I quickly got into a hot bath (to warm up after a night exposed to the cold rain) and changed into a set of new clothes and went for breakfast at the hotel. It was only one round of food at the buffet and then I was back in the room, sleeping.
Woke up at around 1030 after 4hrs of shut eye but sat on the bed till it was only 15mins left to check out at 12. Rushed to get a quick bath and packed up before proceeded to check out. Left my luggage at the storage and went out for lunch, at a certain Churrosaria called Braseiro just on the street behind the hotel. Ordered a mixed meat and rice and fries and it turned out too much for me. Had a really full and pretty delicious lunch, and on top of it, made acquaintance with one of customers, a German who stayed in Brazil. He started a conversation with me and we had a nice exchange. I left the restaurant after paying around 100reals and at the start of a drizzle.
Got my luggage and went to book an uber to the airport for 80reals and since I had spare cash, I paid in cash in which the driver requested that we deal in private which I agreed. Then again I fell asleep until we reached the airport.
Checked in at Alitalia and proceeded to the departures. Bought coffee powder from Brazil (again from Britt shop) before boarding the plane.
The 12hrs flight to Rome was a blur as I slept most of the way there. I managed to catch a movie called Ready or Not that had a really weird plot and continued to go back to sleep.
After 12hours of flying I landed into a very cold Rome and while it was fully possible to go visit the Colosseum just for kicks, I gave up that idea and went to do some designer brand shopping and use the lounge (Passenger lounge) since I was flying business class home.
The lounge was ok, nothing particularly amazing with simple foodstuff and drinks. Then it was boarding time and seated at the luxurious business class of Singapore Airlines, I felt so indulged! The seats were so much better than the other business class seats I had taken throughout the trip ( they were domestic though but still), the service was excellent and the facilities were just awesome. I caught the Ford vs Ferrari show which was quite nice though I fell asleep a couple of times. Even the stewardess also noticed that I was particularly tired in which I shared about the flight I had previously. But I supposed the nice thing here was the care demonstrated by them that set The Singapore Girl above the rest!
I set my seat to a full flat bed and sleep most of the journey and it was the best sleep I ever had on a plane. I woke up very much rested and with the breakfast and coffee, I was ready to get back home fresh. I spent the remainder time to jot down my memories from Lima to the last day (as I had been slacking and too tired to do so for the last 2days). We landed 30mins ahead of schedule, calling an end to my first trip to South America.
This trip was planned as a solo trip to the South America as I so wanted to see and visit a new continent and see the 7 wonders like Machu Picchu, in which, my last visit was the Taj Mahal in India many years back. However, there were just too much concerns over travel for a family that it would be easier for myself to go alone. And so I did, timing it within the week where my wife would be more free with her time and also with the carnival parade. I came back home with head full of memories, unforgettable experiences and myths debunked on how dangerous these places were. I will be back and with my family the next time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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
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.
It’s more or less a day of transit for day 6, with 2 flights that will eventually have me in Rio De Janeiro at the end of it. However, I still woke up fairly early. Went to have my breakfast on the second floor of the hotel and there was a small buffet table but with a big balcony that showcased the beautiful view of the Plaza de Armas of Cusco historical town.
Once I was done, with the short amount of time that I had left in Cusco before my flight to Lima, I took a little walk around the historical old town in the chilly morning.
Felt a little regret for not being able to visit the cathedral at the Plaza de Armas as the interior would have been quite nice. For the moment, I could only see from the outside since the cathedrals were neither open or if opened, had a service going on and tourists were not allowed.
I made my way to San Blas and saw the cobbled street and the buildings that were built on Inca rocks, which I thought was interesting, an integration of modernity with historical foundations. It wasn’t many things going on at that time in the quiet street as it was still pretty early.
After the short walk to San Blas (with some Pokemon Go time to catch Pokemon exclusive to South America), I returned to the square and spent some time sitting at the plaza and enjoyed being in the moment. Googled for things to buy and then there was a recommendation to visit the market, so I walked that couple of minutes to San Pedro market. It was a market under one roof, separated into two sections of wet and the other dry. The market didn’t seemed too crowded at this time though I saw a man carry an entire pig on his shoulders bringing it to a store.
