Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 7: Part I - Rio de Janeiro - City Tour

Was forced to check in my backpack for this leg, but the cool thing was the luggage came out really quick - in fact, it was already on the belt by the time I got to the carousel. So all in all, so far the bag is still doing good :). My 3 purchases for the trip (bag, sleeping bag, jacket) all making its money's worth! Shortly after, was picked up by our tour guide a short bit after, and off we go!

First stop was to drop off our bags at the hotel and experiencing of Rio rush hour. This is definitely a city - cool part here was that the ambulance drove on the dotted line (and had room to)... with a train of motorcycles tailgating it. Too bad I didn't get a photo here, but it was a sight.

The tour has us hitting quite a few spots today:

Tijuca National Park
Saw a waterfall there - no where near Foz de Iguaçu but was able to try taking some silky waterfall photos. Hopefully they turned out nice.

Christ the Redeemer
This was actually inside Tijuca as it turns out. It was a pretty big statue, though for some reason I was expecting wayyy more here (like maybe some great photo poses where I can stand on its shoulder or something). The view from there is pretty nice - can see all of Rio from there - the slightly sucky part was that it was a hazy and cloudy day, so it wasn't super clear and sparkly the view.

For lunch, we were taken to this place that had a very local feel to it. The food was alright there, nothing too special - 18 reais (includes what amounts to 300ml of beer). Perhaps as our living accommodations improve, our food quality goes down? :D...

Lapa steps
Saw the creator here and took a pic with him. He was dressed like Mario I thought, heh heh. The steps are pretty cool in that basically he did this for free - and the people let him! Actually, supposedly in St. Theresa, there is alot of artists and the graffiti on the walls are actually commissioned. I've heard this before but never actually seen it, but I have to admit, the graffiti is really pretty here.

Metropolitan Cathedral
Pretty nice in that from the outside, definitely didn't look like a church at all. Inside, their were a bunch of stain glass window strips that spanned all the way up to the ceiling. Not quite sure how to describe it other than it's definitely different.

After the cathedral, rain started happening, so no Sugar Loaf. Got the tour guide to take us to a local supermarket, where I stocked up on water. Then went back to hotel to take a nap, in preparation for the soccer match tonight.

Also at the beginning of the ride, we got a little background on the various places we went through such as Leblanc (which is the place for the super rich), Ipanema (where the famous beach is at - supposedly also posh), St. Theresa (oldest neighborhood in Rio), casual mention of a few favellas (though we didn't drive into them) and of course Copacabana (where we are staying). Supposedly the first 3 neighborhoods shouldn't be too bad, and actually, according to the tour guide, having good common sense (stay away from big crowds walking towards you, put away valuables from plain sight, not walk into non pacified favellas, be careful when in crowded areas) should mitigate most of the bad stories that people say about Rio. Hopefully it's true :D

One final note. This hotel apparently we have to pay for WiFi @ 30 cents a minute! Funny in some ways how we were pretty much always able to access WiFi during this trip at the various places I stayed at (or in Aguas Calientes, a few stores down by stealing signal from a restaurant) but the most baller hotel (of the set), WiFi is not complimentary. So the hunt for WiFi I guess begins tomolo.

Also need to see what there is to do the next two days. If the weather stays rainy, then means no beaches or Sugar Loaf... even with that, still have one more day to think of what to do... hmmmm..

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 6: Foz de Iguaçu from Argentina ... NOT :(

Woke up this morning feeling like crap. Head was just pounding and wasn't really able to sleep all that much. I think it's probably a combination of: a lack of sleep, hot/cold climate switches, the dust and dirt that's accumulated on our jackets and bags, my roommates starting (or has) began getting sick, and maybe a little bit of heat exhaustion lingering from Machu Picchu. Now that I think about it, it's a miracle that my body didn't collapse earlier!

So instead of 2 hikes, 3 hour cab ride + probably an amazing view of the waterfall, decided I would instead trade that off for a couple tynenols and a long sleep so that I can be in better shape when we get to Rio (which will have us waking up at 4am to catch the flight for).

