Friday, August 29, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight

Why so serious indeed. The plot here appears to have been constructed as a kind of moral adventure playground in which each of the three main male characters can explore whether there might be a place for them in the real world, and not just in some DC Comics alternate universe.

Heath Ledger's Joker is the most successful participant: a very disturbing and indeed very realistic personage - and not just because of what we know of the actor's fate during post-production.

Bayle's Dark Knight is more of a misfit in this narrative environment. In costume he's just that freak who keeps popping up at key plot points, and out of it he's Patrick Bateman again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who he?

When I signed up for both SKY and Turbonett I had to provide the names of several personal references. When SKY rang these individuals up they proceeded to deny even knowing me. This is one of the difficulties you face in a country where everyone is severely paranoid about the threat of kidnappings. I myself rarely answer the phone to an unknown number, preferring to let it roll to voicemail.

In Mexico a firm called Xega has started selling microchips which can be inserted - chucho style - beneath the skin so that one's loved ones can keep real-time track of which car boot one happens to be in at any particular time.

I read today that an American woman has been charged with attempting to kidnap in real life a bloke she had met in Second Life.

A spanair in the works

I recently discovered that my father has kept - for over twenty years - a Swissair ticket in his old work briefcase. It pertains to the flight where there was a sudden loss of cabin pressure, the masks came down and the 'plane descended 20,000ft in the space of a few minutes.

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary was on the Today programme this morning answering allegations by polar explorer Pen Hadow whose family had just suffered a very similar upset on a flight from Bristol to Barcelona.

O'Leary explained that the crew can't make announcements in this situation as they too have to don oxygen masks. However, when the same thing happened to my father in the 80s, they immediately broadcast a recorded message over the PA system, which repeated the standard pre-flight instructions on how to get the oxygen flowing and generally explained what was happening...exactly what Hadow felt was missing during the mid-air emergency yesterday.

What with the Madrid crash last week, the burning 'plane in Munich yesterday and now this near miss with Ryanair, our collective fear of flying is very much headline news again. Spain went into three days of national mourning for the 150 or so victims of the Spanair disaster. That these might be the only Spaniards to die this way all year when thousands in fact perish on the country's roads didn't come up in the media coverage.

The circumstances of that crash last week would appear to have been somewhat similar to the crisis that struck my AA flight from Miami to Guate a few years back. That plane was also one of the old-style designs with two engines attached to the rear of the fuselage. When one of the engines caught fire on take off - after V1 - the pilot had no choice but to switch it off while continuing the initial ascent. This is clearly a very tricky situation, as we both banked sharply and slid downwards to the port side for several terrifying seconds until he was able to regain control of the aircraft manually. As with the Ryanair flight yesterday, communication from the cockpit and on the ground afterwards was minimal...which can indeed be highly agitating for customers who are already in a state of shock.


We've been watching the chefs on Galicia TV this morning. Whilst a revolto may sound intrinsically less yummy than a revuelto, the visual presentation of this dish with fresh green asparagus has left us with our mouths watering.

In comparison the native cookery shows are a bit depressing. There are only so many times you can learn how to make a pepián, after all. Cocina Sal y Pimienta on Canal 3 features seventies-style muzak and the dirty aluminium pans of superannuated Chapin cuisinier Luis del Cid, who can barely knock up a decent spag bog these days.

Then there's the blatant product pushing on Secretos de Cocina, where no dish is complete without Mirasol margarine or salsa Natura's. At least they have replaced that mudo Carlos with the likeable buffoon Coque. Best of the bad bunch is perhaps the high-camp indigene Chef Humberto, a regular guest on Al Filo de La Noche.

Still, since signing up for SKY, we've also had access to an excellent Argentinian foodie station called el Gourmet, which is in many ways superior to British digital channels such as UK Food or indeed anything on the Beeb. So far our favourite show here has been that of Buenos Aires-based Japanese chef Takehiro Ohno (pictured) with his signature line "hmm...que lico".

The most exciting development on SKY though was the arrival today on channel 203 of BBC Entertainment. (All the effort I put in to getting the iPlayer running out here may after all have been premature...)

Here out of gringos

Was a great piece of graffiti I spotted whilst walking through Guatemala City a week or so ago.

Unfortunately it appeared on a wall in one of those areas where one tends to think twice before whipping out a smart little digital camera...especially if one might appear to be a member of the particular group that the locals are experiencing a temporary shortage of.

