Prior to 1492, sailors slept on the ship deck in misery. But, Spanish sailors found natives of the Caribbean sleeping in hammocks, and a great invention for comfortable sleep was discovered. The hammock is very restful for the back and children love to swing in one. The correct way to sleep in one is with the body stretched out in a perpendicular manner to the hammock as it is hung between anchors on a wall or from trees. Indigenous Venezuelans can often be seen walking with their hammock over the shoulder. A hammock is a great souvenir because they are easily transported home in the backpack of suitcase.
Without a doubt, the finest hammocks are made in Venezuela. Also known as chinchorros, cheap tourist sisal hammocks are found everywhere, but these are to be avoided because sisal is both uncomfortable to the skin and sisal rots quickly in the sun and rain. Similarly, nylon hammocks are also the staple of some tourist shops, because Venezuela produces so many petroleum based products, but these are uncomfortable as they feel like plastic on the skin. They are also easily found anywhere in the world. Better are hammocks those woven natural fibers, such as from cotton, in a variety of colors. In Estado Lara, outside Barquisimeto at Tintorero are a number of workshops where colorful heavy cotton blankets and hammocks are woven on looms. These are very beautiful and comfortable hammocks sold at reasonable prices. They won't last long in the sun or rain, but with care will last many years. When we have a garden party at my house, I bring out the Tintorero cotton hammock for the kids to play in.
What to buy: The best and rarest hammocks found sold in Venezuela are those made from special weather resistant fibers indigenous to Venezuela. The most famous are made from domesticated plants grown in Estado Monagas, near Maturin, in the village of Aguasay. Made from the ananas (brocchinea) fiber, the rows of chains in these hammocks have been compared to fine lace. These hammocks are smooth, strong, and comfortable and will hang in the backyard for many years regardless of weather. These remarkable hammocks are less colorful than the cotton fiber hammocks, but are much more expensive due to the remarkable performance and rarity of the plant fiber. So, I keep this hammock for our own private use and display for adults.
Within Venezuela, other local fibers also woven into hammocks, so it's worth doing some further research before buying. All these types of hammocks can be found in Caracas. There's a great shop in the Altamira District, for example, but the prices will be far higher than if purchased at the villages where they are made.
In southern venezuela there are shops all over the place buying and selling gold.
They mostly buy from goldminers and then sell it to retailers, but it's fun wathcing the whole process.
It's a very wild west athmosphere where the goldminers usually head for the nearest bar as soon as they get their moneyI´m sure that if you know your way around the gold scene then there is really big money to made there.
THE AMERICAN BOOK SHOP has moved to Centro Comercial Centro Plaza which is a shopping mall located in Los Palos Grandes neighbourhood. It has quite a selection of English books. I was looking for Latin American literature in English, but they only have a few books from Mario Vargas Llosa and no one else (from South America, I mean). And they were very expensive. Meanwhile, the classics are at half-price.
Directions: Get off at Altamira metro station and walk east along Avenida Francisco de Miranda. It is located in the basement. Here's the address:
The American Book Shop
Centro Comercial Centro Plaza
Nivel Jardin, al lado de Restaurante Margana
Los Palos Grandes
Tel: 286-2230/ 285-8779
Hours: 9 - 6 Monday to Saturday
Based on the name, this huge bookstore seems to cater to books of science and technology, but there is a section of English books of popular fictions like John Grisham, Danielle Steel and some classics. There are several branches. One is in Centro Sambil. The others are:
C.Ciudad Comercial TAMANACO
Tel: 959-5547 / 959-5035
C.C. Plaza Las America (the new side)
Nivel Comercio 1
Boulevard El Cafetal - Urb. El Cafetal
The massive Centro Sambil is a huge shopping mall where the beautiful and hip people of Venezuela go shopping at. Here you can find all the stylish shops, banks, internet cafes, etc... The fashion sense here is the complete opposite of that at Sabana Grande.
There is a handicraft market with temporary carts on La Plaza de Las Heroinas next to the cable-car station.
Next to the plaza, there is another covered market with fixed stalls selling jewellery, woollies, wooden crafts, etc...
Barquisimeto claims to be Venezuela's music capitol. There are plenty of good Llanero beef restaurants, and so traditional music--the cuatro, harp, and maracas--are likely to be found in the evenings. But, our travels to the dry desert state of Lara are primarily to visit Quibor and Tintorero where folk art is made. The ceramics of Quibor are exceptional for their quality and indigenous designs. Buses from Caracas to Barquisimento leave almost every hour.
What to buy: The tip for Quibor provides more depth on the origins of the designs and types of artwork available here.
Local supermarkets are best value.
What to buy: Buy spirits, rum in particular less than £1 per bottle. 200 marlboro cigarettes £8. Sunglasses are another good buy.
What to pay: These goods are cheap. Clothes and electrical goods are European prices
In the mountainous western region of Venezuela, it's fun to wander around the local markets. The largest and most well known is the Mercado Principal in Merida. Here you can shop for food and souvenirs while soaking up the atmosphere. If you venture outside of the city (you would be crazy not to), you will find smaller markets in the mountain towns. These are great to visit as well.
Iguana are not easy to find. If you ask around, and someone can catch one, then you can purchase an Iguana to eat. They tell me you have to know how to cook them. The flavor is good, but I don't know if you can get Iguana in any restarant. The eggs are also eaten, but the taste is very strong. You never know until you try it.
The shop has two floors - on the first one you can buy fruits and vegtables - the second one is in fact a galery of local art products.
But no specials things - mostly wooden handy craft from Ecuador and hammocks, even wall carpets showing the beautiful Andes mountains, but in Ecuador.
What to buy: Fruit
What to pay: Bolivar
What to pay: When buying gasoline in Venezuela it is very cheap. Do the math. $1.00 = 2150 Bolivars. At 8732 Bolivars for 90.02 litros, that would be $.045 per litro, or about $.17 per gallon.
Here you can buy just about any part of the animal you want. Vendors were also selling all kinds of fresh fish. There were no insects on the meat.
Hannsi is just beautiful ! You'll find local craft from all over Venezuela. It's the perfect place to get that special gift or souvenir !
What to buy: Anything Venezuelan, from refrigerator magnets to furniture !
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