The Loki is owned by Aussies and has a reputation for partying. Although it certainly doesn't encourage sobriety, and welcomes staff leading amateur strip shows on bar tops, there is apparently a line that you don't want to cross. At 4am on our first night Cindy woke up to the sound of an intoxicated guest getting kicked out of the hostel. When he argued that he can't be thrown on the street at that hour, the response was an unsympathetic 'welcome to Bolivia'.
The best way to get an introduction to central La Paz is on a walking tour. Our tour started outside the San Pedro Prison, made famous by the book Marching Powder. Those who have read the book would know this is an unusual facility, where nasty criminals live with their families and need to generate enough money to rent their cells (the most expensive of which feature cable tv and jacuzzis). For tourists the most important lesson is that if a bag full of white powder comes flying over the prison walls, don't pick it up unless you're friends with the drug lord who threw it and you've paid off the guards.
Our tour then took us through the city's market (where you can buy a hundred different types of potatoes and if you're lucky one or two other types of veggies). We also saw some beautiful churches, plenty of alpaca clothing stores, the beautiful (if you excuse the bullet holes in some buildings) presidential square and a nice view from the tallest building in town.
At night we heard that some travelers who are much more brave than us head to a bar that offers cocaine as well as beer, wine and spirits. This wouldn't interest us anyway, but even if it did you'd hate to be there on the day that the bar owner and police had a disagreement over the payment of bribe money. In Bolivia if you get caught in the vicinity of cocaine then they generously give you eight years in prison to prepare for your first day in court.
We much preferred to spend our down time in La Paz enjoying some of the surprisingly nice food on offer in some very good value restaurants. Our most memorable meal was a true fine dining experience, featuring beautifully cooked llama, nice wine and artistic presentation for only $15 each.
We enjoyed another memorable meal at a middle eastern restaurant (not as strange as it sounds, as there is a massive Israeli population in La Paz). At this restaurant we were lucky to meet some Israeli tourists who then took us leather shopping, helping us understand all the shop signs (which were in Hebrew) and negotiating a reduced 'Israeli price' for Cindy's now favorite leather handbag.
The main attraction for us in La Paz was using it as a base to bike 'death road', a 64km descent down a narrow (as little as 3 meters wide), mostly gravel, road that starts at a chilly altitude of around 4800 meters and finishes in the hot jungle at 1100 meters. Our tour guide preferred the official, slightly less morbid, title 'the world's most dangerous road'. Both titles are deserved, given the road's long history of regular and nasty accidents (the worst killed 100 people). In 2007 a less dangerous road was built nearby that now attracts most traffic, leaving death road to mostly be used by cyclists, support vehicles and local villagers.
In the end, we had great bikes, great weather, no injuries (excepting Cindy was sore for a few days as a result of being so stiff on the bike), and therefore no regrets. We're both glad we did it, although Sam probably enjoyed the experience a bit more than Cindy. It was scary (particularly because of the uneven road) but the fast bits were exhilarating, the scenery was incredible and the 3700 meter vertical drop was an amazing accomplishment (particularly for an Aussie whose highest mountain back home is only 2228 meters above sea level).