Here however is a selection of the images that I was able to capture on my recent jaunt up to neighbouring Belize:

Puerto Barrios (Guatemala) - click here
Placencia (Belize) - click here
Punta Gorda (Beliz) - click here

Sunday, August 24, 2008

9th Company

A Russian Hamburger Hill or Full Metal Jacket.

Some lads from Siberia with contrasting outlooks sign up to participate in the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. They bicker and bond in the barracks as they are turned into a serious fighting unit by the inevitably gnarly sergeant-major.

Then they are dumped into the dusty horror of that war and, in a final - and, as it turns out pointless - battle with the fanatical natives, they fight and die. All but one of them that is.

It's interesting that the Russians are now able to project their reflections on the USSR's Afghan adventure through the medium of such a familiar American formula, perhaps more so because of the timely nature of this examination of the persistent nature of invaders' failure in this particular land.


"Too western...superficial, without the history of China" was the assessment of Guatemala's commentators after London did its mini-show as part of the closing ceremony of the 29th Games. And Leona Lewis was dressed "too sexily" stressed the one who had earlier admitted to being a fan of Led Zeppelin. These men, clearly forgetting that London is a city with around 2000 years of history, had spent the entire games referring to nearly every male US competitor as "el gringo".

Still, Guatemalan coverage of the Olympics wasn't so bad. I'd spent the first week watching the Games on the American network NBC in Belize. Their commentators praised the Chinese spectators for being so even-handed in their applause for all nations' competitors - including the Japanese - whilst themselves delivering the most blatantly partisan gloss on the on-screen events. Even the ads that interspersed the various finals were almost exclusively for products that could be positioned as "all American". ("If you've had a Coke in the last eight years, you've had a hand in every Olympic dream.")

After Zhang Zimou's spectacular opening ceremony in Beijing, Mayo and Kermode were debating last week which British film director might be permitted to follow in his footsteps in four years time. Terry Gilliam, Nick Park and Ridley Scott were top choices, though one listener noted that in the case of Scott we'd have to wait until 2020 for the director's cut.

Kermode thought Mike Leigh would surely come up with an unprecedented kitchen-sinky kind of production, but perhaps the best suggestion was from a listener - Guy Ritchie to direct, with all the previous years' drug cheats lined up in order to have their heads smashed in car doors.

One of my favourite parts of this year's ceremony was when one of the hundreds of dancers in boxes suffered from a bit of a false finish, popping up to deliver his celebratory wave just a second or so too early, and was seen engaged in a hasty re-insertion just as the mass of his peers emerged.

From the wheelchair that tried to push itself onto Beckham's bus today one can surmise perhaps that London 2012 will see a swing backto political correctness...and rather less of the smiling beauties on percussion. Though with Boris in the background, who knows?

3G in Antigua

Rudy Girón has the lo-down on the arrival of third generation mobile communications in Antigua Guatemala.

Claro has been first to launch this week with Movistar not far behind. Both networks will be offering contracts with the iPhone 3G.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mission complete

Before I undertook my recent trip to Belize V had warned me to steer clear of bible-bashers and loose creole women. Whilst the latter didn't prove to be too much of a problem, on my last night in PG I was cornered by a missionary before I could finish my fish burger.

The tale he had to tell turned out to be quite saddening. For the past twelve years he had been based in Puerto Barrios bringing the good news to the pestilential tropics thereabouts, with occasional jaunts across to Garifuna-land, but now their mission was to pack up and close, leaving him with little option but to return to the US to make a new life there.

He was originally from Kansas, he explained, but many years ago his parents had moved to Washington state, and so it was there that he was planning to start a janitor - he confided - adding that he hadn't shared that particular plan with his wife just yet. She had been born to missionary parents in Ecuador and his two kids were Guatemalan-born, so only he had any real experience of life in el norte.

On arrival in Guatemala he and his wife had been located in Panorama, some two hundred metres from our own house in the 'condominio' next door to the retards.

He also briefed me a little about conditions across the bay in Puerto Barrios. Until a year or so ago it had been extremely unwise to stroll around near the port facilities after dark, but a vigilante gang had undertaken a bit of social cleansing with a consequent drop in the levels of ambient delinquency.

This was going to be his final evening too in Belize; he'd come to say his goodbyes to his friends.

