Panamajames: Thanks for the lively travelogue about Buenos Aires. Here are some additional observations about actually living there (2 years), compared to living in Panama City (10 months so far), based on my personal experience.
The economy of Argentina has been chaotic for decades: currency controls, periods of hyper-inflation, and stubbornly high unemployment. The political situation has been quite unstable as well. These conditions make for uncertainty and civil unrest, as you observed with several street demonstrations. The Argentineans do not have as bright an outlook on life as the Panamanians, and this shows in their interactions with each other and with foreigners. The positive side of the economic situation is that those who have income in a hard currency like the U.S. dollar will find their money goes farther. However, not knowing from one week to the next how much basic goods will cost gets to be a drag in the long-run. Panama has a much brighter economic future in my opinion.
Buenos Aires is a huge, sprawling city with bad traffic and choking air pollution. Commute times from the suburbs to the city centre can easily take more than 1 hour. There are many more highway fatalities in Argentina than in Panama. In PTY, you know where the no-go zones are; in BA street crime is more diffuse – not concentrated solely in certain areas. The pick-pockets are masterful. Also BA has a hard-drug problem. I feel safer in PTY.
In BA the housing stock is not as modern as it is in PTY. The upside of this is that you can find a place with old-world charm.
The cultural scene is more varied and much more sophisticated in BA: museums galore, theatre, music, film, art, antiques, and so forth. The cultural activities are on par with any major world city.
BA has a climate similar to parts of eastern North America: cool/cold winters when you definitely need winter gear, and broiling hot summers.
Despite Argentina’s strong European roots, it is more remote than Panama. Argentina feels like Australia that way. By comparison, PTY is a transportation hub where you can get anywhere in North or South America or Europe with relative ease and speed.
BA is a fun and interesting place to visit, but for my money and sense of well-being, PTY is a better place to live.
Enjoy the rest of your trip!
For a moment, I am going to go over what I see in the black market - U.S. blue dollar in Argentina. Dec 11th it was at $12.65 according to twitter and they produce a daily price if you wanted to search it. Dec 12th it was also $12.65, Dec 13th it jumped to $12.85, Dec 17th it jumped to $13.10 and Dec 18th a jump to $13.15. That means that every day, your American dollar is growing, as it compares to the Argentinian Peso. The longer you wait to cash it in, the more Pesos you can buy. Of course, it could crash and burn, but it seems to be on a steady rise as we head towards Christmas.
For most people, Argentina is a great deal with fabulous prices, however I met some folks who are moving here from Venezuela, and some just staying here on a holiday, who complained at how high the prices are here, compared to what they were paying in Venezuela. So, it appears, living very cheaply can be done in Venezuela, but there are few people who would agree that moving to Venezuela, is a great thing to do now, with the current Government.
As an example, here in Buenos Aires, I was able to purchase a litre bottle of beer (about 3 small beers) for a dollar which would cost an Argentinian with Pesos, a dollar and a half. Doing my laundry once a week, while it cost $6 a load in Uruguay, it cost us here in Argentina, $2 a load, where in Panama it was costing $3 a load, the same as an Argentinian using Pesos would be charged in comparison.
So your US dollar in Argentina is doing well for those who have them. And Uruguay is just too darn expensive to live for those on a limited income. But it is a beautiful place if you have the money. The economy in Argentina is generally is a little shaky overall, so I would not suggest that investing in this country is great, but this is a beautiful place. I saw properties on the river today in Tigre, that could probably be bought for a song, and are heaven on earth.
The population makeup in Argentina appears to be more than 50% with Italian heritage, 20% Spanish background, and the rest made up of Europeans and a small number of North Americans. The official language here is Spanish, with an Italian and Portuguese influence. The people here are very proud. They were able to gain independence and freedom for themselves in 1983 and got rid of military control. While Panama was still under the control of Manuel Noriega, Argentinian people were declaring a democratic country, waving flags, beating drums, having parades, and declaring power to the people.
Last night there was a group who began to demonstrate in the early evening, and were beating on drums for hours, calling themselves Frente Inversal or something like that. Lots of people gathered for a rally. I didn´t find out too many details. 4 Police officers keeping things under control, and families taking part in the demonstrations, mothers breast feeding babies, little kids beating drums or shaking tamborines. It ended with a huge fireworks display and explosions, outside our rooms in the hotel. A typical night in Buenos Aires it seems.
The annual parade last Saturday, the largest party that I have ever been a part of, was a tribute to that freedom, democracy, and good riddance to military rule. Parades, peaceful demonstrations, and a very large party at the Pink House, Argentina´s version of the White House, in the Plaza de Mayo, and the President spoke to the nation on TV.
Another exciting day in Argentina Saturday as someone told us that we had to visit the Plaza del Mayo for the festivities. We were hoping to just go to the Satuday San Telmo market, but we found out that the big market is Sunday, so we decided to check out Plaza de Mayo. On Sunday they close off 10 streets on Defensa and it is wall to wall merchants with everything you could possibily think of for sale, or services rendered.
