Lounge Review: Santiago International Terminal Avianca Sala VIP, 27 July 2016

Santiago Star Alliance Lounge

The Avianca Sala VIP is kinda on a lower level on its own. Its white walls make it seem more spacious, but in reality, it’s a pretty small lounge, and space is tight. It’s an ok place to spend like 30 min waiting for your flight, and get some work done, but otherwise, there’s nothing to write home about.

There’s generally one big open space, and two smaller rooms. One of the rooms looked darker, while the other one looked like it was intended for working. I sat in the main area, but space was tight. I kept bumping into people, and people kept bumping into my table trying to get to the drinks station.

Santiago Star Alliance Lounge

There were two small stations, one for food, and one for drinks. The former is in the center of the room, while the latter is situated by the wall. It’s a pretty small selection, with some sandwiches on offer, and the drinks are pretty average, with your regular sodas, and so-so coffee.

The bathroom was ok, and I appreciated having flights on display on the monitors, but otherwise, it’s not a calming space.


Chile, Santiago to Argentina, Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo, Brazil, 27 July 2016

Santiago Aerial Shot

Award travel comes with its drawbacks. Sure, I’m flying business class, and paid a grand total of 40 dollars for this itinerary, but this itinerary also involves sitting 10 hours in Buenos Aires, and arriving in Sao Paulo at 2am.

This portion of the trip will be covered in individual reviews of various business class products, airport lounges, and hotels. One observation – there’s really nothing that I’d like to eat in the Buenos Aires airport. Sigh! It does make it easy for me to decide on free (lounge) food, in that case.

This ends the narrative version of my South America trip. Thanks for sticking with me, as I added three new stamps to my passport!

AC92 SCL-EZE Air Canada Santiago to Buenos Aires Business Class

Chile: Being Lame in Santiago, 26 July 2016

Grand Hyatt Santiago

I wish I had more to report. I had initially intended to visit Valparaiso today, but travel fatigue was hitting me hard, and I just wanted to veg out the whole day today. I just convinced myself that it’s ok, because I don’t see this South America trip as the last time I’ll visit Chile or Argentina, so it’s ok to leave things for another trip sometime in the future.

I just stayed in bed for the most part and enjoyed the spectacular view of Santiago with the Andes in the backdrop. When it got late enough in the day, I eventually decided I was really craving American Chinese food. With some luck, there’s actually a PF Chang’s at the mall near the hotel. Funnily enough, I’ve never actually tried PF Chang’s in all my years living in the US. Their orange chicken was ok.

Grand Hyatt Santiago

Yes, this IS the view from my hotel room window

I spent some time reading in Starbucks, and then went back to my room eventually to capitalize on their large HDTV, and started a MLB game on my laptop, and streamed it on their TV. Sometimes, that’s ok on vacation, too!

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

Hairpins through the Snow, Traveling from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, 24 July 2016


I woke up bright and early-ish to catch my 10-hour, 1030 departure bus that’d bring me across the Andes from Argentina to Chile. The morning was a bit of a snafu. I asked for a taxi, expecting one to show up immediately, but it took a lot longer than expected, because the Park Hyatt called one of their trusted cars for the trip to the bus station. But I didn’t miss the bus, so all is good.

Bus from Mendoza to Santiago - Cama Ejecutivo

For this trip, I booked a second class bus, Cama-Ejecutivo for 500 ARS (~30 USD). It was a double decker, and the seats were 2 by 1. As I booked the ticket online, I was able to pick my seat as well, and naturally, I picked the solo seat. The leather seats were very comfortable, and there was a lot of legroom. Included in the ticket price, were also meal services. So there was a breakfast service almost immediately after departure, where we were given a package that included a sandwich and an alfajor. I sense this is a theme. The bus attendant also offered hot beverages, and soon a movie about Chinese who were transplanted to the borderlands was played.

Bus from Mendoza to Santiago - Cama Ejecutivo

I drifted between the state of sleep and being awake on the bus trip. I was very glad for the moments I was awake, because the snowy landscape was stunning. Families turned the snow-covered mountains into ski slopes, or other avenues of snowy fun. People were sliding down the hills. I wished I could have joined them!

Bus from Mendoza to Santiago - Cama Ejecutivo

Due to traffic at the border crossing, there was about an hour spent waiting. The border clearance itself wasn’t that terrible, but inspecting our luggage, and just generally, waiting in turn for the administrative process to be over took up some time.

At the Argentina - Chile Border

The greatest treat was the portion after crossing the Chilean border. There are a lot of hairpins leading down to Chile. While watching the ginormous bus wind through these hairpins was rather harrowing, at the same time, it was a beautiful sight to behold. This was easily one of the highlights of my trip, and reminds me of why I like traveling – life’s marvels will just unveil themselves when you least expect it!

I’d recommend this trip to anyone.

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)