As usual with all hotel sleep in days, the maids have this urge to do their duty to clean rooms. Without a DND sign, I had to resort to say that we just needed towels so they can say they've done their part so I can sleep.

... So waking up at 3:15, I was hungry and headachy, so I popped a tynenol and headed onto town, back to the supermarket with the food court. In my almost perfect charade skills, I was able to figure out that they charge per kilo for food here, so off I went. My meal ended up being 9.91 reals! - cheapest meal by far since I have started this trip (This included a 2.00 500ml coke).

After the meal, headed more in town to walk around. It wasn't too humid or hot today due to the thunderstorm last night, so it was a good recovery and get fresh air walk. Not much worth noting in the town though - seemed pretty typical, some stores, some restaurants - a mix of both middle class department stores and dollar store like stores.

At 5pm-ish, back at the hotel. Theme of the day is to take it easy - in preparation for the final destination of the trip, Rio de Janeiro, where rumors have it I have to be ultra careful at.

Semi-sick soldier Mson sitting on a nice chair at the pool patio at hotel out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 5: Foz de Iguaçu

Waking up at a more normal time today, we headed to the falls... by bus! :). In some ways it is funny, because here we were dishing out 115 reais each for a maid of the mist ride later in the day, but we wanted to save 20 reais on taxi so instead we took the bus. Having said that, the bus experience was cool though, since it was alot safer and easy than I'd imagined.

The hike turned out to be just a simple walk towards the bottom of the falls. The best part was I was able to take pictures with a rainbow in it (thx to the tip from Travel Buddy on using the CPL to maximize the color of the rainbow.

After lunch, we went on this boat ride that would put us near the falls. My orange jacket was worth every dollar here :). Barely got wet - another clutch purchase :D. To add to it, it was also very useful at the bottom of the falls, where I stayed soooo dry.

The boat tour consisted of two pieces - a safari portion and the boat portion. The safari portion was a jib. All it was is a ride to the loading area, with a 600m walk to delay time. In the ride there, there wasn't really anything worth mentioning - all there was were trees, some oranges and what the person in front of us called 'rat' (which I think was really a rabbit)... The boat ride was nice, though it was wayyy too short. I think we were really near the falls for about 5 minutes tops. All in all, for what was said to be a 2 hour tour, it was really 1.75 hour of travel time, 15 min of actually goodness. Having said that, would I recommend it? Probably, because the view from the bottom of the waterfall is very unique, and does have that wow factor to it. Also, if you have dirty clothes, this is the place to wear it to because you do get a free wash here courtesy of Foz de Iguaçu :P

Returning back, we decoded we didn't want to eat out - the food wasn't particularly unique nor good, but it was pricey. So instead we went to grocery store to grab dinner. I bought the quarter chicken for 8 reais and a bottle of coke (just like the old Cummer days). The chicken was salty though, so I actually didn't end up finishing the whole thing.

At this hotel, it was also where I had planned to do laundry. Originally I was going to do this myself, but finding out they offered this service, I was too lazy to do it myself. 1kg for 10 reais - seemed like a good deal. Especially after dusty Machu Picchu and Peru, seemed like a pretty reasonable price. Today it came back, saying the clothes weighed 8 kg for 2 people's worth of laundry!... I was like err... really?

So we went to talk to the guy, turns out his weigh was offset by 2 kgs, so basically instead of 8kg, it was only 5kg between two people.

So far it seems like Brazil is pretty expensive. Maybe it is because this is a tourist town, but if not, it's pretty pricey.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 4: In Transit to Brazil

Woke up bright and early for the 5am cab, and off we go. Cab driver took a couple breaks, and it was pure Egypt driving. Driver also threw huge turns that I swear we could have died on 5 separate occasions. Oh, and he was playing some music that was pretty annoying. So result, 0 tips since I wasn't impressed at all.

