Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Food, drinks and a great night in Mendoza, Argentina

Posted by Rishiray on March 19, 2014

On my Antarctic odyssey, we Mendoza is one of the best places to visit in the West of Argentina. It’s a vibrant city, renowned for its marvelous art, history and it’s almost impossible to not to have a great night in Mendoza. This land is the most important viticulturist center in south America and houses hundreds of wineries.

The city is centered around the Plaza Independencia , with a pedestrian street (Calle Sarmiento) running through the center.  The Plaza Independencia is a huge plaza in downtown Mendoza. It easily covers 3 – 4 large city blocks in a square. There are vendors selling their wares along one side, a beautiful massive water feature in the middle of the Plaza where you can rest on a warm Mendoza night enjoying the light spray from the water or listening to an impromptu speech or Fringe performance from actors. A safe great place to visit any time of day or night.

I love Argentina for the ease and relative safety of nightlife. … you can walk in the main areas at almost any time of night

Around the fountains is hub of activity (after midnight) for the city. Kids practicing parquet, gymnastics, families wondering around, stalls, afternoon snoozes etc. This place has it all.

I love the feeling at night … everything is so safe. I wish I could walk around Trinidad like this at night.

Light sculpture in the Square

After walking through Plaza Independencia, you could head over for dinner at the Hyatt Plaza Mendoza.With an impressive façade that resembles a European palace, the Park Hyatt is nestled the center of the city, adjacent to the Plaza Independencia. With white columns and marble floors, the grand lobby, though sporting a modern furniture, harkens back to days of old. Distant sounds of bells and whistles from the connected casino blend with soft piano music playing in the background.
My plan was to have a death causing amount of amazing steak, sausage and parilla. The concierge at the Sheraton told me that if I was hungry for cow, then the Hyatt would be the place. The quality of the meat was excellent and while pricey by Argentine standards … paying $40 for about 3 lbs of steak, sausage and other “amazingness” is a phenomenal value.

I didn’t hit the Casino … but this is definitely a swank hotel! It made the Sheraton presidential suit look like shits and giggles.

Dinner on the patio … probably is a good option unless you’re looking to eat 25lbs of meat in one sitting.

Who cares about salad? It’s the food that food eats.

I also tried the empanada, which was execution in excellence!

Now this is the type of grill that I need in my house.

Other friends ordered some excellent steak … and to be fair, it looked great.

I took this down like a champ … well I took down half of it

Roar!

The previous night I was sent for meat to an old school restaurant called Don Mario. I was told that it was one of the better ones in the city, but on my night there, I was completely unimpressed.

Even having heard from two people in Mendoza this is a traditional, GOOD place for meat, the reality is pretty far from the (questionable) fame it has. The restaurant’s ambiance is absolutely neutral, impersonal and unattractive. The service provided to the three of us was very, very poor and the food was well below an acceptable average.

This was just terribly done. I definitely wouldn’t recommend Don Mario

Nightlife in Argentina is well known worldwide and Mendoza is no exception. There were a lot of people drinking … in fact, there were a disproportionately high number of women outside drinking. It was almost like a fashion show in the center square.Mendoza produces 70% of Argentine wine and Argentina is the fifth biggest producer in the world. Thursday through Sunday are the biggest nights, when people get started around midnight.

Which floor should we go to?

Looking for a patio to sit down

Still searching …

Guess what we ended up drinking?

The locals are friendly for sure!

I think this sums up the night!

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Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Domaine Bousquet Winery Tour in Mendoza, Argentina

Posted by Rishiray on February 20, 2014

*Disclaimer … I don’t know anything about wine … I’m Trinidadian. If a Trini says they know anything about wine … they’re either lying, have a wife/husband/nennen not from Trinidad or did I mention lying?*

Now that we got that out of the way … the only thing to do in the day time in Mendoza, Argentina … is drink wine at wineries. Mendoza is a beautiful city located in the “hinterlands” of Western Argentina. For those from the Caribbean … it’s not close and you cannot really drive from Buenos Aires to Mendoza unless you have about 12 years to kill.
[mappress mapid=”110″]

The interesting thing is that wine-making talent and investment money have been streaming in from Europe and beyond, dramatically altering Argentina’s vinous landscape with hundreds of acres of new vineyards, several dozen new wineries, and entire categories of new wines. There are a lot of wineries in Mendoza … by a lot, I mean a LOT! Heading to Mendoza wine country will absolutely require a car, otherwise you’re going to pay a lot of money to be shuttled into some stock wineries. The prices that people will pay for even the “luxury” tours are ridiculous in my opinion.

winepricesHere’s my tips for getting the best wine tour:

  1. Know the wineries that you want to visit.
  2. Be specific and find the right tour or customize one that you want
  3. Rent a car
  4. Check the opening times and make reservations at your favorite winery
  5. If you are going to drop in, be forceful and demand that the guards let you in. You didn’t come all this way to be stopped by some guard making 5 pesos an hour.
  6. Ask tons of questions. People here respond to a personal touch.
  7. Friendliness and engagement go a long way here.

 

How to get there for the Domaine Bousquet Winery Tour:

Going wine touring in Mendoza means that you’ll have to get from Mendoza to Tupungato.
[mappress mapid=”111″]

Leaving the tree lined streets of Mendoza … you’re going to head down the highway

Follow the signs of your GPS

You’ll encounter lots of these trucks on the road… they’re used a lot to ferry grapes around

Until you get to Tupungato … you’ll also figure it out from all the vines

Just in case you didn’t know that you had hit wine country.

As a Trini … I have to admit, that I am not nor will I ever be a wine fan, but my wife and friends all like wine. Some of them really like wine and are very knowledgeable about wines and grapes so going to wineries are always part of the learning experience. The first winery that we visited was Domaine Bousquet. We would then go on to a couple others, but the vast majority of our day was spent at Domaine Bousquet.
This was my Russian buddy’s favorite winery and in true traveller style, we got there without any reservations. Of course, we found that the gate was locked and the guard wouldn’t let us in. This was a game changing problem! That being said, we did some negotiation with the guard and told him that we were wine journalists who had come to visit. He didn’t really believe us, but in the end, he relented and let us in, on the premise that we would only have lunch at the restaurant.
Once we got into the compound, we charmed our way into a tour with our lunch.

We ended up all having the Menu Grande Reserve, which was a 6 course menu and 6 wines. The price was 295 Argentine Pesos, which worked out to around 32$USD – which is a phenomenal price for us from North America.

  • Mise en Bouche
  • Two Starters
  • Entree
  • Cheese plate
  • Dessert
  • Wines:
    • One wine from the Premium line
    • Three wines from the Reserve line
    • Two wines form the Grande Reserve line

We were going to sample almost of all these on the rack!

