A Travellerspoint blog

Kanchanaburi - Death railway, Kwai bridge, Wang Pho Viaduct

Thai countryside

sunny 34 °C
View South East Asia on Roaming Rolts's travel map.

We set off at 6.30 am, took the ferry up the river to Bangkok Noi to start our day trip on the train, this journey is done as an excursion, which I'm sure the Thais finds quite entertaining. As we waited for the train, we ate breakfast, which today consisted of chicken bum sticks (not a typo) and sticky rice. Not too sure what chicken bum is, but i doubt it will be the worst thing we eat in Asia by far.

The train is 3rd class only with large windows to let in a warm breeze. Although the train was there at 7.30 and due to leave at 7.50, for some unknown reason, it left 40 minutes late, which is apparently quite common. The train travels at a fair speed, with cars easily overtaking on the main roads next to it. It bobs and clickety clacks through the Thai countryside between towns and villages for 2½ hours before it reaches Kanchanaburi, which is where death railway and the tourist section of the line begins.

Along the route, we passed houses which were so close to the tracks that had someone stuck their head out their window as a train went past they would lose it. Along the journey, various leaves joined us in the carriage with Chris being covered in leaves on a couple of occasions.

On arriving at kanchanaburi, an additional four carriages were added to our train to allow for the number of tourists joining the service. The first point of interest on our trip is the bridge over the river Kwai, made famous by the film in the 1960s. After this it takes about an hour to travel up the picturesque river to the Wang Pho viaduct, which gives death railway it's name as most of the prisoners of war who built this bridgee along the cliff edge lost their lives.

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The final stretch is like a green jungle as you head towards Nam Tok, where the train turns round and you head back the way you came. By the time we set of from Nam Tok, the train was now 1½ hours behind schedule.

Our accommodation for the next couple of nights is a gorgeous little wooden bungalow on stilts overlooking the river.

The following day we took the local bus to Erawan waterfalls, the most beautiful waterfalls Thailand has to offer, and the best part is, you can swim in them. There is a 2km trail which takes you up the waterfalls, stopping at 7 ledges along the way, which are perfect for a quick swim to cool off. The only downside is the little ankle biters, as in the not so little fish who nibble at your ankles if you stay in the same place for too long. The waterfalls are stunning, with bluey-turquoise pools at the end if each drop over white rocks.

The water was so refreshing and a welcome relief from the heat. The walk up the waterfalls was fairly easy with the first 5 stages being footpaths, bit the last two sections were more of a climb over slippery rocks and staircases. On the way back down I managed to slip on one of the steps sliding half way down on my bum and bruising my already swollen and scabby leg. My left leg is looking a right state now!

We spent a few hours here before catching the last bus back to kanchanaburi. At one point, the bus was so full, one guy was hanging out the bus door!

Tomorrow afternoon we are catching a bus to the former capital Ayutthaya.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 09:24 Archived in Thailand Tagged waterfalls trains temples temple travel shrine Comments (0)

Bangkok, Thailand

Our first glimpse of South East Asia

sunny 32 °C
View South East Asia on Roaming Rolts's travel map.

Tuesday 29th October

We finally arrived in Thailand at lunchtime on Tuesday after travelling for some 3 days on 4 flights. It is not much fun getting from Buenos Aires to Bangkok on the cheapest flights possible going via Madrid, London and Dubai. Total time in the air was 26 hours. We were very pleased to have been able to break up the journey by spending a day in London where we were lucky enough to go for a lovely meal with all our family.

After arriving at our accommodation, taking a cold shower and having a sleep for a couple of hours, we headed out for a look around the local area, before being greeted by a man who suggested we take a tuk tuk to the tourist information and then to a restaurant and the tuk tuk would be 50 baht. (£1) we decided to; however it was probably supposed to be a scam as we had to take a specific 'government' tuk tuk, and tourist information ended up being a travel agent's offering a tour around northern Thailand.

Unfortunately for the man selling this '2 week tour' he mentioned fairly early on we would have to have our passports to make the reservation. So we listened enthusiastically to his tour plan for a little longer than we hoped but got some good ideas from him, before he volunteered to reserve the trip for the deposit of just 1000 baht, just £20. To humour him, and probably more ourselves, we tried to find out what the final price would be, and what exactly you got for that.

