Going from urban and gritty Montevideo to a hip and glamorous beach resort takes some time to adapt, and the two-hour bus ride from Montevideo to Punta del Este wasn’t long enough to complete the transition.
The first thing I saw upon arriving at the tiny bus station and after marvelling at the coastline was a large “VISA” sign. Punta Del Este is the Uruguayan beach town, also famous in Argentina and in Brazil, and it’s expensive. We knew it. We decided it was worth it for a few days.
The hotel was in a residential neighborhood, a thirty-minute walk from the centro and the bus station. The streets were wide and quiet and, oddly, it reminded me of Saint-Michel in France. “Uh… are there any shops around?” I wondered out loud. We found a huge supermarket by the main road decided we would self-cater for a few days. Restaurants were far and few between and way too expensive. Sandwiches it would be.
Punta del Este is divided in two regions: Brava and Mansa. The limit between the two marks the end of the Río de la Plata and the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean, and split is signaled by the Mano de Punta del Este by by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal, designed to warn swimmers about the danger of rough waves. Beaches on both sides of town were packed, mostly with travelers from Argentina and Brazil, including temporary tourists from the cruise ships. The small city centre was a strange mix of convenience stores, upscale clothing boutiques (including Desigual and Tommy Hilfiger!) and fast food joints (McDonalds, Burger King and local franchises).
It took me a few hours to ease into the beach culture—Mark helped by repeatedly shouting “beach, beach!” and pretty much jumping into the water. We walked from one beach to another, relaxing on the sand, running after Mark and observing people. “It’s not like we would actually be able to spot local celebrities,” I noted. However, it was relatively easy to tell Brazilians apart—they are generally tanner and women all wear thong and have this perfect high, toned round butt. How do they do it? It’s amazing. No matter their shape, they have a killer butt. Not to self—stop looking at other women’s butts. Eh, wait a minute… was this the reason why Feng kept on borrowing my camera with the zoom lens?