Saturday, October 8, 2022

[ADDIS ABABA] The 17-hr Layover

So, you’ve been to Morocco and want to boost your country count in the big continent but not that adventurous? One option for you is a day tour of Addis Ababa within the comforts of a 17-hr Ethiopian Airlines layover. This airline flies from Manila to Bangkok before heading to Addis Ababa as a transit point for your next destination. Since it offered the cheapest flight from Southeast Asia to Israel, I thought, hey, why not? But not without hassles. Let’s talk about them here.

First off, Philippine passport holders need a visa to Ethiopia, but we are now part of the eVisa group, which you apply for online on their official website: Long story short, they took my $50, promised to deliver the damn visa to my email in 3 days, and never gave me any updates after that. Even sending follow-up emails to the email address which is linked to Ethiopian Airlines itself resulted in nothing. The phone lines were not working. And then it was the day of my flight.

I was pissed because they had almost two weeks to process that damn visa, only to find out at Suvarnabhumi when I received the complimentary layover hotel stub at the check-in counter that the damn visa was not necessary for layover passengers. This was not made clear at all, and you will even find some info on Ethiopian Airlines’ website saying that the free layover hotel is only meant for transit passengers who are eligible for Visa on Arrival. Anyway, immigration just let me in without fanfare upon landing.

They choose the layover hotel for you, after which you go to the Ethiopian Airlines desk after passing through Customs and they will point you toward the direction of your shuttle bus. I was assigned to a certain Hotel Washington, which has seen better days. I immediately booked a day tour on Viator last minute at 7 AM for the day tour starting at 9:30 AM. The tour guide Endy negotiated a 10:30 departure and I agreed. The tour consists of Entoto Park, National Museum, and the open-air Mercato.

When we were about to leave, one of the hotel staff at the reception made a scene and said I “couldn’t” leave. She said “it wasn’t safe”. At this point I thought that she had doubts about the tour guide and was genuinely concerned. Or maybe there is some COVID restriction for transit passengers I didn’t know about? Long story short, she accompanied me to my room and asked for a “tip” because it was a holiday and she wanted to buy something for her kid. I gave her $10. Wow. That went from “concerned for my safety” to “bribe me, biatch” real fast.

It was foggy in Addis Ababa the whole day I was there, and what really surprised me was the 17 C weather. Like, I thought Africa was supposed to be hot? Since I am not amenable to colder climes and I was not suited up for the occasion, my body reacted fast and I was already feeling sick by the time we reached the museum. And so I asked Endy to cut Mercato from the itinerary because I am not interested in crowded market places anyway and just take me back to my hotel so I can sleep before my flight.

As for the attractions, Entoto Park was legit nice. It’s nestled along the cliffs of the Entoto Mountain which serves as a natural border between Addis Ababa and neighboring region Oromiya. The main attraction there are the trio of Singapore Super Tree wannabes situated on a viewing deck that gives you a generous view of Addis Ababa down below. The park has no entrance fee and can easily be reached by car, about 40 minutes from the capital. I don’t have any idea how to get there via public transportation.

Once you are done taking your selfie as the replacement letter T of the giant E-H-I-O-P-I-A letters, Endy then drives you to the National Museum to visit the remains of Lucy, that ancestor of ours, or some of her bones at least, that was discovered in Ethiopia. That’s at the basement. The museum has several floors featuring cultural and historical wonders of the country. It is very educational because it’s not just Ethiopia’s history but that of our species as well, considering how Ethiopia claims to be the cradle of human civilization.

[ADDIS ABABA] The 17-hr Layover

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