Prior to heading for the tour, we got a chance to cool our heels. Who wouldn’t want to sip some wine, while under a shed like this.

Prior to lunch, we had our tour and I was surprised at the detailed knowledge we go from our hostess. Definitely exceeded my expectations as a non wine lover. I learned a lot of things that were absolutely new to me without having any restrictions due to my ignorance of the wine culture, and the wine experts got all the answers to their most difficult questions.

Heading into the production house

You could almost get drunk off all the fumes in here!

A great marriage of Oak and Steel

Wine having its long sleep.

More sleeping wine and crates of bottles ready for sale

Ready for sale

Sleeping in cellars

After a great and informative tour … it was on to lunch.

This was a dish of escovitched rabbit. It was definitely surprising to the palette. I was expecting something a bit more gamey, but this was cleansing to the taste and went well with the paired wine.

If you ever want to see a happy Russian … take him to his favorite winery in the world. I think he wanted to propose to the bottle. He might have done so in Russian.

Molten chocolate cake was paired with a dessert wine .. definitely something to hit your senses.

After a couple bottles of wine, a great lunch and some fantastic wine knowledge, we can definitely say that the Domaine Bousquet Winery Tour is a highly recommended addition to any ad hoc wine tour or “do it yourself” wine tour. If you happen to love their wines, then you’ll have an even better time.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Doing the Martial Glacier Chairlift in Ushuaia, Argentina.

Posted by Rishiray on January 27, 2014

When you’re at the bottom of South America, there are actually many things to do, but you will absolutely need to rent a car, else you’re going to be priced out of many activities. For instance, I’ve written about the End of the World Train ride … which is a complete tourist trap, but still mandatory for anyone coming to this part of the world.
Hiking up the Martial Glacier is also another one of those activities that aren’t necessarily super high on the list, but comes as one of those “you might as well, since you’re here” activities. Regular readers of my blog will also remember that I love any type of aerial tide, as documented by my love of cable cars and funiculars.  Here’s a list of some my favorites :

  • Singapore … post
  • Matterhorn, Switzerland … post
  • Monserrat, Spain  … post
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil … post
  • Masada, Israel … post
  • Barcelona, Spain … post

As for the Aerosilla or Martial Glacier Chairlift …

I’m all for charging tourists extra … and in Latin American style … you’ll have to pay double the price. If you get a great exchange rate on the Argentine Blue Market, then you’re paying about $7.50USD

Here’s the route map that they offer you when you get your ticket. I didn’t have the greatest hiking shoes on this trip, so the Russian and the Thai made the hike up all the way to the top, I made it to the beginning of the Canadon Negro trails.

Once you get your ticket, then it’s a short walk outside and you head over to the boarding area. The actual chair lift ride is quite picturesque. Getting into the chair lift is a pretty standard procedure, but in North American, we’re conditioned to have completely safe rides, hence just having the safety bar could take getting used to.

The ride up the chair lift definitely offers some great vantage points of the mountain and the glacier. The pine trees along the way contribute to a refreshingly crisp ride with some great air. It’s funny how we can all notice great air now … it says something about the air quality in our cities. As for the chair ride … it’s about 9-10 minutes till you get to the end.
[box type=”info” ]Wear your winter gear, as it gets windier and colder as you climb the elevation. You definitely don’t want to be trekking through snow in your regular shoes. I saw many people slip on the ice because they didn’t have the right shoes![/box]

[box type=”info” ]Did you know that you don’t actually have to use the chair lift. You can actually hike the entire trail up. It’s free to hike all the way up. We had two military friends who hiked the trail. They only complained about not having enough water. I would be complaining about heart attacks![/box]

Now you’re at the top … what do you do?

Take in all the views of the Beagle Channel from the Panoramic Point and the glacial river views as you hike up.



Once you reach the first view point, there are tons of marked trails and maps that will help guide you along further … if you’re so inclined.

You can follow the peak map, with the view and figure out where you want to go.

I didn’t take this way …

If there is great weather, then you have some pretty decent shots.

Your views of the Beagle Channel will also get better as you climb higher!


Did you take any crappy video of the place?

Obviously … there is always a crappy video or two that I’ll take …
httpvh://youtu.be/1_1ta8pRLfY
httpvh://youtu.be/VJP8dxABL00

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Floreria Atlantico : Da’ Best Speakeasy Drinking in Buenos Aires

Posted by Rishiray on January 23, 2014

Buenos Aires is one of my very favorite cities in the world. I think I’ve documented my love affair for this city in the past, but everytime I’ve been there … I come away thinking …

Why don’t I live here … ???

Of course, that’s a completely over-romanticized notion, since Toronto is a pretty awesome city in it’s own right. That being said, Buenos Aires is truly the “Paris of Latin America”. This is a city that never stops going. It’s where you can be completely buttoned down while drinking a phenomenal bottle of Mendoza Malbec and mowing down half of cow that was purely grass fed with no hormones. AND …if you’re so inclined, heading over to a beach bar, having a few excellently made mojitos and watching the sunrise … all for less than $100.

I know what you Trinis are saying … well in Trinidad, you can fete all night, break away on some sexy somebody and then go out for doubles and burgers after! I’ll tell you, that it’s not the same thing … especially since you can’t walk anywhere in Trinidad! In Trinidad, we also couldn’t have a bar like Floreria Atlantico.

Doesn’t look like much of a bar does it?

Flowers and Postoles Gin?

Speakeasies are a throwback to a different time where Alcohol was prohibited and were “so called because of the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors. In Buenos Aires, a lovely speakeasy opened in 2013 named “Floreria Atlantico”.

Don’t mind the shaky picture … the menu is a treasure!

I’ll start with a bit of perspective … I’m a drinker and I’ve been to many, many bars and drinking establishments across the planet, but I’ve never seen a speakeasy frontages with a floral shop and had to access cocktail bar via a chic designer-style florist/record/wine shop that sells its wares until 2am ….

through a freezer door!!!!

Yep .. that’s us with our host Javier going through the freezer door.

Even with the hardcore props to the freezer door and looking like a #worldtravelboss doing this, I also thought that it got bonus points for picking up some flowers, in case you drank too much … where else would get a last minute gift to appease your nearest and dearest back home but at your local speakeasy. *Apologies … my pictures from here … were on a BB10 … which is terrible”

Entering into stylish darkness ….

You can find the bar at the rear of the shop. It’s a long, narrow room filled with diners and drinkers of all ages and cultures – it’s like a party where everyone is welcome and no one wants to leave. I definitely loved the feel of the bar … it was a place to see and be seen … but in that relaxed, not desperate for attention way.