Unsurprisingly, he was not too willing to share that, and kept repeating 'low deposit of just 1000 baht!' (£20). Eventually, a lot of numbers went into a calculator, along with a commentary which includes 'authentic local buses as opposed to VIP buses' which translates to rickety bench bus which stops every 5 minutes and no air-con, but probably costing you less than a couple of pounds for the 10 hour trip. So, didn't manage to get an exact duration or what was included, but for what we think was a 2 week trip, with basic guest houses and some 2 day jungle trek, he would happily have taken £355 each! Our current accommodation in the capital is only £8 a night for the two of us.

Half grateful for some of the ideas , we thanked him before 'realising' we didn't have our passports to book. Initially, he questioned this; however we continued to play our role of the naïve little tourists, saying we had just planned to wander a couple of the local streets and hadn't planned on going out. He believed us, despite Thai law stating it's a legal requirement to carry your passports at all times, and we left, promising to be back first thing in the morning.

Our tuk tuk driver was still waiting a good half an hour later and seemed very pleased for us that we'd managed to book our trip. (Clearly gets a cut in this scheme!) He took us to the restaurant, insisting we were dropped at the door. We checked the menu, saw it was to expensive and wandered off to a family run restaurant which did the nicest Penang curry. Let's hope the first guy gets into trouble for forgetting to make sure we had our passports to book the scam. You could tell full well whatever the trip was, they had no intention of selling that and had just set their sights on the 1000 baht deposit.

Wednesday 30th October

We visited the Royal Palace, which is the most magnificent and ornately decorated building I have ever seen. The buildings were your traditional style temples, covered in gold leaf and coloured shiny mosaic tiles. It was so impressive! Within the palace there were various shrines containing huge golden Buddhas. All around the grounds were various different statutes, completely covered in gold leaf.

After the palace we went to the Thai National Museum, which contained many displays, including one exhibit which housed the chariots used for royal funeral processions. Again, these chariots were covered in gold and gems and were about 12 metres high.

We walked along the edge of the river, before being greeted by a lady offering advice and 'government tuk tuk' which as it was a bank holiday, would visit 3 places for 20 baht! She did suggest going to see the giant Buddha, which we didn't know about so we did the 'long walk' (5 minutes) to see this 45 metre high golden Buddha.

Chris had seen a leaflet for an exhibition hall which was next to a park. In the park we were offered information and another special rate government tuk tuk. We declined and walked off so the man started saying we were stupid for not taking the government tuk tuk (fair enough all part of his sales act?); however it very quickly changed to 'f*ck you, f*ck you!' Charming!

The exhibition involved being shown around 7 different rooms. The tour lasted 2 hours. We soon found the organisation of the the tour to be more interesting than the exhibits themselves. There were so many staff, waiting ready in the next room. The museum seemed brand new with various hidden doors leading you seamlessly on to the next room. At one point, we unwittingly got into a giant lift and watched a video as we changed levels. There was barely enough time to look at any of the exhibits, but it was good fun moving around between term. For the final exhibit, they took everyone's photo and used our faces in a strange cartoon.

In Bangkok, there is a street famous for backpackers and so we headed there to observe the other backpackers. Backpackers fall into two main categories; those who are really into the concept of being a backpacker, tend to be on a mission to 'find themselves' and have a lot of spare time to really feel the place and generally get drunk with other random backpackers, who are their new best friends, at any given opportunity. The other type, often slightly older, rather than on their 'gap yar' tend to have chosen to use a backpack for the convenience of moving around rather than a suitcase. This street was great for analysing the two types over dinner and giving some of them a story.

Thursday 31st October

On our final day in Bangkok, we moved around and visited about 7 different things like crazy people.

For breakfast, we went to China Town and browsed around some of the shops and and stalls. There was a good sized unit, which sold just belts. It had hundreds if not thousands of belts in every style, colour and material possible. Literally just around the corner, having been unable to believe such a shop would survive, there was another one probably twice the size,

After Chinatown, we caught a river bus up to Wat Pho, a temple housing a 25 metre long golden reclining Buddha. Around the temple were some 100 buddhas say a good metre and a half up on a golden tiered base. A few of these buddhas were at various stages of being restored and maintained and it was unbelievable to see the skill that went into creating these golden masterpieces.

