Coastal Adventures

Mar del Plata is a coastal city about 500km (6hours by bus) south of Buenos Aires. I took the 9am bus (200 pesos, cama – discount for paying in cash!) on Monday from Retiro station and promptly fell asleep because wow the buses are fancy. The buses are divided into different categories, much like planes. Semi-cama, the cheapest, is a regular 4-seats-in-a-row seat, but which reclines quite a bit more than in usual buses, and has significantly more legroom. This is perfect for smaller sized travellers on a budget who can pretty much fall asleep anywhere, i.e. me. On the bus to Mar del Plata, they didn’t have semi-cama seats, so I forked out a little bit more for cama – the seats were significantly wider, and reclined quite a lot, but I didn’t notice any other differences. The bus companies also offer cama-executive and super-cama, but I’m not sure which is which – I do know that one of those two categories resembles the fully reclining business class seats on the A380 though. They are also much more expensive, so it is unlikely that I will ever travel in those two classes.

Right. So back to the journey. 6 hours later, I was in Mar del Plata (MDP) and the lovely Noelia, my CouchSurfing host for my stay in MDP, picked me up from the bus terminal. Noelia only speaks some English, so we spoke mostly in Spanish (she spoke, I tried) for the duration of my trip. We went back to her place to drop my stuff off, where I met the charming Felippe and the ever-curious Mambi!

Philippe refused to sit still for a picture Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Philippe refused to sit still for a picture
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Mischievous Mambi who fell asleep on my tummy one night Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Mischievous Mambi who fell asleep on my tummy one night
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Then, it was off for some sightseeing. To the tourist office, to pick up a map, then to check out the beach. It was extremely windy and cold though, so we didn’t spend much time (10mins max, and fully clothed) on the beach.

Nice beach with freezing cold water Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Nice beach with freezing cold water
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I also found out that MDP is home to a colony of sea lions, and they have a huge monument to them right on the beach.

Apparently every tourist needs to have a picture with it, but it didn't take one Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Apparently every tourist needs to have a picture with it, but it didn’t take one
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

After that, we went somewhere (I’m pretty sure Noe told me where we were going, but I didn’t understand her), which turned out to be to see the colony of sea lions right on the port!

The good life of a sea lion Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

The good life of a sea lion
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

The area is a protected reserve for the sea lions, but it was still an incredible sight, to see them lying just meters away, sunbathing and chilling out.

Blobbing about Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Blobbing about
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I felt like I was in an episode of something on National Geographic and when I saw the sea lions, David Attenborough’s voice immediately went off in my head. “Here, we have a colony of adult male sea lions. They spend most of their time swimming, hunting for fish and sun bathing. Sea lions live exclusively in colonies of their own gender, and the males travel many miles during the mating season in search of females. There is usually only one dominant male in the group, but sometimes fights for dominance break out. Interestingly, this colony appears to be home to a young male as well, something that is rare in nature.”

They smell quite bad Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

They smell quite bad
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Okay I will stop with my (fake) Nat Geo voiceover. So after checking out the sea lions, we headed down to the tip of the port for an incredible view of MDP. Amazing stuff.

Freezing wind, but gorgeous view Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Freezing wind, but gorgeous view
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

We stopped at a smaller section of the port on the way back, where I almost kissed a sea lion, but his fish breath was kinda overpowering.

My sealion prince was not this one Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

My sealion prince was not this one
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Noe showed me around town a little and we had a coffee before heading back to her place because everything in town was closed due to the police being on strike. It was the first time I’ve ever heard of anything like that, but apparently, the police had gone on strike because they wanted a pay raise which the government was denying them, and as a result, looters were going nuts, breaking into shops and stealing all sorts of things. It started in Córdoba, but Noe thinks it won’t end with MDP. Should be an interesting time to be in Argentina.

The next day in MDP, I primarily spent wandering around town. It’s not a very big city, but is quite charming in its own way.

