Carnival Spirit: Let's Talk about La Paz

The first thing you're going to hear about La Paz, perhaps, is that it's "unspoilt" and has "Carribbean-blue waters" and is some kind of paradise, etc.

And the first thing I'm going to say is that we enjoyed La Paz, but all of the above are lies. And while I wouldn't mind going back, I wouldn't go out of my way to do so. Now, Zihuatanejo? I'd paddle my own tender to shore.

We arrived at the terminal in Pichilingue (sp) in the morning, although we had the view of the land on the way to La Paz proper, and the ferry that I think goes to Mazatlan.

La Paz - Baja Ferries in Port

The marketplace outside of the terminal had all of the usual souvenirs, things we were actually hard-pressed to find in La Paz. No come-ons from the sellers, which is nice. (And just like Zihuatanejo.) If your experience of Mexico so far has been gritting your teeth on the beach or streets while being approached to buy something every other minute, then you will love La Paz. (And you would also love Zihuatanejo.)

(Sorry. I just love Zihua.)

Here's a glimpse of the area outside the terminal that I took later, after we came back, from the windows in the Fountain Cafe:

La Paz - Port of Pichilingue

The terminal had a lovely lounge, although no bar that I noticed, for those of you spoiled by Mazatlan.

La Paz - Cruise Terminal Waiting Area

There are two free shuttles, nice air-conditioned coaches - one to the beach and one to La Paz. Either trip is around 20-30 minutes.

Not being beach excursion people (although I do like staying on beaches if my car or hotel room is right there), we went to the city. The shuttle drops you off at a bus depot right across from the malecon (boardwalk). Inside the bus depot is a convenience store and some free maps with points of interest noted. (Marketplace, cathedral, museum, etc.)

La Paz - Bus Depot

La Paz - Seagull Statue

Now, I realize you can see a ribbon of some nicely pale blue water there, but that's all we ever saw - a couple of ribbons. The water wasn't bad or anything; it just wasn't different from the rest of the Pacific. Maybe it's crystal blue up by the beaches, I don't know, but Caribbean blue? (Or, as Mike would put it, Australian blue?) No, not here.

(And again, that's okay. I'm just saying that some of the hype may raise your expectations unfairly.)

We walked along the boardwalk for awhile, dodging several fashion plates with little dogs, one of whom deliberately grumbled about tourists as she passed. Nice. I may be a little sensitive because nothing drives me nuts like a Las Vegas native grumbling about tourists (what is our economy based on, again?), but unless I'm acting loud/obnoxious/in defiance of local custom, or what have you, I'm unimpressed with people who look down their noses at tourists. (Although which peeve me more - tourist-haters or tourists who go to great lengths to not look like tourists because they have some bizarre tourist shame - is always debatable.)

The attitudes of the ex-pat Americans and diva-styled chicas didn't really affect my enjoyment of our visit, but I'd be remiss not to note that those attitudes were the first we encountered.

And so long as I'm bitchin', maybe La Paz doesn't have a Senor Frog's (yet), but any place with a Carlos and Charlie's a few steps from the depot doesn't get to put on "undiscovered gem" airs.

La Paz - Carlos and Charlie's

A run-down carnival of copyright violations was on the boardwalk.

La Paz - Copyright Carnival

La Paz - Tilt-a-Whirl


La Paz - Carnival Birdies

La Paz - Bumper Cars

La Paz - Malecon Art

We crossed the street away from the ocean and started to wander the streets, glancing at the map and figuring we'd probably hit a marketplace or a the plaza with the cathedral. After passing between the hotels and eateries along the main drag (parallel to the sea), the first thing I saw was this edifice:

La Paz - Mullet Architecture

Wonder what it was? That was on our right. Straight ahead, the view was like this:

La Paz - Cantonese Food

I smiled to see the sign for the Chinese restaurant. I'd recently finished Jennifer 8. Lee's Fortune Cookie Chronicles, an insightful look at Chinese food and restaurants in the West.

What you aren't going to see are most of the other photos I took of the Chinese restaurants we saw as we walked around. (Because I'm too lazy to upload them all and link, and also because at some point I became too lazy to keep taking photos of them.) Considering that we only covered a small portion of the city - stopping one block short of the marketplace and the cathedral in the end - the density of Chinese restaurants and gift shops was quite surprising.