Next we went to the Siam museum, which showed the history of Thailand before getting some lunch. After lunch we crossed the river to see another temple before taking a boat tour around the canals. Along the water's edge, there are various different styles and quality houses, temples, restaurants and shops. Our boat driver seemed to know every other boat we went past. At the end of our tour, we got off at the flower market, where I have never seem so many orchids. Whole truck fulls would go past, stacked up as high as they could manage. This then led on to the night market, selling mainly clothes before we took a tuk tuk to State Tower, the rooftop bar they used in the film the hangover. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails while watching lightning in the distance over the night skyline of Bangkok.

Finally we visited the area renowned for its ladyboys; however I'm not sure we saw any obvious ones but I'm sure if you picked up one of the many hookers in one of the bars, you might have got more than you had bargained for. I hadn't realised they were prostitutes until Chris questioned what else all the lone women in short skirts could be doing drinking on their own. As we walked through the neighbouring market, we were offered ping pong shows and Chris told me to make sure I was always next to him.

We caught the metro back to our hostel, which contains another comical priority seat sign; in Bangkok, the obese don't get your seat as they would in Brazil, but the monks do!

Tomorrow we are leaving Bangkok to visit Kanchanaburi and take a ride on death railway.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 06:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

South American Highlights and Summary

A quick round up of our amazing trip to South America, before we start on South East Asia.


View South America 2013 on Roaming Rolts's travel map.

Number of days in South America:81

Countries Visited:
Peru: 21 days
Bolivia: 11 days
Chile: 13 days
Paraguay: 3 days
Brazil: 20 days
Uruguay: 4 days
Argentina: 9 days

Accommodation
34 different accommodations
+2 revisits
+3 nights camping (Inca Trail)
+7 night buses
+1 airport (São Paulo)
+1 night flight

48 different places gives an average stay of 1.7 nights.

Most frequent change: 7 nights, 7 different accommodations when
travelling from Chile - Paraguay - Iguassu Falls

Top 3 Accommodation
1. Apartment in Rio de Janeiro - just generally good, reasonably
priced accommodation.
2. Hostel in Foz Do Iguazu - good room, really helpful, friendly owner
and the best breakfast we had all trip.
3. Pousada in Paraty - nice room, 2 gorgeous friendly cats, lovely
outdoor courtyard with hamocks and swinging bench.

(Turns out they were all in Brazil, yet one of our worst was Alameda
Park Hotel in São Paulo, unless the payment for that never goes
through....The bed was literally solid and the whole place was
incredibly dated.)

Worst Accommodation
1. Calama, Chile - really skanky thread bare sheets, paper thin walls
and disgusting shared bathrooms. Seemed to just be lone men staying
there.
2. Uyuni Salt flats hostel - no electric, no heating (even though it
drops below zero at night), no showers, no hot water. Dorm room for 6.
We didn't get a choice on this one.

In our whole time in South America, we accidently booked bunk beds for
the twin room once (hehe!) And had to share a dorm room only twice. We
had ensuite the rest of the time on all but 2 other occasions.

Travelling Times

Time spent on buses: 141.5 hours
Time spent on flights (excluding connection times): 37 hours
Time spent on ferries: 13.5 hours

Total time travelling: 192 hours (8 days)

Stuff stolen

Robbed 3 times :-( + 1 hotel dishonestly taking $75

3 kindles
2 rucksacks
2 tablets
2 cameras
2 iPods
2 driver's licences
2 passports (amazingly handed in!)
1 mobile phone
Various amounts of various different currencies
Various tops

Highlights

We started this list on paper and it almost became a list of everything we did, so we've tried to condense it to our top 3 choices for each country.

Peru
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu were a given for Peru, and so cheated by coming up with three more. (And even then we've got plenty more to add.)

Huacachina - Sand buggies and running down sand dunes
Lake Titicaca - Uros floating islands and Isla del Sol (I know this is Bolivia, but was more to save on our list!)
Cusco - Saqsaywaman Inca ruins and pony trek

Bolivia
La Paz - Mountain biking down death road and pedestrian day.
Sucre - Dinosaur prints park
Uyuni - 3 day excursion to the Uyuni Salt Flats

Chile
Iquique - Ghost towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura
Chiquimata - Copper mine tour
Santiago - Bella Vista Patio - restaurants and quirky little shops in a hidden courtyard.