Amazing sky Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Amazing sky
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Cute castle Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Cute castle
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Quaint little fountain Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Quaint little fountain
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Parque San Martin with free wifi! Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Parque San Martin with free wifi!
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Cheesy writing in the sand Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Cheesy writing in the sand
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

In the evening, I met some of Noe’s friends and had to put my Spanish to the test again. My Spanish is still pretty crappy, and I really can’t communicate when I’m tired or caught unawares, but I’m learning! Upon hearing that I had pretty much explored most of what MDP has to offer, Noe and friends suggested that I visit Sierra de los Padres the next day.

So I set off to Sierra de los Padres the next day. Took the bus (717) from along Av. P. Luro, and the bus ticket cost about 5pesos but had to be paid using a card, but I just asked a passenger to pay my fare and paid him back. Sierra de los Padres and Laguna de los Padres are about 12-15 km outside the city of MDP. The bus stops at several places along the way, but I alighted at the top of Sierra de los Padres (without knowing it because I didn’t have a map and got off when the bus driver told me to). First thing I saw was a falcon(?)

Falcon chilling out Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Falcon chilling out
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

And next, an amazing view.

Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Really, these are the things people need to live for. Not paychecks and promotions. But that’s just my opinion. I started wandering around, because I had no idea what I was doing, and took the only road out.

Road to...somewhere Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Road to…somewhere
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I met some horses who were very calmly grazing,

Noms Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Noms
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

And saw some gorgeous birds my camera was not powerful enough to capture. It was amazing, wandering around, and it really seems like the kind of place I could retire to, once I’ve made a bunch of money haha.

Future retirement home Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Future retirement home
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I also stumbled upon Las Grutas de los Panuelos, a strange tribute to the Virgin. Apparently, many years ago, a childless couple visited this place and tied a handkerchief there as an offering to the Virgin to bless them with children. Of course, they had a child and BAM everyone was there offering handkerchiefs. The handkerchief chain is now several kilometers long.

Las Grutas Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Las Grutas
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

A section of the handkerchief madness Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

A section of the handkerchief madness
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I had a quick lunch, and continued walking toward Laguna de los Padres. On my way there, I saw a bunch of horses grazing idly and walked over to admire them for a bit. The owner(s) of the horses invited me over for some mate and I spent some time chatting with them over mate. I even watched one of them fix a horseshoe on a gorgeous horse.

Hard at work Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Hard at work
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

It was quite a distance to Laguna de los Padres so I continued walking, and after walking for what seemed like forever,

Forever long road Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Forever long road
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I finally reached Laguna de los Padres!

Beautiful Laguna Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Beautiful Laguna
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

It was so so so gorgeous.

Birds need to enjoy the view too Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Birds need to enjoy the view too
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

It being a weekday, there was hardly anybody there and I could just soak on the atmosphere of being all alone.

Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I also got a little bit lost in the huge park because I didn’t have much of a map, just a sketch/outline of the park.

Forest trail leads nowhere Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Forest trail leads nowhere
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

But finally, I managed to make it out of the park alive! Haha I exaggerate – there was never really any threat to my life.

Almost out of the forest Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Almost out of the forest
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

That evening, back in MDP, Noe invited me to dinner at her friend’s house, after which we went for a couchsurfing meeting! It was great meeting the couchsurfers of MDP even though I was the only foreigner there. Apparently, the only visitors MDP gets are from the rest of Argentina, so I was a rare breed 😉 great evening!

Couchsurfers! Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Couchsurfers!
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Noe suggested going to Miramar the next day, so that’s what I did. Took a bus (El Rapido del Sur) from the main bus terminal (16pesos, one way) and one hour later, I was in Miramar. My first impression of Miramar was that the town was dead. I honestly had no idea why Che Guevara would have spent 8 days in Miramar at the start of his journey around South America.

Main city square, in the middle of the day Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Main city square, in the middle of the day
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Anyways, I somehow managed to find my way to the beach (and the tourist office), where all the inhabitants of Miramar had congregated apparently. I had a vague plan to visit the Bosque Energetico and started walking there from the beach, but as I was walking, a kindly gentleman offered me a lift there! Except, because my Spanish is horrible, I guess I told him I was going somewhere else and I ended up in Mar del Sur.

The vast nothingness of Mar del Sur Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

The vast nothingness of Mar del Sur
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

I thought that Miramar was empty, but Mar del Sur was completely deserted. There were literally ten people on the beach. Not a soul more.

