Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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10 Things Every First-Time Visitor To Las Vegas Should Know

Posted by Rishiray on March 17, 2014

A couple years ago, I wrote a post on “9 things that Vegas is not” … it was geared toward to the first timer in Vegas. When you get to Vegas for the first time, when you’ve never walked the Strip, taken a ride on the New York New York roller coaster, or even gambled; it’s a lot to take in. It’s impossible not to have fun in Sin City, but there were quite a few things I didn’t realize about Vegas until I went. Here’s 10 Things Every First-Time Visitor To Las Vegas Should Know:

  1. You can’t walk everywhere … seriously, you can’t!

    Every hotel is much farther apart than appears on TV. Technically, the entire Strip is over four miles long, and it will take you at least a 15-30 minute walk to get to a different hotel than your own. Before the weekend is over, you will end up taking a few cabs. I do recommend spending some time walking the strip but you should be prepared for the ridiculous heat in summer and the cold in winter. Everyone should walk at least part of the Strip once. There are fun elevated walkways and outdoor elevators, not to mention plenty of photo opportunities. Just don’t do it in 4-inch-heels (better yet — leave those heels at home).

    This is the view from the walkway. You can see the scale

    Here’s another wide angle night shot to give you some dimensions.

  2. You can take your drinks, walk and drink … anywhere in Vegas

    The drinks are cheap in Vegas, but if you’re you headed to another club or restaurant, but you’re not quite finished with your drink? Ask for a to-go cup! Seriously!! Even classy establishments will let you take your drink outside as long as you use a disposable cup instead of their fancy glassware. Oh, and once outside, you can imbibe with impunity since Vegas lets you drink (most) everywhere.

    Because you can walk and drink, you can order a 64oz alco-slushie with no problem

  3. You can drink for free in any casino …

    … provided you’re willing to pony up 20$ to play at the .25c machines. In Vegas, they’ve done everything in the book to make you keep playing : no clocks, no windows, plenty of lights and sounds. However the trick that works the best is plying customers with free drinks to keep them playing, and playing poorly. All you have to do, is go sit at the bars with the gambling machines built into the counter. You stick in a $20, order a drink, and make minor bets of $.25. You can play forever and they will keep serving you drinks till you drop over. While you’re drinking for free, don’t forget to tip your bartender.

    Drink for free while playing, just tip your bartender. See the machine on the bottom left corner … yeah, that’s your ticket!

    Drinks at the tables .. dancing ladies are optional

    Here’s the walking selection at Fremont Street.

  4. There’s art everywhere in Vegas … for free!

    The vast majority of us go to Vegas to gamble, drink, and party. That being said, take a moment to realize there’s art all around you on the Strip. There are sculptures by famous artists behind the check-in desks, in the hotel lobbies, on the street, not to mention the fact that certain hotels like the Bellagio and The Cosmopolitan have their own galleries that display touring collections from around the world. There’s even the Picasso restaurant in the Bellagio, which is filled with sculptures, drawings, and paintings from the late artist. There’s so much free stuff to do in Vegas, it’s almost criminal. You can even spend an entire day in one hotel roaming around.

    Here’s a gorgeous display at the Wynn.

  5. Smoking sucks but Vegas allows it everywhere …

    Canadians are definitely all against smoking and most Trinidadians don’t care for it either (The ones I know). In Vegas, it’s permissible for people to smoke inside casinos. To try and counteract that, the casinos will attempt to cover up the smell with what they call “signature scents.” For instance, if you head over to Planet Hollywood, it smells like a mixture of jasmine and lavender. While the smell isn’t incredibly offensive, I do hate the cigarette smoke, so if you’re sensitive, you may want to stay somewhere that there is no gambling at.

    I don’t have a smoking picture … but all the neon gives you an idea.

  6. You can find amazing food and never pay full price

    Vegas has definitely been rebranded as a culinary mecca. Almost every single Vegas hotel restaurant on the strip was phenomenal. No one thinks of Vegas as a foodie city, but from sports bars to three-star Michelin establishments, Vegas delivers. Many of these huge hotels have fantastic relationships with seafood and produce providers, and prepare their meat and make their breads in-house. The buffets are always a highlight for me. As a sampler, here’s one post where I compared the Wynn buffet to the Spice Market buffet in 2013.

    yep food …

    more food

    and then some more

    Then even some more

  7. Absolutely go to Fremont Street

    I absolutely love Fremont Street … it feels like the old Vegas. It’s nice to get away from the expensive strip and see a different side of the city. You can also stick around for a couple hours to catch all the Viva vision shows.

