Rio de Janeiro 2020 Day 7 – Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro day tour to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain and Carnaval Champions Parade.

The flight touched down into Rio De Janeiro without much issues and on time. After taking my luggage and withdrawing cash from the ATM (which I did for the last 2 countries since I stored all my USD in the Youtrip card), I walked from the newer modern terminal 2 to older terminal 1 in a bid to search for the airport hotel called Rio Aeroporto Hotel. It was quite a long walk but when I did arrive, the staff told me that they were fully booked and there was another hotel nearby called the Linx hotel that was outside the airport where I could take a shuttle bus from Terminal 2. I made my way back again and thought I am not going spend anymore time there around the airport area and Uber straight to Pestana Rio Atlântica hotel, 30mins ride away, for almost R$40, slightly more than SGD$12.

Flying into Rio de Janeiro
Information board on the transportation options in Rio
Huge duty free store
Rio Terminal 2
Path to Terminal 1
Older Terminal 1
Rio Aeroporto Hotel
Gate at Terminal 2 for Uber pick up

Went to the reception to check in knowing very well that the room would not be ready but tried anyway. Asked if there were days rates available and was informed that they were fully booked too. I could however used the toilets on a certain level to freshen up and change to another set of clothes. At least that was better than nothing so I did just that, at the 2nd level where typically the convention rooms were situated and thus no human traffic at that time. I used the toilet which was not in the best of conditions and returned my bags to be kept at the bell.

Pestana reception desk
Pestana ground floor
Where’s the close button?

I was also asking if the reception could help with receipt of my Carnaval tickets that supposedly were to be delivered today by the ticket company but they confirmed they couldn’t. They would normally agree for other documents but not for Carnaval tickets, with the same explanations that the tickets were of high value. However, I asked them to at least transfer the message to the tickets delivery personnel that they should return in the afternoon since I was going to be out on a Rio day tour in the morning.

I went to the Copacabana beach to take a walk and took some photos in the gloomy day, all the while being a little cautious about my surroundings fearing that someone would mug me from all the stories online. But while I was there, there weren’t even anyone remotely close to me and found that those feelings were quite uncalled for. After a short walk, I went around the area to find breakfast as the one offered by the hotel was for 42reals but it didn’t looked so good and I was not going to have 2 days of that.

Long stretch of sand to my left….
…and my right

Luckily as I walked around, I saw Santa Marta that looked like a bakery store on the outside and while inside, there were tables like a restaurant. The staff inside invited me in and as I looked at the large variety of pastries and confectionary, another staff helped me take order. Got myself what looked like pizza, a tart and an americano for 20something reals.

Pestana hotel front
Inside Santa Marta
A slice of pizza
A fruit tart
And the much needed caffeine
Santa Marta, eat in bakery

I returned to the hotel and went to the bar and pool at the topmost floor to admire the view of the Copacabana beach. Took some photos and then returned to the lobby. It was there that I met the tour guide Monica from Rio Carioca who was 30mins early. I got onboard the bus and while we made our way to another hotel, I fell asleep for a short time.

Panoramic view of Copacabana from the pool
The left side view from the pool level
Top of the hotel pool
Sun loungers with a view
Gym room with a view too

It wasn’t long before we got 4 groups of people including myself, 2 of which were Spanish speaking and 2 English. That meant the guide had to talk about the same thing 2 times in different languages!

The first visit was to the Corvocado, where Christ the Redeemer stood. The guide explained the history of Copacabana beach and its development to where it was today. She also went on to described how the statue became where it was today and how it designed and ended up as it was today. Our bus took us all the way to the top where the ticket counter was. Then the guide went to get the tickets before we went to queue for the shuttle bus (no access to private vehicles) to the top. It was a short 5mins trip up after which we alighted and boarded an elevator to where the statue was standing. Immediately after the exit, the majestic view of the entire 30m tall back of the statue came into view. Another few more escalators up and then there was where it got very crowded! People all over the place were trying to get their photos with/of the Redeemer, one of the New 7 Wonders. I took a few selfies and the guide took some photos for me. There was a good view of the beaches and Sugarloaf Mountain from here but the fog was covering everything and so I couldn’t get a postcard perfect shot.

Normal zoom of the Redeemer from ground level
Super zoom from the tour bus
View from the ticket level
Where the tickets were sold and also the souvenir shop
Tickets to the Redeemer
Shuttle bus that came back from the Redeemer
Direction to boarding of the shuttle bus
An interesting reuse of gigantic old tree trunk
While inside the shuttle bus
Elevator to the Redeemer
Panoramic view of the surrounding from the Redeemer level
Huge statue towering above
The real crowded scene
Another Panoramic view of the surrounding but the clouds…

We met at the bottom of the elevator at the agreed time (after I messed up the meeting place and realized no one was there and went to the right one) and proceeded to board the shuttle bus and take the route back to the ticket office level. From there, our bus brought us to the next location, Sugarloaf Mountain.

Old Aqueduct
Caixa da Mãe D’água – Mother of water box
Location of the train station to Redeemer, at Rua Cosme Velho, 513
This is a TV station with so many satelites
Palácio Guanabara from the bus

It was about a 30mins drive to Sugarloaf Mountain and similarly, we alighted to wait for the guide to get the tickets for the cable car. Then it’s up to the cable car station where a huge gondola would carry like a truckload of people to the first location called Urca Hill and then a second station transfer to the taller Sugarloaf Mountain. The guide led us directly to the Sugarloaf Mountain where the view was simply amazing. We could see the beaches and the Redeemer plus the islands all around. Spent about 30mins there before returning to the Urca Hill where we took a group photo with the Sugarloaf Mountain. There was a Havaianas store but I couldn’t get the size for the model I wanted. That was then the end of the tour, we took the cable car back down to the ground level where some of the groups wanted to be left there to continue on their own tour of Rio while the rest of us shuttled back to the hotel. I bade farewell to the guide upon arrival at Pestana and tipped her 50reals.

Cable car station at the ground floor
Heading to the cable car station to board the cable car
View of the rope to the top
Cable car tickets
Picture of an old cable car
Brasil plant, where the name of the country originated
Panoramic view from the Urca Hill
Walking to the next cable car station to the Sugarloaf mountain
The cable car station to the Sugarloaf mountain
Our ride arrived
Panoramic view of the Copacabana beach
Another panoramic view
And another view
The engineer behind all the amazing cable car
Gears going around all day
View of Sugarloaf Mountain from Urca Hill
Samples of the cable cars now and from the past
And I have the pleasure shaking his hand
Interesting monkey spotted…
while on the way to the cable car

I was able to check in this time around and was given a room on the 8th floor with a partial view of the beach. I guessed the room would have had a perfect sunrise view but the gloomy weather wasn’t letting me have it. I took a bath and went to bed, as the lack of sleep on the plane previously was hitting me.

My room
Small window but a nice wallpaper
View from the window

The next time I woke up, it was when my room phone rang and I was informed over the call that the delivery person had arrived and was at the reception. I went down to sign for my tickets and returned back to the room to leave all these important stuff into the safe before heading out for a late lunch. Found a Bibi Sucos fast food restaurant and ordered the grilled chicken with rice and mixed vegetables and juice for 40something reals. The food was not bad in my opinion.

My carnaval tickets and lanyard
Inside the restaurant
Main meal
With a juice smoothie
Bibi Sucos restaurant

I went to the Havaianas store nearest to the restaurant but there I couldn’t find the sizes as well. However, there was another one just a couple of hundred meters away which was bigger as informed by the staff and went there and got what I wanted! I returned to the hotel and continued to sleep as my helicopter tour that I had reserved with Rio2fly was cancelled due to the weather. I didn’t have anything else and was too tired to go to the beach (and the weather didn’t help!).