Deserted beach at Mar del Sur Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Deserted beach at Mar del Sur
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Well it wasn’t what I was planning on, but I decided to hang out at the beach for a bit. Besides, the next bus to Miramar was at 7pm.

Great place to peace out forever Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Great place to peace out forever
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

As I was peacing out by the beach, two very friendly dogs started playing with me. Turns out they belonged to the lifeguard, who invited me for a some mate with his lifeguard friends. It ended up being a very pleasant afternoon, drinking mate and talking about stuff.

Dog and his lifeguard Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

Dog and his lifeguard
Mar del Plata, Dec 2013

One of them gave me a lift back to Miramar at 630 and I caught the bus back to MDP. Fabulous stuff. Dinner that night was with Noe’s girlfriends, a delightful bunch of ladies who made me miss my own delightful bunch of ladies.

The next day was my last day in MDP and I went out on a mission. To purchase clothes for the inevitably colder weather I will be experiencing in Ushuaia or even in Bolivia and Peru. Managed to get that done, spent some time on the super extremely crowded beach and even went swimming for a bit. Then, it was back to Noe’s place to pack and I was off again! Next stop, Puerto Madryn!

No hay tigres en Tigre, pero hay Gauchos en Mataderos

Written 11 Dec

On Saturday, I took a trip to Tigre. About one hour (and less than 2pesos) by train from Retiro station,

Beautiful architecture in Retiro station Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Beautiful architecture in Retiro station
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Tigre is a town situated next to a delta which flows into the Paraná river instead of the sea, and is one of the largest deltas to do so.

Even the road signs have tigers!

Even the road signs have tigers!

It’s a very serene little area, and being there makes you feel quite removed from the hustle and bustle of the main city.

Waiting patiently to be called into service Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Waiting patiently to be called into service
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

It really is a must visit if you are in Buenos Aires and feeling a little overwhelmed by the city after a while, as I was.

Quaint little houses line the delta Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Quaint little houses line the delta
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

It’s easy to forget how exhausting big cities can be, being constantly bombarded by the various sounds and sights and smells of everything and everyone. Oftentimes, I don’t think we even realize how draining it is, until you are removed from it and realize, with an unintentional sigh of relief, how people and tranquil places outside the city can be.

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I wandered around Tigre for a couple of hours,

Tranquility Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Tranquility
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Ate a sandwich sitting in a random park,

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And took a catamaran around the delta (60pesos, 1hour).

Adorable little girl enjoyed the ride tremendously Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Adorable little girl enjoyed the ride tremendously
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

It was absolutely relaxing and I even fell asleep part way through the delta tour.

The absolutely fabulous day drew to a close with a visit with some CouchSurfers to Frank’s Bar, one of the most exclusive and fancy bars in Buenos Aires, and some say Latin America. Like speakeasies of the 1920s, you need a password to get in, but lucky for us, despite not having the right password, the bouncer let us in anyway. Entrance was through a telephone booth,

Secret entrance! Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Secret entrance!
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

And it was generally very fancy.

Fancy pants! Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Fancy pants!
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

It was a pretty cool experience, and if you have time, you can check it out. The password can apparently be figured out using clues on their facebook page, or you can just try your luck with puppy eyes 😉

Sunday was my last day in Buenos Aires. Juan and I decided to check out the Feria de Mataderos in the neighbourhood of…you guessed it, Mataderos! It was an hour by Subte and bus, but the trip was worth it. It was a huge fair,

Bursting with colour Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Bursting with colour
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

With ponies,

Little boy was not pleased at having been made to pose on the pony Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Little boy was not pleased at having been made to pose on the pony
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

People selling all sorts of things,

Strange elves seemed to be on sale everywhere Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Strange elves seemed to be on sale everywhere
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

And even a concert!

Rocking out to Argentinian folk music Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Rocking out to Argentinian folk music
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

People were very enthusiastic about dancing to the traditional folk music,

Strangers no longer Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Strangers no longer
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

With people of all ages mingling and enjoying the traditional dances,

A dance enjoyed by all ages Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

A dance enjoyed by all ages
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

And we also managed to watch a horse competition of sorts!

