The executive shared taxi from Dakar dropped me off at the hostel called Dakar International House. I decided to stay there for a night to check out the hostel lifestyle in West Africa. Surprisingly, the hostel was relatively clean, had private rooms, three bathrooms, and a separate male and female dorm. The 8-bed male dorm (10 Euro per bunk) was completely full and I decided to take the private room for 15 Euros, which was not a bad price. I had my own bed and a strong fan that kept me cool at night. I traveled in July and the humidity and heat were very strong.
I went outside to have dinner and had a half grilled chicken meal, which never goes wrong anywhere in the world (it may have been awful in one or two countries). Since the wifi at the hostel was not working (again, the reception guy goes, “this is Africa and we never know when the internet company will come to fix the internet…” yeah yeah yeah), I went to a coffee shop to get ice cream and got connected.
I had the impression that Dakar was going to be dangerous with thousands of people on the street, but to my contrary, it was a safe city. I never once felt unsafe.
I went to bed early that evening and woke up early to head over to Yumie’s place.
My couchsurfing host Yumie was from China and she was in Dakar to learn French and help non-profit organizations. She lived in a zone called Medina and it seemed very hectic with a lot of people on the street at 10am in the morning. I did not get the exact address, but an approximate junction information, so I had to navigate to her apartment by looking at the picture that she sent me.
Yumie told me that a lot of people know her in her area, so I just asked some random lady selling fruits if she knew of a Chinese girl living around there. I showed her the picture of Yumie and surprisingly, the lady nodded and walked me over to the building. Wow! This girl must be famous, I thought. She also told me that there should be a Chinese guy sitting outside the building all day.
She had no idea what he does. As expected, the Chinese guy was there and he greeted me with a “Nihao.” I greeted him back and he put out four fingers, signaling the fourth floor for Yumie’s apartment. Well, that was pretty easy to find her place.
The five flight of stairs (I think there were 84 stairs) with no elevator on the first try was pretty tough, since my bags weighed around 25kg. It was nice to meet a fellow Asian, coming from the other side of the world. Her French roommate was back in France on vacation, so I had my own room and played around with her cute cat. Believe it or not, the internet was pretty great (even though Yumie complained that it was a bit slow) and I was able to watch Netflix. I based myself there as I visited a few places in Dakar.
Here were the main areas to visit in Dakar:
- Goree Island – It was a World Heritage site and definitely the highlight in Dakar. The boat runs a few times a day and the cost was around 5500F. I could not find the boat timetables online and thus, I went directly to the wharf. Once inside the waiting area, there was a small snack corner that sold sandwiches and plenty of drinks. The boat ride was only 20 minutes or so and it was quite comfortable. I recommend you to get on the boat early to avoid the outer deck.
- Presidential Palace – I was unable to visit the palace grounds, but took a picture outside. The guard will tell you not to take any pictures, but it is possible when they are not looking.
- African Renaissance Monument – The North Koreans built a big monument in the northern part of Dakar and it lights up at night.
- Ngor Island – I did not make it to this island, but it was a short ferry ride from one of the ports. I did not hear anything great about it, so I just skipped it.
- Markets – there were several markets in Dakar, but nothing special. Unless you don’t have much to do, I would skip it. It was really dirty with lots of flies all over the place, a common theme in all of Senegal.
On one of the nights, we went to a hotel bar in the affluent part of Dakar. Her friend was leaving for France, so there was a farewell party that we attended. The hotel was right by the ocean, but there was no beach and purely rocks. The water did not look that great either, but the sunset view was lovely as I drank my first beer in a long time. The food at the restaurant was really great. I tried the Yassa Poulet, which was delicious and thus, I had to try the other local dish, Maafe with beef. I did not realize Senegalese food would be that good and it was only my second time trying traditional food.
I mingled a bit with some of the French interns there. Most of them were Caucasian, but there was one guy whose ancestors were from Senegal, but he was born in Paris. All of them were French speakers and they were doing a summer internship in Dakar. For me, Dakar would be the last place to do an internship…
Upon getting back home that evening, I decided to buy a trip out to Cabo Verde. There were direct flights from Dakar to Praia in Cabo Verde and I ended up paying too much for my one week trip out there. It was a hefty $640 USD (if you book it one to three months in advance, the price is around $250 – $350 round trip), but at that point, I did not care. I had no intention in coming back to these countries again and either way it will be expensive to get to Cabo Verde from Europe anyhow.
After three nights with Yumie, I was ready to head to Cabo Verde. I would like to thank Yumie for her warm hospitality, good laughs, yummy crepes and being so sweet during my stay. It was also nice to meet some of her friends.
I visited in July 2017.
You can find my next blog on Cabo Verde.