Posts Tagged With: Buenos Aires

Day 295: Bus – Argentina – April 8th

Slept in so much that we missed the breakfast at the hostel, it was a no-brainer that we walked 200m and ate McDonald’s! Don’t know about anyone else, but every time we travel it’s always fun to walk into McDonald’s and see what their menu looks like, how the prices compare, and most importantly see if they have any special foods you can’t get! In Czech, we had a “I Love New York” series of burgers, in Buenos Aires there was a McFiesta (too expensive, had some steak instead!).

We sat at McDonald’s, eating a grilled cheese&ham for breakfast with a 1P (or $0.10USD) upgrade to a McCafe cappuccino! And best of all, they had the Wi-Fi! Doing what we usually do when we have time…we looked for places to eat. Steaks are awesome, but we’re spoiled adults and prefer a bit more variety at times. We ended up eating Korean BBQ.

Holy shit. It was really good Korean BBQ. It was “Tenedor Libre”, which literally means free fork, or all you can eat! The meats were awesome, but the best part was the 13 different cold dishes that was served which made it awesome. There was the usual cold veggies, and then some more cold veggies, and then a bowl of cold soup, which was followed by a bowl of hot soup, two pieces of fried fish, a seafood pancake, and grilled red-bean cake for dessert. It was expensive at 100P for lunch, but that night we didn’t even have to eat dinner!

The bus was 8pm, but we were so caught up with uploading our blog we went over time and had to hail a cab to the bus terminal. Blogging is hard work, and we have to make so many sacrifices =). Best part though, is that having taken the taxi 4 times in BA, never have we felt the fare to be consistent, and 3x we were riding to the same spot but the prices were all different! W T F? Same departure spot, same end spot, different prices varying by 30%!

Buses here are split between two levels, with the lower level being the ‘higher class’. We caught the next bus out, and we had the higher class seats on the lower level, but mainly because people on the upper deck were going to shorter destinations than us. Usually we ride in the upper deck, and bus rides are pretty clean, decent movies and comfy. This time, in the lower level with 3 other people in leather recliners, it was all good and dandy except it reeked of urine. The bathroom is in the lower level, but usually it doesn’t smell anywhere on the bus. Something must’ve been leaking or something….it was gross. What better way to connect with fellow travelers than to ask the best ice-breaking question, “Do you smell that?”. Ha ha, turns out this nice couple from Greece+UK were going to Mendoza as well, and we shared some travel tips with them making Bolivia sounding extremely fun!

Falling asleep to the scent of urine was not easy, but we managed to survive.

KOREAN FEAST

KOREAN FEAST

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Day 294: Buenos Aires – Argentina – April 7th

There were two main reasons we came back to Buenos Aires. For one, we weren’t too fond of the official FX rate we’re getting which hasn’t moved at 5 peso for 1 dollar. That, and we miss that hot pot place…a lot!

We checked-in to our hostel, showered and went out to our usual guy to change money. They were quite happy to see us as we’ve been doing so much business with them! They gave us an uncompetitive rate, and so we just walked out, found another guy on the street and got what we thought was more fair. While traveling, one thing we’re not afraid to do is to walk out of a bad deal with some friendly faces! Saved us a bit of money, enough for a nice meal!

We were sort of hungry at 5pm, so without a thought we headed straight out to the hot pot place….. WHICH IS NOT OPEN TIL 7:30pm! Argh… so with two hours to blow, we wandered around the bustling streets where another street market was! Seems like people in Buenos Aires really love their street markets, and the best part is they seem to congregate around museums, so we actually checked out a cool natural history museum with some funky animals that are now extinct, including a few really, really funny looking chickens. We also saw some close-ups of the giant petrels we saw from afar in Antarctica, and we really see why they’re called giant….because they’re HUGE! Like 2x bigger than my 30lb dog, huge. Continue reading

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Day 253: Ushuaia/Buenos Aires– Argentina – Feb 25th

Being separated for the first in many months, Jiajia flew into Ushuaia with a 7am flight, but because of the crazy weather down in the southern end of America, her flight had to stop in Rio Gallegos before the weather cleared out and the plane was ready to land. Alan spent the day in Buenos Aires wandering around the town, visiting gardens and museums, taking pictures, and doing some grey market deals to exchange some spending cash. 

