Argentina: Mendoza, 23 July 2016

Bubbles at Plaza Independencia

Ahh! The troubles of traveling. Ever since I started travel hacking, I’ve been trying to charge everything to my credit card, and use as little cash as possible. On this day in Argentina, I was trying to conserve my pesos, as this is my last full day in Argentina, and I didn’t want to change any more money, and be stuck with a bunch of pesos. So a bunch of workarounds – buying my bus ticket to Santiago online, and deciding to eat dinner at the hotel.


The Park Hyatt is in front of the Independence Plaza. On this fine weekend, there was a fair of sorts going on, with kids running around, a performance for children, and also the ubiquitous bubble person. It was nice to sit around for a bit, and take in what a weekend in Mendoza looks like for people who live there.


After setting in and handling a bunch of administration like printing my bus tickets, I ended up at cafe Essenza, eating my last medialuna and having my last cafe con crema for this trip. I really enjoy these slow paced trips where there’s no real need to see any touristy things, and I just spend my time reading and people watching!

Coffee break and some reading

In the evening, I decided to splurge on my last Argentinian steak dinner, and ordered a steak with sausage, alongside a glass of wine from the regions. It was an excellent end to the Argentina portion of my trip! Food at the Park Hyatt is excellent, but pricey.

To work off some of the calories after dinner, I went out, and took some pictures of Mendoza after sundown. I had my tripod with me, so that gave me the opportunity to do some long exposures.

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Argentina: Cafe hopping and Mattress Running in Mendoza, 22 July 2016


Mendoza is a city set in Argentina’s wine region. Unless you’re into doing wine tours (which I’m not), I guess most people don’t stay three days. I was, however, mattress-running for Hyatt status, and Mendoza has a category 1 Park Hyatt.

After my complimentary diamond breakfast at the Park Hyatt, I moved my stuff to the Sheraton, which was a short, 10 min walk from the Park Hyatt.

Mendoza is a pretty compact city. In its heart, is the Independence Plaza, and there are four other plazas in its northwest (Plaza Chile), northeast (Plaza San Martin), southeast (Plaza Espana), and southwest (Plaza Italia). There are also plenty of sidewalk cafes and restaurants, alongside shopping arcades, which makes it a very pleasant walking city.


As I don’t have any real touristy things I wanted to do, I decided to spend my time in Mendoza, like I would any regular day. So first stop, find a cafe for reading. While it’s winter in Argentina, the sun made it warm enough to sit outside. I wound up at Cafe Jack, and settled to reading with a cafe con crema.

Coffee and shoeshine, Mendoza

When I started getting cold, I walked around for a bit. The signage for tourist attractions in Mendoza is excellent, so if you’re looking for a particular church, or a particular architectural gem, there’s no real guidebook required for exploring Mendoza.

Stained glass in Pasaje San Martin, Mendoza

The town of Mendoza has some nice architectural gems. Two instances are the Pasaje San Martin and the Banco Hipotecario Nacional. The Pasaje San Martin was built in 1926, and the covered shopping arcade features beautiful stained glass. I don’t know anything about the Banco Hipotecari Nacional, but it features a very beautiful facade with ornate carvings.

Banco Hipotecario Nacional, Mendoza

I ended my day with a pot of tea at Bianco & Nero, and more reading.

Tea time at Bianco & Nero, Mendoza

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Argentina: Che was at Rosario, 18 July 2016

Rosario Central Station - no longer in use.

This was my first morning without P. I got back into my routine of solo travel, which generally involves taking in one or two tourist sights before settling down to read. In the morning after breakfast, I went on wikitravel and found out that Che Guevara’s birth home is in Rosario, between Entres Rios and Urquizas so I took a short walk there. The building looks lived in, and it’s now an office/residential combination. There’s simply a little marker noting that he was born here.


(It’s that little icon there)

Che Guevara's birth place, Rosario

One of the lovely things about Rosario is, it’s a nice-sized town. There are plenty of lovely little cafes, but it’s not too busy. I wandered down Entres Rios, and finally settled on Om Cafe. Om Cafe has both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating looks like it’s set in a ruined building, but done very tastefully. The interior of the cafe features white-washed bricks, high ceilings, and floor to ceiling windows, offering great views of the busy Tucuman street. It’s furnished with white tables and white chairs. I had a breakfast set, which featured two media lunas and a cafe con leche, and it is insane value at ~40 peso (< 2 usd). I had a very enjoyable time reading in the cafe.

