me. I am not sure; the waves are noisy, I think I am in one of the best room in the Hotel, because of the quiet and lack of salt wind. I am a little annoyed because Adama said he would put a television in the room, and he has not. I have been waiting for 5 days; I think it is possible the owner told him to wait until I demanded. She is French, nice enough, but not that nice, hard to explain the feeling of this. I am not French, thus I am not part of the French. Like a club, I have trouble figuring out why anyone joins a nationalist to a high degree.
My choices to move. 1. Go to Abdijan and see trash, lot of tires, but I would be closer to bus stops to leave for the north. 2. Las Palmas in the center of Bassam Ancien, then I have to lie in the sand to tan, but in the center of the Ivoirian Culture. 3. Koral something, I think is cheaper, however same as the Wharf. I get nervous going farther down the beach, as the group taxis or collective taxi you share do not seem to go that direction past the corner road leading to - Imperial -.
I am not sure what to call the two areas of the Bassam. The guidebook map has two areas. The Nouveau Bassam where a taxi would arrive to from Abdijan and the Ancien Bassam. However, as best I can tell you ask for the Bassam and the taxi brings you to this area.
However, the taxi drivers are clueless when I say Nouveau Bassam, or when I say Ancien Bassam. The have heard of Ancien Bassam, so to travel between the Nouveau Bassam and Ancien Bassam is difficult to explain. I can say the Wharf, pronounced like Whaf, and I get here.
However, I think the real common names are.
Nouveau Bassam is Imperial Ancien Bassam is Carte France And if you want to ask for a pen, you call it a BIC not a plume.
I suppose these subtleties annoy the extreme travelers daily, it in many ways induces me to not like guidebooks, sometime I despise the guidebook writer and consider them snobs at best.
I do not know who wrote this section of the guidebook, mine is 1999 version of West Africa and I do not think has changed much in 7 years. I looked at the newer, but did not see any big real hotel changes, hard to say though. I just went and read about the authors, and they seem to be great backpacker types and well traveled. I could not suss out easily who wrote this section. I was laughing, as being in the USA Peace Corp seemed to be a prevalent reason to write. I do always recommend a person use a guidebook, silly not to have a guidebook. However, I am not sure it matter which, in fact I would believe the French ones in Northern Africa should be better than the Australian based Lonely Planet.
I will do my normal survey of guidebook authors. Five Authors 2 from USA 1 from New Zealand 2 do not say, however I think closet Americans. My guess 3 American for sure out of 5, but probably 4.
This is always of interest to me, as I take a lot of crap from the world on how the Americans are not well traveled. However invariable the Lonely Planet is in my judgment 50-70 percent written by American writers. I would say the French are not great travelers, however if you go to adventure place, or off the path completely, there will be French.
Straying away, I am not thinking my fourth choice would be to go to Bingerville. I just found it on my map. Oops, it goes north, not the correct direction, however maybe. Naw, it is a bigger city and just a glut of chaos probably. I could go down the coast to Assine, a Club Med place, however I would be annoyed by the lack of tourist and the cost of made to order tourism, only made to make money.
I am having too many considerations, I want to get tan and brown, I can guarantee that would happen here in the Wharf. I want to use the internet and finish a newsletter, which is good at the Imperial side of Bassam. I want to immerse myself in the culture. This would be best in the Imperial or leaving the Bassam totally. I can immerse myself in the city culture of Abdijan, however not significant unless I want to study the shortcomings of Africa or the Ivory Coast, maybe the French.
The bottom line is this, I do not move unless I am clear why, no big jumps in a world where I do not need to jump. I really like the Palmas, I think I may go down before the not so clear checkout time of the Wharf and get the price down to reasonable. They know that nobody rents room from Monday to Friday so they would want the money I hope. The Palmas is not on the beach, there is a Bed and Breakfast owned by an American Woman, but she asked 50 dollars U.S. per night, not out of sight for the crazies that come live in this area. 99 percent of the person that come and live in this area work for an NGO or the United Nations, or a big Multi-National corporation or maybe the French Military. Nobody is really on their own buck, so the prices are meant to do that, stab and take. It is a bubble price, and another few years of war here and they will all be getting more reasonable, but I suspect no. I would guess it only take about 2 rooms in a hotel to cover expenses. I have not figured out labor cost, but my guess a person earns about 2000 CFA per day max for general labor, or 4 dollars, this is 3 dollars more than the world number of below one dollar is poverty.
There are also oil well workers.
I want to leave the bubble prices, imposed by the stab in Expats; however, I need to choose between the Basilica and the Ocean. India has about killed my desire for tourist attractions or big cities. I need a vacation, anyway I do it, I need a vacation from the idiocy of hawker tourism. I suppose where everyone on every corner is trying to catch your ear, trying to sell, sell and sell, or annoy, annoy, annoy. I am in need of solitude of a beach. I am in solitude here in the Wharf, except for the girls coming to knock at the gate for me, I am trying to turn them away, I need better French for diplomacy reasons. Many girls are trying to claim me, I am claiming zero, however the claiming of me is close to being a hawker, they attack and follow when I leave the Hotel.