    The neon can blind you sometimes …

    look at the ceiling…

     

    again …. 4 seconds later

    and yet another 4 seconds later

  8. Don’t bother with going to the clubs with guys unless …

    You’re absolutely prepared to buying tickets, bottle service, or a table. Period.  Vegas may been branded as bachelor-party central, but no group of guys is going to get into a club by themselves. Personally, I think Vegas is completely overrated as a bachelor party destination; I can think of any 6 cities in Latin America that are easily better and you won’t bankrupt yourself trying to compete with Arab princes for the ladies.
    I’ve seen groups of rejected men begging women to join their group to try and get in for free, but at the bigger clubs like XS, TAO, LAVO, and Marquee, that’s just not going to happen. Either chip in together for bottle/table service, buy a ticket to a DJ show, or don’t try to go to clubs. You’ll just be disappointed.

    Ladies, you probably won’t pay for anything. Enjoy.

  9. Go shoot some guns …

    Americans love their guns … like really love their guns.

    They will ship anywhere for you

    Is that an alien gun on the wall?

    You won’t know which gun to pick!

    In case you want to get your inner Rambo on!

    you too can absolutely murder paper.

  10. Don’t use the ATMs on the Strip unless you love giving away your money

    Clubs and strip clubs charge a lot of money to use their ATMs.  They know that you will need money, so their fees can be up to 10% of what you withdraw.  Make sure you have enough money in your pocket before you go out. Unless you can find your own bank ATM, the standard fee at most Vegas ATMs is a staggering $5.99 — a charge that may not bother the high rollers, but gets really old, really fast for the rest of us. Here’s a list of free ATMs that’s off the Strip. If you’re into gold, you can even withdraw gold from an ATM.

    gold finger?

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Posted in North America, USA, Vegas | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Some days I hate travel but here’s why I still do it.

Posted by Rishiray on March 16, 2014

Outside the hotel here at 2am, it’s an all too familiar feeling; freezing cold, darkness. It’s these types of days, that I hate to travel.

Don’t get me wrong … hate is a very strong word and I know that I’ve been blessed beyond belief to be able to see what I’ve seen across the planet. Every time I jump on a plane, it’s a bit thrilling; a bit suicidal; and a bit empty … all at the same time, and it comes together once you’ve landed. You get off the plane, hop in that taxi, hit the hotel and rinsed off the scent of being part of the herd on that plane and you’re faced with a new combination of silence, danger and a bit of mental constipation.

… types of days, that I hate to travel

Travel is exhausting and disorienting. In Trinidad, we say that this combination of experiences gives you “Belly”; it’s that belief that you can rise above the challenges put in your way, regardless of the effort required to surmount those challenges. My mother would say that these types of experiences are “character building” … if so, then I definitely have a lot of “character”. I’m not going to pretend that the first time alone in Thailand, I didn’t want to flip over “tuk-tuks” when the drivers tried to rip me off or lead me in the wrong direction (Disclaimer : I did actually flip one on it’s side, when the guy lied to me and took me to the Black Buddha in Bangkok … don’t mess with a big brown Trini!)

The scene of the flipping!!!

The experience did teach me that if a man comes to your aid in Asia, he will always give you directions, whether he knows the way or not, in order to save face … how you react after that is purely on you.

I really shouldn’t be complaining about the weather at 2am being so cold, when I could be a guy in India, squatting on a milk crate crowding around the one air conditioner amongst 100 people. Or be huddling around a hot water pipe in Cambodia, while an wealthy expat is upstairs taking a hot shower.

I travel so I can burp in public … so I don’t feel the shame of doing it in San Fernando or Chaguanas, but rather to express my compliments to the chef in Hong Kong or Israel. I like doing as the Romans do … especially when it involves eating a pound of lemon and berry gelato in Rome at 9am or having dinner at 11pm in Buenos Aires, wandering Las Ramblas at 3am looking for another bar or having my skin rubbed off in a hammam in Morocco.

How about passing out in Maracas with red highlights from playing mas the previous day?

I don’t travel anymore for some sense of faux authenticity … I left that home in Trinidad with my folks. I can’t pretend anymore that searching for the best noodles/pasta/biryani at the crack of dawn or end of night will make me “local” or offer a “local tourist experience” … we’re always going to be tourists. The travel porn that surrounds us through TV and print media astounds me. When magazines trumpet the “best deal of the season” and I see pages of women in high heels on the sand, uncomfortable looking hats or terrible plaid shorts, each which probably cost more than the “deal” itself … I always wonder about the aspirational value of these trips.

