There is something about Haie Vive that I can’t seem to get enough of: Maybe, somehow it feels like home. Or maybe it’s the calm and quiet yet boisterousness of its night life or the outlook it has of promising you a wonderful stay.
From the foremost cuisines of this world I can boldly say that, the only restaurant that is not present in Haie Vive is a Mexican one, feels like all otheree has found a cute opening there.
Haie Viva is loud without any noise.
This little segment of Cotonou, in The Republic of Benin, an intersection from the main Cadjehoun road, right after the roundabout is my hideaway. When the world comes across as being a little unfair or I find a weekend where I can squeeze in a little break, I just pack my bags down ‘home’ to Haie Vive; Where I have got a lovely vegetable market a few walks from my hotel; and the abundance of lovely restaurants and pubs. My favorite pub there is on open air local pub, Tell - Centre: It’s just right at the entrance of Haie Vive, overlooking my Favorite Shawama restaurant, Karim 24 and above it the, Haie King Chinese restaurant. And also on that same building, beside Karim 24 is the Ice Cream shop Festival de Glace.
You see this sort of assortment almost everywhere in Haie Vive. And behind this street there are a lot of interesting finds, and a clever short cut to the International airport and the beach.
Haie Vive is like my launching pad to everywhere I plan on visiting in Benin. And once you get the French pronunciation right, you can never get lost.
OK. This is slightly bizarre. There are 2 Ecobanks off of the Rue des Hindous. This is the second one as you walk south. Its actually their Head Office here. They do foreign currency - at a great rate - fee free. Also they are more than willing to give you small useful notes - the 1000 and 2000 CFA notes. New ones. Just be polite and ask nicely and you shall receive.
There are a lot of Ecobanks, but this one is the best. Several blocks south of the Marché Ganhi. Its a few blocks west of the Notre Dame des Apotres Cathedral (Red and White stripes).
They also do Western Union services and have an ATM.
Cotonou does not have a lot of places selling postcards, and they are hard to find. If you go to the steps of the main Post Office and turn around - you will see some stalls to your right (first picture). It may look like they just sell stationery and household goods. They actually have hundreds, if not thousands of Postcards between them. Just go over and ask (carte postale in French). Suddenly boxes and chests are opened and the cards appear. I found that only one of the stall holders would actually negotiate on price per card plus a group discount. I bought 25. I have a picture of her stall (photo 2), but she would not let me take her picture.
So if you need some postcards - just pop over and speak to the, they are there even when the Post Office closes for lunch. The Post Office operates Monday - Saturday
Visas for most passport holders are available at 10,000 CFA on main border points. I entered at Hilakondji, the main land border between Togo and Benin. I did get hassle from some fat woman (who barely fit in her) uniform. She started with "You should have gotten a visa before you arrived here". Had the *** stoped watching the TV (wildlife documentary) and not been on her mobile phone - I could have stated the bleeding obvious. Benin has no Embassy in the UK! Anyway, the other tourists were handeled swiftly and efficiently by her colleagues who were busy doing work. I was there for 30 minutes. The taxi driver was not impressesd. Make sure you don't let this woman process you ! Otherwise its a 5 minute process. Easy.
PLEASE NOTE: This is only a 48 hour Visa!
You have to go to the following Minstry and pay another 12,000 CFA for a 30-day Visa
Direction Générale de l'Emigration et Immigration
Ave Jean Paul II, Cotonou
Tel : (229) 21 30 83 45
Fax : (229) 21 30 18 51
E-mail : email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Site Internet : www.finance.gouv.bj
You need a passport photo and wait 2 days.
Applications accepted: 8am - 11am, 3pm - 5pm Monday to Friday
Collect your Visa: 11am - 12:30pm, 5pm - 6:30pm 2 weekdays later
Fondation Zinsou is a contemporary gallery specialising in African arts and culture exhibitions. When I visited we saw an exhibition about the Malian photographer Malick Sidibe which showed examples of his work, his cameras and had descriptions of his life and methods of working.
The gallery has excellent facilities – it is very modern and there is a cafe on the ground floor, and an educational room on the first floor. The bookshop has the best collection of books on African art and culture I have ever seen in one place ! Unfortunately they are all in French.
Check the website for future exhibitions and opening times, as information was a little sparse.
Obama beach is a new beach facility in the western part of Cotonou, not far from the airport. The beaches in Benin are normally not too safe, but this beach has security guards. Entry fee is 1000 CFA (1,5 USD). The vistors are mostly middle class african.
Porto Novo is only 30 km and 45 minutes drive to the East of Cotonou, close to the border with Nigeria and is actually the capital of Benin, but has been overtaken in size and population by Cotonou.
Porto Novo is well worth visiting for a day trip from Cotonou.
The Kings of Porto Novo can be traced back from 1688 up until King Toffa signed the Kingdom over to the French in 1883 for protection against the Kings of Dahomey who would have sold the people as slaves. The palace is now a museum and the last king lived there until the 1970's. The palace complex has a lovely courtyard with a collection of scrap metal sculptures. Inside the history and lifestyle of the Kings is documented.
The Ethnographic Museum is located in an old colonial building and explains the importance of birth, life and death on society and there is a floor devoted to the importance of the Yoruba masks and their messages.
When you have had enough history, a visit to the Songhai centre will bring you bang up to date. This is a centre for sustainable agriculture and it is well worth spending at least a couple of hours here. Many types of fruit and vegetables are grown here, animals are raised and there is a fish farm, water filtration plant and fruit juice production. You can see how each section creates the bio-fuels to allow the other sections to function and how everything is used with no waste. Look out for the NERICA rice (New Rice for Africa) which grows here - adapted to grow in harsh African conditions and developd by a Beninese company. After the tour you can sample the organic produce in the restaurant.
See my Porto Novo pages for more details
Since there are basically no cars serving as taxis the common "moyen de deplacement" meaning vehicle of transport is called "semijan". This is a motocycle with a driver dressed in a yellow shirt who will take you on the back of the cycle anywhere in Cotonou even in the remotest small little road for 150 CFA up to 1000 to 3000 FCFA depending on the distance. The "only"problem with that are the high pollution in the streets as well as a big danger of having an accident. It was said that everyday there is at least one big accident where a "semijan" is involved...
Right behind Cotonou there is the Laguna "Lac Nokue" which is mainly sweet water but because of the connection with the sea salty water also enters the laguna (the connection was man made around 1900). Inside this lake you will find a veritable town built on pillars - the people who live there are called the Tofinu and the population of Ganvie is about 20000 person, probably a lot more.
From Cotonou it is only a 45 minutes to the embarkation point for Ganvie. It is a village entirely built on the water with over 20.000 inhabitants. The boat fee is fixed and non negociable. It is a nice outing just for 1/2 a day.
The keke ride is one of the things i like to enjoy whenever i visit. I want to know the town almost like the back of my hand, and the best way to go about this is riding around town on a nice keke
Two bridges (Ave du Nouveau and Pont Anciem) cross the river from lake Nokoue and divide the city in two. The area around is poor and many of the houses are dilapidated.
Colombe de la Paix statue shows a woman holding a dove of peace. The statue is located close to the intersection of Avenida Clozel and the eastern end of Boulevard de la Marina (Beach road).