Georgetown is a Mess, a Beautiful Mess

Georgetown, Guyana

The view from my hostel room, into a prison – click to enlarge

As I crossed into Guyana I entered my final country in all of the mainland American countries. In fact, save for a few small islands and one big island in Greenland, I have now been to every country in the Western Hemisphere. I’ll be honest in telling you that I knew little about Guyana before visiting. All I knew was that it was home to one of the most beautiful, and under-rated, waterfalls in the world in Kaieteur Falls, and that it was also home to one of the most dangerous cities in west of zero degrees longitude.

Georgetown has crime and murder rates that show up near the same level of the infamously high Kingston, Jamaica rates. Petty crimes, like pickpocketing and gunpoint robberies, are not uncommon even during the day time. And although it is quite obvious when walking the streets that this dangerous streak exists below the surface of this somewhat obscure capital city, there is actually something quite endearing about Georgetown.

Georgetown Market

Georgetown Market – Click to Enlarge

Georgetown was described to me by one of the very few travellers I met in the Guianas as a complete mess and borderline a disaster. It is like Suriname, he said, except instead of working out the cultural differences in a way that is both beautiful and productive the city is chaos, complete and utter chaos. Little did he realize, I love chaos, I think that chaos might be the most beautifully organized thing in the world. The paradox is intoxicating.

I loved walking my way through the rough markets where everything was sold from cheese over the counters to revolvers under the tables and in the back rooms. I loved changing my money in a shop owned by a 250 pound man drenched in sweat well a rickty fan spun laps on the roof causing the faint light in the room to flicker. And I loved that despite the external

Georgetown Cricket Match

Georgetown Cricket Match – Click to Enlarge

chaos, everything had a purpose and a meaning above, or below, the law. Things in Georgetown might not behave they should by governed right, but they all seem to fall into place on their own regardless.

I loved seeing children of African decent playing cricket with kids of east Indian heritage singing their sporting instructions in brightly coloured Creole. I loved seeing colourfully painted mosques standing side by side with fried chicken shops. And I loved the way that the opposing cultural entities managed to meld themselves together rather than just existing in the presence of one and other.

Georgetown

Georgetown – Click to Enlarge

I am by no means an anarchist, but it’s hard not to be impressed how things fall into place so neatly in such a randomly organized place full of varying and conflicting cultural and societal entities. Georgetown may be dangerous and it may not be an ideally organized city either. Georgetown may even be a mess, but at the end of the day, Georgetown is a mess that couldn’t be replicated with even the most diligent bit of planning, and that’s what makes it beautiful, a beautiful mess.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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10 Comments

  1. I stayed across the street from that hindu templo bro.. at the big white el dorado inn 🙂

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  2. Interesting post. A place I have never been nor will probably ever go.

    And props for choosing a hostel next to a prison.

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  3. Guyana is brilliant to go to. Although I didn’t spend too much time in Georgetown. I was in the interior using canoe type boats. Amazing scenery that a lot of other South American countries can’t match – with a population so low; when you’re in the interior you literally are alone in the jungle, in the animals kingdom, away from any civilisation. It’s frightening and beautiful!

    Kaieteur Falls is incomparable too – I cannot name another place I’ve been to such as this waterfall. Truly mighty.

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    • Yeah, so true. Guyana in general is very overlooked.

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  4. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your articles and was wondering if you could give me some advice?

    4 friends and I are heading to Guyana for 4 weeks to do our medical elective projects at the hospital and I was wondering if you had any tips on a budget for us? 4 boys all aged 22.

    cheers, tom

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    • Hmmm… really depends. I spent about $40 a day including food and accom. I did, of course stay in pretty budget accommodation, but it was still nice. Check out the travel guides for South America on my site for a little bit of advice.

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    • Hi Minto,

      I wanted to do a medical mission in Guyana as well. What hospital did you go to? did your school organize the logistics or did you?

      debbie

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  5. Don’t dig the term “black skinned” at all- let alone when juxtaposed with a more accurate and less offensive description like east Indian. .. I’m pretty sure a better description could have been given. Nonetheless as a Guyanese I appreciate your effort and reasonably accurate descriptions of the goings on downtown. A beautiful mess… I must admit- that is how I feel about it as well. My home. Good piece.

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    • Hi Jasmine, I changed the term. In Canada we say things as we see them because there’s no hint of racism towards it: black kids, white kids, brown kids, etc. Of course, I understand the issue with terminology in much of the world and changed it to fit better. Thanks for your input, and for reading.

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