After yesterday’s goodbyes, I’m alone for the first time and probably for the last time on this trip. I reflected upon the merits of traveling alone in detail a few months ago, also in South America, in The Case for Traveling Solo: It’s just a very different kind of travel. I miss having a group to lead and having more than one pair of eyes to notice things. I miss having to talk about things I’ve seen with other people. But at the same time, there’s a certain type of unique freedom you get by traveling alone, going at your own pace, doing your own thing, and learning to become your own best friend again.
Today I was fortunate to rediscover the feeling in very photogenic Quito, Ecuador, the capital city and an UNESCO World Heritage Site in of itself.
And what an easy place to travel through as a USA citizen: Due to the Ecuadorian government’s “dollarization” of its national currency in 2000 in order to rescue its economy, only the US Dollar is used in Ecuador. You can imagine how this makes it incredibly convenient for USA travelers. Moreover, Ecuador is known for the most “pure form of spoken Spanish” in the world, which means native Ecuadorians speak Spanish slowly and without frills like Argentines or Chileans; I actually can have a normal conversation in Spanish here!
After arriving in the morning by plane and taking a 40 minute taxi to the city ($28 USD), I freshened up at my hostel in the San Blas district (Hostel Revolution) and started my day at Parque Alameda:
The oldest European observatory on the continent
From there I walked south towards Quito’s Old Town:
Eventually you should orient yourself relative to the Plaza Grande:
If you have time, go dine at the top floor of Vista Hermosa Restaurant:
Afterwards, check out the following buildings surrounding Plaza Grande:
Palacio del Gobierno
Centro Culturo Metropolitano
Iglesia de Sagrario
The highlight for me (and usually for everybody else) was the architectural elements of La Compania de Jesus:
From there, walk a few blocks west to explore Plaza San Francisco:
Walk south a bit and then east to pass by the 18th century Arco de la Reina and the neighboring monastery:
Keep walking east until you hit Plaza Santo Domingo:
She is passed out!
At this point I retraced my steps to Plaza Grande in order to check out the interior of the Cathedral:
The famous statue of the Virgin of Quito slaying the beast beneath her
Where the bishops all hang out
Afterwards I headed north to the Basilica del Voto Nacional:
I found an unlocked set of stairs so I climbed them for a better view of the interior:
If you’re really feeling brave, pay the extra $2 USD to climb rickety spiral staircases and unstable ladders within the clock towers. You’ll be rewarded with stupendous views of the city:
Go as high as possible:
Afterwards I headed back to the hostel and made a new friend in a fellow American from Alaska named John. With not even 5 minutes of introductions, we set off for Parque Itchimbia for 360 degree sunset views of Quito:
This park closes at 6pm so if you still want to stay in the area to bask in the views and the sunset, find the nearby café/restaurant and you’ll probably have the entire place to yourself:
Enjoy the views when the city lights up at night:
And that was my walking tour of Quito in less than 5 hours.
And I just realized I only slept for 6 hours in the last 3 days. Off to bed….zzzzz….
- At time of posting in Quito, Ecuador, it was 17 °C -
Humidity: n/a | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a
Two weeks ago, my lab group did a camping trip in the Sierras.
We drove up on Friday to the East Fork Campground (9000 ft). Hiked up Mt. Starr on Saturday (Class II scramble. 7 miles round trip. 12825 ft). And drove back on Sunday. On the way back, I stopped in the town of Bishop and a Japanese Internment Camp (Manzanar).
Here are some of the photos.
The Jerky Shop south of Bishop, CA. There are like a million signs on the 395 leading up to this place. The jerky was alright.
The mountains that were across from our campsite.
The Diaconescu and Hayton Group. Starting the hike at 10000 ft.
About 3 miles later at 12000 ft, the air is getting quite thin!
Summit lake is fed during the spring by the ice and evaporates over the summer.
The class 2 scramble we were about to go up. If you look closely in the middle of the photo you can see where the trail ends and the scrambling begins. And if you look really closely, you can see a few dots (these are people).
At the (almost) top of Mt. Starr. 12835 ft! The real summit was about 30m to the east.
Coming down as the sun started heading west. Munching on some snacks.
View of the valley on the way up.
View of the valley on the way down.
Celebrating with some smores and beer.
Manzanar. Of the 120000 Japanese Americans that were relocated during WWII, 11000 were moved to Manzanar.
This was their auditorium. Its is the only building left (aside from the reconstructed barracks). It held dances, school classes and assemblies.
This is the memorial for the 146 people who died in this camp. Visitors tie prayer flags and thousands of cranes to this site.
It was an odd weekend. On the one hand, I hiked/scrambled up small mountain and saw really beautiful landscapes. On the other, I visited a place where thousands had been moved against their will and forced to live for years. They made gardens, organized a toy donation center and even made camouflage nets for the country that put them there. Yet all that was left was one building, two rebuilt barracks, and a white memorial.
As I stood in the windswept valley floor, surrounded by the few relics left of a story Americans often summarize into paragraph of a history textbook, I felt empty. How fast time can take away these moments, the small achievements and the lessons of war.
Back in California.
I was hoping for the passport control person to give me a nice and hearty “Welcome back” or “Welcome home”. But instead I got “how old are you?” “you traveling to all these places by yourself?” “what for?” “how did you afford this?”. Homeland Security. Keeping our nation open and safe. Making me a little sad.
The wedding went off without a hitch and joy was experienced by all. I managed to get some great shots of The Prado at Balboa Park, but it’s mostly of family and happy people. Here are some of my favorites:
Washington Dulles Airport
New York City at night
- At time of posting in New York City, it was 20 °C -
Humidity: 52% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
After a 5 hour flight from Newark, NJ to San Diego, I’m here!
Beautiful sunshine, blue waters, unlimited palm trees. And just like what happened when I was in Taipei, no more than 56 seconds after updating my facebook status about being in San Diego, an old friend phones me up for breakfast right before my return flight tomorrow morning.
Some things never change.
Oh yeah, and I have to take my first exam in medical school in 3 days.
- At time of posting in San Diego, California, it was 25 °C -
Humidity: 62% | Wind Speed: 14km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear
Tomorrow I’m bound for San Diego and pulling an emergency “Taipei” situation where I’ll be there for 22 hours. Why emergency? Well, in 3 days I have my first medical school block exam back in Brooklyn and I’m not entirely prepared.
But I can’t let you down without any pictures, so I packed my camera and off I’ll go! Hopefully it’s not still on fire.
- At time of posting in New York City, it was 24 °C -
Humidity: 52% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear