All posts tagged: Relax

Iceland

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Isn’t it full of ice? This is the question I get asked the most about Iceland. No, it is not. Unless you are referring to Greenland. Which by the way has way more ice, so don’t let the names fool you. Even if it was, it is not a bad thing. We are humans and we find a way. We always do. Just know, there is no place like Iceland. Nature is busy in Iceland. There is something extraordinary to see every day. Just have a look.

My first visit to this glorious place on earth was in July 2013. I have been back 8 more times I think and I now get to call it my second home! That should speak volumes. I have seen The North, East, South and a bit of the West. I hope to write so much about Iceland in future posts, but in this one, I will share 10 reasons why you should go to Iceland.

1. Any season is a good season to see Iceland. (There is a part of me, that wish, I could keep this beautiful place to myself, just like some of the locals, because the tourist numbers are growing everytime I visit.) I have seen it in the summer when it was 21 degrees and in winter when it was 5 degrees. And all the other seasons in between, and each time, it feels totally different. Nature is busy at work on this beautiful island.

The landscape is stunning every time.  In winter, you see so much ice and at this point, it is really Iceland.

It is just magical to see how even the giant waterfalls freeze.

2. Talking about waterfalls, this island has plenty of it. You will literally be chasing waterfalls in pretty much every town. Where in the world, can you actually walk behind a waterfall? Each is spectacular. You could build an entire gallery or make up your own fairy tales on these amazing waterfalls if you are into fairy tales.

3. You don’t have to drive or walk too far to experience nature in Iceland. There is plenty of it in different shapes and colours.

You can book tourist buses like Flybus right from the main International airport, Keflavik to the city centre or to most of the major attractions.   A year before, I went to Iceland, I had researched about it thoroughly, although I could not pronounce half the names of the places. (I see you twisting your tongue about the airport above and the capital, Reykjavik, well, try the famous volcano, Eyjafjallajökull that erupted and grounded air traffic across European airspace and many parts of the world for days.) However, no amount of research prepared me for this magical place.

I have never said “wow”, so many times in my life and you will do the same.

4. Right from the airport, purple fields will welcome you in the summer.

If not, the lava fields will always welcome you.

5. This place has been compared to living in space or on the moon. Just ask any NASA astronaut, I kid you not. So, until space travel becomes affordable or a daily occurrence, please just go to Iceland. You can thank me later. Oh and whilst you are at it, please, please, please give the utmost respect to nature. There is a reason it has stayed that way for you to experience.

Is it affordable? I hear you ask. It depends on where you are coming from. If you are coming from the UK, there are plenty of super cheap deals on Wow air (www.wowair.com) and Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) you can get flights for as low as $20, if you book in advance. In any case, there are also a lot of cheap and great deals from most European destinations like Germany and Denmark. If you’re coming from Amsterdam, (which is my usual route on KLM from Ghana) Wow air or Icelandair have really cool deals. Check their websites for deals from most destinations. If you are coming from or going to the US or Canada, there are amazing stopover deals. If you are coming from any part of Africa or Asia, get to any of the European hubs and armed with your Schengen visa, you are good to go. Yes, yes affordability, well, Iceland is not cheap generally. It’s not SouthEast Asia, even in South East Asia, Singapore is not cheap. Hello? 6. On the plus side, you do not get to pay to see most of the amazing attractions, the lovely and one of a kind horses only found in this magical land. Just don’t call them ponies, they really don’t like that.

7. The air is super clean and there is fresh water everywhere. These are great trade-offs and you cannot quantify these in monetary terms. Now listen up, because I am going to speed through these ones…

8. If you ever wanted to learn golf, Iceland is the place to do it. It is not a sport for just the rich and fancy. It is considered an everyday sport.

9.Tell me where in the world you are encouraged to take your swimming suit or shorts because there might be a free hotpot (no, not the Chinese one, bring your mind here, I am talking nature’s own jacuzzi, not food.) on the way somewhere all to yourself?

If you don’t find a free one, you will get a super affordable one in pretty much every community. It’s a national sport, well almost. Football is still king.

