Tuesday, 14 May 2013

05.2013 Because this is Sandton

We've been living in Sandton Central, Johannesburg for almost two months now. Despite housing the headquarters of numerous major corporations, there is little going on here and I'm going to go out there and say it loud and proud - this is probably the most soulless place I've ever lived in. This week we are finally breaking free, so as a farewell to this strange era I've listed up the most notable features of our 'life' in Sandton CBD.

1.    Hydropark
This is the 'luxury apartment complex' where we have been living in a seemingly endless flat-waiting purgatory. I wouldn't complain about this at all if it weren't for the fact that we have also spent at least four months living out of our suitcases in other temporary accommodation during the visa-waiting purgatory.

Notable features of Hydropark:
- They clean the place all the time - hotel style - and they also do our laundry constantly, even if it's only a few pairs of pants and socks in the basket.
- There's an immaculate swimming pool with three barbecues (braai). Nobody ever uses either of these things, ever.
- The capped internet. Don't get me started on this crappy internet...

2.    Nelson Mandela Mall
Outside of Hydropark I spend an uncomfortably large amount of time at this massive shopping centre (where the husband's office is). Being probably one of the biggest malls in the country you would think you could buy pretty much anything here. The only thing I have not been able to find here is a computer shop. But clothes, food, books, dry-cleaning, hair-dressers, shoe-repair, dentist, banks, rifles, fridges, coins with Nelson Mandela's head on...they have all of that.

Notable features:
- Giant statue of Nelson Mandela
- Joyful, joyful - the Sandton library! It's actually rather good. Just bring a proof of address and passport to join.
- Restaurants, loads of them. Stand outs are the Wangthai and the Butchery. For snacks it has to be Bread Basket. Duds include the hugely greasy Trumps Grill.

3. The Bar
There are loads of restaurants in the aforementioned mall, but strangely only one bar. This bar due to its proximity to the office is our de-facto after-work bar. The other things it has going for it are the sports on TV, indoor smoking and...ah I pretty much ran out of things.
On the shady side the supervisors seem to be complete bastards and are often seen publicly shouting down the wait staff in a pretty humiliating manner and there are always hookers hanging around. Oh and the house music gets really loud.  Caffe della Salute is certainly no Silvers, but it will have to do.

4. Delhi Dhabar
Tucked in next to the Benmore Gardens Mall (where the supermarket is) is a small strip of restaurants, ranging from super luxe to Fish and Chips. In between it all you have Delhi Dhabar which is a great Indian restaurant. There's also a strange little Lebanese shop and cafe which does a fine business in nargile smoking pipes.

5. The bus stop
I walk past this bus stop on the corner of West Street and Grayston Drive every day and I still don't really get what this is about. I mean, surely love is the bottom line, no? Conundrum.

Between 15:30 and 17:30 there are hoards of people waiting here for the buses which head directly all the way over to Soweto in the south-west.

Love sits way above the bottom line

6. The robots
South Africans call traffic lights 'robots' here. I like that. As for the robots themselves...bloody hate 'em. With not much 'street life' going on in Sandton people just tend to hurtle through the main streets of this area. Watching the robots changing colours and then preparing to dash across the cross-sections here is an uncomfortable game of chicken.

Just another Sandton street
7. The hotels
Hidden behind the big walls here are some very fancy hotels. So far I have only infiltrated a few, of which these are probably my favourites:
The Balalaika – for the name obviously. Also nice restaurant.
The Maslow – I went here for the Internations event and was very impressed by what lies out the back. A beautifully lit pool, surrounded by palm trees, looked over by some minimalist glass fronted cocktail bars and lounges. Glam.
The Radisson Gautrain – you wouldn’t know from the front but it has a roof terrace with a pool. The view is much of a muchness, but the general atmosphere is unexpectedly fancy.

8. The tuk tuks
In the back of a tuk tuk
Outside the Citibank building on West Street is the rank for Sandton's tuk tuks – Shesha tuks. They only travel a maximum of 10kms from Sandton (for 55Rand) so are perfect for short trips which would actually wind up costing you more if went the Gautrain plus bus route. For example you can get to Illovo Junction (home of Wolves Cafe and the Griffin Pub) for just 30Rand.
If you do go the tuk tuk route (and I would recommend you do) you need a map, as they never know where they are going. Also time your trip. Tuk tuks have a maximum speed of 40km p.h so it is pretty easy to figure out if they are trying to rip you off, which they will be.
Tuk tuks stop working at around 20:00.

9. Gautrain
Of course the best thing about Sandton is the Gautrain. It takes you straight into Braamfontein and the CBD in just 10minutes. I would seriously be lost without my trusty escape Sandton lifeline. Thank you Gautrain!  

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more. Sandton is a pretty crappy place. They say it's a business heart of Africa. Well, certainly you wouldn't say that when looking at the huge potholes on the roads.