Was still roaming around till I came to a store and found it selling quinoa and chia seeds, exotic food where over in Singapore was termed as healthy alternatives whereas the locals here eat daily. Asked mommy (over whatapp) if she wanted it and bought a pack. I also bought local dried sweet corn (remembering that delicious appetiser which I ate when having lunch in Ceviche Seafood Kitchen restaurant at the Plaza de Armas and loved it so much) to bring home. The quinoa was 2pesos and the sweet corn was 7pesos per kg.
As I walked back, I randomly walked into a pharmacy to check if there were masks available for purchase (since it was sold out back home during the Covid19 pandemic but hadn’t really arrive at the shores of Peru) and this one had stocks, unlike those around Plaza de Armas! I checked with the staff if there was a limit and he said no so I asked for 7boxes, as that’s what my family members back home wanted. These were going at 40pesos per box of 50 which was pretty decent but since there were 7, it became rather bulky for me to lug them home. Fortunately I brought along a foldable bag.
Quickly I returned to the hotel and did some repacking. Checked out only at around 9am since it was just 15mins ride to the airport and I figured I had enough time for my 1050 flight to Lima.
Took a taxi just outside the hotel as advised by the hotel staff that it would be perfectly fine to do so. The driver asked for 20pesos which was twice the amount the hotel staff advised me and so I asked for a reduced price and agreed to 15pesos as I didn’t want to waste too much time or look for trouble.
Sure enough, I was there in about 15mins and went to check in my luggage. Proceeded to the gate as it was a small airport and made my way to the lounges located one floor below, avoiding the crowd on the floor above. I was happy to find a rather empty cafe called Altomayo cafe at that floor below and it came with rather comfy seats! After settling in, I ordered an Americano for 8.5pesos and relaxed there till it was time for boarding.
When it was almost time, I made my way back up and heard that they had called a few names and one of which was mine. Went over and was given a new ticket with mine that I was holding torn up. Got an upgrade to business class, and I couldn’t be any more thrilled to have it for free! Priority boarding and larger seats, nice! Comparing to a standard flight business class though, this may pale in comparison but it’s free for the 1.5hrs flight so I wasn’t complaining, so thank you Avianca!
Touched down in Lima airport and exited the airport to find someone with my name on a board. I was surprised as I had requested for a 2pm meetup as I planned on getting some lunch upon landing at the airport. I needed to withdraw cash from the ATM as well but after a few exchanges in a part- Spanish-part-English conversation this person who was the driver and calling the guide, named Enrique, over the phone to confirm, we boarded the car and was on our way to central Lima.
The journey there, to say the least, was horrendously gridlocked with traffic going everywhere! The skilled driver however got me there in one piece. We chatted with whatever English he knew and I was thankful that he was rather friendly and conversant and I learnt more about him and his family throughout the journey. He even played Singapore’s music on Spotify and had Bluetooth that over to the stereos – cool move.
We arrived at Lima’s Plaza San Martin and that’s where we met Enrique. I got off and there was where my day tour of Lima started. He was a guide who could speak English, and was pretty fun to go along with as he mixed the facts with some sarcasm which was quite funny. Introducing the buildings around the lovely square (which included a building that was recently burnt down) and after a photo, we walked along a pedestrian only shopping street, called Jirón de la Unión, in a bid to find an ATM (athough just next to the square were some forex counters that had the best rates around from USD to Pesos, kinda like our Raffles place forex in Singapore, but I didn’t bring USD as all my cash were in the YouTrip card).
Along the way I learnt about the buildings with the balconies on the 2nd floor of the buildings that also landed the heritage status for this location of Lima. I treated him to a Starbucks frap since he mentioned that Peru’s coffee was being used in the Starbucks there while we were walking along and I wanted to see if there’s any difference. There was a promo and it ended up around 18+pesos for both fraps, which was quite comparable to what I pay for in Singapore.
Then we continued along and found a bank in which there was a short queue for atm and I queued for it. Unfortunately this was the globalatm machine that had the highest fees for using the atm but since I only needed to withdraw just one more time from here, I just proceeded.
Continued on and the street brought us to the Plaza de Armas. Here was again a square surrounded by many buildings, one of which belonged to the Mayor of Lima and another the presidents’ residence (Palacio de Gobierno). Then as we walked to the side of the residence, he pointed out that the room facing the oldest bar of Lima across the street was where the president lived, jokingly.