One of the many streets at Copacabana
The big Havaianas store

The pick up for my Carnaval parade was at 830pm and I went down just in time as I met the attendant who brought me onto a big 40 seater bus. The bus then travelled some distance before I was transferred to another bus but one with bigger seats. From there, it was the journey to the Sambadrome. We arrived into a really crowded place with so many people turning up for the Champions’ Parade, the last day of the Carnaval. There were many people who came dressed up as well.

My first bus
Change over to another bus
Bus with more spacious seats. Notice the Red Indian headgear
Disembarked and joined a crowd entering the Sambadrome
The entire area had many different decorations
And many stalls lined the area

I entered through the sector 7 entrance and the staff led me to my seat at boxed area with a shelter. There were some people already there in the box but we were all sharing that area.

Panoramic view of Sambadrome

I went out to get some dinner in the form of a burger and a beer for 21reals from the bar and returned to the box to eat. The champions parade had 6 schools each given 1hr to parade through and from the start, I was completely loving the whole atmosphere, with all the singing and the singing along (although I didn’t understand any of the words) and the beautiful synchronised drumming; all the samba dancing to the beat of each parade, both out in the parade walkway and within the viewing areas; I was taking lots of photos of the colourful floats and the costumes!

The only major party pooper was the weather. Right from the start the rain had been merciless and came down continuously, drenching everyone out there in the open. Even for myself who was under the shelter, I also got wet as the rain came in from the sides. However, no amount rain was able to extinguish the fiery passion of these paraders and their supporters, who were out there in the open in full force wearing ponchos and samba dancing the night away! I thoroughly enjoyed the night that lasted all the way till 5am in the morning for the last parade by this year’s champions!

Some photos of the schools – Mangueira in 6th position

Fireworks for the school of the every school’s parade

Salgueiro in 5th position

Beija-Flor in 4th position

Mocidade in 3rd position

Grande Rio in 2nd Position

Champions of Carnaval 2020 – Viradouro

The return back to the hotel was a chaotic movement out of the place as hordes of people were making their way out. Thankfully I was still able to find the meeting place for the bus pick up and then after waiting for a little more, I finally boarded the bus and left the Sambadrome. I fell asleep on the bus and by 6am I was back at my hotel.

Machu Picchu 2020 Day 5 – Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu museum, Aguas Calientes and train to Cusco

It was another early day but due to the disrupted sleep, I didn’t really feel rested. It was my last day at Machu Picchu and I had to prepare everything for check out.

By the time I was all packed and ready, it was about 615am that I arrived at the breakfast area and I was the only person there. I ordered the eggs Benedict with sausage as sides. The buffet line had cold cuts and pastries mostly and a section for Japanese cuisine which was weird (like why?). I try to finish my food quickly and got a bottle of water from the bar to take with me to the hike.

Breakfast from the tables
Sausages from the kitchen
Beautiful egg benedicts!
Breakfast at the same bar the night before, quite empty

When I exited the hotel after checking out, I found the weather looking really good! So much for the low season, I was having good weather luck! My entry (with the tickets purchased online, same thing but purchase in advance is very much recommended since they are really popular) into the site was for the purpose of scaling up Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind the citadel and I hurried to the gate which was within the Machu Picchu site itself, requesting help along the way to get there. When I arrived, there was a long queue at the gate trying to enter (as people have to register their entry for tracing person). I only managed to pass through the gate at 715am.

Morning lazing around for the llama
Morning fog but not as bad as the previous day!
Queuing to enter

The hike to the top was very tiring, due to the steepness of the climb that began soon after crossing over to Huayna Picchu and I had to catch my breathe with the thin air. Along the way, I met a few people and we helped each other take photos and encouraged each other to push on. It was near the top that I was in awe of the view around. I found it weird that I haven’t seen the Citadel but only saw it when I was on my way down. This is the other perspective of it rather than the one where everyone was used to. According to the guide that was with me the day earlier, the view of Machu Picchu from the Huayna Picchu would show that the citadel was constructed like a condor. Unfortunately, I could only use my imagination to see that.

Panoramic of the surroundings
Path at the beginning of the hike
Huayna mountain in fog
Getting steeper
looking back after hiking up
and upwards
The view as the fog started to clear
The steps at the side of the mountain
Still a long way up
Had to take a selfie from the top
Arrived at the peak

The journey was supposed to be 2hrs return (there was a longer circuit but was closed) but I definitely spent more time than that, because at the viewpoint where I could see the citadel, I sat there and waited till the fog passed before taking a photo and moving on. Its ok since I had time. I was just snapping away for the entire hike!

Found the other longer circuit but it was closed.
When you reached the top, its time to go down
Path going down can be a little steep
View of the citadel with a little fog
Buildings can be found on Huayna Picchu
Tight path between rocks
Another viewpoint

When I was finally satisfied, I headed for the exit and it was then that I realized the part where we were initially climbing up the steep stairs was the place where it had a good view of the citadel! It was just that the fog had blocked out the view entirely in the morning while I was climbing up! But it was fine as the fog cleared out quite a bit on the way down and I enjoyed my selfies and photos (therefore the entrance scheduled on a later time might actually be better).

This is the view from the steep stairs
One more view

Back at the citadel, the view was excellent, very different from the first day I was there! I could imagine that the American ladies I met the day before at the bar being happy with the luck they have that they need not visit again in the afternoon. I also couldn’t resist a few more photos before I found myself back at the hotel.

Citadel was cleared of fog
Last few photos of this beautiful place
Of the surroundings
Of Huayna Picchu
And of llama
Map of the site outside

Withdrew my bag and proceeded to the day room to use the shower. The room was essentially a gigantic toilet and shower and so I moved everything inside and locked the door. Repacked the bags and then took a bath. It was great to be feeling refreshed before moving on. I dropped my back with Belmond as they had a bell service which brings guests’ luggage direct to the train station and I left Machu Picchu, taking the shuttle bus down the mountain.

View from taking the shuttle bus down

I had forgotten that I should inform the bus driver to let me alight near the bridge so that I could visit the museum and so I only got to disembark at the town. I had to walked back to the bridge which took about 20mins but the staff that stands guard at the bridge informed that the museum only opened at 12noon and I had about 30mins to the time it opens. Went to the cafe next to the bridge to use the restroom for 2soles and have an Americano for 5soles. It felt really nice to just sit next to the gushing river enjoying a hot cup of coffee.

The shuttle bus
Walking back towards the bridge
Nice walking path next to the river
River was quite full and furious from the recent downpour
Colorful Machu Picchu sign
Shops on one side while the river on the other
Butterfly park which I mistook as the entrance to the museum
View of butterfly park from the top
Altar on the road to protect the road users
Coffee place
My Americano
View from the coffee place

Continued on across the bridge and it was about another 5 mins walk before I arrived at the small museum. Registered to enter and then spent some time looking at the information, quite a bit of them reinforced what the guide had shared.

Crossing the pedestrian bridge
Direction signs to the museum
Path to the museum
Path to trek up to MP
Site Museum building
Inside the small museum
Old photo of Machu Picchu on the wall
Not many people and rather spacious inside
Various artefacts dug from the site
Coca life from which the coca tea comes from

The walk back to the town was bad as there was a slight drizzle. I checked a few shops to look for an alpaca soft toy and was quoted about 30soles for a medium sized one. Couldn’t decide so I went to in search of a restaurant for lunch.

View of Aguas Calientes in the day time
There’s a central market
Which was part market part food center
Streets along Aguas Calientes

Visited number 1 on TripAdvisor and it was an Italian restaurant called Incontri del pueblo Viejo, which was a little more expensive than expected but the food was absolutely delicious! I was calculating my funds (and realising that I was running short of cash) and thought that I would pay with my credit card and so I ordered a desert too. They wrote Singapore on the plate which was really a nice gesture. The waiter also requested my help to put a review on TripAdvisor and gave me wifi to do it, and since I really like the food, I put in a review. I paid 90soles including tips for the main, desert and a glass of lemonade.