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Day 252: Buenos Aires– Argentina – Feb 24th

Back into BA at 8am, we checked into our hostel, took a shower and was back on the streets of BA.

Like most Latin American countries, it seems to just shut down on Sundays and this time it was no different. We already booked our flights out, but to save some money we are flying separately, with Jiajia flying on the 25th and Alan flying out on the 26th. Strangely enough, this works out perfectly for us in the end.

We tried to do some cambio at the grey market, but because it was Sunday the rate was much lower, and they didn’t have enough pesos to give us!! We scrapped the idea and headed over to Recoleta, the posh neighbourhood of BA with a pretty impressive cemetery. Wandering around the streets of BA, it’s quite easy to fall in love with the city and it’s diverse settings, while somehow maintaining a bit of the charm of a smaller city.

Exploring El Ateneo, a bookstore built from an old opera house, it looks ridiculously posh and we sat there for a few hours reading some more travel books. It’s nice to see how certain cities can retain a bit of their history with something other than a restaurant. Then again, a restaurant located in an ex-opera house is pretty awesome.

And before we leave the comforts of a big city, we had one final hot pot! Yes!!! There’s hot pot in Buenos Aires!!! Afterwards, we walked along the beautiful boardwalk of Puerto Madryn, and eating some delicious ice cream to cap off our BA experience. 

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Day 248: Bus to Puerto Iguazu – Argentina – Feb 20th

We booked a 2:15pm bus out of town and to the border town of Iguazu, about 18hrs away. With a bit of time to spend in the morning, we headed out to the old port area of BA aptly named La Boca, or The Mouth, as it is sitting at the mouth of the BA harbour. It’s famous for two things: a little pedestrian called El Caminito, and home to the world famous soccer club, Boca Juniors. The neighbourhood has a bit of a rough edge about it as it is home to the working/labour class of the city, but that’s part of the charm….just don’t wander off too far from the tourist streets.

The street was colourful, and full of souvenir shops. That, or sidewalk restaurants with tango dancing right in front of you. To be honest, we felt there are more places in BA that has a bit more charm, but for the most part it was well worth our 30min visit. Short, but we that’s all we had because we needed to hop on our bus!

Considering that bus tickets were about $100USD, it was really quite expensive but flights would’ve been about $80 more, so for two people that would’ve added up to quite a bit. Then again, they give you your money’s worth. We took the “cama” or sleeper, which is the 2nd best class next to the executive style where you can lie flat. We were served snacks twice before dinner time, which by the way was actually GOOD TASTING, the airline industry has something to learn. For drinks at dinner, there was coke, sprite, and red/white wine. Cool. One more thing we love though, is that the movies aren’t dubbed, but rather they are in English with Spanish subtitles! It was a long ride, but it was rather enjoyable for the circumstances.

And at around 10pm when they shut off the lights, the attendant came around asking the most ridiculous question we’ve heard on a bus:
Champagne, or whisky?” HA HA HA. Awesome.

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Day 247: Buenos Aires – Argentina – Feb 19th

We spent what was the worst possible day as a tourist. That’s part of the trade-off when traveling without making set plans, but it is a real bummer because we’re trying to book our itinerary for the next couple of days but we’re getting some mixed signals, false information and a lack of communication from all fronts.

In the end, we spent all day waiting for information by our agent, who just ended up telling us at 4:30pm (when everything is closing) that she can’t sell us the tours because we talked with the agency she was working with first. W T F. Wasted us TWO days of sitting around.

At night, we splurged on a rather stereotypical Buenos Aires event…. a tango show! With the hostel, we paid $360Pesos (~$50USD) but online, the price is $140USD, which is closer to $1000Pesos at the unofficial exchange rate!!

Buenos Aires in general is pretty safe to walk around at night, and we did some exploring of the downtown streets outside of the usual Florida and Lavalle pedestrian avenues, but that doesn’t mean the shady money exchangers didn’t ask us, just less frequently.