10. The people, oh mine, the people! Iceland can have some tricky cold winds and unpredictable weather, but most of the people are super warm, nice, hardworking, resilient, friendly and funny. Just a few words I can manage to describe these lovely people. At least the ones that I know and I know at least 30 Icelanders. (Its more, I am trying to be modest here. ) That is quite something for a country with a population of less than 350,000. If you are a solo traveller, especially female, I cannot recommend a destination safe enough. In any case, this is the most feminist country in the world! Want to make a friend fast, call out the name of the famous volcano correctly, no I don’t mean Hekla, that is so easy. I mean the one that erupted a few years ago, yes, this one; Eyjafjallajökull and you will have won their respect and a life long friend. Iceland is the only place I have found people passionate about ice cream in summer and winter. Maybe that is how it got its name.

So vamejo to Iceland. You will never be the same and you will always find a reason to go back. Don’t say, I didn’t warn you. Again, just thank me later!

 

Clearly, Iceland is amazing. I get to call this place home and it’s on many people’s bucket list. This place will inspire you to live, create and be resilient. Contact me edem@vamejo.com to plan and visit, so we cross it off your bucket list.

Ready to experience the land of fire and ice? Send me an email edem@vamejotravel and let’s iron out the details.

Edem AdzahoIceland
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Zanzibar

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Like Timbuktu, I have lost count of the number of times I have called out Zanzibar. But calling it wasn’t enough, I had to see it, feel it and experience it.

And so I took a ferry to the island of Zanzibar for a day’s trip from Dar es Salam. It’s cost me $35 each way as a foreigner. See, why Africa is not a country? I am an African foreigner in Tanzania and I don’t speak Swahili beyond Mambo, Jambo and Asante sana.

The ferry’s upper deck was mainly for foreigners, it took me a while to figure that out. I guess locals are used to the view and non-locals like me are desperate to take it all in.


The journey to Zanzibar from Dar took an hour using the Kilimanjaro branded ferries.
It was drizzling a bit on the way, but it was full blown heavy rains in Zanzibar. This stopped quickly though.
I met my contact Kassim, a former national footballer, turned seaman. He is a cousin to my brother’s friend in China. I had a very rich conversation with Kassim about life and travel and you can imagine he has been to quite a lot of countries as a seaman, Ah, don’t you just love networking?
I so wanted to see the turquoise-like Indian ocean show off. And it didn’t disappoint.

Kassim was really kind and drove me to Mangapwani beach. Apart from 4 other kids who were fishing in the ocean and getting on with their life,

I had the beach pretty much to myself.

I was able to shoot 3 videos at the beach for my channel, including an interview with Kassim about his unusual career switch. I tried bungo juice, a special juice in Zanzibar whose fruit is unique to the island.

I later visited Stone Town. It was lovely to see the old architecture and traces of the Arab influence.

There is more to Zanzibar that I share on this blog or that I experienced on a day trip. It is a truly beautiful place. It makes me appreciate the beauty and diversity of my continent a lot more.

 

Put Zanzibar on your list, go and see it, feel it and experience it for yourself.

Africa truly is beautiful. Zanzibar is stunning. I can help you save money and find a reliable local guide to show all the hidden spots. Send me an email at edem@vamejo.com and let’s get you to experience the amazing Zanzibar.

Oh! If you ever plan to go to Zanzibar, please take your yellow fever vaccination card with you. Don’t assume you already showed it when you entered Tanzania.  And, no, I didn’t need a visa as a Ghanaian to visit Tanzania.
Ready to plan a trip to Zanzibar? I am just an email away- edem@vamejo.com
 

Edem AdzahoZanzibar
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Rwanda

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Many brows were raised when I mentioned I was going to Rwanda. I heard questions like; are you not scared? Is the war not going on still? Is it not dangerous to travel there alone? My answer is a big fat juicy NO to all those questions.  This is the Rwanda I saw.  Most of the photos are my raw non-filtered photos from my phone. Have a look and be the judge.

Clean and safe streets

Beautiful views of Kigali from the Genocide Memorial grounds

Modern and no plastic bags!

Ignorance is no bliss. Then again, most of the things we read about African countries are negative, perpetuating a stereotype that is far from the truth. I searched for images of Rwanda and it didn’t remotely show 1% of what I saw and experienced. I have a responsibility as an African to be objective and focus on the positive as there a few positive voices. Yes, Rwanda made me cry about the past, smiled in the present and felt inspired and excited about the future.