Om Cafe, Rosario

Cafe con leche at Om Cafe, Rosario

In the mid-afternoon, I decided to stretch my legs, and took a walk towards the park along Rio Parana. It’s not a bad place to spend some time strolling. The park features several eateries, some of which do have all-day ish dining, if you are caught between lunch and dinner. There are also a couple of clubs for people who like the night life. After the enjoyable stroll, I got back to the hotel as I needed some internet.


I got lazy in the evening and simply dined at the restaurant on the same block as my hotel. I was really craving fried chicken, so I ordered and had an excellent chicken cutlet.

Pollo suprema con fritta, Rosario

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Uruguay: Colonia to Argentina: Buenos Aires, 14 July 2016

Winter in Buenos Aires, Recoleta Neighborhood

Another day, another journey. I was very last minute in planning this trip, so we were forced to take a rather early ferry (10.30) from Colonia to Buenos Aires. Consequently, we left the hotel at 9 am and got to the ferry terminal around 9.15, only to realize we were still too early once again for our ferry ride back.

Unfortunately, booking with a cut rate ferry (Colonia Express) meant that we got a way less glamorous ferry than the one we took from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. It also docked a lot further away from our hotel. Consequently, after disembarking, we had a fun task – how in the world were we going to get back to our hotel? (we walked from our hotel to the ferry terminal a couple of days ago)

We were fairly low on Argentinian pesos at this point, and based on the maps, we were also rather far from all kinds of civilization. That’s when we decided to give Uber another shot. After walking some ways from all the cabs, the +1 turned on his phone, and we both kept our fingers crossed that there would be an Uber (it’s not very popular in Buenos Aires yet). In any case, we did luck out. There was an Uber that was just within range. After a 10-15 min wait, we were on an Uber, and on our way back to the hotel.

Five Stacker from Burger King, Buenos Aires

After checking in and a short rest, it was time to get some food. The +1 saw an advertisement for Burger King’s 5 stacker, so we decided to try it. We walked some 15 min to the Burger King opposite Burger 54, and decided to challenge the 5 stacker. I was admonished for trying to deconstruct the 5 stacker instead of trying to stuff the whole thing in my face. 😛 We then adjourned to the restaurant at El Ateneo Grand Splendid, where I got some coffee and got in some reading.

Having a tea break in the restaurant in El Ateneo Bookshop, Buenos Aires

The day was still young after our tea break, so we headed over to a tourist attraction near our hotel – Recoleta cemetery. Most people visiting the Recoleta cemetery go straight for Evita’s tomb. But we mostly just wandered around and checked out how people envisioned their afterlife. I thought it was rather interesting that even in the afterlife, it was a pissing contest, as some families built taller graves than their neighbors, to get in the last word in the afterlife.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

We had a lazy stay in night in our beautiful suite to recover from our day of travels.

Watching sunset from Palacio Duhau deluxe suite balcony, Buenos Aires

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Uruguay: Stuffing my face in Montevideo, 12 July 2016

Yo <3 Mi Barrio, Montevideo #graffiti

Around noon, we moved from our first night at the more upscale part of Montevideo to the downtown of Montevideo, where there are more touristy things to do.

After checking in, I really wanted to eat parrillada, because Uruguay is famous for its beef. The hotel kindly supplied us with a map, and some simple directions on the map, and off to Mercado del Puerto we went. Mercado del Puerto is sort of like a tourist trap that’s filled with Uruguayan BBQ restaurants indoors in a market. We were dazzled by the meats on spits, which included a suckling pig. We ended up getting lured by a place that offered complimentary white wine, and ordered a parrillada for two. It wasn’t the best, but it was decent, and set us back around $30 for two people, including two glasses of white wine.

Parillada at Mercado del Puerto, Montevideo

Following our very hearty lunch, we decided to walk up Sarandi, a pedestrian street lined with shops, which brings you through downtown Montevideo. It was definitely less harrowing than our trip to the mercado, because the sidewalks of Montevideo are rather narrow. There is also some cool graffiti along the street, and after about 10 mins of walking, we ducked into a lovely little cafe, Sin Pretensiones (the name is very ironic), run by some lovely ladies, where we both got cafe con leche. I highly recommend this cafe despite its ironic name. It is a lovely place to spend an hour just sipping coffee.