The drinks are superbly displayed and they make your drink, like they’re making chemical art!

While I was looking through the menu … each page on the menu featured drinks and alcohols that were very specific to countries. I can’t remember the last time I saw the following alcohols on a menu

  • Grappa and Cynar
  • Sherry and brandy
  • Calvados, Absinthe and St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
  • Postoles Gin, Earl Grey tea and Navy Grog.

In one night across three bars in Buenos Aires … I found that they truly respect the art of bartending and they respect proper alcohol and drinking. It’s an excellent way to go out, when you know that your bartender is a chemical artist.

The view with my friends Javier and Aisha in the foreground … concentrating on that drink!

Here’s the funny thing … it was only after I left the place and I googled it … that I found out that has been voted as one of the world’s top 50 bars… In fact, some have said it’s the best bar in South America. Personally, I would love to open up one of these in Trinidad … along with my Flair Martini Bar, but it would just be to dangerous to operate properly.

As for the crowd was mixed: generally wealthy clientele were made up of twenty-somethings on dates, thirty-somethings at after-work drinks, something-somethings and ‘ladies who lunch’. The atmosphere is lively and chatty, but you can still hear yourself talk as the well-chosen playlist murmurs in the background. This beacon of understated sophistication and design would sit well in Barcelona, Barbados or even in Maraval – it is a place that knows what it’s doing, but it is not at all complacent. If you’re in BsAs … you should go! #Boom!

Address: Arroyo 872, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (5411) 4313 6093.
Website: http://www.facebook.com/floreriaatlantico.
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-3am.

Posted in Argentina, South America | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Driving from Santiago to Mendoza : The Andes Highlight

Posted by Rishiray on January 15, 2014

On all previous trips, I have entered Argentina by plane, but in planning to get from Santiago to Mendoza, I had to consider the three summer options (driving or busing in winter is quite risky):

  1. Fly from Santiago to Mendoza
    I considered this, but this proved to be very expensive and not that much of a time saving. I also considered that in addition to the cost of several hundred dollars, I would have missed some of the most beautiful landscapes outside of Patagonia.
  2. Take the bus from Santiago to Mendoza
    I personally hate taking the bus anywhere. When you’re travelling by bus, you have a reasonable price point, but you have no control over your time of arrival, and no control about your comfort and seatmate. When going by the bus, you also have no choice for photo stops like Aconcagua (6,960 m), South America’s tallest mountain.
  3. Renting a car and driving from Santiago to Mendoza
    This proved to be the best option, simply because it was 5 of us travelling together and we were able to use a friend’s car. After putting gas for the journey, we found that renting a car offered the most control, cheapest option per person and allowed us to stop where ever we wanted.
    [box type=”warning” ]First, you must have a notarized letter of permission from the car owner that says you’re legally able to take the car out of Chile. Next you have to have a special type of insurance for the entire time you’re in Argentina or else Chile won’t let you out and Argentina won’t let you in.
    You also have to carry proof of insurance with you at all times, especially at the border. If your insurance is expired when you try to come back to Chile, Argentina reserve the right to keep the car until you personally come back with valid insurance. Lastly, you have to have the customs form that lists when the car has gone out/in of Chile in the past.[/box]


I was really excited about the crossing of the Andes since it offers magnificent mountain scenery of outstanding natural beauty, a close view of Mount Aconcagua, “The Colossus of America” and bragging right of driving the longest mountain range in the world and the second tallest after the Himalayas. You also get to drive through the 28 hairpin turns on the Chile side – those turns are pretty awesome coming down, but not going up.
[box type=”info” ]The Andes Mountain Range extends nearly 7,000 kilometres from Central America to Cape Horn, traversing seven countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.[/box]

Santiago_Mendoza_Map

The distance between the two cities is 179 km (as the crow flies), but extends for 364 kilometers including local roads and the winding road through the mountain passes.

The border between Chile and Argentina roughly follows the line along the highest peaks of the Andes. The “Los Libertadores” (Chile) or “Uspallata” (Argentina) crossing is one of the most important. The “Los Libertadores/Uspallata” Pass links Santiago de Chile and the city of Mendoza in Argentina.

In the vicinity of Los Libertadores is Mount Aconcagua (6,962 MASL; meters above sea level). Aconcagua is the highest mountain in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres.

I took many shaky videos of the drive from the front seat of the car  (I’m not known for my videography, but the you’ll definitely get a sense of all the colours and geological formations). The route is so pretty though, that I think it’s almost impossible to take a bad picture or even a terrible video and I am pretty great at taking terrible video – some of these videos might make you motion sick, but that’s ok … you can look at pictures.
httpvh://youtu.be/YPIk9QRx7uY
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKZ3T87aPBs
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdCi6Tz6ic4
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnhpnZQFPgU
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9XdYUJ0Nfw
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXK_vmyM2zI

If you ever wondered if there could be a traffic jam along the Andes … I’m here to answer that question. There’s currently construction on the Chilean side of the border to make the road safer and the countries have agreed alternate traffic.  This creates a bit of a mess, since if you miss the driving window, you’ll have to wait at least 30 mins. Total driving time should be around 5 hours. In our case, it took us 7 hours of driving time because we had to wait in a huge line at the border. Here’s what you do while you’re waiting!

I also love the signs along the way

Who doesn’t love digging mountains with their junk

Who doesn’t love falling cars …

After one is done with all the traffic, then you’ll have to line up at the border. The cross over from the Chilean side to the Argentine side is actually not bad at all … compared to the crossing from the Argentine to the Chilean side.

They don’t like you taking pictures … but whatever .. I laugh in the face of police!

The drive is very picturesque and the changes in the terrain are quite dramatic.

As for further reading : If you’re looking for more information on Chile and adventures there  … I highly suggest Eileen’s blog at BeerShapedSphere.com

Posted in Argentina, Chile, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

At the End of the World train in Ushuaia … #missioncurrypenguin

Posted by Rishiray on January 10, 2014

Ushuaia claims to be the most Southern city in the world and has also branded itself the “end of the world”. It also has the World’s cheesiest attraction in “The End of the World Train”.




As the southernmost railway in the world, The Prisoner’s Train recreates its historic journey and is definitely touted as something you would should do, but I thought it was bland and expensive. Even though the history of the traain and the prisoners was interesting, I thought that the views from the the train ride would be spectacular, especially given the ridiculous price points. The scenery was just pretty “meh”, and I felt that I could have used my time to actually get some more sleep, do some hiking or just have a good meal, if you’re not so inclined then I don’t think this is a “must do” for the Ushuaia area.