Inside of the restaurant
Lomo Saltado consisting of steak and vegetables
Ice cream dessert
Incontri del pueblo Viejo

It was getting late and I quickly completed my shopping of getting a book on Machu Picchu for 38soles, buy a model of Machu Picchu for 8 soles, an alpaca for 30soles and a polo tee for 43soles before going to the train station.

View of the river running through the town
Lots of stores to choose from

I arrived there shortly but spend some time to look for Belmond hotel counter but there wasn’t a permanent area for the hotel. There was only a sign but I couldn’t find the staff although I saw my bag locked up within a mobile cage. One lady was asking for help and another person who worked there assisted to contact the Belmond bell, who returned soon after.

The train station at Aguas Calientes
Luggage kept in the trolleys
Multiple train company counters in the small space

After retrieving my bag, I proceeded to the train station and it was just a crazy amount of crowd within the building. I just stood outside for time to pass but there was also a small drizzle making the wait miserable. Thankfully that passed quickly and the boarding began soon after.

After the gate was the building and a small park
Packed like sardines
Finally boarding my train

This time I was sitting the 360 that had more windows than the one I took to Aguas Calientes and I was seated with 2 Germans. Again there wasn’t much interactions and so I just went on with typing out my travel journal on my iPhone. Food was served but I wasn’t hungry. Packed the chicken sandwich and the brownie into my bag and gave away the fruit to my neighbour who looked happy to receive it.

View on the inside of the 360
Train snacks

Spent the remaining time looking at the view outside and shooting the views. There was a Pisco tasting available as the train staff push a cart around and I gladly declined as I didn’t want to end up drunk. The German man opposite me had a taste of it and the staff asked him to try with chocolate. The result as he declared – not much difference! That was funny.

View from the train
A tree caught in the raising level
Cows can be seen sometimes
Terrace like Machu Picchu
Quite a variety of shrubs
Meandering river

When we arrived at Ollaytambo, the train staff led us to the buses where Incarail was but there was a long queue for the toilet as there were only 3 cubicles but a trainload of people. What’s funny was that the staff actually came over to hurry the people but that didn’t really have any effect on people with full bladders.

Ollaytambo was really busy as people waited for the train

I boarded my bus number 6, the number was given to me on the train itself after I am done with the restroom. Most of the seats were taken and I found it rather constrained on space as I sat in with my haversack at where my legs were supposed to be and my sling bag on my lap. The passenger in front even lowered his chair and I had to move my bag to the aisle. Anyways, I did manage to catch some winks since there weren’t anything much to see outside, except for the occasional small towns that were lit up with lights, as it was dark already.

We disembarked at the Inca Rail office and I used their restroom one more time before walking upslope towards my Hotel Plaza De Armas. Checked in and proceeded to my huge bedroom which was a little cold and didn’t have any windows. The good thing about this hotel was that it was just so near to the main square.

View of the Qorikancha at night
Hotel Plaza de Armas
Huge bed
Separate sink and bath and toilet
Quite spacious

The night was spent in the room while I had the chicken sandwich for dinner/supper. Set up the heater near the toilet as it got really chilly there and fell asleep on the bed. Woke up after a bit and finally decided to take my bath before spending some more time on the phone and then lights off for the night.

Machu Picchu 2020 Day 4 – Machu Picchu morning tour, Sun Gate and Inca bridge

I jumped out of bed to turn off the alarm which I set on the loudest just so that I am sure I wake up so as not to miss the bus up to Machu Picchu. It was 5am and I felt really tired from probably the lack of sleep. I pushed on and got myself ready.

Proceeded to the 5th floor to have breakfast and the entire restaurant was empty. Seemed like I was the only person staying in this low season. The staff was still preparing the breakfast by the time I arrived so I just sat there and Instagram, the one time that I could connect to the wifi (it’s not possible in the room).

Breakfast area

When the food was ready, it came in loads and in waves! There was bread, cold cuts, coffee, scrambled eggs (with salt, what?) and cereal with yoghurt. They were not the most presentable but they taste ok! I finished the breakfast and returned to the room for a final check and a toilet visit before checking out and leaving for the bus.

Cereal yoghurt
Table full of food

The bus station was incredibly close, I could see the queue right at the doorstep of the hotel and it stretched quite far from the start of the line. Two lady staffs were there to pre-check the tickets, one for the bus and the other for Machu Picchu entry. The line didn’t move until it was about 630am and this was for the entrance time of 7am. I guessed that controls the bus traffic and the human traffic at Machu Picchu, which was not a bad thing.

It’s a long queue!
Bus to Machu Picchu

The only bad thing was the weather, extremely gloomy with a ongoing but very slight drizzle and I knew in my mind that I might be in for quite a wet visit today. We loaded up the bus and it was about a 25mins ride up the mountain with many bends along the way. It was impressive driving from these bus drivers as sometimes there would be two buses sharing the same lane and it was not a big lane for these big buses! I saw there were people who tried to hike up the mountains instead of taking the buses and I applaud their bravery but I think it’s crazy to do that.

I alighted at the bus station at the top and met the group of Mexicans whom I met from the previous day train ride who were there to visit too. I bade them good luck with the visit as the terrible weather continued and went over to Belmond Hotel (the only hotel within walking distance to Machu Picchu) to drop off my bag pack and did the registration for check in first (since the rooms cannot be ready at such early hours). Then as I returned to the gate of Machu Picchu, I saw the French ladies (whom I met from the previous train ride too) who said they attempted to hike up the mountain but had to give up as it was really difficult and ended up hitchhiking the bus for the rest of the journey up!

Entrance to the luxurious Belmond

There was a guide who approached and asked if I needed his guide services. He quoted 250pesos for one person which was expensive in my opinion for 2hrs of work but I wanted to learn about the visit and so I agreed to it. I thought I could distribute the costs by getting the French ladies to join but they weren’t keen as they wanted to visit the Inka bridge more than to do the tour.

With a rain coat on, I entered the site with my tickets purchased online(advance purchase are required because tickets can get sold out!). The guide brought me around the place and since we were walking the lower circuit that goes right into the area with all the buildings, I could see up close the details of the buildings and its surrounding area. There was another upper circuit which was more of the scenic route but with the ongoing fog, there was no scenery to speak of. Through the guide, I learnt information about the temples and the construction of their buildings, which had similarities with those of the Mayan, their way of life in harmony with nature around them, and the total lack of writings/cravings that led to a gap in theoretical postulations of what happened and what actually happened.

Exploring Machu Picchu
Space to put in the decorations
What the buildings looked like with a roof.
Foggy morning
Drainage system
Temple of the Sun on the right background
Panorama of the surrrounding
Round stubs on the sides for tying down the roof
Inside the chamber of the Chief’s residence
Huayna Picchu could be seen in the background.
River within the valley
The Main Temple. The back wall had shifted due to soil movement
The blocks used in the temples were the most precise
Inca Chakana, will be completely formed with its shadow.
A compass!
Doing a check on its accuracy wth my phone
A rock carving represent the mountain in the background
Windows aligned
Still massively foggy
These are thought to be mirrors in a building without roof
Thought this mouldy growth looked like a panda

Before the guide left me to roam around as he completed his service, he provided some tips on where I should go in the afternoon and for Huayna Picchu. The circuit I took was a one way circuit and that meant I couldn’t get to the top terrace to take that panoramic view. But given the fog and the rain, I didn’t bother as I left my luck to the afternoon visit. So I waited for the Condor temple to open (there are opening hours within the citadel to different buildings to have crowd control and limit exposure to visitors,this temple opens from 10am to 1pm while the Temple of the Sun opens from 1pm to 4pm) to check it out and tried to photograph the “condor” before leaving the site for the hotel.

Temple of the Condor. Shaped like a Condor!

I checked with the staff and the room wasn’t ready so I went up to the terrace to have a look. There was a pathway that went a little higher, I guessed it was built that way with the idea of providing an access to some viewpoints of the beautiful area but the surrounding tall trees weren’t doing them any favors, effectively blocking out the views. I returned to use the day room toilet and I found that rather self sufficient and would be enough for me to clean up after my last visit in the morning the next day.

