We recently had family visiting over the holidays. We wanted to be good hosts, and we wanted to do some things that were different for us, too. After all, how many times does a person really need to see the Grand Palace or Wat Pho? A dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya has been something my gal and I have wanted to do. But neither of particularly enjoy the idea of being on a crowded boat filled with tourists lining up for the buffet (which will have at least a couple of dishes with hot dogs in it), lining up for a bar that serves watery drinks, or to a bathroom that looks like it’s been destroyed. That’s when a friend suggested to me that we check out Supanniga Cruise (official Facebook page).
Unlike the larger dinner cruise lines that patrol the river at night blasting music, Supanniga Cruise offers a 40-seat dinner cruise with soft lounge music setting the mood. Instead of large unappetizing buffets, they offer a 6-course dinner course with the menu pulled from their famous restaurant favorites. Instead of bar queues and watery drinks, Supanniga offers a flute of Taittinger Champagne on arrival and excellent signature cocktails, beers, and wines on their bar menu–which is quickly serviced to your table.
But let’s get right to the food, shall we?
I am not ashamed to admit that I had no idea what an “amuse bouche” was. Basically it’s a little appetizer or as in this case, a pre-appetizer. We began our culinary adventure with a simple Coconut Rice Cake topped with caramelized sweetened coconut shavings and edible gold flake. It’s a good accompaniment with the champagne and a great way to get the appetizer going…
For more appetizers!
Each person was given a selection of three appetizers. A unique appetizer was the Mahor. This was basically minced pork, stir fried with garlic and peanuts, which was set on an orange slice with a bit of chili and coriander. Spice and orange slice…that kicks the tastebuds around a bit.
Another appetizer was the Sreng Wa Pu Pladuk Foo. This bowl consisted of large lumps of Surat Thani crab meat with a floss-like crispy catfish. It was accompanied with a sweet Thai herb dressing that seemed to dissolve the catfish before my eyes.
My personal favorite appetizer was the Kratong Tong. I could eat these ALL day. The appetizer consists of spicy minced chicken (similar to larb) in an edible crispy cup. It came with two. I’d have happily eaten twenty.
After the appetizers we received the soup. We enjoyed the creamy Tom Kha Pla Krapong Mapraow-On. For those who are not familiar with this Thai soup, it’s tender sea bass in a creamy coconut broth with mushrooms, tomatoes, and slices of young coconut meat. It’s topped with coriander and a red chili. I would caution anyone from eating that chili. It’ll fire you up!
With Supanniga Cruise sharing is caring!
The mains were put on larger dishes meant to be shared with everyone at the table. There were five main courses and the portions were perfect for sharing (we were a table of five).
The Pu Ja dish is one of my favorites. Imagine meatballs of seasoned crab meat blended with pork which is stuffed back in the crab shell and steamed until cooked. Yum! Make sure you scrape all that goodness out of the shell!
Moo Cha Muang
This Moo Cha Muang is amazing over rice! This dish is loaded with chunks of tender pork stewed with Thai herbs and Cha Muang leaves. This feels like comfort food, but there’s a lot of flavor there, too.
With my mother-in-law present, this dish seemed appropriate to have on the menu. The Son-in-Law Eggs is a simple dish of fried medium boiled eggs with three-flavor sauce and fried shallots. For me it was the Asian equivalent to “deviled eggs”, so there was no problem having it at the dinner table.
Yum Nue Lai
This Yum Nue Lai dish is made with sliced chewy beef shank that’s tossed with a spicy Thai dressing and garnished with lots of fried garlic. I love those garlic crunchy bits.
Choo Chi Goong
If you’re like me and you love seafood, you can see that I saved the best main to talk about last. Just look at it! This Choo Chi Goong dish is made with giant prawns that are sautéed in a sweet and spicy Thai curry. The prawns are cooked and seasoned perfectly. The sauce is also amazing to mop up with any rice you have left over from the meal!
This was a very uniquely presented Mango and Sticky Rice. The mango is sliced thin and shaped to create a flower. The “flower” rests on a pad of sticky sweet rice, which is surrounded by a thick coconut cream sauce. It’s the perfect size after the large meal, so you don’t overstuff yourself.
After dessert we were offered tea and petits fours (very tiny nibbles to accompany the tea).
A word about drinks….
The drink menu offers some very interesting signature cocktails which range from 320 – 450 baht. These are some pretty serious libations, too. I really enjoyed the When James Bond Visits BKK (320 baht) cocktail. I am a fan of gin and this bay leave infused gin martini was pretty amazing to me.
