top of page

South Africa Day One: Johannesburg

PHOTO: Queue for border control at Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International (c) Sery Kim

After a grueling 14 1/2 hour flight from J.FK. to Johannesburg -- the actual flying by South African Airways was impeccable but being seated next to a screaming baby, in economy class (hate flying economy longer than 3 hours), is its own form of death -- the last thing I wanted to do was queue for two hours to get into South Africa. Unfortunately for me, upon arrival at 8 am on a Sunday, this was the sight that greeted me. Exhausted passengers from all over the world waiting to get into South Africa. Thankfully O.R. Tambo International has free wi-fi. Even if its only 500 MB, since South African Airways has not yet retrofitted their planes to have wi-fi, it gave me a chance to catch up. Mostly I just read my book and waited for the time to pass before I could get a nice warm shower.

PHOTO: My tremendously amazing book and wine on my balcony at The Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg (c) Sery Kim

Johannesburg, itself, is not a natural choice for me as a tourist destination. From what I can gather from both history and rumors, Johannesburg tends to be more of an industrial town whereas Cape Town (the one I prefer of the two) is more artsy: filled with a rising culinary scene, great artists, lots of young people and a sense of opportunity. If Cape Town was a political party it would be the Opposition and Johannesburg would be the Establishment.

We stayed at The Maslow Hotel, about a 45 minute drive from the airport. There isn't really anything particularly remarkable about this hotel other than the affordability. Actually, EVERYTHING in South Africa seems super affordable -- and not just because I was on a budget media trip (my first ever budget media trip, I might add). The hotel, even at a media discount rate, was less than $100, and I got a massive suite, including a balcony with seemingly endless views of Johannesburg, as well as the best surprise EVER.


PHOTO: Shower at The Maslow Hotel (c) Sery Kim

Owned by Sun International, The Maslow Hotel markets itself as a four-star property aimed at the business traveler. I could see that. As someone who incessantly travels for business, I could see how the hotel's configuration was designed for the business person in two regards. First, they had multiple adapter plugs built into the wall unit including USB plugs right by both sides of the bed. Critical, critical, critical. I can't even begin to tell you how many hotels goof up the adapter and plugs issue -- and sometimes even lacking proper wi-fi. For me, I always judge a hotel, when I am on a media trip, on whether they have solid wi-fi and adapters. Of course, I travel with an entire bag fill of adapters (various ones for various countries accumulated over the last 20 months of non-stop travel) but I will never stop testing a hotel to see if they are prepared.

Second, I test a hotel on their shower and bed. If the shower's hot water is inadequate, I ding the hotel immediately. I want a super hot shower, the kind where my skin looks like a lobster when I am done. I know, I know! It's technically considered bad for my skin but that's the kind of shower which relaxes me. I do, for those who care for TMI, lather myself in lotion each time I get out of the shower so I don't think it's all-together too bad for me.

One of the most surprising elements of South Africa is, in fact, how ridiculously hot the showers can get. Typically, I have to turn the dial all the way to the other side for me to get even a respectable amount of hot water but not in South Africa. Not ANYWHERE in South Africa, not even on safari where the heated water is solar generated. The hot water is scalding almost ... and I loved it.

The beds are decent, a very hard European style. Nothing to complain too much about because I really only expect soft beds at luxury resorts now but it would have been a great surprise.

PHOTO: My awesome $7 necklace bought in Johannesburg (c) Sery Kim

For our Johannesburg Sunday Funday activity, we headed over to Arts on Main in the new hip neighborhood of Maboneng. Think Williamsburg 15 years ago. Or 14th Street in D.C. three years ago and Union Market now. Lots of boutiques. Tons great food stalls. Awesome people and vibe. We didn't eat there which is a total shame because I wasn't too keen on my lunch (seasoning was off and the temperature was cold), but I did have some great gelato made by La Cremosa which only cost me $3. LOVE THE EXCHANGE RATE IN SOUTH AFRICA!!!

PHOTO: My traditional South African meal at Plata Plata (c) Sery Kim

PHOTO: My fabulous coffee and stracciatella gelato (c) Sery Kim

I also managed to find me some great wooden craft earrings for $7 as well. Now that I shared it on social media, and so many of my friends want it, I should have bought more. Oh well. Maybe at the airport later today ...

PHOTO: My beautiful handcrafted wooden earrings made by InKaturah (c) Sery Kim

Otherwise, my first day in Johannesburg was light. I was crushed under the weight of jet lag. Don't know why, lately, I have more and more jet lag other than the fact that I travel less now than before so my body has more downtime to adjust to being normal rather than just trying to survive 300,000 - 400,000 miles of flying a calendar year.

Perhaps I'll come back to do more exploring of Johannesburg but if I do come back to South Africa it will be for Cape Town first and foremost. No doubt about it.

PHOTO: Art gallery inside Art on Main (c) Sery Kim

PHOTO: Shoes for sale at Art on Main (c) Sery Kim

PHOTO: Maboneng Art District (c) Sery Kim

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page