Posts tagged johannesburg
It’s the question that gets me every single time.
“Is it safe to visit South Africa?”
Inevitably, my blood starts to boil as I brace for the next hammer blow, “Because you know, from what I’ve heard it’s very dangerous and they’ve told me not to visit”.
Who are the ominipresent “they”?
Have they ever been to South Africa?
Have they ever travelled through the many parts of our countryside?
Have they taken the time to educate themselves on our nation, or are they just regurgitating snippets that they’ve heard on the news, found on the web or overheard from some disillusioned, white, ex-South African who emigrated because “the country is going to the dogs under that black government”?
[Please, excuse my frankness, but those are often the people trash-talking South Africa]
But, despite the resounding success that was the 2010 World Cup, despite 19 years of freedom for all, despite everything, people are still reticent to visit South Africa because they deem it too dangerous, too risky, too threatening.
In my work with American tour groups, I find that the travellers have inevitably been warned (by well-meaning relatives and neighbors), not to book that package tour to South Africa, yet the groups all thoroughly enjoy South Africa and would “highly recommend it”. In the advent of travel bloggers, more and more bloggers are visiting South Africa and I have yet to hear a bad word spoken against South Africa.
Disappointingly though, despite all the positive experiences we hear about, negative media about South Africa still abounds.
Enough! It’s our job as responsible South Africans to change that.
So, I polled a variety of travel bloggers who have visited South Africa for their Top 2 reasons on Why You Should Must Visit South Africa. There were some common themes that surfaced together with some touching, heart-felt responses. Let’s hear what some of our favourite bloggers had to say….
Diverse & Spectacular Scenery
Not surprisingly, this rated highly on many blogger’s lists. Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape highlights the “jagged snow-capped peaks of the Drakensberg to expansive savannah and rugged coastlines” as an example of the natural beauty that South Africa has to offer. Africa lover Sandy Salle (Hills of Africa) echoes this sentiment as she celebrates South Africa “for its spectacular wine lands, unspoiled beaches, as well as Cape Town, which compares to a mini San Francisco!”.
Perhaps one of the most enthusiastic votes for this category came from Wandering Earl who notes “From large, vibrant cities to beautiful coastal communities, from mesmerizing wine regions to tiny towns in the middle of nowhere, and everything in between, every region of South Africa feels as if it is an entirely different country in itself.”. Nothing quite beats an African sunset either for amazing colours against wide open skies. Check out Craig Zabranksy’s amazing gallery of South African sunsets, and see for yourself.
The “Big 5” Safari Experience
Many visitors to South Africa come solely for the purpose of visiting the Kruger Park to spot wild animals in their natural habitat. “Seeing all these amazing animals in their natural environment while enjoying the beautiful landscape” was a personal highlight for Earth Xplorer J.D. Andrews and “viewing the “Big 5” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant & rhino) in person was a remarkable experience” for Landloper Matt Long. Jen Pollack Bianco and Cailin O’Neil both share this common sentiment, after their visits to South Africa included a safari expedition.
Sandy Salle highly recommends visiting some of our many monkey and elephant sanctuaries, all of which offer guided sightseeing tours, allowing you to get within meters of the animals. Don’t discount our offshore wildlife either, home to whales, dolphins and Great White Sharks, all off which can be spotted along many parts of our coastline.
Delicious Food and Drink
There was no shortage of enthusiastic comments regarding the variety of top class South African cuisine. Some bloggers, like The Travel Tart, raved about particular South African dishes, quipping “There’s nothing like stuffing your face with a half-loaf of bread packed with tasty curry” (known as a Bunny Chow). Cailin O’Neil was particularly smitten with our local game meats, particular “springbok and kudu” and shares our fondness for a “braai” – the Afrikaans word for a barbeque. Cape Town in particular offers a huge diversity in cuisines and, if Indian food is your flavour, head to Durban where you’ll find some of the best curries outside of the subcontinent.
South Africa is well known for its world-class wines, something that Keith Jenkins is particularly passionate about. The Stellenbosch & Franschoek regions in the Western Cape are home to many award-winning wine-farms, so be sure to add this destination to your itinerary. And, if you prefer your tipple a little sweeter, be sure to sample Amarula, a cream-liqueur made from the fruit of the Marula tree. It’s exceptionally delicious, very South African and very, very addictive as Craig Zabransky discovered when he attended the World Cup in South Africa in 2010!
