Natitingou Benin Culture Hotel Natitingou Benin West Africa Thursday, September 28, 2006
I can hear the Islamic morning call to prayer, I am happy I moved farther away, I can now enjoy the prayer in a peaceful way, and not in a jam box in my ear level.
I am adding a new type of hotel to my knowledge base of hotels, the, - Culturally Immersed Hotel. - And also I add, - Living in USA Hotel in Another Country -
Living in a Hotel is an abstract set of feelings. How the hotel feels is to take all the services, benefits, people, friends, staff, problems, and tally them up, this is how the hotel feels. I feel a hotel daily, I have a home, that is a hotel, yes, sometimes called a Guesthouse, an Auberge, a Hostel, in the end, who cares what you call it, it is a room where I sleep, sometime flop.
CHOOSING A HOTEL I am learning a different strategy of choosing a hotel here in Africa, normally I go for the, - Backpacker, older part of town Hotel. -
However, the Backpacker Older Part of Town Hotel does not exist, there is the older part of town hotel, but there are no backpackers, at least no groups of backpackers collected in one place. The best I can find is a Peace Corp Hotel where they come and go and there are groups of younger people.
I go for the hotels where I can find a conversation, some travel gossip, help in figuring out the country, city or place. In West Africa there is no conversation, therefore I have finally given up looking for backpackers or other tourist, travellers, etc. I now am looking or searching only for the hotel.
This is a unique time in my travels; I have never chosen a hotel, only on the location, services and benefits of the hotel. It has always been related to the people I may meet in the hotel. Ok, I am wrong now, I am choosing the hotels in Africa according to the locals and nothing to do with the White People or Tourist, and there are almost zero travelers, only tourist.
I am taking the motorcycle taxis to all the Natitingou, Benin Hotels and checking them out, I went down a longer road the other day to the Tata Somba or something like that named Hotel. The Zim or Moto Taxi was confused as I instantly started to say things in French.
- Turn Around. Go back. - - It is a Living in USA, but here Hotel. - - Too far to walk hotel. - - Tourist Hotel. -
I am an independent traveler, this is different from a two-week tourist, and a tourist comes with a goal and itinerary checklist. I see this, I see that, we go here, and we go there, then we go home. An independent traveler normally does the same, however the independent traveler normally is a little more flexible and hopefully longer than two weeks. All these definitions overlap, combine, bleed together, and this is the problem. How to choose a hotel that fits me, not you, but me, and then I am happy.
I was laughing, people will often write and say and one did the other day and said, - I want to travel to Africa; however, I will not live on a dime. - Or they say, - I will visit the country; however, I will stay a little better. -
I laugh to myself every time I read these comments on the blog, by email, often written in the elitist, I am special, I have the money to pay for a good room denigration way. They do not know it, but they are says, - Andy, I am not like you, I can live nice. -
Everything I ever write, any comment I ever make on hotels, a reference to money, the comments I make, all 100 percent have to do with how to choose a great hotel.
The worst hotel in Natitingou, Benin may be the Tata Somba for me, or it could be the best hotel for me.
I often ask myself, - If I could convince my Mother and Father to come here, which hotel would I put them in? -
This is difficult; I would probably go looking for the one-floor, on the first level living, few steps and a hot water shower hotel. The Tata Somba has about 20 steps and a hill leading up to the hotel, I think after they go in the hotel it would maybe be ok, I did not enter.
The Bologna Hotel for lack of spelling is a good choice, but still has some steps and I do not think hot water showers.
My parents would never complain, however if I am going to pay the buck and not the dime, I will make a hoop and a holler; I would demand some service for my parents. The money would not matter; they would be on a two week and out vacation.
Sum up the pros and cons. Make a list and add them up. What are the benefits and problems?
Yuk, Yuk, Yuk, I am laughing…
All this comes down to the fact; my parents need transportation to and from the hotel daily. They are not going to get on the back of a motorcycle and ride somewhere like me. They need a taxi; however what do I see for the tourist. I see these made to look Africa 4-wheel drive something’s. They are not the NGO White Toyota Land Cruisers, they are the brown, look like Africa Jeep, square, I am Tarzan jeep.
It is the same as a van; a vehicle that is difficult to climb in and out of, it is high up, not the best for my parents. The need the Mercedes Benz hanging around to drive them around in.
They need the Mercedes Benz around the villages and outside they may be able to get by with the SUV, Toyota Land Cruiser, NGO design, I think it is wider and more comfortable than the Tarzan, out of Africa brown jeep design and quieter.
What happens to my parents when the driver turns the music up too loud, in the self-centered, I am Africa Jerk, I never once think about anyone mode, and I take, and do not care mode. My parents say nothing and hate the trip, only say good things, never complain, I am going to strangle the driver and throw him out the window, and hit him with a big rock.