The tango show is located in another touristy area, but the bright lights and dark wood all around makes it a bit of a fancy place. It didn’t help that we were dressed in our only style of clothes: hiking. It’s not even like weekend casual in university kind of laid back, we’ve got brightly coloured synthetic tops that look like we’re going out for a jog, and we have those pants that unzip at the knee to double up as shorts… NOT really working for a fancy dinner place. In fact, if we were back home we’d feel sort of strange just to wear this to go out even to the food court! =P

We got some pretty sweet seats in the middle, and the whole atmosphere is a bit old school classy without being cheesy. Service was decent and they seemed to have a system going on with the menu coming first, the bartender introducing himself, followed a pair of dancers and the photographer coming to see if you’d like a picture. It would’ve been fun, but we look like we’re about to do a 10k run and that would just look strange with a tango hat now wouldn’t it? Dinner was good, and the meats were as awesome usual even if they over cook it (They seem to like over cooking their steaks here!).

The show started at 10:15pm and ran for a full two hours. It was brilliantly planned with very little ‘boring’ parts or getting overwhelmed by crazy dancing footwork. The live band did their thing for about 10mins, followed by some REALLY crazy tango dancing for about 50mins mixed in with some singing here and there. Then out of nowhere they shut the lights and the female singer starts on a Spanish rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, and towards the end all the dancers came out and waved Argentinean flags above our heads (we could feel the gusts of wind from their waving). It was a bit strange and cheesy, but hey, it was pretty good! We expected more tango, but out came a show of the natives of Argentina doing some traditional folk music, and the performers really loved their music and you can feel the contagiousness of the performance. And the folk performers had this guy who would do some crazy rhythmic dancing with two wooden yo-yos that’d make a clicking sound when it hits the floor..so he’d spin the things in various rhythms and dancing along to it! It was crazy! Two full hours later, we were full, extremely content with the really entertaining show we just watched and was out on the street being extremely content.

BA really does liven up a lot when the sun sets and the wine starts flowing. It was a TUESDAY at half past midnight, but people were still happily dining on pasta/grills on the streets, with the waiters still setting tables in hopes of more customers coming. That’s crazy….

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Day 246: Buenos Aires – Argentina – Feb 18th

While eating some delicious frosted flakes at the hostel, a pretty girl in a nice retro looking attire comes over to chat with us, telling us about a local tour she was about to give, and if we would like to join we could watch the short video clip and then head out for a walk. We watched the video, chatted with her for a bit and got a bit more of an understanding about Argentina’s history and briefly understood why things are the way they are here. Like why Eva Peron is so popular, why everyday there seems to be protests. Someone pointed out that, the actual FX rate for dollars is actually 7.5 instead of 5.0 as posted by the official government.

Wait…what? You can get 50% more for your US dollars than at the bank?? W T F? We figured that’s probably because Argentina is going through some serious inflation, with the ‘official’ rate being spec’d at ~11%. Banks say they forecast 2013 inflation to be closer to 30%…… WHAT!?!? Okay, this makes sense now, and it also makes less sense that we keep pulling money out of the ATM if we can get 50% more …. but where?

Since Alan’s goretex jacket decided to pledge guilty and jumped off the boat, he needed another rain jacket for the upcoming hikes we’ll be doing. Heading over to the local Patagonia store, we browsed around and found what he needed, but we needed more pesos to pay for the jacket! (Please read the next post about exchanging money)

The rest of the afternoon was spent admiring Alan’s new jacket, and waiting at the travel agency for information updates on our upcoming trips. It was a bit tricky, and we had to work around several layers of agents and in the end got nothing. They told us, tomorrow they’ll have everything! Okay….we’ll have to trust them, but this was one wasted day.

Near our hostel, we found this Chinese restaurant, and we ate there at lunch and at dinner! The chef was from Guangdong, and made some pretty authentic stuff. Thinking we have a lot more time to eat grilled steak, we settled for more Chinese food now instead. Funny thing is, if you imagined what a Chinese triad-member would look like in South America, that’s the owner. He even walks around without a shirt, showing off his tattoos and all.

Doesn’t matter, he cooks alright and we ended up eating there THREE times!

outside our ho

outside our ho

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Day 245: Buenos Aires – Argentina – Feb 17th

We woke up too late and missed the free breakfast in the hostel, it seems like everytime they do have free breakfast we either wake up too early or too late! We had all day to see the city centre of Buenos Aires, and our hostel couldn’t be more centrally located as we’re about 200m away from the obelisk, a symbol of BA. It’s not as solemn as the one in Washington, but this one wins for being on the widest road ever.