La Paz - Painted Palms

Above is a view I caught to my left as we walked the shabby streets, looking for a farmacia so Mike could get some throat-numbing drops like last time. (Yep, like last time, he got a cold... but he's lucky because he didn't catch the death plague I had for most of January. Maybe he got a lighter version, or maybe his immune system was still battle-ready when it came.) Still, having a cold while on vacation isn't pleasant - poor Mike. Here's a photo I took in the security mirror at the drugstore, which was much like a Walgreens or CVS.

La Paz - In the Farmacia Once More

I didn't try my fancy drug-dealing Spanish moves like last time, figuring Mike would be fine on his own with the cashier. However, this time he was using a credit card (since we weren't packing pesos), so of course the cashier asked (in Spanish) for his identification. I didn't actually hear what the cashier said, but some things are just international, right? Not for poor Mike. He literally threw his hands up in a panic and started repeating "I don't speak Spanish!" "Honey," I nudged in my fit of laughter "He just wants to see your ID."

Ah, tourists. :)

So, around the streets we went, glad for the mild weather but not seeing anything of particular interest. I didn't feel my cultural horizons broaden any more than when we wandered the streets of Puerto Vallarta, say.

We did cut through a tunnel of shops that included a beauty salon, some half-hearted souvenir enterprises, and a tiny Radio Shack:

La Paz - Radio Shack in a Tunnel

We came across the Cultural Center which had art from students on display, just past a bookshop with your usual classics and best sellers (in Spanish).

La Paz - Cultural Center

If you were from somewhere without Amazon or somewhere where every-other-thing is in Spanish (not Las Vegas, not California, not Texas...), the book selection was very decent and not a bad way to brush up on your Spanish. (Says the person who chickened out of reading Harry Potter in Spanish after the first chapter. What's the point? It's BritLit to begin with. Now, Don Quixote would be more the thing... and I'll get to that as soon as I lose 100 pounds, reorganize my stamp albums, and write my lesson plans for next year.)

The Cultural Center is attractive from the outside:

La Paz - Cultural Center (Outside)

Across the street is a Sears (a Sears!):

La Paz - Sears

Across the street is also a you-know-what:

La Paz - Gift Shop Sign

Down the street was another Chinese gift shop, and guess what Mike spied in the window?

La Paz - The Very Booklight That Came With My Snuggie

When sold Snuggies last year, they had a deal that was, like, two Snuggie Deluxes with booklights for $6. Or maybe it was $4. It was really cheap. So were the Snuggies (one with half-sewn pocket and weird glue blotch, but the other a perfect cult-crimson model). So were the booklights, too, but at least they have this cool Doctor Who-vian move when they open and shut.

And now there one was, in the window of a Chinese gift shop in Baja California.

Well, it was hilarious to us.

We wandered back to the bus depot and grabbed a bus back to the terminal. I saw some beautiful mother-of-pearl dominos with owl designs but the price was ouchie beyond the realm of haggling ($150). We instead got a magnet (after Mike went back and bargained the man down to $3) with the moon on it, to remind us of how we'd been chased us the night before.

(Okay, it was late at night. There was this fuzzy red ball on the water in the distance, past the back of the ship. A fire? It disappeared. After awhile it reappeared. It was getting closer! Jeezums, what fiery glob of menace was pursuing us?! Some kind of satanic air balloon of ancient Mexican lore?!)

(Oh, wait. Just the moon. A full red moon, rising from the horizon, sometimes obscured by clouds.)


Back on board we... well, I don't really remember what we did, not feeling like checking my notes, and the La Paz account has pretty much ended, I suppose. We spent a long time on our long balcony and got to see the Baja Ferry leave:

La Paz - Baja Ferries Leaving

And then we sailed away. This is the industrial area you pass on the way to La Paz:

Industrial Area on Way to La Paz

And now, in the distance, kinda-sorta La Paz:

La Paz in Distance

We like seeing new things, so this was a good trip, but if we ever return, we'll probably stay on board or make a token sightseeing visit to the beach. (It's hard to justify the excursion to the artist colony when, if you take the same excursion from Cabo, it's three hours less in travel time.) But there is plenty to do if you're content to eat, drink, or sunbathe, which is all most people want. I'm sure there's also plenty for the more athletic types to do, but I don't know how much is unique to La Paz.

La Paz: a peaceful place to visit, just like its name. (And that's about it.)

29 January 2011 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)