Uncategorized

Palau

I am currently still on the road, and just finished a trip to Guam/Palau. Work has been pretty busy, so it’ll be a while before I get to update all the trips I took last year. Here’s a picture of the very beautiful Palau with A++++ snorkeling. This was taken from my kayak.

fullsizeoutput_1596

Categories: Palau, Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

Chile: Santiago, 25 July 2016

Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago, Santiago

The morning was spent mattress-running (for Hyatt Diamond status) once again – after eating breakfast at Hyatt Place Santiago, I took an uber to Grand Hyatt Santiago. Mattress-running can be quite unpleasant. After arriving at the Hyatt Place Santiago (which is quite perfectly decent) and deciding it’s a zoo, I cancelled my last night with the Hyatt Place and rebooked my last night with the Grand Hyatt instead. What was a 5 min uber ride turned into quite a joyride, because the Uber app actually redirected the driver to some other place. Yikes!

The Grand Hyatt is much more conveniently located. The Santiago metro station is about 1km (~0.6miles) away from the nearest subway system, so after settling into my room for a bit, I ventured out. The area around the Hyatts is mostly office space, and a large mall, but the area near the metro station has some nice looking cafes.

Santiago Metro

Santiago Metro

Arriving at the Manquehue metro station, after some mad gesturing on my part, I managed to get myself a BIP (their metro card) and got it recharged for enough money to take me to town. After studying the metro map for a bit, I concluded the Plaza de Armas station will allow me to hit most of the central attractions.

Taking the metro in Santiago was an amazing experience. I’m not sure if this is a regular feature, or a standard feature, but they had the poetry of the most famous Chilean poets plastered along the interior of the metro car, so you can read some poetry on your train ride, should you have forgotten to take your reading material. This was also a reminder for me to go get a copy of Pablo Neruda’s works. Exiting the metro car at Plaza de Armas station, they also have a little branch of the Santiago library network for those who wish to borrow/return books. It’s really an excellent system if you want to encourage more literacy in a culture.

Love the little library at Plaza Armas Metro station, Santiago

I actually just walked around the town square for a little bit, around the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago and the post office. These are very imposing structures, and in the main square, there’s a nice little pavilion, where a very intense chess tournament was going on at this point. Taking a right street, there were shops on both sides of the street. Some of these doors actually opened into large modern malls. Santiago has some cool traffic signals. When the man turns green, the LEDs actually move, to reflect how much time you have left for the crossing. For instance, when you’re left with less than ten seconds, the LED will start making rapid long strides to urge some urgency in your crossing. Also, I don’t quite know what to make of Santiago. I tried to walk towards the market, but as I was doing that, through some mad gesturing, some cops on patrol indicated to me that the area is not safe, not particularly because I had my camera slinging around.

Serious chess going on at Plaza Armas, Santiago

Post Office, Santiago

I was getting to the point of fatigue on the trip, and started seeking the familiar, so I simply ducked into the mall, and got some KFC, because I’ve been craving for fried chicken for a while. After stuffing my face, I simply took a metro back to the hotel, and enjoyed the complimentary evening hors d’oeuvres, which was excellent. The Grand Hyatt Club Lounge also offers a gorgeous view of the Andes. As the sun slowly set, I saw the different cars winding down the same snowy hairpins that I descended the night before.

Pedestrian shopping street in downtown Santiago
Animated traffic light, Santiago

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Sao Paulo, Brazil: Who said business class will leave you refreshed?, 06 July 2016

Garbage Disposal

When I first booked our business class tickets on American Airlines, it was the full-flat product. But American Airlines pulled a last minute aircraft change (like on day of) to their older product, and we ended up with their crappier angled-flat product. I contacted their customer relations, and they tried to argue that it’s the same product. #AmericanAirlines #fail #DisAAdvantage

We arrived in Sao Paulo a little over 9 am and were out of the airport by 10 am. Here’s where it gets fun. If I’m just changing a small amount of money, I generally don’t mind the crappier rates at the airport. Except, this wasn’t just crappy. It was insane. I tried to change $100, and the bank’s fixed rate commission alone was $25. I’d have gotten less than $70 for a $100. So, we walked out, and just tried to take a cab with a credit card.

Getting from Guarulhos International Airport to Sao Paulo (GRU) and back:

The airport is some 25-30 miles from Sao Paulo itself. It was our first day here, so it didn’t occur to us to take an Uber. We went outside the terminal, and they had a counter, which sold you taxi trips. The agents will calculate the distance, and give you a fixed price. Our trip from GRU to Perdizes, where our hotel is ($25 miles) was 150 Brazilian reals (~$45).

