Preparing for my visa run/ Streets of Buenos Aires [YQrtw Day 69 Jun 15]

papa francesco in argentina

[I wrote this yesterday but forgot to click on Publish. Doh]

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

This is the first time during the entire trip that I’m conscious that it is a weekend. Usually everyday jumbles up together since I do not have a routine separating the weekdays from the weekends.

Today, I planned to finish at least 2 days of revision in the morning. Sadly, I had to deal with printing my documents for the US visa application and that took up half of the morning.

I spent another half of the morning reading up on Veelas in the Harry Potter world (I’m now at GoF!) which led to more useless web surfing.

In the morning, I also booked ferry tickets to Colonia del Scaramento, Uruguay, for my very first visa run.

Wait, YQ, you can’t just drop new vocabulary like that into your post and expect us to Google it.That’s just lazy.

Probably not how the Argentina-Uruguay ferry looks like
Probably not how the Argentina-Uruguay ferry looks like

OK OK, I’ll explain. Long term travellers do visa run to extend the length of their visa. The do this visiting another country and coming back to the country of their choice in a short period of time.

Take me for an example, when I arrived in Argentina, the immigration officer gave me a 30-day visa. (I seriously thought it was 90 days. Damn you VisaHQ.)

That 30 day deadline is coming up in 2 week’s time and I will become an illegal alien if I overstay.

However, since I’m applying for a US visa, I suspect that my passport would be kept with the US embassy for at least a week since next Thursday and Friday are public holidays. If I have terrible luck, I might even overstay.

So to extend my visa, I will visit Uruguay. I will get an exit stamp at the Argentine side and a new entry stamp when I come back in the evening.

Thankfully my visa run is just a ferry ride away. I’ve read horror stories such as Juno from Runaway Juno who had to do a 573km visa run.

After concluding my affairs of the morning, I decided to take a walk and visit the second hand book stores my teacher told us about.

Streets of Buenos Aires

Luckily, Ave Corrientes, where the bookshops are, is very near the hostel. I only had to walk about 3 blocks to get there.

Along the way, I snapped a few photos so you can see how Buenos Aires looks like.

Street of Buenos Aires
Street of Buenos Aires
Not so busy street in Buenos Aires
Not so busy street in Buenos Aires
Vandalism or smiley street art?
Vandalism or smiley street art?
Buenos Aires back alleys
Buenos Aires back alleys
Head's up on Buenos Aires's street
Head’s up on Buenos Aires’s street
I spotted this map of Westeros but I do not think the story universe actually looks this neat.
I spotted this map of Westeros but I do not think the story universe actually looks this neat.

Poked fun by a jerk

I browsed through one of the second hand bookstores. It didn’t look like the usual second hand bookstores crammed with books from top to bottom shelf. Instead, the books were arranged in stacks on tables.

There were a lot of interesting books around. I was tempted to get a Book of Myths for Children which had Greek legends but 22 pesos wasn’t something I wanted to spare.

At last, I found a Sweet Valley Twin book. I’m more attached to the Sweet Valley High series but that book was only 3 pesos so I bought it.

At the cashier, I made a language mistake by saying, “Good.” when the cashier said, “Good day.” The other person at the cash register was unkind and asked his friend repeatedly if he asked “Good day” and laughed.

I was rather upset about that. When I left the shop, I kept imagining that I knew enough Spanish to retort, “Well, at least I’m learning another language. What about you?”

Alas, I do not know that much Spanish.

On Ave Corrientes, Ave 9 de Julio

Enough complaining, let’s get back to sightseeing Buenos Aires.

Metropolitan
Metropolitan
Newstand. I'm very scandalized that they display X-rated books publicly here. Mostly they have covers of half naked women with large breasts.
Newstand. I’m very scandalized that they display X-rated books publicly here. Mostly they have covers of half naked women with large breasts.
La Americana, an empanada place.
La Americana, an empanada place.
Pizza place
Pizza place
From the poster, Camila looks like a scandalously good show.
From the poster, Camila looks like a scandalously good show.
obelisco de buenos aires
obelisco de buenos aires
See that big poster of an Argentinine flag and the pope? It's from the city, to celebrate Papa Francesco's new job.
See that big poster of an Argentinine flag and the pope? It’s from the city, to celebrate Papa Francesco’s new job.

Dinner was another nice meal of home cooked steak with mushrooms. It’s strange that the mushrooms were more expensive than my two rather large pieces of beef.

How was your weekend?

Marketing at San Telmo Sunday flea market [YQrtw Day 63 Jun 9]

San Telmo flea market

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

I don’t really have any plans for Buenos Aires. My main goal here is to learn enough Spanish to venture out into the wild wild South America.

