YQ gets a haircut

Getting a haircut in Lima [YQrtw Day 115 Aug 3]

Location: Lima, Peru

As I said yesterday, I don’t have any thing planned for Lima so I decided to get a haircut today. So much for doing my own hair, huh.

Below my hostel is a nail salon and a proper hair salon. The salon was closed when I was going out so I walked along the street looking for another hair salon. (I later found out that they also do hair jobs in the nail salon.)

I got my hair cut in the shop on the left

I got my hair cut in the shop on the left

I found a little place called Gladys. It was the name of my host mother in Arequipa so I thought that it was a good sign.

When I went in, there was only another customer doing her nails. The owner, employee and customer were all watching a volleyball match on TV between Peru and China. I interrupted them, asking if I could get a haircut.

The only chairs were taken by the customer so I didn’t think that I could get my hair done. However, the owner told me that there were haircuts so I stayed.

The owner dragged a chair from behind the counter and put it in front of the mirror above the sofa. That was my makeshift hair cut chair.

While she was getting her tools ready, she excitedly pointed at the TV and then to me. “China,” she said. I replied, “Soy de Malasia.” (I’m from Malaysia.)

I thumbed through a few hair catalogues and pointed to a short bob. The hairdresser looked at it and shook her head.

She got out another book and showed me other hairstyles. I chose one that looked very much like the last one. Fortunately, she agreed.

She started snipping away. And she even used a fun-looking razor. It was a razor covered on one side with a teeth-shaped plastic.

I was kind of worried that my hair was cut too short. The problem with my hair is that if it’s too short, it will start to stand vertically. When I was a baby, my hair defied gravity all the time.

Halfway through the hair cut, the result of the volleyball match was announced. China won and Peru was “among the top 4”.

I was really worried that the hairdresser might wreck my hair because China won. (Chinese-looking person == China == Gals who beat Peru.)

Fortunately, I was still alive by the end of the haircut. I don’t hate my new hair but I suspect they will be doing some gravity-defying stunts when I get back to humid Southeast Asia.

It was only 10 soles for the cut (about S$5) so I won’t complain!

YQ gets a haircut

YQ gets a haircut

Rest of the day:

Took the bus one from one end to another. The areas away from the city center reminded me a lot of Indonesia.

Scene from Lima's street

Scene from Lima’s street

Lunched at a Foursquare-recommended place. Had seafood soup.

Seafood soup in Lima

Seafood soup in Lima

Took bus to Miraflores. Drank coffee.

Went grocery shopping before heading back to hostel.

Had a pedicure in the nail salon downstairs.

mail for yq

Picking up mail in Lima [YQrtw Day 114 Aug 2]

Location: Lima, Peru

Important building in Lima

Important building in Lima

Last night, the hostel owner drove me to the bus station for my midnight bus from Nasca to Lima. Thankfully, I was not car sick during this trip although I was disturbed by loud snoring.

It was around 6:30am when the bus rolled into Lima. The sky was grey and it looked like it rained. The bus stopped at two stops, mine was the last at La Victoria.

I haggled with a cabbie (30 soles to 25 soles) for a ride to my hostel. It took a while to find the hostel because the addresses in the area weren’t in order.

After a call to the hostel, we found the place. The place that I’m staying at is actually someone’s apartment turned into a hostel. It’s really pretty inside but a bit far from the main bus station (6 blocks!)

I explored a bit of Lima’s historical center when I went to run an errand.

Dunkin Donuts invades pretty, old building in Lima

Dunkin Donuts invades pretty, old building in Lima

Nice church deco in Lima

Nice church deco in Lima

Pretty full-wall mural in Lima

Pretty full-wall mural in Lima

Picking up mail in Lima

I don’t plan to do much sightseeing in Lima for the two days that I am in the capital.

Since I’ve seen Machu Picchu, pretty much everything else is dull. However, there is an interesting museum that I might go to if I can figure out where it is exactly.

However, I do have a very important errand to run. My friend, D, in Singapore has sent me a package using a poste restante service. It means that the post office keeps your mail for you and you collect it by showing your passport.

Ever since I’ve read about poste restante, I’ve wanted to use the service to collect mail in a place where I do not have an address. For me, this is really romantic.

It took a while for me to find the central post office but it was really easy to pick up my package. The lady looked at my name and went in search in the “L” box which did not have anything for me and in the “Y” box which had an envelope for me.

Woopee!

"You've got mail!"

“You’ve got mail!”

