Vivid colours, abundant beauty

Kampala, the capital and largest city of Uganda, is largely made up of hills at an elevation of about 1,190m and is situated in the southern part of the country. Photos by Nianne-Lynn Hendricks

Winston Churchill referred to Uganda as “the Pearl of Africa” in his 1908 book My African Journey, for “its magnificence, for variety of form and colour” and its “profusion of brilliant life”.

Of course, most of his views of this landlocked country, set on the shores of Africa’s largest lake, were distorted by its former dictator Idi Amin, in power from 1971-79. The book The Last King Of Scotland and later the Oscar-award winning movie of the same title are more popularly known worldwide than Churchill’s version of Uganda.

My first impression of this East African nation was more of what Churchill experienced.

As I entered the clear skies of Ugandan air space, all that was visible was a vast expanse of blue, which seemed almost endless. It was like watching the ocean from above with no land mass in sight. The majestic Lake Victoria, a sight to behold from land or air, is the second largest freshwater lake in the world and the source of the mighty River Nile.

Almost immediately, and even before one lands on the ground, Uganda can be described as tricoloured. Blue for Lake Victoria, green for as far as the eyes can see on land and red, the colour of its rich and fertile soil.

A British colony until 1962, Uganda is blessed with rainforests, mountains, savannahs, a diversity of wildlife and more than 1,000 species of birds.

In fact Kampala, the country’s capital, is known as the “green city in the sun”. Made up of seven main hills, Kampala is derived from the Lugandan word “hill of the impalas”. It is a cosmopolitan city, and like most African cities, bustling with life — and can give Bangkok a run for its money where traffic is concerned.

Battling for road space is the “boda-boda” or the Ugandan version of Thailand’s motorcycle taxis; the matatu or the taxi vans/mini buses; and of course, private taxis and personal cars, with a touch of the modern — Uber.

Due to the influx of non-governmental organisations, Kampala has a thriving expat scene and dining out in different parts of the world is never a problem. In fact, it is a bit more difficult to find Ugandan cuisine, which if you were on a low or no carb/starch diet, would not be your top choice.

Entebbe, an hour or more, depending on the notorious traffic, from Kampala, is where the international airport is located. Home to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, known as Entebbe Zoo in layman’s terms, and the beautiful Entebbe Botanical Gardens, due to its location on the Lake Victoria peninsula it’s a “beach resort town”, where locals and expats go to unwind. Entebbe also has two popular and really good Thai restaurants, should you crave a taste of the familiar.

Though Africa can seem intimidating to some (my first time was in the DRC!), Uganda will put all thoughts of worry to rest.

As Churchill wrote: “Uganda is a fairytale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.” Definitely among the friendliest people on Earth.

Uganda is in East Africa and from Thailand one can fly via Kenya, Ethiopia or the Gulf countries.

Thai nationals need a visa for Uganda, which is available at http://visas.immigration.go.ug.