South American Wrapup

After finding out I needed to get a visa (1 or 2 days) and ALSO needed a yellow fever vaccination (and then have to wait 10 days until the vaccination is in effect… the reason they demand the vaccination is because I have been in Colombia and Peru in the last 90 days) before going to Brasil, I have decided to take off in a different direction.

I looked at all my flight options and none really made sense except for just taking off of this continent. I wanted to see Paraguay and Uruguay, but I would then have to fly basically back to Buenos Aires to go somewhere else… and I hate backtracking (besides I already flew from BA to Rio and back to BA all in one day, so have had enough of that).

And besides, I am pretty sure I will be coming to Brasil in November or December to possibly live there for a while, and I can take the short trip to Paraguay and Uruguay then.

So, tonight (Thursday night) I am taking off to San Fran, flying through Miami. It is a killer long flight… 8 hours to Miami, 3 hour layover and then 5 to Phoenix and 1.5 hours to San Jose!!! But almost ANYWHERE from Buenos Aires is a killer. Do you know where Buenos Aires is?? Well, think somewhere near the South Pole, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean… it is 8-18 hours to anywhere off the continent from here… I was hoping to cut the trip out of here a lot shorter by stopping in Brasil, but my lack of yellow fever immunity thwarted that for now.

So I thought since I am waiting for my late flight this evening (11pm) I might as well wrap up and do a summary of this continent now that I have seen a lot of it (well, almost all the major cities anyway… not much of a waterfall siteseeing tourist).

Actually, I just realized I never really summarized Mexico and Central Am, so let me quickly do that:

Let me state for the record that probably the places I had the most fun and liked the most were in Mexico… Acapulco and Huatulco were great… Mazatlan was totally fun… I had no idea what a giant place Mexico is, and the diversity of places within it… and the diversity of people too… some very fun… very cool… very interesting people there.

Guatemala: Didn’t really like Guatemala much… but was only there 2 days. Elsie and I did visit Antigua and Antigua is very cool… a city high in the mountains/volcanoes, full of people from around the world, mostly all learning Spanish there… if you are looking for a cool, small neat place to learn Spanish for a month, Antigua should be on your list

El Salvador: From what I saw of El Salvador (the bottom of the ocean… and the capital of San Salvador) I didn’t really like it either. Their “really nice shopping area” was sort of the equivalent of a warehouse area anywhere else.

Costa Rica: I only was in the capital of San Jose, and in the very touristy beach area of Jaco Beach, so I didn’t see a lot of Costa Rica… I heard there are a lot of really cool spots. Costa Rica is definitely different from Guatemala and El Salvador… much nicer… I had a good time in Jaco… but the beach isn’t really scenic at all.

Panama: Panama City is an interesting city… quite Americanized… and a lot of black people… which separates it from most of the other countries in this area… not sure what the deal is with all the black people… i am sure the internet can tell you if you ask it

To sum up Central America and Mexico, if you are looking for interesting, fun places… Mazatlan, Acapulco, Huatulco (small but cool) and Jaco Beach in Costa Rica were the places I had the best times in.

Ok, on to South America:

As you may have read previously, I was pretty shocked at the changes from Central America to when I got to Bogota Colombia. It felt very European all of a sudden, and all that Central American sorta scum and poverty didn’t seem nearly as evident.

I remarked how amazing the service was at this little, cheap restaurant I went to (it was like being in the most glamorous restaurant in New York)… unbelievable service. Well, the one thing I have now realized is that this is totally the same EVERYWHERE I have been in South America… they must really appreciate good service here or something… but everywhere you go, the service at any restaurant is almost always top notch… and the quality of the food, and preparation at most restaurants is incredibly good too.

Prices differ from country to country, but in general it is quite cheap in South America to have a good meal and some wine… I’d say on average I spent $10-$15 for TOP NOTCH, exquisite meals, with a glass or two of wine… this usually includes tax and many times includes tip… which is what I really liked… I HATE America, how everyone puts their hand out if they even open a door for you… I much prefer places where they give good service as a matter of it just being the way they do their job… not to make a bunch of money.

