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Friday, 16 March 2012

Managua, Nicaragua - Things to do (or not)

I'm finally leaving Managua tomorrow, for the glorious north, wavos 'boom', and the peace and quiet of a little fishing village called Aserradores and this little place. There dear friends will the full imagination of the unstoppable writing machine that is...etc etc will be unleashed. Or not. Maybe i'll just surf the whole time. Or get kidnapped on the way.

Ok but i should tell you a little of Managua, in case you are ever daft enough to be stopping here for more than 2 days...

Managua is an ugly city, theres no doubting that. And completely without character, since any building of any note was destroyed in 1972. It's more of one of these raging, never ending, insane Behemoth's, flailing about rabidly with constant chimichinga music blaring out of every orifice and chaos crime and crack cocaine as its lifeblood (that sounded awful didn't it)

Here, i've sifted out the few things that may be interesting....

Mercado Oriental

90% of the country's crimes are committed here. And DO NOT go here after dark. Even I wouldn't do that. But during the day its an enormous and hugely interesting slum/market, where you can buy all the shit you need/don't need. I bought a great pair of breeks for £3 there the other day. And shampoo. But if you wan't to buy glue to sniff, CD/DVD's, fruit, clothes, furniture, guns, dead bodies. This is the place to go. Even if you don't buy anything, the atmosphere is quite interersting. Just think of The Barras about a hundred years ago.


Nope its not a soulless shopping mall, its another area that lonely planet tells people not to go to after dark. But thats what makes it fun. Nope, you won't meet Heidi from Belgium or Jay from Austin. And who truly cares, your life will be better for it. But you will meet lots of locals enjoying themselves, cheap booze, dogs on the dancefloor, and toilets where you wash your hands in a barrel of water.

The neighbourhood is full of change zombies at night (and worse) so get a cab door to door (do this EVERYWHERE after dark and make sure the driver waits until you get into your destination)

But once your into this row of downmarket restaurants/bars, then its pretty good fun and no one gave us any trouble at all. Me and my pal convinced a random local girl who was sharing our taxi to join us too which maybe helped. But I can say the people are even quite friendly. I wasn't there to 'pick up' so i'm not sure how that would go down for gringos though. (do your best guys and let me know!) But makes a  pleasant change for the americanised middle class bullshit places...talking of which....

Moods, Chaman, Pizza Hut etc. - Masaya

Ok if you are missing the west, the tiny middle class of Managua huddles behind its heavily guarded gates, up on the Masaya highway, from Metrocentre Shopping Mall, and up the hill from there to the Galleria Mall (quite appropriately named after the lovely place in the ' Valley ', LA). In the Mall, and also further north just up from the 'Pellas' building (the only tall building in Managua) there is ONE good coffee shop called Cafe de la Casa (or is it Casa Del Cafe) which not only does good coffee and food, it's got that 'Latin American Soap Opera' feel to it, with rich old locals taking their ahem...'daughters' for coffee and cakes, ex beauty queen housewives nattering about whatever it is they natter about at 100 hundred miles an hour, and other gringos sitting on their apple-macs checking facebook (for f*cks sake get a life)

For some reason rich latinos aspire to be white trash, so there are TGI Fridays, Dominos Pizza, Pizza Hut, MacDonalds, Burger King, and all that awful stuff on the main road.

Further North in the Galleria Mall there is a sushi place, the only semi-healthy restaurant apart from the amazing Restaurante_El_Tercer_Ojo which is just on the street behind the main Masaya (get to Pharaoh Casino and its behind there among many other good places) In fact this is a street/neighbourhood full of good restaurants and bars which I recommend a night out in. You can even get a decent Nicaraguan restaurant. The reason Tercer is good is that it reminds you of Asia. Good moods, good food, good ambiance. Exactly what Nicaragua lacks....especially if you want to go to the main 'big' clubs  - moods (ladies night Wednesday) and Chaman which is in a Mayan pyramid (ladies night, thursday) personally I think both were crap but thats just my taste.

I had one crazy night out when it was full moon though. Minding my own business and playing poker (I wont bore you with the details) I ended up with $3000 odd in an hour or so. So we wen't to see
above and beyond which seems to be some kind of famous geeky DJ's pretending to be a band. Even without drugs it was a good show but it ended up as usual in the night degenerating into strange all night bars and meeting random Koreans who speak Spanish...

However, if nightlife is what your after, probably best to stick to Brasil.

ps - if you like Karaoke, go to my pal Armandos place - Claps ! I personally can not stand Karaoke (nor spell it) but even as a bar it's quite ok.

Accommodation - Tica Bus area vs Masaya

Im staying here right now, and while there are lovely little hotels for $10 a night. After ten o clock the streets aren't safe. If you are staying for any length of time, stay in Masaya area - Managua Backpackers is cheap and safe - things you really appreciate in a dangerous country. Still best to get cabs at night though if you have anything valuable on you. If you are looking for a decent five star hotel - Hilton is here and Intercontinental (really quite ok at $50-150 a night depending on dates) but I heard that the Seminole Plaza is the best value if your looking for a full service job (i.e. you've been sleeping in a hammock for a month)

The Hill and the Weird Cathedral

Ok there is a hill in the middle of the city, with a kind of silhouette of a kind of giant cowboy on it. I keep meaning to go up there but i always have my laptop on me (lame excuse I know) but really, walking around quiet places here isn't something to do with valuables. It looks like a cool and quiet place to explore though. One day i will find out exactly who this giant cowboy is.

The multi-breasted Catedral Metropolitaniandonita

There is also a bizzare (i'm told earthquake proof) cathedral (the Metropolitan Cathedral). Looking at it from the outside I don't really see a reason to check the inside. But i guess its interesting for some....

Right, back to making the most of my last night in Managua....

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