I travel so I can see past this stuff …

Some days I hate travel but travelling for me is an opportunity to streamline and simplify my life … every time I feel that things are getting too complex, there’s nothing like running away for a day or 10 to help refocus and recalibrate that perspective. It’s a chance to simplify, a chance to toss a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and one pair of shoes and head out for one last joyride before tossing all that stuff in the garbage can.

Once it’s all done … everything is so much lighter, so that the cold, silent taxi ride to the airport and resulting flight home while having the same dread feeling in my head, also leaves my mind and soul packed to capacity. I’ll hate travel tomorrow instead …

Posted in Travel Wisdom | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

16 quick questions for a Trini Traveller…and more than 16 answers

Posted by Rishiray on March 4, 2014

It’s Carnival Tuesday 2014 in Trinidad. I have a dose of the Carnival tabanca …so here’s 16 questions for a Trini Traveller that I’ve gotten over the last couple months on my facebook page or via email.

  1. Where do I live?
    Toronto but I pretend to live in Trinidad or Prince Edward Island.
  2. First travel memory?
    Touching down in Trinidad for the first time. I still remember the plane ride and smell of Piarco Airport in 1981 as a child.
  3. On my iPod/iPad when I travel … ?
    I’m playing Infinity Blade 3 and listening to 2013 and 2014 soca
  4. Best travel tip for flying?
    Always wear slip on shoes and never wear tight jeans, especially on long flights!
  5. Favorite town for lunch?
    Lima, Peru in 2013. Hands down, the most concentrated center of awesome tasting, diverse, fresh and value priced food in the world.
  6. If I had a year off … ?
    I would travel from the top to the bottom of South America with the wife, honing my Spanish skills, while working remotely while couchsurfing all the way.
  7. Favorite town for breakfast?
    Antigua, Guatemala in 2012. You’ll always find something, cheap, great and fresh at any hour of the morning. Where else can you get an entire plate of great brekkie for 3$
  8. Best travel buddy?
    1. A glass of 21 yr old Highland Park in a business class seat en route to Hong Kong with my Bose QC-3 on.
    2. My wife comes in a close second because she likes to cuddle on the plane and talk.
  9. Best drink in the best bar?
  10. When I travel for more than 90 mins…
    I will always finish that week’s issue of the Economist. I would like to read more fiction, but I’m too lazy for it.
  11. When not writing for this blog …
    I’m usually asleep or reading for work
  12. My assignment, in 5 words
    Challenging, amazing and always confusing
  13. Best travel tip for making friends abroad …
    Always buy the maximum duty free allowance your favorite exceptional alcohol and always have a bottle of it in your backpack. When I can’t do it … I go a little ballistic
  14. Last holiday …
    Went to Antarctica … nuff said
  15. If I had to eat only one type of cuisine for the rest of my life …
    Hakka food … all the way. I love my Trini food, but Hakka is like Trinidadian styled Chinese food … just 100 times better.
  16. Next destination …
    No idea … flying to Prince Edward Island and Napa Valley for a wedding doesn’t count as destinations for me.

Posted in Monday Morning Consultant, Travel Wisdom | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon

Posted by Rishiray on March 3, 2014

Hello Trini Travellers … I’ve not posted a lot since my Antarctica trip because I’ve been ridiculously busy catching my breath from the last year. When one takes time for anything, you gain a bit of perspective, no matter what is going in your life. Normally, I’d be posting about some travel adventure or a plan for adventure, but I’ve always lived by a few principles … the following article (“10 Painfully Obvious Truths Everyone Forgets Too Soon”) copied completely from the “Marc and Angel Hack Life” blog couldn’t have captured my way of thinking any better – they’re much better writers than I am.

As you sober up after the Carnival festivities in Trinidad this week, take some time to ponder the following:

1.  The average human life is relatively short.

We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know.  It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step.  You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself off balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is.

LIVE your life TODAY!  Don’t ignore death, but don’t be afraid of it either.  Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action.  Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive.  Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be scared to death, and then take the next step anyway.

2.  You will only ever live the life you create for yourself.

Your life is yours alone.  Others can try to persuade you, but they can’t decide for you.  They can walk with you, but not in your shoes.  So make sure the path you decide to walk aligns with your own intuition and desires, and don’t be scared to switch paths or pave a new one when it makes sense.

Remember, it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t.  Be productive and patient.  And realize that patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.  This is your life, and it is made up entirely of your choices.  May your actions speak louder than your words.  May your life preach louder than your lips.  May your success be your noise in the end.

