First Impressions of Santiago, Chile
Trip Start Dec 28, 2010
110Trip End Ongoing
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It sure takes a lot more time to go to the airport than back home in my little home town of Regina. I started my departure 6 hours before my plane left. That's a far cry from the 1 to 2 hours required when leaving the Regina airport.
So, here is a run down.... Helena called me a cab at about noon. I took the cab to a shuttle drop off place near Purerto Madero. Traffic was crazy. It took about 20-25 minutes and cost AR$25 ($7CDN). Interestingly enough it costs about the same for a taxi from my house to the airport, only it is a 5 minute drive!!
Anyways, I arrived at about 12:30 ish at the shuttle station and checked in
The shuttle bus was scheduled to leave at 1PM but we didn't leave until 1:30 PM. They advertise that it takes 45 minutes to get to the airport but it took 1hr and 10-15 minutes. When I arrived the Air Canada ticket booth was not open yet so I decided to grab something to eat. When I finished about a 1/2 hr later and went to the Air Canada check-in booth there was a huge line up. I got in line but it was not organized very well. There were two lines forming. I think at one point I was in line to go to South Africa. Good thing I checked along the way and got back in the right line:-) Then we waited and waited and waited as the computers were down so they couldn't register anyone. Once we got moving again it took a while to get through the line.
After this line up I had to go through security and then another line for immigration where my passport was stamped indicating I was leaving the country. Now I can enter again and get another 90 day tourist visa.
I think I arrived at my departure gate about 1 hr before the flight was scheduled to leave
Anyways, I left BA on time. It was about a 2 hr flight. When I arrived in Santiago there were more lines and more security to go through. I didn't get through the security check on two counts. First, the beeper went off. I had my money belt on underneath my shirt/pants and I think the zipper set the beeper off. The guard made me open it and kept asking me how much money I had. I tried to explain not much and that I had Chilean currency. I only had $300 worth but at 500 pesos to the dollar, you can imagine what a huge wad of cash I had. Plus, I have my US currency to pay for my apartment at the end of March.
Then my backpack got searched and the security luggage scanner area. They were all concerned with the amount of pills and vitamins in my bag. I tried to explain that it was medicine. They didn't know what an epee pen was either
I was suppose to be greeted by a private driver once I picked up my luggage and got through customs in Santiago. I couldn't see anyone so I went back and forth looking for "Carlos". An airport worker... or so I thought... asked me if I needed a taxi. I said no, I was waiting for a pickup. He offered to help. He seemed to be legitimate as he had a t-shirt on. I am not sure now.
I forgot that I wasn't in Saskatchewan or Argentina where everyone is so helpful without a hidden agenda. Anyways, he started calling for Carlos and nothing. He said "Do you know how many Charlies there are in Chile?" He had a cel phone with him so I asked if he could call the B & B for me. He said yes, but that I would need coins for the pay phone. So, he took me to the exchange booth and we exchanged a small bill. He called the B &B and said the owners said the driver came 1 1/2 hrs before hand. I think they must of got the BA departure and Chilean arrival times mixed up. He said I should look again and if he is not there, I should take a taxi. We went and looked again and nothing.
So, he got a taxi for me and said it would be CHP$25,000 ($50CDN). The private driver was suppose to be CHP$22,000 ($45CDN). The airport guy kept saying to me you have to pay the driver in advance. Pay the driver, pay the driver!! It was like he was pressuring me to get my wallet out, but I didn't. In the meantime he asked for a tip and I said I didn't have any small bills that I could give him other than the coins we exchanged which added up to about $2. I think I had small change but I wasn't really sure as I hadn't figured out the exchange rate just yet. He said "that is nothing", was mad but took the money. I didn't want to start digging in my wallet and waited until I got into the cab to pay the driver. When I arrived at the B & B the owners Louis and Adda ware very worried. They said they told the guy that I should wait for the driver at the airport. The driver was still at the airport waiting for me. I don't know where he was but he wasn't at my exit. In hind sight, I should have spoken to the owners on the phone. They agreed, but it all happened so fast. They said I was lucky it only cost me CHP$25,000 as most tourists get taken for double that price.