Giddy up? Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Giddy up?
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

We couldn’t really figure out what was going on,

Quit horsing around Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Quit horsing around
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

But it seemed to involve the caballeros pulling a tiny ring off a pole.

Straight from the horse's mouth Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Straight from the horse’s mouth
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

No clue who won, but we did see a cabellero in training with his baby horsie (:

The horse and his boy Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

The horse and his boy
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

A llama sighting

Whatchu lookin' at? Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Whatchu lookin’ at?
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

wrapped up the excitement of the feria de Mataderos!

I had dinner that night with Fabrizio, whom I had met at a CouchSurfing event and we had the loveliest bife de chorizo (sirloin steak). The meat was so sweet and tender and flavorful and I am going to stop talking about it before I start drooling all over the keyboard.

So much yum Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

So much yum
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

All in all, I must say that Buenos Aires treated me well and I will definitely go back (: but in the meanwhile, it’s onward to new adventures!

Buenos Días en Buenos Aires II

Written 10 Dec 2013

Yes, I know, it’s been a while since Montevideo…but I’ve been lazy, and besides, I needed to take full advantage of the gloriously sunny days in Buenos Aires! Well, actually, I wasn’t taking advantage of the wonderful weather as much as I should have because I fell sick. But I’ll get to that in a moment. Continuing where I left off. Sunday! Every Sunday, there is a flea market/ fair or sorts in San Telmo, and having nothing better to do, I decided to drop by.

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Flea market at San Telmo
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

I was also told that there would be tango performances in the streets of San Telmo and in La Boca as well, so I figured it would be pretty cool to check it out. It was pretty interesting, with lots of people milling about and lots of vendors selling anything and everything, and street performers – bands, tango dancers, etc.

Awesome street band Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Awesome street band
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Tango in the streets Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Tango in the streets
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Awesome street band part II Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Awesome street band part II
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Street artists Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Street artists
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Cute old lady joins in on the festivities Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Cute old lady joins in on the festivities
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

I spent a nice few hours wandering about there and ended up at a random park where I met David, a porteño who hadn’t spent the last 15years in Buenos Aires. After chatting for a bit, we headed down to La Caminito en La Boca, a quaint little section of La Boca that has all these colourful houses!

Such lovely colours Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Such lovely colours
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Absolutely adorable. La Boca is next to the river (?),

View of the river at La Boca Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

View of the river at La Boca
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

so apparently, the reason why the houses are a hundred million different colours at once is because they used to paint boats in La Boca, and used whatever pain that was left over to paint their houses. Hence, the colourful houses. I don’t know to what extent this is true, but the houses do make for a lovely sight.

I could look at these houses all day Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

I could look at these houses all day
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Absolutely adorable Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Absolutely adorable
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

David decided to show me around some other parts of Buenos Aires, like the Palermo area, near the Planetarium, where there was a huge, open-air (free) concert going on. The whole place was full of people and I loved the vibe there!

Crazy awesome vibe Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Crazy awesome vibe
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

We also passed by a huge mosque, which I didn’t been know existed. According to David, the building of the mosque increased the immigration of Muslims into Buenos Aires, and now Buenos Aires has a significant Muslim population. Yay for integration!

Huge mosque in Buenos Aires Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Huge mosque in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Then it was time to call it a night (:

Sunset at 9pm Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Sunset at 9pm
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

The start of the new week marked the start of my Spanish lessons at El Pasaje Spanish School. One week intensive course, 4 hours daily. It was super intense, but also pretty fun, and I quite enjoyed going for lessons and meeting my lovely classmates!

L-R: Jeen, Linda, Michelle, the teacher Anahi, Alan, Ina, Timo, Christina and me Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

L-R: Jeen, Linda, Michelle, the teacher Anahi, Alan, Ina, Timo, Christina and me
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

The whole week was pretty low key, and as I mentioned, I fell terribly ill. I was running a fever on Sunday night, but I took some medication and felt better on Monday. Tuesday was when my body decided to completely give up on me – I had a fever, lost my voice and generally felt like death. I slept most of Tuesday away, and by Wednesday I was feeling much better. So for those of you who are wondering, I am almost 100% cured now (:

Nothing much else happened, until the weekend! On Friday, Juan brought me to a neigbourhood called Devoto – about an hour outside the main city centre. Pretty cool neighbourhood, but the main attraction was an old train carriage that had been converted into a restaurant!