Paraguay
Asunción - Train museum
Asunción - Regenerated neighbourhood by night

Puerto Iguassu - Argentina
Iguassu Falls and wildlife
Speedboat trip through the waterfalls

Foz Do Iguazu - Brazil
Iguassu Falls - We preferred the Brazilian side as you could see all the falls and get a greater impression as to their size and magnitude.
Bird park - good collection of toucans.
Churrascarrías - Eat as much as you like for about £8, which included about 15 different types of meat served to you from skewers.

Brazil
Paraty - Colonial coastal town with narrow cobbled streets and cute buildings plus relaxing boat trip to surrounding islands and beaches.
Ilha Grande - Car-less beach island on the way to Rio de Janeiro with white sand beaches (Lopez Mendes), jungle walk and colourfully lit beach bars by night.
Rio de Janeiro - Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer and favela tour around the largest favela Rocinha.

Uruguay
Montevideo - Wandering around the town and the best steak ever from the barbeque market.
Colonia de Sacremernto - Colonial port town
Colonia - Bike ride along the coast to the former bullring and a train museum, stopping at picturesque and deserted white sand beaches.

Argentina
Buenos Aires - Tango show and dinner - one of the highlights of our trip.
Buenos Aires - bi-century museum showing Argentina's history since 1810 to the present day and the MALBA contemporary art gallery.
San Antonio de Areco and Tigre - Excursion into Las Pampas and the Paraná Delta.

Overall our favourite country was Peru, as we felt this offered the greatest variety of attractions and you could easily spend a fortnight to 3 weeks visiting here as a normal holiday and would have the best experiences.

We thought Brazil was a very close second; however felt this was less culturally different to a lot of other more western cities. If you were to spend a week in Buenos Aires, you must add on an extra 3-4 days and take the boat to Uruguay to visit Montevideo and Colonia as they are such a contrast to the massive capital of Argentina.

Now for 26 hours flying on 4 different flights across a 10 hour time zone and 4 days to South East Asia to start the next part of our big adventure. Bangkok here we come!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 19:47 Archived in Argentina Tagged waterfalls boats rain travel bus chile plane highlights border bolivia isla_del_sol summary pedestrian_day itaipu Comments (4)

Excursions from Buenos Aires

A couple of short excursions from the capital to San Antonio de Areco and Tigre

Wednesday 23rd October

San Antonio de Areco

Our first trip was an overnight stay in the town of San Antonio de Areco, a traditional Gaucho cowboy town about two hours away from Buenos Aires within Las Pampas.

The town did not really have any attractions as such, but more than made up for this with a traditional but slight faded western style ranch feel to it, with dusty streets and restaurants set up in old pulperías. Pulperías were former local shops which also doubled up as a bar and meeting point for the locals. There is one famous one in this town, which has been maintained to look like an authenitc pulpería, with old fashioned bottles lining the dusty floor to ceiling cabinets. On the walls are original posters and signs either advertising or informing you of the rules! Here we enjoyed a very nice steak, which was the best contender for stealing a point off of Uruguay, but still did not quite make the cut. ;-)

We visited a couple of museums and ejoyed horse watching alongside the idylic river, which flows through the green fields of las Pampas.

Tigre

Rah! For our final day in Buenos Aires, we took a very slow commuter train out to a place called Tigre, which you wouldn't believe was only an hour away from the capital. Last week, a commuter train failed to stop at the end of the line in the station, and it looks like since then they have installed new signs saying the train stops here, some 25m back from the end of the line.

Tigre is the gateway to the Parana Delta. There is a small town along the river, and the rest of the place is further up the river and is only accessible by boat. The whole area is made up of small rivers, which meet either the Rio Plata or the Rio Parana. We took a 2 hour guided boat tour around the area, which goes around the 'residential streets', and past various tourist attractions. It's like a suburban neighbourhood on a river, with the houses on the riverbanks on stilts, mixed in with various, schools, shops, restaurants and the occasional floating petrol station. All the properties had their own jetty, with most having their own little speedboat.