Cafe Sin Pretensiones, Montevideo

The architecture around Sarandi is probably from the 1800s, and generally pretty well maintained. I loved how some of the lion figurines at some of the higher buildings were used to hide drainage pipes. In the world of contemporary architecture, it’s sometimes nice to have some throwbacks of how people used to camouflage the nitty gritty items that is found in every building.


As we edged towards the Plaza Independencia where the very impressive Palacio Salvo stands, I saw a lovely bookshop. I can’t remember its name, but it’s a couple of doors away from the Torres Garcia museum. It even has one of those old elevators that have metal doors that close. Torres Garcia, an Uruguayan artist, also features in the cityscape. Some of the buildings were decorated by prints of his artwork. I’m not particularly art literate, but it was kinda cool that I happened to go to an art exhibition in the MoMa last fall, which featured South American artists, and I was really taken by Torres Garcia’s works.

Cool bookshop on Sarandi, Montevideo

Torres Garcia on buildings, Montevideo

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USA: Taos, NM, 24 March 2016

New Mexico I unilaterally decided that we visit Taos, because it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. I messed up, because they have months open to visitors. Regardless, it was a nice drive, and I really enjoyed checking out New Mexico architecture. It’s about as iconic as Greek architecture. The drive there and back was amazing, too.

10 00: We set off from the hotel.

11 00: Mister was starving, because we missed the hotel breakfast. We wound up at Denny’s at Santa Fe. That’s my first trip to Denny’s. Pretty good value for money, if somewhat artery clogging.

12 00: Slow drive up to Taos. We enjoyed the scenery, stopping along the way to take pictures of the gorge, and to take in the Rio Grande.

New Mexico

14 00: Taos of tourist interest is closed to visitors, as it’s not tourist season. Bummer. We had to be content with Taos, the tourist town. I went to get a cup of drip at a cat-themed cafe in town, and got some writing done.

15 00: Drive back. We stopped along even more sites for pictures. We took pictures of Rio Grande.

Kitty Cafe at Taos

19 00: We arrived back in Albuquerque, staying at a downtown hotel this time. Downtown is pretty date. Creepy!

New Mexico

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USA: Everybody Jaywalks in Boston MA! 19 Feb 2016

Boston Theater District 05 30 – God, I’m getting too old for redeyes!

05 40 – My butt is freezing over. Thankfully they do display what time the silver line bus comes so I can roll out just in time for it. Free bus ride to town from the airport!!! 😀 😀 😀

06 00 – Wow, nothing is open in Boston at this hour (a lot of Seattle cafes will be open by this hour). But yay! The hotel lets me check in at this super early hour.

13 00 – ZZZ. Guess I should get my butt out of bed, and go get some food. Free Chipotle (an oopsy from their E-Coli fiasco)!

Snow at Boston Waterfront

14 00 – Waterfront is pretty nice. How much will they pay me if I threw a case of tea out of the Museum of Boston Tea Party? 😀

Quincy Marketplace, Boston

15 00 – Quincy Market is pretty nice. I like food halls. Guess I’ll be eating dinner here. Shopping at Faneuil Hall, not so much.

15 30 – Work. Time passes faster when you are people-watching while grading papers on Nazi Germany.


18 00 – Hello lobster bisque bread bowl ($9). Good idea in theory, except I don’t like bread. How did I forget that I don’t like bread? Nice little stroll down the Theater District back to hotel.

Lobster Bisque Bread Bowl

21 00 – Cannot be lame and enjoy hotel suite/TV marathon. Went to Thinking Cup Coffee. No free wifi (their secured wifi is called “talktosomeone”), but it offers a great view of Boston Commons.

Thinking Cup at Boston Commons View of Work Today - Thinking Cup at Boston Commons

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USA: San Francisco CA, 03 Dec 2015

San Francisco - Market Street at Night I had to do a segment run to qualify for elite status with American Airlines, and since I have some Thank You points lying around, I made a redemption for a day-trip to San Francisco. What started out as a simple SEA-SFO-SEA 6hr-ish day trip turned into quite an adventure, and an amazing customer service recovery by Alaska Air.

