Saturday, December 15, 2012

Five Ideas For Seeing Soweto Properly

By Jonny Blair

Soweto is an amazing place and I must recommend it to everyone out there. It is one of the most famous townships in South Africa. Situated in Gauteng near Johannesberg, this place has so much history, you'll end up enhancing your world history knowledge without even noticing it. It's hard to do a top 5 for any place, and Soweto has so much happening that I'm going for a personal top 5 things to do in Soweto.

1. Stay with a local family:

Staying with a local family was an undoubted highlight of my Soweto experience, I stayed with a local lady called Rachel with her daughter and son in her home in Orlando East in Soweto. It was a real chance to see the raw lifestyle in Soweto. It's a basic existence. At night making dinner and watching TV are the only things to really do indoors for Rachel.

2. Visit Nelson Mandela's House:

It is completely essential that you make a trip to Nelson Mandela's former house while staying in Soweto - you'd be an absolute fool to miss it. His former house at 8115 Vilakazi Street is now a fantastic museum. You can walk all around it and read quotes and stories from the man himself. You can get your photo taken in every room in his former house. Best of all is it's a small house - very basic - yet this man was a genius and changed the world. There's an entry charge but it's definitely worth paying!!

3. Become a local by heading to a Shebeen:

No stay in Soweto is complete without visiting a local Shebeen! I'm going to tell you to just ask local people and find your own, as they don't really have names! But make sure you try the Joburg Beer with the locals. It comes in a tub (like an over-sized milk tub) and is pink in colour and you share it round a table. I visited two shebeens in Soweto - one was in a hut, the other was basically someone's house that they welcome you just sitting there having a beer with them. The locals are so friendly and they really welcome people to their culture.

4. Soweto Bicycle Tours:

Another top thing to do in Soweto is a bicycle tour - it means you can get to places not easily covered on foot or in a car. You can visit different parts of the township on the same day and meet locals. Soweto Backpackers have a recommended bicycle tour which is also listed in a lot of travel books and sites. You'll also have a tour guide who explains everything to you at points on your cycle through this historic township.

5. Hector Pieterson Museum:

Situated in the place where a young boy Hector Pieterson was shot dead, The Hector Pieterson Museum is great place to read about the Soweto Uprising of 1976 and the history of the township. The museum makes my top 5 and is accompanied by tributes and information boards posted along the corner and nearby streets.

So that's my top 5 - Soweto is great - real raw South African township culture on display.

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