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The Best & The Worst

Drinking In Rio

Drink­ing In Rio

We both loved our trip in Cen­tral and South Amer­ica. And now that we are home again in Canada, we thought about it: what were the best places, the best cities that we saw… and what were the worst experiences?

We loved most coun­tries we have been to. That said, we could have done with­out a few expe­ri­ences… see which ones!

In Panamá

The best:

  • The con­trast between old colo­nial build­ings and brand new sky­scrap­pers in Panamá City.
  • The quiet city of David, less dan­ger­ous than Panama City and quite pic­turesque.
  • Casco Viejo in Panamá City: It’s an old dis­trict (hence the name) down­town the cap­i­tal. It’s safer than it used to be where we were there in 2002, and if you stand on Plaza De Fran­cia, the view is quite amaz­ing.

The worst:

  • Not being able to walk around freely, espe­cially in the evening or at night, because a lot of places are quite dan­ger­ous in the cap­i­tal.
  • The over­priced hotels in Panamá City: the value isn’t that great (build­ings are old).
  • Order­ing food in restau­rants in Panamá City. Every­thing is so s-l-o-w… think 20 min­utes to get the menu, another 20 min­utes before some­one is will­ing to take your order, one hour wait for the food (assum­ing you only ordered sim­ple stuffs like chicken or eggs), another 30 min­utes to get the bill, plus addi­tional time to get your change back.

In Costa Rica

The Best:

The Worst:

In Perú

The Best:

  • Lima, quite safe and nice now, com­pared to seven years ago.
  • The city of Are­quipa, lost in the moun­tains, with its church and the huge mon­es­tary.
  • The road from Perú to Bolivia, in the alti­plano, where you can spot lamas, moun­tains and high­land lakes.

The worst:

  • The pop­u­lar salchi-papas snack: fries with sliced sausages on top. Er… no.
  • Try­ing to sleep in Hostal Belem in Lima, giv­ing up at 5:am. Thanks mos­qui­toes, thanks bar downstairs.
  • The smell of bloody cow heads at the local mar­ket (espe­cially at 9 am).

In Bolivia

The Best:

  • The boat ride from Copaca­bana to Isla Del Sol. A sunny day on the Lake Tit­i­caca, beau­ti­ful clouds and feel­ing like we are on top of the world (well, actu­ally, we were).
  • The col­or­ful mar­kets and the tra­di­tional dress worn by women.
  • Hear­ing peo­ple chat­ting in Quechua in the bus.

The worst:

  • Guys who pee every­where… sorry, that´s gross.
  • Soroche, or alti­tude sick­ness. At over 3,000 meters high, breath­ing is hard and we had a con­stant headache.
  • La Paz, chaotic and ugly. I’m sure some peo­ple love it, but I didn’t.

In Chile

The Best:

The worse:

  • The after­noon “siesta” (nap) time. Great if you feel lazy, not so great if you are hun­gry or need to buy some­thing, since stores are closed from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (not in San­ti­ago though).
  • The cur­rency, which comes in thou­sands ($10 is 6,000 peso…). Every­thing looks very expen­sive at first! Espe­cially for maths-challenged peo­ple like me.
  • Land­ing in Tierra del Fuego: with the wind, you are in for a crazy ride!

In Argentina

The best:

  • The nat­ural won­ders, such as the Per­ito Moreno Glac­ier and the Foz water­falls.
  • Buenos Aires, cheap, relax­ing and safe. It has every­thing, from col­or­ful neigh­bor­hoods like La Boca to great nightlife. It’s also a great city to sam­ple the Argen­tin­ian cuisine…
  • The Argen­tin­ian cul­ture, whether you are a foot­ball fan or have an artis­tic side, whether you love food or are into his­tory, there is some­thing for every­one.

The worse:

  • The lack of change! It’s a real pain every­where in the coun­try, but espe­cially in Buenos Aires.
  • In Patag­o­nia, the cost of liv­ing. Ushuaia is very expen­sive, and so are the bus rides around. On one side, vis­it­ing Patag­o­nia and Tierra Del Fuego is an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence, on the other side, be pre­pared for long and expen­sive bus rides, and over­priced accom­mo­da­tion and food.
  • The Argen­tin­ian accent! Well, I’m half-joking here… but it did take me a while to get used to. For exam­ple, Argen­tini­ans pro­nounce the Span­ish “ll” as “sh”, instead of “y”. So “la calle” (the street) sounds like “la cashe”, “la llave” (the key) sounds like “la shave” etc. When we first crossed to Argen­tin­ian, I grabbed a Coke at the bus stop, and the woman asked me: “para she­var o para tomar asha” (“para lle­var o para tomar allá” — to go or to drink here), and I thought she was speak­ing Por­tuguese! I wasn’t used to the sound.

