Tag Archives: ethiopia

The Absolute Worst Places On This Planet To Visit

20 Jan

I asked Google what the opposite of a Bucket List was and it told be it’s called a ‘F*ck It’ list or a ‘Sh*t List’. Makes sense, as these places, these events, these activities are ones that made me swear (a lot) and made me wish I could just curl up in a ball a transport myself home. Because let’s me honest – travel isn’t always pretty. 

This is obviously, as always, quite personal. I don’t expect you all to agree with me, but I would love to hear what places you would never dream of returning to. The world ain’t perfect people.

 (Note – often times I absolutely love the people in the place I’m bashing, or I love the country as a whole, so don’t get too defensive. Just saying. )

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

Anthony Bourdain -

Manila, Philippines.

Manila_Philippines

What an absolute Godforsaken city. I hated it the first time round, but decided I would give it a second chance around this time last year. That resulted in a trek through the slums next to the airport where we got mugged and my friend’s camera was stolen. We had literally been on Filipino soil for less than an hour when this happened. The hostel we stayed in wasn’t fit for pigs, it was horrifically disgusting. I won’t go on…it’s too painful.

Kalokol, Northern Kenya

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Don’t worry, it’s highly likely you have never heard of this tiny village located in the middle of the desert in Northern Kenya, and that’s probably a good thing. We ended up there and got totally scammed. Both Lonely Planet and the locals sort of crushed our dreams. It was once a booming fishing village (about 15 years ago) but over-fishing killed all the fish, so now there is virtually nothing left there.  We ended up almost getting eaten by crocodiles (no joke!), suffering from severe dehydration, and were left to find our way out of the desert by numerous locals who drove past us, whizzing across the sand in matatus, and laughing. Absolute nightmare of a place.

Gangnam, South Korea

plastic-surgery.si

If you haven’t heard the song, get off my blog as you must be from another planet. The affluent area of Seoul, made famous the world over by Psy and his crazy dancing, is actually a sad, sad place. Did you know 1 in every 5 women in Seoul have had plastic surgery? And it all happens in crazy places like Gangnam. These people, along with young, beautiful and super-rich kids party the weekend away in the clubs in this area paying scandalous prices for 1 drink. Oh and if you are a foreigner, expect to wait longer and get charged up to double. They will screw you right over. It’s also an area where street hawkers and local slum dwellers literally got driven off the streets, with absolutely no warning. It really is an awful, awful pocket of an otherwise pretty cool city. AVOID.

Kuta, Bali

871230-bintang-brigade

I’m a (mature) backpacker – Get Me Outta Here!!

Oh Kuta, how I loathe your very being. I saved for months to go to Bali. I dreamed, I saved, I googled, I was ready to be mesmerised. Then, I arrived in Kuta. WTF. The place is like Benidorm for Australians. People walking down the street half-naked, all wearing the same crappy t-shirts with major brand beer logos splattered across the front. Shop after shop of really shitty souvenirs. Clubs that charge for drinks at exorbitant prices and where if you are lucky you will just get robbed and if you’re unlucky you will get your drink spiked or worse. People selling all sorts of dodgy drugs on the streets, scary thugs hanging out on dark corners and drunk, teenage Aussie puking their guts up outside a McDonalds. This is NOT the Bali I dreamed about. I will for sure go back to Bali, but you could not pay me to go back to Kuta.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Brothel_Sign

Oh all the capital cities I have visited, this could well be the worst. I will never forget my first night in Addis Ababa, mainly because it was one of the worst nights of my life. I literally could not find a place to sleep. I had money, I had a taxi and we simply could not find a room at the inn. It was all a bit ironic really, considering it was nearing December 25th on the Ethiopian calendar (which is 7.5 years behind our calendar) and they were preparing to celebrate the millennium (it was 2007, my time!). In Ethiopia, it was ‘high season’. I guess that will teach me to research what calendar different countries use before I fly there.

I ended up staying in a brothel. I knew it was a brothel because it was pay by the hour. Me and my friend ended up being the only westerners, me the only non-prostitute. There were syringes all over the floor, used condoms and 2 rats ran out of the cupboard when I opened it. The “toilet” was half a door, and guys kept bursting in on me. They followed me to my room and peeked through the keyhole. They pushed the shitty, wooden window panes open from the outside and pushed their heads in through the window. Not one wink of sleep was had, not one thing was touched. We couldn’t leave because we didn’t trust leaving our luggage there so no dinner was eaten that night. Brilliant start to my 6 week backpacking trip…NOT.

