Benin Travel Stories, Page 16

Benin Travel Route to Niger Map

Benin Travel Route
Cotonou Benin
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I think I discovered a good path to follow through Benin to Niger, well at least the next few cites north of Cotonou or round about.

This route will take me over to the Capital, Port Novo of Benin, then I can go up along the Nigeria border, the bleeding of cultures is always interesting to me, so this is good.

I am not sure of the road, it is not obvious on my maps there is a road that goes north, although there is a train. I think there is a road; I really need some better maps.

Life would be easier with better maps.

The point of going north is to me is to cross over different cultures and see, as I leave the coast, enter the marshes, maybe or up to the higher grounds, how doe the culture change, and maybe understand why. The farther from big transportation hubs the more primitive in many ways.

Benin Travel Route

Cotonou Benin Motorcycle Smog

Cotonou Benin
Cotonou Benin
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I think this may be one of the champions of the world for Smog, there is an overabundance of motorcycle smoke, a white cloud follows the streets, and it is easy visible. There is not an overwhelming sense of heat or anything, the city seems happy enough, however more crowded then normal for cities in West Africa.

I feel it would probably be a good start for any traveler weak on French, Ghana for sure is good, however this is also good, they seem to speak English more than normal, probably because the English speaking influence of Nigeria.

A good trip would be to fly to Abidjan, go to Cotonou and leave, sort of Christian along the coast Trip. Alternatively, Cotonou to Abidjan by land and leave. Not that the plane ticket would be cheap. Any cheap round trip for an American to Cote D-Ivoire then my present path would be excellent, Cote d-Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, back to Cote d-Ivoire and out. American not needing a visa to Cote Ivoire makes this path easy.

The amount of sales going on in Cotonou, reminds me of Accra, Ghana, however both are overwhelming at moments. I passed though on Accra… I almost got on a bus for the north. I suppose the internet needs tie me down.

Cotonou Benin

Hotel Benin

Hotel Benin
Cotonou Benin
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yellow is a happy color, browns are somewhat drab, gray, pink, hotels rooms come in many colors. Mine here in the Hotel le Crillon is yellow, and happy. I am not sure if good or bad, however it feels better than the others do. I am paying 6500 CFA for the fan room with a toilet inside. It is amazing for one dollar more how much better the room feels than the Babo and 3500 less than the Concorde. I am finding, I will look at many room because I know, none of the have any White Man in them. Therefore, who is sitting around, the receptionist, the person taking me to the room to check out before I rent, all make the difference to me, whether I rent or pass. The Babo was filling out my sheet, I finally go tired of waiting, my instincts kicked in and I left for much better hotels.

Feel, sense, how I live is important, to spend one dollar more is small money in comparison to how much money I would spend indirectly to maybe make myself happy.

Hotel Crillon in Cotonou Benin
Behind the wall in front of the hotel is about 10 chair whereby a person can sit and not have to be in their room. I recommend this type of hotel as a good way for learning about a country.

The Moto or Zims make it easy to check out rooms, they motorcycle taxis are everywhere, the people of Benin seem to read ten times better than the prior countries Cote D-Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, thus I can point at the name and they will bring me to the hotel. It is about 200 Franc maximum to jump around in the main hotel area for backpackers. The internet is just across the street, says they will let me connect my computer, and life is good.

Hotel Benin

Letters to Editor Andy

Letters to Editor Andy
Ouidah Benin
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The answering questions department is open, because we can now post the answers up on the internet quickly so readers can peruse answers to niche questions. Ask away, there is now a benefit to me to answer the questions, to share the answers, and also make a source of answers.

I receive about 10 e-mails per day from readers.

- 1 A very good letter with and inquisitive question.
- 2 A question that is being asked and if they had even read a little or searched a little they would have found the answer.
- 2 miscellaneous kudos, comments, look at this, etc.

- 5 do not get answered and at best clueless.

Therefore I have five e-mails per day I would like to answer, not a big problem, and manageable. Now….

