Nov 152013

Got up relatively early thanks to being early to bed, and decided to explore the hotel grounds a bit more.  Breakfast was included in my rate, and it turned out to be extremely good.  The Laico Ouaga 2000 put on quite a good spread.  Super fresh baguettes, lots of nutella, fruits, omlettes made to order and fresh-squeezed juices.  I was quite impressed.

Walked around a bit, and then caught the hotel shuttle back to the airport.  I can’t say enough good things about this hotel.  Reviews online were pretty mixed, but the rooms were comfortable, clean, and cool, fastish WiFi, free airport shuttle, nice grounds, etc etc etc.  The only negative at all was that it was a hike into downtown, but that was honestly a plus in this case.  I can’t recommend this hotel enough!

So, back to the airport, and time to try and find my passport, lolz.  My driver was kind enough to try and assist because “I know how things work in Ouaga” but I decided to brave it alone.

Inside the airport, and walked towards the door where you exit from immigration.  There were two guards there, and I told them they have my passport inside for a visa and I need to get it.  That worked, and they let me in.  Walked past the immigration booths, and straight to the counter from yesterday.  Told them I was there for my passport, gave them my name, and voila…got it back.  Did a quick check of it, and there was no visa inside.  I asked where the visa was, and they told me I didn’t need one for a one day transit.  You may go.  Back out the door, and into the departures hall.  It couldn’t be this easy…and cheap…could it?

Over to the Air Burkina counter, and no trouble checking in.  Then, it was off to official immigration to leave Burkina…with stamps in my passport, but no visa.  This is where it got entertaining.  “Ou est votre visa?”  “J’ai pas besoin d’un visa….chu en transit.”  Um, yeah, that went over about as well as a lead brick.  I tried to explain.  See, the lady inside the arrivals area kept my passport last night, because I had an overnight transit.  She gave it back to me 10 minutes ago, and told me I didn’t need a visa.  “Ok, so you leave Burkina Faso now?”  “Yes.”  Ok.  Stamp stamp, and that was it.  One hurdle down!

Then, it was security.  They, surprise surprise, wanted my passport…and started hunting for a visa.  Not finding one, they asked for it.  Time to tell the whole story again.  “Oh, American.  Barack Obama!”  Great, that again.  “Ouais, chu Americain, mais j’ai pas besoin d’un visa pour transit.”  They were a bit thrown off.   I continued to explain to them.  They’d never heard of someone getting in…and out past immigration…without a visa.  They tried a different strategy.  “Vous avez un petit cadeau pour nous?”  Um, no, no gifts for you.  Bags on the xray belt, and I walked through the metal detector.  They all just laughed, handed my passport back, and wished me a good journey.

This stop completely validated the biggest lesson my 2013 travel has taught me.  When confronted with “officials” who smell blood and want a gift or bribe, the best strategy is to stay happy, joke with them, be nice, but not give in.  Almost every time they end up respecting you, and you get out of it without paying anything.

Then…it was time to find the lounge.  Up the stairs, and look, there’s a sign!



Before you get too excited, however, let’s talk about the lounge.

On the positive side, bathrooms were clean.  Free water and Coke Zero…but working Wifi?  Hahahahah, um, no.  The chairs were pretty awesome, big overstuffed leather chairs, and the AC worked nicely.  It was overall, 75% of what a lounge needs to be in my opinion.  Only serious downside was the total lack of functional WiFi.  I waited out the last 15 minutes before boarding in the gate area, which also wasn’t too bad at this time of day.  Then, it was time to board!

Air Burkina flight 515
Ouagadougu, Burkina Faso (OUA) to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (ABJ)
Depart 12:25, Arrive 13:55, Flight Time 1:30
Canadair CRJ-200, Registration TZ-RCA, Manufactured 2000, Seat 2A

Yup, it was the same plane that brought me into Ouaga the day before.  I was curious to see if service would be any different on a slightly longer flight.  Business class was only booked to three people again, so time would tell.

Shortly after takeoff, the crew sprang into action, delivering a cold meal along with choice of drinks.  Champagne?  Of course!  Now that was quite the pleasant surprise.  For a flight that was just over an hour, I was quite impressed how Air Burkina performed!




Soon, it was time to land.  Parking, we exited the plane onto a bus, where I had a chance to snap a picture as we headed to the terminal.