Understand. O.K.

This one inevitably brings to mind our friendly ex-pat neighbours in Jardines de Antigua.

Scott told me today about a similar notice round the back of a Korean restaurant in DC:

"Shut up. Don't fucken here. Dogs bite you."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We're already here!

In the current edition of La Cuadra, the magazine of Café No Sé, Jean-Claude Lambert of Blackwater has written an eloquent response to a recent article by Mike Tallon on the war in Iraq:

"Don't worry about Blackwater in Antigua. We're already here and you're welcome to explain your ill logic to any of our personnel any time you like. p.s. Please continue to wear Che Guevara shirts. We need the practice. And Guatemala doesn't exactly like communists, you dolts!"

Sure enough, a few pages on one comes across an ad for bullet-proof Che T-shirts: "Made of supple new kevlar.. in three radical colours, pink, red and Vladimir. Make checks payable to Thanks Sucka, SA".

"Every dive needs a town" boasts the regular Revue spot for Café No Sé, which also draws punters' attention to the availability of "Live Music Nightly, Great Bar Food, Cold Beer, Uncomfortable Seats, Confused Staff, Wanted and Unwanted Pregnancies, Illegal Mezcal, 4.5 Dogs, Other Creatures, Deviant Behavior, Agent 69, 30 Tequilas, Hearts to Break, Heart Breakers, Mezcal Bar and Bo's Ashes (He's dead but happy)".

Although it clearly caters for the kind of younger persons that Richard Nixon used to affectionately refer to as 'bums', a quick glance through the other ads in La Cuadra reveals that the Café's pinko credentials appear to have been compromised by its close, marketing-led fraternisation with Antigua's fat cat gastronomic oligarchy (e.g. Bistro Cinq, Nokiate and the Panzon Verde.)

Belizean signs

Belizeans excel at signs like no other Central Americans.

Where in Guatemala a simple No Se Permiten Mascotas (No Pets Allowed) would suffice, over the border you get gems like this.

Here's a selection
of some more of the eye-catching public notices and corporate branding that I snapped on my recent trip.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Vive La Revolution!

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that what TC calls our 'unofficial zoo' won't be complete until it provides a home for a parrot. This remains starkly problematic though, owing to the increasing number of cats in the menagerie!

Here in Placencia the Sunrise bar houses Samara, a four-year old yellow head I've so far heard saying her own name, "hola" and "women". She also exchanges more parroty kind of salutations with another yellow-head just a couple of blocks north up the causeway. (In Guatemala the red-crested Amazon is the more common pet.)

Anyway, I was finishing off Vive La Revolution Mark Steel's 'stand-up history of the French Revolution' yesterday. Thomas Paine - best-selling author of eighteenth century paperbacks such as Common Sense, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason - has always been a bit of a hero of mine, but now I learn that during the days of unprecedented social upheaval in Paris he managed to get himself elected to the Convention without even bothering to learn a word of French. What a man. What an English-man.

And then he wrote a letter to George Washington telling him what a tosser he was for leaving him to rot in a revolutionary jail. That was a bit later on when things were really getting out of hand.

Along with the Marquis de Sade Paine was scheduled for a one-off meeting with Monsieur Sansom, Robespierre's chief Guillotine operator. However, he had the amazing stroke of luck that the buerque who was supposed to mark his cell door with the fatal cross did so on the inside of it by mistake, allowing Paine to shut the door and hang low for about 48 hours until Robespierre himself had had his jaw shot off and had been carted off for the chop.

Nobody is quite sure how de Sade got off, but he apparently had friends in low places. He did however have to shed 'tears of blood' on July 14 1789 when the poems he had written whilst imprisoned in the Bastille not so mysteriously disappeared in all the pandemonium - the very day he had sent his wife to the old castle to fetch them!

Steel also makes the point that Dr Guillotin was probably hoping that he would be best remembered for finding that empty tennis court that the representatives from the Third Estate could swear their famous oath in!

Seems that most of the bars in Placencia own just one compilation CD each. Yesterday I must have heard Blueberry Hill five times. Here comes James Blunt again....


It suddenly occurred to me today that I haven't yet spotted a church in Placencia. This is unusual because most Belizean towns possess several - in P.G. I had located three (Anglican, Methodist and Of the Nazarene) within ten minutes of my arrival. Maybe reggae does the trick here? Come to think of it, I can't recall one on Caye Caulker either.