Nonetheless, we walked into Bar Cordano and looked at the old photos on the wall, showcasing many previous politicians eating at this bar. The popular foodstuff here was the bread with pork slices so I ordered that for lunch, again I also treated the guide, for a total of 30pesos for 2. The pork sandwich was quite nice I thought.
After this, we boarded the car and went on our way to San Francisco church (Monasterio de San Francisco) (not San Francisco of USA) to visit the catacombs and the church. St. Francisco was a much revered person and this church and the gallery was for him. There was no photos allowed while visiting the catacombs and I was warned by the stuff when I took one at the entrance. However, with the guide, I was able to bypass the queue and went in ahead. It was an interesting tour of this building, with Enrique explaining the construction of how it would withstand earthquakes, the paintings on the wall, especially with the Peruvian last supper and it’s differences. After that, we proceeded on to the level below to the catacombs and there we saw the construction of the catacombs and how it was a mass grave for so many people as there weren’t any cemeteries before. Walking below the church I was transferred back in time to how things were in Lima back in the past.
Last visit was to the church above and it was on this day that many people came to offer flowers to St. Francisco. We went into the church and I was amazed at how the interior was so different from other churches with the moorish design of red and white. We exited after a while and along the street while we waited for the car to pick us up, some of the ladies sitting there by the food cart were laughing away when they saw me, saying that I might be a Covid19 carrier, explained by the guide. I supposed it was expected to a certain level that maybe all Chinese were from China and therefore I carry the Covid19. Anyhow it wasn’t a big thing for me.
The car then brought us to the next area in Miraflores, called the Huaca Pucllana (double “l”s are pronounced as “J”s) where this was built by the tribe pre-Incas and this was where I learnt that Peru was not only ruled only by Incas! The temple was built like steps and the construction was so stable that it could withstand earthquakes. As this was a fenced up area requiring tickets to enter, we just stood outside which I could already see and took a photo before leaving without entering the site.
Then it was to the Love Park (The Parque del Amor) of Miraflores (one pf the safest city within Lima) where there was the statue of the The Kiss (El Beso). The park reminded me of the Gaudi park in Barcelona with the tiled designs and wavy shape forms. The place had a good sea view and definitely boost an incredible sunset over the ocean view. We weren’t staying till sunset and left, the car dropped me off at the Lima White House hostel, whereby the owner was also the person who arranged this private tour for me. I paid the guide 155pesos (the remaining amount on top of the initial 33USD I paid over PayPal to book the tour) and entered the hostel.
I enquired if it’s possible for me to take a bath there as it was going to be a long time before I could do so due to an overnight flight to Rio de Janeiro for the night. They didn’t have any spare rooms but was ok to let me take a shower at the common shower for 10pesos in which I gladly paid for it. Quickly took my bath before heading out for dinner.
In the Miraflores area, it was deemed one of the safest area around since it was where all the people of the highest class lived. Sure enough it didn’t feel unsafe as I made my way to one do the Chifa restaurant, one that sold Peruvian Chinese fusion food. The Peruvian Chinese was one of the earliest immigrants to come to Peru and as the driver advised that the food was good, I had to try it for myself.
Using google maps, I easily found one and as I entered the restaurant called Hong Kong, I was greeted by a senior staff there who saluted me, and I saluted back to reciprocate. It was a funny moment though. Later I realized he did the same to anyone who walked past as a way to get their attention. I ordered fried rice with chicken and was given a free bowl of noodles soup with Wantan. The noodles were ok but the fried rice was kinda salty. The dinner costed 38pesos in which I just paid 40.
I took some time to walk towards the shore as there was a shopping mall there, called Larcomar, just to find out how it would looked like. As I approached, I saw a huge building of Marriott hotel but couldn’t find the mall. As I approached to the sea, I realized the mall was the building built downwards from the street level into the cliff and from the outside it looked pretty modern. I was more attracted by view of the sun almost setting and took some photos as I walked along the coast heading back to the hostel.