If I wanted, I could push and get about 50 per day and was headed that way at first, now I have them slowed down, by telling people things like I am do NOT sell tours, I am NOT a travel agent. is or slowly is making sort of a good help center, answer all the questions and make them available to readers. I used to put them in newsletters, however this is very time consuming, boring work for me, etc.

I am hoping with Andrews help from India, will soon have a way to post all the answers on the internet, sort of a one-sided forum, where I answers all the questions, eventually I suppose readers can add to my answers.

Forums are in a way worthless to a traveler like me, I do not have time to sit in an internet café searching some forum for answers. It will take one hour to find one answer, and then who knows if the person is lying or misrepresenting, or just plain clueless.

A good moderator will make forum good, but people like to write each other and be part of a chat, PM, talk, comment for silly reason thing. Good, but not what I have time for, or want to have time for.

Ok, the bottom line is the answering questions department is open, because we can now post the answers up on the internet quickly so readers can peruse answers to niche questions. Ask away, there is now a benefit to me to answer the questions, to share the answers, and make a source of answers.

We have a way for me to write the answers offline, on my computer, laying in my bed, easy, no pay, then send inside the internet café when I can. Uploading or sending emails is cheap, writing inside a internet café answers is uncomfortable and hostile, not fun in anyway to sit in some strange place typing.

Letters to Editor Andy

Writing Africa Guidebooks

Writing Africa Guidebooks
Ouidah Benin
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bleeding hearts, silly, well-intended people are killing the planet.

Eco-tourism causes ten times more ecological problems than it helps, it is the major joke of the planet, a totally misguide and abused part of tourism.

Eco-tourism is supposed to be an alternative provide to the locals, which will allow them to make money, as an alternative to doing ecologically harmful farming, killing of animal, or what not.

Example: Slash and burn farming technique, a farm stops this, however helps show tourist the bush, or jungle.

Example: Stop eating the Crocodiles or Monkeys and show tourist, then they have money to buy Chicken mass-produced.

None of this works even close to the way it is thought about or maybe hoped to work. None of the locals make the money, there is not enough jobs generated, only in big camera safari, stopping the guns is maybe a real dent made.

I want to go into small villages and live, or visit, browse around and look at Africa. I am presently donating large sums of money to the rich get richer fund of Africa as I pay too much money to live in Hotel in Africa owned by people that are getting rich off the poor.

Home Stay
Living with a Host Family

Most of this about living with a well to do family that has an extra room, it is barely going down to grassroots to the clueless, and I need money group.

Camping for some reason seems big in West Africa, makes me nervous, but must be safe enough or there would not be signs all around, I suppose this is the overflow, if no rooms, then camping.

I have poncho to use as tent, mosquito net, etc, but I do not want to camp, I like a roof, or hammock under a roof.

A good guidebook written would or could guide people into how to help Africa and stop destroying Africa. The guidebooks presently written are sparse, not enough to really understand how to travel. One-country orientated on a Continent where you need at least three to four countries to even make a small tour. The cost of flying into Africa is severe, harsh and will stop only the most willing to pay for the experience person. Anywhere but here is cheaper for a backpacker, except for Europe and America, Australia, New Zealand, the rich countries, the opposite of the 80 percent of the planet.

Safe, is Africa safe enough for the young backpackers?

Killing, being killed? Hmm, not much knowledge on how to be killed, most of the Tourist deaths I know of happen by motorcycle accidents or car accidents. Many Rapes in Mexico and Central America.

The bottom line is this, if a country stays safe enough for long enough, about three year’s tourism increases. They are going to come, a guidebook written with only safe-Africa, help-Africa mentality could really change Africa.

LP is doing well, but the writers are still just Volunteers or hanger ons, many good people, however not die-hard will not make a beggar; do anything to stay in budget backpacker traveler. They lean more towards the rich tourist, go on Safari, look at animal’s bunch, and stay away from people bunch.