Bus system in Lima

Bus platform in Lima

Bus platform in Lima

The hostel owner, Marco* (his real name), passed me a transportation card for Lima. I went off to explore the public bus system on my own.

Here in Lima there are different types of buses. The one I took was the Metropolitano which reminded me very much of TransJakarta, the public bus in Jakarta.

There are levitated platforms in the middle of the road where the buses stop. Here in Lima, you’ll need to tap your transportation card, paying 2 soles for one entrance.

There are several doors for the buses which are quite long. Then there are different doors for different routes but sometimes these are shared among different routes.

It’s easy to take the bus but it’s difficult to get on since there seems to be a lot of people already on the bus.

menu at aguas calientes market

Where to find cheap food in Aguas Calientes [#FoodFriday]

Aguas Calientes is the town nearest to Machu Picchu. This is where you will likely stay a night before you visit the site or having a meal before you take the train back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo.

Most of the infrastructure in Aguas Calientes is targeted at tourists. This means jacked up prices.

In Aguas Calientes, I had eaten a 45 soles (S$21) set meal where the rice was as large as the head of my fork and a 67 soles meal (S$30) that was actually pretty tasty.

Of course, not every meal in Aguas Calientes has to exceed 50 soles. I can show you a place where you can have a meal plus a fruit juice for just 10 soles (S$4.50).

Where to find cheap food in Aguas Calientes

Where to find cheap food in Aguas Calientes

This little piggy went to market

Go to Aguas Calientes market for cheap food

Go to Aguas Calientes market for cheap food

On the second floor of the local market (not the “craft market) is where they sell cooked food. At lunch time, a lot of the stalls write their dishes of the day on a whiteboard. Just order off the list and you will have tasty, freshly made food.

Second stall in Aguas Calientes market

Second stall in Aguas Calientes market

The second stall on the left gave me a good vibe so I had both my meals there. The stall is run by a family of women. The first time I went, the elder sister cooked while the second time, the mother cooked.

Bistek frita

Bistek frita

The beef steak meal was lovely but the Milanese chicken (breaded chicken cutlet) wasn’t as good. I love how they have rice along with the meal. I also requested that they only give me tomatos and not greens as the salad.

Milanesa pollo

Milanesa pollo

After your meal, you might want to have a drink. At the market, juices sell for 5 soles. For this price, you get about 2 glass-full of juice. That was enough to stretch my stomach.

Fruit juice stall at Aguas Calientes

Fruit juice stall at Aguas Calientes

I will definitely miss the generous servings of fruit juices in Peru.

Special fruit juice

Special fruit juice

Mixed fruit juice in Aguas Calientes market

Mixed fruit juice in Aguas Calientes market

More about Aguas Calientes:

Who likes Aguas Calientes? I kind of do

Finally, the day I visit Machu Picchu [YQrtw Day 109 Jul 27]

Hot springs at Aguas Calientes [YQrtw Day 108 Jul 26]

lazing in nasca

Lazing in Nasca/ Dealing with street harassment [YQrtw Day 113 Aug 1]

Location: Nasca, Peru

I was supposed to meet up with my schoolmate Tasha* (not her real name) in Nasca yesterday but she did not arrive. To tell you the truth, I was looking forward to some more solo travelling so I was slightly relieved that I could make my own travel plans.

Yesterday, I told the hostel owner about my travel plans to Lima. He suggested a bus that leaves Nasca at midnight, reaching Lima in the morning at around 7. I decided that I will take this bus instead of making a transfer at Ica because the buses from Ica to Lima will reach in the evening when the sun is down.

After breakfast, the hostel owner, Fernando* (his real name), was going to send off a parcel so he brought me to the bus terminal to get my ticket.

Here in Peru, people send off parcels not through the post office but through long-distance bus companies. I thought it was an interesting way of mailing.

I bought my midnight bus ticket and chose the seats on the lower floor since I did not want to have another episode of motion sickness. Tickets on the lower deck were 20 soles (~S$10) more expensive but that’s not much of a difference.

Nasca’s Thursday market

On the drive back to the hostel, Fernando pointed out the weekly market that was going on. I decided to visit the market after I slapped on a lot of sunscreen.

It’s quite comforting to find that weekly markets look the same around the world. During this trip, I visited the weekly markets in Florence and Buenos Aires. Wares are displayed haphazardly on raffia sheets under raffia sheet roofs and everything is messy.

