Location: San Salvador, El Salvador to Los Angeles, USA
After two months in Spanish-speaking countries, I’m finally leaving for Asia. But first, I need to head to LA for a transit.
In the morning, I was surfing Facebook and I realized that Cathay Pacific had a typhoon warning for the 13th and 14th on its Facebook page. The airline added that we’re allowed to change our flights for free.
I thought that it would be a great chance to extend my visit in the US and BUY ALL THE THINGS WITH MY CREDIT CARD.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anyone from Cathay Pacific on the phone. In the end, I decided that I would wing it at the check in counter,
After checking out my hostel at 10am, I headed out to the post office and for breakfast. The weather was hot and I was sweating like nobody’s business as I walked around.
When I got back to the hostel, I waited patiently for my taxi at 12 noon. No car came during that time so I had to remind the hostel owner about the cab. She hurriedly made a call and a cab came after 5 minutes.
The ride from the hostel to the airport was US$30. It’s kind of expensive for El Salvador but the airport was 37km away from the city and about 45 minutes drive away.
When the cab sped to the airport, I admired the landscape. El Salvador’s hills and random jungles by the road reminded me a lot of home. I was glad to come and visit since it was a good buffer from the harsh Peruvian landscapes.
Felt up by airport agents TWICE!
I reached the airport around 1pm and checkin was smooth. What wasn’t smooth was when I got to my gate.
Turns out, passengers to the US require strict inspection. There were rows of table to inspect the contents of our carry ons. My purse, laptop case and electronic cases were zipped open and closed.
Next up was the body check where the officers felt everyone once in the front and once in the back.
The last inspection was the most ridiculous. There were several chairs and everyone had to take off their shoes. The shoes were then felt up. Luckily, I was wearing my most horrible pair of flip flops. The airport agent wasn’t too happy when she bended my flip flops around.
The flight from San Salvador to Los Angeles was alright. I watched Iron Man 3 and a couple of sitcoms during the 5-hour flight.
At LAX, I had to grab my luggage from the carousel and check in at the other terminal. The custom officers were lenient since I was only doing a transit.
However, at the luggage check for flights, I was singled out again when the metal detector flashed. Seriously, the only metal objects on me were my glasses screws and my teeth filling.
The TSA officer asked me to put out one foot. She felt up my leg and asked me to put out the other foot to feel. Do they think I was Resident Evil’s Ada Wong with some metal strapped to my thigh? I was wearing a maxi dress and look positively pregnant with my flabby stomach.
Anyway, I think it’s funny that I had to go through the legs check ups. I can now tick  Felt up by TSA officers off my list of “Things I Do Not Want to Happen to Me”.
No shopping in LAX?
Now I’m in my LAX terminal. I’m a bit disappointed by the duty free shopping here (almost non-existent). Where are the Coach and LeSportSac shops? I have a shopping list for my family and myself. Tsk.
OK, I have about three hours to go before my flight. I’ll look for things to amuse myself before my flight.
Here’s something interesting about my flight. I will be flying around midnight of August 13 but arrive in the early morning of August 14 because I’m crossing the international date line. This means my flight is about two-day long and my August 13 only lasts about 7 hours. That’ll be fun!
I’m very excited about Hong Kong
While on the plane. I read Wikitravel entries on Hong Kong and I realized that I really really really want to be there for the food.
If this was a regular straight-to-Hong-Kong trip, I might not have been as excited. But I’ve been away from good Asian food for so long that I think I might cry when I eat the first siewmai that I meet.
Today I returned to San Salvador after three nights in Santa Ana. I still have my cold but the runny nose has shifted from the left side of the nose to the right. Equal opportunity virus!
I took the bus from Santa Ana to San Salvador. Since the day was rather dull, I’ll share something interesting about buses in El Salvador.
Here in El Salvador (and many parts of the world, actually), there are vendors who sell their products in the bus. Not that the buses have canteens on them but roadside vendors would bring their things onto the bus.
I’ve seen people selling chocolate mix, soft drinks, fresh cut fruits, fried banana crackers and many more.
The vendors hop on the bus when it stops to collect more passengers and get off while the bus is leaving.
Sometimes, the vendors would still be on the bus when the vehicle has left the station. At the next stop, they would get off. I wonder if they walk back to their old stop or take another bus back.