In Uruguay

The Best:

  • The boat cross­ing on Rio de la Plata, the chocolate-color river.
  • The amaz­ing beaches along the coast. I wasn’t sure what to expect and it turned out the beaches were almost bet­ter than in Brazil!
  • Mon­te­v­ideo, relax­ing and beau­ti­ful. If you are in Argentina, it def­i­nitely worth a few days (or more!) of your time. Plus, trav­el­ing within Uruguay is easy.

The worse:

  • Lack of accom­mo­da­tion in Mon­te­v­ideo… maybe we were just unlucky, but it was hard to find a place to stay!
  • The uneven pave­ment in Mon­te­v­ideo… I still have a scar on my leg! Okay, I should not wear san­dals to walk long dis­tances… I know.
  • The hos­tel in La Paloma: over­priced for a very crowded 10-beds dorm.

In Brazil

The Best:

The worse:

  • Big cities are not exactly safe, and it’s not advis­able to hang around at night.
  • It’s hot, hot hot, espe­cially around Rio de Janeiro and Porto Ale­gre. Seri­ously, you start regret­ting Cana­dian cold…
  • The bor­der cross­ing in Chuy. Sorry, but not being able to find the border…!

All in all, we had a great trip though!

15 comments

  1. I looked for­ward to read­ing your bog every day for 3 months, and was never dis­ap­pointed. I hope you will con­tinue to post fre­quently even in not trav­el­ing. Your writ­ing is excel­lent. You could describe grass grow­ing and it would be fun to read.

  2. @Soleil — Do they still close at noon in France? Wow.. I thought that was a thing of the past! I should come to Paris — I’ll let you know, but of course, I’d love to meet you!

    @bumanguesa — Not quite, I’m afraid… my Span­ish isn’t that great! I’m lucky it’s fairly close to French.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting — Yes, it’s exactly that. I can never tell which place I liked best… there is a best for everything!

    @Seraphine — Canada is amaz­ingly safe, so it can be quite a shock I guess. Panama city is def­i­nitely the worse for me in terms of safety. In Brazil, you just don’t go to some dis­trict, they are easy to spot.

    @shionge — Thank you Shionge, and thanks for your email! I went back to work today, and I haven’t had a chance to reply yet…!

    @Scarlet — Well, only some places are best avoided, most of these coun­tries are really cool and locals are always welcoming.

    @Khengsiong — Oh, I wish… if only I could make money while traveling!

    @Saskboy — I always like read­ing “bad expe­ri­ences” too :lol:

    @zunnur — Well, every­thing is quite slow and inef­fi­cient by North Amer­i­can stan­dards. But you get used to it, and it doesn’t mat­ter too much at the end :-)

    @barbara — I hope we can meet in Paris by the way!

    @Tulsa Gen­tle­man — Thank you very much for your sup­port and nice words!

  3. This is a very use­ful list. Will remem­ber to refer when I do make it to South Amer­ica. Smelly bloody cow heads? Not good! :)

  4. Hey Zhu :D!

    Salchi-papas”…hell no!!!

    The smell of bloody cow heads…” HELL NO!!!

    Guys who pee everywhere…sorry, that’s gross” — disgusting…hell no!

    “para she­var o para tomar asha” (”para lle­var o para tomar allá” — to go or to drink here), and I thought she was speak­ing Por­tuguese! I wasn’t used to the sound.” — LOL LOL LOL in Por­tuguese we would’ve said “para levar ou para tomar já?” [Brazil] or “para levar ou para beber já?” [Portugal]…but you are right, the Argen­tin­ian accent is slightly different.

    The hos­tel in La Paloma: over­priced for a very crowded 10-beds dorm.” — say what?

    LOL Ah, Zhu…this was funny! :D

    Cheers

  5. This is the third time I am try­ing to com­ment, but my com­ments “van­ish” after I hit the ‘sub­mit’ button.…

    .… oh well, in my pre­vi­ous com­ments I was say­ing that it is amaz­ing how much ground you’ve cov­ered, how many coun­tries you’ve been to, etc. :-)

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