La Paz

Trip Start May 31, 2008
Trip End Jun 01, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hotel La Valle

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

With a flight from Santa Cruz to La Paz we went from 400m to 3800m above sea level.  In fact the airport at over 4000m is the highest international airport in the world, and because it is so high up and the air is so thin, airplanes need to have twice as long as run way as their speed at take off.  And landing has to be twice as high as at sea level.

La Paz is itself is an amazing city situated in the valley.  The houses go up the sides of the hill so steep - it is a wonder that they even can be built.  It is winter here and even though we are very close to the equator the daytime temperatures reach only 20C and at night it gets to 0C.  Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America with La Paz as its center.  The combination makes the city markets very interesting and cheap.  The Black Market (its actual name) has everything you can imagine and is very inexpensive.  We visited a few of the city sites (the Cathedrals and coca museum), but the main attraction is just wandering around the city and soaking up the mayhem.

On July 15th we had bought a night bus ticket to go to Salar de Uyni (the world's largest salt flat) but due to road block on the way to Uyni (some strike or something which is very common in Bolivia) the bus could not leave.  We had to walk back to our hotel from the bus station because the city´s roads were all blocked off.  There was a huge parade to celebrate La Paz´s department holiday.  I don´t think I have every seen that many people line up in the streets, on bridges, etc.  The marching bands were cool, and we got our share of ¨The Saints ComeMarching In¨¨.  It was a very unique experience to be in the middle of such an event, and we definitely got a lot of great people watching in.

  This meant a change of plans and we decided to do the El Choro Trail.  So, we ended up having an extra day to do something very very fun - SHOP!  The artesan markets, textile shops, and the Black Market are all a huge tourist attraction, and really show the spirit of La Paz and Bolivia.  What is very nice about shopping here is you never feel the need to barter or like you are getting ripped off.  Everything is the exact same price from shop to shop.  We bought a lot, and also bought an extra bag to accomodate this influx.  Of course, we also had to look up shipping packages back home!  The restaurant we went to for lunch was pretty fun - there were dancers and traditional musicians playing to celebrate the holiday.
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