And if life only teaches you one thing, let it be that taking a passionate leap is always worth it.  Even if you have no idea where you’re going to land, be brave enough to step up to the edge of the unknown, and listen to your heart.  

3.  Being busy does NOT mean being productive.

Busyness isn’t a virtue, nor is it something to respect.  Though we all have seasons of crazy schedules, very few of us have a legitimate need to be busy ALL the time.  We simply don’t know how to live within our means, prioritize properly, and say no when we should.

Being busy rarely equates to productivity these days.  Just take a quick look around.  Busy people outnumber productive people by a wide margin.  Busy people are rushing all over the place, and running late half of the time.  They’re heading to work, conferences, meetings, social engagements, etc.  They barely have enough free time for family get-togethers and they rarely get enough sleep.  Yet, emails are shooting out of their smart phones like machine gun bullets, and their day planners are jammed to the brim with obligations.  Their busy schedule gives them an elevated sense of importance.  But it’s all an illusion.  They’re like hamsters running on a wheel.

Though being busy can make us feel more alive than anything else for a moment, the sensation is not sustainable long term.  We will inevitably, whether tomorrow or on our deathbed, come to wish that we spent less time in the buzz of busyness and more time actually living a purposeful life.

4.  Some kind of failure always occurs before success.

Most mistakes are unavoidable.  Learn to forgive yourself.  It’s not a problem to make them.  It’s only a problem if you never learn from them.

If you’re too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to be successful.  The solution to this problem is making friends with failure.  You want to know the difference between a master and a beginner?  The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.  Behind every great piece of art is a thousand failed attempts to make it, but these attempts are simply never shown to us.

Bottom line:  Just because it’s not happening now, doesn’t mean it never will.  Sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right.

5.  Thinking and doing are two very different things.

Success never comes to look for you while you wait around thinking about it.

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.  Knowledge is basically useless without action.  Good things don’t come to those who wait; they come to those who work on meaningful goals.  Ask yourself what’s really important and then have the courage to build your life around your answer.

And remember, if you wait until you feel 100% ready to begin, you’ll likely be waiting the rest of your life.

6.  You don’t have to wait for an apology to forgive.

Life gets much easier when you learn to accept all the apologies you never got.  The key is to be thankful for every experience – positive or negative.  It’s taking a step back and saying, “Thank you for the lesson.”  It’s realizing that grudges from the past are a perfect waste of today’s happiness, and that holding one is like letting unwanted company live rent free in your head.

Forgiveness is a promise – one you want to keep.  When you forgive someone you are making a promise not to hold the unchangeable past against your present self.  It has nothing to do with freeing a criminal of his or her crime, and everything to do with freeing yourself of the burden of being an eternal victim.

7.  Some people are simply the wrong match for you.

You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down.  You shouldn’t force connections with people who constantly make you feel less than amazing.

If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and insecure every time you’re with them, for whatever reason, they’re probably not close friend material.  If they make you feel like you can’t be yourself, or if they make you “less than” in any way, don’t pursue a connection with them.  If you feel emotionally drained after hanging out with them or get a small hit of anxiety when you are reminded of them, listen to your intuition.  There are so many “right people” for you, who energize you and inspire you to be your best self.  It makes no sense to force it with people who are the wrong match for you.

8.  It’s not other people’s job to love you; it’s yours.

It’s important to be nice to others, but it’s even more important to be nice to yourself.  You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.  So make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you.  Know your worth, even if they don’t.

Today, let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as incomplete as you think you are.  Yes, let someone love you despite all of this, and let that someone be YOU.

9.  What you own is not who YOU are.

Stuff really is just stuff, and it has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person.  Most of us can make do with much less than we think we need.  That’s a valuable reminder, especially in a hugely consumer-driven culture that focuses more on material things than meaningful connections and experiences.

You have to create your own culture.  Don’t watch TV, don’t read every fashion magazine, and don’t consume too much of the evening news.  Find the strength to fill your time with meaningful experiences.  The space and time you are occupying at this very moment is LIFE, and if you’re worrying about Kim Kardashian or Lebron James or some other famous face, then you are disempowered.  You’re giving your life away to marketing and media trickery, which is created by big companies to ultimately motivate you to want to dress a certain way, look a certain way, and be a certain way.  This is tragic, this kind of thinking.  It’s all just Hollywood brainwashing.  What is real is YOU and your friends and your family, your loves, your highs, your hopes, your plans, your fears, etc.

