Settling in, I was beginning to get a feel of Antananarivo, Madagascar - an island nation with a lot going for it. The streets are dusty and the taxis are a mix of American Chevrolet, Korean Hyundai and a lot more. Street hawkers dot the footpaths with nick knacks to sell. The roads are up and down, and hilly. The town is at an elevation and there is a lake in the town centre. It gives a real feel of a proud and colourful Africa, not the wealthiest but proud. In the night, everybody is watching the Euro Cup football and there were a loud cheering and roaring that erupted outside my room whenever someone scored a goal.
A small city just 160km south of Antananarivo on the RN7, I would argue that Antsirabe is Madagascar’s best urban gem (and this is even after visiting Mahajunga, Diego, Fort Dauphin, Tamatave, Fianaratsoa, and Antananarivo). In a country most visited for its national parks and wildlife, it’s easy to gloss over the cultural aspects of travel here. However, Antsirabe is a compact, and easy to reach city that has it all. Throughout the city are signs telling residents to keep streets clean and it seems like people actually listen. Sure, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but compared to most urban areas in Madagascar, Antsirabe is down right tidy. Most spots worth seeing are within walking distance of each other.