When you buy the ticket, you also have to buy the entrance to Tierra del Fuego National Park and the train ticket (same price for one way or round trip).

How much? What? Seriously?

This isn’t cheap at all … it’s more than 30USD with a good exchange rate

If you like sitting in trains or are a hardcore “train enthusiast”, listening to ridiculously cheesy music and an auto-guide tell you what you’re seeing, this train may be for you. The train really only makes sense in combination with a Tierra del Fuego park trip, since your park ticket is only valid for one day. By all means go for regular tickets, the premium tickets offer you champagne and food, but you can get better quality almost anywhere else in town and the ride is the same.

This was a rather nice brochure picture!

Now this would have been cool to sit in … although I suspect slightly uncomfortable

Steam Train powered by Oil … 😛

I was the last person off the train, hence no crowds

… The train itself is a diesel-powered, upholstered-seat modern and safe tourist-ferrying money maker.

VIP Trains

Even the views of the train weren’t that nice.

There were one or two good pictures that you could take though. I just found it too packed!

Choo-choo!

Even Felipe our trip mascot didn’t want to look at the view

Slow-moving and crammed full of tourists, the park views offered from the train’s windows are nice but you can see much more on foot (and be able to stop when you want). I guess for those that have never seen a “steam train” or “tree cemetaries”, you could like it too but only prior to a hike in Tierra del Fuego park.



If you are so inclined even after my description, here are the timings of the train

  • Low Season (From May 1st to August 31st)
    • 10:00 hs. from the End of the World Station
    • 11:15 hs. from the National Park Station
    • 12:00 hs. from the End of the World Station (CONDITIONAL minimum 8 passengers)
    • 15:00 hs. from the End of the World Station
  • High Season (From September 1st to April 30th)
    • 09:30 hs. from the End of the World Station
    • 10:40 hs. from the National Park Station
    • 12:00 hs. from the End of the World Station (CONDITIONAL minimum 8 passengers)
    • 15:00 hs. from the End of the World Station
    • 16:10 hs. from the National Park Station

My conclusion was that while some of the scenery was good, I would’ve preferred to walk the route. I was told that the train was the only way to access the north side of the part but I saw many people walking the trails while I was on the train ride. The train ride was nothing too special and everyone was crammed into cars like sardines unless you paid double the rate to be in a first class car. A little bit of interesting history, but really not much. Would definitely recommend skipping the train and just touring the park on foot or with a guide.

Posted in Antarctica, Argentina, Overrated, South America | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A “Trini Christmas” 12 hours in Santiago

Posted by Rishiray on December 11, 2013

[mappress mapid=”107″] I’ve been to Santiago before for 10 hours and it was uneventful as I was on a layover from Buenos Aires back to Toronto. On my current trip to Antarctica, Santiago is the jump off point to Punta Arenas

As you can see, getting from Santiago to Punta Arenas isn’t some little distance either and on the conclusion of the Antarctic cruise, we will be off-boarding in Ushuaia, Argentina, so this will be my only opportunity to spend some time in Santiago

It is actually possible to drive from Santiago to Punta Arenas, but I have no desire to spend about 41 hours in a car with anyone, nor do I care to waste that time in a car!

In coming up with a high level plan for Santiago, I had to consider whether I would be back in the near future, as I couldn’t make the trip to Easter Island, I’ve figured that I would indeed come back to Santiago in the near-“ish” future. This will definitely play into the number of side trips that I’m thinking about doing. With the advent of mining in Chile, Santiago has become one of the more prosperous cities in Latin America, hence the price points that one is likely to see in Santiago won’t be similar to what you will see in the rest of Latin America. The one thing that stayed with me from my first visit was the impressive backdrop of Santiago against the Andes Mountains.

I’m pretty sure that this “Pre” itinerary and what I’m actually going to do there will be different … typically one finds that the best made plans are exactly that … “Plans” … then the real travelling starts. For your enjoyment, here is how I plan to spend the first 12 hours in Santiago

Christmas Day 2013 : Day 1

  • 1 pm : Check into the W Santiago

    • Looking forward to the largest standard suite available. It’s going to be Christmas, hence the hotel will NOT be sold out!
    • I love SPG, but I’ve had initial upgrade issues in Latin America. Here’s the story of one miler and how he dealt with it. Personally, I love the confrontation of it all … most people do not like it, however I’m on the road for 250+ days a year. I worked for all my perks and upgrades. Here’s another review … I’m looking forward to doing my own.
  • 2-7pm : doing a walking and subway tour of the city

    • Hill Climbing: I’m going head out to Bernardo O’Higgins Ave up to Cerro Santa Lucia for the city view. I’ll take all the fountains along the way as a bonus.
    • Wander from Paseo Ahumada to Plaza de Armas : This should give a first taste of local vendors, artists and cafes … I’m thinking it’s going to be like Las Ramblas in Barcelona or Calle Florida in Buenos Aires. If only we had these types of piazzas and streets in North America.
    • Bolsa de Comercio: After Plaza de Armas, it’s off tothe Calle Nueva York on the way to the Stock Market (Bolsa de Comercio). I’m sure it’s going to seem very similar to walking around Buenos Aires, then it’s cathedral hopping.
    • Cathedral Metropolitana : I love churches! I’m religious at all, but I love the architecture, history and people watching. So the Catedral Metropolitana was built in 1748, and is noted for its Bavarian Jesuit designs. It’s a massive one and covers an area of approximately one city block, and you can find its massive cypress door and silver ware. The presidential palace La Moneda is close by, I “heard” some dude named Pinochet lived here. (OK … I really shouldn’t be sarcastic about some genocidal dictator)
    • Estacion Mapocho –  It is a former train station of the Santiago-Valparaiso railway, and dates back to 1912, when it was built on reclaimed land from the Rio Mapocho (which was then just canalized).  The building has a unique Beaux Arts style of architecture. Today it functions as a cultural center with a 40-ton glass, copper and marble roof, as well as Oregon pine seats.
    • Café con Piernas : At some point, I’m going to stop off at a coffee shop for some super strong Nescafe and to see what Café con Piernas is all about. These unique coffee shops are a Santiago institution, where waitresses flaunt their legs while serving fairly good quality coffee to ogling men and gossiping ladies. This seems like it’s going to be the Hooters of Coffee. I’ll have a very detailed blog on this one … since it’s specific to Chile.
    • Mercado Central : As a foodie, I have an affinity for markets and eating in them. Since this is going to be Christmas Day, there won’t be anyone in the market, so I should have the opportunity for some great photography. If I’m lucky, there will be someone selling ceviche.
    • City Photography and Bellavista Funicular  : I’m looking forward to getting some epic shots of buildings with the mountains behind them, so the next stop is La Chascona is at the foot of Cerro San Cristobal – a 300m peak crowned by a statue of the Virgin Mary. I’ll be taking a ride up the 1925 Bellavista Funicular railway to the top for views of the Andes and the city. I might have mentioned how much I love Waterfalls, but I love Skytram, Funiculars and Cable Cars almost as much. I never miss an opportunity to ride a cable car anywhere … Here are some of my favorites from Masada, Israel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Montserrat, Spain, Barcelona, Spain, Banff, Alberta, or Singapore.
  • 7-9pm : Dinner time …