Too often we’re told that we’re not important, we’re just peripheral to what is.  “Get a degree, get a job, get a car, get a house, and keep on getting.”  And it’s sad, because someday you’ll wake up and realize you’ve been tricked.  And all you’ll want then is to reclaim your mind by getting it out of the hands of the brainwashers who want to turn you into a drone that buys everything that isn’t needed to impress everyone that isn’t important.

10.  Everything changes, every second.

Embrace change and realize it happens for a reason.  It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end it will be worth it.

What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow.  You never know.  Things change, often spontaneously.  People and circumstances come and go.  Life doesn’t stop for anybody.  It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day.  It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.

Sometimes the shortest split second in time changes the direction of our lives.  A seemingly innocuous decision rattles our whole world like a meteorite striking Earth.  Entire lives have been swiveled and flipped upside down, for better or worse, on the strength of an unpredictable event.  And these events are always happening.

However good or bad a situation is now, it will change.  That’s the one thing you can count on.  So when life is good, enjoy it.  Don’t go looking for something better every second.  Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they have while they have it.
[divider]When you have a chance … do go visit Marc and Angel Hack Life. They’re much better at writing this type of stuff than I am 🙂

Posted in Travel Wisdom | Tagged: | 1 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 »

Wednesday Photo Nights #24 : Crushing Buffets in Manila

Posted by Rishiray on February 6, 2014

When you’re travelling around the planet, you’re bound to see some amazing food emporiums. That being said, I’ve seen nowhere else in the world that offers consistently amazing hotel buffets like those found in Manila, Philippines.

Spiral at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza


Circles at Makati Shangri-La


Talipapa Fish Market

If you’re looking for an exhaustive list of buffets in Manila … here you go

Hotel Restaurant Buffets in Manila

Posted in Asia, Philippines, Wednesday Photo Nights | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

How was the food in Antarctica? Sea Explorer Food Review.

Posted by Rishiray on January 29, 2014

When you choose a trip to Antarctica, you’re going for the experience of being at the bottom of the world. The pictures, videos and actually being there is also pretty awesome. All those factors included … the most popular questions I’ve been asked since I came back from the ship …

How was the food on the ship?
How was the food in Antarctica?

These are pretty straightforward questions, given that you’re on a ship for 6-8 days. You should know how the food is going to be and in the end, my opinion of the food was very, very good.  There is a bit of a disclaimer though … my food experience on the ship was a bit different because the Jamaican chef and the Guyanese maitre d’ happened to make it a very, very good trip for me. Those guys understood what I wanted from day 1 and I pretty much had my own custom meal every day on board.

Here’s the day 1 menu.

On the second day, we had a BBQ onboard, as it was actually warmer on the ship than in Toronto at the same time … we had a reading of 14C.


If you’re wondering how the BBQ was done …

The Jamaican Head Chef was a BOSS!!!!

The line up definitely says it all …

… I had custom meals everyday, hence your opinion might differ.

BBQ Menu

On the third day, it was back to the usual. I did find that there wasn’t a lot of fresh salads and vegetables on the cruise. This makes sense though, since everything has to be flown in from the mainland and I don’t recall seeing a lot of salads in Punta Arenas.

Food on the 3rd day

Day 5 Menu

After the first three days, you’ve come to expect what the menus are going to look like. If you’re not a fan of dairy, then you need to tell them up front on your food questionnaire. They definitely tried to make it up to me. I even got a typical West Indian fish curry and that fish curry was damn good! Narendra was the Maitre D’ and he was one of the best I’ve seen in such restrictive circumstances.

There’s Narendra in the black! Kudos to him for getting the West Indian food for me all the way!!! Brap!!!

I even had a chance to sit in on the team meetings and see how he orchestrated the restaurant crew. He’s definitely a high class professional.

Day 4 Menu

Day 5 menu

Day 6 Menu

During the final days crossing the Drake Passage, there were many people eating and I certainly didn’t head up to eat as I was completely sea sick during the crossing. As you can see from the menus, everything was well labelled and they did their absolute best to ensure that anyone with an allergy would be accommodated.

Posted in Antarctica | 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

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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 »

Trini Penguin Power Picture Post #MissionCurryPenguin

Posted by Rishiray on January 22, 2014

If you’re looking for Penguin Pictures, then this is another post for you. These are some of the common expedition pictures from the cruise … Trini Penguin all the way

So cute … all these penguins in love … kinda maybe?

Look at me walking!


Here’s a bunch of human penguins huddled up!


OK  … here’s a Kayaking picture in Antarctica … I had to post this one.

I have an itch in my eye

Trudging through the snow!!

Hanging out and by the ship!

Hello friend!!!

Hello my Macaroni Penguin friend!

How many Penguins do you see?

