The Times had an article yesterday about how being a travel guide writer is not all that it’s cracked up to be. The introduction caught my interest:
In March, Thomas Kohnstamm, a 30-year-old Seattle native on assignment in Caracas, Venezuela, for Lonely Planet travel guides, walked out of a bar in a neighborhood called Sabana Grande and quickly found himself in trouble. A group of young men emerged from darkened doorways and set upon him. He was pistol-whipped and knocked to the ground, and the bandits began rifling through his pockets. Angered to learn that Mr. Kohnstamm had the equivalent of just $8, the thieves demanded his belt, his shoes, and eventually his pants.
…the police arrived. Armed with submachine guns, they ordered the bandits against a wall and retrieved Mr. Kohnstamm’s possessions ? including his ATM card. They then explained that for purposes of their investigation, they would need to know Mr. Kohnstamm’s PIN. In the end, Mr. Kohnstamm said, the police shook him down for just $25, but in the process, he gained a priceless bit of wisdom about the Sabana Grande neighborhood of Caracas, which he dutifully reported in the “Dangers & Annoyances” section of his Lonely Planet guide: “Caracas has some well-known issues with petty crime, robbery and armed assaults. These problems are not just hype and should be taken very seriously.”
I went to Sabana Grande on my second night in Venezuela. My guidebook must have been dated because it recommended I stay there because of the low prices. By the time I got off the Sabana Grande metro station, I already learned not to look at my map at night. I walked up the metro stairs and directly into the center of a huge flea market. It went on for many blocks.
The vendors were selling clothing, food, crafts, and useless junk from China. I guessed that a permit wasn’t needed to set up shop, and even though everything seemed to be chaotic, there was enough order for these people to run their business. I finally broke out of the vendor area and started walking down the sidewalk, taking note of specific landmarks so I could find my way back. I walked past shady food stands, trash, broken street lights. There was no sights, no bars, or decent restaurants. I don’t have any pictures of Sabana Grande for two reasons: 1) there was nothing to take pictures of, and 2) I would have gotten jacked. I was back on the metro in 30 minutes. Sabana Grande is not necessary for your Caracas experience. While I could argue that Caracas is not necessary for your Venezuela experience, there is humor to be found in its traffic, pollution, and crime.
Things looked up a couple days later on island. Less thugs, more women. Friendly women.
30 years old, bartender, excellent dancer