    • I can’t lie but unlike being in Lima, I haven’t heard amazing things about the Santiago food scene. That being said, as a large metropolitan city, I’m sure I’ll be able to find something very decent and Chilean. I’m thinking that I’m going to Barrio Yungay, since it’s right near Plaza Brazil there are tons of bars and restaurants, and it’s not as touristy.
  • 9pm – 1am : Santiago Pub Crawl.

    • I have no idea what will be open on Christmas night in Santiago, but I’m sure there will be nightlife to be had!

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Wednesday Photo Nights #15 : Lujan, Argentina

Posted by Rishiray on June 5, 2013

This morning I was stumbling around the net and I saw this story about the World’s most “dangerous” zoo, where you can ride lions and feed bears with your mouth. I’m not a rabid animal right advocate, but there is something inherently wrong with a person can ride a full grown lion. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, before someone is hurt badly or worse. Anyway, my memories of Lujan aren’t big lions or crazy people petting bears but rather the town itself. Getting to Lujan from Buenos Aires, is very simple … take the Transporte Atlántica bus – Line 57 from Plaza Italia – it’s about a 90 min bus ride and it cost me 30 pesos. I assume that it should be a similar price now. Don’t forget to get a street dog … “Super Pancho” time … I love it!





Once you’re there, here is a high level list of things and places you can visit while you’re there.

  1. National Basilica Nuestra Señora de Luján
  2. Downtown Historical Area
  3. Devotional Museum of the Virgin
  4. Provincial Historical and Transport Museum (Museum Complex “Enrique Udaondo”)
  5. Paleontological Museum “House of Ameghino”
  6. Río Luján Riverside
  7. Religious images and objects Street Market

As a photographer, I was mainly interested in the Basilica and riverside areas … but everything else is right the corner. It’s a small town.












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Hiking Inti Punku : A lesson in humility and my cardiovascular weakness

Posted by Rishiray on May 31, 2013

After my recent trip to Peru and Hiking Inti Punku, I know a couple things …

  • There are way harder ways to make money, but I can’t think of many others than being a porter for hikers on the Inca Trail
  • I would never ever do the Inca Trail … too much time spent with too few showers. Trinis and/or brown people are not cool without showers!
  • Altitude sickness doesn’t affect me, especially if you drink 1 liter of Coca tea per hour
  • Machu Picchu is awesome in the afternoon
  • Lima has some sick ceviche … in fact I would recommend going to Peru just to eat ceviche
  • The thought of someone asking me … you didn’t do “So and So <insert Machu Picchu item> while you were there?” was enough to keep my fat ass moving along .
  • Hiking Inti Punku (to the Sun Gate) from Machu Picchu offers some pretty spectacular vistas
  • I’m completely uninterested in seeing sunrise at the Sun Gate – I’m sure it’s awesome and spiritual and stuff for a lot of people. Good for them but I’ve seen a lot of sunrises and sunsets, at a lot of places across the planet – but I wouldn’t hike the Inca Trail for a sunrise … seeing the sun setting over Machu Picchu was pretty awesome though.

Now this whole Machu Picchu thing was pretty awesome, but hiking to Inti Punku was a very, very long 60 mins for me. It took a while … in fact I think that the space/time continuum slowed down and that it could have been 45 mins to climb up, but my legs felt like I had been hiking for 6 hours. I grew to really, really hate these god damn signs. It was though they were taunting my every step … and everytime I saw one … it could hear the following in my head …. “Retorno? hahah, eres una perra  (Return? … hahaah, you’re a bitch)” … the voice saying this in my head had Antonio Banderas’ voice. I don’t know why I didn’t have the Dos Equis guy’s voice saying it to me … but I digress




Let’s not kid ourselves … the vistas were spectacular.

That’s a lot of switchbacks …. seriously

Machu Picchu in the distance

In the end, you get to the top of those stairs and you’re huffing and puffing, but the view is all worth it.






As usual, if you’re looking for poor but actual video of my death march up the hill along with a lot of huffing and puffing and some rather pretty vistas, feel free to spend some time watch a shaky video or two. My goal next year, is to be able to create a nice looking and well edited travel video … small goals, I tell you!
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut6rRRf5PjI
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6 hours of Ceviche in Miraflores

Posted by Rishiray on May 22, 2013

For the Trinidadian palate, we’re accustomed to many types of tastes, but eating raw fish isn’t one of them. Now what if I told a Trini that I was eating or making a “chow” … you would instantly see a Pavlovian type response of drool and watery mouth! Peruvians have the same reaction when you mention the word “ceviche”. I would like “ceviche” to a “fish chow” … especially with all the chilies and sourness that goes with it.  Ceviche is the combination of Japanese sushi/sashimi tradition along with Incan/Spanish/ Moorish traditions of letting raw fish marinate for a period in lime and other citrus juices. That effect of pickling or “cooking the fish makes everything fresh and light … and if you love raw chilies like me, then you get a kick in the mouth too!
Ceviche in Miraflores, Lima is some of the best ceviche in the world … if not the best. So while on a long flight delay … I decided to do an epic 6 hour gut busting, EPIC ceviche tour of Miraflores, Lima. I chose the following blog post to drive my adventure … once I had my list, then I had to zone in which area would give me the most cevicherias in the least amount of time. Then finally I had to figure out when each of the cevicherias would be closing. Here is the list of cevicherias I came up with in Miraflores and the relevant closing hours

  1. Pescado Capitales : 5:00pm
  2. El Mercado  : 5:00pm
  3. Canta Rana : 9:00pm
  4. La Rosa Nautica : Midnight
  5. La Red : 5:00pm
  6. La Mar : 5:30pm
  7. Cinco Esquinas : 5:00pm

Now that I had my list, I attacked the first one :Pescado Capitales. This place is “high falutin” ceviche at it’s best. You wander in and you know this is some of Lima’s finest eating here. The place itself is airy and has an opulent feel … it could also be all the rich Peruanos eating lunch in here. This is definitely not the place to save your pocketbook. The name means Capital Fish, which is a play on the phrase Capital Sins (Sins in Spanish is pecados, which sounds almost like pescados). In English, I thought this wasn’t as funny … since we talk about the Cardinal rather than Capital Sins.



