Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bolivia: La Paz

The pollution, poverty, and chaos of La Paz keep it from being wholly lovable in the grandest sense, but that’s not to say that it’s without charm. You just have to scratch a bit below the surface and have the time and lungs to give the city the benefit of the doubt. Amidst the grime and traffic lurk fantastic restaurants, colorful bars, and a vibrant student life. On a clear day, La Paz enjoys some crazy great views of Mt. Illimani. And even in this heavily industrialized and modernized city, traditional Bolivian dress remains a colorful constant. Indeed color is the much-needed antidote to La Paz’s often gray air. Luckily frequent street parades and vibrant micros (gravity-defying public buses that chug and belch along the steep city streets) add flair.

The witch’s market is a camera-toter’s favorite, where gringos can ogle traditional remedies like llama fetuses meant to be buried under new houses to bring good luck. But despite the open-jawed tourists, this is the real deal: witch doctors and fortune tellers ply their wares and skills on the street for locals in search of healing or hexing.

And despite the somewhat insane vehicular sparring on the crowded roads, we did see this handy fellow monitoring pedestrian flow on the crosswalks, called zebra crossings in this neck of the woods.

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