Still Unveiling Itself

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bolivia is so confusing. They have the resources to be brilliant but the apparent education system to disallow its' real global progress. The people seem to be kind but they continuously let you down when confronted with thoughts provoking situations. There has definitely been progress in the country (and especially La Paz) as it is absolutely nothing like we expected or anyone really explained it. Outside of the amazing atrocity of a street market (the majority of the city) there were niche restaurants, attractive back streets and specialty clubs. La Paz also never revealed itself as the cheap backpackers paradise people suggested it would be.

La Paz day 1

We were so pleased to get away from Copacabana on the third day of the Virgen festivals. We simply couldn’t take anymore of the same umpa band playing to the same Cholos pissing all over the city. The Titicaca bus is $5 to La Paz but it is quite confusing. How it works: All the travel agencies sell as many tickets as they can/want and when you get to the center of town a woman takes your ticket and hopefully gets you on some bus/van/truck to La Paz. At least we were being transported. Another little surprise is that you actually have to get out of the bus and cross a small straight of Lake Titicaca on a ferry in San Pablo. Not a big deal but it takes about a half an hour and 1.5 Bolivianos (Be careful because they try to rip you off with change if you do not count it right away). The total ride is still less than four hours.

Upon arriving in La Paz we grabbed a cab five blocks to the Adventure Brew Hostel. It was definitely walk-able but we decided to cab it with all of our luggage. Adventure Brew seems to be the best hostel in La Paz with a nice bar on the top floor initiating activities every night, an in-house travel agent and a free beer each night. Unfortunately, the rooms have a serious issue with a moldy mildewy smell but I guess that is the trade-off for not staying at the Radisson.

The evening we checked in the Adventure Brew bar was having a Chinese New Year casino night. We played Blackjack and Texas holdem till the wee hours of the morning. It was great fun and we met a lot of great fellow travelers. We also parled our good luck into five free drinks. Yippee!

La Paz day 2

The previous night’s good fortune certainly hung a little heavy this morning but fortunately we found the Sol y Luna restaurant for some amazing pumpkin soup, yummy Dutch food, Heinekens and Dutch liquor (not a convincing drink). The great fortune is really in the fact that we had to pass at least fifty fried chicken restaurants to uncover the place. After a nice stroll past the Basilica San Francisco it was time for a much deserved (always deserved) naptime.

Later we walked all the way along Avenida Montes to the opposite end of town. This is where the trend is definitely happening. We came across numerous intriguing parks, bars and restaurants down here. To Raymie’s absolute delight we found a Swiss Steakhouse for real fondue. The Swiss cheese was amazing and the wine was proper – even Henning and Kathrin would approve. After filling our bellies with absolute happiness we decided to venture into the retro garage looking bar next store, Diesel International for coffee drinks. Wow, this is a treat for anyone visiting La Paz - Industrial view, good drinks and great service.
A later night after led us to the Shamrock Irish pub but it was too full to find a seat so we moved on. Good thing because the Thelonious Jazz Club was absolutely brilliant with the Swank Quartet - great jazz fusion sound with "gran super" sax player. To cap off a perfect night we tried to dig up a discoteque with no luck. No problem, we grabbed a taxi home so we wouldn't get sick from the rain, and an amazing La Paz Day was had by all.

La Paz day 3

Stepping into the market district in La Paz is similar to entering a straightened labyrinth – you know you’ll get to the end but when will the light ever come? It is so easy to slip into these crazy 10 block markets connected to close ended malls, and then wondering how to find an exit to civilization. This is definitely where James Bond chases bad guys for a good ten minutes of film.
Lunch at the Thai Old Town is just okay. But afterwards we checked out the "Witches Market" and we witnessed the supposed “good luck” Llama fetuses. The area was pretty unimpressive for all the hype but did have a good array of potions and remedies.

We had heard crazy stories about the San Pedro prison but after a walk past and a couple pictures we were shoed on by some guards. No problem because it all seemed too dangerous anyways.
Running through a sudden downfall of rain and hail we realized we were close to the Shamrock Irish Pub and decided to stop in for some shelter and a drink. But the so-called Irish pub was closed at 3:30pm on a Saturday – This is a sorry excuse for a pub, especially an Irish one!

The only thing opened on the block was Cafe Blueberries for coffee and it was equally disappointing as the wifi didn't work. So onward we went only to stumble upon the peculiar festival/carnival thing at Parque de Los Monos for the Alisitas Festival. This seemed like nothing more than a continuance of the rows and rows of markets selling candies and other crap. We waded through some of the vendors but as usual in this country nothing caught our eye.

After a much deserved nap time we put ourselves together for the night’s activities. First we enjoyed our free beers at the Adventure Brew where we ran into Fiona and James – our new Irish/English friends. We agreed to meet later at Mongos after dinner for some drinks. Mongos is a nice place for a bite and they started playing decent (trancy house music) but it of course turned into your typical crossover top 40 frat bar as the night wore on. After having a couple drinks with Fiona and James we took a cab to some Route place and then to the Blue House Pub. Our disappointment with another top 40 sad excuse of a disco led us to go back to the empty top floor of the Adventure Brew to polish off a bottle of rum untill the sun came up.

La Paz Day 4 – Super Bowl

It was a late night so we rolled out of bed quite late but who could sleep, the Packers are in the SuperBowl. We crawled up to the Adventure Brew for the best seats in the house about four hours early to get warmed up. The Super Bowl party was fun (even though they ran out of food - chicken wings and ribs).

The Packers Win the Superbowl and Bee won the Superbowl pool! We drank lots of Packer Party Pucker Shots and the celebrations ran deep as Raymie even made it out to three other clubs with the bar staff to top off the merriment.

La Paz day 5

Recovery day! We meandered out to grab some chicken with a very amusing exchange with the shop owner. I asked her for five pieces of chicken (they were cooked and sitting in their heat lamps). The woman said, “No, you can’t do that.” I asked why not? The chicken is there and I want to purchase it. She repeated the fact that it couldn’t be done. No one could possibly come to the shop and have more than one piece of chicken and a pile of French fries. I reiterated my desire and she stated a price of about $5. To her absolute amazement, I agreed to the price and took the chicken without five massive mounds of greasy French fries. She laughed the whole time she was putting together the order.

La Paz day 6

This morning we huffed up the hill to the bus station. It was satisfying to purchase some bus tickets to get out of the high altitude. You really don’t understand it until you have the opportunity to experience it, but it is so frustrating to constantly be out of breath (especially doing the simple things like walking up a couple of stairs).

Knowing that our time was coming to an end we made sure to hit a couple of the main attractions. The Museum of Art is very beautiful alongside the Palacio del Gobierno. We had lunch with the locals at Ajayu (Loma de res stuffed with hot dog – weird). Another walk around the Parque Urbano proved that there are definitely no monkeys in Parque de Los Monos – false advertisement! The Marbella Café on the main street is OK for coffees and the Centro Commercial a joke – getting it all done!
After a well deserved naptime we enjoyed our last free beer at the Adventure Brew before zig-zaging thru the busy crazy market streets to The Steakhouse Wine and Grill at the Four Corners – Definitely a thumbs up but a little pricey for Bolivia. We stopped at Oliver’s travels and went in because we didn’t want to take the chance that we missed something but it was full of foreigners and we didn’t really feel like having a drink. We even got one last drenching, not realizing how bad the rain was before we started walking home.

La Paz day 7

A quick settle up with the Adventure Brew (very good price), and we are off for the 7 hour bus trip to Cochabamba.
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