So for today, I listened to the advice of someone on Instagram and decided to check out San Telmo Sunday flea market. A Google Map search told me that it was within a walking distance of 2.4km.

It was drizzling slightly when I walked out of the hostel building. The street was empty except for a few people and some taxis.

As I walked down the road, I realized that I was the only person carrying an umbrella. Other people were walking in the rain or standing in a shade.

It was a bit unnerving walking down the long stretch of road and not seeing another umbrella even though the rain was enough to soak into my clothes.

I thought that maybe Buenos Airesians (?) do not believe in umbrella. But umbrella is not a religion, how can you not believe in it?

Finally, when I turned into Ave Indepencia, I saw another umbrella. I could only see the white beard of the person carrying the umbrella.

Before heading to San Telmo, I walked along Ave Indepencia, trying to find a Japanese restaurant. I didn’t manage to find it but I did see the Japanese Association in Argentina.

(Later, I found out that the restaurant shared the same address as the association but I still could not find the entrance.)

Japanese Association in Argentina
Japanese Association in Argentina

After the fruitless search, I continued on my way. I turned around the corner and stopped to take a photo.

Suddenly, two boys appear near me. They stopped and one of them sat on the window sill. From the corner of my eye, I saw him holding a bottle of beer.

I felt uneasy. I suspected that they might want to rob me so I looked at the one nearest me in the eyes. I walked off but turned around to see if they were following me. The boy was still sitting but was looking in my direction.

I quickly walked down the streets. Luckily, a lot of people were walking a few roads down. I followed the current of the people and reached San Telmo Market.

The inside of the market wasn’t fascinating. It had different stalls. Some selling antiques, coffee, flowers, clothes, leather everything. One shop sold creepy antique dolls.

San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires
San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires

I walked around for about half an hour before I got bored. I thought to myself, “Is this it?”

So I got out of the market and walked right into the real Sunday flea market. Since the rain had only stopped just now, most of the stalls were only starting to set up their wares.

I also discovered the sister restaurant of the Japanese restaurant I wanted to go to. However, the price of A$100 (S$25) for a set meal scared me off and I gave an excuse that I should continue walking.

So I walked. All the way from one end of the market to the other end at Plaza Mayo. Walking on Buenos Aires’ cobbled stone path wasn’t easy. I sometimes trip but manage not to fall.

The wares sold repeated themselves: Woolly clothes, mate cups and straw, leather goods etc.

San Telmo Sunday flea market
San Telmo Sunday flea market

I did manage to buy a comic book for Spanish practice.

Mafalda comic
Mafalda comic

After the long long walk, I headed back to my hostel. On the way, I stopped by SUMO, an ice cream shop recommended by a classmate.

In Argentina, they don’t serve ice cream like you know it. The sizes come in 1/4 kilogram, half a kilogram and a kilogram.

I didn’t realize that and ordered a medium ice cream. It came in a bad tasting waffle but was quite big. I found out that for 3 pesos more, I could have gotten the 1/4 kilogram of ice cream. Now I can only dream of such an ice cream.

Ice cream from San Telmo's SUMO
Ice cream from San Telmo’s SUMO

After the cold lunch, I finally got back to my hostel. I stayed in and didn’t do much since it was the last day before classes start.

The best and worst meal

For dinner, I was deciding between dinner at the pizzeria downstairs or a nice meal out. In the end, nice meal won because I’ve made up mind to start cooking on Monday.

So off I went to a Tripadvisor recommended steak house. The restaurant only had another table of customer because it was still too early for dinner.

I ordered the smallest steak and rashly added a glass of champagne. We have to enjoy life to the fullest, don’t we?

The champagne was delightful. It wasn’t too dry and the bubbles were popping about. I was down to half a glass when my steak finally came with its expensive serving of thick cut fries.

Argentinian steak is so lovely.
Argentinian steak is so lovely.

The steak as DE-LI-CIOUS. I ordered it rare, knowing that it is cooked to medium rare here in Argentina. It was very tasty. The best part was the fat which was crispy and oozed of liquid cholesterol.

There was also pools of pink blood leaking but that was comforting because it meant that it wasn’t fully cooked.

While the whole meal was wonderful, almost at the end of my steak, I felt the strangest sensation.

I was feeling quite tipsy since I drank champagne on an empty stomach. Worst thing was, the delicious meat that I had was actually clawing their way up my throat.

Oh dear.