Also, do the bus driver/conductor charge these vendors? If they do, how much “rent” do the vendors pay and do they make enough money in the end?
I woke up today with stuffy nose and phlegm. This is the second day in which I have such symptoms. I’ve caught a cold at almost the end of my trip.
I think it’s from the two times I’ve soaked in the little swimming pool. Even though the day is really hot, the water is cold and it takes a while to get used to.
Having a cold gives me a very good excuse to not explore Santa Ana. The sun, the heat and the racist cat calls are some things I do not enjoy but are thrown in bundles at me here in this little town.
At first I thought my symptoms were not as serious and that I would be alright after drinking litres of water. But when mom asked me on the phone (LINE is amazing for free calls) if I had headaches, I started feeling dizzing. (It could be that I didn’t have a real dinner and only two eggs for breakfast.)
I did a bit of work on the laptop in the public area and decided to nap. Sleep never came so off I went for lunch at a cafe recommended by the hostel. The cafe/restaurant was lovely and served snack-like meals instead of full meals. I think I’ll head here tomorrow for breakfast.
Chicken feet soup for the sick
I went shopping for something to cook since the hostel kitchen is too amazing to be left alone.
I bought some chicken feet and neck, celery, tomato and celery. This will make good comfort food and they cost about US$3.50.
When I was cleaning my ingredients for the soup, I was horrified to find out that the heads of the chicken were still hanging on. Fortunately, I didn’t need a knife to tear off the head. (Someone call PETA!)
The chicken feet soup was a success. I like how Chinese soup is mostly about throwing everything you have into a pot. I had some soup and macaroni for my afternoon tea and more for dinner.
The rest of the day was spent more on the laptop and less on the hammock. [My newsletter is coming out tomorrow! Subscribe now, please.]
Hong Kong travel tips appreciated!
By the way, I’m going to Hong Kong in a few day’s time. I’m quite clueless about the city so I welcome your travel advice and tips for it. Thanks!
Just now, before quiet time at the hostel, I spent 3 hours reading in a hammock. This is really the life but it is coming to an end. In nine day’s time I will be back home. I’ll not dwell on that now and enjoy myself for the time being.
This morning, I made breakfast in the overly amazing hostel kitchen. I boiled some eggs and tried out the orange juicer. Unfortunately, the juicer was spoiled and I had to manually squeeze 5 oranges.
After my meal, it was time to fulfil my contract as a tourist. I memorized the directions to the town’s cathedral and went off on my way.
When I reached the historical square, I saw a white tent and a film crew. The roads were blocked with yellow tape and I worried that I was not able to enter the cathedral.
There were also people dressed in new-looking traditional clothing hanging around the square. Perhaps they will be on film too.
The man at the tourist information center gave me a map and reassured me that I would be able to enter the cathedral despite the film crew.
From outside, the church is quite impressive. However, the inside is rather dull compared to its exterior. The columns were painted a mix of gray and pink. There were dolls of saints by the wall but these dolls weren’t dressed as lavishly as others I’ve seen.
I skipped the theatre because I didn’t know if visitors are allowed to go in. I did chance upon the Regional Museum of Occident which had a curious mix of taxidermy animals, photos of orchids, types of money used in El Salvador and paintings.
After the museum, I was ready for lunch. Since I still have half a roast chicken in the fridge, I walked back to the hostel.
On the way back, I was harassed again. This time by three middle aged men in a car. I heard, “Chinese! Chinese!” “How tasty.” (Seriously dude!)
I gave them the fist when I walked past. They even drove the car to taunt me more. I yelled at them in Chinese. The car stopped at the lights and I delayed my walk because I might throw stones into their car if they make racist comments again.
It’s very strange that they are able to tell that I’m Chinese when I’m wearing my huge sunglasses. How can they tell that I am Asian? From my skintone? Is it really that different from the locals?
Anyway, I enjoyed my lunch of cold leftover chicken and did a few future blog posts. I also took a swim in the little pool before heading out again for some afternoon tea at a famous bakery.
Lazing in the hammock
Back from the bakery, I went to the hammock in front of my room and started reading. I got up from time to time for some apples and a drink but I spent a total of 3 hours in that swinging cloth.