Airport was the usual, for my lunch, grabbed a happy meal from good ol' McD. They forgot the toy so when a lady (so happens in a McD attire) came by to take my tray, I kicked into ultra broken spanish and charade mode... at first she didn't get it.. but as I walked down what I had, she realized: 27 year old dude wants his happy meal toy ... Mission accomplished! - a dragon like thing now is safely stowed in my bag :)

Passing in and out of consciousness, we arrive in Brazil. It's pretty humid and mild - and it's suppose to be their winter!

Arriving at the hotel, we see that it is basically transitioning to be a hotel. It tries hard - air conditioning (though water was leaking from it), LCD tv in suite (though maybe about a 16 inch or so), spacious room (though there are 2 bunk beds, and a king size in it), granite sink top and even the butt washer hose (though no complimentary shampoo)... A for effort, but not quite there yet. Still by far the most luxurious room I've stayed in since the start of this trip :).

After settling in, walked around the area to find this stone plate beef place. A sucker for sizzle and presentation, we tried it out. It was pretty good but it was also a bit salty I thought.

After dinner, we rendezvous with our remaining party who had spent a few days in Argentina, and onwards to the falls tomolo!

(Pictures to come... someday)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peru Post Thoughts

So few things in general.
1) Food cooks very slowly here. Dishes take on average 30 to 45 minutes to come out after ordering.

2) Lots of places turns out they don't turn on the hot water heater until they have to. Especially at night they seem to turn it off. I think that's why at KB Tambo I had one night of no hot water, Hostel Payacha once we told them there was no hot water they told us to wait 5 minutes before trying again after they were hustling around, and the last hostel told us to let them know 20 minutes ahead of time before taking a hot shower.

3) Once again you can buy cheap stuff if you bargain at marketplace. The whole walk away and name your ridicously low price then compromise in middle trick works well at marketplaces.

4) In some ways, this place reminded me alot of Egypt - most of the things I saw here also applied to Egypt, and vice versa. I guess maybe Rio and Igaussa might be somewhere in the middle?

5) Simple life, simple thoughts = Happy days. I am reminded that I should not think so far ahead into the future, but rather, do what matters (or at least what I think matters) now and perhaps I will end up happier. Plagued with indecisiveness and always running away without fighting, I waste so much time - I should really try more and if things fail, they fail. At least then there'd be a chance that things could turn out the way I dreamed.

Delayed gratification is a great concept, but I guess it wasn't meant for 10 or 20 year plots... .. . and for that matter, even 3. "Either succeed or fail greatly" - I like that more. If I ever see that chance is there again, even if at the present we think it cannot be sustained, by living everyday like it's the last, the happiest and brightest future will create itself. And for that I will march forward.

Onto Brasilia... ole ole ole!

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 3: Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu

Wasn't really able to sleep last night, but did end up waking at 4.30am. Talking last night in my ultra broken spanish and handwaving, was able to get our complimentary breakfast to go. So armed with water, camera, and breakfast, off we set to the bus stop.

The hostel was conveniently located within a minute or two walk from the bus station, which made it that much easier to get there on time. Arriving at 5.05am, there were already easily 70 people in front of us - good thing we got there early!

The hostel was conveniently located within a minute or two walk from the bus station, which made it that much easier to get there on time. Arriving at 5.05am, there were already easily 70 people in front of us - good thing we got there early!

Twenty minutes later, boarding begins, and we end up on the 3rd bus. Another 20 min later, we have arrived at the base!

Even more people when we got there, turns out some folks actually hike up the switchbacks (takes about an hour) to get there. Saw 3 of these people at least.

Machu Picchu itself was pretty awesome. Maybe it's the first ruins I've seen in years, maybe it's just that awesome. It can only really be described with pictures.