“It will change your life”
At a first glance, I thought The Explorateur’s comment about a visit to South Africa being a life-changing experience was a little bit of a cliché. But, as I received more and more responses along similar lines, I began to realize that she had a point. The Explorateur is well known in South Africa, and she found the “real” South Africa when she chose to break out of the “safety” of her hotel and took a tour through Soweto, a local African township. From meeting a tour guide who was imprisoned during the Apartheid era, to being musically serenaded by school children in tattered clothing, The Explorateur discovered that when you look beyond the surface of South Africa, “you’ll gain a whole new perspective on yourself and what’s important”.
Kirsten Alana recalls shared a similar experience, “I remember standing on Vilakazi Street in Soweto and thinking that if two Nobel Peace Prize winners could come from one such humble street, surely nothing was stopping me from changing the world.”
South Africans have long been recognized as some of the most hospitable people in the world, a fact graciously acknowledged by both Keith and J.D. If volunteering is close to your heart, you’d do well to pay attention to Sandy who notes, ”South Africa’s volunteer opportunities are some of the most humbling and rewarding experiences to be had and allow families, individuals, groups and couples to immerse themselves in the local culture, whilst providing locals with the gift of upliftment”.
Perhaps the last word in this section should go to Matt Long, who, like many bloggers, discovered that South Africa really does get under your skin. He says, “Before I first visited South Africa I was warned that the ‘bug’ would grab hold and not let go. Everyone tells me that I’ll love every location I visit, so I didn’t think a lot about it. This time was different though and by the end of my adventures in South Africa, I had indeed caught that mysterious bug. South Africa enjoys a unique mix of qualities including staggering beauty, a rich culture and people so kind your teeth hurt. These and many more factors coalesce and truly do become more than the sum of their parts. A special magic is created that doesn’t just ensure a great trip, but changes at a molecular level turn any trip into a personally transformational experience. Before you accuse me of extreme bouts of hyperbolic imagery, just wait. Visit South Africa for yourself and then, and only then, can you tell me that I’m wrong.”
Are you ready to book your trip to South Africa now?
Sincere thanks must go to all the travel bloggers who shared their heartfelt thoughts on South Africa. Please, keep spreading the positive news on our amazing country.
Right up front, I’ll admit that I’m not the world’s greatest rugby fan. Despite living in South Africa for nigh on 30 years, my English football roots are still strong. So much so that, on any given weekend, you’ll find me avoiding rugby like the plague and focusing instead on willing Liverpool to win a match, any match.
Now that you know this, you’ll understand my trepidation at the thought of attending the inaugural Jozi Tens rugby festival. A spin-off from the mightily successful Cape Town Tens festival (the biggest Tens rugby festival in the world), the Jozi Tens festival kicked off on Friday 14th September, fittingly with dark, heavy skies reminiscent of a Cape Town winter. Not knowing how 7’s Rugby differs in rules to regular 15-man rugby, the explanation that Tens rugby “is the same as 7’s, but with 10 men”, didn’t help me in the slightest. What I didn’t realise is that the Jozi Tens wasn’t just about the rugby, it’s an entire entertainment experience.
7 players, 10 players, 15 players – it doesn’t seem to matter, there are crunching tackles at every turn and, every so often, the ball will pop out from under a pile of men and be tossed to a nimble-footed giant who dashes down the line to score a try. The entire Jozi Tens tournament is geared around entertainment. Games are a mere 10 minutes per half and provide much more “running rugby” action than a regular game.
On the pitch, the players were out to win, but still managed to keep in the social spirit of the game by donning colourful wigs and massive American flag hats. With team names like “Disco Ninjas”, “Southern Faakers” and the “Zamalek Zulus”, you just know the object of the weekend was fun. However, it was the flatly named “MK Rage” team that ultimately beat the SA Rugby Legends in the final, doing what every other team had failed to do – steal points off some of the grand old dames of South African rugby.
However, it is the action off the pitch that provides the most entertainment at Tens rugby. Think music festivals, beer festivals and a beach party all rolled into one. Sadly, the “beach party” aspect didn’t materialize at Jozi Tens – perhaps it was something to do with the hail and rain on Friday night and the chilly temperatures on Saturday, but there was a distinct lack of bikini babes and shirtless jocks.