I sat in my chair, staring out of the window at the Carrefour Express opposite. Half of me wanted to pay my bill, run to the supermarket and chug down 1 liters of water. The other half of me knew that I would probably throw up on the corner of the street before I even leave the restaurant.

The blood on the plate made me more nauseous. The whole fragrant grilled meat smell was making me disgusted.

I did the best thing. I ordered a A$16 bottle of non-gassy water.

The water was my saviour. I immediately felt more clear headed and less nauseous. I gratefully took sips of the water and finished the whole bottle.

I couldn’t wait to leave the restaurant since the smell of meat wasn’t helping with my stomach. I paid my bill and walked back slowly, planning my next less-alcoholic menu.

I’m open for suggestions on food to cook in hostel kitchens. If you have any recipes, please share them with me in the comments. Muchas gracias.

Italy day 8: From Florence to Rome [YQrtw Day 34 May 11]

Colosseum in the sunset

Location: Florence, Italy
Location: Rome, Italy

Colosseum in the sunset
Colosseum in the sunset

After five nights, I have finally left Florence. I still feel like I do not know the city very well.

Even on the last morning, I got lost among the cobbled street and couldn’t decipher my map. I didn’t manage to visit the central market to have a bowl of Florentine soup.

I did get a small baguette with smoked ham. The friendly Taiwanese couple shared their spaghetti carbonara as well as a tub of panna cotta with me. Yums.

I arrived that the train station 20 minutes before my scheduled departure.

Florence train station
Florence train station

To my horror, my platform number wasn’t available. I panicked a little and imagined that my train was cancelled and I would be stuck in Florence with no backup plan.

Of course, my reasonable side told me to shut up and wait for the train. The platform did show up in the end, 10 minutes before the departure.

My second-class premium seat had leathery seats and a free drink for the passenger. The overhead area for luggage was slightly bigger than the standard space so that was a nice touch.

Once in Rome, I followed the directions written by my AirBnb host and took the underground. I then used Google Maps to find my way to the house. Unfortunately, Maps brought me to the wrong side of the road and I treked past about 50 houses before I reached my destination.

3 nights in the attic

My accommodation in Rome–slightly outside of Rome is probably a more accurate description–is with an AirBnB host family. I am staying in the attic. I don’t have any good photos of the room yet but I’ll put them up when I have them tomorrow.

It’s a really cute room with two beds, two sofas, a small table, fridge (!), kettle with tea bags and rather weak lighting (or “romantic lighting”).

I remembered that I once wished to live in an attic and now I really am so that’s one thing off my to-do list.

IKEA Italy’s little surprise

IKEA Italy's cafe
IKEA Italy’s cafe

Since IKEA was nearby, I stopped there for a look before heading back to Rome for sightseeing.

To my delight, the IKEA here has 2 cafes! It’s so Italian to have cafe even though there is the regular section for cafeteria-like food.

I had a cappuccino and a biscuit for 1.70 euro. The coffee tasted fine (this is not the cafe for regular IKEA coffee) and the biscuit was the same as any Marks & Spenser biscuit.

Next stop was Rome proper. I only managed to see the Colosseum because the name of the station is the same as the site. It wasn’t as gigantic as I was led to believe but I sat down a while to stare at it and found that it was quite large.

Dinner was pizza from a pizzeria near where I’m staying. The pizza was charged based on weight. The whole thing was so yummy I should have bought more.

Non shopper’s visit to Platinum Mall, Bangkok

Platinum Mall

Facade of Platinum Mall
Facade of Platinum Mall

When I was making my plans for my first trip to Bangkok, I asked for travel recommendation from those who have been there. Platinum Mall was high on the recommendation list as the mall had the cheap clothes that would be even cheaper if you buy them wholesale (meanning, more than 2 pieces).

Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of clothes shopping, I replied that I will see if I can visit. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for shopping, I included it into my itinerary to find out for myself why they say Bangkok is a shopper’s heaven as well as everyone’s strange devotion to the mall.

Plus, Platinum Mall is just a short walk away from Erawan Shrine and I did not have much planned for the day anyway.

Entering Platinum Mall


Store directory of Platinum Mall
Store directory of Platinum Mall

I entered the building which was labelled Zone 3 on one the directory and was quite stunned by all the stalls that were there.

The shops were never ending, each packed from floor to ceiling with merchandise.

The first and second floors were dedicated to Women Fashion Clothes, the third floor was for Bags, the fouth for Leather while the fifth was for Shoes.

Clothes stall in Platinum Mall
Clothes stall in Platinum Mall

The stalls take up a small rectangle of space. There was no visible fitting room in them but I suspect they have curtains hung from the ceiling for buyers to change.