We wandered into the pedestrian zones of Florida Avenue, where it felt more New York City with the architecture, the stores and the mix of figures. Standing about every 10m or so is a guy asking if we’d like to go to their restaurant, and if not would we like to exchange some money. Shady. For lunch, we had some DELICIOUS Argentinean ribs, or asado, grilled to perfection and a tasty bottle of grapefruit soda.

Plaza Mayo is where most of the government buildings are located, and where a lot of history takes place. The president’s office, or Casa Rosada (quite literally, pink house) is overlooking the plaza, along with several statues. Not as impressive as other government buildings we’ve seen around the world, but this one wins because it is open to the public, free admissions AND has a free guided tour!! And the president REALLY works here! How’d we know, well because we went to her office! Cool.

Casa Rosada feels more like an art gallery than government building, with spectacular paintings, hallways dedicated to arts and some modern art pieces in display in most places. Even in the reception area for diplomats and others who would meet the president, they are received in a room with an old Argentinean flag from 1910, and this massive modern art mural. Cool. We stood atop the balcony where presidents make public speeches, and to the office, and when we left we also took the same exit that the president uses (which by the way, is beautifully adorned with the busts of previous presidents, similar to a hall in the Louvre?). Neato!

Around the plaza there was also a cathedral, which in addition to its spectacular architecture, is home to the ashes of the revolutionary hero who liberated Argentina back in the 1800s. Outside though, we were trying to guess what the building was, and we both thought Supreme Court! Nope, it was a church….. the Roman columns and Latin writing totally threw us off.

We then made our way towards the Sunday market at a Dorrego Square, but not before we stopped by a nice little cafe at a shady corner of Graffiti St and Trash Blvd. The streets of BA are rather dirty, with trash everywhere, graffiti on all vertical surfaces and for the strangest reasons, patches of dug up streets that looks like the workers forgot it was there. The shop though served some really delicious coffee, and the whole store just had this NYC feel to it, even down to the green colour used in the exterior canopy. Great stuff, and we moved on with some caffeine and onto the market.

The market was one of the more interesting ones we’ve seen so far, with vendors lined up along both sides of the street offering a variety of different things. We walked and walked and walked, and eventually got to the end of the stalls which we figured was about about 2-3kms long! Every stall had different wares, people were laughing, drinking 1L bottles of beer, sipping mate from a cup+straw, and the whole atmosphere was very very lively. Street performers played some wonderful music, BBQ shops opened up in old parking lots where you can sit on plastic lawn chairs, drink beers, eat some freshly grilled meats and listen to their in-house performers sing Spanish songs as their music seeped across the concrete walls which divided them and the rest of the market. People seemed… happy!

Tempted numerous times to buy something as there were some talented vendors selling some real pretty stuff. We thought about having to carry it for 4months, and reluctantly walked away. The street is also lined with interesting stores behind the stalls, and several antique markets as well.

We strolled through the market until it closed at around 6pm, and stopped by Galerie Pacifico, which is supposed to be a mall but it had this concave dome with frescoes overlooking the shoppers. Pimp. Didn’t buy anything, as most goods in BA seems to be extremely expensive compared to North America. Seems like everywhere we go, most things are cheapest in the USA.

For dinner, we took the subway to another hot pot restaurant. Yes, there are more than one! This one was shadier than the one last night, with moldy and peeling walls, and a female owner that reminded us of some unsavoury figures in her slippers and one-piece nightgown…. sorta like the home-owners in Stephen Chow movies? The food was bad, and extremely overpriced! We had this bottle of green tea, costed 25P or $5USD!!!! Crazy.

BA Subway: We rode the subway 3 times, and only had to pay once! The first time, we walked up to the ticket booth but someone opened the gates for us and waved us over, we tried to pay him but he said “Gratis. It is free!”. Second time, we once again tried to buy a ticket, but nobody was at the ticket booth! So we had to jump the gates, while everyone just paid their fares like normal, self-respecting citizens. The third time back, we finally found an open ticket counter and a police guarding the gates…hehe, 1 for 3 is still a good deal!

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