Really pretty wooden carriage Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Really pretty wooden carriage
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Fancy inside of the train carriage Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Fancy inside of the train carriage
Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013

Super cool stuff, and it was a fun dinner with some yummy fish for dinner! Very satisfying (unlike Juan’s ice cream for dessert heh)! The rest of the weekend perhaps deserves its own post so stay tuned!

Mission: Montevideo

Obviously, I was on a mission. To rescue my US dollars from their imprisonment in my bank account where they would slowly (or not so slowly) lose value over time. The mission commenced on Friday, at 630am when I set out for the port to catch my ferry to Colonia. Caught the ferry and promptly fell asleep only to be awoken by the infinitely quease- inducing sound of people throwing up. I thanked my dad’s sailor genes for a strong sea stomach and went back to sleep and woke up only to disembark and board the bus from Colonia to Montevideo.

The green pastures of Colonia Colonia, Uruguay, Nov 2013

The green pastures of Colonia
Colonia, Uruguay, Nov 2013

The journey passed in a blur and ta-dah, I was in Montevideo!

Av. 18 de Julio Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Av. 18 de Julio
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Started off on foot (traveller’s best friends – left leg and right leg) toward Ciudad Vieja where the elusive Citibank ATM was located. It was a very pleasant walk, but I’m still not sure how I feel about Montevideo. Lots of old buildings,

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Cervantes standing guard at the National Library Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Cervantes standing guard at the National Library
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Spot the replica of a famous statue! Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Spot the replica of a famous statue!
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

but many of them very poorly maintained. Honestly, I felt like it had no business being so expensive, considering how many derelict buildings there were.

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Very astute observation by a delinquent Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Very astute observation by a delinquent
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Nevertheless, I enjoyed simply being there and soaking in the atmosphere.

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

The old and the new Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

The old and the new
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Hmm, I wonder what's for lunch today... Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Hmm, I wonder what’s for lunch today…
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Horse-drawn (garbage) carriage, anyone? Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Horse-drawn (garbage) carriage, anyone?
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Interesting thing about Montevideo is the obsession with mate. At least half the people I saw in Montevideo were carrying their little mate cups and a thermos of water as they went about their daily business. It was very curious way of life.

Mate, mate, mate! Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Mate, mate, mate!
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

That evening, I went to a tango bar with some Brazilians I met at the hostel to watch a live tango performance, complete with tango singers. It was really lovely, and the band that performed at the end was pretty good too. All in all, a good first day in Montevideo!

With my Brazilian friends at a tango show Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

With my Brazilian friends at a tango show
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Well, Montevideo is pretty small, and all the tourist spots are concentrated in Ciudad Vieja and Centro, so I had seen most of them during my 6-hour walk the previous day. I ended up Skyping my sister/brother/brother-in-law/father for a while before heading out. Wandered around a different part of town, not really knowing where I was going but ended up at the weekly fair held on Saturdays.

Dubai! But in Montevideo? Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Dubai! But in Montevideo?
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Tyre swing! Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Tyre swing!
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Flea market Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Flea market
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Next on my agenda was the Rambla. The weather gods had also listened to my pleas and it was hot and sunny, almost blisteringly so. I took a very nice and relaxing walk along the Rambla for a couple of hours, before heading back to the bus station for my bus, and subsequently, ferry, back to Buenos Aires.

Gandhi approves of Montevideo Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Gandhi approves of Montevideo
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Meow. Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Meow.
Montevideo, Uruguay, Nov 2013

Montevideo was theoretically nice, but somehow, I didn’t quite feel anything for the place. Arriving back in Buenos Aires showed me why – I didn’t feel the vibrancy that resonates within Buenos Aires.

Random party in the middle of the street Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Random party in the middle of the street
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

I realize I’d gotten so caught up with recollecting my love affair with the city that I’d forgotten about my mission! The mission was a success and I think I’m armed and ready to take on (some part of) Argentina!