Back at the hostel, I booked my Uber to the airport and it was estimated to be an hour ride from Miraflores. Since the payment was done by card, I need not worry about 42pesos there because I was also low on my cash. The driver took awhile to arrive and when it did, the hostel lady staff helped me to communicate to the driver on where I was headed to before bidding farewell as I got on my way.
I fell asleep during the one hour journey there and woke up 20mins from arrival. The initial destination was placed just outside the airport but I asked to be dropped off at the departure which he did so without complaints.
Lima airport had quite a large duty free store but I didn’t get anything from there thinking there would be more of such closer to the gate. Unfortunately it was not so and I entered a Britt store that was closer to the gate and bought some Peruvian chocolates there which my wife requested. The staff showed that the chocolates were really produced from Peru with that Peru logo and that assured me that it must be ok (cos why would I buy chocolates made somewhere else?).
After that, I boarded the Avianca flight (no more upgrades this time around) and tried to get some sleep.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was seated next to another man on business class for the Aeromexico flight to Lima. Immediately plugged in my handphone to continue charging (which is one of the perks in Biz). I scanned through the movies available but thought I would need to sleep and conserve the energy for the day and that was what I did for at least 5hrs of the flight.
I was awoken in the middle when they were serving food and there was actually dinner (thought I won’t be getting any food)! I thought it was a perfectly timed meal since my lunch that I felt bloated since afternoon had gone and I was ready to dine. I took chicken out of the 2 options and I was impressed by the quality of food, it tasted really good.
After that, it was back to sleep. The seats were like the Singapore Airlines premium economy ones with an angle tilt rather than fully horizontal. I found it difficult to fall into deep sleep with that configuration but the feet support was way higher than what I had in premium economy which helped a little.
As I woke up, I checked the windows outside and found sun was about to rise on the horizon. As we approached Lima, I found the entire sky covered in a thick blanket of clouds, so big and wide that I have never seen anything like this before. Out in the distance, small peaks can be seen piercing through the clouds and that looked really incredible to realized how big and tall the mountain ranges were! I took multiple photos till we landed.
With the privilege to disembark ahead of the pack, I sped off to get through immigrations, which was pretty quick and effortless as there weren’t many people at that time. Then a quick visit to the loo before going past customs which didn’t collect my form anyway.
First I went to withdraw cash from the ATM and the first one (globalatm) only allowed withdrawal up to 400 soles and charges 19soles per transaction. I did it once and went outside the airport to try other ATMs. Then I realized different banks had different withdrawal amounts and I did another 2 withdrawals from 2 different banks to get the amount I needed. Needless to say, the globalatm one was the worst. The others offer up to 700soles per withdrawal.
I found that I had more than 4 hrs to my next flight to Cusco and went to the LATAM check in to ask if there were any earlier flights. This was where I felt very impressed with the staff, the lady on hearing my request got me to the counter to check for me. The staff behind the counter however didn’t really understand what I wanted and printed the ticket with the original timing. So I went back to that lady who brought me to the counter to explain that nothing was done. She didn’t give up and got me to another counter, this time explaining to the staff what I wanted. The staff then managed to get one flight 2hrs earlier! Good on you Latam!
I went to the gates earlier and since it was domestic flight, I didn’t have to go through immigrations. Made a call home to talk to my son using airport wifi and then it was another waiting game before embarkation. While waiting, I quickly googled for a half day booking of taxi (called Taxidatum) so that I can do a tour of Cusco with this new found amount of time. And it was all arranged through WhatsApp when the personnel responded! I was impressed by the flexibility of such arrangements (and with myself for such adhoc tour)!
The plane that was supposed to take off at 910am was delayed for 30mins due to heavy traffic in the Lima airport. I took the time to jot down the ongoings and respond to the Facebook and IG messages and checking emails, effectively keeping myself busy.
The plane took off when the airport finally cleared and the journey was pretty smooth. The stewardess were pushing carts and I ordered a chicken sandwich with cappuccino since I didn’t think I would have time for breakfast when I disembarked. The chicken sandwich used a ciabatta bread which was toasted before servicing. At first glance, I thought it was going to taste hard but all that perception changed in a split second when the teeth sank into the crunchy outside but soft inside of the bread. I thought it was delicious and well worth the 21 soles I paid in total.