However, Uber is widely available in Sao Paulo. On our way back to Sao Paulo, we were staying even further than Perdizes, and the Uber ride cost us 90 Brazilian reals (~$25). Do yourself a favor, and take uber and earn some miles and points while you are at it.

After all the pain associated with getting from the airport to town, we arrived at the hotel pretty close to noon. I was pretty wiped out by this point despite the angled flat seats and starting to come down with a cold, so we just took a long, epic nap. I think we woke up at around 4 in the evening or so.

Next stop? Food. It’s both our first time in Brazil, and we didn’t want to venture too far, so we checked out what’s in our area. Adjusting to South America dining hours is pretty trippy. They do dine pretty late, and restaurants do close after lunch service, and re-open at close to 8 pm. Having missed breakfast and lunch, we were getting pretty hungry, so the challenge was finding something that was open at 6 pm.

The +1 has T-mobile, which has complimentary international data, so we ended up at Mito’s Burgers, an American-style diner about 10 min walk from our hotel. I was sick so I couldn’t taste anything, but the +1 said their burgers are excellent. Two entrees, two drinks and a dessert came up to $40.

Mito Burgers Mito Burgers

Categories: Airport, Brazil, Food, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Another South America Run, 05 – 28 July 2016

Avenida Paulista

I’m cashing in on my bounty of Miles and Points, and also rewarding myself for finishing my PhD. So I decided to do a graduation trip before starting a new job in Singapore. I hope my Spanish improves rapidly! *yikes*

05 July: Seattle – San Diego – Dallas Fort Worth – Sao Paulo (nobody said award flights are direct, but at least I’m flying First/Business class)

06 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil

07 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil

08 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil

09 July: Sao Paulo, Brazil – Buenos Aires, Argentina

10 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina

11 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina – Montevideo Uruguay

12 July: Montevideo, Uruguay

13 July: Montevideo – Colonia, Uruguay

14 July: Colonia, Uruguay – Buenos Aires, Argentina

15 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina

16 July: Buenos Aires, Argentina

17 July: Buenos Aires – Rosario, Argentina

18 July: Rosario, Argentina

19 July: Rosario – Cordoba, Argentina

20 July: Cordoba, Argentina

21 July: Cordoba – Mendoza, Argentina

22 July: Mendoza, Argentina

23 July: Mendoza, Argentina

24 July: Mendoza, Argentina – Santiago, Chile

25 July: Santiago, Chile

26 July: Santiago – Valparaiso – Santiago, Chile

27 July: Santiago, Chile – Sao Paulo, Brazil

28 July: Sau Paulo, Brazil – Singapore (a long, 25 hr flight in SQ First)

Categories: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Itinerary, Uncategorized, Uruguay | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Morocco: Casablanca – Marrakech, 28 December 2015

Marrakech

In the morning, I took the train from Casablanca to Marrekech. I got to Casablanca Voyager train station by the Casablanca tramline (7 DH). The trip was about 19 min. The schedule posted on Seat61 is slightly outdated (states that trains leave 20 past the hour), but worked out in my favor (they left 50 past the hour), because I was a little bit late to the train station. I tried to get a first class ticket, but they weren’t selling them, so some money saved (90 DH). They seem to be using the newer trains, which are faster – the journey took a little over 3 hours. While waiting for the train to arrive, I popped into a cafeteria by the platform, and got myself a 20 DH sandwich. Sitting on my roller carry-on, munching on my chicken sandwich, while waiting for my train, all was right with the world.

Boarding second class was quite a mad house, but after walking through a few private cabins, I managed to find one with some empty seats, with the other seats filled with some lovely ladies. It was a very pleasant 3+ hour ride from Casablanca to Marrakech, whereby these lovely ladies just stuffed me with chocolate wafers!

Pulling into the very modern Marrakech train station, it seemed like yet another tourist death trap, with taxi drivers approaching tourists to offer taxi rides. I decided to try walking to the Le Meridien N’Fis (it’s about 1.5 miles from the train station). Eventually, I did get picked up by a taxi driver, who was out hunting for tourist meat, but I negotiated my rate to 15 DH.

After a short rest at my hotel, I ventured to the Marrakech medina, which is about a 20 min walk from my hotel. The medina was quite the adventure that I did not emerge from. I did not pick up a map, nor did I have GPS on my phone. What transpired in the next 5 hours was me just getting very, epic-ly lost.