Anyway, I've had a job and a half over the past few days avoiding the kind of 'fellow-travellers' whose every third word is "like" - the itinerary swapping, gift shop-dawdling Septics. And if they weren't bad enough tonight I sat at a table next to four young English girls whose tense discussion about their food and cigarette budget made me feel like a fly on the wall in the Big Brother house.

If V and I have one very significant character trait in common it is a loathing of doing anything in groups....especially groups comprising members of the above-mentioned sub-types. And yet I so want to go snorkeling tomorrow and that is one activity here where you just have to grin and bear it and clamber onto the boat with all the freaks.

Belize attracts a different calibre of gringo. Suffice to say that the ones that settle in Guatemala are less likely to open up a cafe called 'Ron and Deb's Place'. It's vaguely more family friendly and also pulls in a few of those bland vacationing couples. Guatemala on the other hand specialises in caitudos and the kind of penny-pinching retirement age yanks you tend to find trapped eating the gunk in Las Palmas.

Fortunately Guatemala is comparatively free of the worst of Central America's wandering tribes - the dive bores. What is it about sub-aqua that can turn a decent human being into a kind of honourary howdeedoody, who can't wait to establish just enough shared interest to set up one of those competitive conversations that typically runs "The shark was this big, the hole was that deep, the cost was so cheap etc."

I once found myself unexpectedly surrounded by around six scubores in the midst of such an exchange in a swimming pool at Tikal and had to clamber out fast before I ended up face down in the water and in need of one of them to perform CPR on me.

Chicken Bus Economics

When I compared Belize and Guatemala's bus services the other day I forgot to add that the apparent mayhem down in Chapinlandia can all be blamed on neoliberalism...if you are that way inclined. This is because the bus services in Belize (James Line here in the south) are virtual monopolies, and up in the north I think some have even been re-nationalised.

Contrast this with the carreteras leading out of Antigua where 3 or 4 different bus companies compete for the passengers waiting at the side of the road. (Actual bus stops would be too interventionist).

Each time a bus stops to pick up or indeed drop off one passenger, it runs the risk that the competitor service behind passes it, thereby gaining access to potentially richer pickings ahead. So we can in effect blame market forces the way old ladies with bulging tanates are occasionally disembarked with a shove!

Incidentally, the chickenest of all chicken buses I ever took was the service running from Santa Elena (Petén) and El Naranjo on the north west border with Mexico. Aside from Surfer and me, everyone else on the bus was either a prostitute or a member of the PAC - an armed peasant militia set up originally by the milicos in the 80s to help combat the guerrillas. The ones on our bus weren't armed at the time but as we got down the army were handing out rusty old rifles and it was all very amusing when they made as if to conscript the pair of us to the PAC too.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

This would never happen...

In Central America. One of the many things that makes me glad I made the move here is that I can now play my hi-fi on full volume for the first time since my Cambridge days when the Aussie professor whose rooms were beneath mine periodically banged on my door shouting the memorable phrase "Look, this is toadally unacsiptible".

Another reason to be cheerful is that I have been losing just over an inch from around the waistline every month I have been here. At this rate I will be back to my university-time measurement of 30" by the end of the wet season!

Fundación Adentro

Call me a cynic - and followers of this blog almost certainly will - but listening to Ricardo Arjona promoting his Fundación Adentro only makes me think of Robert Rodrigo's character "El" and his guitar case full of automatic weapons.

Arjona has clearly come to believe in the social benefits stemming from individual creativity. In Colombia, he advised Dionisio Gutierrez on Libre Encuentro last week, almost everyone is a musician of one sort or another. OK....Colombia certainly has one of the stronger economies in the region and an entrenched democratic tradition, but it's not exactly world-renowned for peace and quiet.

For Arjona the guitar was his passport to the counter-culture and totem of a life of vagabundo exile on the streets of Buenos Aires. It also allowed him to give two fingers to his parents and the responsibilities of being a small town teacher. Now somewhat beyond his own cuatro decadas Arjona now returns with an altogether different (and certainly more conservative) type of emblematic instrument for distribution to the Foundation's pupils, one with the power to foster social cohesion and community values. Hmmm. All a bit redolent of the great Jesuit Missions on the border between Paraguay and Brazil where the Guaraní were rather strongly encouraged to take up the violin or join the choir!