They also offer a large selection of champagnes, and white and red wines. All can be purchased by bottle with varying prices. However, there’s only one selection available by glass.
How do I find out more and book?
The downstairs section…
The upstairs section…
Supanniga Cruise offers both an evening cocktail cruise and a full on dinner cruise (in this review). To find out more about their prices, schedules, and itineraries visit their website.
For my family and I we paid 3,250/person (though they do have a 10% discount for prepayment), and departed the River City Pier #2 at 6:15 pm. The cruise lasted a little over 2 hours, and it was a great way to show my family the sites along the Chao Phraya River which were lit up at night.
If you’re looking for a more intimate dinner cruise with excellent food, drinks, and service I highly recommend Supanniga Cruise.
Many folks who live in Bangkok are familiar with Papa’s Kitchen (official Facebook page). Its name is synonymous with amazing burgers. In fact, you’re probably reading this now because of the amazing burger pictured on the cover, right? But there’s more to this place than burgers. Much, much, more. But the burgers are certainly a great start!
Let’s get straight to it then, shall we?
Their number #1 seller…
All of Papa’s Kitchen’s burger meals come with a side of fries, waffle fries, or salad. This is Papa’s Kitchen’s #1 seller, the simple Bacon Cheese Burger (350 baht). It’s 160 grams of beef on a brioche bun topped with crispy bacon and chunks of real imported cheddar cheese. All of the Papa’s Kitchen beef patties are made with Australian beef from Hunter Valley. All burgers are cooked medium and the patties are seasoned simply using fresh ground pepper and sea salt–the meat is so good it doesn’t need to be doctored up. The brioche buns are specially made locally by Maison Jean Philippe according to Papa’s Kitchen’s own recipe.
This is a great burger to satisfy your cravings. The burger to bun ratio has been perfected here. You can eat this and be perfectly happy. But if you’re feeling like your Instagram account could use some food porn pictures then you may want to consider this monster….
The Guv’nor Burger (455 baht) is the perfect fuel for triathletes (assuming “eating” is one of the three sport competitions) or for those who are looking for a shortcut to boost their Instagram viewership and/or Nap City. This monster burger is made with a 220 gram beef patty, chunks of real imported cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, beer battered onion strings, lettuce, wasabi coleslaw, in-house BBQ sauce, and a homemade jalapeño pickle to crown this sandwich achievement! When it hits your table your response should be “WOW!” and your first action should be to loosen your belt.
But if burgers are not your thing, Papa’s Kitchen has other menu items that will equally impress you!
Load it up!
If you’re used to getting chicken sandwiches that are more bun than chicken then you’re about to have your world changed here. This Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (285 baht) is loaded with yard bird. In fact, it’s 250 grams of tender buttermilk marinated thigh meat! The chicken is batter dipped and fried, then tossed with in house made buffalo sauce. It’s served with homemade ranch dressing, and wasabi coleslaw, between two soft brioche buns.
This is the #1 non-beef selling sandwich and there’s no question as to why. It’s amazing. The chicken is succulent and reminiscent of tender, flavorful, boneless buffalo style chicken wings. The skin is intentionally left on so you get that nice crisp texture–naughty! As far as flavor experience and meal quantity go, this sandwich can easily go toe to toe with Papa’s Kitchen burgers. So if you’re not a fan of beef, you won’t be disappointed here!
Bangkok’s best fish n’ chips!
If you’re looking for fish n’ chips, Papa’s Kitchen has got what you need. Honestly this is the best fish experience I’ve had from a fish n’ chips meal here in Bangkok. I’ve lived in the United Kingdom for a couple of years, and am no stranger to this comforting dish.
Here at Papa’s kitchen you have two choices in fish: cod or haddock. I had the haddock upgrade Fish n’ Chips (395 baht). This comes with a skin on, thick 200 gram boneless haddock filet that’s lightly battered and fried. The skin basically dissolves adding a rich flavor to the filet. The batter seasoning is a closely guarded secret, and it’s perfectly seasoned. It brings out the flavor of the flaky filet without overpowering it. Accompanied with homemade tartar sauce, this fish is so good you’ll forget there are chips on the plate!
