Archive for January, 2010

5 days, 1 Ghana! – Day 1: Road trip, Hotel Check in, chop, baff and tins!

Posted in Random with tags on January 31, 2010 by Naijaman

Road trip from Lagos to Accra with mid afternoon arrival. Checkin, relax. Quick taxi ride to La Palm Beach to hang out for the rest of the day. (Thai massage at La Palm Beach Hotel is said to be the best in Ghana!). One minute away from the hotel is the Artists Alliance for a variety of souvenirs & all types of art from paintings, sculptures, postcards, etc.

I set out at about 5:30am that morning. I had purchased a round trip ticket on the second bus to Accra for N12,900 and was scheduled to depart from the Amuwo Odofin Bus Terminal at 7:30am. For some strange reason, I thought our estimated arrival time in Ghana was at about 2:30pm but that was not the case at all. I should have known I was in for an interesting trip when we ended up in the middle of Festac after obtaining directions from some area boys. After we drove around in circles for about 15 minutes, we employed the use of a third world, turn-by-turn GPS Navigation system (Okada) to get us to the bus terminal. (Sidebar: I was surprised at the number of people jogging early that morning in Festac!). I finally arrived at the terminal and was instructed to go confirm my ticket and weigh my luggage before departure.

Oga, dis na virgin passport, you have to pay N400 for stamping.

What do you mean? I have used this passport many times before. See now…

Have you ever travelled to Ghana… by road?

Um.. No.

You have to pay for the stamping. It is N400.

Ok.

Oga, do you have yellow card?

No.

Oga, you need yellow card to enter Ghana but you can pay N400 for medical clearance.

Ok.

Shortly after, I completed my weigh in (yes, they charge for excess luggage on the bus o!), security and luggage search and boarded the bus. As we idled, a young well dressed man came onboard and introduced himself as Associate Pastor Humble. He was here to pray for safe travels and journey mercies. He led us in praise and worship, shared a quick sermon and then prayed. Some other passengers requested personalized prayers and for a small “gift” he would pray for them.  About 20 minutes later, we finally left the bus terminal two hours after the scheduled time.

Good morning passengers. My name is Euphemia and will be your hostess today. Our driver will be Mr Calistus. We also have an NDLEA officer on the bus who will accompany us to Seme Border. We shall be crossing three borders today: Seme Border between Nigeria and Bene Republic, the border between Bene Republic and Togo and the border between Togo and Ghana.

Please be advised that the toilet is for urinary purposes only. Please do not go there to defecate. Be mindful of what u consume on the way. If u are so pressed, please alert us and we will stop somewhere so you can defecate.

Shortly after we departed, we were each given an ABC Transport branded travel kit containing toothpaste, a toothbrush, a comb and some other stuff. An hour into the journey, we were served with “brunch” packs containing Jollof Rice and two pieces of fried chicken. I was starving at this point and quickly wolfed it down. I chased the meal with an Odeku and had some Imodium for dessert. By now, we were well on our way and Euphemia put on some Nollywood movies and we all settled down amidst the all the side commentary for the rest of the journey.

At the Seme border, we had to get off the bus and walk across the border to the Bene Republic side. As expected, there were lots of border hustlers trying to sell you all sorts of stuff. They had everything from cheap fabric, bootleg perfumes and CD’s, shoes and chewing gum to migrant brand condoms and cigars. I actually had quite a bit of fun at the border…

Dis one na fake!

No o!  Oga, I swear, this one na original Isi Miyach.

Ok. I believe you. What of dis moccasin? Na real Sebago?

We all boarded the coach and continued our journey through Bene Republic. I slept through most of this leg of the journey and didn’t wake up till we approached the Togolese border. We were given the usual instructions to disembark and walk across the border. MTN’s roaming service promptly announced our arrival into Togo… Y’ello! MTN Nigeria wishes you a safe and productive stay in Togo. TG-Togo-Cell.

Dear passengers, we have just 15 minutes at this border. Please make it snappy. If u take more than 15 minutes, kindly find your way to the next border. If you need to ease yourself, please don’t just do it anywhere to avoid custom embarrassment. Your vehicle number remains 567.

This border seemed to have a lot more going than the previous one. It had the usual border hustlers calling you names like “Scholar” and “Yellow”, money changers and even more bootleg stuff and lots and lots of Mark Ecko t-shirts. (BTW, I am far from yellow but I guess it’s all relative. Lol!). They also had quite a lot of food for sale and I got curious…

Fried chicken, fried yam, fried turkey wings and… and…

Madam… Wetin be dis? Na nyansh?

Oga, Na Nyansh o!

I passed up the turkey “nyansh” and negotiated for some wings instead. I ducked behind a wall to take a whiz and we got back on the coach and headed for Ghana. Overall, Togo seemed a bit dry but I did notice some really beautiful and undeveloped ocean front views as we drove through the country.

I dozed off again, full of turkey wings and the last of the Odeku and woke up when we got to the Togo/Ghana border. We we required to take our luggage off the coach for a search by the Ghanaian customs. Once we had cleared customs and got back on the coach, I was shocked to find out that we were still about four hours from Accra! I promptly asked Euphemia about how to get a refund for the return leg of my trip because I quickly realized that this adventure would only be fun if it was a one way trip.

We finally made it into Accra around 8pm and I took a taxi to my hotel. A hot shower, massage and change of clothes and I was as good as new! Clearly, it was way too late to start looking for souvenirs as per my original plans but the night was still young. A friend picked me up from the hotel and we kicked off the night by having drinks at the African Regent Hotel (check). I ran into my brothers friend there and they were on their way to Bella Rosa to get something to eat so we decided to tag along. (I actually ran into another friend at Bella Rosa!). I overheard someone talking about going to “Efos” to get some chicken and rice and signed up for that instead. That was a meal that I won’t forget in a hurry. It was nice man!

