I spent two days in Managua, the city & country that are fun to say. Where are you? Managua, Nicaragua!
Before arriving I had already booked an outbound flight to Panama with the presumption that I wouldnâ€™t like Managua much. But I was wrong!
As usual, the internet was out-of-date and did not give a very good description of Managua. It was clear that many of the editorials written about Managua were written at least a few years ago because many of the negative comments didnâ€™t seem to fit modern-day Managua. There were comments about how poor the city isâ€¦ which just didnâ€™t seem to be the case. It may have been much poorer in the past, but the city seems to be in a definite period of growth.
The airport, while small, is nice and new. There are numerous modern shopping malls, including the Metrocentro and the Gallerias Santa Domingo. I stayed at a very luxurious and nice hotel, called the Real Metrocentro (part of the Intercontinental hotel chain) for less than $100/night and it was nicer than most hotels in communist Canada or bankrupt America.
A few internet posters had commented that there isnâ€™t much to see and do in Managua and it should only be a 1-2 day stopover en route to the rest of the country. Well, the thing I realized about these comments is that many people go to places such as Managua to do the tourist circuit and go see old churches and stuff. Things I never, ever do. If I really cared about an old church, Iâ€™d just look it up on the internetâ€¦ I donâ€™t need to go look at in person.
When I travel all I care about is the vibe. Meeting and seeing the people and enjoying the differences in their style and culture. Many times I arrive in a city and by sundown I already have a local girlfriend. My favorite is to actually end up staying the night, or longer, at her abode. This, in my opinion, is by far the most interesting and educational way to learn about the people and the place.
For what I look for, Managua is a great place to visit at this time. It has a great vibe. The people are very nice and friendly and relaxed. The girls are really beautiful (check out a few of the most recent Miss Nicaraguas as example!) and are very easy to talk to.
There are a few fairly high-end discothecas, which I always like. One of the better ones I visited was Hipa Hipa. The crowd was very good. Nicaraguans have a nice mix of colors and flavors. The majority of Nicaraguans are direct descendants of Spain, so most are light skinned, but with enough mixing of local native cultures and styles to have some nice flavor.
Managua had many similarities to San Jose, Costa Ricaâ€¦ although smaller and much, much cheaper and with much less crime. In fact, Nicaragua has the lowest level of crime in all of Central America, not that many of the other places are all that dangerous, but I would say that if you worry about things such as crime, youâ€™d be much better off in Managua than, for example, a city like Vancouver.
If you are business minded, I would highly, highly recommend Nicaragua. It appears to me, in many ways, to be like Costa Rica probably was 20-30 years ago. It is nicely developed yet still has the great majority of its growth likely ahead. An investment into a business in Nicaragua will almost surely do well over the coming decade. Iâ€™d put it easily in the top 10 of countries with potential, if not right near the very top.
Latino Americanos always seem to have a warm spot for socialism/communism, unfortunately. Although that appears to be gradually changing in most places. Nicaragua spent much of the latter part of the 20th century battling between itâ€™s stupid communist side (the Sandinistas) and itâ€™s more rational side (well, everything is more rational than communism). But freedom and free markets seems to have really taken root in Nicaragua. 90% of all industries were privatized in the last decade and now that there are no civil conflicts the place really seems to be blossoming.
The casinos could use a bit of work though, imo! I showed up to one at the Crowne Plaza but it was closed, strangely enough. Then I went to Pharoahs Casino on Masaya road which apparently had the only operating poker tables in town. They had 3 tables but mostly ran sit-n-go style tournaments and only had one cash table. I am not sure what the maximum buy-in was but I bought in for 3,000 pesos ($150 dollars) as that appeared to be about what most people had. It was a $1/$2 blind no limit game.
The players at the table seemed to mirror Managuaâ€™s population. There were a few Korean guys (Managua seems to have a fairly significant amount of Asian immigrants) who appeared to have lived in the city for a considerable length of time. There was an old retired man, likely from the US (similar to Costa Rica, it appears Nicaragua is becoming a place many Americans look to retire). And the remainder were local Nicaraguan businessmen and a few younger Nica guys.
In general the skill level was quite a bit higher than a place like the Dominican Republic and Manila. One of the Korean guys pulled off a fairly good bluff on me at one point. But the game was still quite loose and not too difficult. But the game was irritatingâ€¦ the casino had a policy of counting up ALL the winning chips in the pot, after EVERY hand, and then the dealer would sit there and calculate in his head, under great mental duress apparently, the casinos rake. This added about an extra minute or two to every hand, resulting in an incredibly slow pace of play. This, combined with the fact that every single person at the table was smoking cigarettes and cigars, in a fairly unventilated back room, resulted in my stay being short.
Besides that, however, I very much enjoyed my time in Managua. It was also helped by having spent a fair amount of time with a girl who looked a lot like Jennifer Lopez. 😉
Iâ€™d have no problem spending a significant amount of time in Managua and I am now curious about some of the Nicaraguan beach areas. If Iâ€™m in the area again, I will definitely spend more time there and even look to possibly purchase some real estate, with the intention of visiting regularly and for investment.
As for now, I am on the plane to Panama. Itâ€™s been a few weeks since Iâ€™ve had any decent poker action and Panama appears to be growing like crazy and apparently has numerous decent sized cash games and tournaments now, so I wanted to go check that out.
Iâ€™ll spend a few days in Panama and then I am going to tour around a bit in Colombia and Venezuela (Cartagena, Santa Marta, Maricaibo and Caracas, most likely). The amount of beautiful girls in this entire region is seriously ludicrous. Even though my condo purchase fell through in Acapulco I think I am definitely going to have to get a little place somewhere around hereâ€¦ maybe Panamaâ€¦ maybe Nicaragua, maybe Mexicoâ€¦ maybe Colombia. And spend more time in this whole region. Once again, Latin America and Asia are living up to all my expectations, and more.