When I got to Seatac airport, I found out that my SEA-SFO flight was diverted to SJC, due to SFO traffic control issues. I was already feeling rather angsty about the whole process, as that cuts down the time I have in San Francisco significantly. I was supposed to arrive at SFO at 12.05, but with the added coach transfer from SJC-SFO, I only boarded the AirTrain at 13.22. To add to my angst, I checked the Alaska Airlines app, and discovered that my flight from SFO-SEA would be delayed by more than an hour. What was supposed to be a 20.30 departure, 22.30 arrival is turning into a 22.00 departure, 24.00 arrival. As the bus rolled from SJC to SFO, I got even more cranky, because I realized that in the past year of flying with Alaska, I was only on time once in six flights. On the other five flights, the plane arrived more than an hour late, and for one of them, I even missed my connection to PTY, leading to a re-route from LAX-MEX-PTY to LAX-SJO-PTY. I was so cranky that I contacted Alaska Airlines via twitter (more on that later).

After arriving at SFO, I quickly got on the AirTrain, and got to the BART. This time, I bought my return ticket on the BART, to minimize the hassle of buying another ticket on the way back. I dropped off on Embarcadero, and went to Rubio’s for lunch.

Coastal Trio at Rubio's

I must say, I generally don’t think highly of Business Insider’s travel/food recommendations, but boy, Rubio’s was awesome! I got the Coastal Trio ($10), which features a grilled tilapia taco, a grilled shrimp taco, and their signature (fried) fish taco. They also have a salsa bar, catering to a full range of heat-tolerance. I went with the smoked chipotle, picante, and diablo (the last one did pack some heat). Man, those were some tasty tacos. I wasn’t too impressed with the signature fish taco, but their grilled shrimp and grilled tilapia tacos tasted amazing, with or without the extra salsa. If you are in the vicinity of one, I do recommend you pop in.

Since I had some time, I decided to check out more of San Francisco this time round. I walked down Market Street, and really loved the architecture. It is always interesting to look up the streets that feed into Market Street, and check out those hills of San Francisco. I eventually turned up Powell Street, which is served by the famous tourist cable car, before stopping at Union Square – the second part of my mission for today was to locate a cafe, and do my work there, but unfortunately, my phone ran out of juice, so I had to sit for a bit, and charge up my phone using my laptop.

San Francisco At Union Square, I discovered that Alaska Airlines CS had responded to my tweet. They offered some compensation for all the inconveniences of my day. I thought it was really quick and responsive of their CS. I would say that despite me having the worst luck with them, they are generally quite communicative about all their delays. When I was waiting to board my very late flight later in the evening, the gate agents seemed genuinely apologetic about the flight’s long delay.

So, apparently, I let google make decisions for me these days. In any case, while looking up cafes at Union Square, google spit up Sightglass Coffee. Sightglass coffee is an indy coffee shop located in Soma, a couple of blocks walk from Civic Center BART station. They focus on small batch productions, and this particular location is also their headquarters, where they roast their coffee on premise.

Sightless Cafe

Latte at Sightless Cafe

The space is gorgeous, and features all the things I like – industrial design, high ceilings (tri-level), coffee bar, large windows. Erm, it might be a San Francisco thing, but they do not offer free wifi, and I couldn’t find any power points either. This would be a good balls-to-the-wall place if you are working on something, and trying to hammer it out before the juice on your laptop runs out. Also, without wifi, you can work distraction free? It could also be a good place to like, you know, chat with people, for real. A basic latte runs around $5. At around 18.30 or so, I decided to make my way back to SFO for my flight back to SEA. That concludes my rather short day-trip to San Francisco.


