La Paz, Bolivia

Uyuni – La Paz

This. This is the city I found myself most lost. Almost pathetically lost, running around in circles.

Gosh, this. This stirs up memories, I even know where it’s taken from – that bridge. La Paz stirs up memories. Probably because the emotions are so intensified here, especially the times I ran home at night (3x up that slope, in this altitude I could barely run too). Also, I stayed here for 2 days longer than planned. All the times I got lost because my sense of direction is extremely bad (proven in this place) and the worst part is many people kept pointing me to different (wrong!!!) directions!! LOL

I learnt to ask twice – once Person #1, and 5 steps later Person #2, and at times even Person #3. Just Every. 10. Steps.

I had a map, but the map was honestly difficult because the streets were narrow and readily cut into one another. I think I have a copy, I’ll take a picture.

 

Bolivia… My geographical imagination of the streets was quite a blank canvas. So in the village there were about 20 families that lived there; the rather dusty doors and little stone houses. In the city of Uyuni I saw more Bolivians – them with their hats and puffy skirts. So adorable? Hahah it’s just so distinct a culture that I couldn’t help liking them for not blending into the globalised clothings in the world. (the tourist desire to seek out ‘authenticity’) them selling fruits, sitting at a corner with the hats. They have a distinctive look I think. (Other-ing)

A Cholita crosses the street; their bowler hats and puffy skirts are a common sight in La Paz. After bombing questions to every English-speaking shopkeeper/ random local I meet, I gather that the Cholitas are the indigenous people who lived in the highlands. Some migrate to the city for work, bringing along their traditional outfits.
Interestingly, the girl I talked to today while eating my 1usd fruit salad had an ex-boyfriend from Singapore – they met through Facebook for their common interest in k-pop. 😱 Reminds me of the morning I heard oppa gangnam style on the Bolivian radio. Need to stop being surprised at how connected the world is.

 

Bolivia has been breathtakingly beautiful though. In my 3 days from San Pedro to Uyuni, I’ve never been surrounded by so much beauty. It’s incredible, and I feel myself gape in awe at the kind of nature that this part of the world offers, that Singapore just doesn’t. It’s sad that it’s such a poor country, when they have such magnificent views (sad because? I don’t know? Happy I suppose, because it draws in tourism. Or maybe I think, beautiful nature = beautiful prosperous society, paralleled; the beautiful nature I see here isn’t quite on the same terms with what I know about this society, where children are allowed (want to?) work from the age of 10.)
I guess I have reached the second-most-feared part of my trip (first was Brazil and its reputed dangers); here in addition to my fears of getting mugged it is the transport. I have this impression (unverified) that bus crashes are not uncommon. Last night we took the bus from Uyuni to La paz, and before Natalie and I left Josephine was talking about how people have been advised not to take the bus at night, reported bus muggings, etc etc.. Which wasn’t helpful seeing it was prior to our ride. On the bus I stuffed my phones into my money belt and tried to picture how it’d be if a mass robbery was carried out. Maybe I’ll hand over my camera, but take out my sd card. Damn, the pictures in my laptop…
The bus ride (Uyuni – La Paz) was bumpy, it wasn’t as comfy as the ones in Brazil, Chile and Argentina for sure. I didn’t sleep as well as I did for the rest – in fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep for half the ride. When the doors opened for another passenger there was a part of me that wondered if it was a robbery attempt (zzz, hate these paranoid thoughts) and finally we reached Lima at about 5.30am.
Pretty early! 8pm – 530am, I thought we were scheduled to reach at about 6. Am honestly surprised that it’s early, considering it’s Latin America. I would like to think that these stories are but stories, and I would not like to further reinforce notions of ‘danger’ in travelling South America, but I guess it wasn’t a comfy ride because of these conceptions that I had. Also, the bus was pretty bumpy and we swayed from side to side at some points at the start; for several brief moments I did wonder if the bus might topple. There was a loud hiss and some smell of burning, I exchanged glances with Natalie and looked around at the locals, but they were unalarmed; it turned out to be the radiator. This hissing and mild burning smell.

 

It is at these points that I am reminded once again of the vulnerability of my life, and how a single second, a single moment can make a life-changing impact. I could be alive in this minute, and not in the next. So I guess I do feel (as I did before the trip, during the trip and hopefully after the trip) that I do love life, I want to be alive!

 

la paz and its steeply sloping streets

in fact, it’s so steep i saw a driver take out a piece of brick, placing it at the back of his wheel, much like a door-stopper, to prevent the car from rolling back

and in this altitude, with the ladies carrying the large pink bags that they do behind their backs, they must be pretty fit indeed

La paz grows on you. Amidst the chaos there is beauty. Allow yourself to get lost in the maze of the streets. At night, the city glitters in the distance on the hills. On my first day I was paranoid and wary (carrying conceptions shaped by online stories and lonely planet), but by now I comfortably stroll through the (slanted) streets. Is it just me, or are Bolivian drivers especially giggly?

 

 

Sometimes I ask locals if it’s dangerous to walk home now at x time (usually 7pm or so). Most say no, no es tranquilo, but sometimes one out of 3 or 4 may say yes, es peligroso with a somber / sheepish look. It makes me feel a little wtf as I nervously run home.

Spotted: a Bolivian wedding!

mi amigo de israel

 

look at that clustered cityscape

witches’ market

we had fun gaping at llama bones

 

:O :O

 

 

cutie bolivian boy

i asked for photography permission – that’s him posing! muy adorableeee

and yet!!! there’s something pretty Chinese about him, no??? there’s some historical connection in our descent, is it???

