Dushi Curaçao

the Penha building in downtown Punda

the Penha building in downtown Punda

Dushi means “sweet” in Papiemento, and you can use it the same way; there are dushi people, dushi food, and dushi places all over Curaçao. The city center is split between dushi Punda and Otrobanda, literally “the other side”, separated by a big river with a floating, movable bridge. Whenever a cruise ship needs to enter the harbour, the pontoon bridge swings open, and pedestrians are either stuck on it or on either side of downtown shadowed by the floating city moving past. Sometimes there are 3 ships in town, and then Punda, the touristy-shoppy side, is filled with Americans or Germans buying over-priced jewelry and cheap souvenirs. There are also 100 cheap-clothing stores, run by Indian and Chinese owners, a floating market of fresh Venezuelan produce, and a strange market of home-mad love potions and alcohols sold by locals, Venezuelans and Haitians.

The Queen Emma pontoon brige

The Queen Emma pontoon brige

Noone actually lives in Punda, its just a commercial area that shuts down at 6pm, and downtown becomes a ghost town overnight. Otrobanda has more residential areas, but more dilapidated buildings and crime rates make it less popular with tourists.  The famous street with the baroque-style Penha building is the most photographed place in Curacao, but the buildings in Pietermaii are equally impressive, a neighbourhood full of restored 18th and 19th century Dutch buildings painted in all the brightest and prettiest pastel colours. I slept in an all-white, self-designed loft, that had a matching cat. Smit’s white hairs eventually covered all of my dark clothes and pink towel, so I quickly realized why everything had to be white inside. I was couchsurfing with an architect (who does actually live in Punda), so perhaps my impressions of Willemstad are a little biased, but I started to criticize everything by its design, structure, or aesthetics. I saw alot of infinity pools, and even an infinity beach (the Renaissance hotel built a beach ontop of a mall), and we went underground to a 200,000 year old limestone cave full of tiny bats.

the infinity beach-pool at the Renaissance

the infinity beach-pool at the Renaissance

Everything was so pretty, and the city was filled with boutique hotels that were all cosy and artsy in their own way. The Kura Hulanda hotel was once voted one of the top 10 boutique hotels in the world, and it was easy to see why; some developer literally bought a neighbourhood and restored it to perfection in its original Dutch colonial style. The alleyways wind past 100’s of different hotel rooms hidden behind wooden shutters (each one is uniquely designed), and courtyards open up to restaurants and pools every few meters. But as soon as you leave the hotel grounds, youre back to the poor, unsafe regular neighbourhoods of Otrobanda.

the Hato Caves

the Hato Caves

There’s a famous touristy area called Mambo beach, a stretch of built-beach area full of bars, restaurants and shopping. But its one of the only areas you can actually swim off the beach, since they’ve built a breaker out in the sea. Its rough seas in Curacao, lots of wind, windsurfing and kite surfing. There are also natural beaches, but they’re scattered around the island in small, isolated patches. We roadtripped to the west end of the island to visit most of them, and found only a few locals, empty restaurants and abandoned hotels around them. We saw flamingos and visited “landhouses,” the old-school plantation homes spread out around the countryside. The original Curacao liquor distillery is in one where they give free samples 🙂 I tried some, and then ate iguana for lunch at Jaanchies. If you make it to Curacao one day, go there and try some, its super dushi!

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