Papa’s Kitchen has a dizzying variety of drinks at very reasonable prices. During this visit I sampled the Papa’s Manao Soda (85 baht), a Peach Tea (110 baht), and a decadent S-nickers shake (165 baht). My personal favorite was the thirst quenching manao soda–perfect for the Bangkok heat. However the peach tea, with it’s chunks of sweet peaches, were excellent with the buffalo chicken sandwich. The S-nickers ice cream shake was more like a dessert for me. It’s made with peanut butter, caramel sauce, chocolate ice cream, and whipped cream. It’s just like the candy bar but in a thick shake form!
Papa’s Kitchen also offers several craft beer, cocktail, and wine options for those wanting to imbibe a bit. All are reasonably priced, and they always offer daily wallet friendly drink specials for 199 baht (during this visit it was a Pineapple Rum Mojito).
A chat with the owner…
I was able to spend this visit chatting up Papa Kitchen’s owner, Jim Moroney. Jim hails from London, United Kingdom and began his career in the restaurant business early at the age of 15 as a chef. He quickly demonstrated himself in the restaurant world and after one particularly hectic 9 year period in which he personally opened 31 separate restaurants he decided it was time to take a break. That break landed him in Bangkok 10 years ago.
Unable to sit idle too long, he began some joint restaurant ventures until he finally decided 4 years ago to strike it out on his own with his wife, Julie. Papa’s Kitchen has the menu foundation (burgers and fish n’ chips) from his original enterprises, but also includes pastas, pizzas, and a few other comfort food mains.
Over half of the customers that frequent Papa’s Kitchen are weekly visitors. Thus Jim has designed a specials menu to keep things new. “Specials” doesn’t mean leftovers or things they are trying to sell out quickly. The specials board usually includes a burger, a pasta, and a healthy lo-carb fish choice. It’s important to Jim that his loyal customers enjoy these “special” offerings. In Jim’s words, “It’s a special because it’s special.”
“My staff are family.” – Jim Moroney
Jim’s goal is to provide diners with a 5 star experience in both meal and service, but without having to pay a 5 star price. His staff are critical to ensuring customers get that experience. Jim understands this and has taken great efforts to train and mentor his employees. In fact, he has retained 95% of his original employees since Papa’s Kitchen opened its doors 4 years ago. That’s incredible in Bangkok’s restaurant industry!
Papa’s Kitchen can accommodate!
That’s a tasty burger!
Papa’s Kitchen Upstairs
It’s amazing how Papa’s Kitchen transformed this shophouse into this dining space. It’s very open, well lit, and tastefully decorated. There’s also plenty of seating on the first and second floors, as well as some outside tables in the front. They are easily able to accommodate you or any group size!
I’m hungry! Where is it?
It’s unfortunate that Papa’s Kitchen isn’t located closer to a BTS or MRT station. But for those willing to make the trek you will be rewarded. They are located on Soi Phatthanakan 30. I took a motorcycle taxi from the On Nut BTS station to get there, and alternatively you can take a taxi from the Petchaburi MRT station to get there.
Papa’s kitchen is currently developing a new and exciting restaurant location in the Bangkok suburbs that will be announced soon. Staying tuned to their Facebook page for future news and updates on their monthly and midweek promotions is a smart play.
For those not wanting to make the trek, Food Panda can be your friend here. The menu and prices are the same as the restaurant (but without the specials). I highly recommend Papa’s Kitchen for a great 5 star meal and experience without having to pay a 5 star price!
It’s no secret that I love good food. But one thing that I love just as much as good food is a good craft beer. There are many bars in Bangkok that focus on offering a bevy of craft beers (some with seemingly endless rows of taps). But Hair of the Dog (official website) focuses on offering the best craft beer experience in Bangkok. It’s why they’ve won Ratebeer’s Best Bar in Thailand every year since opening 2015, 2016, and 2017.
When I discovered they also serve up an interesting food menu, this seemed like the perfect place to take my two blogger buddies, BKK JUNK and The Roaming Cook, for a “brotastic” collaborative review of the beer and chow!
As it’s a craft beer bar, let’s start with the suds!
Hair of the Dog – Curating the best beers in Bangkok!
I’m not writing about each and every beer I tried because they frequently rotate their selection of brews. I’d hate for you to be disappointed if they don’t have a particular beer I mention when you visit. Instead I will tell you a little bit about their beers that’s going to make you thirsty for one!
Hair of the Dog offers 15 rotating taps (with more to come) of the best craft beers available. It’s not the “what’s on sale” beer pushed by distributors. The owners try the beers before they buy the beers. They are very knowledgable about craft beer and very selective with what they serve.