Since we got the tickets in advance, we also got our hands on hiking up Wayna Picchu. The best part was, it's guaranteed :). The hike wasn't too bad, but it did involve a little panting here and there. The view though was pretty cool as we got high enough to see the entire Machu Picchu site (actually, I find that being inside Machu Picchu wasn't all that awe inspiring, but seeing it as a whole with the mountain backdrop is the key). Up that high surrounded by mountains and clouds, it was a pretty mind clearing experience - especially when you gaze down, you see ruins of a city dating back 800 years. Once again, the simple life theme prevails here... ahhh.. if only life was that simple.

We did go on a tour as well after the hike with a tour guide, and it was well worth it. For 100 sols (+ 20 sol tips), we got the story behind certain structure and rocks, that I swear otherwise we would have never saw.

Once the tour ended, we headed back into town. Even though it was only 1:30, we had spent 7 hours there already! Arriving back, we chose a high class looking place that we thought would have decent food and service over this empty dark shady place across the street. While the decor was nice, the service was terrible...

event #1: no service for 10 minutes
So two of us went to el bano, while I just sat, and they never came to even give me a menu... wtf #1.

event #2: asking me if I am ready...
So after both of them got back, I went and then returned to the table. Menu is there now, but within a minute bald dude comes by and goes are u ready and gets all pushy.. er.. I've only been able to look at the menu with 10 pages of ad... so I nicely went 'un momento'.. then he just disappears...

Another 5 minutes passes, he has just disappeared, so I just decided to go for the buffet and I got back to the table, he just finishes taking the other orders. They so slooow...

event #3: Bill time
Taking at least 15 minutes to get the bill, they completely miss my food order and can't even tell me how much I owe them... .. . Could have easily walked out (which was what the other table next to us did I think), but I felt bad scamming them 42 Sols. After yet another 10 minutes, the change still haven't arrived, when it did, it still didn't have my food on there. So half annoyed good samaritan me drops down 45 sols and tells them that's for the buffet and left (I did also order a lemonade, but hey, at this point, it's their fault).

Also as a parting gift, I clogged their toilet... oops.

Having ended Machu Picchu earlier than we thought, we switched our train tickets to an earlier one so we got back to Ollanta by 8ish instead of 11ish. Good thing too because the hostel arrangement had switched and also we got to close out the tab with kb tambo (reception apparently closes around 9). This last hostel was the quietest one of all 3 (partly because it was an end unit), so it gets the best rating of the 3. Kb Tambo was nice though, the one bedroom was pretty spacious and good location too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 2 - Part II: Train ride and first night in Aguas Calientes

27 miles... 1.5 hours. That's how long the train ride is. What a slooow train!

The train ride was real pretty.. kb tambo did hook us up with some nice tickets .. whole ride i saw the river n it was just great. The train also had a snack included, talk about class.

Arriving at aguas calientes, we first randomly walked around, hoping to hit our hostel. Result = fail! So we ended up finding a random storeowner, then after a few more misturns, found it.

Lady was nice at the hostel, but the hostel reminded me of the one back in St. Catherines near Mt. Sinai. Lots of bugs, but, the view we had was amazing (at least in my mind). The hostel was right along the river, so though the running water sound went non stop, at the same time I found it very soothing.

One downer was that one of the members decided to break away.. I guess maybe we were too hardcore? Sleeping at the airport, soldier tripping w.o face washing time, hostels with bugs... guess it might not be for everyone ... .. . hope it will work out alright for her.

Waking up tomolo at 4:30am... the trek up Wayna Picchu shall begin then!

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 2 - Part I: Moray and Salt Mines

got woken up at 8.45 by familiar sounds, and with that, half the crew has assembled. As expected, they looked like they could use some sleep.

