If you, or friends of yours, are planning on visiting South East Asia (and I highly recommend it) please be aware that there is no duty-free allowance for tobacco or alcohol if you are coming into Singapore from Malaysia. That means ‘zero’, ‘nada’, ‘niente’, ‘none’!
A few days ago our bus was delayed because some young backpackers were trying to bring alcohol into Singapore from Malaysia. We ended up leaving them at the border crossing in the middle of the night. I was reminded of an incident a few months ago when our bus was delayed because a middle-aged woman thought the open package of cigarettes she was carrying did not apply to the NO duty-free allowance law.
I have travelled with Singaporean friends who threw away their cigarettes before going through immigration. Trash receptacles are provided. Although most countries allow for some tobacco products to be imported without duty, Singapore does not. Some alcohol can be imported without duty but NOT from Malaysia. It doesn’t matter where you purchased the alcohol if your last port of departure was Malaysia.
10 April 2016 – Kenya Airways changed the Malindi – Nairobi flight to 10 a.m. so I lost my last day in Malindi but because I am the luckiest girl in the world, I ran into Roger, the owner of the Driftwood, in the little bookshop at the Malindi Airport. He was buying a newspaper and I was buying When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin. When Roger heard that I had a twelve-hour layover in Nairobi, he suggested that I go to the Ole-Sereni Hotel. It is very close to the airport and has a bar (The Waterhole) with a view of Nairobi National Park.
A man at Nairobi airport asked me if I needed a taxi. I said, “Maybe”. I was trying to find if there was more to do in the departures part of the airport than there was in the arrivals, and sadly, it seemed that the two coffee shops outside at the airport were the only places to eat. I honestly could not imagine spending twelve hours there so Daniel Kariuki who works for Trova Viaggi Kenya, brought me to Ole-Sereni. My flight was scheduled to board at 10:20 p.m. and Daniel said he would come back at 8 p.m. to return me to the airport.
I had lunch and then I went to the spa where I had aloe gently rubbed into my poor burned back. After returning to Singapore, I kept pulling strips of black/grey skin off my back which had bubbled up in the most grotesque way. When I first started pulling it off, I didn’t recognize it as my skin!
Anyway, I have fallen in love again with Africa. It feels a little like having fallen for a lover’s cousin or, maybe even, brother. I never imagined that I would love East Africa the way that I love Southern Africa but I have learned that ‘never’ is a word I should never use.
Saturday, 9 April 2016 – I had a breakfast of strong coffee with heated milk, a plate of fruit, and an omelette. It was raining and there was a blinding flash of lightning followed immediately by deafening thunder. Later, one of the housekeeping staff said that the lightning strike had killed three children. I really hoped the rumour was totally false.
I headed to the Driftwood and bellied up to the bar. I ordered a Pina Colada. After a while, people who were attending the private function began to arrive. It was a fabulous party. I said my toast but got choked up so it was even shorter than what I had written in the airport waiting for my flight to Kenya. The notes in my journal read, “I met Krista in Maun, Botswana when she was just 23 years old. She was full of light. In the years since 1989, Krista has become a mother and a successful business woman. Her achievements have not made her arrogant, and her trials have not diminished her light. I would like to propose a toast to Krista – ‘Keep on shining!'”.
Saturdays the Driftwood hosts a Mongolian buffet so there was lots of good food. Roger had hired a DJ so there was lots of good music. There was lots of drinking and dancing and it was lots and lots and lots of fun. At one point, I stepped outside and looked up; I nearly started to cry. I will always be awed by the African night sky.
Friday, 8 April 2016 – After the dhow trip, we went to the bar at the Driftwood where some of the other ‘party people’ were gathered for drinks and lunch. I had eaten two samosas on the dhow so I was not hungry; I had a pina colada. There were a couple of regulars at the bar including Barry Koenecke whose work graces the walls of the bar.
I walked the 500 metres from the Driftwood to the Silversand Residences where I showered and washed the sea from my hair, then I had a nap. I woke about an hour before sunset; I got dressed and walked over to Neem House. More people had arrived. This was the first ‘official’ day of the party. Ella’s invitation had stipulated that Friday’s festivities would begin at around 2 p.m. and that we should bring a bottle. I still had about half of the box of wine left.
There was eating and drinking, dancing and laughing. Krista showed a slide show of photos that she had taken or that had been taken of her. They were brilliant!
The highlight of day 8 of my trip was going out for a few hours in Malindi Marine Park on a dhow called Big Mama. There were five ladies including me and Krista; Roger, the owner of the Driftwood and captain of the dhow, and three crew members. Often the dhow trips are a whole day with food and drink but we were having a little trip because some of us were not going to be able to join the big group on Sunday.
We reclined on pillows while drinking wine or beer and eating samosas. We went snorkelling or ‘goggling’ as Roger calls it. It was like swimming in an aquarium the water was so clear. Small to medium sized striped fish swam all around us.
We had a lovely few hours and I got way too much sun on my back and shoulders.
07 April 2016 – I went into town with Krista to buy some necessities, get money, and to buy booze and kikois. A kikoi is, according to Google, “a distinctive East African striped cloth with an end fringe”. The bottle of whisky I bought at Kioko Enterprises was 930.00 KSH or approximately $9.30 USD. This same bottle of cheap but passable whisky costs $50 SGD in Singapore. The five-litre box of wine that I bought as my contribution to the Neem House festivities, cost 2,200 KSH and the grand total of 3,130 KSH included 431.72 KSH in tax.
