Pickpocketed In Quito

Pickpocketed In Quito

 

After visiting the Middle of the World in the morning, I set off to Quito’s New Town to meet Annie Huang, a friend of a friend studying abroad in Quito who had been introduced to me over Facebook last night.

 

 

Over our spirited conversations over a fantastic lunch consisting of crepes, waffles and ice cream, Annie (who I had a great time getting to know!) at one point casually asked if I had ever been robbed or pickpocketed during my 3-4 years of traveling to over 60 countries. Except for losing my phone once at an internet café in Vietnam, I thought about it and realized that this never had happened to me. I even remarked how fortunate I have been with my possessions, knocking as much wood around me as I could and telling her “now that you made me realize how lucky I’ve been, I feel like it’s going to bite me in the ass soon!” Little did we know.

After lunch, Annie led me to the public buses that would take me to the airport for $2 USD from Rio Coca station.

 

 

And that bus was so crowded, I remember keeping my hand on my iPhone for as long as I could. I then had a weird feeling something was going to go down. It was at that thought a crowd surged out of the bus, shoving me aside and causing me to temporarily lose my grip on my phone in my pocket. And almost immediately afterwards I could literally feel my phone slipping away into oblivion.

I yelled for them to stop, but the crowd had quickly dissipated and the bus immediately pulled away. Even when I was fully aware of what was going on, these pickpocketing magicians had pulled off an impressive act, much at my expense.

Yes, I did consider the irony of the conversation I had with Annie during lunch. And yes, I did silently fume to myself about how careless I was, even as careful as I had been the entire time.

But you know what (I need to hear myself say this)? At the end of the day I’m complaining about a first world problem. I should consider the privilege of even owning an iPhone, the opportunity of being able to travel in the first place, how lucky I have been with my possessions after all the countries I’ve been to, and how I’m still doing okay after all the chaotic travel I’ve done in off the beaten places. And at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. To get upset over something that in the long run will be another funny travel story is useless; we might as well save some time and start laughing about it now, because we will eventually anyway.

But still…damn they were good.

 

Probably the exact moment my iPhone got stolen

 

Unfortunately this would happen right before I had to catch my flight to Lima, which I almost missed as my bus from Rio Coca got stuck in traffic and took about 80 minutes to reach the airport. So I had no time to do anything about my lost phone until about 5-6 hours later when I landed in Lima, Peru.

I would luckily be picked up at the Lima airport by Gabino Chu, who I’ve just met for the first time. He’s an awesome guy born and raised in Peru raised by Chinese immigrants, and who also happened to be heading on my upcoming trip to Cuba! He took me back to my place where I proceeded to spend the next hour getting my amazing girlfriend Mar to contact my cell phone company, erasing my phone remotely via iCloud, and resetting passwords for 60+ email accounts, social media accounts and apps I had on my phone.

Having thoroughly bored Gabino enough, he graciously took me out afterwards to La Lucha Sangucheria, where I had an amazing Asado de Res sandwich and a papaya shake. Afterwards he bought me a round of beers at Ocean’s Lounge, which put me back in the right mood to realize: For f*ck’s sake, I’m traveling and I should be grateful I can do this in the first place!

What a great way to end the night before hopping on a 4:30am flight to El Salvador to catch my flight to Cancun.

Thanks for the dinner and drinks! And see you in 3 days in Cuba, Gabino!

 

 

- At time of posting in Lima, Peru, it was 20 °C - Humidity: 40% | Wind Speed: 24km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy

 

One Week In South America

One Week In South America

 

As I step back on the escalators leading down to the NYC Subway, I see how much of the last 9 days I can remember.

 

I remember Lima; the way we danced around the fountains as they danced around us, the taste of Peruvian chicken in the middle of the night, getting our 5am flight redirected on our way to Cuzco, deluding myself to believe that I had altitude sickness.

 

 

I remember Ollantaytambo; the way we bargained our way from Cuzco, hiking along the sweeping hills of a mountainous city, the nonstop rain that somehow made everything prettier, the girls from Germany that I met on the train to Aguas Calientes.