The short flight landed into Cusco smoothly. I hurried off the plane and the first thing I saw was the Inca Rail office which I approached to get my tickets. After the staff handed over the tickets to me and explained on the meet up timing, I went out of the hall and someone with my name was already waiting for me outside.
I followed him and loaded up onto the taxi and we were off to Sacsayhuaman site. He let me get off at the ticketing counter and I paid 70soles for the partial circuit that allowed me a 1 day entrance to all the 4 sites stated on the ticket. There was a bigger one but I didn’t have enough time in Cusco to do that.
Then a guide was offering his service and I just agreed with him for 50soles for 1 hour. He brought me around the big site of Sacsayhuaman and shared the various locations usages and how the rocks were being harvested etc. It was again interesting to hear the stories of these tribes and find them different from what were portrayed.
Later, he tagged along with us for the other 3 sites at a costs of 20soles per site. Those sites (Q’enqo, Tambomachay & Puka Pukara) were much smaller and did not require as much explanations as the Sacsayhuaman. I was equally impressed by the beauty of the surroundings and was just taking panoramic views everywhere.
The guide alighted near where he stayed and I paid him the agreed amount of 110soles and with some time left, I requested the driver to allow me to alight at the Plaza de Armas, which he informed was close to restaurants and where Inca Rail office was too. He negotiated the single lane cobbled streets and arrive into the square where I paid him 150soles in total for his services (120) and for tips (30).
The plaza itself was pretty too, reminded me of the old towns of many countries (this is the historic center of Cusco anyways). I spent a bit of time admiring and shooting photos and then googled for a good place to have ceviche which a friend said I must try when in Peru and out pop the name Ceviche Seafood Kitchen restaurant that was coincidentally within the square perimeter of the Plaza de Armas.
Seated on the 2nd floor, I was served by a Pablo who was a very helpful waiter and explained everything about the food. I ordered 2 dishes and it was quite filling to have them all by myself. The food was very delicious and thus explained their high ranking in TripAdvisor. The food was 75soles excluding tips.
After lunch, I walked to the nearest pharmacy to get a lip balm as somehow my lips are feeling very dry even in summer and I didn’t bring mine as I didn’t think I would need one. Then further along the same street of Avenida El Sol, I walked into the Inca Rail office which was amongst the one storey buildings lined along the street. Through the entrance, I realised that the inside was actually quite a huge space where passengers could wait for the transportation shuttle to arrive. Other than a resting area with tables and hot drinks, there was also a restroom to use. At this time, I was feeling really sleepy and wasn’t sure if it was due to the lack of sleep, the thin air in this highland city or the Peruvian beer from lunch.
Once onboard the small bus, I immediately went to sleep for the 2hrs trip there, waking intermittently and shooting some of the beautiful views of valleys and mountains on the way to the Ollaytambo town.
When we arrived into the town, the place looked very much like the historic center of Cusco only much smaller. The vehicle continued on till we arrived at another holding compound for the passengers before. I didn’t stay there initially and ventured out to see the surroundings before going back to sit and wait for the train, which was due to arrive at 727pm.
There were quite a lot of people who also took the train of on this schedule and I was seated with a group of 3 French ladies. Throughout the ride they were going on with their card games and talking in French, I just fiddled around with my phone and also dozed off since it was difficult to be involved in their games.
The staff brought us snacks to eat and for drinks, there was a choice of hot or cold but I didn’t comprehend what drinks were available except lemongrass which I heard and that’s what I had. Then it was like that till we arrived into Aguas Calientes, the tourist town just outside Machu Picchu.
I bade farewell to the French ladies and to the table of Mexicans seated on the other side of the aisle, who were kind enough to offer me pomegranate to eat and also a short chat with them.
Heading towards my accommodation of the night, Casa De Luz hotel, I walked through a sheltered area that seemed like a market which had mostly closed stalls at that time. The hotel staff had advised me to get bus tickets first so that I didn’t have to wait for it tomorrow. There was a ticket counter just along the corridor of the hotel and I paid 81.75 soles for the bus tickets in exchange with the vouchers that I reserved online.
Then I returned to check in and was given a suggestion of where to have dinner. I left all my barang barang in the room and left to explore the small town of Aguas Calientes.