The coast feels like a different country with Arab and European influence obvious everywhere. Neem House was designed by Bunny Allen and built for Krista’s mother and stepfather. She spent school holidays there and Malindi continues to be one of her favourite places.
The downside of Malindi, in my opinion, is the beggars. Some of them, like the guy with a stump where his left hand used to be, offer strings of beads etc.,(which I bought) but others, like the blind man with a boy who guides him or the girl who cannot speak, are just begging. Some will wash your vehicle without asking and then expect to be paid for their efforts. I know this makes me sound hard-hearted but like the panhandlers in Vancouver, the relentless requests for one’s generosity can be taxing.
After shopping, Krista dropped me at Silversand where I had a shower and changed my clothes. I was waiting for a tuk-tuk to pick me up when Krista pulled up to collect me. At Neem House, we had a dinner of red snapper with vegetables and salad. I felt totally spoiled.
My safari ended with Tom driving me back to Nairobi. In the lobby of the 67 Airport Hotel, he handed me his phone so that I could talk to George. I was feeling a little bit sad but I was also really looking forward to going to Malindi.
On the 7th of April 2016, I wrote in my journal “I have had THE MOST AMAZING DAY!!! I began by misreading my flight confirmation so I thought the arrival time was the departure time. Fortunately, the young man who was my driver did an excellent job of getting me to the airport. When I noticed my error I got a little panicky because I was afraid I would miss my flight, but I didn’t. It is a very short hop of approximately forty minutes from Nairobi to Malindi.”
When I arrived at MYD, I saw Krista standing just outside the door of the little arrivals area. She was waiting to pick up her son, Jazper, who was flying in from London. At first, I thought I should hide because it was supposed to be a surprise but where was I going to hide? There was much hugging etc. I was able to meet Jazper and Ella, as well as get a lift into town.
I had originally planned to spend the day hanging out at the pool of the Silversand Residences and writing in my journal. Instead, I got to meet some of the people who were staying at Neem House, the venue for Krista’s birthday party.
Day 6 – I awoke on the 6th of April 2016 to my lovely room being filled with crickets – large, African crickets. There had been one in the shower when I woke yesterday and I had dispatched it with a spoon but today there were at least twenty! My laundry had not been delivered so I decided to wear the same clothes as yesterday, and shower and change after returning from the early morning game drive in the park. On my way out I stopped at the reception desk and asked that someone go to my room and sweep up the crickets while I was out. I would have done it myself but there wasn’t a broom in my room. Jackline was extremely apologetic and said that it was because it was the rainy season.
From my journal for Day 5 (5 April 2016) “I have noticed that Kenyans greet you by asking ‘How are you?” After a very satisfactory breakfast, we went to Amboseli National Park. At the gate, I traded two clean T-shirts for a copper bracelet.”
“The ecosystem here is very different from both the Masai Mara (savannah) and Nakuru (lakeland forest). It is a swampy desert. We saw three lone hyenas (I have been told that the males are solitary, the females and pups were in a den somewhere), and we saw herds of elephants. Pretty birds came to share our lunch, and now I am sitting at the pool bar watching the doves come for a drink from the swimming pool.”
” I have had a lovely chat with Phillip the bartender. He is Masai and he didn’t get to go to school but he learned English from his older brother who did. His father had four wives and many children. Phillip wasn’t able to attend school because his parents died and he had to support himself. He has two sons and they are in school because Phillip believes that education is important. He told me that Masai boys begin herding goats and sheep at ten years of age and graduate to cattle at fourteen. He has four cows, ten goats, and one wife, who looks after the cows and goats while he works and his sons go to school. Phillip told me that you can’t eat a big house or a car. He seems to have found the perfect balance between Masai tradition and contemporary values.”
At first, the highway, which bypasses Nairobi, was smooth and flat, and four lanes. Then, without warning, it was a dirt track with cars and trucks jostling for position. Tom explained that they were still building the road. At one point, a flat-bed truck came just a little too close and smashed the mirror on Tom’s side of the vehicle. It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to be startled. It made changing lanes more hazardous but that was just the beginning.
The road we were travelling on is called Mombasa Road and it is the major trucking route between the port of Mombasa and the capital city of Nairobi. It started to rain heavily and we were once again on a paved road but this time, it was only two lanes. It was dark before 7 p.m. because of the rain and the headlights reflecting on the wet pavement made it impossible to see the yellow lines. The windshield was blurry and it was very difficult to tell which lane the on-coming headlights were in, and because of slow moving trucks, everyone, even other trucks, were passing. Tom was trying to make up time because we had a bit of a late start but I would have been happier staying behind one of the trucks. At least then it would be up to the person in front to decide if the headlights coming at them were in their lane. We eventually left Mombasa Road for a less travelled road and it was not raining as hard. We even got to see a Genet cat cross the road.
When we finally arrived at Sentrim Amboseli lodge, they had kept some staff on to give us dinner. It was a really, lovely four-course meal, and the ‘rooms’ were lovely as well. They left the generator on long enough for us to get tucked in for the night. I definitely recommend this hotel!