Tourists are a very selfish bunch, they must see the sites, they must have their bars, and they must have the party. They do not sacrifice to travel; they pay whatever is needed to see the sites. Say they were there, have S E X with the locals and leave, volunteer to say to themselves, I am good person.

I think I have seen some guides about responsible travel, however I do not remember where, or who wrote. The LP always is thinking along this path, but too many guides and too many writers and all of them have a different idea, the focus is filtered through the tourist lens. The selfish we are writing about how to go and take the cream off the top, live as nice as possible, no pain, and travel.

Writing Africa Guidebooks

Ouidah Tourism

Ouidah Tourism
Ouidah Benin
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I went south of the city, towards the ocean yesterday, on the path of the slaves, maybe that goes to the ships. I found this Hotel with fan for 7500, although it was full.

La Calebasse Motel Bar Restaurant

There was another just towards the ocean for 7000 with very little name, however called Auberge. I would like to move to the Calebasse today, however they are full, the girl said there would be rooms on Thursday, and they are opening a bigger set of rooms or more rooms next week.

This area of the city is maybe better for a tourist, and cheap, the Panff hotel although is nice, is maybe in a new development area and misses the interesting culture of Africa. I am what I would call a concrete block fence compound neighborhood.

The homes in my area although are small in stature, the block wall around them is huge. There is a block wall, and then inside, however, what this does is give privacy, parking, security and other benefits, it is not really interesting to look at walls. Annoyingly I have no good photos of this type of construction in my present area of photos, hard to get up high enough to take a good photo showing big squares. Hmm, possible to get on the roof in this hotel, if I remember.

Photos, photos and more photos, how to take an overall photo expose of so much in so little time. There is also, the seen that, done that problem for me, I take photos of what is interesting to me. The walled compound idea was first seen by me in Mexico over 9 years ago, not a new idea, in fact normal in areas with enough land. I got a tour of Mexico City expensive homes by a girl with a car, she showed me every wall in the city, and I thought this is too stupid, I am just seeing very high walls and imagining what is inside.

There is normally a section in a guidebook explaining the best time to go to a country. I could not figure it out for Benin, however for Togo is said Mid-July to Mid- September. I usually ignore these time issue, however in a true rainy season type country; the road can be difficult, but normally passable.

Ok, how to explain, yesterday when I went in the Calebasse Motel the lady in learning English asked me where I worked in Benin. I have many ask where my base is, or where my home is, or trying to find where I started the travel to any city, I am presently in or located.

Nobody has asked,
- Which country next? -
- Which cities do you plan on visiting in Benin? -

Weekend Travel Country
What to call this type of tourism, a new one to me, not normal. There has been almost zero tourism in Togo, Benin, Ghana, or Cote d-Ivoire, only workers on vacation for the weekend, or after they finished and going home, they take a week or two and travel.

The room inventory is bleak, and over-abundance 90 percent of the time, and probably 10 percent of the time a person could walk around or drive around, then have to accept any available hotel.

I do not get reservations, and if the three times the good value priced rooms were full, I would get back in the shared car and go to the next city, nothing that interesting to see in these tourist zones with weekend tourist.

The weekend tourism by the French Soldiers, NGO, Volunteers, normal international vendors, and multi-national companies, Peace Corps and some sub-group of Africans is inflationary.

This coupled with the bully, I will take advantage of any white man any chance I get, with no remorse causes hotels problems.

Example: Nicole the girl in the Hotel has turned abusive, at first helpful, but maybe familiarity causes contempt. I treated her as equal, now she is obnoxious.

I tried to purchase popcorn thee days ago, the boy wanted 100 Francs, I though this is a lot, I did not buy.

A person came by yesterday to the Panff Hotel, while I was sitting with Nicole. The very nice girls, locals, and not French speaking were great. I asked Nicole,
- How much is Popcorn?-
- Combien Pofcorn? -

She said,
- 50 Fran -

I gave the girls 150 and took three, gave one to Nicole to be nice, she stands up and starts to buy more food, pimas, tomatoes or something. I cannot understand and cannot be bothered. The girl leave goes about 20 steps to my next friends home, I start to walk towards the city. I like the girl, think why not, I will buy one more. I try to pay with a 500 Franc Coin, well they have no change.