The beer hall action kicked off on Friday night with awesome live music provided by Me and Mr Brown, covering rock classics from across the ages. These guys have cemented their reputation at the Cape Town Tens tournament and they had most of the beer hall up on their feet, dancing like nobody was watching.
DJ Sox threw out the dance tunes as the hall filled up with party-goers, many dressed up for the “Tight and Bright” dress-up competition. And tight and bright many of them were. Fluorescent colours abounded, as did tighty whitey shorts, but my vote of the night had to go to the Morph Suit men. Anybody brave enough to wear a fluorescent body suit deserves a prize. Ard Matthews and Gareth Cliff both kept the Friday night party going and there’s no doubt there were going to be some very hungover rugby players on Saturday morning.
The Jozi Tens was a fabulous entertainment experience for the whole family and there is no doubt that, like the Cape Town Tens, it is going to cement its place on the Johannesburg sport and entertainment calendar. For those that can’t wait another year for the action, get yourself down to Cape Town for the 2013 tournament, on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd February. Blue skies, cold beer and hot bodies are guaranteed!
Many thanks to Getaway Magazine who sponsored our attendance at the 2012 Jozi Tens tournament; however, as always, all opinions and viewpoints are strictly our own.
People frequently have incorrect, preconceived ideas about Johannesburg and South Africa. One is that we have lions roaming the streets; another is that if you go into downtown Johannesburg you’re likely not to make it out alive; another is that South Africa is always hot and sunny.
I really don’t wish to burst your bubble, but that last one could not be further from the truth today. Yes, it’s winter (we’re in the Southern Hemisphere remember? Something I continually have to remind my American friends about) and yes, it’s cold – but yesterday it snowed. Snow. Fluffy, white, freezing stuff in Johannesburg!
We’re not just talking about a few flakes here and there, we’re talking about persistent snowfall for a good hour or so – enough to make snow angels, snowmen, throw snowballs with and for our puppies to have the time of their lives in.
All around Johannesburg people were pulling over at the roadsides, whipping out cameras and clicking photographs. Cashiers from supermarkets were outside the shops shrieking with joy; children were let out of class early and in downtown Johannesburg, immigrant Africans were dashing out to cars and having their photos taken next to the snowy windscreens.
We were lucky in our part of Johannesburg, we received more snow than most, but alas, it had melted within the hour, leaving only damp lawns and muddy footprints as evidence. For that hour though, it was wonderful to be able to feel like a kid again – full of wonder and amazement at the beauty of snow and excited about being alive!
Next time you’re travelling to South Africa, don’t just assume that it’s going to be sunny and hot. Check the weather forecast as you might just need to bring your ski gear along!
Guest Post by Bing, Storyofbing.com
It was on a chilly September afternoon in Auckland, New Zealand when the hubby called home and told me we were moving to Johannesburg.
I was taking a nap and thought I had a bad dream. When I woke up and realized it wasn’t a dream, I had a panic attack.
We were moving to South Africa. Oh No! If you Google intensively, you would conclude, like I did, that the country is all about murders, rape and Aids.
It was a depressing time for us.
At one point, after I’ve had my 3rd tearful session, the hubby finally suggested that we reject the posting and move back to Singapore instead. I slept on that and miraculously felt calmer knowing we had an option. To go or not to go?
We decided to come to South Africa in the end.
I figured, if the country had 50million people living there, it couldn’t be THAT bad a place. Right?
Time flies. That was 8 months ago.
In the past 8 months, I have met some of the nicest people in my life. I’ve learnt to say Hello to everyone I pass on the street because they said it to me first. I’ve learnt that people would do kind deeds for me and only expect “lots of love and kisses”.
I’ve learnt to appreciate the rich history, culture, music and art that is everywhere in this country. And I’ve been surprised by the magnificent seas and majestic mountains that it has to offer.
I’ve loved the opportunity to come close to animals in safaris. And eaten some of the most exotic food in my life. And that’s coming from an Asian person!
I’ve seen luxury that was beyond my imagination. Malls that are so big, I’ve gotten lost in them. Skyscrapers and giant highways fill the city.
At the other end of the city, there’s poverty that breaks my heart.