They proudly feel they are “curating the best“. As a result you can’t go wrong getting a beer there.Prices range accordingly, and there is a “tap of the month” served up in a large glass offered as low as 200 baht..
The tap beers are usually poured in bottle sized amounts (12 oz) so that you can get a fair sampling of beers. Unless you’re Andre the Giant, you don’t want a pint sized glass of 15% ABV brew. The bar staff are very knowledgable and will enthusiastically make recommendations based on your tastes and offer samples to make sure you get exactly what you want.
What about bottled beer?
Maybe you’re missing a particular bottled brew from home. Maybe you want to have a label to look at while you’re enjoying your beer. Hair of the Dog offers between 150-200 bottled beers from around the world. The prices range from the budget friendly Moosehead (100 baht) to a 750 ml bottle of very rare, barrel aged 15% brew (1,500 baht). The average bottle range is 260 baht (and there’s a 20% discount for takeaways). You’re certain to find a good bottle in your price range!
Let’s talk food!
One thing that attracted me to reviewing Hair of the Dog was their food menu. Don’t expect a large restaurant sized menu. This is a bar. But each dish on the menu is certainly meant to be enjoyed with a good beer or after a few beers. Let me show you what I mean…
Note: the food menu at the Hair of the Dog Phrom Phong branch (in this review) differs from what’s available at their Phloen Chit branch.
Cheesy Larb Balls that fire up your thirst!
If you’re a traditional Thai cuisine enthusiast then you will be horrified by this dish. However, if you want to fire up your taste buds and prime your mouth for more beer consumption, these spicy Cheesy Larb Balls (200 baht) will do the trick! These meatballs are made with spicy pork with a melty cheese curd in the center and is served with homemade coleslaw.
Finger licking good!
These Buffalo Chicken Tenders (220 baht) are so pretty they deserved to be on this article cover. They’re made with fried lightly battered boneless chicken breasts smothered in spicy buffalo wing sauce with blue cheese dressing drizzled over it. This is some great beer snack here!
What’s a “poutine”?
I’d never heard of this dish before, nor realized how serious it is to my friends north of the USA. Poutine originates from Canada’s Quebec province and is basically French fries, cheese curds, and a brown gravy sauce. This Classic Canadian Poutine (220 baht) was given an enthusiastic approval by my buddy, BKK JUNK, a native of Quebec!
The cheese curds are legit, and the gravy is rich and flavorful. The very south of the border twist with the jalapeños is unusual but it works. It’s also served in a styrofoam takeaway package so this could be a great dish to order on your way out when you’ve had a few beers under your belt!
Finally! Carb-loading done right….
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had a few nights in my life where I’ve walked out of a the bar when all food places are closed. This is Bangkok…it’s not unusual. On my way home I’d picture in mind the perfect sandwich I planned to make before hopping into bed. Maybe it looked like this picture.
But this isn’t what I made. What I made came out a little burned (okay a lot) and had me knocking blaring smoke detectors off my ceilings (there are 4 floors in my shophouse and smoke seems to rise).
If something similar has happened to you, let Hair of the Dog save you from burning your house down. Save yourself the trouble of airing out your house and and get a good night sleep after your night of imbibing. This Grilled Mac n Cheese (280 baht) is the thing to get if you’ve had a few!
A chat with the owners…
I was able to coordinate the visit with the owners of Hair of the Dog, Mike and Pete. They both met while building up the Mikkeller Bangkok branch. They worked well together and decided to build their own brand and take the craft beer experience to a new direction. Their goals: elevate the craft beer experience, and educate the next generation of craft beer enthusiasts.
The Hair of the Dog bar was designed with these goals in mind. To create a unique social vibe there are no low seating chairs and no roaming service staff. This encourages customers to mingle at the bar. Additionally, the 80’s, 90’s, alternative and hip hop music is kept to an acceptable level in which folks can hold a conversation. It is a place for making connections, and loners will easily find others to socially bond over drinks with.
Their first Hair of the Dog branch opened in the Phloen Chit area in July, 2015 and based on that success the new branch opened in Phrom Phong. They wanted both locations to be in places that were easily accessible for Bangkok workers to get to (both near BTS stations) after a long day’s work so that they could continue to cultivate a good following of regulars.
Beer kept cold from the brewer to the bar tap!
Mike and Pete try before they buy. They seek out the craft beers that are not just good, but also interesting and a good value. Both are very active in the craft beer community. Staying current on craft beer trends is important to them as they want to “curate the best” for their customers.