The girl waves at Nicole, she does not talk slow, comes and tries to stuff one in my bag. I am lost; I think she wants me to give the girl the whole 500 for Popcorn.

NOTE: While I was sitting eating, two adults stopped and told me to buy them popcorn. NOT beggars, normal African adults. I give them; you are a piece of S H I T look and say,
- NON -
Adult Takers

OK, I am annoyed with Nicole, she does not explain, she is pushy, in the end, I vow, Nicole is off the list of person I talk with, or associate, she is just too abusive. The whole hotel is more or less, I am getting to know them too well, they are all takers to the extreme, or opportunist.

Nicole has tucked the popcorn into my arms, or camera bag area, and it is sitting, I am trying to walk to the city. I turn, grab the bag and throw it back at them. I am a little remorseful; I threw the bag of the nice person, nothing to do with Nicole on the ground. Now, a piece of food, a bag of popcorn, anything of value dropped, is not junk, it just gets a brush off and put back on the shelf or where they would be cooking. I was just small remorse, as they would say, if they knew the word remorse.

Later, I see the woman, she is sweet, I decide, I will buy another bag of popcorn; I have a 50 Fran coin, one-half of the price of what the one boy tried to ask me for 100. I give the 50 Fran coin to the helper, she tries to give me two bags. I give one back. The nice woman comes and gives me a 25 Franc coin, they do not say Franc, and they say Fran.

I think to myself, the popcorn is only 25 Francs…

Nicole doubled the price, and then proceeds to buy 75 Francs more of food from the woman by cheating me. I purchased a big Pineapple the other day, they cut it up for me, gave me about one eighth to eat, and kept the rest.

Negotiations a person would say, this necessary; however, I call no joy often, and just negotiate lightly, not hard, hard to negotiate fair when you do not know the going price. I am good at this, I can get a ridiculously cheap room and this is dangerous. A hotel will steal back the profit they feel they lost, if they can, still hard to steal from me.

The problem all of this bully stuff does and the weekend NGO groups inflation does in makes a person believe their hotel has an inherent value of X all the time. A Hotel functions best when 80 percent occupied all the time, and sometimes 100 percent occupied. Management of a 100 occupied hotel is difficult, and to me, not what I would want, 100 percent occupancy means a juggling act, who is leaving today, who is not, asking everyone.
- Are you leaving today? -

This makes guest annoyed and a backpacker like me, just says,
- Yes. -

Normally the greed kicks in a 100 percent occupied hotel and the hotel forgets service and spends it whole time working on greed satisfaction.

West Africa should be 80 percent occupied and 100 percent occupied on the weekend. I think they could have weekday prices and weekend prices. It would make sense of supply and demand of rooms, not good for me, however the weekday prices would be nice for me.

If I drove a car here, none would have a chance, I could really beat them down on price because of no pain to go the next hotel.

All of this stupid, gouge game, take advantage if possible, opportunistic pricing of everything is bad for tourism.
(Mexico is the worst I know on the planet for this type of abuse, no shortage of stupid tourist though.)

It can all be alleviated by a posting of prices, a legal obligation by the government of a country that all prices must be posted. Colombia is an advanced country, it has a law if I understand correct, that all products in a store must have a price tag.

Have a price listed for a Hotel, having prices on all store items, makes life easy for tourist, even if the price is 10 times too high. There is a starting point that can be used or ignored. I am guessing I am paying about 3000 more than is normal in this hotel, so the going price is 5000, not 8000 like I am paying.

