Jan 242012

So…Djibouti immigration. Turns out 99% of our fellow passengers were in transit to the Daallo Airlines flight to Dubai (I suspect on another plane, since I don’t think the IL-18 has that kind of range) so they were shunted off, and maybe 10 of us went into the immigration queue. Where they took our passports, told us to have a seat, and we waited…for 30 minutes or so.

Eventually, we were ushered into a small office, where for a charge of $60 each, we got a collection of stamps, stickers, and glue in the passports that passed for an official “visa” to enter Djibouti. We had heard $55 in advance, but with exchange rate changes were not about to argue over such a small amount. Before the trip, for some reason, I suspected Djibouti Airport would be much much bigger. It’s not. it’s essentially one giant room with a few different areas…this place is tiny!

Got outside, and the Sheraton shuttle was of course not there as we’d asked for. Taxi was cheap, and soon we were off to the Sheraton…where they had absolutely no record of our points reservation, and were completely clueless how to deal with it. Check-in took nearly two hours, when you count the time to figure out what to do, get us to a room, get us a stocked minibar, and have everything sorted. Oh, yes, about the minibar. Due to local “sensibilities” they leave it empty. However, for platinum guests, they are happy to deliver a more-than-adequate FREE minibar:

One more thing to mention…everything we consumed the first night was replaced when housekeeping came the next day.  Best platinum benefit worldwide if you ask me!

We’d come to Djibouti to meet a friend who was working there, so had a fantastic dinner poolside at the Kempinski hotel, and then crashed.  Before heading to the adequate buffet the next morning (note: if you’re a fan of the German military, they all seem to live at the Sheraton so be sure to be on-time to breakfast!) took this picture from the breakfast room:

We’d booked a day trip to Lac Assal, which is a giant salt lake in the middle of the country.  I would definitely not choose the company we used again – it was booked via American Express Travel, and they clearly were not on their A-Game.  The van/car was way below what I expected, the driver barely spoke 10 words of English (thankfully, I spoke French, or it would have totally been lost on us) and they arrived well over an hour late due to a broken down car…or something like that.  On the upside, the driver was quite friendly, chatty, and willing to share (in French of course) and the “boxed lunch” was stopping at a store to buy whatever we wanted for lunch…so that was a plus.  I’ll leave the rest to the pictures, but Lac Assal was absolutely stunning, and worth the long drive:

Hot springs next to Lac Assal:

Lac Assal itself:

On the way back to the city, we stopped at a “beach” for a picnic.  This was another place the tour company failed.  After we ate next to the water (which was quite nice) we had to wait nearly 30 minutes for our driver to argue with the local “guard” of the beach over how much he should charge for us to have eaten there.  In the end, it came down to two cigarettes.  if your want to charge western prices and get western tourists, don’t pull crap like this!  We’re talking like 25 cents, which may be a lot to a local, but for what you were charging…it’s going to cost you a lot more in lost business in the long run.  The view from the picnic beach:

After that, we got back to the city right around sunset, and met friends for dinner and drinks again, before crashing early to catch our early morning flight on to the next stop:  Addis Ababa!

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