 

 

they look like spells in a bottle

the night and the glittering city

 

 

 

 

 

Look at that adorable baby peeking out from the ‘sack’. It’s not an uncommon sight, I wanted so badly to buy that cloth (i got a small version) imagine carrying things everywhere with that! sigh. I would stand out in Singapore.

wow so korean fashion is keen over here as well?

After a day in La Paz… i think it’s quite a crazy city, especially when driving towards the airport, and reinforced when we flew over the city. All these buildings squeezed together that emerged from the mountainous regions. Damn, humans are amazing in that sense. You know, popping up whenever possible. Adapting accordingly I suppose. I drew an odd allusion to the tenacity of grass; at night and in the day, there’s these favela-looking housing stretched across the entire cityscape. On the flight I thought, we are SO small and insignificant when you fly over these thousands of housings like this. There’s just so many people in this world.
Even in Rurrenabaque, a town i thought insignificant, has 2.2 million inhabitants. In the millions. Yes, these are obvious facts but I can’t help musing about them…
We didn’t land on a ‘grass patch’, like i saw some descriptions on other blogs. It was a concrete pathway surrounded by grass by the side, but it was okay, expected i suppose.
Last night with Natalie and Israeli guy – we sat talking, somehow the conversation turned to politics and i was listening / nodding (partially because i do not know enough about Israeli politics / army, the issue / history with Jerusalem and the whole Gaza strip thing
Ugh!! really annoyed at my ignorance, really really really because i feel like i missed the chance to ask more about their opinions and points of view and negotiate my stand which i did not have. SIGH I guess i will read up after this)
and then a British guy made some strange noise, and Israeli guy asks what’s up, and British guy says ‘I don’t agree, actually,’ and then he says something about what Israel should do and Israeli guy says some other thing and there’s this discussion / debate and while I emerged from it (awkward bystander) a little more knowledgeable about the whole issue, i do not know enough to form an OPINION 😦 to analyze the arguments of both parties (which is important to me!!!)
in any case, the ‘discussion’ ended with UK guy saying ‘we could go on about this all day, but i have to go for dinner’ and he left
and the atmosphere was a little weird
and at one point Israeli guy said ‘they look at me like i’m a murderer, you know’ and it made me think about nationality – how you carry that with you even when you’re abroad, you become a ‘representative’ of your country, including their policies and decisions
in some ways it’s a difficult position
because you might not agree with your government, but to have other nationalities lambast your country isn’t a good feeling – because you agree, but then there’s that element of national pride? i think? and also because it’s a fine line, them having to serve the army (compulsory), it’s like they have to defend their own (state-dictated) actions
i don’t know, i don’t know
i’m just thinking if i were of this nationality, i would be annoyed that i, the traveler, receive questions regarding my nation
like i cant escape it, i have to carry that part with me
(depends of course on the people you meet etc but from what i gather, it seems like questions about it emerge and if i were them, i would be tired (but as a traveller i would too, ask)
==

 

Today –
Meant to go for walking tour but was suddenly hit with an immense wave of nausea. Why? Is it the altitude sickness? Or stomach issues? I’m really not too sure. I had to sit down for awhile. I had waited for the walking tour for quite awhile; you gathered at about 2 (I arrived 10 minutes earlier), had to wait about 15 more minutes for more to gather, and another 5-10 hearing this guy talk about his walking tour tomorrowregarding the jail. Note to self: read the book. It was pretty interesting. Then when we were to finally set off, I felt so terrible I had to sit down. Tried walking one street with the group but I just couldn’t, I had to sit down more than anything else. Why? Is it because of the altitude difference between rurrenabaque and here? I don’t know. Sigh. I wish I could say something substantial came out of that time – I suppose I for my fake north face jacket (for Machu Picchu) at a pretty decent price (130 bolivianos ~ 19usd; other shops along the touristy streets were pricing them at 200 at least on) but more walking, the tour and bus and that was all. I decided to skip the teleferico because I’ve done far too many cable cars across cities. I suppose la paz was different but it just wasn’t different enough. At this point I also regret death road, because I should really have used the money for paragliding instead. Sigh!!!
Well when I was walking around this morning I chanced upon a fruit place which was lovely. The fruit salad was only 7 bolivianos (1usd) and the queue was long, with locals. I stood around eating from the bowl. The lady started talking to me, askin me where I’m from and upon knowing I’m heading to Copacabana, told me her son was a tour guide there. She wanted to give me his name and number, and tapped another girl to ask for bibliographia. The girl obliged. I realise she spoke English, so I chatted with her for awhile, asking her my questions surrounding Bolivia. Turns out she had a Singaprean (ex)boyfriend(????) whom she met through Facebook, because of their common interest that is Kpop. Really???? Wooow. How connected the world is. Who is this 19 year old boy, I’m truly curious!

This morning I also headed to the optician, wondering if I should make my spectacles here. Could be cheaper after all. But I didn’t know my degree – I realised these shops did not have the machines like we did in Singapore, you had to consult a ‘doctor’ at another shop (and pay) to get a transcription for your eyes, before going to the spectacles shop. I take too much for granted the convenience of Singapore
Estoy cansada!! Mas importante aspects are done! Todo bien, todo bien. Buenas noches!!


bus in Bolivia!

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