Travel Black Book With Melvin Chng

Fall in love with Accra

The capital of Ghana has much to offer - from history and culture to nature and shopping

Who: Singaporean Melvin Chng, 31, managing director of international media intelligence company Meltwater in Beijing, China

Favourite destination: Accra, Ghana

Why: I went to Ghana for work and instantly fell in love with its capital city, Accra. We were grooming future entrepreneurs from Africa and the people I met there are probably the most hardworking, positive and talented people I have come across.

Favourite hotel

Movenpick Ambassador Hotel Accra (tinyurl.com/hfr3mul) is located in the heart of Accra. The service is great and it's a good place for business and leisure travellers, with comfortable rooms and quality amenities such as a fitness centre and Accra's largest outdoor swimming pool.

Favourite restaurant

Coco Lounge (www.yoloxperiences.com/coco-lounge.aspx) is a brasserie- bistro with great ambience and good Western food and drinks. The average cost of a main course here is about 25 (S$8.50) to 65 Ghanaian cedi.

Another recommendation is Chez Clarisse (8th Lane, Accra; tel: +233-55-459-8685), a streetside restaurant that serves cheap and good local food.

Order the grilled chicken, tilapia with onion and tomato salsa, kelewele (spicy fried plantains) and attieke, a couscous-like side dish made of fermented, grated cassava pulp. Prices are reasonable - the whole grilled tilapia, which is my favourite dish here, costs only 30 cedi.

Favourite museum

To find out more about the country's history, go to Cape Coast Castle (tinyurl.com/nttejfp).

It was built in 1653 by the Swedish Africa Company for trade in timber and gold and was later used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The captivity, torture, killing and sale of African people took place in this castle.

Local experience

Take half a day and immerse yourself in the sand and ocean at the beautiful Bojo Beach (www.bojobeachresort.com).

Walk along the beach and enjoy the view or grab a bite from one of the food and drink vendors.

Other fun activities which allow travellers to take in Ghana's landscape include a boat ride on Lake Volta, a huge reservoir about 100km from Accra, or a walk through the Aburi Botanic Gardens.

The 64.8ha gardens overlooking Accra has been there since 1890 and is a favourite destination for tourists and locals.

For night-time entertainment, head to Plot Seven (www.plotseven.com). Alcohol such as vodka is expensive and diluted at these clubs, so it is better to try the local alcohol, akpeteshie, which is made of distilled palm wine or sugar cane juice.

Favourite shopping

I got bespoke shirts for my friends and family from Renee Q (www.reneeq.com), a shop by local designer Renee Q Boateng, who started selling her clothes and accessories from the back of her car.

She has a new boutique now on one of the main thoroughfares in Accra. Prices start at about $100.

Side trips

Kumasi, near Lake Bosomtwe in Ghana's rainforest region and about 255km from Accra, is Ghana's second-largest city.

I find it to be more crowded and energetic than Accra, with a big central market and many craft villages nearby where pottery and beads are on sale. They also sell Kente cloth, a sacred fabric made of silk and cotton, which is native to this region of Ghana.

An icon of African heritage, it used to be worn only by royalty, but is now worn during important events and festivities.

Kente comes in many colours, patterns and geometric shapes, with each having a special meaning.

Event to bookmark

One of the biggest festivals in Ghana, the Aboakyer festival, is held every year in May to commemorate the migration of the Winneba people about 300 years ago.

They moved from the Northern African town of Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara desert to their home in the central coast of Ghana.

The migration used to be celebrated with the human sacrifice of a member of the royal family. Today, a bushbuck, a type of deer, is sacrificed instead. The gesture is to honour the god, Penkye Otu, who is believed to have been key to the people's survival in their trek across the continent.

Travellers' advice

Accra is a cultural capital, so take your time to understand Ghana's history and to visit its cultural sites. Six or seven days is an ideal length of stay in the country. A lot of places accept only cash, so it is good to keep a lot of it on hand.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Fall in love with Accra'. Print Edition | Subscribe