Curating the best means buying the best craft beer and handling and serving it the way it’s meant to be served. When designing the bar the most expensive thing installed was the tap system. Both are passionate about maintaining the “cold chain” from the brewer to bar tap. Even the lines leading from the keg to the tap are chilled. You will always get a cold beer here.
They are equally passionate about educating their customers. There are no “beer sample flights” on the menu. They are not needed. If you want to try something the bar staff are happy to pour a small sample. Additionally all of the bar staff are very knowledgeable about craft beer and what they have in their inventory. You’ll find them quite eager to find the right beer for you.
Here’s a video from our day enjoying some fine craft beers and solid bar food. The filming and editing is a la BKK JUNK who really had his work cut out for him!
I’m thirsty and hungry! Where is it?
The Hair of the Dog Phrom Phong branch is located an easy walking distance from the Phrom Phong BTS station on the Villa Market Alley that connects to Sukhumvit Soi 33/1. This is a great place to come alone or with friends. Non-beer drinking friends will also feel welcome here as they have a solid cocktail menu ranging from 200-300 baht from their cocktail bar “The Clinic” located on their mezzanine.
They are open from 5pm to midnight Monday through Friday, and 11am to midnight on weekends. For a real “Hair of the Dog” experience, roll in before 4pm on the weekend so that you can visit the Breakfast Story on their second floor and have a beer with your eggs and bacon!
The below map is to their Phrom Pong location (which was reviewed). Their other location, the Hair of the Dog Phloen Chit branch is located here.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at a Meetup event attended by fellow travel enthusiasts in Bangkok. I was asked to speak about a country that folks might find interesting. So I decided to speak about my previous country of residence, Niger. As nervous as I was to speak in public, I rather enjoyed the experience! Folks also seemed to enjoy the presentation and there were a few that were even interested in traveling to Niger.
Before moving to Niger I tried to do some research on what I should expect living there. There wasn’t much out there on the Internet that got me excited to be going. In fact, most of it was pretty scary stuff about kidnappings and terrorist activities. I recently looked online and there still just isn’t much information out there for folks interested in traveling to Niamey, Niger.
Since I lived there for 2 years from 2014-2016 I have some knowledge that I can contribute. It’s different than my usual food or travel articles–because I lived there. But it’s a story worth telling and this blog is my podium to an Internet audience. I do hope you find this useful.
Get a cup of coffee and strap in…
You will find this to be a much longer article than what I usually write. There is also a lot more pictures. That’s because there’s a lot of information gaps out there and I want to cover the topic thoroughly. There is a lot to see and do in Niamey that deserves some coverage. Even so, I couldn’t possibly cover EVERYTHING so it’s just the broad strokes. I am happy to cover any particular information gaps you find as well as provide more recommendations if you contact me.
Who goes there?
Niger doesn’t exactly have a booming tourist industry. But there are many folks who visit or live there that work in NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations). There are also travel enthusiasts who want to “cross off” Niger from their lists. For those who are traveling to Niamey, Niger for whatever reason this article can be your one stop recommendation source for things to do and see, places to stay, and places to eat.
Note that I have not included prices on food or attractions. Those things may have changed by now and are sure to change in the future.
But first a quick overview and introduction for those that may not have even heard of the country of Niger.
Where is it?
Most folks might not know where Niger is. In the course of my 24 years of military service I’ve received some orders to places that had me scratching my head, but when I received my orders to go to Niamey, Niger I really had to grab a map. To this day I still have family and friends that think I lived in Nigeria. Niger is not Nigeria (no matter how many times your iPhone tries to autocorrect it).
If you’re not familiar with where Niger is you will find it located in that sweet garden spot of Northwest Africa. To the north it is bordered by Mali, Algeria, and Libya. Nigeria borders most of the country’s south. You’ll find Burkina Faso and Benin bordering the west, and Chad bordering the east. I joke when I say it’s in a sweet garden spot since it’s got some pretty unstable neighbors with some really nasty transnational terrorist organizations calling the area home. This landlocked country is also 80% covered by the Sahara Desert.
Niger lacks many resources…
Niger consistently makes the list of top 10 poorest countries in the world. In 2017 it was ranked as #6 with a Gross Domestic Product Per Capita of $1069 per person. To put that in perspective, Thailand has a GDP per Capita of $5901 and the USA has $52,194 per person. In a nutshell, Niger doesn’t seem to have much going for resources. But living there I found that there’s much more to Niger’s story. Though they may be lacking in resources, they are rich in other things.
