Monday, March 28, 2016

25 Things I Learned on my First Month in Chile

Just like that another month has passed. Not only am I celebrating my third month on the road, I am also celebrating my one month of living (or crashing in my friends' apartment) in Chile, specifically  Valparaíso . What happened after I left Arequipa, Peru? How is Chile? Any interesting new experiences/knowledge to share? Fret no more as I present to you 25 things I learned on my first month of living in Chile.

1. Chile is expensive. Before I left Arequipa, 100% of the travellers I talked to that have been to Chile warned me how ridiculously expensive it was down there. Of course they were right. Still, I find comfort in the fact that there's another place in South America where tourists like me find it more and annoyingly expensive than ChileArgentina.

2. Prepare for long bus rides. If you can afford domestic airfares, good for you mate, I envy you. Chile is a long but narrow country that stretches over 4,300 kilometres (by comparison Philippines is about 1,850 kms). One of the best decisions I made here so far was breaking my trip from Arequipa to Valparaiso by staying an extra night in Arica, a small border town located in northernmost part of Chile. From Arica I took a 31-hour bus ride all the way to Valparaíso covering roughly 2,043 kms. That's like half of the entire stretch of Chile. Typing about it makes me tired already.

Kids swimming in the middle of a public park. (Arica, Chile).

3. You can break down your trip, hello. If you can't stand long-distance bus rides, there's plenty of places to make a pitstop. I only did it because I have friends in Valpo (what locals call  Valparaíso) and thought I had a work exchange waiting there for me.

4. Chile has a very diverse climate. From Arica to Valpo, I reckon 70% of the view from my window was of desert. Small oasis are rare to be seen. But there are also those that are huge enough to be a thriving city like Iquique. Valpo, located in the centre of Chile, enjoys a Mediterranean climate. I arrived at the tailend of summer here so it was mostly warm and sunny during day but cold at night. Parang Baguio weather. Only difference is Valpo is at sea level. When I went to Santiago on a daytrip, I saw hectares and hectares of vineyards. Down south is a whole different story. Hopefully, together with JC, we'd be there by spring.

Approaching Iquique, popular surftown.

5. Chilenos speak really fast Spanish it's insane.

6. Aside from speaking really fast, Chilenos tend to drop their 's' as well as end of syllables. Example: Buenas tardes becomes buena tarde, Lunes a Viernes becomes Lun a Vier. NKKLK. If, like me, your Spanish is super basic, you wouldn't understand a thing. I didn't. Most of the time when talking to the neighbours or vendors, I have this stupid look on my face that I don't even try to hide hahaha.

Save me from this dino este myself ata.

7. Related to above. Once while strolling in a supermarket, I overheard this couple saying Mickey Mau to their toddler kid while pointing to, of course, Mickey Mouse. Ang tinde! :))

8. They LOVE their completos. Completos are the Chilenos' version of the American Hot Dog. It has hotdog locally called as vienesa topped with chopped tomatoes and onions, mashed avocado then slathered with an insane (and disgusting after you realise what mayonnaise is made of) amount of mayonnaise. Completos food chain/stalls/vendors are everywhere. So far I had 3, one in Arica, 1 in Santiago, and 1 here in Valpo. The completos I had in Arica was the best so far. It was huge and came out cheapest of the 3.

A completos stall in Santiago, Chile

Best completos I had so far. This was in Arica, Chile.

9.  Valparaíso is a beautiful and vibrant city. It's filled with colourful cerros and streets, artists in every corner, artworks in every space. No wonder it is Chile's cultural capital. Very bohemian.

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile

10. If you have limited time in Valparaíso and have to visit 2 cerros only, make your way to Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion. Juiceko. Umaapaw sa pagka-hipster ang vibe ng mga lugar na yun. :))

11. They take their wall arts seriously. They make lovely and amazing arts even in places you didn't think you'd find art.

Valparaiso, Chile street arts/murals
A few of the thousand murals found in Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion.

Valparaiso, Chile street arts/murals

12. There's tons of people selling various whatnots along the streets of Valpo. What the bar guest I met in Arequipa said was true, we could actually sell something, ANYTHING here if we're cash-strapped.

13. There's also tons of canine friends roaming around the streets. People even leave water and food for them outside their steps or near posts. The downside of this tho is the poo smell everywhere.

A makeshift doghouse I found on the street somewhere in Cerro Concepcion.

14. If you live in one of the cerros (which I do), prepare for extensive leg workout. I live in an area where it takes 20 minutes to climb down to centre and 30-40 minutes to climb back. Most of the streets here are really steep with equally steep stairs it's not even funny. I walk a lot so I can save money.

Lots and lots of stairs huhu

Another route I take whenever going to the city centre. Quite a hike!

15. Cars going up to the cerros are called collectivos but they look a lot like brand new taxis we have in Manila. I noticed there's a lot of women driver here (yay!).

16. There's no McDonald's in Valparaiso. Nor KFC. If you want your Mickey D fix you have to go to Viña del Mar which is 20-30 minutes travel via micro bus.

17. I finally found a decent mall. It's also in Viña del Mar.

They have Chuck E. Cheese's but I don't know how it works haha.

18. I see many locals, even as young as high school students, with tattoos. They love tattoos which are curiously located in unconventional parts of the body.

19. Sadly, the cuisines here are not too varied. I am surrounded by completos, empanadas, chorillanas, choclos, papas, and other oily or fried food. Good thing we cook our food at home. I'd rather eat a peanutbutter sammich than stuff my face with overpriced, mostly fried and oily food.

20. There are plenty of supermarkets here and I've been to all of them haha. It's a guilty pleasure and often the highlight of my day whenever I go out. Sometimes I come inside, stroll, and look around without buying anything. Just admiring the variety of cheeses this one supermarket have over the other three.

Okay these pictures will be funny only to Pinoys hehe.

21. One supermarket, Mayorista 10 (which sells some of the cheapest products compared to others), do not sell soy sauce. I was walking back and forth the condiments aisle and couldn't for the life of me find a soy sauce but they have an entire aisle selling only cooking oil.

Kikkoman soysauce are super expensive here!

22. Chilenos are good-looking bunch. If the Peruvians have nice bums, Chilenos got nicer bums. Hehe.

23. Women LOVE their midriff tops. It's really a thing here. But soon as it gets cold everyone sports their coats and boots.

24. They have this strange but beautiful eye colour that I can't quite make out because I can't stare too long. It'd be rude.

25. On Sundays, streets of Valpo becomes almost a ghost town. Most of the establishments are closed, not much cars on the street. Even the vendors that usually line the streets are nowhere in sight. Goodluck finding your suking tindero for that cheap veggies or walnuts.