In the evening, we had a tango dinner and show booked and were both really looking forward to it hoping it would make a nice memorable ending to our time in South America. Dinner was at 9 and we arrived at five to, having argued with the taxi driver for literally taking us round the block, attempting to rip us off. The whole place was shut up and no-one was there waiting. We rang the bell to be told it had been cancelled tonight, could we come back tomorrow? (No, flight home was tomorrow). He suggested we went to another tango show, La Ventana, and they would do it for the same price. We walked the 5 blocks to the next place and instantly thought that this show was supposed to cost more, as it was in a beautiful building. We were taken down to the restaurant and given front row seats. We had probably our best and most delicious meal in South America and our first proper 3 course dinner, which hadn't been the £2 set menu with soup and ice cream in Bolivia. And the best part was it included a bottle of wine! There must have been 200 people dining there, yet we both got our steaks cooked exactly as we asked. They were lovely and thick and probably weighed 16oz. This meal probably beat Uruguay.

After dinner, the tango show started which was absolutely amazing. The band was live and there were about 10 different dances, sometimes doing duos and others doing group dances. Their legs moved so quickly! All the ladies wore beautiful outfits and several pairs of gorgeous shoes. Throughout the dancing, the band would be reacting to and interacting with the dancers, and bantering with each other.

During the interval, one of the ladies came on and sang 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' in Spanish, with a screen show of Eva Peron behind her. Towards the end of the song, the other dancers spaced themselves out along the edge of the audience and for the final chorus enthusiastically waved the Argentinian flag.

The next section was a Peruvian band, with pan pipes and a solo dancer who started off doing just some footwork, like tap, before unrolling on ropes what looked like hard plastic balls on the ends. He swung these around making shapes, pretending to nearly hit the band and continuing with the footwork. After about 5 minutes, he started swinging them round so that they hit the floor rhythmically adding to the dance. He then looked at me and offered in English to come and dance on our table, and so a joke began with me, the dancer and the band as to whether he should or not. (Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, he didn't.)

The final section was back to the more traditional tango, with 3 accordion players. I loved the accordionists because they were so animated as they played.

This has definitely become one of the highlights of our trip to South America.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 22:46 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Buenos Aires

The most Spanish feeling place we have visited.

sunny 25 °C

Saturday 19th October

After our exciting trip almost into the bad lands of Boca, we finally arrived at our appartment, in one piece late on Friday evening at our apartment block to find that we had been moved to a different building some 8 blocks away. The lady also decided to put us in a standard studio as opposed to the 'deluxe' apartment we had booked, claiming they were comparable as this one actually cost more. We finally managed to track her down the night before we left, and the company we booked with agreed to refund us $75, by card and so we needed to pay in full, and we'd submit receipts. Anyone reading our blog regularly will see we have no luck with valuables or money... She rang the company back after we had left, claiming she'd refunded us the $75 (which she hadn´t) and to cancel the refund with them. And so the fun commences!

Our first day was spent wandering around the city, visiting the main square and the government building La Casa Rosada, the main square and the bi-century museum from 2010, which marks Argentina's 200 years of independence. This museum showed the Argentinian history of the past 200 years up to 2010. I found it really informative, particularly for understanding a lot of the influential events which took place during the 20th century and shaped Argentina into the country it is today. Chris enjoyed a cup of coffee and some 'me' time as the whole exhibition was in 'foreign' (Spanish).

After lunch, we visited the neighbourhood of San Telmo, with its streets lined with retro antique shops and a massive indoor antiques market. There was one really cool stall, which sold original 1960s plastic food containers which were all brand new. There was also a large Colonial house which had been converted into a little shopping arcade and another very white narrow arcade with the buildings jutting out at awkward angles.

Sunday 20th October

Today wasn't a particularly successful day. We'd planned to go to a cowboy fair, which took place every Sunday; however despite saying online it was open, it clearly wasn't. As you have to buy a top-up card to use the bus to get to the feria, and these aren't sold on a Sunday, we wasted a little more money on a taxi there. Nevermind! This is how it seems to be in Argentina! We spent the afternoon walking along the docks lined with architecturally interesting converted warehouses and some of the famous high rises which make up Buenos Aires´skyline, before stopping for some dinner at a very tasty mexican.

In the evening, we visited a huge bookshop in a beautiful converted cinema, with a café on the stage area and books lining the balconies. About half of the people in there were just fellow tourists visiting the building for its originality.