Nasca Thursday market

Nasca Thursday market

Giant pumpkins at Nasca market

Walking around Nasca

Compared to Arica, Chile, where I also spent two days recuperating, Nasca is a more exciting town. By exciting, I mean that there are at least 5 streets with shops, compared to not many in Arica.

Puppies for sale

Gate inspired by Nasca lines

Mural in Nasca

Mural in Nasca

At lunch, I was surprised to find that my receipt had a familiar name.

Black Sirius?

Dealing with street harassment

Remember last time I wrote about how some men on the street would shout racial slurs when I was in Arequipa?

I didn’t anymore of that in Ollantaytambo nor Cusco so I thought all that was over. Unfortunately, I encountered some today but I found a way to fight back.

Today’s first episode happened when I was walking on the pavement. An older man was walking rather slowly so I overtook him. I heard him grumble really loudly and knew that he was talking about me (but not to me).

I thought of ignoring him and walking away faster but something came over me. I stopped in my tracks and turned back to look at him.

He was still mumbling. I stared back behind my sunglasses. He walked on, still mumbling but talking about something else. I followed him quite closely behind, glaring at his head while he snuck looks behind.

I stopped shadowing him when I found a fruit juice stall and went there for a drink.

The second episode happened while I was crossing Plaza de Armas, heading back to the hostel. I had my umbrella out to shade the sun and I heard words that sounded like, “China… China… Wang wang…”

I stopped, turned to my right and saw a gang of young people under the shade. They didn’t make any noise while I glared at them (still behind my glasses). I had the intention of walking to them and shouting back if they directed their speech at me.

I rolled my eyes and said loudly in Malay, “Bising-bising”, meaning “making noise”. As I continued my walk, I thought I heard a clap from behind me.

The third and last episode was when I was walking to Plaza De Armas to look for dinner. I thought I was safe under the covers of the night but I heard, “China. Ching chong. Ching chong” when I was about to cross the street.

I looked for the source and saw two young men with painted clown faces. They didn’t make any noise. One of them looked at his shoes while the other nudged him.

Again in Malay, I said, “Jangan bising-bising.” (Don’t make noise.) I walked off, thankful that they did not attack me.

I feel a lot better after standing up to these roadside bullies. I think I chose to use Malay as retorts because it didn’t sound Chinese so no one can make fake Chinese sounds back at me.

I don’t recommend doing this in places where men are known to attack women. But if you, like me, have an umbrella in hand and are not afraid to use it then consider fighting back. Maybe just these three times.

Up close with Nasca lines

Nasca lines, Chauchilla Cemetery and ancient aquaducts [YQrtw Day 112 Jul 31]

Location: Nasca, Peru

After the bus ride last night, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep but the hostel owner convinced me to join a land tour of the Nasca lines.

At breakfast, the tour guide ordered me to the front desk. I was very annoyed since I was still eating. He then tried to sell me his package as I was not pleased with him, I was non-committal.

At breakfast, I met a lady from the US. Her name was Ida* (not her real name). Since she wanted to go on the land tour to the Nasca lines and the cemetery, I said I would too.

Ida said that she did not have a chance to take photos of the lines since her camera batteries ran out yesterday when she was on the plane ride.

Seeing the Nasca lines up close

The land tour turned out to be quite fun and the guide was nicer when not trying to sell his package.

Our first stop was a lookout for the Nasca lines. The lookout was a metal structure with a narrow winding staircase. From that look out, we saw a hand, an upside down tree and a lizard which are part of the Nasca lines.

Height of Nasca lines lookout

Height of Nasca lines lookout

Sunblock and I at the Nasca lookout

Sunblock and I at the Nasca lookout

From that high (which is not much), the Nasca lines do not look that impressive. Up close, I saw that the ditches were really shallow and narrow. I imagined something as impressive as crop circles.

Next was the Palpa lines which had an adorable set of people etched on the side of a sand hill. My camera could not capture the figures so I give you the photo from the exhibit.

Cute Palpa lines figures

Cute Palpa lines figures

Sign at free lookout point

Sign at free lookout point

A long long drive away was the cemetery. During the ride, I fell asleep and woke up to find a desert around us.

The cemetery had tombs of some ancient people. These folks were mummified after they died and laid in little stone tombs. Many of them still had their long dreadlocks which were curled around their bodies.

Mummies at Cemetery of Chauchilla

Mummies at Cemetery of Chauchilla

Cemetery of Chauchilla

Cemetery of Chauchilla

Tomb raiders had stolen most of the beautiful pottery and left some of the bones and clothes above ground. We did see bits of human bones lying around.