Heading to the Terrace
Large lounge area at the terrace
Water feature while exploring the terrace
More waterfall
Clean walkpath within the vegetation
Not much of a view though
Little garden at the end
One of the blooming flowers
Inside the day room
Shower available

Went to the bar to get a drink and have asked for a cactus fruit drink which tasted a little sour, like plum juice. Since lunch buffet started at 11am and my room was a full board with full mini bar, I just went ahead to eat first.

In the bar
Refreshing cactus drink

Lunch buffet was pretty alright, although there wasn’t a lot of variety but the quality was good. The trout ceviche was really nice and so was the medallion alpaca, as informed by the guide. So good I went for a second serving of ceviche! ( the reason being that trout is freshwater and that is the freshest fish in this area for ceviche). A bit more IG update with the wifi that they had given me at the bar and then I left for the retail shops outside to see if there’s any souvenirs to buy. I wasn’t sure what to get so I left empty handed.

Buffet line at the main restaurant for lunch
Round 1
Second row with more Ceviche

After all this time, the room was finally ready when I approached the reception. I was brought to the room that had been upgraded and it was big with a personal patio balcony (though I doubted how much time I would spend there). Then it was some rest time as I watched Running Men online and even a shut eye before my afternoon entrance to Machu Picchu.

Open wardrobe
My room’s patio
View from the patio

I woke up close to 2pm and made my way to Machu Picchu for my round 2. This time I took the scenic route and boy did my bet on the last entry ticket pay off as this was when the sun was rose up, the fog was all but gone and the entire site was revealed in its glorious beauty! Needless to say, the entire visit was dominated with photos and panoramas. I made my way to the Sun Gate first which was about a 20mins hike up. It was easy to run of breath as the path was going uphills most of the time. The view of the mountains on the other side of the river were also breathtaking.

Some signs seen on my 2nd entry
Panoramic view while walking to Sun Gate
Giant millipede
Cobbled pathway
Panoramic scenery

I made a stop halfway through the hike as I saw a couple going into an area out of bounds which had a flat surface on the rock hill. I ventured into the area as well and understood from them that there was actually the sound of the river being heard in that enclosed area! I guessed the sound waves traveled all the way upwards and then deflected there. It was an interesting experience to hear that.

The Sun Gate at the end of the route wasn’t looking all too impressive on its own but the view from there made up for it. Returned on the same route and then got onto the route to the Inka bridge. With the better weather, it looked like the route had opened up (whereas it could have been closed due to bad weather). Again walking there had a lot of stops because I couldn’t help myself as I kept taking pictures. Then I saw a llama for the first time, and subsequently 2 and more – it was photos galore.

Pillars of the Sun Gate
The view looking outwards from the mountain
Panorama of the most popular viewpoint
My selfie with the llama

The route to the Inka bridge was much easier but there was a need to register at a manned hut to keep track of people going that route. This route showed the other side of the mountains with the river and it was amazing too! It didn’t take too long before I arrived at the bridge. There was a gate nearer to the bridge but that was closed to prevent access to the bridge, which to me, didn’t look really that impressive nor stable to walk on. Met 2 Peruvians, a father and son maybe, and had a small chit chat with them. And they were happy to see a visitor from the Singapore visiting their country!

The view on the way to Inca Bridge was breathtaking
Zoomed in picture of the Inca Bridge
Panorama of the Inca Bridge area
Gate closed to prevent access to Inca Bridge
Path that I took to the Inca bridge
Registration counter before walking to Inca Bridge

After the bridge, I walked back (again on the same route) to an open space with the views of Machu Picchu and sat there to chill. Started to jot down the happenings of today and it felt really great to do that, with that awesome view in front of me. However, all too often I got carried away with snapping photos and even did some photos (like some poser influencers) for fun, and was honestly happy with the result.

My poser shot
The view while I sat there to chill

As the time approached 430pm, one of the staff there urged me to start walking out, slowly. i felt a little disappointed having to go so early (as I thought the site closes at 5pm), I stopped what I was doing and start walking and as I went along the way I was also snapping away. There was a field with lots of llamas and guessed what? More selfies, what else?

More Llamas
Walking down towards the exit
Sun from an angle casting shadows over Machu Picchu

I came to another viewpoint and stopped there to sit down again, with 2 staff there who were blowing into a horn made of a huge seashell. I checked out how they were doing it and found that there was actually a mouthpiece that was being fit into the shell. But still it was impressive when the sound came out and out into the valleys making an echo. After some demonstrations in which I tipped them 1USD, they urged me to start walking out too.

View of one of the huts from below
Last one before leaving the site

Then it was more photos while walking till I was finally out of the site. At the exit there was a stamping station that during my earlier visit, I didn’t have a chance to stamp onto my passport due overcrowding. Now that there was no one at the stamp, I then thought over it again and questioned  if that was actually a legal thing to do by stamping onto the passport? Eventually, I stamped onto my tickets instead.

My stamp on my ticket instead of passport

Returned to the room to get a drink from the bar and finish up on jotting down on the notebook. It was a relatively easy day and time was on my site. Relaxed at my patio to enjoy my drink (as I don’t really get to enjoy the room facilities that often during a trip) but there was my neighbors who were a couple that were really loud with their lovey dovey chit chat but I guessed this place was really a romantic destination for couples. The chillness was starting to return with the evening when I retreated back into the room.

View had improved from the morning but the sun lounger was still not in use

Was lazing around till it was 6pm and then I proceeded to bar for Pisco tasting, without knowledge what I was about to taste. I was the first one there and a while later, a pair of American ladies joined the table. The bartender Jose started the introduction of the Pisco, which I learnt soon enough, was actually hard liquor and tasted something like Vodka. It was an interesting demonstration with lots of laughs within the group, learning information about the Pisco and the impossible varieties of potatoes which we were also given a bowl of that to eat. I even got to learn how to mix a cocktail by getting behind the bar to do it under the supervision of Jose. The alcohol content was really high, and when I finally downed all my Pisco Sour, I was not able to have the dinner (included in my full board) and decided to return to my room to rest.

Hotel bar
All the different Pisco
Amazing varieties of potatoes, a sampler for us
Pisco cocktail that i made
Pisco Sour

I was totally knocked out and the next thing I remembered, I woke up midway and drowsy to bath and eat some snacks from the bar (because I missed the dinner) before returning back to bed.

Cancun 2020 Day 2 – Chichen Itza sunrise tour, Ik Kil Cenote, Marlin beach and flight to Lima

Day 2 started early, like 4am to be precise. Got out of bed and prepared myself before heading downstairs to meet up, supposedly at 430am. I didn’t see anyone around and couldn’t remember where the meeting place was until the receptionist brought me to the place for tea and asked me to wait for the staff who had only just arrived and were busy preparing breakfast.

Restaurant for the meet up

It was a simple meal consisting of a pastry and coffee but it was enough for me. I was the earliest and while I sat there busy with my phone jotting down my memory of yesterday, people were started to come down from their rooms to this meet up location. Soon the guide was organizing and separating the people into groups and then we were on our way into the Chichen Itza grounds, through the special entrance connected to the resort a short walk away.

My pastry in a cup of coffee
Tickets into the Chichen Itza site

There was a senior couple where the wife was wheelchair bound and the husband was trying his best to push her around. There was a certain section of the road where it got really difficult to push as the rocks on the ground were too big and obstructing the wheelchair. This was made worse by the fact that there weren’t any lights and it was difficult to see. They were on the verge of giving up but we tried to help them as best as we could, like providing light and helping them move the wheelchair. With personal this experience, I preach to everyone who wants to travel to do so while they are still fit if not it would be a struggle for both the person and their travel partner.