Monday 21st October

In Buenos Aires, there exists the prestigious profession of pasaperros, which to you and me is a professional dog walker. These dog walkers will take up to 30 dogs out daily, and will groom them and check them over for any problems. Most have some sort of veterinary training. There is a famous park called el 3 de noviembre, where all the dogs are taken for their walks. There were so many dogs all over the place with non-stop barking (and humping). Within this park is a fairly authentic Japanese garden, which brought back memories of our honeymoon.

Across the road from the Japanese garden is an art gallery called MALBA. Chris and I are not really into art galleries; however with the exception of the first room which we did not get at all, we rather enjoyed this collection of contemporary and abstract art. The best display was a pile of broken stuff on white blocks with tiny figurines hidden within the objects, with many performing clean up tasks.

Tuesday 22nd October

Within the district of Boca, there is a small area considered safe for tourists, or rather set up for tourists! There are about 5 roads, the most famous of which, Caminito, which used to sit alongside the former railway. When the railway closed, the area was earmarked for demolition, however an artist saved it by painting all the buildings in various different bright colours.

In the afternoon we went for a pleasant stroll around the nature reserve, which is located just the other side of the docks. It was most strange being in a nature reserve in the middle of a large capital city.

In the evening, we went out for a steak at a parrilla recommended in the guidebook, to give Argentina the chance to catch up with Uruguay on the steak front. Unfortunately, although a sterling effort, Uruguay took the point to make it 4-0.

The following day, we are doing a short overnight excursion to San Antonio de Areco, a town within las Pampas, which is Gaucho cowboy country.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:21 Archived in Argentina Tagged art river nature_reserve Comments (0)

Colonia, Uruguay

A colonial port with the water on three sides

sunny 23 °C

Wednesday 16th October

We arrived in Colonia at about 6pm after a 3 hour bus ride from Montevideo. We arrived at our hostel to find it was swarming with teenagers. It turned out all but a couple of the rooms had been set aside for a school trip. We headed back out pretty quickly and wandered around the historical old town. We watched our first sunset over the water from a fairly deserted sandy beach. Colonia is a colonial town with plenty of character, with interesting buildings and cobbled streets. In the old town, you can't walk much more than 100 metres in any directiom before finding yourself back at the water's edge. Around the town are several old fashioned antique cars which are privately owned and well maintained. (Well, the exteriors have been at least.).

Thursday 17th October

Today we visited the town museum. It is split across about 7 different buildings. As we bought the tickets from the main building, the lady explained that was shut for now and to do 2 others first, then come back and it should be open. 3 of the museums were having their 'rest day' today so we couldn't see those. The museums told you a little bit about Colonia's Portuguese history prior to the Spaniards conquering it.

Afterwards we went up the lighthouse which was great fun with my gammy leg. The people in Colonia either discuss my leg amongst themselves in Spanish and assume I won't understand or they'll just ask what happened. Maybe they're just more used to seeing people with manhole related injuries inn Montevideo and therefore just don't bother asking? The lady at the hostel took particular interest in my leg and said she'd get me some plant leaves to treat it. On returning to the hostel in the evening, she gave me 3 really big aloe vera leaves to cut open and wipe the pulp on my graze.

For dinner, we went to a pizzeria, which has made the best pizzas we have had in South America, all for the princely sum of £3 each. We asked them to make us some cheesy garlic bread; however they refused to do this without putting on a lot of parsley as well. Nevermind, still tasted pretty good. This was all washed down with a jug of sangria, which we suspect was just chilled red wine with ice and lemon slices.

Friday 18th October

Today we hired bikes and cycled up the coast next to the empty beaches. We visited the bull ring from the early 1900s, which has begun to fall down in places. There is talk of it being restored in the future which would be good as it is different structure to a lot of the bull rings you see in Spain.

Behind the bullring was a train museum (Chris' favourite type of museum) which had examples of British built carriages they used to use on their railways, a long with an example ticket office. They had restored the dining carriage and used it as a restaurant.

We cycled back along the coast, past the docks in town and long to the picturesque white sand beach of Fernando. We went for a paddle in the sea, but despite walking out some 25-50m, we were only up to our shins.

