The City of Kings

19 11 2008
Lima from a 21 storey building, Miraflores facing Centre

Lima from a 21 storey building, Miraflores facing Centre

So last week was a run down of just some aspects of the city shown – in part – in the picture above. With a population 1.7 times that of Scotland, 42 times that of Aberdeen and 1678 times that of the Isle of Arran, it is by far the biggest place that I have ever lived. Travelling from one side of the city to the other is an eternity, even with the smaller of combis which are better adapted for zipping in and out of the relentless stream of honking (in both the sense of sound and of smell) traffic.

Even with it’s massive size, much of Lima still has a small town feel to it. There are noticable differences between the different districts that spread throughout the city making each part feel like a small city in its own right. There are richer districts such as San Isidro and San Borja – where the key financial institutions of the country are based – banks, large multinational businesses etc. –  and swanky resedential areas where all of the politicians have their houses built behind large walls and fences.

The district where I live and work – Miraflores – contains a large chunk of business as well though it also acts the tourist heart of the city, in that people spend the night here before heading off to Cusco and Machu Picchu. There are various classes of hotels, shopping centres, bars and restaurants that are largely tourist and backpacker orientated. The prices in many places are inflated in accordance with the fact that westerners are willing to pay more money for things. In fact it is usually the equivalent of the lowest of European and North American prices, it’s just that these are expensive in proportion to what things cost in other parts of Peru that are outside of the mainstream tourist flow.

Other districts are much in the same vein as Miraflores and the above as far as residential areas are concerned. Though not quite so touristy or finance orientated, there are many pleasant residential areas of the city where the middle class population of Lima live, where the main Universities are based and where various shopping districts are located. To the south of Miraflores is a district called Barranco, which has beaches and ideallic views of the Pacific and colourful colonial buildings crumbling at the corners. This has earned a reputation for being the bohemian haunt of the city with many artists and musicians residing there. It’s got the best night life as well with bars and nightclubs open til the morning – ahem, not that i’d know of course.

Moving outside of the districts where all of the money is, things start to get a bit more sketchy. There are less security guards and buildings are noticeably more dilapidated, many having fallen into disrepair. It’s also much dirtier as people are not hired to sweep the streets or water the parks or pick up litter (a chronic problem) outside of the “most important” districts in the city, which could be better described as the places where people pay taxes.

The centre of the city can be quite dangerous away from the heavily guarded government buildings and it is certainly not advisable to travel there after dark. It’s usually in such areas where the taxi driver advises you to lock your door in the event of him having to stop in traffic and theives storming the car (i’m told it happens).

Then – spreading around the kernels of wealth and economy – are the slums that have evolved over the last thirty years. I’ve only driven through some of these but the highways and main roads avoid the worst parts for sure. I’m sure I’ll get a proper chance to visit while I am still living here, but i’ll probably not be taking my passports/money/camera with me.

So thats a wee breakdown of how Lima works. I wish I had learned more but -as i’ve stated – this city is very big, and when working forty hours a week it is easy to fall into a comfort zone as everything i need i can have in Miraflores – with a quick taxi ride to Barranco every now and again.

For a repitition of many of these facts and statistics, check out Wikipedia, the most reliable and unbiased source of information that exists on all of the whole entire internet.

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