Anyways, I settled into the B & B and I love it. It is so quiet and peaceful. I have a double bed with a tiny shower. I am not sure how I will shave my legs or what I will do if I drop the soap:-) But the bed is wonderful and I can stretch my legs out again
The B & B is in a residential area. There are 6 rooms. Just outside my room there is a patio and a fountain with trickling water. I have my window open and I can hear it. There is a small above ground pool for children. Louis and Adda have been very helpful. They gave me a rechargeable metro card with CHP$3,550 and just asked that I return it with the same amount.
My first impressions of Chile are:
- Don't trust friendly people....they likely want your money :-)
- There doesn't seem to be as much traffic or people. I think Santiago has about 7M people vs 13M in BA. The streets were not very busy last night or today. It was like walking in wide open space. It may be different due to the weekend, but in BA, it doesn't matter what day it is.
- The climate is cooler at night and first thing in the morning. It kind of feels like the the weather right after the Regina Exhibition in August when it start to gets cooler. But, during the day (1st day) in Santiago it was quite warm. It is more of a dry heat versus humid. Unfortunately I am still having troubles with my limp hair!
- It is greener here. There are a lot more trees and green space, I think. I also was out and about today and saw the mountains, although it was cloudy today.
- The streets are clean and the subway and bus system seem to be modern and very well cared for. Luis said the subway system is not that modern. It came to be around 2002 I think. He said the people have just taken really good care of it. There is no graffiti. The subway itself only has a few seats. The rest is for standing room but there are hand rails along the top to hang on to.
- Many of the stores close early on Saturdays. They seem to close around Noon or shortly after.
- They speak a different dialect of Spanish here. The 'll' sounds like 'ya not 'ja' like in Argentina (Mayo vs Majjo). They say "bus" instead of "collective" and "metro" instead of "Subte" (subway). This is just for starters!! Like I wasn't confused before!!
After breakfast I had a shower and headed out on the streets of Santiago. I first went to an ATM nearby. You can only take a maximum of CHP$200,000 which is about $400CDN. At least it is more than the $250CDN limit in Argentina. I then walked about 20 blocks to the subway station. I got a bit lost but asked for directions. Then I wasn't really sure where the entrance was but I watched to see where all of the people were going. I found my way to the metro no problem.
I took the metro to the end of the line and walked through a fruit and veggie market
Just behind this area was an old convent. It has been converted to an outdoor market where locals sell their 'treasures'. I think the place was called Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos. I walked through the place. There was a lot of blue jewelery, which I assume is made from a local stone.
I headed back on the metro and went to the Santa Lucia District. I found a restaurant and had lunch. All the locals were ordering the chicken so I ordered it as well. I received a huge piece of roasted chicken, salad and fries, and ague sin gas all for the price of CHP$4,500 ($9CDN). It was actually pretty good.
Then I went to another market. It had more of a Mexican/Ecuadorian market feel to it. Only, no one hassles you to buy anything. Then I walked around a bit and saw a beautiful lush, green park/garden. I thought I would walk around but was stopped by a guy who gave me a pamphlet. He said I would need to give a small donation and said it was to support the students. He too started with general chit chat and gave me some tips of where to go
I headed back on the metro and stopped at a grocery store to buy a bottle of wine. I settled for the most expensive brand at CHP$4,900 ($10CDN). I had to go to the grocery store as the wine store was closed. Then, I walked back to the B &B. The B &B itself is close to a lot of restaurants, including Chinese, sushi, Peruvian, Mexican, Thai, Chilean, etc. I didn't go out for dinner tonight as I was still full from the 1/4 chicken I ate at 3:30PM. Instead I settled on wine and chocolate.
I am booked for a full day wine tour on Monday and a 3 hr bike tour of downtown on Wednesday. I may extend my stay a couple more days as I kind of like it here.
Ok, remember how I said it was so nice and quiet. I think there is a fiesta going on next door. If it doesn't end early I might salsa my way over to the neighbours with my bottle of wine :-)
Anyways, that's it for now.