Surprisingly, the bodies were left in their crouching positions in their tombs, as if the caretakers do not mind them being exposed in the open air.

Our last stop was the ancient aqua ducts. This was the most impressive since some of the twenty spiral aqua ducts went tens of meters deep into the ground.

Spiral blow holes at Nasca channels

Spiral blow holes at Nasca channels

The total of the tour was 150 soles per person.

To fly to see Nasca lines or not?

After seeing the Nasca lines up close, I am thinking of not spending my time and money on a flight over the lines.

Ida said that the planes do not fly if it is cloudy. This means that people who booked slots in the morning are forced to wait until the sky clears (about 1pm today) and those with later slots will need to wait even later.

Another reason that I do not want to take the plane is that it does a lot of flying manoeuvres so people on both sides and see the lines. After my motion sickness episode, I do not look forward to that.

My plan for tomorrow is to take a morning bus to Ica then if there are cheap buses to Lima, I will head to the capital. If not, I will spend a night in Ica then take the bus on the following day.

Travel safe, folks!

Oltursa bus

Violently car sick from Cusco to Nasca [YQrtw Day 111 Jul 30]

Location: Cusco -> Nasca, Peru

When I started this daily log of my trip, I promised myself not to hide too much from you guys. I want to record the good, the bad and the ugly of a long-term trip.

I am writing this entry in my warm hostel in Nasca. I am glad that the events that I will share is in the past. Some of the more graphic parts of the story will be hidden in white font and those who wish to feel disgusted can highlight those paragraphs to relive the event.

Last morning in Cusco

I checked out of my “hotel” slightly before 10 and went to a restaurant listed on Wikitravel for breakfast. The food was good with local bread, a juice, scrambled eggs and even a latte to go with it.

Morning latte at Victor Victoria

Morning latte at Victor Victoria

Unfortunately, during breakfast, I had reached almost the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Even though I’ve read the book so many times, I still wept over [highlight the next two words for spoiler] Dumbledore’s death.

Afterwards, I did a bit of souvenir shopping at one of the handicraft places. I left with a plastic bag full of things I hope can be used back in the Southeast Asian tropics.

I loitered outside a restaurant Nana* (not her real name) and I went to the day before to steal their Wi-Fi. Nana left a message saying that she’ll be meeting her Swiss friends at noon. Since Nana would not be reading this, I will admit that I had a tiny crush on one of the guys so I happily said that I would go too.

I still had time before the meet up so I headed to a cafe I had marked on Foursquare. The cafe, called Panam Cafe, reminded me of the Capitol in The Hunger Game series. The coffee was alright and I bought a croissant-like bread almost as big as my face to nibble on my 14-hour bus ride to Nasca.

It was time for the meet up and I stood under the shadow of a light pole, waiting. The guys came eventually although Nana was still stuck with her errand.

We headed to San Pedro market. There, I had two and a half glass of juice since I was more thirsty than hungry. Unknown to me then, not eating lunch was a wise choice.

Soon it was time for me to leave. I bade farewell and went back to my hotel for my “muchas cosas” (loads of things).

Ciao Cusco!

The taxi ride to the bus terminal was smooth. I checked in my things and paid for the bus terminal tax.

Oltursa bus

Oltursa bus

I was delighted to find that the bus Wi-Fi worked this time for my phone. On my last Oltursa trip, my phone could not join the Wi-Fi network. I wrote a post on my Facebook Page showing how the interior of the bus looked like.

When the bus set off, I was tired but excited to be heading to a new location. I had a small packet of wafers to tide me over before the dinner on board.

Plus, my school mate from the Arequipa language school, Tasha was going to meet me in Nasca so I’ll have a travel buddy.

A few hours into the journey, I started feeling a little queasy. The bus was rocking quite violently as it turned on the curves of the hill. I few times, I felt my stomach churning but I kept everything down.

When it was dinner time, at about 7pm, I felt even more nauseated by the smell of food. I covered my nose with my blanket and hoped for the best.

When the bus attendant came over with the trolley, she saw that I was unwell and suggested that I do not eat. I was allowed a small cup of Coca Cola which I drank happily. Later, she passed me a plastic bag and a pill for motion sickness.

I rested, with my hand grabbing tightly at the plastic. Then at one of the rocky turns, I knew I could not keep my stomach down any longer.