Hey everyone!!!

Chillin’

Happy feet 1!!

Lemmings watching the Penguins!

More of the congregation!

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Tobago Travel Contest : Tobago’s Island Connoisseur

Posted by Rishiray on January 20, 2014

It’s the Summer Job of a Lifetime! A  Radical  Sabbatical!1-20-2014 5-03-29 PM

What?

Tourism Tobago is launching an exciting initiative – one Canadian will land the coveted position of the Tobago “Island Connoisseur” (Tobago’s Island Connoisseur)! The Island Connoisseur will share their experiences with Canadians via social media this summer. All expenses will be covered and the position pays a salary of $30,000 for the two-month stint. This could be a launching pad for an amazing career or a radical sabbatical for an accomplished professional – it’s the summer job of a lifetime!

Where?

The Island Connoisseur will spend 60 days in paradise experiencing Tobago’s people, music, food, resorts, and a dazzling array of activities ranging from snorkelling and turtle watching to mountain biking and off-road safaris.

Who?

The winner will be a “connoisseur” of life – an outgoing, adventurous social media whiz with a zest for life and learning while immersed in the amazing culture of Tobago.

When?

The winner will be on-site in paradise in July and August,  2014. The program kicks off on January 13th and details can be found at
60daysinparadise.com.

How?

Entrants will provide a short bio and a 30 second video explaining why they would be the ideal Tobago Island Connoisseur. A panel of travel industry experts will pick the top 10 applicants and then Canadians will vote to decide who will become the Island Connoisseur.
A media spend through Rogers Media of $100,000 in television exposure, as well as $35,000 in online ads. This is in addition to the PR launch activity and social media outreach.
Outreach will also be made to colleges and universities with programs such as travel and tourism, journalism, radio television arts, etc.

Please visit 60daysinparadise for more information

Posted in Travel Wisdom, Trinidad | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Trini at the Church at the Bottom of the World

Posted by Rishiray on January 20, 2014

The Russians are a hardy, tough people … and they obviously love their god and religion. When I think about the Russians building churches in the frozen ridiculousness of Siberia, I give them total ‘props” on being able on their history of building its churches and monasteries in inhospitable places. However, only the best of the best can rival Trinity Church on King George Island. The southernmost Orthodox church in the world, Trinity was built near Bellingshausen Station, Russia’s permanent outpost in Antarctica. It literally is the church at the bottom of the world.

Just a bit of background on the church … copied wholesale from a Slate article.

In the mid-1990s Patriarch Alexius II of Moscow gave his blessing for this audacious project. The church was constructed in Russia and transported by a supply ship to its present location. One or two monks from Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra — considered the most important Russian monastery as it is the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church — volunteer to man the church year-round.
While most of buildings on this continent are built to hug the ground in order to reduce their exposure to the polar wind, this church proudly stands 50 feet tall. It is a wooden structure built from Siberian pine and carved in the traditional Russian style by master carpenters of Altay.
The priests manning the church take care of the spiritual needs of the staff of nearby Russian, Chilean, Polish, and Korean research stations. Their obligations include praying for the souls of 64 Russians who lost their lives in various expeditions, and the very occasional, very chilly, baptism.
While the church is large enough to accommodate 30 visitors, it is rarely filled to capacity. In 2007, however, the church performed its first wedding — the first wedding ever celebrated in a church in Antarctica — between Chilean and Russian researchers.

As a Trinidadian, getting to the church was a mission in International Relations. I had to talk to my Russian contact, who then had to liaise with the other Russians, who then liaised with the expedition leader. If you’re wondering how the place looked … then wonder no more …

After we got permission from the Russians to visit, then it was on the RIDICULOUS task for climbing through 4 ft of snow without snowshoes or knee high water proof boots. The actual snow trek was painful to say the least, especially since I had to jump a small stream with a 6lb camera in one hand. I had a little incident where I fell and partially tore my right Anterior Delt … BTWit still hurts 3 weeks later, since I have not seen a doctor about it.

If you’re wondering, each footstep was went in about 2 ft … at least

As part of my trek to the Church, I had to jump this river to ensure that I could continue. I was not so successful, since I’m still held to the laws of gravity. I feel and all my weight fell on my shoulder … the searing pain made me feel like I saw God … if that helps.

Trudging through that snow was painful… the darkness on the edge of the camera was because of my fall into the river.

Every step was painful and I was worried about my feet freezing with water in my boots. I can’t even imagine how the real explorers did this.

