Sam Smith(Singer, songwriter)
Hello my loves!
Welcome back to DO (Delightfully Unorthodox). Great to have you join us.
First off, I would like to start by apologizing for neglecting my writing duties.. The main reason for starting this platform was to share different experiences and the lessons learnt. The purpose of this blog being to educate and entertain you, my loyal reader. I deeply apologize for the inconsistency!
While I was away a lot changed in my life. But this piece is not about all that, but rather about my most recent trip to down south, South Africa. If you are new here, welcome! As the name suggests, this segment is about travel and stay insights. I’m a huge fan of travelling. I discovered my interest in travel early last year when I did a Euro tour, and have so far managed only eight countries (and counting). If you love to travel or plan to take some time off and explore what the world has to offer, you best stick around because this segment is tailor made for you!
Disclaimer alert! This piece is authentic and gives raw feedback on first hand experiences. It may offend some, but hey! The truth must be told. Without further udo, let’s jump right into it, shall we?
This was not my first time in South Africa, which henceforth will be referred to as SA. The company I worked for previously had flown me down for training, as the head office was based there. I did not get a chance to explore the country as I was on a strict work schedule. So, I promised myself to go back on holiday. An year and a half after, this dream came true.
A poster of Sam Smith to perform live in Johannesburg, was one day shared in a group I am in on one of the social media platforms. It was an invite to join in for the trip. Being quite the adventure chaser I am, it did not take much for me to be sold on the idea. A good friend of mine helped secure the tickets late last year and that’s when what first felt like a dream now became a reality. Four months after and I was checking in online for my late afternoon flight to Johannesburg.
I normally fly Emirates. But this time chose to Fly South African Airways just for the experience. Highs, I got really good fare prices as compared to other options available online. Also, because I booked my flight directly from their site. That’s a travel hack you need to know. Use the agencies to compare prices but then book and pay for the flight directly from the airline’s main website. I have been able to save up to $200 from using this technique. Another reason why I prefer to book flights directly from the airline website is because it’s safer to trace payments made and follow up on refunds. I remember I used an Agency called ‘Agoda’ last year, when booking my flight from Barcelona to Paris… money deducted from the credit card was never paid to the airline, so my flight was never booked! You can imagine the frustration I had trying to pay for a last-minute flight. The customer service from the agency was short of great as well. They were not helpful in helping investigate and report back on how this happened. I lost about $450 from it, which has not been refunded up to date! So, take my advice and save yourself the possibility of such inconveniences.
My flight got delayed by about two hours. But when we finally took off, my flight experience was pleasant. The hostesses were helpful and kept checking up on the passengers. (Sometimes Emirates attendants are not easy to reach for assistance) I landed at Thambo International Airport at about 10:30 pm. If you are in Kenya, SA is behind on time by an hour. It was too late so I was not able to buy a local line. You want to remember to do this because one vital thing about travelling is access to internet. Roaming can be quite expensive. Wi-Fi connection at the airport was unreliable. They have Taxify in SA (in case you are not familiar with the company, Taxify is a taxi service that works exactly like Uber. But it is cheaper compared to Uber fare prices.) Another thing that is very important to note is that airports are not very safe in general, especially if it is your first-time travel. This is because tourists are an easy target for cons and criminals. I personally had the worst experience in Rome and got mugged by a man who posed as a taxi driver, but turned out to be a wanted criminal. So only take genuine airport taxis or use well known taxi apps. Tracing back details of the cab and driver is easier this way. Always take a photo of the car registration too. I know this may seem overboard… and it is. But better to be safe than sorry. This blog is all about authentic feedback to educate you.
I had a great host who picked a hotel called “The Gold Reef City Theme Park Hotel” The location was perfect. It is about thirty minutes from the airport with minimal traffic. Twenty minutes from The Dome (Where Sam Smith was performing).
I blacked out soon after I got to the hotel, tired from the day’s events.
Gold Reef City Theme Park hotel is designed like one of those old American towns in the movies, quite beautiful to see during the day. My view while having breakfast was breathtaking.
View of the Hotel street
Another cool thing about the hotel is that if you are a guest there, you have access to all the rides free of charge. You only need to collect a band from the hotel reception. The park is fully functional on Sundays, so try out all the rides on this day because they are not open again until Wednesday.
Some of the rides at the Theme park
Some of the rides that I would recommend you try out are the Tower of Terror, the experience is something I can’t put to words…
The Golden loop
A shot taken of the Anaconda ride
The park is also a great spot for taking photos (especially for Instagram)
Main entrance for the Hotel and Theme park
Inside the Theme park
There are several restaurants you can chose from to eat in case you get hungry, but I would not advise eating before going on any of the rides!
I discovered a nice gift shop that was a great bargain, for accessories both for male and female tourists. I did not remember to get the name, but it is located on your left if you are coming from the Tower of Terror ride exit. Walk down till the end and take a right, it is at the corner. You will notice the fanny bags and hats displayed outside. Inside, there are more souvenirs dispalyed.
Some of the items sold in the souvenir shop
Inside the souvenir Shop
After the day’s activities, I was famished. My next stop was a restaurant. I had heard a lot about Soweto, besides it being where great personalities such as Mandela and Trevor Noah (I am a big fan of Trevor, I was hoping to bump into him the whole time) grew up. I knew that if I wanted to get a raw sense of the kwaito culture, Soweto was my best bet. My great host picked me up at the hotel to drive to Soweto. It is a bit of a distance from the hotel…about 25 minutes with light traffic.