Being sick on the bus

[Beginning of unpleasant recount of vomiting. Please highlight to reveal the content.]

I have not thrown up in a while so I was quite curious about how it was.

In the beginning, saliva fills up in my mouth, as if my body wants to protect my mouth from the attack of stomach acid. I held the plastic close to my mouth and retched.

Out came a flow of liquid (thank goodness for my juice lunch) and a taste of wafer. With the bag held closely to my mouth, I threw up more liquid.

Even when my stomach was empty, it cramped for many times to make sure that nothing was left inside. It was a most unpleasant feeling as I burped out air.

When the ordeal was over, I rinsed my mouth and tied the bag. I held on to the bag at my side, glad that the man sitting next to me had moved behind so he did not have to see that scene.

I closed my eyes and rested. I woke up when the attendant came over with hot water and tea bags. She even gave me two mate de coca which helps with altitude sickness. I embarrassedly pointed to my plastic bag. Later she passed me two bags.

I sipped some mate and rested. I could feel the bus turning every corner. I imagined that the upper deck was swaying more violently than the lower deck. I also imagined the liquid in my ears churning wildly.

I had to throw up again. This time, there was only the taste of mate. I was horrified since this meant that even drinking liquid can cause more throwing up.

When the bus stopped for new passengers, I brought my two vomit bags to the toilet and dumped them in the trash can that was lined with another plastic bag. I hoped the altitude would not cause them to burst.

When I got back to my seat, I felt a pounding in my head. This usually meant that I did not drink enough water and I was having an effect similar to a hangover.

I took tiny tiny sips of water to pacify my body. Eventually, these five sips of water came back up but that was at three hours before the end of the journey.

When I finished all three plastic bags, I had to go to the back of the bus to wake the attendant and ask for more plastic bags. I threw away the soiled bag as she rummaged through her first aid kit.

She found a plastic bag that held bottles of soft drink. Thank goodness I did not have to use that bag.

[End of disgusting story.]

Arriving in Nasca

I didn’t really sleep but I was woken up by the attendant at past 6am. She told me that the next stop was Nasca. I gathered all my things and waited patiently for the bus to stop.

When I got off the bus, I waited for Tasha’s Arequipa bus to come. The bus did came but she did not. The attendant of that bus was unhelpful when I asked if a Senora Tasha was on board.

In the end, I got on a taxi found by a tout. The tout said the ride was 5 soles (reasonable for tout prices). He told me that my hotel was full. I read about this trick in travel guides and insisted that they bring me to my hostel.

Thankfully the driver did not try to bring me to some strange place. I was left at the front door of the hostel where the caretaker Fernando greeted me a long while after I rang the doorbell.

I picked the dorm room which is empty apart from my bed. I requested for breakfast since my stomach was empty. I was surprised that the breakfast didn’t feel like The Best Meal Ever but was glad for food and a solid ground.

My adventures for the day will continue in the next post!

why is aguas calientes so hated

Who likes Aguas Calientes? I kind of do

At the end of the train to Machu Picchu is Aguas Calientes. This town, named after its hot springs, does not have a good reputation among travel guides.

“[U]nplanned tourist development and perpetual construction makes this one of the ugliest, most exploitative towns you’ll run across anywhere in Peru,” says Lonely Planet.

Wikivoyage reports, “Despite its magnificent setting, it’s not the most scenic town, owing to fast and ruthless development to support the huge influx of tourists.”

Based on all these comments, I kind of dreaded the two nights that I would be spending there.

I thought my eyeballs would melt from looking at Aguas Calientes town. But at the end of the trip, my eyeballs were intact. I even think that Aguas Calientes is much prettier than some of the Malaysian towns I’ve been to.

First impression of Aguas Calientes

First look of Aguas Calientes

First look of Aguas Calientes

When the train pulled into its station–well, just in the middle of the tracks and not really the station–I saw half-built buildings made up of concrete and wood. I thought to myself that if the whole place looks like this, then it’s really sad.

At the platform, a woman holding a whiteboard sign had the name of my hostel. I introduced myself but the woman–who doesn’t look past 24–seemed worried. I guessed that no one told her that a Chinese person was coming.

Aguas Calientes market at night

Aguas Calientes market at night

When she had gathered all the guests, we trekked through the “craft market”. The market is made up of tens of stalls all selling the same woolen hat, gloves and souvenirs.

The woman from our guest house had a cloth baggage on her back like many of the local women. From the cloth, I could smell soured milk so I wondered if she was carrying a baby inside.

My hostel was a rather sad place. It was a shop house divided into many rooms. My room had a window that looked out into a corridor and the place smelled musty.

I got out of the hostel quickly and explored the town.

Real exploration of Aguas Calientes

Mountains surrounding Aguas Calientes

Mountains surrounding Aguas Calientes

When I stepped out of my hostel, I was awed by the mountains that hugged the town. They towered the town and looked freshly green.

If you looked only at the mountains, Aguas Calientes is indeed a pretty town.

Away from town, the real river of Aguas Calientes was beautiful too. Sadly, part of the town where the river flowed had a smell of wet socks so the whole river might not be as clean as it looks.

River of Aguas Calientes

River of Aguas Calientes

In case of overflowing river

In case of overflowing river

The town is made up of a lot of stairs. Some of these stairs are flanked with tourist restaurants where waiters call out semi-aggressively while some have women shouting about “Masaji. Masaji.” (Perhaps I look Japanese so they use the Japanese pronounciation of massage.

Tourist street in Aguas Calientes

Tourist street in Aguas Calientes

Empty staircase in Aguas Calientes

Empty staircase in Aguas Calientes

I was surprised to find the football field. I expected the town to be void of activities in normal life, such as school and play, since tourism is such an important business in Aguas Calientes.

Football field in Aguas Calientes

Football field in Aguas Calientes

As Aguas Calientes is constantly underdevelopment–not unlike Dubai and Singapore–a lot of buildings were unfinished.

Developing Aguas Calientes

Developing Aguas Calientes

Murals in Aguas Calientes

One of the buildings’ wall had gorgeous murals.

Machu Picchu mural in Aguas Calientes

Machu Picchu mural in Aguas Calientes

Rain forest mural in Aguas Calientes

Rain forest mural in Aguas Calientes

Happy kids mural and the pathway in Aguas Calientes

Happy kids mural and the pathway in Aguas Calientes

Other fun thing in Aguas Calientes

Besides Machu Picchu, another interesting place in Aguas Calientes is the hot springs. But it’s kind of dirty if you go later in the day.

The best time to visit the hot springs is before 12 noon when the sun is at its strongest.

The market near the main square has a second floor with food stalls. They sell cheap (5 soles) meals!

Have you been to Aguas Calientes, how did you find it?

YQ at Inca Museum

Sightseeing with a buddy in Cusco [YQrtw Day 110 Jul 29]

Location: Cusco, Peru

Most of my first full day in Cusco was spent with Nana (not her real name) whom I met in Santiago. She came to Cusco from Bolivia and we arranged to meet up to go check out a few museums around the city.

As she had not had breakfast at the meeting time, I went off to the bus terminal to buy my tickets for tomorrow to Nazca. The price of the ticket had shot up by 40 soles (~S$20) compared to 2 hours before I bought them. That’s quite a jump as there were only about 5 seats left on that bus.

When I got back to the city center, Nana and I started our first museum visit: The Inca Museum.

The museum tells a bit about the Inca’s folklore as well as pots and potteries from many years ago. The entrance was 10 soles, good enough to spend 30 minutes to understand a bit about the history of the Inca. (Not that I remember a lot of them.)

Inca Museum courtyard

Inca Museum courtyard

Next stop was the Pre-Colombian Art Museum. This museum is better and more expensive at 20 soles. My favorite exhibit here was a necklace made out of seashells which looked like little roses.

Since both museums do not allow visitors to take photos, there weren’t a lot of photographic record of the day.

Even though I like visiting museums alone, having someone else to go with and “oooh and aaah” over interesting exhibits is quite fun.

After museums, it was about 3pm. Nana wanted to bring me to Inka Fusion which she said had very good lunch menus. However, it was a bit too late and the restaurant was closed so we head to a pizzeria instead.

We parted ways after lunch and said to meet up for pre-dinner coffee (actually, no-dinner coffee). We did eventually meet for cake and also for dinner with two of her friends.

The Asian Tax

At lunchtime, I talked to Nana about a situation I have at my budget hotel. I paid 40 soles (S$20) for a double bed single room with no private bathroom.

However, I overheard the receptionist old lady tell people who came in to ask about the price of the room that a no-bathroom room cost 20 soles. This means that I am paying double for the normal price even though I asked politely in Spanish.

My Asian face is a give away that I am not from this part of the world and people think it’s alright to charge me extra “Asian Tax”.

Nana was indignant and said I should cause a scene and demand to pay the regular price.