Here is a quick rundown of each country now that I have seen them all:

Bogota: Interesting, beautiful city built right into the surround hills. One downside of it being high in the hills though is it has a very cool climate… averaging 20c pretty much every day of the year, and getting quite cool at night. The Zona Rosa section is very cool, trendy and full of great restaurants. As far as the nightlife (discotheques), it wasn’t that great in my opinion… Maybe I never found the really good ones… but the ones I went to all reminded me of Granville Street. At one, some guy even puked on my shoe… not exactly “classy” nightlife there.

Quito, Ecuador: I laid pretty low in Quito, as I was pretty tired from Costa Rica, Panama and Bogota… Quito is also very high in the hills and has a similar climate to Bogota. They have a sort of touristy area that is kinda neat… one neat place there was this internet cafe/restaurant/pub which was pretty much full 24/7 with people from all over the world. The nightlife in general wasn’t that great there too… although I did go to one cool club… and the busy touristy club was kinda neat in that all the girls that work there are all kinda on stage and are always dancing and doing a show(they lit the whole bar on fire at one point… fire regulations??” while they get you drinks and stuff…

Lima, Peru: Lima is kinda neat… I would really like to see it in the summer as the downtown section is on a HUGE cliff(I mean friggin huge… never scene a downtown like that before) overlooking what looks like it would be a beautiful beach in the summer. Lima is quite south so in the winter it is quite cool… definitely not beach weather when I was there. Again, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the nightlife, although there was a few okay places I went to. Again though, I bet it is a lot better in the summer (and am told it is from some people I met there).

Buenos Aires: I have commented a fair amount about Buenos Aires bizarre nightlife hours… I have also spent the last few days wandering the city quite a bit. Buenos Aires seems to have the most history, culture and interesting backdrop of all the cities I have been in, in South America to date. Their main street is huge. If someone blindfolded you and dropped you on this street, the first thing you would say is “5th Avenue, New York??”… it looks a lot like it… massive… surrounded by large buildings… also quite a bit of large sculptures and artwork. Apparently Argentina is quite known in South America as being the “richest” country… but their currency devalued 3 to 1 a few years ago (which explains somewhat why things seem so cheap here… had McDonalds today… Big Mac meal with fries and coke, worked out to about $2 USD). There is 13 million people in Buenos Aires, so this is a major city. As for the nightlife, I actually didn’t like it all that much… there are TOOONNNNSSS of places to go… every night of the week… but they don’t even really get going until 1 or 2am, which is usually when I am about ready for bed… there are a ton of interesting venues here, but in general the crowd wasn’t really what I liked. But it was definitely interesting… if you are in the area, BA is definitely worth checking out… oh, actually, the best thing about BA is the food! They love their meat here… and man I can see why, it is reaaaallllyyy good. They have this thing called Parilla here… if you order it, they bring over this hot place over a fire, and on top is literally 5 or 10 pounds of every kind of meat you can think of… and many I have never seen before… and even that won’t cost you much more than $10.

So, I guess thats it. I think the highlight of this whole tour would have been Brasil from what I hear from everyone, but it will have to wait until December or so now… In closing, if you are looking for a neat vacation, definitely check out South America in the summer (their summer). The flights in between each of the cities I listed above were generally $100-400 each… you can generally find a very nice hotel (like Sheraton) for $100/night and if you want to go on budget, can easily find nice (Best Western etc) for $50-60/night… the drinks and food are very cheap by North American standards…

That’s it… off to North America for maybe a couple weeks, then likely Europe.

**ps: I just wanted to state for the record that even though I didn’t really like the nightlife in most of the places in South America, I still had a great time… it was VERY easy to meet people… and almost everyone is nice and friendly. And in almost each case I very quickly met very nice, beautiful, fun girls… but in general, I preferred the crazy/cool nightlife of Acapulco (although it is harder to meet people there) and the fun/touristy (Mexican tourists though, not Canadian or American) nightlife of Huatulco to most of the South American discotheques. But again, for those who are looking for this sort of thing, I am sure you would have a good time in ANY of the places I have been in Central or South America… especially in the summer in Lima and Buenos Aires I am sure. If you are planning a trip to any of these places, let me know and I can give you more detailed information depending on what exactly you are looking for.