Into the terminal, my visa was in order, no hassle at all.  Bag came out very quickly, and it was time to get a taxi.  But first, decided to use the very nice shops in the arrivals area to buy some postcards, write them, and mail them from the post office in the airport.  They arrived in the US in barely a week, so I was seriously impressed with how things worked out.  Now, taxi time!

In this case, the hotel was extortionate with transport offers, asking nearly 100 euros for a car to the hotel.  Um HELL TO THE NO.  So, it was taxi roulette.  This would be interesting.  Decided to get in the first car that offered…and we were off.  2 minutes into the ride, I knew we were both committed, so I offered…5,000 CFA to the hotel, yes?  No no no, it is 50 euros.  I just laughed.  Then I offered.  Ok, I will give you 8,000 CFA, but that is all,  I’m not stupid, I work in Africa, and 8,000 CFA is still a very good price.  We finally settled on 10,000 CFA (about $20 or 15 euros) so he got more than he should have, I paid a lot less than a white guy normally can from the airport, and all was good.  Then, it was time for the hotel….the Sofitel Abidjan.

Walked in, gave my name, and was asked to take a seat in the lounge area while they checked me in.  I was offered a cold towel, and shortly they brought me the registration to verify, and took my credit card to charge.  Excellent…I was liking this hotel.  Up to my room on an upper (around 20th I seem to remember) floor, and it was awesome.  Then, the shoe dropped.  In the room was a letter stating there would be no air conditioning in the hotel today, and for the balance of the weekend for repair works.  I refused to believe it…it was only 21C in the room, and so I headed down to the lobby to confirm.

Yes, this is definitely the situation.  Please, have a seat and a manager will talk to you.  This is where I got even more upset.  The manager was very nice, and apologized.  I told her it wasn’t acceptable.  We switched to English, because my frustration reached a level I couldn’t express in French.  I told her it wasn’t acceptable and I would be changing hotels.  “Oh, but you have checked into the room and it will need to be cleaned now.  We will have to charge you if you change hotels.”  ARE.  YOU.  KIDDING.  ME.  I’m paying for a 5 star hotel in Africa, a serious premium, and you want to charge me when you decide to shut the AC off with no notice?!  Oh hell to the NO.  I raised a fit.  All comments expressed above about remaining calm in Africa went aside.  This manager was French, and I was going to go full-on angry North American on her.

Let’s just say it ended with her happy to help me find an alternate hotel, perhaps another property of theirs I could earn points at.  Then, I hit upon an idea.  My flight out the next day was at like 11pm, and I really was hoping for a 7 or 8pm checkout.  Could she, perhaps, offer me that in exchange for the inconvenience?  Oh, but of COURSE!  All was settled, and we were all happy.  Temps overnight did eventually rise to 24C in the room, and 28C by the next evening when I left…it was gross.  But, then again, I got an 8 hour late checkout for free, so it worked out in the end.  …and about an hour later they sent several litres of water up to the room, along with some juice and nuts as a snack.  They handled it the best they could given the situation, but the serious failing in my opinion was a failure to be proactive.  They knew about the maintenance and could have e-mailed in advance, or notified me at check-in, or worst case apologized when I came down.  Instead, they insulted me be threatening to charge me for the room.  Sad panda!

Ok, soooo moving on!  I rested up for a bit, and headed out to find groceries, not knowing that the several litres of water were on their way up.  Asked the bellman where I could find a grocery store, and it was maybe 1km away…so I decided to walk.  Verified with him it was safe…and off I went.  First 500-700m were just fine, and then the neighbourhood turned a bit.  People were burning coal for fuel and it was a much sketchier hood.  Eventually found the store.  Well-stocked, found everything I wanted…but decided it was sketchy enough I wanted to taxi back.  The bag-boy was happy to find me a taxi…but there were none to be found.  Eventually tipped him 200 CFA, took my bags, and headed back on foot.  No problems at all, just a bit of a walk, and I was back.

Had a nice cold beer before dinner, and decided to taxi out.  Went to Chez Georges which was a hoot.  I got the sense at first they were very reluctant about me, but after a few courses, a bottle of wine, we were like old friends.  Did I mention the cabaret act which started performing?  S/he was quite the show, and it made for one of those WTF this is Africa moments.  I just can’t explain it better than that…it was quite the experience.  Food was pretty good too, and overall, it was definitely somewhere I’d recommend.

They were happy to call me a taxi back, I offered a fare and he accepted, and all was copacetic.  Off to bed in the sauna which was up to 23C by now, and hopefully early to rise to tour the city before my late night flight.

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