High altitude claims one... but looks like he recovered pretty quickly. Salt mines definitely cooler in my mind than moray... pics to come later... (and maybe a full entry as well - really need the pics from my camera for this one)

Got back on time, but the place we went to for lunch was real slow, so we had to get it to go. Their strawberry juice was real good though - freshly squeezed ... reminded me of bbtea... lol

Since we were running short on time, we took a cab to get us to the train station. 10 sol for taxi going 3 minutes, a jib but just means next time he not getting any tips (this was the same guy who took us to the moray and salt mines - ironically I gave him 10 sol fir tips for that (which was a bit on the high side). Having said that, it was worth it since we got there on time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 1: Day in Ollanta

After arriving at the hostel at 9am, as I expected the room wasn't ready. So I just freshened up and brushed my teeth in the bano (washroom in spanish), then bummed around their 'lobby' a bit.. getting my 2nd wind, I then walked around town.. going on random walks that i swear had me in someone's backyard and farms... lol.. didn't really see anything cool though (I tried to go to this ruin, but it was a fail as after walking around a stadium and climbing over a wall, nothing was there. I did though had a standoff with a cow.. and he won, since I ended up taking a detour to another backyard to avoid getting too close tp it..

For lunch...
orange ginger papaya mix - not too tasty.. pretty weird
smoked trout spaghetti.. not bad... the smokiness definitely made it unique.

At 1pm, I begin my first official excursion in Peru - a tour organized by the NGO Awamaki - rated pretty highly on tripadvisor.

This was the pachanan tour. A tour that'd take me to a local Queschan village, where I just get to get a sense of how they live. Also as part of this, I was 'taught' (Handheld) how to weave a bracelet. These kids are pretty smart - supposedly they start weaving at age 13, and their patterns are pretty complex (unlike mine). I was also amazed yet again at how simple they live.. electricity costs $1.5 a mth.. pretty simple menu for meals.. pure chillax life, simple housing... yet the kids are all smiles n happy. Makes u wonder why we are chasing so hard in what we call careers and what not.. also the organizer turned out to be from will probably come back to ollanta once she graduates..

Makes me think - what is my purpose of life? My happiness - the more I grow older, the more I think, the more I realize I'm not investing my time to obtain it ... .. .but instead chasing after things that I don't even know why I am, instead of giving my all and risking it all for the life that nothing I'm chasing for right now can help me with.

Also tried these worm potatoes.. pretty yummy tho.. peru apparently famous for potatoes.

For dinner, I had guinea pig for 50 sols.. think i made the kid run to get it from the square since I didn't want to wait 30 minutes.. and also got them to lower the price by 10sols (originally the price was 60 sols for the guinea pig)...

Also had a pisco sour for 5 sols.. dam good drink..

A bit of drama at bill time, when they decided to charge me 15 sols for a drink (As they forgot that I had negotiated happy hour pricing), but did fix that and off I went..

Back at the hostel, no hot water, but being pretty tired, decided to take an ice cold shower instead. The water was soo cold, made my heart skip an extra beat each time I went under it lol. But soldier mson washed quickly and was relatively clean.. mission accomplished!

Ended up sleeping at 9.45... so ends the first day at Ollanta

Peru+Brazil Trip: Day 0: Transits in airports

Arriving in lima, it was a very busy airport. People were bustling around, and lots of stores still open at 9 at night.

My first dish.. beef heart skewer. Interesting spices, somehow reminds me of what I ate in Egypt.
After walking around for a bit, found a spot to set up camp. So I figure I would go to the washroom first, then return. Turns out I wasn't the only one, so together with 3 other fellow airport crashers proceeded to stake our spot. Unfortunately, the mic goes off every 5 minutes row calling flights, so really couldn't sleep at all. So was stuck there for the next 4 hours until 2am, when the terminal for domestic opens again.

So at 2am, we try to get pass security, 3 of us go through, but not me :'(... turns out I needed some sticker (airport tax) on my plane ticket, and the kicker is, the booth that gets me it for free doesn't open till 4am. So quickly walking down the path of no sleep, I quickly tried to understand the situation and see if there are alternatives... turns out there is... for $8 USD, I could buy this sticker!! $8 for 2 hours of solid sleep, sooo worth it.

Easily the best sleep in the last 48 hrs!