Entrance at the resort
Follow the sign

The fun thing about this guide was he was able to present the facts in an amusing way and I learnt a lot from this tour. One thing was that whatever was portrayed in the movies were in fact misconstrued due to misinterpretation of the wall carvings! Mayans were portrayed to offer human sacrifices and chop off heads at the top of the temples but that was not really true according to the guide. There was also demonstrations of the acoustics capability (like echo that mimics the sound of the kukulkan bird when clapping in front of El Castillo) and astronomical powers of the Mayan people as many of the buildings there had been designed to meet the various sun events. The facts were further reinforced with photos shown on an IPad. Lastly, being an avid photographer himself, he provided the lights to make the photography in the dark looked fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed the sunrise tour.

Before the break of dawn
Where we stood for photos
A cenote underneath the pyramid?
A little bit more light
Rack of skulls carvings to scare invaders
Silhouette of a dragon mouth
Explanations of carvings on walls at ball court
Panoramic view of sunrise
With more light
Lighted up

The tour took place in the main site where the temples and the ball court were. There were other ruins around but it was more for ourselves to roam around to see. There was the observatory that my room had a view of, which became out of bounds for all visitors due to recent graffiti act carried out on the walls. However I managed to sneak pass the guard as it was still early and catch a glimpse of what’s there. However, I forgotten what was the meet up time and stupidly walked out of that section to check with the guide. Then when I tried to walk back to that section, I was prevented from going through.

Panoramic view of the area where the observatory was
Other smaller pyramid and ruin
El Castillo – walking back observatory
Pathways around the area
A hut
Inside the hut
Another temple ruins
Cenote at Chichen Itza

Made a phone call back to Singapore to connect with my son who was supposedly about to sleep. Managed to show him the Mayan pyramid as I bade him good night.

Bade few of the tour mates good bye and paid the guide 120pesos of tips as I thought he was great and even got his contacts just so that I can share these with people who were interested.

The good thing about starting early was that there was still a good amount of time available in the morning and the guide suggested that I visit Ik Kil cenote as I wanted initially and to get there early (like once-it-opens-at-9am-early) to avoid the crowds. Therefore I went to the cafe back at the resort to get a pastry and an Americano for 57 pesos, before returning to the room to get ready. Brought along the towel just in case and drove less than 10mins to Ik Kil cenote.

Retail shops at the resort
Bought myself a sourvenir
Tu Uk Cafe at the resort
Pastries for breakfast, please!
My breakfast

The cenote had a gate and going through it, I realised the place had turned into a compound of sorts, with carparks and big changing rooms with showers and lockers for rent. There were safety vests available for rental too. Carpark was free and a road marshal was guiding the first few cars into the spaces. I went ahead to pay the 80pesos for entrance fee and then proceeded to the lockers to rent one at 30pesos, where I was given a wrist band with a locker key. Kept all my valuables into the locker and just brought along my phone. I couldn’t find towels rental but didn’t care much anyway so just proceeded to a required shower first before climbing the spiral stairways down to the waters.

Entrance to Ik Kil Cenote
Ik Kil tickets counter
Ik Kil sign
Huge compound!
Directions to the cenote
Locker rental
Got my keys and band
Seating area near the lockers
Shower before entering cenote

Once I entered the cave, I could already feel the chills of the cold air, much like what you would expect from the cave. Plus the shower before was quite cold too, this made me already feel cold even before going into the water. Upon reaching the bottom, there were already quite a number of people there, and people were already jumping off from a flight on stairs into the waters. I watched a bit before taking my move – climbed down the stairs into the cold water. An initial cold struck me but quickly my body adapted to it and it felt nice swimming in the fresh spring water of the cenote. The water wasn’t clear though and thus I couldn’t see too far into the water except my own legs. In fact I couldn’t see much as I have left my glasses and my phone in between my slippers on land.

View from the top
At the cenote, people jumping off from the left!
Flight of stairs to get to the cenote

I got out after moving along in the water for a while and just did a bit of people watching. The problem with solo traveling was that you would need help sometimes to take photos of you doing stuff. I contemplated first if I should do the leap into the water and second if someone could video that for me on my phone. Eventually, after waiting like forever, I left my glasses and phone again and proceeded to the jump off from the location where everyone was jumping from. There was a lifeguard there in control of the human access and after a quick intro and some tips on posture from him, I stepped off the edge and was plunging down into the water. In that split second of G force followed immediately with waters gushing into the nose, I felt the familiar cold hitting my body again. I quickly recovered, swimming up to the surface. However there was no video evidence to prove this deed and memory would only be best remembered by myself only.

Last photo before leaving

I stayed to people watch a bit more before snapping some last photos and heading out to change out into dry shorts. Drove back to the resort and went straight into the bathtub to bath. There was still some time compared to my initial itinerary and thus I made the best out of the tub with the view.

By 1130, I have checked out and was on my return journey back to Cancun. First was a gas top up at the town of Piste with 400pesos that filled my quarter full tank. The pump assistant was well versed in what the tourists always wanted to check due to the massive amount of scams warnings online. He showed me the amount entered and showed the resetting of the previous volume before proceeding with top up. I paid with a 500 peso note and getting the change was easy.

Driving back was same as the previous days of driving into Chichen Itza. The tolls were same as with 80pesos upon entering the highway and nearer to Cancun, 328pesos. I saw there were 2 times where the police were stationed along the road to probably catch speeding vehicles and on this stretch to Cancun, there were more road works that turned the 2 lanes to 1, compared to the road in the opposite direction. But this wasn’t a big deal anyhow as I blasted my music over the speakers throughout the 2hr15mins journey to the Cancun downtown.

The GPS brought me to the restaurant Chila Y Quil where TripAdvisor reviewers had recommended them for serving awesome Chilaquiles, where one IG traveler (@wetravelmexico) had recommended that I should try these local dishes. So there I was parking the car at the available carpark just outside the restaurant and entered the local restaurant that had really warm and friendly waitresses.

After sitting down, the waitress helped me with the menu, explaining the dish and how I wanted it. Went for the biggest size and her recommendation of pork slices without spice and Jamaica drink. When the food came, it was a point of no return as I dug in and finished everything. It was really good! I paid 120pesos including tips. On my way out, while I took some photos of the place, I was asked to take photos together with the waitresses which I gladly did, a selfie with them. Shared the photo with them by sending the photo thru their restaurant Facebook page. Was good fun!

On the outside of the restaurant!
Inside the restaurant
Chilaquiles – yummy!
The warm ladies of Chila Y Quil
Restaurant location

I was still having the idea of visiting the beach and was in a better attire than previously. So I punched in Playa Marlin. After entering the hotel zone, I was again worried that I couldn’t find a car park and so I just parked at the multi storey carpark at the Plaza La Isla mall. Then I walked the remaining distance to the beach, the nearer I got there the more I regretted as I realised there were better parking options.

Giantic Mexico Flag
Plaza La Isla

I entered the small road and as I looked at the map on the phone, I was suddenly hit in the head. The sharp pain ripped through my skull and as I touched my forehead, there was blood. I quickly took out some wet tissues to clean up and applied compression to stop the bleeding. With the throbbing pain, I stood up slowly to see what attacked me and found that I had walked straight into a thick branch that was same level as my height! I was ultra pissed but moved on anyway; thankfully was just a small superficial cut. The beach entrance was not too far away and upon entering, I was again greeted with the beautiful view of the crashing turquoise waters! This time I got close to the waters to enjoy the view and the sand in my toes and the cold but impactful waves upon my legs. I was already thinking of a revisit to this beautiful beach.

Entrance of Playa Marlin
Beautiful beach
Perfect weather and not too rough waves
Panoramic view of Playa Marlin
Another panoramic view away from the view

Didn’t spend too long there since I had a flight to catch and so went to the shower facilities there to wash away sand on the legs before I trekked back to the carpark. Along the way, I stopped at the Fashion Harbour which carried the high end brands, to take a photo of the lagoon and then used the restroom at the mall to clean up and throw away my bloodied tissue. A quick walk around showed that the mall was pretty massive with lots of retail choices and there was even an aquarium there.