Gutierrez has to be one of the worst interviewers ever. His questions ramble on for so long that guests' eyes are soon glazing over. At one point Arjona responded to one of these with a simple "si" and we were so hoping he'd just leave it at that. Instead he politely added that his memory was so-so and that Gutierrez would have to remind him later about some of those interesting points he'd raised. Yeah right.

The Parade of Athletes

As well as being able to run around and throw stuff, so many of these people seem to be achingly beautiful. How unfair is that?

India in particular is simply taking the piss. Most of their 'athletes' looked like Bollywood movie stars.

Amongst those who dazzled were Belize's own Wania Monteiro, Fabienne Fereaz of Benin, Yana Klochkova of Ukraine and the delightful nymph carrying the compromise flag of 'Chinese Taipei'.

Worst dressed on the night were the Canadians, just about pipping the Venezuelans. The Polish women looked as if they had kitted themselves out for their High School prom and the Fins were apparently attending a Nokia sales convention.

It goes without saying that Guatemala's 12 Olympians turned up in the usual facha that they might as well have picked up at the aiport souvenir store on their way out. Their flag-carrier did look mighty proud though.

The NBC commentator helpfully pointed out that the Central African Republic is a republic in central Africa.

Starfish Cottage

Is a privately-owned property smack in the middle of the beachfront area of Francis Ford Coppola's boutique resort in Placencia, the Blancaneaux Turtle Inn. From the sign outside you can see that the owner is intent on selling...though possibly not to the formerly talented movie director turned winemaker-hotelier!

Sadly, one of Placencia's north shore architectural novelties appears to have been demolished. Unlike the clapboard shacks and thatched cabañas that typically front the sea, this looked more like something the Germans would have left on the beach near Calais. Its owner was an eccentric American millionaire I met back in '89; an avid reader of Robert Heinlein - appropriate, because his home also bore a striking resemblance to a concrete flying saucer.

Familiar Face

The Queen remains the Head of State of Belize and as such appears on the banknotes.

It's not 'our' Queen though - not the old frump from Windsor that is - rather an elegant, sophisticated version of herself, not unlike Reina Sofia of Spain in fact.

Sunova Beach

As in 'Arley Davide...Sonofabeach' that old hit track by Serge Gainsbourg (see below) which I will forever associate with this country. There are plenty of evocative place names in Belize. Here's a selection of the ones that have caught my eye:

Sunday Wood, Over The Top, Spanish Lookout, The Dump (there has to be a bloke called Stig living there!), Shipstern, Crooked Tree, Ladyville, Tropical Wings, Mount Baldy, Banana Bank, Central Farm, Bullet Tree Falls, Teakettle, Millonario, Aguacate, Boom Creek...

Suggestions welcomed.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Has boomed quite a bit since I was last here in September '89.

As on Caye Caulker the fatties on golf carts have established themselves (plus a few yachts) and the population - once only a couple of hundred and most clearly related to each other in some way - has expanded five times or more, without it seems an entirely proportionate increase in the overall touristic opportunity...but maybe I'm saying this because we're in the off-season right now.

Something also seems to have happened to the beach. Tulum it never was, but di scene isn't all that clean and a good deal of di sand seems to have been lost to di starmy wedder. (Later on I will try to dig up some of my pics from '89 to show the Before and After states.)

Needless to say, turtle is also off the menu these days. Still, the causeways, talkative parrots and the dazzling night skies all remain.

Back in the 80s the dirt road linking this little settlement at the tip of a long sandy spit to the main highway from Dandriga had only recently been etsablished. Someone then dished me the almost certainly apocryphal story that the population of Placencia were all descended from a crew of Portuguese pirates that had got jiggy with the local Garifuna. The incidence of dreadlocked men and women with beautiful dark-honey skins and green eyes gave some credence to this tale, but sadly the current batch of locals don't look much different from the bulk of Belizeans.

Belize, yah mon

I've given up trying to explain the charms of Belize to Guatemalans.

They tend to have a mental image of an AIDS-infested land of no-good darkies lying supine in the sunshine which, after all, should be part of Guatemala anyway.

That the Belizeans seem to get more from less is perhaps an uncomfortable truth for many to face.