 

 

I remember Aguas Calientes; the way we struggled to get up at 4am, the people we waited in line with, the instant coffee, how we got our tickets to Machu Picchu the moment the ticket office opened at 5am, how we almost forgot to buy our bus tickets at the last minute.

 

 

I remember Machu Picchu; the way we rushed to be the first 400 people to sign up for Wayna Picchu, how we climbed up stone by stone to the tallest peak in the region, sitting at our personal little rocks taking in the views, when we decided to take the road less traveled to the Temple of the Moon, our shock to the countless steps we had to retrace, sunbathing by the Temple of the Moon, the burning in our thighs as we returned, the rain on our bare skin the moment we finished descending from Wayna Picchu, the fellow climbers we met along the way, the sense of accomplishment when we finally reached the observatory tower overlooking the ruins.

  

 

I remember Cuzco; the way we shamelessly danced with other backpackers at Loki’s the first hour we were there, the people we met at our hostel, the feel of  the city’s cobblestone roads, the trustworthy roommates that partied with us, the friend from the States who agreed to take us around, the taste of guinea pig and llama steak, the bizarre monsters at La Turca, the horrible pronunciation of flirtatious Spanish phrases, the shisha at Indigo, the 6 hours that we danced and the characters we met at Mama Afrika.

  

 

I remember my one night in Bogota; the way we made our way into Kong’s, ordering Green Jasmin drinks and late night fried steak, how none of the ATMs accepted my card, the taxi ride along 7th Avenue, the taste of Aguadiente, waking up thinking I missed my flight to Cartagena, the godsend morning breakfast, a grueling taxi ride to the airport without cash to pay for it, worrying about Kseniya when she failed to show up to our flight, surprised to see Kseniya when she was taking the same flight with me back home to NYC a few days later.

 

 

I remember Playa Blanca; the way we formed a team in bargaining our way there, riding on motorcycles, arrving to an empty beach that stretched for miles, the sugary white sand, swimming in the Caribbean at night, falling asleep to the Caribbean waves outside in a hammock, waking up to the sound of roosters, being roasted by the sun, making fun of daytripping tourists, the speedboat ride back to Cartagena.

 

 

I remember Cartagena; the way we befriended fellow Colombians that led us to stay at their place, walking along the streets of a city I wish to return for my honeymoon, eating cerviche in the same seat Anthony Bourdain ate his, the late night salsa at Mister Babilla, the circle around us as we danced off at Babar Nightclub, the final hugs goodbye.

 

 

How could I forget.

Videos From South America, The Best Of

Videos From South America, The Best Of

 

I´m now waiting for my flight to Medellin, where I will take a redeye flight back home. I just edited all my past entries by adding in the appropriate videos I took with my flipcam while I was in South America. I think it adds to the realism of being there, instead of seeing only pretty pictures.

Here are a few of my favorites. The texts link to the original blog entry:

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- At time of posting in Cartagena, it was 34 °C - Humidity: 59% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Cruzin’ In Cuzco

Cruzin’ In Cuzco

So about the place we’re staying at…

 

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Yeah, anyways, Loki’s Backpackers Hostel? It’s nice:

 

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Our circuit around Cuzco was brief. We pretty much saw most of everything we were supposed to see in under 4 hours. This was the route we took:

  1. Start @ Loki’s Backpackers Hostel @ Santa Ana 601 (on this really steep hill)
  2. Walk down Meloc Arones Tordo to Plaza San Francisco.
  3. Make a left and walk down Garcilaso street to Plaza Regocijo
  4. Keep walking ahead to Plaza de Armas
  5. Checked out the Cathedral and its adjacent churches
  6. Keep walking along Triunfo northeastwards
  7. Checked out the 12-sided Inca stone on our right
  8. Walked up Hatunrimyoc and then Cuesta San Blas
  9. Checked out Plaza San Blas, the artistic center of Cuzco
  10. Backtracked to Plaza de Armas
  11. Walked eastwards along Loreto (a street famous for being straddled by Inca walls)
  12. Walked down Pampa de Castillo.
  13. Checked out Iglesia de Santo Domingo and the Qorikancha Inca ruins
  14. Turned around and walked along the main business avenue, Ave El Sol, back to Plaza de Armas.