Welcome to YQtravelling’s FoodFriday. The day of the week when I show off some of the lovely eats I had while travelling.
Today we’re going to going to South and Central America for some raw fish yummies.
It was my mom who introduced me to the wonders of sashimi. A long long time ago, I didn’t realize just how tasty raw fish with a hint of spicy wasabi is. One day, she encouraged me to try out “just one slice” of tuna sashimi. I was hooked!
Since then, I always welcome dishes with raw seafood (even if they taste like rubber) so imagine my joy when I learned about Latin America’s ceviche.
The dish, also spelled as “cebiche”, is raw fish or seafood marinated in citrus juice. The juice “cooks” the fish using some scientific magic. Or About.com can explain better:
In the culinary arts, ceviche is a Latin American recipe for raw fish and seafood marinated in citrus juice, mainly lime and lemon juice. The acid in the citrus juice coagulates the proteins in the fish, effectively cooking it.
Ceviche is served in the morning and until noon in Peru because it’s not good to keep the half-cooked fish until dinner time. However, for tourists, restaurants do serve ceviche for dinner.
Ceviche at Chan Chan, Buenos Aires
My first ceviche experience was in a Peruvian restaurant in Buenos Aires.
Chan Chan was near my hostel and was said to serve cheap food. I ordered the ceviche, despite not knowing what to expect. I imagined a large plate of sashimi slices but it looked like this:
There was a bush of onion on my fish and a piece of tapioca and a small corn. I thought it was going to be all meat. :(
Still, I fell in love with the tangy dish despite my ulcers which were stabbed by the lime juice with each bite.
From then on, I was open to tasting as many ceviches as I could. However, until now, the dish from Chan Chan remained the best tasting and the most filling ceviche that I’ve had.
Ceviche at San Camilo Market, Arequipa, Peru
I’m hesitant about eating ceviche in most places because the combination of raw fish and unsanitary conditions equals disaster.
The sauce for my ceviche was dyed a slight orange color from what I hope was the tapioca. The dish was nice but it couldn’t compete with my memory of my dish in Buenos Aires.
This other ceviche place in Arequipa
I adore ceviches but I find it frustrating that they never serve a big enough serving to strerch my stomach. Ceviches are served in petite portions with more garnish than the actual fish.
Sometimes the dish is served in fancy wine glasses like this one from a ceviche recommended by one of the teachers in Arequipa.
Four-taste ceviche from Mares, Arequipa
As a budget traveller, I do not frequent fancy restaurants much. But when I was studying in Arequipa, Peru, my retired schoolmate Tasha* (not her real name) always had plans to visit nice restaurants. I could have said no but I always went along.
At Mares in Arequipa, they have a dish with four different sauces for ceviche. I quite like the one that tasted of fruit but I do not remember the proper name.
El Salvadorian ceviche
I tried ceviche at a seafood restaurant in San Salvador. There was quite a lot of fish and even a fried banana biscuit to garnish.
I was surprised by the crackers they gave me. The waiter told me that I should eat the fish with the cracker.
The fish was quite OK and I liked the salty taste of the cracker combined with the lime juice. Yum yum.
When I head back to Southeast Asia, I’ll miss ceviche the most. Even if restaurants sell ceviche, I seriously think that the price will be over the roof so I’ll just eat all my share of ceviche here before I head home.
I needed a change from the San Salvador scene. I was in the capital for the past 4 days during which 3 were publIic holidays and nothing interesting was open for business.
I don’t remember how I end up choosing Santa Ana, a landlocked region in El Salvador. Previously I was thinking about learning surfing at some of the El Salvador beaches but then I remembered that I hate warm sea water and the sun so surfing did not make sense at all.
I checked out of my San Salvador hostel before 10am and had breakfast at a nearby cafe before catching a Santa Ana-bound bus.
Unlike the short distance buses, this bus had comfortable seats, air conditioning and even a small TV playing the Alex Cross movie.
Based on travel guides, I know that I have about 1 and a half hour of travelling before we reach Santa Ana. At first I was looking out the foggy window but I found myself sleeping one hour into the journey.
When we got to Santa Ana, the bus stopped at different places. Eventually, everyone got off the bus and I had to too. Last night, I had memorized the map of Santa Ana’s bus terminal to the hostel because I don’t trust offline Google Maps.
