After 3 weeks in this country and too many things that have happened (dengue fever, missing the ferry to Ometepe, kayak capsizing, a series of boring, dusty small towns), my heart told me there was one place I needed to go to: Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.
Yes, isn't it amazing that after 20 days here, I've not even been to the capital yet? When I arrived on plane, I landed in Managua but instead of spending time in the capital, I went straight to the most-visited destination in Nicaragua, Granada.
Time to do Managua some justice. And indulge in the familiar comforts of a big city.
Once again, another long bus ride. And yet again, I was surrounded by tons of friendly people. A man behind me even remembered me from Santo Domingo, the over-hyped town I visited on a half-day trip from Juigalpa. Yes, there's so few foreigners here that you stand out immediately, especially if you're Asian. In fact, I have seen a total of less than 5 Asians so far during 3 weeks of travelling. Don't even get me started on the stares (not rude stares, but curious glances that linger a little too long) that I feel landing on me each time I walk down the street of X small town. Stares that white tourists don't seem to attract. But you know what? It actually makes me feel special, and each time I look into the eyes of the person staring at me, they'd inevitably break out into a welcoming smile, or a little nod. Some even initiate conversation and talk to me, asking if I'm from China or Japan (neither), and feigning a knowing nod when I tell them I'm from Singapore. Well, at least they don't ask if Singapore is part of China, a question I encounter pretty frequently in Estados Unidos.
Big, bad, Managua. Guidebooks say its the most dangerous and seedy part of the country. People around the country consider it dangerous. And so the name reeks of crime, drugs, muggings, pickpockets and everything bad to me. I wrote this in my diary on the bus: "Wish me luck. Loads of it".
In retrospect, Managua was safer than I imagined. I was probably over-cautious and taking lots of precautions, that's why. But I didn't feel unsafe at all in my entire stay there. It just goes to show that if you're careful, you'll do fine. Don't let the fear of danger put you off travelling! (Nicaragua's the safest country in Central America). Though I admit fear barely kept me away from the Mercado Oriental, apparently a place filled with thieves and dubious wares like live grenades. Doesn't that sound thrilling? I almost wanted to go, and already thought of where to hide my money (in my underwear and socks) but changed my mind because a strong desire to leave Managua gripped me mid-day.
This is a terribly boring capital city. Attractions are extremely scarce, and poorly maintained. Started off by walking to the silhouette of Sandino on a hill overlooking the city. Even though its considered the main attraction of the capita, there really wasn't much to see there, which set the tone for the rest of my stay in Managua. I went to the main plaza, where I saw the haunting shell of what looked like a stunning cathedral, damaged after the 1972 earthquake and never rebuilt. Also went to the national history museum (mildly interesting, not very brilliant exhibits) and an archaeological site showcasing the footprints of early settlers in Nicaraguans as they escaped from a volcanic eruption (Overpriced entrance for a set of footprints. Seriously, they're just footprints. Call me dense, but I don't exactly get the hype about them. And the place's right smack in the middle of what looked like an extremely dangerous and violent neighbourhood).
With attractions like these (and believe me, I didn't miss anything important), I just knew I had to leave Managua.
The Caribbean was beckoning.