This had to be one of the most tiring day of my life. Having worked a full day at work, heading to the airport at 11pm and jetting off at 2am in the morning, 10 hours of flight time, and I started my day at 7am on a Saturday morning in South Africa. My day didn’t end till 1am (SA time) or 7am (Singapore time – Sunday).

My first impression? This place looks pretty much like the U.S, say 10 years ago?

I landed with my uncle and we pretty much took our own sweet time exploring the airport, getting a prepaid phone line and data packs, and hunted around for the shuttle bus to the hotel. It was pretty easy, and there were a whole bunch of enthusiastic porters and ‘porter-wannabes’ helping you around and expecting a tip.

The funny thing was, we didn’t get onto the shuttle till 3 buses later!

The first shuttle left just as we were walking towards it. And while waiting for the second one… I got thirsty and decided to run back to the airport to buy some water and break some loose change for tipping. The smallest note I had was $100 rand and that’s S$20.

When I got back, my uncle said the 2nd shuttle just left seconds before I appeared! Grrr.. and it was another 45mins before we got into the hotel and nicely settled into our rooms.

We stayed in New Peermont Metcourt – Emperor’s Palace and Casino.

The room was clean, pretty nice, 15 mins away from the airport, with just the casino and restaurants 2 mins away.

Little did we know… I found out we were in ‘jail’.

There was nothing much except restaurants and the casino. The restaurants were mostly not opened since it was still quite early and we didn’t have much choices for our brunch. And that was it. No shopping, no nothing!

and the casino.. strangely familiar. it was like we were back in las vegas caesar’s hotel…even the dustbins used are the same. so we were speculating and joking about the possibility of the worn stuff being shipped here from las vegas. (we found out much later by coincidence that it used to be caesar’s. i asked for a map from the hotel and was given an old one, which the reception kindly pointed out the changes).

Back in the hotel, we checked out the ½ day tours available and decided to check out Soweto. What was supposed to be 4 hr tour turned out to be a 3hr instead. We spent the 95% of the time in the car checking out the downtown, different streets of downtown, heading up to Soweto and checking out the famous ‘matchbox’ houses, the disparity between the rich and the poor, Nelson Mandela’s house and life story, as well as Hector Pieterson Museum.

a picture with nelson mandala.

the living room of mandala’s house

the kitchen of mandala’s house

interesting details of the house on the floor

quotes from the family all over the house

bullet shots on the exterior wall (from police raids)

one of the bricks in the wall

the side of the house

right outside the ‘museum’

the estactic me

the house address


Visiting Soweto is an exhilarating experience. it is a sprawling township in the 80s, and housing more than 3.5million people living in slums or what they call the ‘match-box’ houses. the houses are small (much smaller than a container), badly ventilated and usually put together with pieces of scrap metal. today, soweto is a mixture of the rich (with exclusive land rights) and the shabby living quarters. the government is also starting a project on building decent 2 story living quarters to re-house the people to improve living conditions and hopefully, reduce the crime.

these brightly colored buildings are the new housing bordering the township, newly built by the government. in the years to come, the current township would be an extinct sight when the government gets to house everyone in those houses. it’s a huge and very expensive project.

the clear distinction between the rich (fore ground) and the poor (township in the background)

I forgot what these towers are for, but they are painted with all the essence of Soweto, the way of living in Soweto.

more slums.


hector pieterson museum 2 blocks away from the mandela’s house

me, trying to get a shot with the school children

the curios shops along the streets


the new bus-stops in the city. strangely similar to those found in melbourne. these are really new. the people normally travel in “taxis” which are mini vans that are packed to the brim with people.

a typical street in downtown

famous gandhi square. i didn’t even know gandhi was here! (ok, please pardon my ignorance)

the skyline of Johannesburg’s (also known to the locals as Joberg) downtown from the expressway

i cannot remember if the mountain at the back is a coal mine or a gold mine. there are so many along the roads that i totally forgot.

crossing the nelson mandela’s bridge

world cup is very visible in the city. almost every corner, you’ll see the world cup visuals

the building-in-progress stadium for the opening ceremony

i’m not a soccer/football person, but being able to check out the new stadium for the World Cup that’s happening next year is kind of exciting!

And that’s the end of it all. We headed back to the hotel. I mentioned earlier that we were in a ‘jail’. The premises of the entire hotel is guarded with fences u were not allowed to venture out on your own – walk outside the premises of the hotel. You’ll need to charter a cab and a cab to the nearest mall cost R$180 (SS$36) one way. I was not willing to pay that kind of money since all that I wanted to buy was WATER.

Well, we eventually got out anyway… we took the FREE shuttle back to the airport and bought whatever we need before taking the shuttle back again. Ha! Sounds like some kind of adventure right? My uncle even managed to buy a pair of shoes for work!

While at the airport, we had wanted to ‘receive’ my aunt and uncle from the airport but missed them instead while we were buying the water. And so, it turns out to be a bad choice, wasting yet another 1.5hrs at the airport.

We bought theatre tickets to the show happening in the night – The heavy weight comedy. Gawd. It was bad for me because…

> I was so tired and dozing off in the theatre
> It was boring because I couldn’t understand a lot of the local jokes. Think ang moh watching our dim sum dollies or broadway beng
> Every single comedian had to use the word ‘fucking’ so many times and seriously, it’s no longer funny
> The black guy sitting behind me was shaking his leg and stamping it all the time, so my seat was literally ‘stomping’ with him and it was really really annoying!
> I was shivering in cold, even when I had my jacket on. The seat had the aircon blasting into my face the entire time. With the dry climate, the body’s been fighting real hard with the lack of water.
> It was 4 hours of plain torture.
> By the end of the day, I had a throat infection looming, felt really terrible and had to just down a litre of water and quickly crawl into bed the moment I got back to the hotel.

And that, is the start of my South Africa journey.

up next, the adventures of the safari. this entry took me 4.5hrs (i cannot believe it), so till i sort out the pictures first!

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