On the island of Ura Kidane Mehret 's monastery you find incredibly much tourist shops. I felt like walking in Lourdes (France) over there.
Although the sellers aren't as pushy as in many West-African countries, it can get on your nerves after a while.
Additionally, the prices are a multiple of the prices that you can find in Addis, so think twice before buying something here.
Bahir Dar is in the Malarial Zone. Most of Ethiopia is highlands and too high for mosquitoes. Unfortunately Bahir Dar is flat and low. The local government has made a lot of efforts to eradicate the mosquitoes and standing water in recent years. A local told me that you used to see people in the streets with malaria, but not recently. This does not make it 100% safe and you still need to take sensible precautions. If your hotel does not have air conditioning they should provide nets. (Mosquitoes will not bite in an air-conditioned room)
Be sure: Ethiopian priests don’t care about tourists’ souls, they prefer their wallets. Anytime I felt ripped off in Ethiopia , there was a priest around (well, once "the thief" was a taxi driver but that sounds more a normal thing).
Some illustrative examples:
*Kebran Gabriel Church, on Lake Tana (Bahir Dar). Only men allowed. Our boys paid the ticket to a kind of priest and took the path to visit the church. Ladies rest on the boat.
Boys’ surprise: the church was closed for restoration so no way to see the paintings inside. Money was not refund (here some ladies smiled).
**Abba Pantalewon Monastery ( Aksum ). Only men allowed. In the Official Tourism Office there was a kind of price list for all the museums and churches in Aksum . The ticket for this monastery cost 30 Birr. We climbed up until the monastery and when we arrived the priest said 50 Birr. Of course, the Official Tourism Office was wrong.
***Abba Pantalewon Monastery ( Aksum ). Only men allowed. I knew that (it was written on my guidebook) but the priest did not say anything, just held out his hand to us asking for 100 Birr. ONLY when I asked if I was allowed to visit the church me too he said “Only men!”. He wanted me to pay the same as a man and I could only visit a small museum, not the church with the paintings. I refused.
Of course it is a thing that tourists find out later, when the priest has their money in his pocket!
Because Bahir Dar is so flat, they have a lot of very deep and rough drainage ditches that run throughout the town. These are a real hazard and a few are very wide. You really need to watch where you are walking in town. During the rainy season you need to take care not to be swept into one or fall in. They are a lot deeper in places than you think!
If you choose to come here by bus, count on 1 or 2 incidents on the way. The roads, mostly unpaved, are horrible, specially in rainy season, when buses frequently get stucked in the mud. Beisdes, the buses are old and brek every nw and then. Drivers are expert mechanicals and ususlly repair the engines in less than 15 minutes, but if you travel by bus in Ethiopia be prepeared for looooong trips!
In some of the monasteries women are not allowed the visit, as it is an exclusive men's world. In some they don't even have cows, female sheeps or any female animal. If you are a woman and go visit the lake monasteries, take a book to kill the time while you wait at the embankment for the rest of the group in those monasteries.
I arrived to Bahir Dar by bus already at night (19:00h) and that is something I hate, as you can't get used to a city with daylight. As I was the only foreigner in the bus (the only white in fact), taxi drivers came to me as soon as I got down the bus. I had already a hotel in mind, but at night wasn't sure of how to get there by foot, so took a taxi. I made 1 MISTAKE: not arranging the fare previously. He just said, no proble, I'll take you to Ghion Hotel. In no more than 2 minutes we entered a garden by the lake. I knew tha hotel Ghion was by the lake so wasn't really worried. The driver came with me to the reception and asked the girl if they had rooms. He said they hadn't. I wanted to make sure so I asked too, having the same answer. No problem, he said, I'll take you to a nice place I know. Optionless, I let him take me in the taxi to his place. It happened to be a filthy local pension that wanted to charge me 100B (10USD) for a room. I say NO and want to pay the taxi. But then he asks me for 45B, which for a 2 minutes ride in Ethiopia is quite a lot. I say I won't pay more than 15, we have a little argue, but after me mentioning the police, I finally give him 20 and start walking.
Then I take the map (which I should have done from the beginning) and walk to the REAL Ghion Hotel, which happened to be side by side to the first place the driver took me (which was really a restaurant where a friend of the driver made me think I was at the Ghion Hotel).
At last at Ghion Hotel, I could book a room.
Don´t take pictures on the Blue Nile Bridge! There is a road block and your film will be confiscated if the soldiers see you taking pictures. Better walk a few metres further or go to the Haile Selassie Palace to take a shot of the Blue Nile outlet!
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