Buenos Días en Buenos Aires!

I can’t believe it’s already been more than a week (one week and two days to be precise) that I’ve been in Buenos Aires! It’s been amazing, and I am having a huge amount of fun!

Okay, starting from the beginning! 7am flight from Dubai to Buenos Aires, with a 1hour stopover in Rio de Janeiro. The flight was crazy long, and I had a terrible seat, so it was not the most enjoyable flight experience. I don’t think anything can top my flight from Singapore to Portugal back in 2011 – four seats to myself on the A380, so I happily made myself a bed and slept like a baby for a good 8 hours. Ahhh. But I digress. After the terribly long flight, I was finally in Buenos Aires!

Bienvenidos! Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Bienvenidos!
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Of course, within five minutes of disembarking, I realized that I couldn’t find my phone. Oh the horror. Thankfully, when I went back to the plane and told the air steward, he managed to find my phone. Buenos Aires was off to a good start (: So from the airport, I took the bus Manuel Tienda Leon for 95 pesos (USD16) to an area in the main city centre called Retiro, from where I took another bus to where I was staying. An exciting adventure considering how jet lag, nerves, and being in a foreign country caused all my Spanish to desert me. Incidentally, if anyone is planning a trip to Buenos Aires, I recommend that you only change a small amount (I changed USD50) at the airport, because the exchange rates on the parallel market in the city, while illegal, are 30-40% better.

I took a walk around the city with my new friend Juan Pablo once I’d settled down, and it was quite a pleasant walk with engaging conversation. It was 5am by the time I eventually went to bed that night.

El Obelisco Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

El Obelisco
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

The next day was a public holiday to commemorate the victory of some battle or the other (nobody I spoke to really knew what the holiday was for – apparently, the government is trying to introduce more holidays such that there is at least one holiday a month. Singapore would do well to follow suit, I think). It was also rainy and cold. Definitely not what I was expecting in Buenos Aires in summer. It was averaging 18 degrees the whole day, and I was not prepared. But I wasn’t going to let a little bit of cold stop me, so I put on all of my warm clothing (jeans, tank top, cardigan, spring jacket, light cotton scarf) and headed out. And I’m glad I did, because the city is beautiful.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Eva Peron Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Eva Peron
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

There’s a reason why people call Buenos Aires the Paris of the south, and I think it really lives up to its name (although I have never been to Paris and don’t know what I’m comparing it to). The architecture is definitely very European, with lots of French, Italian and Spanish influence.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

During my wanderings,passed by Casa Rosada, the government house, and it happened to be open because of the holiday! Foreigner’s luck!

Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada in the background Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada in the background
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

I continued wandering around and went into a museum,

Bicentennial Museum Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Bicentennial Museum
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Walked past a really big building I think is the Ministry of Defense,

Ministry of Defense, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Ministry of Defense,
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

And ended up at Puerto Madero. Interestingly, in Argentina, only natives of Buenos Aires refer to themselves as porteños, because of their close association with the port, despite the fact that there are several other port cities in Argentina.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

More walking brought me to Florida Calle, the main tourist street.

Captain Jack Sparrow makes an appearance in Florida Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Captain Jack Sparrow makes an appearance in Florida
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Caricatures in 10 minutes! Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Caricatures in 10 minutes!
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Nothing particularly interesting about it, apart from the constant song of the money changers “Cambio cambio. Dolares, Euros, Reales. Cambio cambio.” Dinner that night was steak (obviously), which was really good and meaty, for a ridiculously low price (10USD I think).

Mmmm, meat Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Mmmm, meat
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Day two in Buenos Aires was when I decided to be productive and go on a walking tour of the city. It was an interesting group, and the guide, Guille, was fun and knowledgeable, so that was an enriching four-ish hours we spent walking and talking and taking pictures while learning more about Buenos Aires and Argentina.

