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Boarder town’s cheap thrills


As the saying goes, east or west home is best. However, my trip to Busia recently made me realise that somehow the saying could be wrong. A day before a bunch of friends and I started our journey from Nairobi to the boarder town west of Kenya, we realised that our radio had some mishap.

You know how it gets when you have to cover close to 490 kilometres without something to help kill boredom. Yes, that’s how I felt the moment we discovered the car radio was not behaving well. Lucky enough for us though, we managed to fix it in good time.

It was suffering from insomnia the night before the trip. But having no prior knowledge about Busia and the route would make the trip even more interesting as I wanted to see for myself all the landmarks and economic activities along the route.

We hit the road at about 9am, two hours later than agreed. The ‘African timing’ bug had refused to detach from us. And just like in any other journey, ours seemed to be the best because we jammed to music as we ‘beat’ stories. We resolved not to take a lot of stopovers and that made our journey conveniently accommodating.

From Kisumu, we went through Luanda — a town synonymous with a bizarre love for marijuana — but on this day, surprisingly, the market was full of traders selling avocados. From Luanda we passed Yala then Sidindi and upon reaching Ugunja, we could feel our destination was at sight.

We got to Busia at around 6pm, early enough to join the locals in painting the town red, although the bustle and hype in the boarder town was nothing to compare with what is found in Nairobi.

Crossing the boarder to Uganda wasn’t a big deal. Actually, it took us just five minutes, this was after informing the Ugandan authorities manning the entry point that we just wanted to sample the nightlife of the famous Nalongo Street, that is popularly known for cheap alcohol and food.

We were spoilt for choice on which entertainment joint to settle for, as most of them seemed to tick the boxes. They all played good music, but we eventually settled for Hide Out. 

We were shocked to find out that the security guards manning the car park and entrance of the joint were all armed with short gun riffles, something that we later came to learn was a normal thing in Uganda.

Surprisingly, the same brand of beer sold in Kenya at up to Sh350 in some joints, is sold at Sh80 in Busia, Uganda. We particularly loved this vibe. Street food prices are also amazingly low just across the boarder.

For instance, a big piece of fried chicken with two fried eggs costs just Sh100. As the night grew older, revellers decreased in the clubs and by 2am, everyone had retreated back to the Kenyan side of Busia for more partying. And that was a great night out at unfamiliar grounds.

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