The place still had lots of restaurants opened at that time. In fact, there were many locals and kids roaming around the street, doing their thing and playing soccer. I tried to find a good dinner recommendation online but my mobile data was sporadically available. So after finding one of them which was already closed, I just walked into one local restaurant, El Antojito and ordered.
Got myself some alpaca meat, which the local staff recommended, and a bottle of Inca Kola. The food was quite tasty and I only had to paid 30soles for that plus it came with a small salad bar of sorts.
After dinner, I returned to the hotel and struggled against the cold for the much awaited bath before finally ending the long day in bed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Total duration 10D9N Singapore is 13hrs ahead of Cancun, Mexico and Lima and Cusco, Peru and 11hrs ahead of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Flight time is 17hrs 50mins on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Newark, New York. Flight time from Newark, New York to Cancun is 3hrs 35mins on Viva Aerobus. Flight time from Cancun to Mexico City is 2hrs 45mins on Aeromexico. Flight time from Mexico City to Lima is 5hrs 50mins on Aeromexico. Flight time from Lima to Cusco is 1hrs 21mins on Latam Airlines. Flight time from Cusco to Lima is 1hrs 30mins on Avianca Airlines. Flight time from Lima to Rio De Janeiro is 5hrs 10 mins on Avianca Airlines. Flight time from Rio De Janeiro to Rome is 10hrs on Alitalia Airlines. Flight time from Rome to Singapore is 11hrs 50mins on Singapore Airlines.
Early morning flight from Singapore to Newark on 23rd Feb at 1250am and arrival in Newark in the morning at 530am on the 23rd Feb. Same morning flight from Newark to Cancun on the 23rd Feb at 925am and arrival in Cancun at 2pm in the afternoon. Flight from Cancun to Mexico City on the evening of 24th Feb at 740pm and arrival in Mexico City at 925pm with a transit of 2hrs 30mins and overnight flight to Lima on the 24th Feb night and arrival into Lima at 645am on 25th Feb morning. Same morning flight at 910am from Lima to Cusco on the 25th Feb and arrival in Cusco on the at 1033am on 25th Feb. Flight from Cusco to Lima on the morning of 28th Feb at 1055am and arrival in Lima at 1225pm on the 28th Feb. Same day overnight flight from Lima to Rio de Janeiro in the night of 28th Feb at 930pm and arrive in Rio de Janeiro in the early morning of 29th Feb at 440am. Flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome in the afternoon of 1st Mar at 4pm and arrive in Rome in the morning of 2nd Mar at 7am. Same day flight from Rome to Singapore in the morning of 2nd Mar at 1050am and arrive in Singapore in the early morning of 3rd Mar at 540am.
This escape plan was planned as a solo trip for a couple of reasons. First, my other half does not have enough leave and so I had to go on my own. Second, everyone has an impression that its not safe to travel to Mexico and South America, so I had to go alone first. Lastly, the itinerary is not very enjoyable due to a lot of time spent on traveling so I had to do it alone. I planned it this way because having flown so far away from Singapore to this part of the world, I would want to clear see all the 3 wonders situated around this region so as to get the best out of my time (unfortunately not money)!
Budget nature: Budget Buster
Costs of living was pretty affordable in these places except for the touristy areas. However, due to how I have planned my itinerary. My choices of accommodations include those that were just next to the sites (like Chichen Itza and Machu Picchu) and flights that were inflexible due to the tight schedule and some of these are expensive. International flights flying from countries to countries were expensive too.
A lot of time was required to plan this to get the best movement. Flight planning was very challenging as not all routes were available country to country (such as from Cancun to Rio de Janeiro) and as I had chose to redeem miles for 2 of my flights, waitlist created some adjustments to my flights. I even screwed up one overnight flight which I bought wrongly resulted in money going down the drain.
I was also timing my itinerary to be within the schedule of 10 days, to fly off on the midnight of Sunday and to return on the early morning to minimize any impact to family time. Also I was also timing to attend the Champions’ Parade of the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval. In trying to visit the 3 wonders, cater for the long journey to and from Machu Picchu and getting to watch the Carnaval, this is one of the most difficult itinerary I have planned to date!
On the first day of 2020, I woke up disappointed to find the sun already up so early in the morning. Nonetheless I took a few photos of the late sunrise and then forced myself to get changed and go for a run.
