Published: January 21st 2009January 21st 2009
Landed in Mauritius on Dec 30, stayed at Auberge de Rose Hill. It was the cheapest I found and it was $24 Cdn per night which includes breakfast of bread with butter & jam, tea or coffee, and tang (fake orange juice). There were no dorms, just room with bath. the bed sheets didn’t look clean and everything was pretty dingy. I found that the window could not lock and the room was on street level facing the street so anyone could have just come in and the window was pretty big, so I asked for another room. (all the rooms seem to have 2 beds: a queen and a single) the 2nd room had burglar proof windows and didn’t smell bad like the first one but the bathroom stank to high heaven so I used the bathroom of the 1st room. The pillows smelled like someone who smoked had slept on them. Couldn’t sleep anyway because there were too many mosquitoes. From day 2 onward, I slept at a couchsurfing host’s place and thank god because there was no way I could stay in Mauritius with accommodation prices like that. In fact, everything in Mauritius was like that: not cheap but really bad quality. The locals say that things used to be cheap but then the number of tourists increased so now everybody pays tourist prices. I couldn’t find any decent nuts to eat anywhere. Bought a bag and it was so disgusting I threw it out. (in the end, I bought raw peanuts and almonds and cooked them myself which were ok.) couldn’t find anything like power bars or protein bars—I guess people don’t know about that stuff yet. Did find some organic stuff in certain supermarkets but the quality looked so bad and the prices were so ghastly! In general, I couldn’t find quality stuff anywhere but everything is almost Canadian prices. I mean, I can find the same crap quality in Canada but at dollar store prices. I don’t know how people deal with this. I guess nobody here notices the bad quality? Actually, all the foodstuff I find is like from back in the 70’s or something. Everything has E-numbers in the ingredients. There are really only very few things I can buy in the supermarkets because of all the chemicals in the foods. A container of ice cream typically has 10 different E-number ingredients! Scary stuff! People also tell me that it’s not advisable to go out after dark after the stores have closed (5-6pm) as it is no longer safe in Mauritius. It’s only been in the past 3-4 years that it’s become dangerous. The economy has worsened and so has the crime rate. There are buses that go everywhere on the island and fares are quite cheap, so it’s quite convenient but very slow and time consuming.
There’s really not much for me to do here as I don’t like just lying on the beach, and stuff like surfing, parasailing, etc. are all for tourists and way way too expensive. The only thing I could afford was snorkeling and I did plenty of that (see other blog). With not having much to do and everything being rather expensive, I decided to cut my trip short. I changed my flight to leave 2 weeks earlier. My ticket was with Air India but it was actually and an Air Mauritius and Air India combination flight so I had to go to Air Mauritius to change my ticket. When I was at the agency, I found out that my original flight had been cancelled and was scheduled for 2 days later, but I got no notice. Apparently, this happens a lot with Air India and Air Mauritius so always phone ahead to confirm your flight. The change I made only cost $33 so that was good.
I think the main reason why I changed my flight to leave early is that I just didn’t meet anybody that I really liked and felt I could hang out with for that many days. My host is a guy and all his friends are guys and I simply couldn’t relate to them. I did hook up with other people through couchsurfing but still didn’t see what I would do if I stayed more days. I did see my Mauritian friend who I hadn’t seen for 22 years but she was too busy with work and kids and was only able to spare one day with me. Most people here are just too busy with work and family and are not very interested in anything else. I’m writing this blog in retrospect and realize now that the main problem for me is that the country is quite small and the culture and people are pretty homogeneous and everywhere you go on the island is pretty much the same (even though the history is fascinating). There were just not enough interesting things for me to spend that much time here. Again, if I found people to hang out with, maybe it would have been different but that didn’t happen. The beaches here are beautiful but just having beautiful beaches is so not enough for me.
What is interesting to note is that people here tell me how Mauritians are very nice and friendly but I came across pretty unfriendly and even rude people. Finally, the story is that Mauritians are friendly to tourists but very unfriendly to each other. 2 people can be neighbours and see each other everyday but never say hello. If you go to an office or somewhere and greet the person about to serve you, they would just totally ignore that and go on with business but with a very sour attitude like they really prefer to ignore you but are forced to talk to you. In fact, people here are so unfriendly to each other that a few years back, the government launched “Courtesy Day” where everybody has to try and be courteous and this was held randomly. I think they should have Courtesy weeks! Conversely, if you are a tourist (white), people would be overly friendly to you. The Polish couchsurfers I met here said how everywhere they go, people want to help them, even if they don’t really want any help.
Also, the textile industry here uses mainly workers from China and Bangladesh and so there are a lot of Chinese here (mostly women, it seems) who are solely here for the contract work. These foreign workers are not treated well, especially the Chinese women because some of them work as prostitutes on the side and prostitution is illegal. (People here are generally very conservative so are very contemptuous of the Chinese women who do this.)
So contempt for the Chinese along with the fact that people are very unfriendly to each other explain why I’ve experienced pretty bad attitudes from the locals. They either think I’m a local (as there are many Mauritian Chinese) or they think I’m a textile worker. Most people greet me with “so are you working here? Where are you working?” Some people do stare at me though with a puzzled look trying to figure out where I’m from since I’m dressed like I’m ready to go canoeing with all my MEC stuff.
I did do a few touristic things like visit the giant turtles at La Vanille Reserve, the seven-coloured earth, and the hindu temple at Grand Bassin. Nothing really interesting to say except that I love turtles, they are really amazing animals!
In general though, I found my experience in Mauritius to be a preview of India since most people in Mauritius are of Indian origin and what’s most popular are all the stuff from India like the Bollywood movies, Indian music, clothes, etc. India is also the most popular vacation destination for Mauritians as it’s an affordable place for them to go. I was literally half way to India with all the Indian culture, food, etc. everywhere. I even tested my stomach by eating and drinking from street vendors.
Would I come back? No. the only thing I loved here was the snorkeling and there are many other better places to snorkel in the world.