This last half of 2015 has been quite exciting for The Wondercores, what with launching the blog and Mbithe going on an amazing trip to Japan which, just in case you haven’t yet, can start reading about here. But, I should warn you, her travelogue will make you feel as if she carried you along with her in her suitcase. 😀 One of the things that I really enjoyed about her travelogue is being able to see that bit of Japan through her eyes and share in her excitement and thrilling adventures, but most of all, her general view of Japan after and during her trip; all of which made me wonder about the perception of Kenya and Kenyans that travellers have before, during and after their visit here.
A few weeks ago Kentaro, a Japanese travel blogger [Look out for travel tips from Kentaro in this post!], got in touch with us to tell us about his then upcoming 2 week trip to Kenya accompanied by his girlfriend, Natsuki. We were really excited about them because, well, it meant that The Wondercores are slowly but surely going places. 😀
Day 1: September 18th
The Search for Kentaro & Natsuki
They arrived on the morning of the 18th and we were scheduled to meet that afternoon at 2.00 p.m. Sadly, our different schedules couldn’t allow for all of us to meet them then, so I went to meet them with no idea what to expect or do and without Shikow and Mbithe, I felt like I was completely lost and hoped that I would make a good impression. Things are indeed always better with company. 😀
I arrived at the CBD at 1.47 p.m. [no I’m not making this up, I remembered 😀 ] and immediately headed toward the spot that Kentaro had ‘said’ they were in. I’ve used these ” intentionally because he did not tell me where they were but showed me…
I enjoyed Geography in high school and I especially enjoyed Map work because the maps that we were given were really simple and easy to understand. Naturally, I thought that map reading in the real world couldn’t possibly be as hard as what most people claimed it to be.
W R O N G! 😀
The first time that I used Google Maps, I discovered that I was completely wrong. It is nothing like what we did in Geography and although I am not terrible at map reading, I sometimes find Google Maps confusing and kind of hard to use. But, Bencia Africa Adventure & Safaris was pretty easy to find and I managed to get there only slightly after 2. As soon as I got there, I took out my phone happily to inform Kentaro of my arrival only to find a message from him telling me that they were no longer there and another screenshot of their new and then present location. 😀
* Kentaro’s Travel Tip 1: Share your exact location to your guide or local you’re meeting using Google Maps when travelling because it’s just smart and well, makes things a whole lot simpler *
After finding the first place so easily, I was completely confident that I would find the second just as easily. But, just like my earlier prediction on map reading, I was….
W R O N G! 😀
The problem with finding Right Choice Tours and Travel was that the location that Google Maps was giving was only 80% accurate. Sure, it got me to the general location of their office but getting to the office itself was a nightmare. 🙁 In my confusion, I imagined Google Maps saying to me: ‘HAHAHA! You thought you had gained mastery over me? Never!’.
My weirdness aside, I eventually gave up on using Google Maps and ended up asking a security guard for directions (which happened to be somewhat different to those given on Google Maps) and I finally got to their office where I waited for Kentaro and Natsuki to finish up planning for the Safari that they wished to take. They were done in less than 5 minutes and after the struggle of looking for the Right Choice Tours and Travel offices, I was really excited and happy to finally meet them.
I had had a really hard time finding the Right Choice offices, a really really hard time, so I couldn’t understand how they had got there and after exchanging greetings and giving brief introductions of ourselves, I asked them how they got from the airport to the CBD and then to those offices, which is a really funny story he told as we walked to the souvenir shops at Hilton Arcade.
‘We got an Uber from the airport to Upper Hill which is where we are staying, not at a hotel, but, at an apartment which we found on Airbnb. After we had settled in, we walked to the town from the apartment which, was not very far and since I love walking, I really enjoyed the walk here. Once we got to here,we walked around for a bit and decided to have lunch as we waited to meet you. We had Ugali and Fried Fish lunch with Kachumbari. It was really delicious, I really enjoyed the fish but the Ugali was a bit plain in taste. After we had had lunch, a man approached us out of the blue and asked us if we were interested in going on a Safari and we told him that we were. The man then told us that he works for a Tour Company and if we followed him, he would lead us to its offices where we would plan and pay for a Safari at really good rates. So, we did. We followed him to the offices where you found us.’ 😀
* Kentaro’s Travel Tip 2: Using Airbnb or other websites like it will help you find cheaper accommodation when travelling and at the same time, helps you to experience the local way of life when you are hosted by a local *
While they were still in Japan, Kentaro had mentioned to us that they had wanted to shop at Maasai Market while they were here. Since Maasai market within the CBD is only open during the weekends and none of us had any time to spare that weekend, I thought that it would be appropriate to take them shopping for a few souvenirs at the Hilton Arcade souvenir shops for two reasons; as a sort of compensation for not being able to accompany them to Maasai Market the next day and, they were having a sale! 😀 We spent quite some time at here because they had so much to choose from and incidentally, loved everything! 😀 In the end, they settled for a few items, some of which you can see here. After shopping, we were all a little tired so we decided to chat (get to know a little more about each other) over a meal.
We had a lovely ‘getting to know you’ session at the restaurant and shared stories and experiences from each other’s lives which, for me, was the best part of the day. We got to know quite a lot about each other and it was indeed the start of a beautiful friendship. Of the many things that we talked about, travel came up quite a bit and as much as Natsuki loves it, she doesn’t get to do it as often as she would like. Kentaro, on the other hand, has travelled quite a bit in the past two years and, it was actually on one of his trips back home to Tokyo when he decided to visit Kenya. Now, Kentaro from my perspective, seems like an organised person and I say this because he has a sort of theme for his travels each year for instance, this year, he planned on visiting several parts of East Asia and so far, he has been to Thailand, The Philippines, Taiwan and several parts of Japan.
* Kentaro’s Travel Tip 3: It helps to be organised and having a theme for travels will make you able to see more places and plan yourself better financially *
Now, Kenya does not fit in with his theme for this year and for him, visiting Kenya was rather a spontaneous decision, for her, it was a surprise. 🙂 What happened is that on his return from The Philippines, he came across a special offer by China Southern Airlines for a Tokyo – Nairobi return flight at approximately 700 USD which was a great deal because a ticket like this would come to around 4000 USD.
* Kentaro’s Travel Tip 4: Airlines will always have special offers, especially when they’re flying out to new destinations, so, always keep an eye out for such deals for cheaper flights *
After nearly 2 hours, we ended the conversation with plans for our next meeting and parted at the Kencom bus stop where I instructed them on the bus to use to take them back to Upper Hill.
That’s it for Part One! I am happy to report that my first crack at playing tour guide was a success, well, at least Kentaro, Natsuki and I seem to think so. 😀 How do you think I did?
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In a perfect world, Gillian would be travelling round the world in her red vintage VW T1 van (Hippie Van) gathering stories of the people she meets and retelling them to those ready to listen. She is in the process of building this world which is now going to have all of you in it.