This is a country that has everything in one place. Yet crime is all the media reports on. That, and the World Cup last year. It’s a place that has so much to offer, but it lacks a developed communications infrastructure that is affordable so that the South Africans can tell the world how wonderful their country is. Or perhaps they are just having too good a time at home to bother with what the rest of the world thinks.
There is crime and one must be vigilant. There are places that I’m scared to go to. There are people I meet that I am wary of. I take good care of my belongings. I lock our doors at home. I take a deep breath and remind myself not to live in fear. And then, I get out there and enjoy South Africa.
Bing is a proudly Singaporean blogger and photographer. Married to the love of her life, she follows her husband to the countries that he gets posted to. Having lived in New Zealand and now South Africa, Bing fills her time writing her blog on travel, lifestyle, cooking, love, learnings and photography. Bing describes her blog as her “Memory vault, daily journal and family legacy”, fitting for a blog nominated as a “Best Lifestyle Blog Finalist 2010 & 201″ in the Singapore Blog Awards. Visit StoryOfBing.com for more and follow Bing on Twitter.
Johannesburg is much maligned as a dangerous gangster town and and a ghetto but, truth be told, it’s no worse than the ghettos in any other city in the world. Parts of the Johannesburg CBD (Central Business District) have been undergoing regeneration and re-invention and at the heart of this upliftment is Newtown, situated west of central Johannesburg. Newtown is home to the Market Theatre, Museum Africa, trendy nightclubs and restaurants and some of the best graffiti this side of LA.
We took a trip down to Newtown on Saturday night, under the gigantic bridge that is the M1 motorway, and stumbled across a treasure chest of graffiti. The sheer skill and creativity of the artists took our breath away and, with fellow members of the Joburg Photowalkers Group, we attempted to capture some of the beauty and sheer size of the graffiti on show.
From political and social statements, to scenes from everyday Johannesburg, to reliving the sheer joy of the 2010 World Cup, we saw it all. Here are just a few of our favourite examples. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
And if that’s not enough for you, be sure to check out the rest of the pictures on Flickr!
Johannesburg. Jo’burg. Jozi. Egoli. City of Gold.
The largest city in South Africa has many different names. Often considered a poor cousin to Cape Town as far as tourist attractions go, Johannesburg is a vibrant city, buzzing with an energy and a vibe completely different to anywhere else in South Africa. If you take into account Ekhurhuleni, the West Rand, Soweto and Lenasia, Johannesburg’s 10 million inhabitants are spread over an area far larger than greater London.
“The Joburg Book – A Guide to the City’s History, People and Places“, edited by Nechama Brodie, is a collection of a variety of stories on Johannesburg, written and contributed by a number of journalists and academics.
In Chapter One we are taken along a historical journey of the alchemy of Johannesburg, the origins of man, rock art, the iron age and the early boer (farmer) settlements. Those of us schooled before 1994 may just shudder as the book brings back memories of “The Great Trek” history lessons!
As we move through Chapters Two and Three we learn how Johannesburg came about through the discovery of gold, the gold rush and the early Johannesburg boom town. The main body of the book examines the City of Johannesburg and its suburbs, paying equal attention to both the township settlements such as Alexandra and the economic hubs of Sandton (home to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange) and the CBD. Chapter Fourteen is entirely dedicated to the informal settlements that frequently dot the Johannesburg landscape.
Despite the multiple authors, “The Joburg Book” is an excellent book, filled with great writings and great illustrations and, for those residents and visitors that complatin that there is nothing to do in Johannesburg, almost every page contains and insert on places to visit and things to do.
Whether you are interested in knowing the origins of Johannesburg, the history of the gold fields, or how Rissik, Fox and Marshall Streets got their name, this book will answer all your questions and more. You’ll even learn how you can cook a fantastic Indian Biryani for 800 of your closest friends (Page 286). From the stories we never knew (Sandton children being educated in Hillbrow) to those that made the news (Max the gorilla getting shot), The Joburg Book is a fabulous read for young and old alike.
We have one copy of The Joburg Book to give away to a lucky EarthTravelUnlimited reader, thanks to the great guys at Exclusive Books. Simply email with your name, email address, phone number and location (within South Africa only) and answer the following easy question:
Entries close Friday 19th November…..good luck!