For starters, nature enthusiasts will find that Niger has some pretty exciting opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitat.
Amazing wildlife adventures…
Niger is home to the last remaining wild West African Giraffes. They are located within a protected area called Kouré which is located 60 kilometers outside of Niamey city. In order to see them you must stop first at the park and pay the entrance fee and pick up a guide (you must have a guide accompany you).
Signs at the Kouré check in station.
Giraffe skulls at Kouré check in station.
Though it’s considered a protected area for the giraffes to live in, there are also small villages of subsistence farmers which pepper the landscape. The giraffes live alongside the villagers who go about their day herding cattle, mending huts, and tending crops. The baked landscape in Kouré is so desolate and yet beautiful. I found myself wondering how people could live there when there was seemingly nothing there to live off of. Yet the villagers are quick to great you with waves and giant smiles as you pass by.
Desolate Kouré Park – Not an easy place to live…
Child of Kouré Village
The “giraffe zone,” where the animals spend most of their time, is about 40 square miles, although their full range is about 650 square miles. But unlike other nature reserves you shouldn’t expect these animals to come to your car wanting treats. You have to find them, and you never know how long that might take. I’ve gone twice. I was lucky the first time and found a small group of them within an hour. The second time I went it took nearly 2 and a half hours and I was growing concerned the trip was going to be a bust!
Where are the giraffes?
Luckily, the guides that must accompany you are knowledgable of the giraffes usual feeding spots and they have a cell phone network between the other guides to keep each other aware of where the giraffes are located.
For thrill seekers, Niger is also home to Africa’s most dangerous large animal, the hippopotamus. Despite their vegetarian diets, hippos have enormous jaws which can sport up to 50 centimeter canines capable of ruining your day. A person shouldn’t get a false sense of safety from being in a boat as the hippo’s large jaws and teeth are capable of splitting small boats in two, unless they decide to capsize the boat instead. The Niger River is very muddy, so these incidences do happen.
Now it’s not my intention to scare off anyone from seeing these beautiful albeit dangerous creatures in their native habitat. On the contrary, it’s a thrill to see them and seeing them promotes tourism which supports the local population as well as promotes the protection of the hippos. I only want to caution that folks shouldn’t grab a boat and just go looking for them on their own–that’s not a safe or smart approach.
Pack a picnic basket!
On the road to Kanazi…
Picnic time on the Niger River bank!
Boarding for Kanazi Island
The best way to see the hippos from Niamey is to drive approximately 30 kilometers outside of the city you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the winding Niger river. Proceed along the rocky road to the river bank and you’ll find partitioned picnic areas. On weekends these areas are usually filled with folks picnicking and looking to get away from Niamey to see a bit of nature.
The only inhabited island on the Niger River…
Here on the river bank you can see and visit the only inhabited island on the Niger river. Called Kanazi, this island is inhabited by less than 500 people (many children) clustered together in a village of small mud and reed huts.It’s a great place to visit especially if you can bring gifts. School supplies, basic foods staples, clothing, and mosquito nets are always appreciated.The children are especially enthusiastic, just watch out for the Casanovas who might try to walk off with your girlfriend!
Excited Kanazi Island children!
Kanazi Children in their classroom.
This little Casanova….
Getting a boat operator to show you the hippos is simply a matter of negotiating a reasonable price which isn’t difficult to do. They’re also happy to combine the hippo expedition with a visit to Kanazi Island. Pushing off from the safety of the banks in a narrow, rickety, motorized boat can be a little intimidating especially when the goal is to encounter Africa’s most dangerous animal.
Boat captain to Kanazi Island and hippo viewing…
Fortunately the boat operators are intimately aware of the river’s topography and the habits and temperaments of its local hippo population. They won’t bring you if it’s not safe, and they won’t bring you so close that the situation can become unsafe. So make sure your camera has a zoom setting!
A bit of nature, Niamey’s nearby sand dunes…
If wildlife viewing isn’t your thing. You can still get in touch with nature escaping the city and going out to the sand dunes.The sand dunes are best enjoyed just a couple of hours before sunset so you can interact with the local kids who love to sled down the sandy slopes and also to witness an amazing sunset.
Having fun with the children of Niger!
Make sure you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle or else you will get stuck, and bring plenty of drinks and food as there are no facilities nearby.Many expats from the city like to camp here overnight. This hasn’t been a problem for this area, but I would caution visitors that the security situation in Niger can be fluid so it’s important to ask folks in the know if this is good idea.
Don’t get stuck!