The service was decent and I was seated within 5 mins of getting there. I was offered an English menu to start and it’s a hefty menu based on those Cardinal rather than capital sins such as Greed, Gluttony, Vainity, Lust, Envy, etc. It takes a while to go through the entire menu … thankfully I was all about the ceviche.

Let me tell you know … the two dishes I ordered were simply sublime. The ceviche mixto and the tuna ceviche was so fresh and flavorful … it was  a challenge not to eat everything on offer.




I had to leave everything else on the plate uneaten, since I knew that an epic day of eating would require lots of digestive space. Also they served this lime pepper sauce … I was almost in Chaguanas, Trinidad. I basically drank the entire container of pepper sauce – as evidenced by the empty container below. The lunch wasn’t cheap … but the meal was completely worth it. I would fly back to Lima to eat at Pescado Capitales!!


Next on the docket was a visit to the Peruvian institution La Mar. Everyone in Peru knows La Mar as it was founded by Peruvian superstar chef Gastón Acurio – in fact this Cevicheria in Lima is so famous that there are now sister restaurants as far flung as San Francisco, Panama City and Mexico City.  I’ve eaten at 4 of his locations … so I guess I’m contributing to the Mr Acurio’s vast pocketbook, but the ceviche in his restaurant has always been sublime. Walking into the location, like Pescado Capitales … it has a light, affluent and breezy feel.

Walking into La Mar … his iconic sign




As I was on a time crunch, I asked to be seated at the bar. The hostess Cinthia Pella was extremely hospitable and she definitely helped out my research for this article, while I was at bar munching on ceviche – if only all hostesses were as friendly! My first order was the Tiradito Nikkei off the menu.

I’ve ordered this item 4 times before, so I know what to expect with this dish. It should be fresh and salty with a hint of sweetness/sourness from the tamarind.  They also serve fresh plantain chips with three types of salsas/sauces. I always have the orange pepper sauce, which comes in the middle of the three little bowls shown below.

Nikkei Tiradito ..



I had two bites of the Nikkei and I wasn’t pleased at the taste. It was overly sweet and inconsistent with the excellence that I’ve had before at other locations. So I sent it back – the staff was more than receptive to my feedback. I also wanted to see what the reaction would be in Lima. When you have an issue with your food in the US or Canada, there is zero push back. They come back, accept the feedback, take the food and don’t charge you for something you didn’t like. I was very pleased that the same happened at La Mar in Peru – so this is an excellent customer service story on their end. My next order was the Tiradito Clasico … but in typical Trini style … I asked for them to kill it.

Super Spicy Tiradito … the only way a Trini should eat it!

Look at all the fresh pepper … just lovely

While I was eating, there was a birthday celebration. I guess all Latin Americans love the birthday singing – it happened at Pescado Capitales also. I’ll never get it … I think all the waiters coming to sing Happy Birthday to you, is just cheesy and weird … but it’s definitely a custom down here. The other thing I really like was the honesty of the servers … I asked a couple of them to nominate my next stop. They all intimated that if I had been to Pescado Capitales – then I had basically hit the best of the city … “even better than La Mar?”  …. “Si … even better than La Mar”. I appreciated their honesty … since I agreed with this assessment. As for the bill …

It was now 5pm as I left La Mar … based on the list and the closing times … I could only head to two places :La Rosa Nautica (closes at midnight) and Canta Rana (closes at 9pm). Cinthia recommended La Rosa Nautica … not because she thought the food was good, but that I would enjoy the sunset view. She definitely wasn’t kidding … La Rosa Nautica is something from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco … on the beach and completely cheesy in decor. I’m sure the tourists ABSOLUTELY love this place. It’s also quite the fancy little place … who knows how many proposals go down in this place.

Sunset at La Rosa Nautica





Anyway … I’m here about the ceviche and seafood … so I decided to go with the Scallops outlined below and a ceviche sampler. I definitely wanted to try the Octopus … but it was getting late and no Peruvian eats ceviche or raw seafood this late … which is why the cevicherias only open till 5 or 5:30 pm.



I can’t lie … these scallops in drenched in this terrible looking sauce was one of the best appetizers I’ve eaten in years. The carmelized bacon onion skins that dress the dish makes this an absolutely superb combination. In typical server fashion, when I told the staff what I was doing … they recommended two other places not on my list : Al Frescos and Matteos. Everyone was super supportive of my epic ceviche quest. Peruvians are definitely crazy and passionate about their ceviche. It’s too bad that the service and the second dish was so poor afterwards. My second dish of the ceviche sampler (Costeno) was simply a fetid imitation of ceviche.




The overall quality of the dish was poor.  The presentation and taste was even worse … especially at the price point that this place is charging. The crowning failure of the evening on top of the ridiculously poor service, was the fact that my bill got “lost” … so that the waiter tried to take a 32 sole tip. The names on the bill were Caiero : Ovid Vera and Empleado : Janeth L … I really don’t like being played for an ass. In the end, Guillermo (the only English speaking waiter) was there to clean up this mess and get my change back. He apologized profusely for the whole mix up and he was very good … but based on the slow service and poor food … I would say that like any tourist trap, you can go for the view but don’t stay for the food.
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sasPzpX4I-o

Here’s a couple lessons learned

  • Start your epic Ceviche tour at noon sharp – you only have 5 hours to try and hit as many places and you can
  • Most of the best Ceviche restaurants are in Miraflores. I don’t suggest you try the local ones … go for the best while you’re in Lima
  • Avoid La Rosa Nautica … tourist trap!
  • You can only eat so much raw fish … before you go into ceviche overload.
  • Don’t eat all the starch on your plate – you won’t have room to continue eating.

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Machu Picchu = 52/100 on my Hillman Wonders list

Posted by Rishiray on May 21, 2013

For many of you who follow this Trini’s blog, you’ll know that my first source of travel inspiration was the Hillman Wonders website. There wasn’t anything super special about the list … I even wrote an open letter to Howard Hillman about the low placement of Trinidad … still didn’t get a response. One would think that with no response from him, I would take him off my website as a source of travel inspiration. It doesn’t work that way … his list will always be the source of my main bucket list. If you’re a traveller, you need to have a bucket list.
I even keep a photo gallery of my Hillman Wonders list … not that I could forget where I’ve been. Actually, scratch that … there have been times where I’ve forgotten where I’ve been. It’s completely embarrassing. It’s like forgetting that whether you’ve been to the Pitch Lake or Devil’s Woodyard in Trinidad. If you’re wondering about my travel inspiration … here’s 11 reasons why I travel or my bucket list page.
Here’s a couple of my favorite pics from that gallery.