Had googled a running route and as encouraging as I saw that there was one safe enough to run ( didn’t want to get knocked down by the motorcycles or breath in the exhaust from them), I was unable to do so smoothly. Once I exited the hotel and crossed the road to the riverside promenade, I headed in the north side direction in the hope of reaching a park. But after running some 600m, the route ended and to continue I had to cross the road and run in the street which I thought was a bad idea. Made a complete U turn and ran south which was not too bad as there was a nice pathway all the way for 2km. The pathway was littered though due to yesterday’s night countdown and there were a few people lying on benches but nothing unusual.
Completed my run with some stops along the way for photos and returned to the hotel. Went to the club house to get some bottled water before a visit to the swimming pool which was at the roof top together with the sky bar and spa.
The swimming pool was rather small but the surrounding sitting area provided a paranomic view of the surrounding. Took in the view and the fresh air and panoramic photos before returning to the room.
Had my bath and went back to bed since both mommy and K was still sleeping. Mommy was awoke soon and we were concerned that the breakfast time was going to be over so I went down first (we had the option of going to the clubhouse for breakfast but knowing that the area was much smaller, we would rather go to the main restaurant which would have more variety). The staff was excellent and they had no issues for me taking out food so that I can bring it back to the room. However I was given quite a small packaging so I couldn’t back take a lot of food, which made me decide to just pack those that K liked and later have my breakfast in the restaurant itself.
Went back to the room to tell mommy the plan and I returned quickly to the restaurant. They gave me a seat and acknowledged that mommy would be coming later. Then I ordered an egg Benedict which would be delivered to my table, went around to get samples of the buffet and gobbled down quickly. Though I missed the enjoyment of tasting the food, at least it filled my stomach and honestly, I thought the quality was pretty good. Returned to the room with my bottle of tomato juice and mommy went down for her breakfast.
It wasn’t long that K also woke up and then he would have his breakfast in bed while I fed him, talked about enjoying breakfast in bed! After that, I called to request for late check out and was given 1pm and we spent the rest of the morning packing and enjoying the last bit of TV and comforts of the room before bringing down all our luggage to the left luggage.
We returned to the Vincom center again as we saw some brands of clothes that were having a sale the night before and wanted to see if we could get anything. We visited the Old Navy store and got something as well as from OVS store. Left at 215pm and ended up at a Trung Nguyen Legend Cafe, one famous coffee brand of Vietnam and bought some 3-in-1 coffee for home and drank their Legend coffee in the cafe, which was going at 170k per glass. The coffee was indeed very good, and so was the air conditioning that we enjoyed as we escaped the midday heat outside!
We returned back to the hotel to retrieve our luggage and booked a Grabcar to the airport for 137k+10k (not sure what the 10k was for) which arrived very quickly. The journey to the airport was so much faster than the time we took from the airport to the hotel as they weren’t any jams during that time. We arrived with plenty of time to check in for our flight at 555pm.
Went through immigrations which took a short while to clear and proceeded to go to Big Bowl for our last Vietnamese meal (about USD14 for fresh spring roll and big bowl of pho) before returning back to Singapore and a ice cream sundae from BK just next to it (as K was asking for ice cream).
Window shopped around for a bit, used the toilet and then waited at the gate before the call to board.
We were on the Scoot flight back to Singapore and the plane was late coming into Vietnam. Once onboard there weren’t much biggies. Our pre-ordered food arrived and we swapped to suit to K’s taste. The food package was simple and tasted ok, not fantastic. Then later K spent the rest of the journey on the iPad. We landed 10mins delayed into Changi, a big part was due to the initial delay.
This year end trip planned for NYE celebration overseas in Vietnam was pretty enjoyable, largely because we had most of the land tour and private transfer being arranged by a tour agency (Went with Sparrow Travels, the same team that arranged for our Hanoi trip) for a hassle free journey. The weather was pretty decent most days and the costs were not very expensive. Because of the guides, for the visits especially to the old towns and ruins, we had learnt quite a bit on their history and culture which we would never have if we had gone by ourselves. But because the tours were private, we had more flexibility on timing and not under time pressure to push on, which would be a problem given K would have a hard time keeping up or I would need to carry him around more often then as it is.