Off to Gambia...

After 4 months in Guinea Bissau, I got my first taste of international travel and headed to Banjul. Staff welfare, yeah, the UN has that, let us take a bus and drive to Gambia. In the process, we crossed a couple of borders (Senegal, then Gambia) and were able to meet police, soldiers and border guards from all 3 countries.

I saw my first real traffic light, and got so excited I tried to take a picture. There were audible gasps from the other passengers on the bus...

As soon as we got there, I needed to withdraw. That's when I saw that money in Gambia is HUGE. It's so big, you could probably use it as a pilot light and light a bbq with it.  

Banjul isn't the prettiest of places, but what it lacks in charm, it more than makes up for in amenities. With its similar population size Gambia isn't any different from Guinea Bissau. Gambia's stroke of genius resides primarily in a successful attempt at tourism, rather than cashew nuts. And while tourism has brought on a series of ills --male prostitution that we did our best to avoid during our stay-- it sort of felt like Gambia got a better deal than Guinea Bissau. 

Ok, that sounded harsh, but there's an element of truth. Tourism has brought in much needed foreign revenues and a steady stream of amenities, and an organized customs process that allows goods to flow into the country. I think I carried back my weight in curry, spices, tofu, shower gel and soy sauce (yeah, Bissau ran out of soy sauce). Our crew also bought toilet paper, ziploc baggies and a random assortment of cosmetics, including tampons. I kid you not.

This is a shot of most of the stuff I brought back

Once we'd emptied the supermarkets of their contents, we returned to the Sheraton. I think the Sheraton in Gambia is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S, but that could be because it's where I had my first hot shower in months. All jokes aside, The pillows were fabulous, and the room had a sea-view.  It was so great, I am actually going to stop typing now and let the pictures speak for themselves...

This was the view from our room!

The fabulous view from the reception area made me realized that the Portuguese messed up BIG TIME by not having a capital city on the coast.

The sea was rough, so people mostly stayed by the pool

Yes, I went to the spa where I had amazing (and cheap) facials, body scrubs, and the whole bit...

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Yes, I am unabashedly American, and will search for a good hamburger in the unlikeliest of places

The sunset was fabulous

The food may not be great, but there is a much wider variety than what we get in Bissau. The quality of the building materials is also far higher than anything we get in Bissau. Overall, though, I'd rather eat in Bissau because the Western cuisine is just so much better there...  

It was so cold, the restaurant owner gave us blankets!