- Submitted by: Tim Rayley, United States
- Submission Date: 20th Feb 2009
Masaya, Frebruary, 20, 2009
I was slipped a tip about this place and, after five real disappointing months in various Costa Rican cities, hopped a chickens and livestock bus north to Masaya, Nicaragua. What a treat this place is! Spotlessly clean, unusually safe and friendly for anywhere in Latin-America OR the U.S., and with prices that infuse the U.S. dollar with new-found endurance. I was too long on that now hurtling rapidly downhill Costa Rica tourist bandwagon. No mas. IÂ´ve found her demure and more attractive sister here in Masaya.
Masaya is only about 20-25 km. south of the congestion, polluted air and always-lurking danger of Managua. Owing to her topography and gentle breezes, MasayaÂ´s air is sweetly clean and enhances her seeming perpetually-spring climate. Forgive my repeated comparisons of Masaya vs. Costa Rica, but IÂ´m still trying to get the taste of C.R. out of my mouth. It had been ten years since my previous trip there, and itÂ´s become a shameless harlot: soooo very spendy and rife with thieves, hustlers and beggars.
A couple of things that set Masaya apart are itÂ´s prices and always evident civic pride. Public trash receptacles abound, and signs urging the citizenry to "keep our city clean" are well-heeded. She proudly clings to and embraces a rich cultural heritage. Charming horse-drawn carriages serve as clip-clopping taxis down the cobblestone calles and will take you anywhere in town for twenty-five to fifty cents. If you prefer the motorized type, they too are in abundance and youÂ´ll never have to wait more than thirty seconds before the next one comes along ready to whisk you to most anywhere in the city for 20 Cordobas ( $1.00 U.S.)
My favorite destination and, like most of the places in town, within walking distance, is the beautiful Parque Centro. It sports a great big moat-surrounded rotunda as a centerpiece and is the center of civic social activity. The park houses a small childrensÂ´ carrousel, a playground, and is laden with trees, comfortable benches and street-vendors serving up savory, inexpensive foods. Add a host of gentle, friendly people and itÂ´s a veritable block-party every day and night of the week. Sunday night is when itÂ´s at itÂ´s most festive.
Two fascinating, open-air markets exist here, and the high quality of the goods offered and the prices are inspiring. Masaya holds the distinction of being nationally recognized as the artisan capital of Nicaragua. The old market lies just a couple blocks east of the park and the new market a few long blocks east of that. Prices are a little lower at the new mkt., and itÂ´s larger, more sprawling and more difficult to navigate. Both are well worth a visit and can easily eat up at least half a day each to thoroughly cover.
Saltwater Laguna Apoya lies about 20 km. away and is pristinely beautiful. Forrested and just isolated enough to give you the gettin-out-of-dodge feel. Laguna Katerina borders the city and is fresh-water. Worth a liesurely stroll to dangle your feet in itÂ´s temperate waters. A donÂ´t-miss attraction is the resident and still active volcano, Â¨Parque Volcan Masaya.Â¨. It too is just a short drive or cab-ride from town. A mild hike to itÂ´s crater is rewarded with a great view of a glowing lava dome (real cool after dark.).
Ahhhhhhh, for the food, beverages, and other diversions.......Right across streets bordering different sides of the park lie a couple of my favorite watering holes, where a litre of the excellent, locally-brewed beers, Tona and Victoria, can be had ice-cold for 33 Cordobas. My favorite, for itÂ´s laid-back atmosphere, friendly family of bartenders and great view of the park is Mezon La Terraza. About thirty meters away and the place to be on Sunday night is La Ronda. It fills up for dancing to latin rhythms with a broad spectrum of folks. Young adults and middle-agers, ten-yr. olds dancing with their older relatives, even vibrant septegenarians are out there on the floor busting moves. What fun! Probably the hippest bar with the best music is "La Attico," always packed on Friday and Saturday nights with a thirtyish crowd. It has a real comfy, rustic interior, a towering ceiling and the same great prices. ItÂ´s a good meet and mingle place. For those wanting to tiptoe on the wild side, try a bar called "Blue Foxy." Twenty-seven C. will get you a cold 12.oz. beer and a good peek at several fully birthday-suited, sultry latinas. Rumor has it that a hearty handful more C. greatly enhances the view. IÂ´m aware of four casinos here. They donÂ´t offer the wide range of games available in U.S. casinos, rather are filled with a plethora of nickle and dime slots. They stay open very late and itÂ´s great fun to create some racket and attention as hundreds of cordobas come rattling out into the trays.
One particular block of San Jeronimo street (itÂ´s a tangent off of the park) rates as the best meet-all-your-needs area. The best liquor store, two fine restaurants, a barber shop and two real good internet/international calls cafes. They are: "The Liquor Store"- Sparkling clean, with friendly folks and the best prices. YouÂ´ll find the adequate english of both proprietor Claudio Salgado and mgr. Alfonso Morales entertaining and interesting. Claudio is a great source of information on local culture, Nicaraguan history, and local politics past and present. "Mr. Lorch Bar/Rest"- Very attentive staff, nice outdoor deck and extensive menu. "San Jeronimo Barberia"- catch a quick haircut done right by a sweet lady for 35 C. "El Zabad Rest."- This place is cool. No fancy decor or neon signs, just terrific food. Isabel Campo Leon and her husband run this friendly eatery. Isabel prepares all the delicious dishes, ranging from all-american favorites like cheeseburgers and fries and chili-dogs, to pastas, hearty homemade soups and private-recipe entrees of beef, chicken and fish, all served with potato, salad and rice, IN style I hasten to add, by blue-jean and T-shirted maitre Â´d Freddy B. Possibly the most helpful guy in Masaya. ItÂ´s just his style to go out of his way to help. (Walked me around town in search of an apartment, on his dime.) Try IsabelÂ´s Hawaiin-style pork chops, smothered in a delicious pineapple and sauce mix. The most expensive item on her menu is a tender filet mignon.... $5!
This genial, gentle town is where itÂ´s at, folks.