Agadir, Morocco

camlels morocco

My Mum recently said she would not go back to Agadir even if someone paid her a million dollars. Personally I would go anywhere for that much money, but I certainly agree with her sentiment. Unless you want to get harassed until you can no longer bear it, unless you want to pay for an all-inclusive hotel but feel guilty about actually drinking any alcohol, unless you want to walk down a beach filled with (and I’m not exaggerating) 100,000 Moroccan Men and not one single woman, and unless you want to be sold for 100 camels to the highest bidder…I suggest you avoid travelling to Agadir, Morocco.

Nairobi, Kenya

Traffic-Nairobi-2-of-1

I used to think I hated Jo’burg in South Africa more than Nairobi, but having returned (alone) for the 3rd time recently I have decided I definitely hate Nairobi more. How some expats CHOOSE to live in such a such a dangerous city is beyond me. Forget walking around to see the sights, you WILL get mugged. Don’t even think of leaving your hotel/hostel after dark, at best you will get mugged or stabbed, at worst you will get raped. I once arrived on a night bus from Mombasa, that dropped us all off on some dodgy side street at 5am in the morning, only to be grabbed by two guys, harassed by taxi drivers, and then wrestled for my bag and all my possessions. I literally ran, in pouring, monsoon rain, in whatever direction my feet decided to take me. I ran into the first, shitty, hotel I found and begged for a room. There was no lock, so I moved my bed against the door and slept with one eye open while men continued to bang on my door throughout the night. Another ‘brothel’, no doubt. God I hate that city.

The Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt

Pizza-Hut-Window

What do you think of when you imagine the pyramids? One of the last remaining original 7 wonders of the world? Miraculous architectural achievements, in the middle of the Egyptian desert? Think what you like, the reality is pretty devastating. While I remain fascinated by the Pyramids themselves, the history, the myths, the human achievement, I absolutely detest what has happened right next to them. The Pyramids are in Cairo, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Like they are literally right there in the middle of Cairo. Cairo, has in fact, grown almost the whole way around these magnificent buildings as the Egyptian government obviously doesn’t give a crap as long as they are still making money from stupid tourists. Guess what is right behind the Sphinx? A KFC!! A freaking Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. So go ahead and pay some corrupt police man to take some ‘clever positioned’ photos of you touching the Great Pyramid or you looking all arab sitting on a stupid camel, but don’t tell me it wasn’t, overall, a massive MASSIVE disappointment.

Phuket, Thailand

phuket-bangla-road-nightlife-patong

This one still baffles me as Phuket use to be on my BUCKET LIST and I always thought it would be pure dreamy. I arrived by long distance bus on a wet and humid day last August, and within about 2 hours I wanted to get the hell out. Granted, I was staying in Patong, but the fact that a place like that even exists disgusted me. Seeing 2 beautiful, 18-year-old Thai girls walking arm in arm with a fat, drunk, 65-year-old English chap was enough to make me vomit up last nights Pad Thai. The guys making that grotesque popping sound with their fingers and cheeks to advertise the ping-pong show (where old women shoot table tennis balls out of their…well you get it) was enough to send me running. The beach was far from idyll, their were russians absolutely everywhere, transport was awful and when I got a tuk tuk to the other, nicer side of the island I was totally ripped off. I don’t think I would ever go back to Phuket, and would recommend you pick a better, nicer Thai island to spend a few days on.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Two Subjects

15 Apr

The first image is a photo I took of two child shepherds in the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia. The second and third images are just edits of the first one, which I cropped and decided to change to black and white.

Brother and Sister, side by side. Two beautiful subjects. :)

Dear Diary – Merkato Mayhem

13 Jan

Phil emailed me today. Bad news. He made in from Uganda to Kenya but missed the only bus to Ethiopia. He is now planning on hitching a ride with some Somali truckers he met at a camp in Nairobi…sounds seriously dodgy! So I guess I will have to wait here in Addis Ababa until he at least makes it over the border, then I can make my way South.