What amazes me here is that the church is an actual functioning church. Among the priests’ tasks are praying for the souls of the 64 Russian people who have died in Antarctic expeditions and serving the spiritual needs of the staff of Bellingshausen Station and other nearby stations. Besides Russian polar researchers, the church is often visited by their colleagues from the nearby Chilean, Polish, Korean, and other research stations, as well as by tourists. For the benefit of Latin American visitors, some church services are conducted in Spanish.
You can also get baptized as a new Christian in the Southern Ocean. If you’re wondering how cold that could be  … see no further than my polar plunge greatness.

I had to take a pause to catch my breath. Notice that no one is around me, since those Russians are already in the church and praying. I was praying not to get a heart attack!

I would like to challenge the faith of my Trinidadian Christian friends … to see if the power of Pastor Cuffie would make them climb this god awful hill to have a prayer or two. After what seemed like an eternity with a broken shoulder, wet shoes and frozen toes, I made it …

The view from the top is quite lovely … for a cloudy, cold, barren day

IF you’re wondering about the distance of the church from other places … then you can learn Russian to know what this said.

The church itself is quite cute.

I’m still in awe of the fact that the Russians built a church, sailed it and posted it here through all the snow. They’re kinda bad ass like that. Out of respect for those that we’re praying … I didn’t do a video walk through.
If you’re interested in reading the official descriptions … here you go.

A better description of distance in Cyrillic

 

Here are my first Penguino friends … They were laughing at my pain!

If you’re looking to visit a replica of the church, but you’re not looking to travel to Antarctica … then you can visit the church in Valday, Novgorod Oblast.

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Port Lockroy Museum and the Naked Ladies

Posted by Rishiray on January 16, 2014

Port Lockroy is a natural harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula of the British Antarctic Territory. Originally discovered in 1903 by a French Antarctic expedition, the port was named ‘Port LaCroix’ after Edouard LaCroix who helped finance the expedition. Over the years Port Lockroy found use as an anchorage by whalers and in 1944 became ‘British Base A’, the first of the more than 20 eventual British bases established in Antarctica.

After the close of World War II it functioned as a civilian research outpost and was eventually shut down in 1962. It sat abandoned until a British team renovated the historical site and opened it as a monument and museum in 1996. This base is now restored as a historic site which has a gift shop and the only public post office on the Antarctic peninsula. The Port Lockroy museum and post office is operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust and proceeds from the small souvenir shop fund the upkeep of the site and other historic sites and monuments in Antarctica.

The base is now manned by four women, who all share one small room, each with a corner bunk. There is no running water at all on the base, so the residents have to rely on the kindness of visiting vessels for some of their basic needs. While they’re not showering or drinking water regularly, they’re also “womanning” the gift shop.

I wanted to spend a couple minutes with the ladies to ask them about their daily routines. For the most part, it sounded extremely boring … no Internet, not much phone contact and the always pervasive smell of Penguin poop. Penguins look cute and cuddly, but after a while, smelling all that poop and hearing them screech all the time would drive a regular person insane. They also spend a lot of time keeping the museum looking great. The main building is filled with many old relics, from the original bedding, to different canned goods and research equipment. There wasn’t a single thing out of place in the kitchen … although based on all the product cans there … it couldn’t have been good eating over there.


In addition to all the time that is spent manning the station, there are also volunteers who have been there refurbishing the equipment.

The most interesting part was looking at the uncovered paintings/drawings of the ladies. I guess in the darkness of the Antarctic winter, there were many a cold night with some cold men. How else to warm up those nights, than by looking at some racy drawings of ladies 😀

It must have been cold in those single bunks!

Some of the images have been blurred for your protection 😀 Who needs the internet, when you can draw whatever you need in old school style! I can imagine when this was a secret British base monitoring German naval movements during World War Two. Back then, a team of 10 men would live here for two and a half years at a time as part of Operation Tabarin. While watching for enemy ships, the Tabarin team also monitored territory-grabbing attempts by foreign governments. Both the Argentinians and Chileans staked claims by dropping legal documents in canisters from the sky, while the Germans scattered steel markers bearing swastika symbols. How else to pass the time than by watching lovely lady drawings.


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Curry Penguins and Postcards in Port Lockroy, Antarctica #missioncurrypenguin

Posted by Rishiray on January 15, 2014

If ever you’re looking for a Penguin cookbook, you have to head no further than Port Lockroy. There are penguins for the taking everywhere. In fact, if you’re not completely tired of smelling Penguin crap by the time you’re done with your visit, then you’re a much better person than I am.