Unfortunately, the bus didn’t stop at the bus terminal but I was able to figure out where north was based on the street numbers. I had to ask a shop for the direction of some street but I found the hostel eventually.
Just as I was approaching the hostel, a lady left the building. I rang the doorbell but no one answered. A little sign on the door told me to head to a nearby shop and ask for Carlos* (his real name).
A person in the hardware store took his keys and brought me into the hostel. The lady who left came back about 30 seconds after we were in.
I was given my room key. After depositing my luggage, I went to explore the hostel. This is probably the best hostel I’ve ever stayed at.
After hanging around the hammock a bit, it was time for lunch. I wanted to try out a place recommended by the hostel notice board but all the food were sold out.
My back up was the top Tripadvisor-recommended restaurant in the area.
Yes, I know I am Chinese
I trekked a long way to reach the place. On my way, I still got called out by strangers about my race.
I still do not understand what the people who say fake Chinese words, hiss about my being Chinese or those who say out not-so-nice things about me expect. Do they want me to react badly at them? Do they get a kick out of pointing out the only Chinese person in nearest 10km radius?
Nowadays, I’ve started responding to these people. A few days ago, a man on the street called out, “Chinita!” (Little Chinese girl.) I turned back to him, pointed and said, “El Salvadoriano!”
Today, a young man was sitting on the ground and called out fake Chinese. I stopped in my tracks, turned to him and said something back in Chinese. He just looked kind of stunned.
Later, I passed an old man and his friend, both of them sells things by the road. The old man said something about Chinese and “Me gusta dfsdjafhjsdhf”. I stopped, looked at him and wanted to shout that I know what he is talking about.
However, the proverbial cat caught my tongue and nothing came out. So he asked if I was lost and needed help with directions. As if he didn’t just say not-so-nice things about me! I told him that I know my way and still couldn’t find my retort.
This is getting really tiring.
Relaxing in Santa Ana
The rest of the day was spent in the swimming pool and in the hammock.
For dinner, I bought a whole roasted chicken from the supermarket–where an employee sang out to his friend, “Chin chin chin chin.” I glared at him.
Tomorrow, I will be able to make fresh orange juice since the hostel kitchen has such a machine. I also bought eggs since I haven’t had those in a while.
After 6 days of holiday in El Salvador, the country is back into school and business mode. For the tourist, this is much better news as it means shops are finally open and there aren’t too many people on the streets.
For me, this means I can finally visit the museums.
Since there were only two museums on my to-visit list, I left the hostel at around 11am. Unfortunately, proper restaurants do not open until noon so I had to settle with a few mini pastries from a bakery and a cafe latte from a cafe.
I strolled back to Zona Rosa (the tourist area) to see the museums. Roads in San Salvador are kind of strange. The vehicles need to follow the road and make a big turn before it goes back to what should have been directly in front. That’s why I do not take the buses to Zona Rosa and prefer walking.
Walking in the El Salvadorian heat is quite a torture. Luckily, I have my umbrella from Sri Lanka or else I think I might get sunstroke. Umbrellas are also useful as defence weapons but luckily I haven’t needed to use it that way.
My first stop was the Archaeology Museum. For US$3, there wasn’t much to see there although I quite enjoyed the exhibit on religion in the country.
After the museum, I dropped by the restaurant in the compound. They have US$7 set lunches during the weekend. While eating, I started reading Love with a Chance of Drowning.
After the satisfying lunch, I had to trek up the hill to the art museum. I couldn’t figure out the entrance so I had to sit on the steps and stare out into space for a while.
I was glad to find the entrance in the end because the art museum is deliciously air conditioned. The exhibits were quite nice too.
Finding change for a bus ride
After the requisite museum visits, I was free (and quite bored). I initially planned to take the bus from Zona Rosa to the shopping malls but I realized that I only had 22 cents in change and US$10 and US$20 bills.
The buses that stopped had the fares written on their windows. One mini buses listed 32 cents and I remembered that the other mini bus I took was 25 cents. I don’t have enough!
So I had to walk a long way to the malls. However, I stopped to catch my breathe at one of the bus stops and found a big bus that charges only 20 cents. I hopped on, asked about the fare, gave my money and sat next to a fat man who decided to spread his knees even more after I sat down.