We caught the catamaran to Buenos Aires at 6pm and set off from the port in search of the metro. It turned out we'd been dropped off at dock 4, considerably further South from where we thought. We headed off looking for the metro when a guy sorting out his truck stopped us and asked where were trying to go. It turned out we were actually in Boca and heading towards the part where it's not at all safe for tourists to go. He sent us towards the main road and told us to be careful as they would rob us if we went any further the other way. Another pair stopped us and confirmed we were heading the right way to leave Boca and reiterated that we didn't want to be there. Once on the main road, we flagged down a taxi who said where wanted to go was quite far from there and would cost £5-6. He was right, the metre stopped at £6.50 some 50 minutes later!

Both times, the men spoke to Chris and only to Chris. Even when I did all the responding, they'd still ask their next question to him as he just stood there. It seems to be the same with virtually everyone here in Buenos Aires, with the doormen at the apartment doing the same. Are women still now allowed to speak here with their partners doing all the talking for you? They don't even look at you when they are addressing your man.

We headed to our apartment, had some dinner before bed, ready for our Argentinian adventure!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 13:19 Archived in Uruguay Tagged bikes coast beach river hostel lighthouse catamaran Comments (1)

Montevideo, Uruguay

A laid back, relaxed colonial capital city.

sunny 25 °C

Monday 14th October

We caught a night flight to Montevideo from Rio, connecting in Buenos Aires. On checking in at Rio, we were informed we would have to go through passport control in Argentina and collect the bags before checking them back in again. Good job we had got our passports back as we would not have been able to do this on temporary passports. We had an hour and 50 minutes to collect, which knowing we had to clear immigration, baggage reclaim and check-in again, this was going to be tight. And then we left 30 minutes late.

There was a massive queue for passport control at Buenos Aires, and the chances of making our connection within the hour were looking slim, particularly if check-in did actually shut an hour before the flight. After about 10 minutes, it appeared a Nicholas Lyndhurst lookalike as whatever his name is in Goodnight Sweetheart, was taking people through that needed to connect. He claimed our bags would make it to Montevideo, so that was fun trying to explain they were sitting on the carousel waiting for us.

After all that, it turned out Montevideo airport was shut due to fog, and so our flight was cancelled and we were transfered on to the flight 90 minutes later.

Once in Montevideo, we wondered around the old town, which is probably the prettiest captial we have visted, with a good mix of colonial and retro style buildings. We visited a carneval museum and headed out for the best steak dinner, where we got about 16oz of steak for a little over a tenner.

Tuesday 15th October

We walked along the coast to the beach, which had a few sunbathers before visiting a pretty park with a lake. We stopped off for lunch at an old-fashioned America diner which had original booths and big red lampshades hanging above them. After lunch, we walked up to another park, had a quick look around the shopping centre, before I managed to fall down a broken manhole cover. The hole was literally the size of my foot, to the point where I struggled to get my leg back out. I now have some pretty impressive grazes all down my leg up to my knee. Everyone around me was commenting how lucky I was to not break my leg! Once cleaned up, we headed out for some burritos for dinner.

Wednesday 16th October

This morning, I limped around town with everyone staring at my leg. We stopped for a coffee in a very posh cafe before going to the market, which was just full of barbeque restataurants selling a lot of steak. We were lured into one for lunch with a lovely drink called ´medio medio´(half and half) which is white wine mixed with Champagne. For lunch here, we had another beautiful steak, which this time must have been easily 24oz of meat each, if not more. I have a photo which I will try and upload at some point.....either here or facebook.

After lunch, we caught the bus along the coast to Colonia.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 11:23 Archived in Uruguay Tagged coast beach leg manhole graze Comments (0)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer and Favelas

B]Sunday 6th October [/b]

For our week in Rio, we managed to book a very nice apartment a few blocks from the centre. It's good to have your own space, rather than just a room. We arrived early evening so just went for a wander locally before getting a bite to eat.

Monday 6th October

The next day we looked around the centre, stopping off at the former headquarters of the Banco do Brasil, which is now used as an exhibition hall. We visited our third money exhibition to date. After lunch we went to the cathedral, which looks nothing like any cathedral or church we have ever seen. It's like an octagonal pyramid shape, with strange small windows all over it. It kind of looks like a Darlick (sp?) out of Dr. Who. Inside it looks equally stange, with stain glass windows running the entire height of the inside. I will upload pictures when I get the chance....

As we headed back to the apartment at about 7pm, there were a lot of people congregating on the main square outside the theatre. We could tell it was some sort of protest, and got the feeling we did not want to stick around and so headed back to the apartment.