I got all my money changed in one of the big banks and was a little nervous by the 4 AK7 clad guards who demanded I give them my big backpack to “mind” as I went into the bank. Guess guys with guns is a sight you get used to in Africa, but it still makes me feel quite nervous at times.I got a taxi to Hotel Wutma which seems like a nice little place run by 2 cool rastas, dropped off my bags and decided to check out the Addis Ababa Merkato- The biggest market in AFRICA!!

Attempting to get to the Merkato  is nearly as impossible as maneuvering your way around it. I sat inside the cramped mini bus taxi, with an old grandmother sitting next to me and a child sitting on top of me praying they would soon stop letting more people into the cramped taxi, and that we would soon be on your way. Beggars would come to the door of the taxi in a constant stream banging on the window, staring, pleading. It was a pretty devastating feeling not been able to help them all, but if you start handing out money or food hundreds more people will arrive on the scene.

In Ethiopia beggars can be everyone and anyone; the women, tribal men, the homeless, the shoeless, infants selling packets of tissues or sticks of chewing gum. There is no escaping their pleas -just being there is emotionally shattering as you feel their pain, and wish you could do more to smiles on their faces.

I eventually made it to what I could only guess was the infamous Merkato, with its boundaries as shady as some of its people. The place was hectic. Lorries unloading hundreds of oversized bags of maize as young boys carried it away on their backs resembling struggling ants. A man walks past me with his head bowed due to the weight of the 50 perfectly balanced pillows on his back.

You can walk around for hours weaving your way in and out of all the temporary stalls made of polythene sheets and with aluminium roofs. You need to be careful to avoid the big potholes full of goat shit and dirty water that runs from the mini streams that divide the stalls.

I moved on to the various spice stalls, tasting vanilla and cinnamon before I was pestered by all the flies hanging around. The place was repugnant; piles of flour, peppers, maize, apples, coffee pots and fake flowers lay side by side. Moving on I came across stall after stall of bad quality imported clothes from Indian scarves to Man United jerseys. You can come across stalls with lines of knives, machetes and guns as goats and mules wander by eating whatever waste food they can find amongst the rubbish.

When the sellers spot you they smile, they shout “You, you, you!” as others begin to turn and stare, pointing and laughing. You can block it out and feel rude or you can greet them back and be drawn into a conversation which inevitably ends in them trying to persuade you to by a Sofa or 20 metres of woven carpet! There is no escaping!

Mini Buses fly. Men sit around chewing chat that gets them high as their wives sit around cooking Injera (a flat tangy pancake part of their staple diet). It starts raining and you realise you hungry and lost. Your jeans are wet and brown from the mud and you’re sweating from the humidity. You are now broke from buying useless memorabilia or a quick handed kid has slipped his hand in and out of your pocket faster than you can say “Theif!”

It’s a once in a life time experience, let that be said. But once in a lifetime is enough for me!

Dear Diary- Ethiopian Time Travel

12 Jan

So I have been in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, two days now and I’m happy to say I’m alive and well! It is the 12th August 2007 Western Time, but the 1st of December 1999 Ethiopian time. Confused? Yea, me too! Ethiopia uses the older Coptic Calendar which is 7-8 years behind the Gregorian calendar used by most of the Western World. They also have 13 months, 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month with 5/6 days depending on whether it’s a leap year or not.

To make thing even MORE confusing they also use a different time. Not just a different time zone, but a different way of telling the time! Unlike the convention in most countries, the start of the day is dawn, rather than midnight. Thus, 7:00 AM in East Africa Time corresponds to 1:00 in daylight hours in local Ethiopian time. This makes thing SERIOUSLY complicated when trying to figure out opening/closing times and trying to book a bus!

Moving on…on arrival all the hotels seemed to be booked out. Dragging my huge, over sized backpack through the narrow, busy streets wasn’t helped by the occasional thunder storms and torrential rains. So much for a warm, hot climate! I flicked through my guidebook trying to locate the address of the various hostels and cheap motels listed but was shit out of luck. There were no street names to be found anywhere so I kept getting lost and walking in circles.

