Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Fountain Hotel, Cape Town

Maybe my stay at The Southern Sun raised the bar and spoiled me rotten. Every time I compare the Fountain Hotel hotel with them, the Fountain just doesn't measure up. As a guest who stayed for three months, they should have gone out of their way to make sure I enjoyed my stay. I had no such luck.
The room
Because I was going to be here for quite some time so I stayed in a suite with a kitchenette at a discounted ZAR17,000/month. No microwave but I had an electric oven, stove top and complete kitchenware.

The bed had a queen sized width but a strangely short length-- my feet dangled at the edge whenever I lay flat on my back!

If you're the sort of person who likes to fall asleep while watching the TV, you're out of luck because it won't fit the room. The TV is outside in the living room and only has a couple of sports and movie channels. (The Southern Sun definitely had more channels.)

The bathroom had a shower/tub combo and it passed my will-walk-barefoot test. Towels were not as big and fluffy as I'd want them to be but I figured for the cost of this room, it should have been as luxurious as the Wild Mushroom Guesthouse at Stellenbosch!

To welcome me, I had a small basket of fruit and a plate of cheese and crackers. For some reason, I never got around to eating the fruit and it remained rotting on the table until I checked out three months later. I purposely did not throw it out just to see if housekeeping would notice it.


What amenities? The pool? Hahaha! What a joke! It allegedly had a heater but even after my many complaints, the water never warmed up. Despite it being winter, I decided to give it a chance anyway and went for a swim.

Big mistake.

It's longer than it is wide and I cut my hand along one side as I tried to do my laps. (As of this writing, I still have the scar on my wrist.) After 15 minutes, I had to stop because my eyes were stinging very badly! The cloudy water should've given me the hint that there was too much chlorine. I couldn't open my eyes the next day because they were still so puffy and caked with the salt from my tears.

Oh and don't get me started on the gym! I complained and complained but during my whole stay (three months!), they never got around to fixing the broken rowing machine. The lone weights machine is a safety hazard with no operating instructions and is in dire need of oiling.

The staff is friendly and I honestly believe that they try very hard. Unfortunately it's the result and not the effort that matters.

Every morning for three months, I gave my room number to the same lady at the breakfast buffet. It seems that she could never remember me. Maybe to her, all of us asians look alike. TO her credit however, she finally got it right during my last week but she never greeted me by name. In fact, none of the staff ever took the trouble to learn my name!

The breakfast spread is good but I missed the free apples that the Southern Sun always had for its guests. The coffee and tea is self-service so you get it instantaneously but it's not as fancy as the Sun's made-to-order cappucinos and latte.

Some tips:
1. Request for a room on the higher floors. The streets are very busy and very noisy. Every 8pm, there's a honey truck that drains the septic tank across the street and it's very loud and annoying.
2. Use the do not disturb sign! Housekeeping will come and clean your room at 8am. Even on Saturdays. And Sundays. WTF!?!
3. Laundry is very expensive. For the price of washing a shirt, I can do a whole week's worth at the same-day service Nannucci laundromat right behind the hotel.

Conclusion: 0
There was always a lot of Mandarin speaking tourists while I was there so I guess that's a good sign. If you're just looking for a place to stay while you're vacationing in Cape Town, The Fountain Hotel would be a good choice. The daily rate is cheaper than the Southern Sun's and if you're willing to overlook the pool and gym, it's really not that bad.
If you liked this review, you may also want to read my review of the Southern Sun: Cape Sun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Abakhaya at Mama Africa, Cape Town

African beats fused with jazz and an unbelievable vocalist who sings in an operatic tenor. It's a voice built for the opera crossed with African chutzpah. (bonus points for the rhyme?)

My mouth was agape with incredulity. Here was an African man in a sleeveless shirt hopping up and down a makeshift podium made of a pair of overturned plastic coke cases.

I wasn't surprised at the tourists hopping up and down with him and swaying rhythmically as if in a trance. I couldn't help myself either. The playful marimba complemented by the various percussions and jazz trumpeteer was just a rocking good time!

And such a familiar playlist! Sexual Healing, Don't Worry Be Happy, No Woman No Cry, Fallen; these songs were all performed African style with percussions, a killer marimba, trumpet solos topped with an opera-tenor voice and it just worked!

This is a mash-up to end all mash-ups!

I bought a CD from them but sad to say, it's just not the same. Abakhaya has played in many international venues and they are best experienced live.

Anyway let's talk about the food at Mama Africa. Surprise, surprise it is typically African. For starters, try the Snoek pate (ZAR32.5) which is similar to an open-faced tuna sandwich. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, order the wild game mixed grill (ZAR165) that has grilled kudu, ostrich, crocodile and springbok. You've seen them in the wild, now you can eat them.

For dessert, I recommend the banana flame (ZAR37) just for the theatrics. Finally, to top it all off-- order a double Amarula on crushed ice. Yum.

Rating: 0.5
Bonus points for the Michael Jackson-esque exclamations of "eeeheee!" (minus crotch grab) that punctuated some of the faster songs! This is a must-see if you're in Cape Town. Visit Mama Africa on Long St. Abakhaya performs during Wednesdays. The place gets packed really quick so make sure you call and reserve a seat.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Balut - Most Terrifying Food In The World?

"They are typically sold by street vendors at night, out of buckets of warm sand. You can spot the vendors because of their glowing red eyes, and the faint, otherworldly sound of children screaming."

In's funny tongue-in-cheek article of "The 6 Most Terrifying Foods in The World", Tim Cameron reviews ant eggs, baby mice wine, boiled sheep egg, casu marzu and balut. Can you guess which gets the top spot as the most terrifying food?

I think he's over-reacting but it definitely put a smile on my face. Read his review and let me know what you think.