Tueday 8th October

The next morning Chris' Mum had emailed making sure we were OK as it turns out there were massive riots of 10,000 people who had trashed all the banks on the main road, Rio Branco. As we headed out, we saw that all the bank windows had been smashed in, the ATMs had been completely vandalised and an office had been trashed with all the computers stolen. They had also burnt out a bus.

We visited Sugar Loaf mountain, taking the cable car
to the top. The views over Rio were stunning with Christ the Redeemer up on the hillside looking down over the city. You could see all the bays with their white sand beaches. While up the mountain, looking at some of the most impressive views in the world, we were once again surprised by the number of people who were just using their phone or iPad to take pictures.

It's strange how a few years ago, although bulky, SLRs were all the rage. Now compact cameras have done a good job of catching up yet people have reverted back to using the most rubbish camera they can find!

In the cable car back down the mountain, someone very kindly relieved us of our tablet and Kindle, nicking them from Chris' bag as he wore it. What's most annoying is people here are really relaxed with their bags and belongings and we've seen some pretty shocking examples and genuinely questioned how they manage to keep their stuff. We've seen a few people walk off and leave their bags some 10 metres behind them while they faff at the bin or head to the ticket desks in the metro. How do we get so unlucky? We hadn't even taken either out of the bag for anyone to know they were there. They were in another bag under stuff at the bottom of the bag. Well at least we'd already exhausted our insurance so didn't need to waste a few hours by attempting to get a police report!

We spent the afternoon on Ipanema beach, which is the next beach along from Copacabana. This beach is supposedly trendier than Copacabana; however both are very pleasant.

Wednesday 9th October

In the morning, we spent a few hours on the beach in Copacabana before having a wander around the town in the afternoon.

Thursday 10th October

First thing, we wandered around the neighbourhoods of Santa Theresa and Lapa. After lunch we headed up to the unmissable Christ the Redeemer which can be seen up on the hillside from pretty much anywhere in Rio. We stayed up there and waited for nightfall so that we could see Rio by night. Christ also looked more impressive once lit up at night and was great fun taking silhouette pictures in front of him.

Friday 11th October

Today we took a tour Rocinha, the largest hillside Favela in Rio de Janeiro. We managed to find a great company who use guides who actually live in the favelas and like to do private tours. We caught the public bus up to the top of the favela and immediately saw the great views over Rio, including both Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf mountain, as well as the beaches. We were amazed by how far up and across the hill the favela stretched, as well as how densely populated it was. The main road through the favela is lively with the main shops, bars and restaurants. As you head down the alleyways which act as pedestrian roads winding between the building, it is a lot quieter and cooler.

The favelas were not at all what we had expected; all the houses have long since been updated from your traditional wooden shanty towns to more permanent concrete and brick built structures. The properties are generally well maintained and look like normal homes inside, with random extensions added as and when the inhabitants could afford to make home improvements. There's no need for planning permission and probably fairly lax building regulations, if any, which makes for some very interesting buildings.

The government does not fund any development or maintenance within the favela, other than installing the main road through the middle, off of which smaller homemade roads feed the hundreds of alleys through the favelas. They want to install a cable car, as they have done in one of the other favelas, but the people of the favela would understandably prefer them to sort out the open sewers and some of the rubbish problems first.

Electricity was installed in the late 60s by the catholic church and the water is pumped by the water company once a week for free. By the sounds of things, they do run out of water most weeks before the week is out. Most people have broadband and satellite TV, replacing the cable.

The people are very friendly and the favelas felt very safe. The streets are policed; however most feel the police are incredibly corrupt and it appears the favela is better 'policed' by their own people, with the drug rings dealing with the more serious crimes.

They were searching for a body while we were there, which according to our guide, the man was innocent but the police had killed him? We'll need to google that one I think.

We found the tour incredibly informative and not at all what we had expected. We would definitely recommend a favela tour in Rio, in order to get a greater understanding of how the majority of people from Rio actually live.

We have a couple more days in Rio before flying to Uruguay on Sunday night. Tomorrow we plan to visit the botanical gardens and Sunday morning will be spent on Ipanema beach and browsing the market before heading across to Copacabana where they are holding their annual gay pride parade.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 05:07 Comments (0)

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