This is the problem, no matter how much you pay, no matter how hard you work, there is going to be some huge problems. This is Africa, the people here will drive their car over you, they will turn up the music so loud, and they just are under-developed on the caring for people idea. The manners are primitive; this is 80 percent of the planet. Only with a five star hotel, I am living in the USA, I never saw Africa can maybe you buy some manners. But then you go drive around town and the taxi has no manners, my parents have too many manners, they will not tell the taxi driver to turn down the noise, it is his taxi, they do not feel they have the right to tell a person how to behave.
My parents would love to walk around in the Marche here; they would love to see the path down behind the Auberge USA that leads to many homes and families. They would say, hmm, very different, but just like us Dear, talking to my Dad, my mother would relate. This woman is watching her children and cooking dinner for them and her husband. Look, they have a garden, it has some sweet corn, remember on your father house dear how we would walk out the door and go across the road and pick sweet corn. They have it growing around their home.
Culturally Immersed Hotel I am not sure anywhere but home is good for anyone, I feel the goal of 90 percent of travelers it to take some good photos, live at home, and then tell all their friends. I went to Africa. The goal is sadly to me, not to feel Africa, not to empathize with Africa. For sure the NGO’s are not trying to feel Africa to empathize with the people when they drive around in a Toyota Land Rover, 4-wheel drive, Air Conditioned cost more than the village vehicle. Elitist yes, empathy no, thug, tyrant yes, living with the locals no.
The Peace Corps is the closest I have seen to even getting close to empathizing with the locals, with learning about the people of Africa, then they may have a chance to assist Africa in getting a better life, not that I think the life is bad here, I think it is darn good. They need to live on top of a mountain in Peru, cold, wet, and farming the side of a mountain. I sure they have it, but West Africa has water and is flat, farming is very easy, if you work.
Ok, as I type, I become clear, I understand how to choose hotels in cities. When I see the barricade, compound walled areas with the homes in the center, I am in the new part of the city. If I see a line of women carrying something on their head walking like ducks in a row, I am in the older part. There is a direction out of the city, which leads to Joe Blow, normal, I have a sheet for bottom, and a shirt, and I do not look color coordinated pants suits style. I am round thingie on top of my head style, ready to put my stuff up there…
The ones with things on their head are more typical, not rich, the Africa I came to visit. The ones with the Aunt Jamima, color coordinate too fat to believe is not what I came to see. (Aunt Jamima is some Maple Syrup or something in USA.)
I am still asking myself, I am aware now, I know the million dollars question is how to explain to someone how to find a hotel near or immersed in culture. I know 100 percent, the Five Stars will say or explain how it has Africa or it is Africa, The Tata Somba is named Africa, it is the name of the reason people are coming to this area, they come to see what I think is called a TATA, the home of the Somba people of Benin and Togo.
I would go ahead of my parent, arrange to rent a nice car in Cotonou, and then drive to maybe here or if possible to Boukombe in the Mercedes and get a hotel or a house. Renting a couple of rooms in a nice house would be best.
Then drive up north to see the Hippos in the park, drive back to Cotonou and fly out. Maybe I need to find a Four-Wheel Drive tour company to go to the villages. Normally a Four-Wheel Drive company did not need the Four-Wheel-Drive, they just looked the part. My parents would not be impressed with the SUV or 4-wheel drive, they live in the country, these are for the working people, not for the normal people, no need to work, we are on vacation.
I just realized, that is my farm logic, I do not want to ride in some big noisy four-wheel drive. It is when I was working concrete, or on the farm, big noisy, uncomfortable rides. Not that a SUV is a four wheel drive, I am not going to take a 30-50,000 Dollars vehicle out and bang it up on a construction site or in the back 40 of the plowed field.
COMFORT There is a difference between real comfort and perceived comfort; there is a difference between looking clean and being clean. To choose a hotel is to know yourself, and what you like. I do not like taxi driver sitting in front of a Five Star hotel sucking up treating me as if I am a US Dollar, greed personified, not nice.
In the end, it is always the people; the hotels never seem to want to talk about the people. It is the people you live with, the people you meet. I am meeting some wonderful people walking around in the Marche above me, and that walk to and home from the Marche daily. I am in the Auberge USA, it for sure is not for 99 percent of the people, but it is perfect for me, I am immersed in the Benin African culture, it is as close as I can get to living in the typical market here, then going home with the workers.
I know what I do; I take any room, and turn it into a great room. I set up the mosquito net, I made my hot shower, I installed a reading light, and I am in the process of purchasing a pillow that would be perfect. Hmm, new blog post, time to change.