Ok, perhaps the Anglicised order and politeness here speaks to my ex-pat soul. But where in Guatemala do the bus drivers' assistants help women down with their heavy bags? (Near where I live now I've seen viejas practically having to jump from a moving bus!) And how many small towns in Guatemala have well-stocked libraries?

In Guatemala there are 44 murders for every 100,000 citizens annually. This compares favourably with the 46 next door in El Salvador, but less so with the 42 over in Iraq. When I last checked the biggest cause of unexpected death here in Belize was falling coconuts.

Belize is also multiracial in a way that say London may never be, for the UK's capital has been stocking up on conflicting otherness-es, whereas in Belize one quickly comes to see how the racial component of otherness is strictly meaningless. (Guatemala on the other hand is in a sense multiracist, with almost every socio-demographic distinction - class, colour, culture - holding the potential for antagonism.)

Within a few hours of my arrival here I was back in the habit of cheerfully greeting strangers. Some of them may look more like out-and-out bandits than the lean and hungry types back in Guatemala, but one immediately senses that it's just a fashion statement and that they're not about to start shooting up the bus.


"The last place you'd want to run to," was how Punta Gorda was described to me by the young proprietor of 'Deja View'. Many towns in Central America have moved on since I first visited them in the late 80s. This one hasn't.

Even by Belizean standards Toledo district is a bit of a backwater. When this land was known as British Honduras the army used the fine British-made highways that head north and west from the then capital Belize City. They had no pressing need to come down here it seems.

I once heard it said that after Hurricane Hattie trashed that town the Brits offered Belize a choice. Either another great road down to the south or a new centre of government. And so arose Belmopan, a 60s elite-folly rather like Brasilia, though lacking the latter's architectural bravado....indeed it's a bit like finding the campus of Southampton University in the middle of the savannah.

They're still trying to finish paving the Southern Highway. Somehow I suspect that when work is completed this last recinto of the old Belize will be assimilated onto the eco-tourism trail and something will have been lost along the way.

An interesting aspect of the local demographic mix - other than the Mopan Maya and the Mennonites with their straw-hats, silly beards and in-bred demeanour- are the descendents of elements of General Lee's Confederate army that some flack persuaded to re-settle down here at the end of the American Civil War...on the basis that they would find in southern Belize a whole load of black men just sitting around waiting to be oppressed. This wasn't of course the case, but they appear to have stayed anyway.

Puerto Barrios

Is home to Bobby Banana and his mates.

Indeed, the wonky wooden hotel where I have tended to stay here over the years is located at the end of a muddy track between the Dole and Chiquita container yards - at what feels like an unsafe distance from the well-lit parts of town. Walking back to my room in September 1989 someone in the shadows hissed "estas muerto" (youse dead) at me.

The nearest place to get a beer outside the Hotel del Norte is a choice little venue called Night Club Medellin. This isn't the kind of tropical climate that the brochures rave about. Think perma-sweat and your own private squadron of flies. I think I'm going to find Antigua decidedly chilly when I get back.

The dining room inside the hotel is worth the cost of the room though. This time I was attended by the same old bloke who served me up a wonderful maletita de frijoles back in '89. He hasn't wrinkled up all that much - though he must be in his late 80s now and claims to have worked there for 40 years - but the black beans are now of the Ducal/Natura type, not home-made like they used to be.

The Caribbean coast of Guatemala is around 250km from our house. Not such a hike you might think, but the road is narrow and passes through some very bulbous countryside. On this occasion I took one of the comfy Litegua double-deckers featuring aircon just on the wrong side of chilly, flat screens showing films you wouldn't otherwise want to watch (Rush Hour 3, Jumper etc.) and an armed security guard, literally riding shotgun. The journey took 5 hours, but included a lunch stop at Valle Dorado.

The black-sanded Pacific littoral is the alternative, lazy option, less than an hour's drive away. The nearest 'resort', known to the locals as 'Puerto', is fairly primitive in terms of amenities. The best option is the ever-growing and increasingly swanky Monterrico, further down the coast towards El Salvador, which now even features its own ATM, Scott tells me.

Between these two points there are a number of hidden pool and beach clubs for the super-rich, so well-hidden in fact that googling their names brings up no relevant pages online. I visited one a couple of years ago and found it rather like Puerto Banus on the Costa del Sol. The residents sit around in fabuously well-appointed apartments hitting the Bloody Marys from around 10am onwards. There are better things to do with wealth.