Johannesburg hotels and particularly those in Sandton, are well known for their upper-class restaurants and haute cuisine. One of the newest hotels in Sandton is the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel, which opened just in time for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Located right at the Sandton Gautrain station, the hotel provides a convenient location for those arriving in Sandton from OR Tambo International Airport.
Central One is a modern, airy restaurant set on the reception level of the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel. It is decorated sparsely in black and white with metal and glass fittings and the menu is printed simply on card in a continuation of the minimalistic theme.
Focusing on fresh, locally themed ingredients, the menu offers a variety of starters including a delicious Prawn Cerviche, which we sampled. Marinated in lime, ginger, honey and coriander, the 6 prawns come beautifully presented in a delicately garnished stack. The prawns were large, juicy and marinated to absolute perfection. Carpaccio of Springbok, Green Asparagus Sabayon and Cape Lobster Cappuccino (with Truffle Foam) are just a few of the other starters guaranteed to whet your appetite.
Central One focuses on a main course selection “From the Grill” and offers an impressive selection of steaks including Rib Eye, Fillet, Rump, Sirloin and even Veal Chops. Game meat features on the menu and an extensive array of side dishes to accompany the main courses include French Fries with Seasoning Salt (perhaps the best chips we have ever tasted), Truffled Mashed Potatoes, Cannelini Bean Ragout, Home-made Pasta and Brown Rice, to name but a few.
A speciality of Central One is their House Tartars and with both Salmon Tartar and Steak Tartar available in either starter or main course portions, there is a dish to suit everybody. The main course Tartars come with a side portion of French Fries and a Salad and comes beautifully presented with dashes of mayonnaise and shavings of cucumber.
The Petite Fillet we ordered was cooked to perfection, served simply with a lashing of basting sauce and a char-grilled tomato. Available additional sauces include Gorgonzola (made with pancetta and cream jus), Forrest Mushroom and Diabla.
Unfortunately our time at Central One ran out before we could sample the Dessert menu, but with such delicious sounding treats as Caramelized Lemon Tart (served with grapefruit sorbet and Champagne sabayon), Chocolate Southern Comfort Mousse (served with wild berry ice-cream and crème de cassis coulis), Banana Creme Brulee and Fruit Tarte Tatin, we’ll be sure to return very soon to tempt our taste-buds with these sweet delights.
Budget: A three course meal, excluding drinks and wine, will cost approximately R300 (USD 40) per person.
Ever since visiting Hong Kong a few years ago and hearing about Dim Sum, I’ve been curious about experiencing an authentic Dim Sum meal. Ironically, I didn’t get to taste Dim Sum in Hong Kong, but a visit to Johannesburg’s China Town recently was the perfect opportunity to find out just what we were missing out on.
Like most cities, Johannesburg has a “China Town”, which is situated on Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene. Filled with Chinese restaurants, supermarkets, greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers, it provides visitors with a diverse array of sights, sounds and smells.
Literally translated Dim Sum means “touch the heart” and at lunch-time on a Sunday, our favourite China Town restaurant, Shun Duk, is awash with Chinese locals, dipping into baskets of steaming hot dumplings, fluffy bau buns and rice noodle rolls, to name but a few.
A wide array of steaming bamboo baskets and plates of delicious looking titbits had us a little wide-eyed and confused, but we were lucky enough to share a table with a Taiwanese lady and her husband who very kindly explained many of the fillings to us!
After soothing our throats with delicious jasmine tea, we choose not to sample the “Phoenix talons” (that’s chicken feet to us), but instead dived straight into delicious steamed dumplings filled with a combinations of pork, prawns, celery, coriander and carrot. Hot and steamy, these were the perfect appetiser on a cold winter day.
There were steamed Bau, fluffy buns filled with a choice of barbeque pork or red bean paste; lotus leaf rice parcels; turnip cake; congee; steamed rice noodle rolls; sesame seed balls and egg custard tarts (can we say “Yummy”?) to name just a few of the Dim Sum to choose from. You can try a few of them, or you can try all of them, it’s up to you!
Prices on each dish vary, depending on the size of the dish and the type of the dish. When you sit down and help yourself to each Dim Sum plate or basket, your waitress will stamp your receipt for each plate and tally up the total at the end of the meal. Never fear though, eating in China Town is always great value for money and you will leave with both a full stomach and a full purse!
See you on Sunday for Dim Sum at Shun Duk!