I met this Oil Worker, Garry from Ireland in the city; he is good person, lives in Macory with his wife, and soon to be baby. Excellent person, however would only make me feel good because I can speak English with him, I think better to go in and talk English and visit, not to live. Ok, I have removed Abdijan off my list, but I am still thinking about a Benin Visa, do I need a Benin Visa, does it behoove me to get one in Ivory Coast and not just steam ahead to Ghana.
I am burning business day energy, I call chasing a Visa a business day, a day I perform business, these days are very taxing sometimes and for sure not something I like to do everyday. To get a Visa to Benin could take all day again, like the Ghana Visa. I was reading the Ghana section on getting a Benin Visa; it looks like I should no matter what try in the Ivory Coast.
Aagh, nothing every is clear, the only idea that prevails is that somehow it works. The USA government website says this, I have a copy on my computer I saved as, my guidebook says I can only get visa fro 2 weeks.
USA Government says: - BENIN - *Passport and visa required. Visa for stay of up to 36 months, requires $40 fee (certified check or money orders only), 2 application forms, 2 photos, proof of yellow fever vaccination, proof of return/onward transportation (guarantee from employer, travel agency, or photocopy of round-trip ticket) and letter of guarantee from bank. Send prepaid envelope for return of passport by certified or express mail. Apply at Embassy of the Republic of Benin, 2737 Cathedral Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (202/232-6656/7/8). -
With this, I will not even be able to enter the country, my conservative route is to go to the Embassy of Benin and apply here in Ivory Coast, suss out the Visa, and if problem here, I go to Ghana and try. I also discovered I could go to the Niger Embassy here in Ivory Coast and try to get this Visa Entente, which would allow me to enter four countries and save on three visa applications.
The value of a Journal is that it helps a person take abstract ideas and turn them into real concrete decisions. The problem with people is they believe they are perfect, should never lose face, always be perfect. This is a dangerous traveler idea, nothing is perfect, I am not perfect, and for sure, I will make tons of mistakes.
It is 6:50 AM in the morning; I am ahead of schedule, in many ways thanks to Jet Lag. However, I wake early and I do get the worm. However, about 7:30 I will go down to Veronic and see about getting help on cheaper rooms. She may know the owner of the Palmas, I will promise 2-3 nights if they give me a price of less than 7000, I think I will try on 4000 and settle for less than 7000, no swimming pool, TV is in French, but the reason I came to Africa is there and they do not value this a dime. I would be living, immersed in the Africa Culture of Ivory Coast, not without big changes, I am still in the tourist zone of Bassam, but leaving the Bubble called the Wharf, yet still in small Bubble, but outside my room is only houses of locals. Strange how people travel and continually avoid the people of the country. I do like to avoid grunge or mess; however, I do not like to avoid people.
It is dangerous in Ivory Coast, I was followed the other day, and Benedice warned me not to walk down to the point of land beyond or East of the Ancien Bassam, also called Carte France. Everyone thinks I will be robbed, or possible, I told them, yes I would cut some throats, no problem. Reminds me, I should put my knife in my camera case.
I am trying to find a nice walking stick, hard, and great to crack over head, like a baseball bat, but easier to use. If I could retract, or fold the knife into the end, I could have a spear. I think the best I can get easy is whacker for their heads. Most of these criminals are probably 16-17 year old boys with lofty glazed looks in their eyes. They stare too much and are not good at being robbers so far, I am not sure, the one that gets me will be good. The too the other day were funny, they stopped and tied their shoes, to try to get behind me. I just stopped and walked with a 5-year-old girl. Rather took the wind out of their sails, plus I can give a better stare, glazed, I am crazy look than them, I have had more practice. Boys will be boys, these are a watered down version of the gang bangers of the Caribbean and for sure a lot easier to deal with than the crazies of the USA ghettos. Fewer drugs here, I suppose also, I do not like heavy drinking or heavy drugs, make it too random in nature.
I think the Palmas is an option or to say to the hotel here, the Wharf, I will pay 7000, I think the Frenchie pride is too much for that. No sense of warmth is keeping me here though; this is only a money thing. The Wharf is in the high-end section of the Lonely Planet I discovered. It is nice, but it is not Africa, but it is a good relief after India.
I wanted to call this Friend in the Hotel the other day; the woman said or explained how to find a telephone Cabine. In a Hotel Star sense, I expected here to make the call, not the service I expect for the number of no stars. This is about one star in my mind.
When choosing a Hotel, I do figure on security first, money second, culture third, and creature comforts like a pool last, and almost not important. I am not secure, the owner and all the staff have access to my room, and they have a key. India is great this way, always able to lock the staff out, except when in the richer or more expensive rooms. I have not seen secure rooms yet in the Ivory Coast. I worry most about being robbed by the hotel staff, not by people in the streets. I like Paul Theroux lock up my bag, or at least in the book the Dark Star Safari, I get the impression he locks up his bags also in rooms. I did not steal this from him; I have been doing this for years.
Time to walk down to the Palmas, grab some Benets and eat, I put away all the valuables in my big bag, chained to the dresser, and I leave.
One option I was trying to figure out was to jump cultures, I guess the Ivory Coast has 49 political area or districts, I cannot figure out where one tribe groups or language ethnic group start or ends, thus hard to make the decision on this.