BART: $17.30

Lunch: $10

Coffee: $5

Total: $32.30 + 11000 Citi ThankYou points

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Panama: Casco Viejo, 06 September 2015

Casco Viejo

After the complimentary breakfast at my hotel, I walked towards the Iglesia El Carmen subway station. According to the subway map, the closest metro station to Casco Viejo is the Cinco de Mayo station, so that was where I was headed. The subway ride was pretty simple. Tap in card, $0.35 deducted from card, and the trains (3 carriage) came by every 5 mins or so. It was a Sunday, they weren’t empty, but they weren’t like sardines in a tin can packed either. To get to Casco Viejo from the Cinco de Mayo subway station, locate the Av Central exit. When you get out, you should see a freeway overhead. Cross the street under the freeway, and just follow the street. You will see Hotel Stanford at some point, and then you’ll see a pedestrian street. That’s Av Central. Just keep walking down Av Central and you will hit Casco Viejo. At this point, maps on boards, and tourist signs will show up, guiding you the rest of the way. An alternative way would be to follow under the freeway after you exit the metro station. Take a left after you exit the metro station, and follow the freeway. That way, you will hit the Fish Market, before Casco Viejo. Just keep in mind that it would involve crossing some rather large lanes of traffic on this route. Av Central features quite a bit of graffiti and street life in Panama, so, despite all the warnings on Wikitravel, it might still be worth your time walking down. #graffiti

A UNESCO world heritage site, Casco Viejo is the old town of Panama City. Erm, I don’t know what to say, except think 1600s Spanish architecture? It is a nice tourist-y spot with lots of cafes, restaurants, hostels, hotels, which would appeal to tourists. Think red brick streets, plazas, and old churches. It is quite different from the rest of Panama City, for sure.

I planned on spending my day working at a nice cafe, so to that end, I got lured by the Casco Viejo website, and wound up at the Casa Sucre Coffeehouse (they accept credit cards, and have free wifi). They feature coffees from the Boquette region, and are slightly pricey (about ~$0.50 more than their competitors), but it’s not a bad spot to hang out. It used to be a nunnery or something, and their tiled floor are (mostly) originals from the 1800s. I wound up spending more time than I intended, thanks to a tropical downpour in the middle of the day. But, can’t complain. I got an iced latte, and liked their coffee. It has a bold flavor, without being acidic.

Casa Sucre Coffeehouse

When there was a break in the downpour, I headed towards Cafe Coca-Cola, a budget (it’s really not that cheap, though it’s cheap relative to some of the things on offer in Casco Viejo) cafe, and one of the oldest in Casco. To date, i am not sure what Panamanian cuisine really is. The menu looked very much like diner food, complete with a Aunt Jemina and Maggi Ketchup on my table. Cafe Coca-Cola also has quite an interesting clientele – mostly older men? I definitely felt rather conscious as the single female diner there. I wound up getting a 1/4 fried chicken (5 USD). Nothing much to report there. Cafe Coca Cola

After my main meal of the day, I headed to Unido Coffee Roasters, which is housed in the premises of the luxurious American Trade Hotel. Unido Coffee Roasters is this hipster cafe, now with three branches in Panama City. They also feature unique beans from Panama, and are pricier than Casa Sucre Coffeehouse (iced latte – 4 USD). They either don’t have wifi, or it wasn’t working, but they do take credit cards. My iced latte had a nice clean, strong flavor to it, and wasn’t acidic either.

Cafe Unido

After coffee, I headed back towards my hotel. One of the more intriguing questions for me is – where are all the Panamanians on Sunday? After a short rest at my guest house, I decided to walk towards the Multicentro Mall. I think I saw more people in the taxi line at the Radisson Decapolis, and at a church on the walk to Multicentro, than all my time spent at Casco Viejo. It’s always interesting to know where people choose to spend their weekends.

Also, as a side note on those who love gaming. Things do change rapidly in Panama – Veneto was kinda empty when I visited on a Saturday evening. But when I went to Majestic at Multicentro, there were a whole lot more people playing.


Subway: 0.70 USD

Coffee: 7.80 USD

Dinner: 5 USD

Accommodations: 5000 Hilton points

Total: 13.50 USD

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Colombia: Botero is all sorts of awesome, 03 September 2015

I had three main missions today:

  1. Check out the Botero Museum
  2. Get a souvenir for my uncle from Hard Rock Cafe
  3. Sample a lot of Colombian coffee

Botero Museum (free, closed on Tuesdays)

Hours: Closed on Tuesdays

Monday – Saturday, 9 am – 7 pm, last entry at 6.30 pm.