The dunes outside of Niamey city.
Check out Niamey’s Museum!
Another interesting thing to see is the Musée Boubou Hama also known as the Niger National Museum. Tour guide prices are reasonable and recommended to ensure you see all of the attractions and understand what you’re looking at, especially if you’re not a native French speaker.
Dinosaur Fossil Exibit
Local Weaver Artist
The museum features a lot of cultural exhibits including arts and handicraft that are made on site, dinosaur fossil displays, giant horned cows from Diffa, and most unusual, the remains of what was once thought to be the loneliest tree in the world (sorry for the lack of picture).
An acacia tree, the “Tree of Ténéré” was once considered the most isolated tree on Earth as the nearest tree was over 400 kilometers away. It was a landmark in the completely barren landscape for caravan routes through the Ténéré region of the Sahara Desert. It’s life of loneliness was ended in 1973 by an intoxicated Libyan truck driver. But the tree was so famous and belovedthat it was brought to the Niger National Museum to be immortalized in display. A metal sculpture was erected in its place in the desert to continue to guide travelers.
What about food?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss my favorite topic, the food. Let’s be honest, if a country is on the top 10 poorest countries list then you can expect there’s not a feast on your average person’s table. Outside of the larger cities in the rural villages people are scraping by day to day and a dry rainy season or a heavy rain season can be devastating.
In the city of Niamey food is not as scarce as much of it is imported through daily international flights from Morocco, Turkey, and France. There’s also produce brought overland from Burkina Faso, Benin, and seafood from Togo.
Entrepreneurial girl with a bean stand.
The best bread in town!
Because the Niger River divides the city there are plenty of riverbank gardens that spring up, as well as an abundance of Capitaine, or Nile Perch. Dried fish is a common staple, as well as fried dough called farine massa which is similar to beignets but with a spicy sauce, and it’s not unusual to see folks selling dried beans in small bags meant to supplement dishes with protein and minerals. As Niger was once a French colony they’ve pretty much mastered bread making and baguette bread loaves can be found everywhere and are very inexpensive.
Shop like a scavenger hunt!
That being said, shopping for food is a very different experience than every country I’ve lived in. There’ s no major supermarket there like Tesco. Instead there are a handful of reputable small markets which are usually reliable for stocking certain sundries. One market may have a decent meat selection, one may specialize in Western goods, another in fruits and vegetables, while another has the best bread and cheese selection in town.
Many weekends I found myself pin balling all around the city from various markets to stores until I’d finally crossed off everything from my shopping list. I found it most enjoyable during the rainy season as I could also use my shopping trips to go mudding with my little Toyota Rav 4!
Niger’s #1 dish!
One thing that must be tried, and one dish I hadn’t expected to be so delicious is brochettes. It’s basically meat on a stick (chicken or beef usually) that’s open grilled with onions and a spicy dry rub. This is then dipped in mustard and devoured in mass quantities with Niger’s national brew Bière Niger or Flag beer (both are bottled locally in Niamey and it’s worth a visit to their brewery for a tour!). Niger has some of the best beef I’ve ever had. For a real treat get a baguette loaf and fill it up with grilled brochette meat, onion, and mustard!
I’m hungry. What are some places to eat?
During my presentation I got a lot of questions from folks about the food safety in Niger. Honestly, there’s no 100% guarantee that any place you eat in Niger is not going to give you issues. That being said, there are some places in Niamey that I would recommend as they offer delicious food, at cheap or reasonable prices (compared to Western pricing), and are the “safer” places that expats will often frequent.
My favorite place to chill…Cap Banga!
Cap Banga Restaurant
Sunset on the deck of Cap Banga
The picture of the brochettes previously was taken at Cap Banga. I have many happy memories relaxing on the wooden deck of Cap Banga, a tiny oasis restaurant in the middle of the Niger River, eating skewer after skewer of beef brochettes, crispy fries, and cold beers.
This was a fantastic place to shed the stresses of work, enjoy the company of friends, cheer on the folks brave enough to tube and jet ski, and finally watch the sunset go down as fishermen paddled their dugouts on their way home with their nets and the day’s catch.
A beer and a sunset…
Camp Banga Customer
Tubing in Niger!
Fisherman paddling home…
Where is Cap Banga located?
Cap Banga is not far from the the US and French Embassy. In the Google Map below if you follow the paved road to it’s termination it will lead into an unpaved road. Follow the Cap Banga signage to turn left to a parking lot. From there a small boat will ferry you to the island where Cap Banga is located.