I got to Kigali at 2am, but the next day, I left my hotel to a hostel so I could2 amnnect with other travellers. As I checked into my dorm room, I met a lovely Japanese lady, Masayo, who has been travelling solo for 5 months and still had a number of countries to explore. We bonded quickly and shared tips and routes.  I look forward to reconnecting with her in Japan and hopefully being life long friends.

with the lovely Masayo from Japan

We ended up exploring Kigali together. I became the “best African” she met on the trip. She had already been to about 6 other African countries at this point. I was grinning from ear to ear and happy to be carrying the Ghanaian and “African flag”. Do you want proof?

 

Now, what is not to like about Kigali, Rwanda? Nothing! I repeat nothing! Things work in Rwanda and Kigali is super clean.  It really is Africa’s cleanest country.

I thought Singapore was clean until I got to Rwanda. We need more countries like Rwanda. A strong leadership and a mindset shift can make a huge difference. Just have a look!  Plastic bags are banned by the way!

Genocide Memorial grounds

Rwanda gives me hope as an African. This place tells me, Africa, as a continent can do it and is doing it. And we should pay attention, watch and listen to them because they have rebuilt against all odds after a very dark past.

Masayo and I ended up going to the  Kigali Genocide Memorial, we spent some time at the memorial to learn and reflect, had lunch, tasted great Rwandan coffee

Great Rwandan coffee

 

and talked to the friendly staff at the memorial’s café. It was a delight to watch people take so much pride in their work.

Great guys, awesome service

I was blown away by how quickly the centre emailed me my written message for survivors of genocide or my impression of the centre; within 24 hours, it was right in my inbox and the chance to tweet it. Which I did by the way. You should definitely visit and make a donation. It is free for you and me to go and experience the amazing work they have done and continue to do. Let’s support them because they are doing incredible work educating the world.

Masayo and I then went to the local craft market, where you have to let your negotiation skills come through. The sellers didn’t hassle you like they do in some cities.

I surprised myself in Kigali. For a start, I do have a love-hate relationship with motorbikes, but it was all love in Rwanda. Masayo and I did a motorbike tour of the land of a thousand hills.

Views from my motorbike ride on a land of a thousand hills.

It is the best way to see Kigali and get around.  We loved it! It was super affordable too.

We saw many landmarks including the famous hotel in the film “Hotel Rwanda”

I heard you get Wifi as soon as you get into most taxis. I am yet to experience that

In the evening, Masayo and I went to another craft market close to our hostel to find a particular souvenir and ended up being caught in the rain. The sellers ceased the opportunity to sing and dance, as it was close of day for them. I danced in the rain with locals at the craft market to a song, which was a hit in Kenya at the time. No one knew the lyrics, but we all loved the melody and excitedly sang to the chorus.

The people of Kigali were very friendly, kind and efficient. On my way to the airport, I saw the very impressive Kigali Convention Centre. You can watch that building for days and not get bored.

Kigali Convention Centre.

Kigali is super safe too. Talking about security, expect sniffer dogs and a solider/military police to supervise the search before you get to the airport departure lounges. This is pretty intense. So please don’t get any funny ideas. Just so you know, it is zero tolerance to corruption in Rwanda.

By the way, my visa to Rwanda was $30. I got a visa on arrival at the airport and you will be delighted to know Kigali had the best free Wi-Fi connection at the airport and is unlimited! I know this because; there was a moment on my travels where I spent 13hours there. Yep!

I  have written about my experience in Rwanda in my column with the Business & Financial Times Newspaper,

but I clearly can’t wait to go back to Kigali; it easily became one of my favourite cities not only on the continent but also in the world. Rwanda made me cry, learn, dance and gave me hope and faith.

I want to go back and explore the coffee fields. I bought loads of coffee and gave them as gifts to my friends in Europe.

I look forward to seeing the beautiful nature and gorillas in their natural habitat.

So pack and go! Don’t believe what someone who hasn’t seen it tell you it’s not safe to go.

Africa is beautiful, Rwanda is beautiful and inspiring. Vamejo! Come let’s go, it’s that simple.

Rwanda has so much to offer. Get in touch with me and let me help you plan and experience all aspects of the amazing experiences Rwanda and Kigali have to offer. It will be an experience you will treasure forever. Get in touch: edem@vamejo.com

 

Edem AdzahoRwanda
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