High end brands at Fashion Harbour
Many branded retail stores
Not many people around though
Fashion Harbour
Panoramic view of the lagoon from the Fashion Harbour

Paid my carpark fees of 20pesos and I was on my way back to Easy Way car rental. I remembered there was a gas station near the rental company and drove there to top up with 250pesos to get it back to the original level when I took over the car and drove that few meters back. Upon arrival, the return was done very efficiently and even though I was half an hour overdue, they didn’t charge me more. Got on the shuttle back to the airport and we bade farewell to each other.

Cancun airport

Check in at Aeromexico where I was given both my tickets all the way to Lima (transit at Mexico City). I proceeded straight to the gates, passing through the Xray inspection quickly. Spent some time window shopping and spent my remaining 207pesos on a pen, both to serve as a pen for me to fill up any immigration forms and then later as a gift to be given to K when I returned back to Singapore. The pen had a really cute Mexican doll with funny eyes dressed in Mexican costume on its end.

Check in counters
Colorful massive duty free shops
Retail shops
At the gate

I was still feeling full from the lunch, probably due to the expanding tacos so I went to the gate to sit after strolling along the entire length of shops and waited there for the call to board.

The staff informed about the full flight and asked passengers to check in excess luggage for if not, they had to prepare to pay if caught. To be safe I checked with the staff if it’s ok to bring my backpack which was positively acknowledged.

The boarding took a while with so many people boarding. The plane became airborne only at 8pm. I was feeling really fatigue, probably due to the jet lag hitting me and so slept for the front portion of the flight. Woke up in the middle just as they were serving peanuts and drinks and then I spent the remaining time, jotting the events that happened.

On board Aeromexico

Soon thousands of twinkling lights of Mexico City came into sight as the plane made the final approach. The plane landed and I disembarked and proceeded onwards to the transit. Once there, I tried to look for my flight on the board but couldn’t find it anywhere. Went to ask the information counter and was informed that it would be at gate 60 (they also explained that the board may not be updated), which was quite a distance away.

Mexico City view from the plane
Transit through Mexico City
Mexico City airport
My destination was not on the board!

Since I managed to get an upgrade to business through a bid, I tried to access the Salones Premier lounge. However the receptionist told me that my ticket did not allow me any access for free but if I would like, it would cost me 22USD. I wasn’t keen on spending any money since there wasn’t a real motivation for food (plus I’m still kinda bloated).

Salones Premier Lounge

I went to the loo and while sitting inside the cubicle which had a box of used toilet paper next to the toilet bowl. I can’t help but think if this was going to be hygienic for users of the toilet, especially when these get filled. Also didn’t realized that there were still many countries that seemingly looked developed but still having sanitary pipe chokage issues due to toilet paper…

Returned to the gate 60 to plug into one of the free phone chargers so as to ensure my phone got enough juice to last till I get to Cusco the next day night.

Charging stations a blessing!

Soon it was time to board and while the staff was saying something over the speakers, I didn’t understand what he said. So I just stood there and wait for the time to board. And because I had scored the upgrade, I was one of the first to board. (Story continues in Day 3)

Different queue lanes for different section boarding

Cancun 2020 Day 1 – Arrival into Cancun, Hotel Zone visit and Chichen Itza light show

Day 1 started with getting to Changi airport after my son fell asleep at homr as I left for my solo trip. The airport counters didn’t have a lot of people and I checked in my backpack and spent the rest of the time on one of the airport computer station to continue updating my blog for the last trip. With undivided attention, I managed to complete the Vietnam trip blog before taking the sky train to the gate.

Lunar New Year decorations.
Free touch type computer stations at the airport

There weren’t many people at the gate too and I cleared that pretty quickly. The flight SQ22 direct to New York had only business class and premier economy seats and while I walked through the aisle of business class, I noticed that there weren’t many passengers there. But the premium economy section was full!

Settled into my window seat beside another man and then it was an almost 18hrs flight to Newark International airport.

Premium economy seats

The flight itself was pretty smooth, other than a short period of turbulence. The premium economy seats were more comfortable than the economy (maybe after miles redemption with a 51% discount made it all the sweeter!), though it was not my first time taking, I thought I enjoyed the flight a little more than last. I did however felt very uncomfortable with my shoes and had to loosen the laces to ease the throbbing pain that felt like a gout flare up on my foot (later realised that the feet can expand when on a flight).

Spent quite a bulk of time watching movies, such as Charlie’s Angels, Terminator, Maleficent, Godzilla and Hobbs and Shaw ( and I liked Terminator, Maleficent and H&S) and the other parts mostly sleeping. There were food served 3 times with the first meal being my book the cook chicken supper which I thought was nice, followed by a pizza and pudding treat and lastly another book the cook pancake and omelette for breakfast which was tasty too.

Chicken supper meal
Pizza in a box
What it looks like inside

I liked the slightly more luxurious toilet comparing to the normal economy ones, where there were toothbrushes available in the toilet, which I took the opportunity to brush my teeth after waking up.

Sunset over the horizon

Landed into the airport at 510am and thankfully there was no line though it was initially quite confusing if I was at the right line. I managed to go to the automated machine and I cleared that really quickly and then it was off to the luggage belt. By 530 I already found myself outside and contemplating what I wanted to do. Been thinking of paying the Statue of Liberty a visit before the next flight but was quite turned off by the price of the transportation to Liberty State Park (USD18 on Uber) one way which I thought was too expensive. Plus it was just freezing outside and I am not dressed to deal with that cold.

Night view going into Newark
Inside Newark airport
Newark airport on the outside
Sunrise at the airport
New York Downtown in the horizon

Instead I spent some time calling home and talking to mommy and K, just to update them on my whereabouts. I also took my painkillers and gout prescription to help ease the pain on my foot, trying to prevent an escalation of pain on the first day of my trip.

At about 7am, I went to the departures board and found that the check in for my Viva Aerobus flight is open. However it didn’t mention which counter and in Terminal B, there were actually 3 levels of check in available for a variety of flights. I went through all 3 floors and couldn’t find it. So I checked with the ground floor and one staff told me to check level 2. Asked another staff on level two and she told me to proceed to level 3. At level 3 I asked the Singapore Airlines counter and they pointed me to go further. I still couldn’t find and check with another staff and she told me it’s just those counters next door. And the board didn’t indicate the Viva Aerobus logo. *roll eyes*

Check in counters
Check in counters for Viva Aerobus

I checked in pretty quickly and I decided to bring along my backpack on board the plane myself, for the thought of a quick exit once I landed. Then I went through immigrations which cleared pretty quickly too. At the gate, there was not much to see as I went around one of the shops. Then I settled in a restaurant, called The Unusual Times, for some breakfast because I didn’t think I would get any food onboard this flight.

At the departure gate
The Unusual Times restaurant

Ordered the sandwich and a regular coffee which was served pretty quickly but I thought the food tasted great! All these for 20USD including tips.


Soon they were calling for boarding and as I had paid a little more just to sit at the front few rows with our own dedicated overhead compartment space, I got to board earlier. Settled in quickly after the initial wait and glad there was an empty seat in between myself and another passenger seated at nex to the aisle.

View from plane of downtown NYC

We took off on time and as the winter skies provided a clear view of the land below, I just stared out and enjoyed the ride as there were no other form of entertainment available. There were free snacks being served, and I chose the dried cranberries (the other one mango) which had a little spiciness with it. A free drink came with it and I took the coke light amongst the other soft drinks (mineral water not available as it was meant for mixing).

View leaving NY
Dried fruit snack and forms to fill
Dried fruit in the package

The views got better as we got closer to Cancun, the waters and clouds made like a canvas paint on the ground. The shoreline of Cancun was beautiful as well.

