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Published: September 24th 2007
At 7am so much quieter than normal
New Amsterdam is a vibrant and interesting town. It has a population of 20,000 and is nothing like towns in the northern countries. New Amsterdam was the nearest town to the village I lived in for a year, and I taught in New Amsterdam Secondary School. It annoys me how the Lonely Planet Guide to South America mentions Guyana briefly, but completely misses the town of New Amsterdam. It is one of Guyana's biggest towns, so I think it deserves a mention. I may be biased, but I also quite love the town.
The centre of New Amsterdam has three main streets: Strand, Main Street and Back-Dam Road. Strand is the road nearest the Stelling and Berbice River. It has the New Amsterdam Market, Scotiabank and Republic Bank and a few shops, restaurants and bars. Middle Street has the bulk of the town's shops, including Metro (stationery store), Ali's (hardware store), Ali's (supermarket), Hazrat's (biggest clothes store in the town) and many other smaller establishments. Restaurants on Main Street are mainly Chinese such as Great Wall Of China, Creolese such as Foodtime or alternatively there is Qik Serv (fast food resturant). Back-Dam Road is mostly housing and the cemetry, schools
My friend Brooke cycling
and J's Supermarket.
The three main streets are linked with bisecting streets that stretch across all three streets. Most of the streets are not named, although new signs are being erected. These streets mostly consist of housing and churches, with the occasional small business.
New Amsterdam's best street is Pitt Street, linking Main Street and Strand. It is loud and bustling with stands at both sides of the streets, people walking and cycling, and cars trying to use the road one way. The Rastas sell everything from t-shirts to jewellery, shoes to pots, tawahs to gold, juices to snow cones and plantain chips. The shops off this street sell clothes, fabrics, exercise books, school uniform, sweets and chocolates, coconuts, rice: everything you could want. Pitt Street is one of the few places in New Amsterdam where haggling is necessary, especially with the Rastas.
The best foods to buy in New Amsterdam are fried rice, chow mein, fried chicken, channa with sour and pepper, curry and roti, cold lemonade or pepsi, Banks Beer or many other local dishes. You can find food at most shops, snackettes or restaurants.
When walking out in New Amsterdam, you will see a colourful town with colourful people. Forget the people dressed in black you see in the west, Guyana is full of colour and virant exciting people. School uniforms come in a huge variety of colours and styles for all the different nursery, primary and secondary schools. You will see donkeys pulling carts of timber, people cycling with huge speakers and racks of CDs on their bicycle, snow cone carts with bright umberellas, mini buses and cars with phrases such as "God Is Love" in bright colours and patterns, and blaring out music and honking the horn too. You will see animals of every kind: cows, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, pigs, horses, donkeys, all on the road and often eating the litter from the piles at the side of the road.
The best modes of transport are mini buses for journeys out of town, or cars for trips within the town. You can also cycle or walk, although people don't walk in the hot sun so take an umberella or catch a car.
Evening entertainment is liming at the side of Main Street, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. Outside Demico (Qik Serv) and Chesters Chicken are particular hot spots. Take some friends, some rum, and ideally a car with loud loud music, and have a good time. Later in the evening, night clubs include the popular Galaxy and not-so-nice Lenny's, both in Canje, a short ride away.
If you are willing to stand and gaff, lime and use a cold beer, sample the delicious food even though it looks less than appetising, listen to the music and enjoy it, and take time out to enjoy the Caribbean way of life, you will love New Amsterdam. I do.
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