Good thing about my situation is that although I have paid 40 soles for yesterday, tonight’s stay has not been paid yet. My plan is to tell the receptionist at checkout that single rooms without bathrooms are 20 soles so I have paid fully for my room.

Wish me luck!

Have you encountered the Asian Tax before?

le rose

Staying in Peruvian budget hotels in Ollantaytambo, Cusco [YQrtw Day 110 Jul 28]

Location: Ollantaytambo -> Cusco, Peru

My train from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo arrived at about 9:40pm so I made reservations with a hospedaje (Peruvian budget hotel) in Ollantaytambo.

I made the booking on the first day in Ollantaytambo. At first I booked a night on the 25th. Then I realized it was supposed to be the 26th so I walked over to change the date. Then after I changed my return date of my train, I had to make adjustments at the hospedaje again.

On the night of 27th, I arrived and was sent to a three-bed room along with my suitcase which I left there. The room was very nice for its 30 soles price (S$15).

Le Rose Hospedaje is on the right

Le Rose Hospedaje is on the right

In the morning, at checkout, the younger employee called out to the older (but still not that old) employee. The latter talked about “propina” which I did not understand. In the end, he said “money”, pointing to my luggage.

I gathered that they want a storage fee. When I asked how much, the younger employee’s eyes shone brightly and she whispered, “10 soles.” I thought that was a ridiculous price for 2 nights of storage and turned to the other employee who said, “5 soles.”

I took out a 10 soles bill and they looked around for change. I wasn’t very pleased when I found out that “propina” meant tip. Just because I am foreign doesn’t mean I print money at home and I can freely distribute my wealth around.

Still, I left my stuff at the hospedaje and went for breakfast at my favorite cafe in Ollantaytambo–Heart Cafe. I enjoyed their menu of the day and their lattes.

Then I collected my luggage and got on a mini bus to Cusco.

Back in Cusco

This is my third time in Cusco but it’s also my first time staying here. Previously, I was here for my transfer to Ollantaytambo and to buy my tickets to Machu Picchu.

Fortunately, the bus stopped in San Francisco square instead of the bus stop for Ollantaytambo collectivos. San Francisco square has quite a few accommodation choices.

I dragged my suitcase up a slope, checked out one hostel I’ve seen featured on Hostelworld.com. The price of a dorm room was cheap US$10 (S/ 28) and a private room was US$40 (S/ 112).

I walked out with my stuff since I was not willing to pay US$40 for a room in Peru. I found another hostel but it did not have any private rooms available.

The I spotted a dodgy little place with a sign. I walked in and saw a courtyard. A middle aged lady walked out. I told her that I have no reservation and if she had a room.

Indeed, she did have a room right behind the counter. It was a private room “with Wifi” but no private bathroom.

The price was a reasonable S/ 40 (US$14). I decided to take the room because it was a very good deal.

The toilet and bathroom are built separately in the courtyard. Using them in the morning isn’t a problem but at night, when the temperature drops down to 7 degrees Celsius, taking a shower is an ordeal.

Still, I can’t complain about a US$14 room. I’ll even stay an extra night (or more if I do not go to Nazca).

YQ at Machu Picchu

Finally, the day I visit Machu Picchu [YQrtw Day 109 Jul 27]

Location: Aguas Calientes -> Ollantaytambo, Peru

To be honest, I don’t really know why I want to visit Machu Picchu. The main reason is probably that it has been so hyped up. I don’t mind

Many web sites that I read recommend heading to the bus station slightly before 5am to catch the first few buses that leave at 5:30am so that you can catch the sunrise.

Initially, I planned to do the same and set my alarm for 4:45am. When the time came and my iPhone blasted out my alarm, I went over to my phone and changed the time to an hour later.

I didn’t fully fall back into sleep but when I checked my phone, it was 5:55am. I checked my alarm and realized that I had set it to 5:45pm.

I got up and got ready. I checked out of the hotel around 7am and looked for food because I planned to stay in Machu Picchu well past lunchtime and I need a good breakfast.

My favorite French pastry place was open. I ordered a cafe con leche and two pastries. This should sustain me for a long while.

One way bus ticket to Machu Picchu

I bought a one-way bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. The queue was long when I got there but the line moved quite efficiently. The bus was on a very windy uphill road and took about 20 minutes to reach the entrance.

Almost at the end of the ride, I saw Machu Picchu Inca town and Huayana Picchu–the two most photographed parts of the thing we know as Machu Picchu. It looked like tiny Lego blocks from afar.