By the way, the big buses in El Salvador has turnstiles on them! TURNSTILES! I took a sneak shot of the object.
I bought some soap at the supermarket. Then I bought a local SIM card even though I would only be in the country for another 5 days. You never know when it’ll come in handy.
After the malls, I walked back to the hostel. I decided that I would visit Santa Ana tomorrow for 3 nights because I’m rather bored with San Salvador.
I searched for rooms in Santa Ana but strangely, they were all booked out on the online accommodation sites. In the end, I had to SMS one of the hostels. Fortunately, they arranged a room (through SMS!) so I will not be roofless tomorrow.
Eating Japanese in El Salvador
For dinner, I visited a Japanese restaurant I found on Foursquare. The restaurant was located in the residential area and was actually in a house! There wasn’t a proper sign outside and they only had a fluttering stand-sign near its door.
To enter, you have to ring the house doorbell and they will show you in. The interior was a dark mysterious red. The food was also mysterious since they only had sushi rolls.
I extended my stay at the current hostel for another 2 nights because I am too lazy to figure out my next stop.
My hostel is in the neighborhood of University of Central America so it has a lot of nice-looking coffee shops, printers and a few bookstores. Unfortunately, it’s still the holidays here in El Salvador so I’ve not been into any of the shops.
Fortunately, the fast food places are open. Bless the fast food chains!
I walked from the hostel to Zona Rosa where the posh area is. It’s also where the Consuma Fair is held so there was a terrible traffic jam.
The two museums that I wanted to visit were closed as well so I had to spend time wandering around the streets where shops (excluding fast food outlets) were closed.
From Consuma, I walked to the shopping malls near by hostel. It was 33 degrees Celsius so thank goodness I had my umbrella with me to block out the sun or else I would get sunstroke again.
At the mail, I drank two cups of coffee (in separate sittings) and ate half a bad Tiramisu cake. I walked to another mall (passing by another mall) and found it dreadfully boring.
On my way back, I stopped by the supermarket, hoping to find some souvenirs (Yes, they are for you!). But in the end, I bought toothpaste and a bottle of water.
There’s a side of me on the internet that I’ve not shared on YQ Travelling, until today.
Back in December 2012 when I was in Singapore, I created a Tumblr called The Overexposed Model (OEM) to record ads which I’ve come across that feature an ambiguously raced young lady.
The tumblr was actually a follow up of a blog with a similar goal. The blog was called The Overexposed Big Mouth Model but it disappeared when I was trying to submit my sightings.
Since OEM was in so many ads as the generic smiling women, I thought it was fun to chronicle my discoveries. I shared the blog link with a few friends but I mostly kept it as a semi-private collection.
Then one day, a freelancer from the Phillipines asked if he could interview me about the blog as part of a feature on the model. I can now honestly say that I was in Esquire Philippines (or something like that), however not as a bikini model.
In March, the Singapore media ran out of story ideas and featured The Overexposed Model in various print and web outlets. Some readers started submitting their own sightings of OEM to the tumblr. I put those up too.
Naively, I thought that the tumblr will hibernate while I go on my four-month journey. I still keep seeing OEM.
In the beginning, it was fun spotting OEM but now it feels kind of like a nightmare. Each time I see her, there’s less giddy surprise and more “NOT AGAIN!” Of course, I still obediently take out my camera and snap her photos.
Overexposed Model in Malaysia
My first overseas sighting of OEM was back home in Sabah in a clinic. She was in a ulcer medication ad.
Overexposed Model in Greece
In Greece, I found OEM hawking glasses in Athens.
Overexposed Model in Argentina
I thought I was safe from OEM but I found her at Buenos Aires airport, selling some sort of travel card.
Overexposed Model in Peru
I found her on a bus company’s website, ready to go for an unplanned weekend travel.
In Arequipa, in a lonely building, I found her in a life size printout. I thought I should stand next to her to prove that I spotted her.
Then I saw her again in the papers.
Overexposed Model in San Salvador
When I was out window shopping, I saw her outside a supermarket.
I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing OEM in an ad. It’s funny how she’s featured in so many different countries. Does her looks makes her the everyday person of the countries she’s been featured?
Have you seen the Overexposed Model? Share where you’ve seen her in the comments below.