#30 – Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

#42 : The Canals of Venice, Italy

#58 Mezquita of Cordoba, Spain

#85 : Night view of the Djemma El Fna in Marrakech, Morocco

#82 Steps into the ocean at Santorini, Greece

As for Machu Picchu … here’s a couple videos from my hikes to keep you entertained … especially with my very poor cinematographical skills. Anyway my point is … you’ll never have anywhere to travel, if you don’t have your dream list … it’s Monday, go out and make one – don’t wait till you’re dying to start living!
httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zN10VDy4PI8
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How to spend 24 hours in Aguas Calientes Peru

Posted by Rishiray on May 16, 2013

[mappress mapid=”96″]
24 hours in Aguas Calientes Peru : Aguas Calientes is the jump off point for any trip to Machu Picchu – there is no avoiding it. Aguas Calientes is also a poster child for everything that can go wrong with a tourist boom. With Machu Picchu beckoning behind the hills, you know that it means a lot of tourist foot traffic, souvenir stalls, expensive restaurants and hotels. What you don’t know, is exactly how much development has gone into this little place. Everything has been built or torn down in the name of the almighty tourist dollar – it really is in the worst tradition of tourist boom towns. There is construction sites everywhere and businesses, restaurants and hotels stacked on each other.




Wandering around the town takes little more than an hour, although you will have to up and down many paths and there are so many restaurants. I can’t even tell you how many pizza places I saw … I think there are more pizza places here than in Italy. Every restaurant has a drinks special, and all drinks cost almost 4 times the price than the rest of Peru.




As a tourist town, there are all sorts of scams or slightly shady ways of doing business. The prices are ridiculous compared to Peruvian standards … in fact in 36 hours, I didn’t see one local person eating in the restaurants. Here’s a couple things to look out for

  • Inflated prices – most of the prices are on par with American prices
  • Incorrectly calculated bills – always check your bill. I was overcharged twice and I had to show them. Super annoying!
  • Bait and switch menu specials …  you’ll see many places with a 15 Soles menu of the day. If you order, they’ll try to insert 10-15% more than advertised due to the “tax” and “servicio”. There is no tax and service – the price is the price. If you’re unsure, then simply ask “No tax, no servicio, no nada mas.” They might conveniently forget … don’t let them play you for a fool. Only ever pay what is advertised.
  • Taking a long time to bring your change. This happened to me also … don’t leave your change … demand it.

The food though is quite good. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve had a bad meal in Peru and I haven’t been sticking to tourist places. As for choosing a hotel, I definitely do NOT encourage you to stay in a high end hotel here. It’s simply a waste of good money. I ended up staying in a very reasonable hotel with a great river view for the grand total of $25USD for the night. There are other hotels on the river that charge a fortune for the same view.



httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF8XXsMfLY0
Since you’re not going to be spending any more time than you need to in Aguas Calientes, you could also visit the hot springs that the town is named after. If a 5 – 8 min walk uphill … and you can rent towels and sandals if you don’t have any on you at the time.


Aside from the hot springs, drinking and eating – there is almost nothing else to do here. I was fortunate enough to be around for the local primary school’s graduation ceremony – it was a 2 day affair, since they were dancing in the evening and then the following day. The costumes and the dancing was so cute … I don’t know what it costs, but the parents must put a lot of time into those costumes – since I didn’t see a Walmart selling this stuff, especially with the level of detail in the costumes.




httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNZzEFKlP6k
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You can also hang out in the main square and do a photo shoot with the signs. One thing to note is that even though they renamed the town Machu Picchu Pueblo … everyone still refers to it as Aguas Calientes.




Finally … the last thing you can do is walk along the river and take some pictures, if you didn’t do the walk down from Machu Picchu. It does make for some excellent photography.




So there you have it … your plan on how to spend 24 hours in Aguas Calientes Peru. This assumes that you layer in Machu Picchu in that 24 hour span, otherwise why else would you be in this town?

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Wednesday Photo Nights #15 : Machu Picchu Photoblog

Posted by Rishiray on May 16, 2013

If you’re on a slow connection, you might want to get a coffee, there are a lot of pictures in this Machu Picchu photoblog. In one day of shooting, I took about 500 shots over a 7 hr period at Machu Picchu.


















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Getting a taxi from Cusco to Urubamba

Posted by Rishiray on May 15, 2013

Once you’re in Peru, you will have to figure out how to use a taxi or collectivo. I found that getting around in Peru is really not that difficult at all … it all depends on quickly you want to get around and what level of comfort you want while you’re travelling.

Here are the 4 options that you’re going to have

  1. Private hotel shuttles or private driver:
    This is the most expensive option. There is no need to ever use this option, unless your company is footing all your bills while travelling
  2. Renting a car
    I DO NOT recommend this option, if you’re not from the region or have driving skills from the movie “Heat” or “Taken”
  3. Using public taxis
    This is a good option, but it can become pricey depending on your negotiating skills. The good value is about using your time. If you’re on a time sensitive travel mission – then I wouldn’t bother with collectivos or buses, as the lowest cost isn’t your main objective. There is a safety factor in using these taxis though, unless it’s a radio taxi – so be cautious.
  4. Using a collectivo (shared bus)
    For this Trinis, this is like a maxi-taxi, so you’ll be quite at home using this option. My caution is that like Trinidad, they operate different routes and you’ll have to find out which route they’re taking. Spanish will be super helpful here … so if you speak it, then you’ll be perfectly fine.

    Trinis … recognize anything?