Sick and tired of walking I hailed a taxi. All the taxis are old Ladas and they totally live up to their name. I remember my Dad telling me a joke when I was younger, “What do you call a Lada with 2 exhaust pipes? A SKIP!” Well Dad wasn’t too far off. It took the taximan 15 minutes of revving and jerking the gear stick just to get the car started and when I put my bag in the boot I noticed there was a HUGE hole and also no wind mirrors! Madness!

When I eventually found a place that had a spare room…I discovered it was far from a ‘Hotel’ room I would be getting. I really didn’t care though as long as I could take off my backpack, lie down on my bed and think why on earth I left my awesome summer job teaching English in Ireland for THIS?!

After a well deserved nap, I felt calmer and a little more optimistic so ventured out of my ‘hotel room’ in search of food. I asked the guys sitting outside reception (they were all sitting around on plastic chairs sipping beers and smoking who knows what) if I could get food anywhere near and the conversation went like this;

Me- “Can I get food anywhere near here?”

Guy- “Fish…no food…FISH!”

Me -“You have food, yes?”

Guy – Fish fish, no food..fish!”

Me, “Umm okay fish. Great, do you know where I can get some?”

Guy- “No.”

And he sits down and starts chatting to his friends. Well, that was weird! I went in search again and ended up buying a bag of peanuts off some cute kids on the street corner, went back to my room to hibernate! I ended up watching TV as the countdown to the millenium is on…only 30 days to go! Can’t believe I will get to celebrate the millennium AGAIN! So totally cool. Tomorrow I will be brave and venture a little further in this crazy city, as I need to change all my  money, sort out Malaria tablets (I decided to take a risk and buy them here instead of at home- way cheaper!) and book my bus to Shashemene. Oh and ring my parents…better let them know I made it here!

Faces of Africa

7 Oct

Some photos I took of the ever-interesting people I saw or met while in Kenya and Ethiopia. Sometimes by just looking at a single photo of a person I believe you can tell what type of life they’ve had, hardships they have encountered, joy they have celebrated.

What do you think?

A man sits in the shade of the city wall on a hot day in Harar, Ethiopia

A young boy gaurds his hut in the Bale Mountains, Southern Ethiopia

Young Shepherd Boy

Young Shepherd Girl in the Bale Mountains

A young girl inspecting a dead bee inside the walls of Harar

A local man sitting on the beach in Malindi, Kenya

Women of the Dorze Tribe in Southern Ethiopia

A woman in the market in Harar, Eastern Ethiopia

A natural medicine doctor in the Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

Some happy kids from Kitale, Kenya

Lives together,Worlds Apart

5 Oct

While watching a short clip today about the Two Koreas (North and South), it got me thinking about the huge differences that exist in the world. How life in one place, South Korea, can differ so greatly from it’s northern neighbors. They are quite simply worlds apart. 

In fact only today in college, we had a lecturer talking about Nutrition and Food security in Africa and the class really made us realize the huge inequalities that exist not only around the world, but within one country.

We talked about the disparities within different regions of one country, how the capital city may have plenty of food whilst people in the countryside may be suffering from hunger and severe malnutrition.How people in Nairobi, for example, may get a lot of attention while tribal nomads dealing with a drought up in the Turkana desert may get little to no help at all from their own government.

I still find it so hard to comprehend that two images that look worlds apart may in reality have a closer link than one could ever imagine. When people think of drought or famine they think of land that resembles a dry, arid desert. Take Ethiopia for example.

When you look at the two images below, which one do you think is from Ethiopia?

Believe it or not, both these images come from southern Ethiopia. One from the south East and one from the Bale Mountains in the South West. It’s mind boggling how these places appear worlds apart, yet are in fact only a few 100 km’s from each other. Often a famine doesn’t necessarily mean there is no available food in the country; it may simply mean that the “available food” is not accessible (economically or geographically) to much of the population, a clear example of inequality within a nation.

Another thing we learned in class today was the different types of malnutrition people can suffer from, especially children. Again I was fascinated. There are two main types of malnutrition;Kwashiorkor and Marasmus. Despite fear of over simplifying these two types, Kwashiorkor makes children look fat or swollen in places, especially legs and feet, while with Marasmus children develop thinness.

