Country No. 93
I did not arrange any shore excursion for Curaçao – funds were depleting. Besides, my guidebook described Curaçao as a nice little town with a lot to see. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! I decided to spend most of the day in Willemstad, Curaçao's capital.
Curaçao is the largest island in the Dutch ABC islands. With 170,000 residents, it is also the most populous. Though it is larger and even more strategically important than its sister island, Aruba, it seems completely overshadowed. Most people know the word "Curaçao" simply by a locally produced liquor with the same name (which is the ingredient of the cocktail "Blue Curaçao"). Many people cannot pronounce its name correctly – saying "çao" as in "kao" rather than the more closely "cion".
Overshadowed by Aruba or not, I do feel that Willemstad resembles Holland more than the toy house Oranjestad. The authenticity of colonial Dutch style buildings in Willemstad is the main reason why it was named a UNESCO site. Aside from the building's resemblance to the "‘motherland", there are also numerous canals and drawbridges – even a floating market on one canal. St Anne's Bay divides Willemstad's New Town (Otrobanda) from Old Town (Punda). A floating bridge, called Emma Bridge, connects both parts. When a ship sails in or out of the bay, this bridge moves to let it pass. The buildings on the waterfront are painted in beautiful pastel colors, look somewhat psychedelic.
There are interesting museums and historic buildings on this island. They even have a Jewish Museum! I went to the Maritime Museum, on the other side of the canal, in a quiet residential neighborhood. Though the museum is small, it is well organized and informative. It describes how Curaçao was discovered and colonized, how it functioned in both World Wars. There are also descriptions of how the floating Emma Bridge was built and a miniature model of the bridge. There were only two other visitors in the museum – better advertising and signs leading to it might improve attendance.
I wandered around the Old Town, admiring the cute pastel buildings. Later, I went out of the town center to the rocky beach – one of many near Willemstad – perhaps a reason it is not as popular as Aruba.
I went back to the town. The old fortress lies between the ship terminal and the town square, next to Emma Bridge. There was a dance party going on. With DJ spinning some cool remixes, I found it was a special party Curaçao threw for us, the passengers from the RCCL. I was drinking beer and listening to the music, feeling the soothing trade wind – almost missed returning to the ship until I heard the announcement, "No. 24"."
Curaçao is my favorite island on this trip – more historic and authentic. It's populous enough to make it feel like a functioning country than an island resort.
I won't visit Country No. 94 until I reach Africa later next month – country 100 will definitely be in Africa.
Saricie Kuo is a college professor and public health researcher from Taiwan. He is also a part time novelist and film critic. He made a wish when he was 18 – to visit more than 100 countries before he turned 40. By the end of 2006, he had traveled to 90 countries. He plans to reach his 100th country in 2007.