The clothes were nice and rather trendy but the quality did not seem very good. Maybe that’s why they are considered fast moving consumer goods (along with shampoos and soapbars).

Bag stalls at Platinum Mall
Bag stalls at Platinum Mall

I almost bought one of the handbags. A sign said they sold at 299 baht each, but after close examination, I realize that they are the types that will easy breakoff after some use.

I also saw the stall selling Naraya knockoffs. The brand is famous among tourists who go to Bangkok. I do not know why they like it since the material of the bags are shiney and look cheap (not the low price type of cheap.)

Toilet break at Platinum Mall
Toilet break at Platinum Mall

One of the stalls was cordoned off with a sign saying: “Employees go to toilet. Please wait. –Saralee.” I don’t think the customers would have missed anything since the clothes sold there were likely exhibited at other stalls too.
Shoe stalls at Platinum Mall
Shoe stalls at Platinum Mall

I saw some customers dragging large suitcases which led me to suspect that they buy in bulk to sell back in their home countries. (At the airport, there were a lot of Singaporean dragging large suitcases with them to checkin, perhaps they are the entrepreneurs.)

I visited all the levels in the building, trying to find an excuse to buy something–anything–but nothing caught my fancy.

When I left the building, it felt like I had been walking in the mall for two hours but a check of my photo timestamps showed that it was only a 30 minute visit.

I guess clothes shopping malls are not my cup of tea, I prefer second hands clothes better especially those that look more sturdy than the regular FMCG stuff out there.

Are you a shopper? Have you visited Platinum Mall, how was your experience?

Follow me on Twitter or share a thumbs up on Facebook.

Why toiletries make the best souvenir

When travelling, I usually buy tacky souvenirs for friends at home. (Sorry!) But for myself, there is only one type of souvenir–which unfortunately has multiple product categories–I need.

Regular cute souvenirs

My Achilles heel is not a killer pair of shoes nor a nice dress, but toiletries.

I dislike how the airlines limit how much liquids we can carry. But I’m secretly happy that this will give me an excuse to buy toiletries in a foreign land.

Here’s why you should buy toiletries as souvenirs (for your friends or yourself)

Continue reading “Why toiletries make the best souvenir”

Shopping for vintage clothing in Kota Kinabalu

If you are planning a trip to Kota Kinabalu (or KK–pronounced “keh keh” locally instead of “kay kay” the non-local way–for short), you probably would have sun, sea, mountain in mind instead of vintage clothing.

OK OK, I’m stretching it a lot when I say vintage, it should be second hand clothing.

Continue reading “Shopping for vintage clothing in Kota Kinabalu”

I want to buy: make up ;D

I admit that I’m a beginner when it comes to make up. The most I can do (and not mess up) is brush on powder foundation, blush and swipe on mascara. But  foundation makes my skin look bumpy, my blush rusts in half a day and my eyelashes don’t curl. Ha ha ha!

BUT! I want to buy make up in Japan! Do you know that they have the cutest/ prettiest/ fantastic packaging? Just looking at it brings out the anti-girl-on-a-budget in me.

I’m usually sensible when it comes to money (yes, you can stay stingy) but when I look at the Japanese cosmetics ads, I feel the urge to get one (or ALL!) They’re so pretty!!!

A good point of getting make up in Japan is that they’re probably cheaper than buying in SG or MY. There wouldn’t be extra shipping charges. AND I get to choose newly released products, but knowing me. I might choose last season stuff if they’re cheaper.

So here’s a (boring) list of make up I would like to buy. I’m not including things that are out of my budget or it will turn into a “things I wish I have enough money to buy”.

Majorica Majolca mascara

Media_httpx03xangacom_hyafy

Yes, your lashes will reach your glasses and stain them if you use this mascara.
-I have really oily eyelids so I look like a panda by the end of the day if I use wrong mascaras. It’s  really tricky for me to buy mascaras. I now have Dejavu Fiberwig (bought on sale, of course) and as they have black fibers instead of paint, I look normal.
-MajoMajo’s mascara has positive reviews and one review says that it’s really hard to remove. Does that mean it’ll stay on my lashes? I hope!

Gel eyeliner from KATE

Media_httpx61xangacom_cgxhv

KATE’s available in Singapore and Malaysia but I’ve not seen the gel eyeliner yet. And if my theory of no-shipping-charge is right, buying it from Japan will save me money. :D
My oily lids prevent me from using pencil liners and with liquid liner, I look like I used a permanent marker on my eyes. I can’t afford expensive gel liners so KATE’s a good thing to try.

I can only think of two products I want (for now, heh heh). WIll update when the spending-demon in me crawls out.