The highway to Soweto from the hotel
You can stop on the way to Soweto to see the famous FNB Stadium. This is where the 2010 FIFA World Cup was hosted. It is also where Global Citizen Festival chose as a venue last year, where Beyonce and Jay Z, Wizkid and Cassper Novest, just to mention a few performed.
FNB Stadium, Johannesburg South Africa
Driving into Soweto, I was surprised to discover what is referred to as a ‘slum’. If like me, you ail from Kenya, you will notice the resemblance to local towns in the Eastlands part of Nairobi. Only the streets of Soweto are not dusty and crowded. The town was designed to contain the blacks, back when SA was experiencing apartheid.
Mandela’s house is located on ‘Vilakazi Street’
At the entrance, you will a guide to give you a tour of inside where Mandela once lived. I opted for selfies outside the house instead! You can type in ‘Mandela’s house’ on google maps for directions. But a taxi driver should be able to find the place with ease.
Sakhumzi Restaurant is located near Mandela’s house. If you are looking for a place with a more mature and calm vibe for a drive, this would be great for you. Being a Sunday, the streets are lively as the locals and tourists go out for a drink.
Sakhumzi restaurant on Vilakazi Street
I f you are looking for somewhere with more action and a younger crowd, Moja Café is the coolest spot to hang out on a Sunday afternoon and late into the evening. I loved the vibes the place offered… kwaito music blasting the speakers, vibrant young crowd dancing and chatting and beautiful women everywhere!
SA women are quite something to look at. Most of the lassies I saw were fair with an hour glass figure. The men, are attractive too. Both men and women dress up for the rave. I can not recall seeing one female wearing flats in the club. After late lunch and drinks at Moja Café, I headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Sam Smith concert.
The concert was being held at The Dome. I was pleasantly surprised to find a well organized sitting for each ticket holder. (Concerts can be very disorganized and rowdy back home in Nairobi) The security detail, on stand by through out the star’s performance, to contain any pandemonium that threatened to happen. Especially while Sam Smith performed some of his international hits. I confess before the concert, I was not a big fan of the singer. I lack a taste for sad songs. My preference, being upbeat music that gets me fired up and happy. Maybe also because I grew up listening to progressive house music and crank music. (By now you have tried to guess my age) Where I come from, we dealt with a heartbreak by calling up your close friends, tear down the prick that broke your heart on all his shortcomings, (this is meant to make you feel like you are better off without them) then finally go to a club. Your friends would be on a mission to get you white girl wasted. And they would succeed. By the eleventh hour, a drunk you would stagger your way to the dance floor, where you attempt to dance… or something close to it. There is always that guy at the club looking for an easy prey to devour. We’ll call him Kevin. Kevin spots your drunken dancing from the bar, just as he brings the chilled bottle of beer to his lips for another sip. He hesitates an immediate approach to watch for any evidence of competition. You trip over something on the dance floor. By some kind of miracle, you thwart what would have been a painful and deeply embarrassing fall. Kevin chuckles under his breath at what a drunken mess you are. Three minutes in and still no fellow has come to lay claim. Turning to his comrade standing next to him while chatting up a middle aged woman sat at the bar, Kevin announces, “Bro! I am going in.” And nodes in your direction. It is code for “I have spotted an easy lay for the night. I am moving in to close.” Kevin’s pal smiles before patting him on the back. Also code for, “I approve. Good luck my guy!” Within seconds, Kevin is standing next to you. You spot him. He spots you spotting him. Then, he breaths down your neck “hey sexy“. You smile sheepishly and respond, “Hi!” He is now encouraged to keep teasing. “What is your gorgeous name?” He asks while sizing up your short black dress clinging on to your figure. It makes you feel uncomfortable but also sexy. You tell Kevin your name. You both start to dance in unison while occasionally yelling at each other over the loud music. You’re thinking, “He’s so sweet and smells nice.” Kevin is thinking, “She is so sloshed. I hope she does not black out on me when we get home.” He decides it’s now or never. Your friends stand watching from a table not too far from where you and Kevin are. Everything is going great between you two. Until when he says these words to you. To him, it is his closing line to get you to go home with him. He holds your shoulders. A sign that what he is about to say is important. “Sweety, wanna ditch this scene for somewhere more quiet we can have a conversation?” He smiles encouragingly. What he doesn’t know, is that your boo turned prick that broke your heart, always called you sweety. He always promised, “Sweety, I will never leave you.” But he lied. It hurts like hell now hearing the same words linger in your head. So in stead of responding to Kevin’s invitation, you break down and start to cry. Right there, in the middle of a dance floor, tears uncontrollably rolling down your cheeks. You can feel your ears and nose become hot. You can’t move, the pain and emotion paralyzing your limbs. Kevin is so confused by now. Your two friends come to the rescue. While they start to guide you towards the exit of the club, Kevin apologizes and yells, “No no sweety, I didn’t mean it like that! Your friends can come too!”
Back to the concert.
Dressed in an impressive two-piece grey suit, Sam Smith appeared on stage. Just a few minutes past nine. I am impressed! You see back home, main acts have no respect for your time. Showing up at the venue an hour after their scheduled performing time, finally appearing on stage two to three hours after, if you are lucky! Here is an international act, that had us waiting for just a few minutes! His band set up near the back of the stage prop. His back up vocalists right behind him. Two on his right, two on his left. The concert went on for about two hours before Sam Smith closed off his performance for the night with his hit song, “Promises”.