Entering Machu Picchu

Underwhelming Machu Picchu ticket

Underwhelming Machu Picchu ticket

After the ticket check where the person scans your ticket and checks your ID name against your ticket name, you are free to enter.

Map of Machu Picchu Inca city

Map of Machu Picchu Inca city

I asked the guards after the entrance if it is true that there is a Machu Picchu stamp. They told me that the stamping starts at 9am. So take note and don’t leave too early.

There is a little walk from the entrance to the spot where most people take their Machu Picchu phototos.

When I first saw the real Machu Picchu, I thought, “Wow. It looks like the postcards. But a bit smaller than I imagined.” It wasn’t until I was inside the city walls that I felt tiny.

I'll bet everyone has at least 20 of this photo in their camera.

I’ll bet everyone has at least 20 of this photo in their camera.

Dreamy version of Machu Picchu

Dreamy version of Machu Picchu

I took many photos showing the same angle of the site. All of them look the same but I feel obliged to take as many as I can. This resulted in a dead battery at the end of the day.

My ticket allows me to climb Machu Picchu mountain. I tried walking the first 30 steps of the mountain and gave up. I’d see the site from ground level. Thank you very much.

Reading on Machu Picchu

After some phototaking, I thought it was time to head into the city but when I was walking in the direction, I found a very nice nook in the wall with two large stones. I sat on the stone and found it really comfortable. It also gave me a good view of the mountain and the ancient city.

Then I took out my Kindle and started reading. It was a very good place to read because the sun had not reached that particular spot yet. From time to time, I look up from my book and stare out at the sight below–so that people don’t think that I’m crazy for reading in Machu Picchu.

First reading spot at Machu Picchu is along the path leading to the city.

First reading spot at Machu Picchu is along the path leading to the city.

Tourists passed by my reading spot. Only one Indian man commented joyfully about my “comfy nook” while the others just ignore me or look with curiosity.

I only moved when the sunlight crept into my lap. My knees were hot and soon my head would be too so I moved. The reading session took a little more than an hour but it was a fun session.

By that time, it was past 11am and I noticed that the tour groups have descended in drones. While there were a lot of people, it wasn’t crazy crowded like some of the sights in China. Maybe it’s because of the 2,500 daily limit.

Llama photo opp

Machu Picchu Inca city has a few llamas on its premise, grazing on the grass or running away from humans. (I even spotted llama poo in one of the buildings, so I imagined that they roam around freely when humans are not around.)

There was a baby llama that was still drinking milk from its mom. Some of the llamas gave up running away and allowed humans to pose with them.

Baby llama flaunting no eating rule in Machu Picchu.

Baby llama flaunting no eating rule in Machu Picchu.

One of the llamas even had a flew and was sneezing from time to time, giving everyone nearby a jump. Llamas are not quite as cute as alpacas but they are still fun animals to touch.

After walking a while, I found another good reading spot. I saw this from across the amphitheatre, the spot is against the wall and is very shady when the sun is still in the east.

View of reading spot number 2

View of reading spot number 2

While reading, I snuck bites of my takeaway pain au chocolate, wiped tears from my eyes using my jacket and eavesdropped on tour guides nearby.

It was another hour later when I finished the book. By that time, the sun was higher up in the sky and sunlight reached my shoes. It was time to leave to continue my tour.

Most impressive part of Machu Picchu

Some people say that they feel very spiritual when they head to Machu Picchu. I usually roll my eyes when I hear these comments. What does spirituality feel like?

It’s a bit funny how people find it spiritual when everything was man-made. They should feel more in awe of those who built the site and not some invisible energy.

I was most impressed with the Inca terraces. From the postcard photos of Machu Picchu, you don’t get to see how huge the terraces are but they are really really impressive.

Inca terraces

Inca terraces

Inca terrace from above

Inca terrace from above

[Motivational sentence about tree growing among stones.]

[Motivational sentence about tree growing among stones.]

I took a path leading up to the terrace and ended up at the entrance. I decided that 1:30pm was a good time to end my visit since I’ve been in the compound for about 5 hours.

Don't forget the Machu Picchu stamp for your passport.

Don’t forget the Machu Picchu stamp for your passport.

The queue to the bus back to town was horribly long but I queued with everybody else.

Back in town, I had 6 hours to kill before my train so I ate, read and ate.

Do you plan to visit Machu Picchu?