Santiago y Vina del Mar

It’s funny, when I was in Melbourne, there were a few nights where we went out for dinner around 9 or 9:30… literally every restaurant we went to was closed! And once we finally found something, the waiter would remark, “Wooow, late dinner huh!”.

It’s also funny, when I asked at the hotel reception in Melbourne if there were any “good areas to go to for some food and drinks” the response was, “of course!!!! This is Melbourne!!!”. Then we’d go to the few different spots he recommended, the restaurants would be already closed and the few lounges/clubs/pubs would be virtually empty. (as a side comment – Melbourne people remind me a lot of Vancouver people… they all seem so proud of their city and think it is so amazing… yes both cities are very nice and livable and not bad places at all, but you get the distinct impression that none of these people have ever been to ANY other city in the world)

Sooooo, it is so good to be in Latin America for many reasons and one of them is, Latin America lives on my schedule. After being in Australia for nearly a month, on my first night out in Santiago I purposely went out earlier than I normally would, at 9 for dinner (an excellent huge steak with a fantastic seasoning on the side called Argentine Mustard… if you are going to open a steak restaurant you gotta get this!), just because I had been conditioned to Australian style. I found that most places weren’t that busy, but that was because I was way too early! By the time I finished my meal the place was starting to get busy.

Then, because I had started too early, I ended up at fairly empty nightclubs because, again, no one had even started to show up yet. I went to a few places but this one was pretty good, called Kmasu Club (… it was about 75% women, 25% men… what a flip flop from Manstralia.

But, I had a better night in Santiago on a Thursday night than I had in all my time in Australia over the last month x 10… actually, you can basically times it by infinity, because my level of enjoyment of Australia’s nightlife was zilch.

Anyway, enough ragging on Australia… I stayed a few days in Santiago but it became clear that almost everyone in Santiago spent the summer at the beach, so today I hopped on a 1.5 hour bus ride to Vina Del Mar.

My initial expectations were that this was a small beach town, but upon arriving I realized my expectations were incorrect. This town almost feels like a city… it is quite large with lots of businesses, hotels, shopping etc. Upon googlizing it, I found the population here is 300,000+ and I’ll bet that goes up significantly in the summer.

I am staying at the Sheraton as I couldn’t find many hotels with availability… I am paying a lot here but wow, it is a beautiful location. My room is above the rocks over the ocean with floor to ceiling windows. All I can hear is the pounding surf.

There is a large casino in town here… so, as per my M.O., I’ll likely head out this evening and play some poker, hoping to pay for my stay at the expense of other players and then will head out tonight to see what Saturday night is like here. Hmmm, now that I think of it, this is basically what I do almost everywhere… how did I become a perma-travelling homeless semi-pro poker player, stock trading international playboy? Ah well, for now, I like it.

As a general comment on Chile so far, I’d have to say, this may be the nicest country I’ve been to yet in South America. I’d never given Chile too much thought and didn’t know a heck of a lot about it, but is it ever nice here… Santiago is modern and European feeling… the drive to the beach was through beautiful winding hills and vineyards… things aren’t cheap but not overly expensive either… and everyone has been very friendly and even when I stumble and fumble with my spanish almost everyone has immediately began talking to me in English without hesitation, making it very easy to get around and figure things out. I would highly recommend Chile as a place to check out in the summer time (ie. Nov-Mar). The only thing I don’t like about it, so far, is that it is very difficult to get any cheap flights here… most international flights are through their national airline, LAN, and are very expensive. My one-way flight from New Zealand to Chile was one of the most expensive flights I’ve ever been on at around $1,800 USD! Plus, Chile is really not very close to anywhere… but other than the travel considerations, it is well worth it once you get here. If someone took you here and dropped you off and asked you where you were, most people would assume it is Spain… it is very nice here.

As for my schedule, it is becoming a bit more lucid. I’ll likely stay around here for another week or so and then possibly go to Lima for a few days, then up to Ixtapa or Acapulco to meet a friend on his yacht, then sail down to Huatulco… from there I’ll likely fly down to Argentina to see some business deals with another friend, then maybe to Brasil by end of February… but, ya never know, I follow the flow.