Tourists do not go out and explain how they were cheated, if done very slick and fast, they hide the knowledge from everyone. It is the save face, I do not want to tell you how I was stupid syndrome. Getting cheated or not negotiating good is not stupid; it is one side wanting to be paid more than is fair. A good Hotel will only try to get a fair room rent from anyone, the bad advertising that is occurring right now by me explaining how pushy Nicole and the staff of the Panff is not helping them. Yesterday, I had to scream at them to turn on the electricity; I thought the electricity was off in the area. I find out, the hotel had turned off the hotel, or was too stupid to know how to turn on, I am not sure, I raise a huge ruckus finally and got it turned on, abusive desires. I am paying close to 19 dollars; I can pay 19 in the USA and get a room in the middle of nowhere, motel on the side of the road with hot water, TV, Telephone and light bulbs that work. The price is exorbitant at 8000 CFA. World values, this is bad.

I dwell on writing guidebooks, I was laughing, if I look at the page count of the blogging I am on, it says 53, it mean I have 53 pages of blogging to post.

The chapter on Benin is 44 pages, I could if I wanted pound out a 44-page guide on Benin while I was here, not fun, and is work, blogging is extremely easy, full of opinions, and collecting guide information is time consuming. I am not going to minimize of insult the Lonely Planet, they do a good job in a way, and I do carry the books.

Ouidah Tourism

Ouidah Voodoo

Ouidah Voodoo
Ouidah Benin
Monday, September 11, 2006

I am not having much luck on Voodoh here in Quidah, I have talked about this to many people in Togo and now in Ouidah, it seems to stop them in their tracks. I think they feel it is evil and why do I want to know. I am not sure, I keep looking for a sign, or something that would say Voodoo, I think my French sucks, it is problem.

I have found one, what seems to be real or could be voodoo something, if there is voodoo here, it is not just obviously staring me in the face.

This little head figure is in front of a structure being built or abandoned next to the Panff Hotel, I keep looking for little talisman or hex like symbols of something creepy.

The only one I have found, on the way to the beach there are funky things hanging like advertisement, this is not my type of culture, explaining the culture or forcing it to be.

Ouidah Voodoo

Ouidah Door of No Return

Ouidah Door of No Return
Ouidah Benin
Monday, September 11, 2006

I went searching for Papas Hotel on the beach, about 12 Kilometers from Ouidah, an extremely tourist hotel, with prices to boot.

Found about three hotels that would be better for me, just beyond the edge of the city in a way, on the way to the beach. I think the Panff is in the newer area, and I like to be in the older, more traditional areas.

I say the Door of No Return, I guess…

Then the door of return.

I understand that Elmina Ghana and Ouidah, Benin were two of the major areas of exportation of slaves.

I am wondering about the big cavernous rooms in some of the forts, there is not fort here, no rooms. The need to store slaves until they shipped them out to the Americas is my question. There were routes for trade, carrying different products on all the different trips or legs of the journey.

Ivory would take a long time to collect, need a different type of storage, gold for sure needs a fort. The mechanics of how they shipped the slaves to the Americas is a quandary to me. How long would a ship dock and stay docked at one of these ports? Did they come, then go collect the black people, did they just have a group of them sitting around waiting for any ship that passed to pick them up.

Easy to believe by me would be that many of the chief capture other black people in other tribes they hated. They could just kill them, however they had value. Therefore, go out and collect a lot, trade for gunpowder and anything they wanted from the white men.

Keep the people from the other tribes; use them as their personal slaves until they sold them. Chains, ropes, binding of future slaves for a long period of time would be lots of work, diminish the value of the product, destruction of the future product exportation.

How to keep them safe, fed, and together, on the way to the beach is a big swam area, it is not just or was not just a walk to the beach from Ouidah, there we major puddles in the way.

Ouidah is just the closest elevation that is significant, and I think some Fresh water by streams. Yes, there is this river running for a long way parallel to the ocean, however close to the ocean and not where Ouidah is located. I think Ouidah probably popped up after wells and farming became more common.

It would seem logical that I could find out all this information here, however not normally the case. I need some good libraries in the USA or France maybe. There is a museum here, I think on Voodoo, maybe it has some information.

Ouidah Door of No Return

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