View from the plane, somewhere above America
Islands somewhere in the water
Like water colours
Cancun shore line and lagoon
Another view of Cancun

We landed 1hr ahead of schedule and disembarked without much problem. Went to loo before walking to fill up the immigration and custom declaration forms and seeing the snaking queue. There were 3 sections of immigration counters and I chose the last one by counting the number of active counters there were, but it didn’t really matter as the other sections seemed to move just as quickly.

Then as I moved to the custom for exit, I found a chaotic mess of people queuing to get through it. I was shocked but still joined the back of some of the people anyhow. After moving forward then I realized that there were actually quite a number of lines to the xray scan for the bags. That didn’t take forever luckily and I exited the arrival after passing through.

Crowded at customs

First thing I did was to head to the atm but found that these only dispersed USD. I thought why would I want USD in Mexico? So I didn’t draw as I already had USD with me.

Cancun airport arrival
ATM machines at Cancun that disperse USD

Followed the picture instructions given by the rental car company, I went to the meeting point right at the gate but didn’t not find my name on a any signboard. A lot of helpful people were offering taxi and cars and buses but I told them I already got myself a car and waiting for the driver. Some even go as far to offer to call them on my behalf. I didn’t know what were their ultimate intention but I declined anyway.

The meeting place outside of the airport

I called the company and they said they will arrive in 5mins. While waiting, I went into the building in an attempt to search for another ATM. Found one damaged and another one pointed out by another friendly Mexican but I didn’t draw as the ATM didn’t have the Maestro/plus/ usual suspects stickers with the fear that the machine will makan my YouTrip card and that would be disastrous since I have all my money in that card.

Easy Way van came along with a staff holding a board with my name and I hopped onboard. He introduced himself and I immediately recognized him as the same person in the email. He seemed sincere and was unlike the many horror stories I read online about staff of rental companies trying to rip off tourists. He even dropped me off at one of the gas station to use the ATM there, which also didn’t have any stickers on the ATM but I tried and it worked.

The standard procedures happened in the office of Easy Way and I paid for the same amount for what I had requested online reservation, which including the full insurance coverage I had asked for, at a price of USD79 per day. Charged it to my credit card using local currency and then got my car checked before I got onto the road.

Easy Way car rental
The black car was the shuttle from airport to the company

My first stop was to go get my Hard Rock Cafe tee that I would usually do when traveling. So I drove to the hotel zone (long strip of land lined with hotels and retails and beaches catered for tourists) and visited the Hard Rock hotel. The carpark attendant, on understanding the reason of my visit, decided to give me a voucher to redeem a free gift. It was incredible. The hotel itself also looked pretty nicely designed.

Driving to the hotel zone
Hard Rock Hotel
Walking inside the hotel
At the entrance of the hotel

After the quick visit for my purchase, I drove further northwards in the hope to find a carpark to park my car so that I could get down to take some photos of both the sandy beach and the Nichupté lagoon. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any while driving along and only managed to get one pretty far from both the lagoon and beaches. After parking, I walked to the Nichupté lagoon first.

One of the ferris wheel at the hotel zone.

The shortest route led me to an area behind a building and I saw a sign on the fence warning of crocodiles. And not too far from the sign, there was a croc sunbathing in the sun! Took some photos and proceeded to walk to the beach. I found that both the lagoon and the beach as surprising hard to get to as there wasn’t a place to walk to it; seemed like for most these parts of these places were owned by the hotels (at least for the beach).

Warning sign
Is that a croc?
Zoomed in on the sunbathing croc
Panoramic view of the lagoon

I managed to find a Mandala beach entrance that offered a direct route to Playa Forum and I walked through it in my worst dressed beach wear – in my jeans and sneakers. Because of this, I wasn’t able to walk anything past  the edge of beach sand for fear that the soft sand will infiltrate my shoes. From the distance I saw the white stretch of soft sand that went into as far as my sight could reach but what stood out was the turquoise blue waters with waves crashing onto the beachfront! It looked amazing! I took whatever photos that I could master to capture the view but fell seriously short in getting a good image.

The route to the Playa Forum
Playa Forum panoramic view

As soon as I was arrived at Playa Forum, I had to make my way back to the car and be on my way as I had to get to Chichen Itza for the light show at 7pm and it was a terribly long drive of 2.5hrs to reach there. Walking through the streets that had many buildings, some had retails and others empty, I felt that this place really deserved more time than I have given it. Took a picture of the signboard of the famous Coco Bongo club and pretty soon I was in the car ready to drive.

Cancun sign
Coco Bongo club notorious
Retail shops around

Then it was driving all the way, surprised that the GPS made me return to the same hotel stretch saying it was faster and then onwards to route 180 before the 110km/hr 180D. The entire route had many straight roads and were super easy to drive without many cars. The road was well maintained as well. There were two tolls one was somewhere in the middle which was 378 pesos and the one nearer was 80pesos. There was also a police stop which I went past without an issue, as the police asked if I knew Spanish which I replied no.

The first toll
The toll closest Chichen Itza
Going through the small town of Peste

I arrived into Mayaland resort carpark after getting into the wrong route twice, once to the main road to Chichen Itza and once to a Mayaland signboard but the guard told me to go around following the GPS. When I reached the resort, the sun was already about to set.

Mayaland resort

I went to check in at the surprisingly busy reception and was given a room on the 2nd floor. Also paid for the sunrise tour of 1500pesos that will start at 440am the next day. I was in a rush to get to the light show not realizing that Chichen Itza was one hour behind Cancun; I had a little bit more time than I thought.

Went back to the room first to rest a bit and unpack before going to the restaurant which was when I felt very neglected. Nobody attended to me while I waited at the entrance and time was ticking away. I didn’t know if I could make it for the light show if I get dinner. I felt maybe it was because I am Asian and didn’t know Spanish and may not know English and that was why I was being ignored? After approaching one of the staff, I found out that the restaurant closed at 930 but was assured I would be able to return in time for dinner.

Bedroom with 2 beds
Open type wardrobe
Standing shower and toilet
Bathtub with a view!
Panoramic view from the balcony

I went to the reception who told me that I need to drive all the way back to the entrance to enter for the light show (as I initially thought I could enter through the resort private entrance) and so I drove quickly into a pretty crowded carpark and saw a huge crowd already waiting to go in.

The observatory in twilight, taken from Mayaland
Chitchen Itza entrance at night
Crowd waiting for enter

The show began with a lighted up version of the buildings in the site and the people can walk around a prescribed route around to take photos. It was my first time there I couldn’t resist all the selfies I had with the El Castillo. There was no guide in the night tour so it was just photos all the way.

El Castillo and the temple
Ball court
Ball court and El Castillo
Another view
Tzompantii with El Castillo
Venus platform
Walking along with the crowd
Temple of the warriors
Temple close up

Upon completion of the route, I took my seat of A16 in front row and was surprised that my seat view was pretty aligned to the main temple. It was so much different while booking the tickets online as the position shown was more to the right of the temple but in reality it was slightly to the left of the temple center (reference when facing the temple).

View from A16

We waited until everyone was seated, and was slightly worried of the slight drizzle that it would actually rain. Nothing happened literally, not even the light show, as one of the staff came to inform that the show had to be cancelled due to technical difficulties. I was shocked but it seemed normal to everyone as as the people all just stood up and left. Many found themselves at the counter, queuing for rebooking or refund. For me, I just left because it was ridiculous for me to wait in queue while I can go online (the same website to purchase the night show tickets) to refund my tickets.

Seating arrangements

I refunded my carpark costs of 80pesos as well by returning the carpark stub at the exit and drove back to the hotel. Went straight to the restaurant to eat and ordered Mayan cuisine. There were complementary tortilla chips with sauces of various spiciness and I shocked when I tasted one of them which was super spicy. Quickly down some beer to put out the fire in the mouth. My main dish arrived consisting of 4 tacos that had ingredients of  lechon and cochinita, 2 pieces each and it tasted really nice. I also loved the sides that were paste made from beans and some greenish ones which I didn’t know what they were made of. The dinner costed 290pesos with tips.