Beautiful old house Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Beautiful old house
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Jacaranda trees! Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Jacaranda trees!
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Teatro Colón Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Teatro Colón
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Gomero tree that was so huge it's branches became natural benches Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Gomero tree that was so huge its branches became natural benches
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Street art Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Street art
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Little church tucked away in a tiny corner Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Little church tucked away in a tiny corner
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

I also found my favorite place in Buenos Aires so far during this tour – the Recoleta Cemetery. Curious, given how freaked out I get by ghosts and the supernatural, but this cemetery is just very peaceful and calming.

Rest in Peace Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Rest in Peace
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Huge mausoleums make it easy to get lost Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Huge mausoleums make it easy to get lost
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

But it is also easy to lose yourself in the beauty of the mausoleums Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

But it is also easy to lose yourself in the beauty of the mausoleums
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Eva Peron' s final resting place Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Eva Peron’ s final resting place
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

I went for Mate (pronounced mah-tay) Club that evening, a Couchsurfing event that brings together English and Spanish speakers for a sort of language exchange. I figured it would be fun, and it was, but I realized that my Spanish was really not up to scratch, so that was when I decided to sign myself up for Spanish lessons.

So, the next day (Wednesday), I set off on my hunt for a Spanish school, and eventually settled on an intensive (20hrs in 5days) course with El Pasaje, starting Monday! After that, I met up with Emilio, who was also kind enough to show me his city and we spent a nice few hours wandering around. I love all these kind porteños!

Plaza San Martin Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Plaza San Martin
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Inside the Cathedral of Buenos Aires Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Inside the Cathedral of Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Plaza de Mayo Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Plaza de Mayo
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Protest outside El Congreso Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Protest outside El Congreso
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

In the evening, I went for another Couchsurfing event to meet new people and figure out what to do after Buenos Aires. I was talking to Giovanni, an Italian guy I met there and I was appalled to find out that due to the government’s currency controls, it is not possible to get USD in Argentina. I was quite horrified, having breezed through a significant portion of the cash I had brought along with me. He suggested that I make a trip to Montevideo to get the cash I need. I hadn’t initially thought about visiting Montevideo yet, but it seemed like a sensible plan so that’s what I decided to do.

On Thursday morning though, thanks to my friend Sheralyn, I realized I might need a visa to go to Uruguay. The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs website said I didn’t, but the consulate of Uruguay website said I did. I figured I’d explore the city a little more and drop in at the embassy of Uruguay to check. Also picked up an idea for my future career path – professional dog walker!

How fun! Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

How fun!
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Anyway, thankfully, I didn’t need a visa (don’t know what I would have done if I did – the processing time is 15days!) so all was well! I managed to get my tickets to Montevideo with Colonia express for the next morning at 830am with a return trip on Saturday.

In between all of that, I took a nice walk down to the Palermo area, and wandered around the parks there, enjoying the sunshine and making friends with geese. Lovely day where everything worked out!

The Planetarium Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

The Planetarium
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Japanese gardens Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

Japanese gardens
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

My new goose friends! Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

My new goose friends!
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 2013

And that is it for my first couple of days in Buenos Aires! Props to you if you actually read everything instead of just scrolling through the pictures. I’ll try not to be so long-winded next time!

Dubai – Not a Desert

So, I am the worst at updating. Apologies. In my defense, it is really hard to write blogposts when you’re on the road. And who wants to read just a whole bunch of words right? But it is really difficult to upload my pictures from my camera to a computer and then post it here. I do my best anyway, so patience! Good things (I hope) come to those who wait.

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Pretty decent airline, all things considered
Dubai, UAE, Nov 20

So I arrived in Dubai. Flight was bearable, and Dubai airport is very modern. The metro system is also pretty amazing, and I took it down to Zehra’s place. Got out and wow, it was raining. And cold. I felt very cheated – it’s Dubai! In the middle of the desert! Jeez. Anyway, at Zehra’s place, I had a delish lunch prepared by her sister-in-law, Kalya and took a nap.

Super Comfy Bed, Courtesy of Zehra and Nadir, Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Super Comfy Bed, Courtesy of Zehra and Nadir,
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

I needed to kill time till Zehra got off work, so Nadir (her brother) and Kalya dropped me off at the Dubai mall, the world’s largest shopping mall. Guess what? It’s like any and every other mall I’ve ever been in.

