In Chile, the question isn’t “East or West?” but “North or South?” Our trip doesn’t end in Santiago, it starts in the Chilean capital. So, where next?
Santiago is crowded. Don’t even get me started on the subway—sometimes, the doors can barely close.
It’s hard to believe that forty years ago, a military dictatorship ruled the country.
“Mark, I’d rather you touch the cactus than take a picture with my Nikon.” Quick look around. Nope, no English speaker around. Hopefully no one understood what I said and witnessed this great parenting moment of mine.
After the holiday break, I figured the market would be packed with fresh veggies and fruits, so we walked to La Vega Central to enjoy what the Chilean Central Valley grows.
“Uh… I think I know why we heard a siren,” Feng said. He pointed to one of the hills. On a clear day like this, the giant cloud of smoke was unmissable.
January 1 was spent adjusting and doing nothing. We had expected the city to be dead and it was.
This is how December 31 started for us in Santiago. We wandered around the stalls of the busy street markets around Estación Central and watched Santiaguinos buying yellow undies and party supplies for the evening.
The problem with Mark’s deal is that we didn’t exactly leave right away. You guessed it, the flight was late. And we were sent to the de-icing station once again.
The Plaza is packed, as usual. Kids bath in the fountain (no Mark, you can’t, sorry), run around, climb on the Statue of Pedro de Valdivia. Adult play chess or listen to the very loud preachers.
Here are my random thoughts on Santiago. No, I didn’t write them on the walls.
Chile’s fast food choice is the perrito caliente with a mound of different condiments.
The tiger yawned and turned his head before going back to sleep, dreaming of the great comida por kilo buffet he could have if only the kids weren’t outside the cage.
We dropped off a giant bag of dirty laundry at the lavandería and headed to the Santiago Metropolitan Park to climb the cerro San Cristóbal, the second highest hill in the city.
How do you know you are on a Chilean beach? It’s easy: most people keep their clothes on.
Valparaíso has a split personality, it’s a place of contrasts. The gritty puerto versus the artsy hills.
After five days in Santiago, it was time to take a break and see the Pacific Ocean again. Like many Chileans, we escaped to Valparaíso, a two-hour bus ride from the capital.
We step inside La Merced. It’s dark inside and there are people praying, or at least that’s what I assume they are doing with their heads bowed. Maybe they are eating a hot dog after all, who knows?
Santiago is way more multicultural than I remember it.
Santiago is a giant open-air market. Everywhere you go, there is someone selling something. Watermelons. Fruit salad in a cup, plastic fork included. Lottery tickets. Shoeshine services. Fortune-telling or tarot reading.
Dry air. The Andes. Dust. Hills. Heart-attack inducing prices in the thousands until you realize 5,000 Chilean Pesos are US$10.
It was quick. And brutal. This was the kind of flight were the seat belt sign stays on for the entire time and no one walks in the alley, including flight attendants.
From the dry desert to the humid jungle, from cobblestone-paved streets to muddy roads, from…