In Bali I decided that although I still love Asia, I really wanted to experience a place that I wasn't used to at all. So I switched up my plans for the following 3 months and bought a ticket to Cape Town. Time to get a taste of Africa! Nine hours to Dubai (and sadly not a long enough layover to get out of the airport and take a look at the city) and another nine hours to Cape Town. As we approached the city on the plane I was craning my neck hard to look through the window because the glimpses of the city nestled in the mountains looked absolutely gorgeous!
At the airport I had no problem at the ATM, which is always a bit of a worry whenever you fly to a new continent. So I was all loaded up on South African Rands. The only public transportation into the city was a bus, which had surprisingly few people waiting for it and took almost 30 minutes to arrive at the stop. But once on the bus everything was straightforward. Just like in the States most of the people riding it were either black or foreigners. I got dropped off a few blocks away from the hostel, dropped off my stuff, and started hiking up the nearby hill to catch a glimpse of the sun setting over the city, and it was a damn good one! The city itself really is beautiful.
After a few days I wrote down some of my first impressions:
The city doesn’t really seem to have much of a downtown, the main bar restaurant strip (Long Street) was a bit sketchy. But seems to have little pockets of nice bar/restaurant areas.
Even though the city seemed pretty safe to me, the locals warn you not to walk places at night, so you just cab it around everywhere at night.
The dollar is strong against the rand! For the quality of food you were getting in restaurants, the price was very good value. A dollar now gets you twice as much as did in 2008. So it’s a good time to travel to South Africa!
Burgers are big! There seemed to be quite a lot of burger places, and all of them packed at night.
No white people seem to work in the service industry, at almost every restaurant I went to the servers are almost always black. It was also weird seeing Chinese/Mexican/Indian restaurants not being staffed by people of that respective ethnic group.
Racial Divide. All the whites seem to live in fairly posh houses near the downtown or overlooking the ocean, where the blacks almost invariably live in shanty towns called townships on the outskirts. The townships feel like a completely different world. America obviously has its fair share of racial inequality, but hey, at least its not as bad as South Africa!
Lovely weather. 70’s and sunny when I was there, and always a nice breeze blowing. Gorgeous beaches closeby. Really reminded me of Perth.
People seemed pretty outdoorsy. Lots of hikers and bikers around.
Extremely annoying you can’t buy a bus ticket on the bus. They make you go into the city center to buy a special bus card. Its supposedly to be a deterrent to hijacking, but for a tourist it’s a pain in the ass.
Tons of activities for tourists. When you take into account all the things you can do in the city and the surrounding area, it is probably the best city for tourists that I have ever been to! It’s definitely not a city you can do in two or three days!
Hiking Trails. You've got both Lion's Head and the even taller Table Mountain. I did the Lion's head hike around dusk to watch the sunset and it was really nice.
Very friendly taxi drivers. They're all from Zimbabwe for the most part and happy to chat.
White! Cape Towners love the color white. Beautiful white houses and white luxury cars, driven by white people of course. I think a white cream colored Mercedes was the unofficial car of Cape Town.
Overall a very enjoyable city! And really one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities I’ve ever been to. Between the beaches, hiking, wineries, and the coastline, Cape Town really has a lot going for it!