Conventional Tourist Spot No. 1: View of Port-au-Prince from the Mountain Tops
Haiti is very mountainous, and Port-au-Prince has mountain borders to the north and south. Fortunately, I was able to go up to both mountains and had a great view of the city from there. The best viewing spots on the north are not developed, so we simply pulled over and stepped out of the car for quick photos.
The mountain border to the south was already developed into a tourist trap, complete with locals selling souvenirs. This area is where the affluent live, so you'll also spy mansions on either side off the road. The view, when you finally reach it, is completely mesmerizing.
Conventional Tourist Spot No. 2: Beaches
Although I mentioned earlier this week that public beaches were dirty and that even the private beaches had garbage in the water, the beach was still a worthwhile diversion. The water was what is called "bathtub warm," and it was so clear. I just wished that I had snorkeling gear because I spent a good chunk of time looking at coral, and for sea urchins or shells in the shallow water.
Regular scenes from downtown
Non-Conventional Tourist Spot No. 1: Downtown
Downtown Port-au-Prince was one of the places that was hit the hardest by the 7.0 earthquake. There's no redevelopment to be seen, but the gravitas of the country's situation hits when you're in the midst of the aftermath of the earthquake a year later, and the local population is going about their business around the rubble. Every day there were people crowding the main streets, selling goods and setting up markets. Even though buildings lean and look on the verge of collapsing, Haitians continue to conduct business on the first floors.
A hog swims in the garbage-filled river along a slum
Non-Conventional Tourist Spot No. 2: Cité Soleil and Canaan
Most visitors won't put the slums at the top of their list; however, on my trip, I found these places to be a “must visit” sites. These places were mostly educational for me, because when the world focused on Haiti after the earthquake it focused on these Tent Cities. I went from seeing them on TV to seeing them in person, really understanding that these were a new phenomenon. It's better to learn, in person, what sort of aid the people really need.
I was a fool to not think that Haiti had places to visit. With just a little bit of an awakening, Port-au-Prince has a certain charm of its own. For me, this trip was an educational adventure rather than a tourist getaway. Thank you so much for reading my impressions this week, and I hope you enjoyed the series.
Read the whole series from the beginning:
Part 1: The Con Men of Port-au-Prince Airport
Part 2: Life as a Voluntourist
Part 3: Tap-Tap Trucks, Translators & Tropical Beaches
Part 4: How to Be Charitable
[Photos: Soo Ah M. Lee]