Dubai Mall Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Dubai Mall
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

If you know me at all, you would know I’m not a fan of malls, so of course, after 10 minutes at being quite taken aback that the mall was so huge it needed taxis to ferry people around, I was bored.

"Zara to Cartier please" Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

“Zara to Cartier please”
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Thankfully, there was a pretty cool fountain show to entertain me for a bit more.

It's more impressive in real life Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

It’s more impressive in real life
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

The Dubai mall is also home to a pretty cool aquarium, so I spent a good 20ish minutes watching the marine life float around, watching people gawking at them. I wonder what life must be like for a fish that’s slightly more intelligent than a goldfish.

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Well, Zehra turned up soon enough, and we had a lovely Arabian dinner with hummus and kebabs and all sorts of yummy things.

Yay us! Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Yay us!
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

So much yum Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

So much yum
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

We went to a quaint little place just under her apartment block after that, and coincidentally met up with a bunch of her friends there. It was fun, meeting new people and talking about this and that and really, after 20 minutes or so, it’s like you’ve known them forever. Interestingly, I always find that people are more willing to share intimate details of their lives with complete strangers, perhaps with the knowledge (belief? hope?) that they will never meet again, and that their secrets are safe. Hm.

Anyway, my second day in Dubai was rather uneventful, apart from the fact that Dubai was FLOODING.

In Singapore, we call this ponding Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

In Singapore, we call this ponding
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

It was hilarious really. It was drizzling, and within the hour, entire streets were flooded. I was very amused. We visited Zehra’s office so that she could run some errands.

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Zehra’s dedication is admirable
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

And then it was off to old Dubai! The gold souk featured some of the most excessively extravagant jewelry

Rob me! Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Rob me!
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

(including the world’s largest gold ring)

It is heavier than me. Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

It is heavier than me.
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

I have ever seen, and the spice souk had, well, spices!

Mmm, spicy? Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Mmm, spicy?
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

We also took an abra across the creek, for 1dirham, which was pretty fun, because the abras do not have sides to prevent you from falling out/off. Pretty cool stuff.

Abra-cadabra! Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Abra-cadabra!
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Look ma, no sides! Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Look ma, no sides!
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Gorgeous sunset Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Gorgeous sunset
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Dinner was at Zehra’s favorite place in Dubai, Wokyo, and the food was pretty yumz. The rest of the evening we just chilled, and had an early night.

Zehra and Seoul Flaming Chili Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Zehra and Seoul Flaming Chili
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

The next day! Zehra’s friend Zac brought me to a beautiful place, the Jumeirah … (I’ve forgotten the name). It was all obviously man-made but extremely beautiful nonetheless. I had fun wandering around, taking pictures like the real tourist that I am (or am trying to be).

Pretty! Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Pretty!
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Pretty Part II! Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Pretty Part II!
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

We even snuck into the theatre where a rehearsal for some show happened to be going on. The trick to get into restricted access places is just to pretend like you belong and know what you’re doing 😉

Sneak peek Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Sneak peek
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

After that, it was off to the desert! I finally got to see my camels – huge herds of them wandering around (within enclosed compounds) being all calm and cool in the desert.

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Cooler than cucumbers
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Part of the tour included dune bashing – being bounced around in our seats as the driver maniacally steered the car up and down the sand dunes. It was almost exactly like being on an extended roller coaster. Fun fun fun.

Sand dunes Dubai  UAE, Nov 2013

Sand dunes
Dubai UAE, Nov 2013

After that, we were dropped off at a large tented compound in the middle of nowhere, and I had my first camel ride on a delightful camel named Sheila!

Sheila, Irene and me! Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Sheila, Irene and me!
Dubai, UAE, Nov 2013

Dinner in the desert was accompanied by belly dancing and tanoura performances, and interesting conversations with the Bolivian lady I met, Irene.

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That evening, back in civilization, I bullied Zehra into performing at this pizza place we went to. (: She was super nervous, but it all went well in the end! Thanks for the performance, Zehra!

And that was pretty much the end of my stay in Dubai! Probably won’t be back again (for a long while), but it was fun nonetheless! Next up on my agenda – a super long flight to the other side of the world!