Marrakech

Things started off well enough. I located the Koutoubia Minaret. I moved towards the outer limits of the medina, and stopped off at a nice snack store, which sold a crepe-like pastry filled with potatoes and spices. It was 7 DH for one, with a cup of tea. I finally made my way into the medina, and that’s when the craziness began. At every corner of the medina, there’re generally young men standing around, offering to bring you around, or offering to practice English/French/whatever. Well, avoid them – if they accompany you, there’s a good chance they’ll be demanding money from you for their ‘services rendered’.

Marrakech

Being in the medina is like a corn maze. My initial game plan was to try and use the minaret as my guide, but in the medina, you can’t see anything. Also, a lot of the stores looked rather similar, so that wasn’t helpful. After a while, it seemed like I was just going round and round and round. My hotel provided a complimentary entry (otherwise, 40DH) to the Maison de Photographie, which offers great views from its rooftop. Eventually, I located it with the ‘help’ of a ‘student’. The rooftop is excellent for a bird’s eye view of Marrakech, and if you love taking photographs, it’s an amazing spot for sunset photography of Marrakech.

Marrakech

After leaving the Maison de Photographie, I wanted to check out the Djemaa El-Fna, and have my dinner there. I was trying to follow the signs, but at some point, I lost it, and wound up just walking round and round the medina, and ended up in some residential neighborhoods. Eventually, after some two hours of walking around, I finally managed to find an opening, where I spotted the Koutoubia Minaret, and made my way to Djemaa El-Fna, which is beside the Koutoubia Minaret.

Marrakech

The Djeemaa El-Fna is packed! There are dancers, acrobat acts, food vendors, and arcade-like games. I just went to the first stall with grilled meats, and settled down to a dinner of beef skewers (30DH, but they charged me 35DH). I was overcharged for some mysterious reason, but was too tired to argue with that. After an excellent dinner, I walked back to my hotel. The medina is actually a fun experience, but do take a map, or it could turn into quite an exhausting walk! It is also generally more manageable, if you don’t react as strongly to tourist scams as I do – I just hate getting ripped off.

Marrakech Marrakech

Costs

Transportation: 112 DH (7 + 90 + 15)

Food: 42 DH (35 + 7)

Accommodation: 4000 Starpoints

Total: 150 DH + 4000 Starpoints (15 USD)

Marrakech

Categories: Morocco, Travel Mishap, Travel Scam, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: | 1 Comment

A note: Part II

There’s a serious backlog on this blog. Time to write another note to keep track of what’s missing:

  1. June – July 2012: Vietnam (Itinerary)
  2. April 2013: Taiwan and Okinawa
  3. June 2013: China and Korea
  4. August 2013: Korea
  5. June – September 2014: Washington State
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A note

I started this blog sometime back in August 2010. I’ve been on a lot of trips before that; I’ve been on a lot of trips since then. I’ll try to update them as much as possible, and write up the backdated ones (I do keep a little notebook with me on trips). Anyway, here’s a list of trips to be written, and I will update this post as and when I’m done with them (well, mainly this is also for me to keep tabs on what remains to be done):

          1. 2010-2011: Bunch of stuff to do in Washington State
          2. December 2010: Turkey, Jordan, Syria (done)
          3. July 2010: Shanghai, Hong Kong (done)
          4. June 2010: Vietnam
          5. May 2010: Sarawak, Malaysia (Itinerary)
          6. May 2010: Hokkaido, Japan (Itinerary)
          7. Jan-Feb 2010: India (In Progress)
          8. October 2009: Yogyakarta, Indonesia (Itinerary)
          9. September 2009: Burma (done)
          10. June 2009: UAE, Iran, Greece (done)
          11. May 2009: Philippines (Itinerary)
          12. May 2009: Macau, Hong Kong
          13. February 2009: Bali, Indonesia
          14. February 2009: Central Highlands, Vietnam
          15. May-July 2008: Hanoi, Vietnam and Guangxi, China
          16. December 2007: Taiwan
          17. October 2007: Canada (Itinerary)
          18. September 2007: Bangkok, Thailand
          19. May-August 2007: Laos, Vietnam, China (Itinerary:Laos, June)
          20. May 2007: Guangzhou, Hong Kong
          21. May-July 2006: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
          22. August – December 2005: Nanjing, China (done)
          23. July 2005: Thailand (done)
          24. May 2005: Sabah, Malaysia (done)
          25. December 2004: Indochina (done)
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.