Port Lockroy is also one of the places that you can send postcards from Antarctica. Selling stamps is one of the main sources of income for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, based in Port Lockroy.
[box type=”info” ]Port Lockroy is on Goudier Island (64º49’S, 63º30’W) in the Antarctic Peninsula. Following a conservation survey in 1994, British ‘Base A’ – Port Lockroy was recognised for its historical importance and designated as Historic Site and Monument No. 61 under the Antarctic Treaty. The buildings were renovated in 1996 by a team from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and since then opened to visitors during the Antarctic summer.[/box]


[box type=”success” ]The Trust also runs the post-office at Port Lockroy on behalf of the Government of the British Antarctic Territory which donates a proportion of the Post Office revenue to the Trust. Around 70,000 cards are posted each year for over 100 countries. Mail usually takes 2-6 weeks to arrive. There is no express service available![/box]

There is a nice museum at Port Lockroy, where I happened to stumble on the Original Penguin Cookbook : Fit for a ‘FID’. You can purchase the book at the following link … or just go to Port Lockroy and buy it there. Now I have to submit my recipe for “Curry Penguins in a Demi-Glace” or “Curry Penguins with Puncheon Rum” or “Curry Penguins with seared Foie Gras” …. ahhhhh the possibilities. How about a Penguin Foot Souse?!?!

Penguin Roulade Time

Fried Breasts of Penguin anyone?

See the book …. “Fit for a ‘FID'”.

Fit For A ‘Fid’ is an insightful record of the recipes used by men who worked for the Falkland Island Dependencies Survey during the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the recipes and ingredients are so obscure for the modern day thereby inviting readers to understand the difficulty with which the early explorers lived and how much has changed since.

This guy is so ripe for a good curry … with plenty peppa

Look at how much free yard bird it have here … it’s like you can just walk up to them and eat them

BBQ Penguin … imagine how tasty those feet would be in a Souse!!!

How about a fry dry penguin with plenty ‘bird’ pepper … #funny

Who needs flippers when you can pick your ass with your beak?

Ah the Penguin Foot Souse would be good I tell you!

Lonely Penguin?

After all these Penguin pictures, you know you want some more recipes … so here you go. I even included a Seal recipe for diversity.

[divider]Roast Penguin

Ingredients:

  • Penguin breasts
  • Butter
  • Beef suet
  • Dried onions
  • Flour
  • Gravy granules
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Season the penguin breasts well with salt and pepper and dip each piece in melted butter. Roll in flour and fry in beef suet to seal the meat, turning once. When each side is crisp, place in baking tray and pour over the fat from the frying pan. Sprinkle with dried onion and cook in the oven on medium heat until tender. For the gravy – stir a teaspoon of flour into the cooking fat then add a spoon-full of gravy granules and sufficient water or stock to thicken.
[divider]

Savoury Seal Brains (on toast)

Ingredients:

  • 1 seal brain
  • 3 powdered eggs
  • Grated cheese
  • 1 dessert spoon tomato sauce
  • 3oz. Butter
  • salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste

Method:

Finely chop the brains and mix with the powdered eggs, tomato sauce and nutmeg. Melt the butter in a pan and ad the brain mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Serve on hot buttered toast and sprinkle with grated cheese.
[divider]

Escallops of Penguin

Ingredients:

  • Penguin breasts
  • Dried onions
  • Milk
  • Batter mix
  • Flour
  • Beef suet
  • 1 tin of condensed mushroom soup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Cut the penguin breasts into thin slices and soak in milk for about two hours. Pat dry, season with salt and pepper and flour the penguin escallops. Mix the onions into the batter. Dip the meat in the batter and deep fat fry. Pour the heated soup over the battered penguin as a sauce.[divider]

Sautéed Penguin

Ingredients:

  • Penguin breasts
  • 1 cup of dried onions
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 tin tomato soup
  • 4oz. butter
  • Mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Cut the penguin breasts into small pieces and fry in the butter until brown then add the onion. Drain the tomatoes and mash half the tin into a purée, then stir into the meat and onion mixture. Add salt and pepper and some mixed herbs and the tomato soup. Simmer until the meat is tender and the sauce had thickened.

N.B. The meat of young shags, seals and penguins makes excellent eating, but in the natural state is rather too highly flavoured to be palatable. It should therefore be washed thoroughly and hung in the fresh air for a few days (in the case of shags, a couple of weeks), before cooking. The meat is further improved by blanching. Remove all blubber before cooking and replace the fat with beef suet when cooking.

Disclaimer: In the unlikely event that you manage to get hold of some penguin meat, Rishiray.com or NMAS takes no responsibility for you following these recipes!

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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

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