Sunday and holidays, 10 am – 5 pm, last entry at 4.30 pm


I have always liked the work of Botero, and honestly, prior to this trip, I didn’t even know that he is Colombian! The Botero Museum doesn’t just house the works of Botero, but it also houses some really famous artists, like Monet, Picaso, Dali, and Degas, to name a few. Given the quality of the works, this would be a good museum, even if they decided to charge $20. Within this complex, they also have rotating exhibitions, the Museum of Art, and the Museum of Coins. They do tend to attract student groups, so you might have to wait a little bit for student groups to clear out before you get to see the art works. Some of the paintings are not covered by that glass/plastic thing, that makes photography hard, so you can get some good photos. Just remember to turn off your flash!

Botero - If Mona Lisa ate too many Big Macs

If Mona Lisa had one too many Big Macs

Shopping is generally not my thing, but after this visit, I wanted a Botero for my souvenir fridge magnet. They have a gift shop on the premise, but it is slightly hard to find. It is behind the Botero museum itself, but still within the same complex. They do take credit cards. Within the complex, they also have a restaurant. I read a couple of blogs about best cafes in Bogota, and seeing the sign for Amor Perfecto coffee, I popped in for a coffee. I got a cappuccino, but I still felt that the coffee was a bit too acidic for my taste (4700 COP).

Cafe Amor Perfecto

Cafe Amor Perfecto

After my hour-long visit at the excellent Botero Museum, I headed towards the San Victorino Transmilenio station. As I walked across the Bolivar Plaza, it was quite a sight! There were protestors on the square. It appears that they are indigenous and non-Spanish people, who came in from other parts of Colombia, to protest inequality in the country. Some of them were also wrapping their own flag on the statue of Bolivar. It was a peaceful protest, but it was really quite a sight.

Protests on Bolivar Plaza - they are wrapping up Bolivar

Protests on Bolivar Plaza

Protests on Bolivar Plaza

Protests on Bolivar Plaza


Hunting for coffee and the Hard Rock Cafe took me to Chapinero, which is supposed to be an upscale neighborhood, with lots of shopping, dining, and drinking establishments. The area where Hard Rock Cafe is (Hard Rock Cafe is in Atlantis Mall, Calle 81) has a bunch of upscale shopping, e.g. Ferragamo, Louis Vutton. Well, I guess souvenir hunting for others has its advantages, since it took me to a different part of town?

After the trip, I walked about 10 blocks to another coffee shop that I read about – Devotion Coffee, which is attached to Hilton Hotel (calle 70, Ave 7). Of the different coffee places that I visited on this trip, I must say that this is my favorite (not to mention, most expensive). They have a number of beans, and they also have seasonal offerings, and these beans can be done in a number of different styles. The coffee menu is fairly self-evident. I tend to prefer my coffee with a chocolatey note, so I went with Toro, the form of a latte (6000 COP). You can also get 2 hours of free wifi, courtesy of Hilton, if you plan to do some work at the cafe.

Nice selection of coffees at Devotion Cafe

Selection of coffees at Cafe Devotion

I got the Toro latte at Devotion Cafe

Toro Latte at Cafe Devotion

Devotion Cafe

Cafe Devotion


So, I read on wikitravel about Ajiaco, which is some thick Colombian soup. After spotting it at this chain restaurant, Sopa De Mama y Postre de Abuela, I decided to try it for dinner (12900 COP). Unfortunately, my eye is bigger than my stomach as always, and I wound up ordering a Parrillada (something like steak/mixed grill, 30900 COP). Ajiaco is this thick chicken soup, which is served with shredded chicken, corn, potatoes, and usually comes with a side of rice and part of an avocado. Being Cantonese, I like the idea of soup. It was a decent soup, but I guess I was hoping for more of an umami rush from it. This can be a meal in itself, though. Parrillada is basically this mixed grill, and this particular one has all sorts of Colombian meats, so chorizo, pork, chicken, steak, served with some baby potatoes, and a side of guacamole. It was pretty decent. I thought the parrillada that I had in Lima, Peru was much tastier, and the steak and sausage that I had in Antigua, Guatemala was much better as well. But hey, for 10 bucks, can’t complain! Ajiaco - A Colombian soup



Buses: 1500 COP + 1800 COP + 1800 COP

Coffee: 4700 COP + 6000 COP

Dinner: 53000 COP

Accommodations: 25 USD

Total: 50 USD

Categories: Cafe, Colombia, Food, Museums | Tags: | 1 Comment

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