Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Posts Tagged ‘argentina’

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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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.
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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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Don’t worry – tips on being safe in Latin America

Posted by Rishiray on June 22, 2010

On my first trip to Mexico years ago, I remember my friends telling me that it was unsafe, full of drugs, hookers, bandits and that everyone would try to take my stuff at every turn. In Trinidad, the bandit copied the “Colombian” kidnapping habit, hence my Trini friends would tell me that they knew someone, who knew someone else who was kidnapped or murdered in Latin America, about how their favourite pastime “is kidnapping tourists”. Of course, the media sensationalizes everything today and has a pesky habit of accentuating the negative aspects about different parts of the world.

It’s like when I go to US every other week to work. The average American client person thinks that Canada is cold all the time and that there are marauding polar bears everywhere and that we have rogue weekly avalanches  – I’ve never seen a Polar Bear outside of the zoo … but it is about what generalizations will spread.  As ridiculous as some of the assumptions people have about parts of the world, there are some very simple things we can do to ensure that we don’t become a part of other people’s stories.  Here are my quick tips to traveling safely in the Latin America or even in Trinidad – but they are applicable generally everywhere.

  1. Take the taxi around – they’re cheap, especially if you can haggle!
    During the day, I am usually pretty confident about just walking around, however at night, taking a recognized taxi is always the safer approach. For instance, In Buenos Aires, I walked around as much as I could, especially since taxis are a chore but at night I always took a taxi. In Rio … I always took a taxi, even in the day… Rio is rough … ! In Morocco, I had the best tour of Fez ever for a couple dollars. Although it might seem like overkill at times, especially if your hostel or hotel is just blocks away, taxis generally are much safer than walking, above all at night.  We hear horror stories all the time about taxis taking people for all they have, but in reality this is a rarity.  If you want to be extra careful, have the bar call a certified taxi and make sure you are not alone. We all know the stories where drunk tourist decided to walk .. got robbed and lost hundreds of dollars/cameras/shoes etc … when they could have spent 2.50$ a person and gotten home safely.

  2. Spread the money around … your body
    Simple and easy tip, yet I read travel forums and horror stories all the time about people being robbed of everything and their religion. Don’t keep all your money in one place. Do however keep “enough” money, in case you ever get robbed … hence walking with 20 pesos in Mexico per pocket is stupid … if you do get robbed, handing over only 20 pesos will get you beaten up plus robbed, and probably strip searched by your potential bandits.

  3. Always keep a copy of your passport and never your actual passport
    When traveling to a foreign country, especially one where you don’t speak the language, never take your passport along with you. Have multiple photocopies and scan a high resolution copy and email it to yourself, in case you lose your copies.

    Repeat after me : Your passport is your life. Say it 100 times. Losing your passport in a foreign country, is akin to you being in a non fatal car crash. It’s serious, stays on your record if your embassy has to get involved and will absolutely RUIN your trip. Photocopies will quickly prove who you are, and get you back on the road quickly. Plus in some parts of Latin America, it is the law to at least have a photocopy.

  4. Walk it, like you invented it
    Do you ever question a guy who said he invented something? Nope .. why? Cause he said so. When going to anywhere new, act like you’ve been there before and walk with confidence. This is a difficult trick to master for the inexperienced traveler – it only comes with experience and that certain “screw you” attitude that some people naturally have.If you stand around looking like a hyper-vigilant, paranoid tourist; then you will be treated like one. Do you see locals staring around? No .. cause they know what they are doing … even if you have no clue where you are going … you can always simply ask to get to somewhere interesting. I’ve done it enough times and it’s worked 100% of the time for me.   


  5. Talk to the locals
    They know where to go and where not to go … simple, easy … now write that down <scribble> “Talk to locals .. check!”  The locals are hidden in this picture!

  6. Don’t fall asleep on buses … unless …You’re at the back of the bus, by yourself.
    I’ve met too many people who lost their stuff on the bus. Food, bags, shopping … all gone with a little nap.   
  7. Trust your insincts … if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right!

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