An Oasis in the City: Côté Jardin
Day time Côté Jardin
Night time Côté Jardin Restaurant
Côté Jardin has been operating in Niamey since January, 2014. It is the third restaurant of its name, with the first located in N’Djamena, Chad and the second inLomé, Togo.
It has both a beautiful outside seating area, private outside straw hut seating, and when the weather becomes unbearably hot there is inside seating with air condition. In addition, they have a full service outside bar with seating available there. This is a great place to meet up with friends for food and drinks.
For pictures of their food check out their online menu. Not on their menu, but certainly worth getting is their duck breast with baobab sauce. They are also one of the few restaurants that have camel on the menu (in a cream sauce it tastes kind of like a stroganoff).
Where is it?
The road leading to the restaurant is not paved and can be very muddy during the rainy season. You’ll need to park outside the restaurant, but there is a guard there to watch the vehicles and assist with parking.
Feeling fancy? QG’s!
If you’re looking for a place to have a fancy dinner, QG is the place to go. This is the place to go for white linen table cloths, shining silverware, and a focus on presentation and experience. There are outside garden areas, fine dining inside with air condition, and they even have a luxurious and well appointed cocktail lounge.
Capataine with Cream Sauce @ QG Restuarant
I personally would recommend their grilled capitaine filet with cream sauce, and their springrolls (nems) as an appetizer. It’s also one of the few places in Niamey that you can actually get sushi!
Where is QG?
Follow this map and you’ll find yourself there…
Where to stay in Niamey…
There’s actually plenty of lodging options in Niamey, but if you want safety and comfort you are going to have to pay for it. Safety translates to strict entry protocols and guards. Comfort means running water, electricity, and a restaurant on the premises or nearby (if you are lucky there may be working Internet as well). I can give 3 recommendations from my experience in Niger. Click the hotel links for pictures, pricing, and booking.
Niamey’s newest and modern hotel…
If you are really concerned about security then the recently built Soluxe Hotel should alleviate your concerns. When you arrive you will feel like you are entering an embassy–they take security seriously. They also have a 24 hour front desk, swimming pool, fitness center, and on-site Chinese restaurant (with international food as well). As it’s the newest hotel it’s very clean, modern, and has Internet (albeit a bit slow).
Niamey’s best view hotel…
If you want a hotel that has a great view, the Grand Hotel du Niger has an outside dining area that overlooks the bridge going from one side of the Niger River to the other. It’s a great place to load up on beers, brochettes, and watch the sunset.
They also have a gauntlet of security measures that vehicles must pass through to get to the hotel as well as metal detectors at the hotel entrance.
In order to book you will need to contact them by phone, fax, or e-mail (details on their site). You may also have some luck reaching them by messenger on their Facebook page.
Niamey’s hotel for safety, comfort, and budget…
Located within walking distance of the Grand Hotel du Niger, the Hotel Terminus doesn’t quite have the stringent security as the other two recommendations but they do have a guard controlling vehicle access. They have a fitness gym and pool on site (occasionally the pool is used for events). They also have a restaurant on site, and are walking distance from the Dragon d’Or Chinese restaurant.
I lived in Niger for 2 years, but everything I’ve written about in this article can easily be experienced with a well planned visit. In fact, it’s pretty much the itinerary and pictures from the experience I had with my visiting girlfriend. Many of the photos in this article are happy snaps from our time together there, and a few gracious donations from friends there. She put together a little 2 1/2 minute video which captures the time we shared in Niamey pretty well.
The music in the video is a song called “Imidiwan” by Omara “Bombino” Moctar, an internationally acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter from Agadez, Niger.
It’s the people!
Though Niger may be a country poor in resources, their greatest treasure is their people. During my brief time that I lived in Niger I made life long friends and I’m thankful the Internet enables me to continue to be a part of their lives. Your average Nigerien is kind, helpful, and they genuinely want to showcase their country in a positive light.
It’s a country that country that strives to move forward while struggling to maintain what they have. But a visit to Niger will help you to appreciate your life, refocus on the most important things in your life, and you’ll find the experience will enrich your life.
I hope from this article you learned a little bit about a country you may have never have thought or heard of. If you’re truly interested in visiting Niger or just still curious about this country I’m happy to answer any questions you might have or get an answer to you.
Feel free to contact me. I still maintain a network of close and trustworthy friends that are able to assist travelers with drivers, translators, and guides. I’d be happy to put you in touch with them to plan out any travel goals you might have.