La Paz, being the (effective) capital of Bolivia and third-most populous city, was everything I’d seen in the previous three cities, but bigger. Bigger buildings, bigger marketplaces… and bigger protests.
Seriously, there were multiple protests per day.
Also…bigger herds of zebra in the crosswalks. And donkeys.
Physically, La Paz is striking because it is built right into Bolivia’s rugged mountainous landscape.
Next to my hostel there was a government registry place, where people had to submit forms and wait in insane lines to do unknown things. The most entertaining aspect, though, is that people outside use typewriters (!!) to help fill out the forms for people (for a fee).
Speaking of hostel, the hostel knew exactly what kind of problems travelers to Bolivia deal with.
Toilets in the hostel did not look like this
But in many public places they did. It is more environmentally friendly: instead of flushing with “fresh” water (quoted because tap water in Bolivia isn’t drinkable anyway), you dip that gallon jug into a huge vat of murky water and use that to flush instead.
And on the topic of toilet water…
Just kidding, that’s how coffee is served to-go in Bolivia.
Of course, you can get your fill of “local” apparel from a street that just sells the colorful knit clothes we associate with the Andes.
It’s actually completely touristy though; if you don’t believe me you can check out the shirts they were selling.
Nearby is the also-touristy witches’ market, (in)famous for selling fetal llamas (Warning: graphic/dead animals).
And formerly-touristy is the San Pedro prison, where you could bribe guards to get a tour of the facility. The prison is interesting because of how it operates virtually like a city, filled with businesses, cells rented out for money, cocaine-making operations, families living with their incarcerated fathers/husbands, and even free days where prisoners can spend the day in the city.
It’s no longer open to tourists so you have to appreciate the stories from outside. And although it is well-known outside of Bolivia, apparently all prisons in the country operate like this; San Pedro being in the middle of downtown La Paz was what gave it more attention.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m skeptical of the efficacy of the Bolivian government, and I think someone that shared my toilet seat at one point agrees.
The local government did try to do something positive by alleviating some of the traffic problems by implementing a bus system called the Puma Katari; unfortunately this picture is only an artist rendering of what it could have looked like, and not what you see on the streets choked with minivan-taxis all running similar routes through the city.
Food safety in Bolivia is also an issue for someone not used to standards here; I did take the chance to visit a local eatery though.
The place had no name or labeling other than that sign, and there is only one three-course menu: soup, chicken, and then jello. At under $2 though, it’s hard to say no.