If you’re going to Machu Picchu, you have to go through Cusco – there is no other rationale way. My path involved getting to Urubamba first and relaxing at the Tambo del Inka.  Getting a taxi was super easy and I had a number of missions to accomplish in Cusco before I could get to Urubamba. Here’s all that I had to get done … as a last minute Machu Picchu-er

  • Buy a ticket to Machu Picchu (this was done at the Ministerio de Cultura)
  • Change my train ticket at Perurail (The office is in Plaza de Armas)
  • Make a reservation for a hotel in Cusco
  • Actually negotiate a taxi from Cusco to Urubamba

Here’s what it looks outside the airport

Don’t take a taxi here … just in the Cusco airport

Once you’re out of the airport, walk outside … do not take a taxi in the airport – you’ll get hit with much higher prices sometimes charging 2 or 3 times the normal rate. The moral of the story : Walk outside and negotiate (Anything between 40-70 soles for a taxi from Cusco to Urubamba seems to be a fair price … all depends on your ability to haggle, wait around and be inconvenienced)

Since I had extra steps to make, I ended up taking a taxi from the airport to Plaza de Armas (which is the center of Cusco) – it cost me 4 soles ($1.35USD) for a 10 minute ride. I tried to negotiate a price with my first driver, which turned out to be an epic fail. He offered me a price of 100 soles … which was ridiculous, I told him 50 soles … he shook his head and countered 80 soles … I shook my head and said no – he wasn’t giving me the price I wanted.
Once in Plaza de Armas, I found the Perurail office and my ticket was changed with no hassle. After the ticket changing, then I had to make a reservation at a hotel … I walked over to one, used their free Wi-Fi to price check them and negotiate them down from $120USD to $80USD a night. Finally, it was off to Urubamba, but I had no taxi.
I ended up having to flag five taxis before I found one that I was happy with. The final price ended up being 60 Soles ($22 USD), but his car was a regular sized Hyundai rather than some of those old “beat up” taxis. You must know that the trip is a long one though a maze of roads, so avoid small ‘Tico’ type taxis which are not the safest of vehicles in Peru – hence pay a little bit more for a larger vehicle. Many taxi drivers didn’t want to drive to Urubamba since it’s a long way to go. Here’s another reason to have a taxi rather than a collectivo – you can tell your taxi driver to stop anywhere you want to take pictures and on your way to Urubamba, there are lots of places to take pictures or even buy something.
httpvh://youtu.be/skDXo32eStw
There will many other stops – don’t be afraid to ask your driver to stop as many times as you want … I’ve found everyone to be very accommodating. As Urubamba is about an 60-75 mins from Cusco, you’ll pass through the agricultural landscape and you’ll see the plots of Quinoa – you can ask your driver to stop and check it out. Remember you’re paying them more than a local will pay them, so they’ll be happy to indulge you. Also, whether you’re a single person or three people … the cost will be the same. You’re not going to be charged per head. Don’t fall for the ripoff.
Here’s  a couple pictures of the drive along the way …





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Monday Morning Consultant – Tambo del Inka review

Posted by Rishiray on May 13, 2013

After waking up at 5am to catch my 6:50am flight into Cusco, one can imagine a bit of disorientation but once I figured out how to get into Cusco downtown, change my train ticket in the PeruRail office, buy tickets for Machu Picchu at the Ministerio de Cultura and get a taxi to take me to Urubamba, checking into Tambo del Inka was a breeze.

The check-in process was exactly what I expected from a Luxury Collection hotel, my bags were taken and I headed straight to the Gold/Platinum check in desk. I was greeted by the day manager and offered cups of Coca tea from the Coca tea station in the lobby (If you’re going to Machu Picchu, you will absolutely need this tea … it really made a difference in the speed of my acclimatisation. The lobby area is inviting and definitely gives the high end resort feel … if you’ve ever been to the Westin Napa, then you’ll have a very good idea of the layout. The staff is incredibly friendly, well trained and respectful.




Overall, it was an excellent check in, that set the right tone. They didn’t have an upgrade as the hotel was sold out, I think the only way, it could have been improved was if they offered a single malt scotch and a chocolate 😛 So the main bullet points

  • Checked me into my room, painlessly without a question
  • Recognized my “Plat” status immediately – I was disappointed by this though, since I was looking forward to it.
  • Offered the Coca tea
  • Apologized 25 times for no immediate upgrade but then offered enhanced breakfast.

As for the room, I was checked into 248. This was their standard room, which wasn’t very standard ….


The bathroom was similar to the open concept bathroom I had at the W in Bali. While I loved the bathroom in Bali, I feel that for a Luxury Collection hotel, I expected something better. This being said – it was spacious, had “his & her” sinks and upgraded toiletries.


Finally, I have to give a shout out for more great customer service. I needed a couple hotels booked in Agua Calientes and in Cusco, they were very responsive. They offered me maps of Urubamba for my walkaround and for Agua Calientes. Every request I had was met on the spot or got the right level of follow up. I even met the chef, when I didn’t like something about the THIRD portion of Ceviche I ate for lunch – the food is awesome, but I asked for a super spicy Fish Ceviche … and it wasn’t – which warranted a visit from the chef! The staff at this property really excel and go above and beyond. Every single one of them. Very impressive.
As for prices and the restaurant … my advice is not to look at the prices listed and also to eat all the ceviche you can possibly get at the restaurant.



Finally, if you’re in town because of a place called Machu Picchu, then you’ll be even extra pleased that the Urubamba train station is located on the property itself (personally, I think that the train station being on hotel property is ridiculous, but I didn’t build the hotel). I don’t think there is another way that this hotel could be even more convenient for your trip up to Machu Picchu. The train station is a 4 min walk from your room, and the hotel bellman will gladly take your bags for you.



Other services

High Speed Wired/Wireless Internet Access Paid Wi-Fi access, but complimentary Wi-Fi for Plats.
Concierge The concierge services were great, especially as I hadn’t put any serious thought into this trip – like ZERO planning and everything was still great!
Parking/Valet Valet is available … I didn’t drive, hence I didn’t use it.
Dining There are two restaurants on site.
Pool There are one outdoor pool and jacuzzi and they are heated
Gym The gym is serviceable with some weight and machines. It can’t possibly get much use, since everything is all shiny and new
Business Center Fully decked out business center for those without laptops, iPads or technology. How those people live today, I’ll never know.

Overall thoughts
This is a fantastic resort hotel and but personally rates a regular 9 for me, which is definitely what I expect from a Luxury Collection hotel.

Staff attitude, conduct and support Customer service was fantastic. If only service in North America, could have service levels like Starwood properties in Asia and Latin America
Hotel Cleanliness Exceeded expectations.
Location Great location as a jump off point to Machu Picchu. It even has a train station attached to the complex. You couldn’t possibly get a better location than that.
Would I return? I would definitely return to the hotel.
Family friendly?
This is a resort prestige hotel and one of the best in Peru. As such, I did see young families with grandparents roaming around.
Good for business travellers?
While this is a resort, I did see a business gathering – it explained the hotel being completely sold out. This would be an excellent reward for outstanding executives.
Value for price paid?
Let’s not mistake things here … this is an expensive hotel. There are more expensive hotels in Peru, but you know what you’re getting here. I would put this at a strong recommend.

Posted in Hotel Review, Monday Morning Consultant, Peru, South America | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »