West Africa Hotels Ouidah Benin Sunday, September 10, 2006
I woke to the sound of someone playing ping-pong, I kept listening, I thought wow they are good. The duel never ended; there was never a break in play. I cannot remember, however the guide somewhere was saying you could play ping-pong or maybe foossball, in one of the Hotels.
The sound was the drip drip of drops of rainwater falling onto a steel roof. The steel roofs of the planet are a major eyesore, destroying the look of many countries. Grass, Asbestos, Thatch, anything but steel, it rust and proceeds to become the ugly.
The West Africa quality of hotels has been exceptionally high for developing countries, although they are also five times the normal cost and the quality exceptionally low for the price.
I have lived in some of the better rooms in my travels, always intrigued by the screens on windows in Africa. Most rooms have screens on the windows, I do not need a mosquito net, I as observing the mosquito net in the Auberge De Grand Popo, did not think much about, then later in this hotel, I thought, - Hmm, the more expensive the hotel, often the worst the basic room, however disguised as elegant. -
The Hotel Panff was built as a Hotel here in Ouidah, Benin, it is exceptional, has one of the best conceptual designs for a hotel I have seen in many months or years.
Ouidah, Benin and Elmina, Ghana appear to two of the major slave ports of West Africa according to collaborated reading in all my sources. Problem with reading is every city wants to be a slave city, every fort wants to be slave, many cities in Benin or Togo will somehow be the Voodoo centers.
I was reading about the walk of about 7 kilometers of 4 miles from the city of Ouidah to the coast. I noticed there was a Hotel called Papas advertised, and just about went to see if the price was ok, however 1000 CFA to go and 1000 CFA to return, and the French attitude of when we got you between a rock and a hard place, we are a resort, and we charge too much stopped me. It had nice signs, and the word Plaige or Beach, maybe a drawing, pretty slick, does not mean it not good. 1000 on a Motorcycle taxi is two dollars U.S.; this is the cost for me to travel between cities with hotels in Benin, so the cost after I arrive in the city become high. I ultimately make a decision on how close to a food supply and maybe the internet, however the interplay between the locals and me is also very important.
The Hotel designs of West Africa are better than most on the planet, there is lot of land, no shortage of space, they can build a building easily. The also build hotels as hotels, not the take an existing building and change it to a hotel. This however drives the prices up I believe, as there is no Mom and Pop, living in the third room on the right home stay type modified house to hotels. They can rent rooms for any price because this is not their normal source of income.
The guide that is seven years old says something to the effect the charm of Benin is there is not tourist infrastructure. The truth is there does not seem to be any tourist, only day-tripper or weekend tripper car driving people that work in Benin, on a short vacation. Maybe volunteers or NGO’s or some nebulous something, not a normal backpacking West Africa person. The French language also kills off most of the English-speaking tourist, the fear of the language, with the fear of Africa couple to make it difficult to come here. I admit a fear of both of these; however, the immersion into French allows me to learn French at an accelerated level.
On the walk or on the Motorcycle Moto ride to the beach there is suppose to be a memorial too, or a gate, something that says, - Door of no return. -
It will be maybe the fourth of fifth door of no return I will encounter, and seems to be the copied buzzword of slave tourism. I then went further, trying to figure out, was it French, English, Dutch, German, or Portuguese that has the dominant slave trade influence here. I would think the door would be called. - La porte sans retour -
I have a systran translation and I can do this machine translation very quickly. Maybe, not good French, however, to learn a word I need a good intense association or reason to learn. I will now have this question, a.k.a cognitive dissonance in my brain. I go to the door and see if they write it in French, or English. If the write it in English I will be dropping down laughing, as English has almost zero value here in Benin.
This all started with the thread of me search for Portuguese influence, and maybe the courtyard, Spanish, multiple stories, was stolen from this influence. There is this courtyard in the Panff hotel, is nice, has now three Mercedes Benz parked down below, the gate as it opens and closes sounds like a railway car, however there is only maybe five cars, who knows how many came in the night.
South America and Central America are great locations for Hostels, because of the Spanish extreme rich home styles, with the center courtyard, very large designs. The Philippines is terrible, because of the high rise, multiple story apartment building idea. Katmandu is only or almost only built as Hotel buildings.
There are some colonial style building, however the French in my view, if I think of Vietnam, Cambodia, France, and here seem to obsess on this four story high apartment building with maybe a balcony on the front.
A courtyard used correctly become a common area for people to meet, and is the social tourist network needed to help people to travel. I see no travelers, I have no clue, and I am now up to six on this trip. I stopped to try to talk to two girls and one boy, they was from French Quebec Canada, the two girls did not speak English, ergo the reason they probably come to Africa, fear of English.
I am giving this three the benefit of doubt, they had a Routard and a Lonely Planet guidebook, looked completely lost, however seem oblivious to the idea that anyone could simplify their search for a hotel. The hotel Ermitage has been mention in two ways in my guide, one as a good place to sleep and again as a place to eat, I am not happy when a hotel advertises 1000 for one hour, a true sign of boom boom problems. The bar was within ten feet of the room I looked at, I am paying 2000 more or 4 dollars more and immensely better than the Ermitage, although I do sort of like the location.
Africa hotels maybe are different for me, I want to meet the locals, I need the friendship, sharing and someone to talk with, and I need company. If in the center of a village, everyone watches ever move, if in a bigger city, the bang bang girls are everywhere or the semi-pros. I just want to talk with somewhat normal people. The Panff is not a place to walk to in the dark, however just about perfect walk to the major highway during the day, I pass a few people, say Bon Jour, they finally get curious and we strike up a conversation. I am also isolated enough that anyone wanting to visit or just talk does not think the whole village is watching.
I am paying extreme caution with the hotels; there was a reference to people missing Ouidah because of the bypass around the city. That is a person driving a car, not a person in a big car full of big people. The guide seems to like the places where parking is good, not a concern for a backpacker, I am thinking, driving a motorcycle is a temptation, however a car is little temptation. A good motocross bike would allow me to go many places, however the danger of driving it to me extreme, I can be isolated by police or groups of boys very easy, as I can and would drive down empty streets, not know where I am at, and be in the confuse state of asking people, to a bully this is temptation.
Asking for directions is needed, not done by many travelers, however really is the earmark of a well-traveled person, they ask continually so they do not accidentally walk for miles in the wrong direction. I will ask most every intelligent looking person on the way to the hotel, it the hotel that way…