(L)Child suffering from Marasmus and (R)Kwashiorkor

These variations of acute malnutrition can appear to be look very different. You would be forgiven for thinking the child on the left looks much worse off and is in much greater need of immediate feeding. You would be forgiven, but you would be very, very wrong. In reality both these conditions mean the same; that these precious children are at an extremely high risk of dying if they are not immediately treated by sophisticated feeding programmes.

I guess I have a lot more to learn about the world.

Diversity is the spice of life

21 Dec

Some Kimchi with your Turkey, Ajamma? Another cocktail or an Ice-cream Miss Clause? Some more fish stew with that Injera, Miss? With Christmas just around the corner, I am suddenly left reminiscing about all the other Christmas’ spent abroad in distant lands, far removed from the traditional Irish Christmas day.

This year, as many of you know, I will be spending my favourite holiday of the year in South Korea, a country that I have grown to love. Despite this fact, the sad reality is that Koreans don’t really celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense so  I will have to compromise, settling for a roast Chicken from a street vendor rather than the traditional Turkey, time spent with friends instead of family and rocking around a Karaoke room rather than the Christmas tree!

South Korean Christmas;all about the kids

Christmas entertainment in Korea, mainly aimed and Children and Lovers

All my years of travelling have taught me that just because something is different to what you have been brought up with does not make it worse. As the saying goes “Diversity os the Spice of life”. This goes for everything; from people, to countries, to food, to how people celebrate holidays around the world.

Last year I spent Christmas day on Bondi Beach. clichéd? Yes. But also an absolutely unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Tens of 1000’s of bikini clad backpackers, chilling out with newly made friends, sipping cheap wine out of a box and breaking it down at Bondi Pavillion at Sunburnt Christmas Djs, renowned worldwide. There may not be Turkey, or presents or family, but there will be wet t-shirt competitions, beautiful sunshine, beer for breakfast and friends you will have forever. Also, the sight of a sea of red and white on one of the most famous beaches on earth is truly something special.

Nice View, Christmas Day on Bondi Beach, Australia

Fun in the Sun on Bondi beach

Three years ago, I spent a summer backpacking across Ethiopia. It was not planned, (my flights were booked 3 days before leaving) but it was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life thus far. Not many people go on holidays to Ethiopia. It’s not exactly the “in” place to spend your summer vacation. In fact, truth be told, I don’t know ANYONE else that has ever randomly decided to go backpacking through one of the poorest countries on Earth, but that’s the exact reason I wanted to go.

What I didn’t realise was that Ethiopia uses a completely different calendar to most of the western world. They still use the Julian calender, and so, are exactly 7 1/2 year behind our Gregorian calender. Confused yet? I was! So as I was trekking up through the Bale mountains in rural Southern Ethiopia, with an awful stomach ache and fever (which later turned out to be a mild case of Dengue Fever) I noticed the date on my bus ticket. 25/12/1999.

 There I was puking my guts out in some adorable little mountain hut, while two child shepherds looked on in bewilderment, as I was treated my a local medicine man who insisted I rub some sort of red flower all over my face then eat it, whilst on the inside thinking “I can’t believe this is where I am on Christmas Day.” And also feeling slightly disoriented at the fact that I had somehow travelled back in time to the Nineties!!

So my friends, family and readers, wherever you ar this Christmas, whether you are celebrating in a traditional way or not, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Thanks for reading! x

My Saviour, local medicine man

A beautiful child Shepherd, looking at me cautiously, Christmas day 1999

Bale Mountains, Ethiopia

25 Oct
Not many people I know have been to Ethiopia, and the few that I do know went there on missionary work. I ended up travelling around Southern Ethiopia with a Ugandan freind 3 summers ago. It was one of the most beautiful and fascinating places I have ever been. Here is a photo story of our trip to the Bale Mountains ona 5 day trek.

My Travelling companion

The journey begins... Taking a break at Wabe Shabelle Falls

The beautiful wild flowers we came across on the mountain

More flower power

Wild mushrooms

View from my tent at top of the mountain

Camping above the clouds

Local man who cured my Dengue fever with herbal medicine

Spectacular Morning View

Little boy who peed on my lap.

Homeward Bound

Camoflauge

Nature at its best

Young Shepherd Boy

Young Shepherd Girl

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