Taxi ride was nice.. my gr 10 Spanish was money here.. conversed / talked in ultra broken spanish.. n learned lil bits of stuff along the way.. about an hour in, passed out .. but reaching there safe n sound..

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day 0: En route to Peru - @ MIA

Originally the plan was that I swing outside the airport and check out Coral Gables... but after a red eye with no sleep, the thought of lugging a backpack around town didn't seem too tantalizing. So instead, just bummed around the airport, blogging away and internalizing some thoughts.

Also played around with my backpack. Turns out I was able to squeeze it inside the metal frames of Alaskan, LAN, TACA carry on limits. While the non 24" took some forcing in, it nevertheless made it. So proud of this that I took a picture, but alas blogger doesn't work too well on win7... This though means COPA is the only one I haven't tried - but that airline is the biggest allowance of all.

Maybe a bit premature to declare, but bag purchase=success!

Spending almost 2 days at the airport, thank goodness for data phones... me so efficient..

what's worst than a crying baby on a plane?

Answer: A baby that pooped in the back + 2 sugar and caffeine high kids who can't stop talking on a red eye... .. .

ah mondieu...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

ABCDEFG... .. .

Awesome luck.. sitting in front of a baby...
For entertainment, I have the fine choice of a crying baby, or the marvelous song of A-B-C-D-E-F-G...

pick my poison...
Guess I will be sleeping for a few more hours after I land... .. .

Monday, August 22, 2011

As I Look for Things To Do...

I just realized... with an all mighty data phone - I don't need to print anything while I am in the US!...


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reminder to Self

If you don't try - you have 0% of succeeding.

There is always a better approach if you think back, but if you just think, all it will ever be is an idea or dream.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Stuck in my head... .. .

我知 找到你 無力氣 再找對比
像為求遊戲 自欺

我們 要一起 必需 要交出勇氣
是我們自卑 不相信自己

一世, 一個你, 只得你, 更歡喜
但願夢生醉死 一句愛你直到 知這說法太土

一世一生太遠 但卻想永遠 別信沒份亦有緣
誰又能望穿 我最喜愛的 為何未能預算


一生一愛人取暖 何妨纏綿著流轉
若夠定力 誰願轉

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Finally, a haircut

After two months+, I finally can get a haircut!

Wasn't without a challenge though. After calling 3 different places - all not being available, I finally default back to the usual place. Found a random person there to cut, and tried as usual in my non articulate way to explain what I want (of course it fails miserably). Though since it was a Wed, and I had time to kill, I started describing and with my trusty data phone, tried to find some pics but failed.

Anyhow, at some point though, a breakthrough happens and we finally get what I wanted.. haha.

The description apparently is the following:
"even but uneven, really texturize, layered, messy look all over. Also use razor or just point cut everywhere"
... There is a reason why I could never describe what I want.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Doctor Visit Tally...

A quick tally of the number of times I've been to the clinic...

08/08 - Suture removal
08/04 - Ultrasound for the heart
08/03 - Another vaccination
07/26 - Have my skin taken out
07/15 - Check out my bruised rib area
07/14 - Phone call with doc
07/11 - Random doc visit
07/05 - Vaccine galore
06/29 - Phone call with nurse
Net: 7 visits, 2 phone calls... averaging patronage of about once a week...

Let's hope there's no more for this month (and the next few...)

Stock Market Plummets

... .. . 635 points a day.. really?!?!?!

Aiiii... sometimes it makes me wonder, why save money... that or I should put money under a pillow or something...

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Greediness Bad

Up $500.. then Up $1700 for a bit.. ended losing $300 :(... ahh.. if only I wasn't so greedy.

On another thought... them coupons.. comes out to $200/mth. Now if I get $100 each time I go, then that's not too bad right?... hrm... continue I ponder...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Photoshop Purchased

Another todo complete.

Today I finally obtained my copy of Adobe Photoshop. Been wanting to get this for a while now, and utilize my student discount :).

Now onto reading and understanding how it all works. Looking forward to learning how to play with the HDR feature... .. .