Carpark ticket
Stalls outside Chichen Itza still opened
Tortilla with 3 sauces of different spiciness
Main dish of 4 tacos
Mexican beer

Returned to the hotel totally drained with my longest 23rd Feb ever (30hrs starting from the 23rd Feb in Singapore). Filled up the massive tub and enjoyed my dip in which I fell asleep a few times. The TV sucked of any shows as it wasn’t receiving any signals and I didn’t get Wifi. But it’s fine, I started to jot down stuff before resigning for the night.

Swimming pool at night
Hall way with stairs to the 2nd level
Night view, a little eerie
Pool table
Another part of the hotel

Jordan 2012 Day 7 – Petra all day

Figured that Petra was worth spending another day, and we knew we were right when we visited on the first day. The place was huge, when we considered the other not so well known parts of the Petra complex and definitely worth the walkabout. The day’s sole activity was to roam this vast grounds that were once inhibited by the Nabateans.

American movies influence at the Petra shops.
American movies influence at the Petra shops.

Walking through the long Siq became easy already since we had did it a couple of times the day before. Still mesmerising to look up and then feel small as the towering walls enclosed on the people passing through.

Another walk through the Siq.
Another walk through the Siq.

There was always the anticipation of seeing the Treasury at the end of the Siq, expecting a different view at different time of the day. True enough, it looked different as the sun highlighted the part it’s sun rays shone true and of course there were camels as accessories.

Day break at the treasury.
Day break at the treasury.
For transportation and tourism.
For transportation and tourism. Dressed for the occasion.

So it was all about freely walking about to see and feel the entire area that had a culture once thriving in the past. The simplest was to follow the map and go to these points of interest. Though without a guide, there were information board to provide some form of knowledge to the simple traveller. As we walked about, there were offers of donkey rides, which we didn’t take, wife being an animal lover not wanting the poor donkey carry us.

Lone donkey, animal commonly used by the Bedouin for transportation.
Lone donkey, animal commonly used by the Bedouin for transportation.

It was a clear day and as much as we loved the fact that the photos will turn out nice, it was just really hot. The climbing of the stairs was made more difficult by the heat.

High place of sacrifice.
High place of sacrifice. Required some climbing, the panoramic view from there was worth it.
Various steps going up and around.
Various steps going up and around.
Qasr Al-bint Temple.
Qasr Al-bint Temple.
Donkey hides in the shade while tourist climb past up the stairs.
Donkey hides in the shade while tourist climb past up the stairs.

Roaming around a corner, we was surprised to find another architectural wonder that looked like the Treasury, only bigger! It was called the Monastery.

Huge Monastery, bigger than the Treasury. I am at standing at its entrance.
Huge Monastery, bigger than the Treasury. I am at standing at its entrance.

From the Monastery, there was a path that led to the End of The World. We had to see and trekked on. It wasn’t really fantastic at the end of the path though, just that you could see the vastness of brown, hills and sand. There was what looked like a home built near the cliff and overlooking the End of the World.

The end of the world view??
The end of the world view??
Living spaces atop the hills.
Living spaces atop the hills.

The place was really huge, had to settle for late lunch at the only restaurant there.

More carved in spaces for the Nabatean.
More carved in spaces for the Nabatean.
View of Petra inner compound from the top.
View of Petra inner compound from the top.

After our break, it was more of walking. We were looking for a place where we could view the Treasury from the top. The directions were given in the lonely planet and we found our way there. It was quite some climbing before we reached the top. Then there was some climbing down to a ledge. There was a bedouin there and he offered me some tea. I had an awesome photo opportunity there!

View of the theatre from atop.
View of the theatre from atop.
The life, drinking Bedouin tea while viewing the Treasury and the world below.
The life, drinking Bedouin tea while viewing the Treasury and the world below.

We left after sweating the whole day, with aching muscles and memories of this new Wonder of the World, truly worthy of its status. We could stay another day but it was time to explore the other places that Jordan had to offer. Dinner was at some random food place.

Chips and meatballs.
Chips and meatballs.
Chicken with rice.
Chicken with rice.
More bedouin tea in a Chinese tea pot.
More bedouin tea in a Chinese tea pot.
Sweet pastries for deserts.
Sweet pastries for deserts.

Jordan 2012 Day 6 – Karak Castle, Shobak Castle and Petra

One of the biggest highlight for the trip was the visit to one of the seven wonders of the modern world. From the dead sea, we travelled south, visiting some of the crusaders castles along the way. The first one being Karak Castle.

View of the castle from the road.
An old cannon beside the castle wall.
Exploring the ruins with a view of the surrounding hills.
Within the castle we were shielded from the light and the heat.
View of Karak Castle
View from the castle top of another part of the castle.

We had a guide to brought us around the castle whom gave us information about the some of the areas. It would not make much sense walking around by ourselves. Left for the next castle, Shobak castle.

Shobak Castle also atop a hill. Much harder to get to compared to Karak Castle.
Mostly in ruins but door arches and stairways still visibly seen.
Solid blocks of stone made up the walls of the castle.
Arabic inscriptions on the wall of the watchtower.

We drove towards Petra and checked into a accommodation Cleopetra Hotel, sited at the Wadi Musa town, minutes (of driving) from Petra.

Simple room.
Bathroom that came with a tub.

Got out from the hotel and stopped at a local restaurant for lunch.

Restaurant with Alfresco dining. Parked our car just outside, no summon auntie to worry about.
Some local drinks for the simmering heat.
Lunch of mutton rice and soup.
Chicken with gravy and rice.

Continue and drive towards Petra, an immensely popular attraction and stores linked it to the Indiana Jones movie to market their products. Purchase our 2 days entrance tickets.

Our tickets.

So we started our walking journey towards the Treasury, the representative image of Petra, hidden from the outside world amongst brown rocky hills.

Start of the long walk in.
Along the way we saw squarish blocks buildings.
Nabataean tomb.

After some 10mins of walking, we entered a path lined by 2 tall walls of rock known as the Siq. Along the way were what looked like manmade drains carved out by the local people years ago.

These looked like manmade drainage system craved into the rocky walls.

Almost 30 minutes of walking on sandy floors and the sight of the Treasury that first greeted us was awesome.

The excitement reached its peak when this came into view… Beautiful treasury of the Petra.

It was a tiring walk but well worth it. We were in awe at the intricate details of this carved in building and the sheer size of this architectural feat. We sat at the bench there just taking in the moment for quite a good amount of time.

Treasury, visited by many tourists.

The treasury was just part of the Petra archaeological park which was huge. We only noticed after we started to move further inwards and realised there wasn’t much time left as the sun began to sat. As we were intending to do Petra by night, we had to walk around quickly before the area closed for the night.

More tombs.
of different sizes…
and as huge as these.
What’s it looked on the inside.
Looked like roman architecture with the cobbled road as the sun started to set.

We had to leave the park first before reentering for the Petra by night. It was again a long walk out and we drove back to our hotel to get some quick snacks before heading back to Petra. Separate tickets were sold for the night event and there sure was quite a crowd.

Petra by night tickets.
The path was illuminated by candle lights that were left by the park staff after the sunset. These were the only light source.

There were much different walking at night except that it was cooler. The made the walking a little easier.

Hundreds of light bags on the ground in front of the treasury.

The walk ended at the treasury. We were the first few in line luckily and as we arrived into the opening, we were ushered to sit in rows on the mat, and were not too far from the performing area, served with some mint tea.

The treasury illuminated by the ground bags.

Then the show began. First there was some old flute blowing then followed by some singing. To be honest, it wasn’t really interesting. Before you knew it, it was over

The entertainers.

Then we had to walk that same distance back again. Drove back to the hotel for the night after this long day. More to explore the next day.