That’s pretty much it. We didn’t buy the 10-day or 1-day tourist ticket that could’ve gained us access to many of the museums and archaeological sites; a lot of fellow backpackers and guides we talked to advised against it if we were staying only for a day. Cuzco is instead a city to wander in and appreciate its historical significance: the city itself is a museum of Incan/Spanish history. Besides, most travelers use Cuzco merely as a jump-off point before heading to the Sacred Valley, Inca Trails, Machu Picchu, or the Amazon.

 

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After our DIY tour of Cuzco, we grabbed a beer at Los Perros — a great expat restaurant serving (unfortunately) more international food than legit Peruvian, chatted and shot pool with fellow backpackers at the bar in Loki’s, ate some cuy (cooked guinea pig), and alpaca (pretty much llama steak) at La Turca, enjoyed a shisha & pisco session at Indigo, pregamed at Mushrooms, danced for 6 hours straight at Mama Afrika, and finished the night by cramming 7 backpackers in a Peruvian cab that was meant for 4 people back up to Loki’s at 4am. It was an amazing night. Flawless, really. I would actually recommend the above as the standard bearer itinerary for how to have fun in Cuzco on any night of the week.

Curious about what cuy (fried guinea pig) looks like? Here you go:

 

And a series of Peruvian musical performances, the latter being very very bizarre:

 

 

And more pictures of our day around Cuzco:

 

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Plaza de Armas

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The choir inside Cuzco's main cathedral at the Plaza de Armas. Yes, apparently I can't follow rules.

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We made a lot of friends whilein Cuzco, including 2 New Zealanders who were sharing a room with us at Loki’s Hostel, a fellow American I had met a few weeks earlier while giving a tour of my medical school, 2 Canadians who shared our love for dancing, Brazilians, British, Australians, and many others. If you want a very socially active hostel where you can meet a lot of different people and make new friends, I highly recommend staying at Loki’s.

 

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Now that our tour of Cuzco is coming to a close, I’m now alone, waiting on my flight to Bogota, Colombia. Kseniya and I just parted ways for about a day and a half as her flight leaves for Colombia a day later than mine. I wish her luck in her first time alone in Lima, but given her fleuncy in the Spanish language, I think she’ll do just fine.

 

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Thank you, Peru, for an amazing 4 days of nonstop adventure. Despite sudden rain showers at 1pm everyday without fail, sleuthy bug bites, altitude sickness, miles of trekking, steep cliffs, tricky touts, and constant sleep deprivation, it was the kind of adventure you think you could only have in the movies. That said, Colombia plans to be a completely different kind of vacation: one where we finally get the sleep and relaxation we deserve.

 

- At time of posting in Cuzco, it was 10 °C - Humidity: 81% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: few clouds

 

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

 

Before I begin, I must preface this with the inspirational scene that led me to Machu Picchu in the first place:

 

 

“and here we go…”

As unsure as I was when the day was about to start, today was when everything that was supposed to work out, worked out. We were one of the only 400 people allowed to climb up Wayna Picchu/Huayna Picchu (the highest peak in the Machu Picchu area), we took a off-the-beaten-path detour to the Temple of the Moon, explored the ruins of Machu Picchu itself , bathed in the hot baths, ate a 10 min meal in the best (i.e. the only “good” one) place in Aguas Calientes, and caught a train and bus back to Ollantaytambo and Cuzco, respectively.

I think in the last 18 hours of being awake, we climbed a total of 5000 meters and hiked a good 6 miles, all while making some great international friends in the meantime.

We’ll start from catching the train in Ollantaytambo.

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- At time of posting in Cuzco, it was 12 °C - Humidity: 43% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

Videos From South America, The Best Of

Machu Picchu, Here We Come

 

It’s currently 4am in Aguas Calientes and we just woke up after a 5 hour slumber/nap. I feel like a million bucks. No really, we’re about to set out to wait in line at 4:30am for the first bus that leaves at 5:30am. To see what? To see Machu Picchu and climb Wayna Picchu.

In the meantime, you can enjoy a little appetizer with a nice little video from Ollantaytambo I took yesterday:

 

 

See you soon.

 

- At time of posting in Machu Picchu, it was 10 °C - Humidity: 50% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: fog