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Puerto Maldonado 03: The town - the people - nightlife

Structure of the town - main spots and people - eating, drinking, nightlife

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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from: Dilwyn Jenkins: The rough guide to Peru; Rough Guides, New York, London, Delhi; 6th edition September 2006; www.roughguides.com

General information about the town's structure

The streets of Puerto Maldonado are laid out in rigid grid pattern, not emanating from a central plaza as in most Peruvian cities, but stretching out from the port and Tambopata riverfront, towards the airport and forest edge.

These days it has (p.541)

a busy city center buzzing with motorbikes and chicha music. The port area offers an otherwise rate glimpse of the river, which is largely shielded from view by the ever-growing rows of wooden houses and lumber yards. The main avenue, [Jirón] León Velarde, combines the usual bars and restaurants with pool halls, hammock shops and offices. The feel you get here is of a rapidly growing, but still intimate and small city, whose young people spend endless evenings sitting row upon row in front of the web-connected glare of computer monitors, in hopes of procuring lucrative careers in the future (p.542).

The town is changing shape fast, with the population rising from 10,000 to 60,000 (mostly colonists from the mountains) in the last seven years and with concrete roads spreading from the old center, all of them busy and lined with occupied shops and properties (p.544).

Main spots and people

In town, [Jirón] León de Velarde, immediately establishes the town's stage-set feel, lined with bars, hardware ships, and a pool-room. At one end is the Plaza de Armas, with an attractive, if bizarre, Chinese pagoda-style clock tower at its center, and along another side a modern Municipalidad - where, not much more than ten years ago, a TV was sometimes set up for the people to watch an all-important event like a soccer game. These days there are satellite TV dishes all over town and the youth of Puerto Maldonado are as familiar (p.547)

with computer software as they are with jungle mythology. The streets, mostly muddy but for a few concreted main drags, show few signs of wealth, despite the gold dust that lures [seduces] peasants here from the Andes. If you're considering a river trip, or just feel like crossing to the other side for a walk, follow Jirón Billingshurst, or take the steep steps down from the Plaza de Armas to the main port, situated on the Río Madre de Dios - one of the town's most active corners (p.548).

On [Jirón] Leon de Velarde, the old market (mornings only) has excellent juices, fresh fruit and vegetables, while the best place for Brazil nuts is the general store at Velarde 570. Delicious (but hard to eat) aguaje palm fruits are sold at several street corners along [Jirón] Velarde (p.548).

Eating, drinking and nightlife

You should have no problem finding a good restaurant in Puerto Maldonado. Delicious river fish are always available, even in ceviche form, and there's usually venison [deer] or wild pig fresh from the forest (try estofado de venado [stewed deer]).

is one of the best (though also priciest) eateries where you can enjoy an enormous plate of food while watching life pass by along the river.

Cabaña Quinta
restaurant with excellent three-course set-lunches, often including fresh river fish and fried manioc.

Restaurant Califa
around the corner from Cabaña Quinta on [Jirón] Piura, serving great lunches and specializes in fish and jungle crops.

Pizzeria Chez Maggy
on Plaza de Armas, is very popular with travelers and locals, and at weekends you may have to wait a while for a table; there are no exotic toppings, but it's hard to believe how they can produce such good pizzas in this jungle environment.

Pollos a la Brasa La Estrella [Fried Chicken The Star]
[Jirón] Velarde 474, T. 082-573107, for grilled chicken.

El Califa
[Jirón] Piura 266, T. 082-571119, traditional jungle meals

El Hormiguero ["The Anthill"]
[Jirón] Dos de Mayo 1358, T. 082-571082, traditional jungle meals.

Chifa Wa Seng
[Jirón] Dos de Mayo 253, serving a successful combination of traditional Chinese and jungle food.

[Jirón] Velarde 928, vegetarian food, but their dishes are a little uninspiring.

Cafés and Bars

Along [Jirón] León de Velarde are a number of cafés and bars, one or two of which have walls covered in typical selvatico-style [jungle style] paintings, developed to represent and romanticize the dreamlike features of the jungle - looming jaguars, brightly plumed macaws in the treetops, and deer drinking water from a still lake. Locals are very keen on sweet and savoury snacks (p. 548).

Tu Dulce Espera,
on the fifth block of [Jirón] Velarde, serving sweet and savoury snacks, typical sweets.

La Tiendacita Blanca ["The White Little Shop"]
on the fifth block of [Jirón] Velarde, serving sweet and savoury snacks

La Casa Nostra ["Our House"]
on the fifth block of [Jirón] Velarde, serving sweet and savoury snacks, serving traditionally prepared, delicious tropical fruit juices (including mango, passion fruit, pineapple and carambola, a local favourite) for less than 50 cents a glass, as well as tamales, papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes) and a range of exotic-looking cakes.

On [Jirón] Leon de Velarde, the old market (mornings only) has excellent juices (p.548).

Nightlife in Puerto Maldonado: Chicha music, salsa, cumbia dance, technocumbia, chichiperalta - activity on Friday and Saturday

There's very little nightlife in this laid-back town, especially during the week - most people just stroll around, stopping occasionally to sit and chat in the Plaza de Armas or in bars along the main street. At weekends and fiesta times, however, it's possible to sample chicha music (one of the jungle's greatest delights for many people), salsa, which has infiltrated the jungle over the last ten years, and a more recent arrival, the Colombian rhythms of cumbia - the latest fads being technocumbia and chichiperalta. All are loud and easy to move to, and on Friday and Saturday nights, you can usually pinpoint a concert just by following the sound of an electric bass guitar.

The best club in town is Witite, at [Jirón] Velarde (p.548)

151 (Fri & Sa; 50 cents for men on Sat), which has a surprisingly advanced sound system that plays the whole range of Latino music - though spiders' webs frequently adorn the speakers at this cool spot. There's also Anaconda at [Jirón] Loreto 228 and La Numba Disco Pub at [Jirón] Loreto 122. There are several other music bars (weekends only) clustered around the plaza, the Coconut Pub being one of the most popular (p.549).

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