Travel Adventures: Central America
Amanda Leon Wednesday, July 6
Traveling is a passion of mine, I love the idea of hopping on a plane and in a few hours be in an entirely different world. Now, it's easier than ever to travel, and I wanted to share with you my new and favorite places, so it might inspire you to go somewhere you've never been before.
This summer, I took my first international trip of 2016. I headed to Central America, to the largest country in the region, Nicaragua. As some of you may know, I'm part nicaragüense, and being from such a diverse family background that spans across many places on the globe, one of the things on my bucket list is to get to know the roots of the many cultures that make up who I am.
I visited the capital of Nicaragua, Managua, the small town that was historically a military output for generations, Masaya, and one of the oldest Spanish cities in the world, Granada.
There were a lot of beautiful art murals throughout the capital, especially in the universities, where creativity and art were encouraged.
This desert is called raspados, made of crushed ice and syrup. It's like a snow cone, except way better. Best part: this medium cup was only 50 cents!
Nicaragua has so much breathtaking nature, from mountains, volcanos, lakes, and ocean. The volcano in Masaya is an active volcano and the view and drive up is breathtaking.
The red part you see at the bottom is lava! It was a huge lake of molten fire that was constantly being pumped out. I couldn't get a good picture from where we were, but in person, it's crazy how much lava the volcano is constantly producing.
The clouds mixing in with the smoke of the volcano.
Quick backstory: Nicaragua is currently ruled over a communist "president", the same person who overthrew the government in the seventies, ruled the country, was voted out, and then came back into power in 2006. There is communist propaganda everywhere, and there were public buses from Russia.
These posters were everywhere, and considering this man and his government forced many of family members out, tortured and murdered them, I have no warm feelings towards him or the fact that he's currently in power. I mention this because sometimes, when you seek out your family history, it's ugly, but knowing history, no matter how undesirable it is, acknowledging it only empowers and makes you understand that your life experience is not the only one out there.
Granada was my favorite. It was founded by the Spanish, and a lot of architecture dates back to the 1500s. Such a colorful and vibrant city, I took a horse carriage around, and it was stunning.
This is a famous dish in Granada called vigoron. It's made of pork rinds, yuca, salad served over a plantain leaf. It's absolutely delirious. A plate and a drink is about $3.
This is a fortress located in Masaya, and was a fort used by the Spanish, and a prison used to torture political dissenters until the late 20th century. Now, it's a private museum where tours are given, telling its history. Most of the fort goes deep underground, so these pictures are from the outside and view from the old sniper outpost.
The government center was located in the capital, and somewhere we stumbled upon by accident. It's very clean and well kept, and loads of strange communist statues and propaganda. In the midst of this were old churches and statues, and a mini city of how the capital used to look like before a devastating earthquake hit it in 1972.
Brief travel tips for those who want to visit Nicaragua:
-Your dollar goes a long way here. Make sure you exchange for the local currency at the airport or at your local hotel.
-Buy water. They have two big grocery store chains, La Colonia and La Union (owned by Walmart), where they sell American and European water bottles. I got sick from the water last time I was here, so make sure to stock on water.
-Get a driver. I was with someone who knew the country very well but GPS is non-existent and a lot of the maps are outdated.
A driver is your best bet to not get lost and if you take a car, make sure to pay the local kids hanging around to guard your car, if not your car will get scratched or stolen.
Expect culture shock. To be blunt, the local people hate foreigners, especially Americans. They depend on tourism money but they'll hate you anyways. Speaking the local language is always a plus, but ultimately it doesn't matter since they can always tell you're not a local.
It's a hostile environment to be in, there's a lot of anti-American sentiment due to the communist regime and despite the fact that I spoke Spanish the entire trip, I still stuck out like a sore thumb.
Also, expect to get scammed and make sure, if you pay in dollars, do your own conversions to the local currency. Once they realize you're a foreigner, they will bump up prices and try to scam you. Stand your ground, and you'll be fine.
How much to tip and tour guides: The tour guide at the fort told us that he was there as a volunteer and doing the job for free and relying on tips, this is complete bullshit. On tipping, whether it's tour guides or the local kids who will guard your car, the average is 10 cordobas which is 50 cents for parking the car, and 100 cordobas, which is around 3 dollars USD for tour guides.
That's it! I hope you guys enjoyed my post! It was a lot of fun to photograph and put together! Expect more of these travel posts in the future!
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