So, last Sunday was another of the world famous San Telmo Sunday markets that we were looking forward to. It is similar to the market in Montevideo Uruguay that they hold every Sunday. It is all cash so you come to deal and barter. Bands were also setup on various corners to entertain the folks and pass the hat. There were all types of bands, with a few players, up to a dozen musicians and singers. Accordion players are big in this country, of course the drummers. If you thought that you heard a lot of drumming in Panama, wait until you visit Argentina. Violins, trumpets, trombones, percussion, keyboards, guitars, singers and dancers. Tango couples were performing. This Sunday market is an event, and it happens every Sunday. Boquete has a Tuesday market that pales in comparison, but for the size of the town, it´s not bad. David and Panama City have many large markets as well, but they don´t have the entertainment factor that I see here in Argentina. Lots of freebee hand outs from companies as well, promoting their products. There was some sort of sweet cake in chocolate that was being handed out and they were great.
I am looking forward to the Otavalo market in Ecuador that we will attend around the first week of February. It was an 8 hour day at the market, and my wife shops til she drops, and she was dragging herself back to the hotel around dinner time and was out like a light. Down for the count. I took it a little easier in the square and chatted with folks. It was a very pleasant day and perfect weather.
On that same day, Sunday in the evening, it was soccer time, Futbol on every TV set in the nation. A team called Racing was in the playoffs and obviously they had a lot of Buenos Aires fans. When a goal was scored, a huge blast of noise could be heard all over the city. Well Racing won and into the wee hours of the morning, the fans took to the streets in their cars and honked horns and made noises like the world was coming to an end. They love their Futbol. There was fireworks, screaming and yelling everywhere. If you weren´t used to living in a Sports town at championship time, you would probably be very afraid.
So the weekend in Buenos Aires was over.
Monday morning came way too soon, but it was time to find more excitement. We traded a bunch of Blue dollars in for Pesos and looked for a travel agent to buy tickets for our upcoming adventure in Iguazu Falls and Mendoza, also in Argentina. We had talked about doing the 20 hour bus rides, but then decided that the Blue dollar rate was so good, let´s fly. So, we got our tickets.
In some of these travel agent places, you will also find Tourism Info. That is one thing that I highly recommend to do when first landing in a place where you are vacationing. Find a Tourist information place. They just sit around the office all day long, hoping that you will come in and talk with them. They will dig out a map for you, and you really need a map, they will mark it for you, and tell you a few of the sites that you must see. There was a fellow in Colonia Uruguay at the bus station, who has the most entertaining two or 3 minute introduction to his town that I have ever witnessed. He was a cartoon character. I wish I could have recorded him. He has the smile and the almost English words down pat. He most likely does this all day long and has perfected his spiel. He may have been a robot.........
In Argentina, look for local Tango events at a Malonga. They pick you up at 8, or 8.30 or quarter to 9, whenever they get there. Dinner, a Tango show, and they drive you home by midnight. El Querandi was our choice. The history and the essence of Tango in Buenos Aires. An outstanding show. Many dancers, some opera like singers, and a band of amazing musicians. They were all great, but this violinist in his solos was so good, that he could make you cry, along with making his violin cry. I was hoping to hear the song Don´t Cry For Me Argentina, but it didn´t happen. It´s not really Tango and this was traditional. If you visit the Niagara region, you must see the falls, if you come to Panama, you must see the Canal, and if you come to Argentina, you must be entertained at a Tango show. It´s a play, it´s a show, it´s great entertainment. We had a great dinner as well. If you need some web sites to check out look at these.......... www.tangol.com
www.demasiadotours.com.ar where you can find some free walking tours.
www.buenosairesbus.com where all the buses travel.
Check out these restaurants. Anything that says Tenedor Libre, which means Free Fork, but what that means is, that you have a variety of food to choose from, and you get it in plastic containers, weigh it, and pay by the weight. Most of them are chinese food places, but you look for the word Parailla which means Grill and you will most likely find ribs and steak, pork and chicken, all barbecued to perfection. Here is one that we loved. Some are take out only, but this one is both, take out or eat in. It was called Rising Sun and it was at 722 Defensa. There are many of these places, and we are finding them daily. You can get a really big meal for $4, an average meal for $3, and a bite to eat for $2, maybe less. Egg rolls, chop suey, chow mein, chicken wings, rice, all for a few dollars. Pasta and meatballs for a few dollars. And you can top it off with a Fried Egg which seems to be the tradition around here.
Today, we went to a burger place in Tigre and got their special. It was a hamburger with fries, and on the hamburger, was a fried egg, cheese, and a huge amount of bacon. You could add your own onions, tomatoes, pickles and condiments. The only ketchup we can find here in Argentina and Uruguay was Hellmans. And we like it, we like it a lot. Heinz has gotten a run for it´s money here, and perhaps lost out. I´m getting hungry.............more later. Jim in Buenos Aires, Argentina.