Overall, a great Day 1 in Ghana… Check!

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5 days, 1 Ghana! – Day 0

Posted in Naija Dreams, Random with tags on January 30, 2010 by Naijaman

For many years, I have been thinking of visiting Ghana. I finally decided to make it happen as part of my last trip to Nigeria and put an itinerary together. A combination of Google, Timeout Accra and feedback from a very nice someborri produced the itinerary below. To make the trip even more interesting, I decided to travel by road (i.e. public transportation) to Ghana from Lagos. (Many thought I had lost it at this point!).

This is the first installment of a multi part series. Yeah, I had that much fun in Ghana!

Day 1: Road trip, Hotel Check in, chop, baff and tins!

Road trip from Lagos to Accra with mid afternoon arrival. Checkin, relax. Quick taxi ride to La Palm Beach to hang out for the rest of the day. (Thai massage at La Palm Beach Hotel is said to be the best in Ghana!). One minute away from the hotel is the Artists Alliance for a variety of souvenirs & all types of art from paintings, sculptures, postcards, etc.

Day 2: History, Nature, Shax, Shake Bodi small…

  • One day excursion to Cape Coast. Visiting the Cape coast castle and Kakum National Parks

Evening Options:

  • Hit Reggae club/show @ Labadi Beach Hotel
  • Drinks at The Honeysuckle (English style pub. Great food, great crowd)
  • Explore Alliance Françoise for events

Day 3: Brunch, Art, Explore Accra, New Years Eve…

Late Morning Options (Brunch):

  • Venus
  • Melting Moments (great food, décor)

Early Afternoon:

  • Visit the Art Center for good prices and variety of souvenirs
  • Pass by the famous Independence Square where Kwame Nkrumah gave Ghana’s independence speech
  • Shopping, city sights, souvenirs

Late Lunch Options (Bukka Style):

  • Country Kitchen
  • Katawodieso

Evening/Night Options:

  • Cocktails @ the African Regent Hotel
  • Cocktails (take II) at Rhapsody’s
  • Bless the Mike @ Baze Lounge

Day 4: New Years Day! Beach, swmming, chill and serious shake bodi!

Morning/Early afternoon:

  • Labadi Beach Hotel (Good restaurant, ambience & swimming)

Afternoon:

  • Lunch @ Buka Restaraunt (Good food, good crowd)

Early Evening:

  • Cocktails/Dinner @ Monsoon. Great sushi bar, 90% Oyinbo joint

Late Night Options:

  • Remas (Soul and motion night)
  • Tantra
  • XL (upscale)
  • Citizen Kofi (4 different dance floors with a restaurant on the top floor)

Day 5: Depart for Lagos after a smashing time in Accra!

Naija State of Mind!

Posted in Naija Dreams, Random on January 13, 2010 by Naijaman

With all the attention our dear country has been getting of late; the attempted Christmas day bombing, our MIA Presido, enough is enough rallys and protests, the high profile talks hinting at a failed state, my recent trip home and my resulting profiling at Newark International airport upon my return, Naija has been weighing heavily on my mind. I was on my way out of the house this morning when I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of patriotism and went back upstairs to Naijarize my accessories so all should recognize that I’m also “Naija Outside”.

So I got into the car and started my early morning commute to work. The Alicia Keys CD I had bought just before I left for Naija was still in heavy rotation in my CD player. One of my favorite songs on the CD, “Empire State of Mind” came on and I was merrily singing along when I suddenly realized that there was something about the song that sounded so familiar. Could she be singing about… Lagos?

You self listen well…

Famous as a place of movie Nollywood scenes…

Noise is always loud, there are sirens all around and the streets are mean…

If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere that’s what they say…

Even if it ain’t all it seems I’ve got a pocket full of dreams, baby I’m from New York Lagos…

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do…

Now you are in New York Lagos… These streets will make you feel brand new, big no light will inspire you (Just ask someone how much they spend on diesel every month to run their generators and you’ll certainly be inspired!)…

Hear it for New York Lagos…

On the Avenue Sanusi Fafunwa, there ain’t never a curfew, ladies work so hard…

Hail an gypsy cab okada… takes me from Harlem Obalende to the Brooklyn Bridge Ebutte Meta.

Speaking of which… Where is Banky? I beg, come and “Ebutte metta” this one for us too! (I have since been informed that Banky did not disappoint and already has the Lagos remix in circulation. I beg, who get am?)

I’ve thought about this one hundred and one ways and there is no one I would rather be than a Nigerian. Being Naija is what makes it possible for me to speak big grammar in front of  executive management and also tear broken while negotiating with the dude selling bootleg CDs in Lagos traffic. (Ol boy, whish wan you dey naaa?). It is what allows me to travel from Lagos to Accra by PT (big up ABC Transport Company) and then check into one of the best hotels in Ghana for the night. It’s what taught me how to confidently rock a double Windsor at work and then totally rock some old school guinea brocade or Ankara at the owambe later that night. It is what makes me close my office door at lunch time so I can destroy my jollof rice, moin-moin, dodo and fowl with my hands in peace and then Kung-Fu some some sushi, sashimi and other mede mede at dinner time armed with a pair of bamboo chopsticks. It is what makes me… NaijaMan!

One hand in the air for the big city, streets lights, big dreams all looking pretty (In case you didn’t see the Christmas lights on Ajose Adeogun courtesy of Zenith bank), no place in the world that can compare… Put your lighters in the air everybody say yeah…