Finding chilli in Chile (Santiago)

Trip Start Nov 17, 2010
Trip End Feb 27, 2011

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Monday, December 13, 2010

13/12/2010 - Monday
We arrived in downtown Santiago late in the afternoon, and feeling pretty adventurous we decided to test out our spanish and take public transport to our hostel.  Using our lonely planet book we found the nearest Metro station, hopped on a crowded train with our backpacks (we got some strange stares).  I was surprised to see the metro trains had rubber tires instead of train wheels and tracks! After changing at a station to get on a different line, we got off at a station close to the area of Bella Vista and went off to find our street. 

We eventually found the right street, although we ended up at the wrong end of it, so it was about 6 or 7 blocks away.  What was frustrating was that the numbers of the doors weren't always in order, however a helpful local pointed us in the right direction.  All along the street the walls were covered in all kinds of interesting street graffiti.

At the hostel, we were told that there had been an error in our booking, and so instead of getting two beds in the 12 share dorm, they could only give us the 2 bed private room, for the same cost! I was beginning to like Chile even more!

Both Oliver and I are big fans of spicy food, and unbeknownst to us there was relatively little spiciness in Argentine food. We did find a bottle of "Picante", which was a kind of hot salsa, but nothing like hot red chillis used in Asian cooking.  Being in a country called "Chile", you'd think they would definitely be fans of some spicy food.  I had noticed a few Asian stores at the start of the street, so we walked down the street to buy some two minute noodles, but unfortunately they were closing just as we walked back there.  Oh well, there was always tomorrow.

14/12/2010 - Tuesday
The search for spicy food continued, and after wandering around Bella Vista for over an hour, we stumbled across a large Asian supermarket, like the ones that can easily be found in Sydney.  In fact, the whole street was full of Asian stores, and we guessed it was the Chilean equivalent of a Chinatown.  I did read that there were more Chinese people in Peru, but didn't expect this in Chile too.

The owner of the store was Chinese and spoke Mandarin as well, so it was much easier for me to ask for some ingredients. Sadly they didn't have any fresh red chillis, only the dried variety.  I bought some chilli sauce, hoi sin sauce, garlic, soy sauce, potatoes and 1 kg of chicken wings, as well as a bag of rice, and that night we stuffed ourselves with chilli chicken and rice, washed down with some ice cold Cristal on the rooftop of the hoste.  It was a very satisfying meal after going almost a month without anything remotely spicy.  There was also a play going on next door to the hostel, and we could watch it for free since we were on the roof, although we couldn't understand too much. It was interesting nonetheless.

15/12/2010 - Wednesday
For this day we decided to go on a "free city tour", so we arrived in the Plaza de Armas early in the morning to find our guide. All we knew was that at 10am someone wearing a red shirt saying "Free Tours" would be walking around, so we stood around for a few minutes looking for red shirt wearers.

Eventually spotted our guide, a small blonde girl named Bobby (Roberta) and after waiting for more people we set off.  We visited many buildings and sites, including Museo Chileno Arte de Precolombino, La Moneda Palace, the business sector, through a large park running along half of the city, and finally ending at one of Pablo Neruda's houses in the area of Bella Vista, near our hostel.  We also stopped at an outdoor cafe and drank pisco sours.  Even though it was a free tour, we did all tip some money since it was a really nice and informative tour.

We also got to try some street food, such as sopaipillas, small deep fried pastry things that you eat with chilli sauce, as well as some kind of barley seed drink.  There were also many carts selling nuts fried in honey (Nuts 4 Nuts), although there were also cheap imitations such as Nuts 5 Nuts, which we found amusing.

On many of the older buildings throughout the city we could still see damage from the earthquake that hit Chile in 2010.

Some other Australians at our hostel told us of a cheap Cuban restaurant to have lunch, or "menus", the set lunches that are very common in Chile, Peru and Bolivia, so we set out to eat there.  It was indeed cheap, and we had soup, rice, chicken, strawberries and cream for dessert as well as a juice, all for $4.

16/12/2010 - Thursday
I had to buy contact lense solution so we went back into the city by ourselves.  It took us a few days to notice but you can actually see the Andes mountain range from Santiago if you look really closely, but most of the time the smog covers the view. Maybe you can see them better in winter.

We spent more time walking around Bella Vista, and ended up back at the Cuban restaurant for lunch.

17/12/2010 - Friday
We wanted to head up to Cerro San Cristobal, a lookout that provided a good view of the city, however they had a strike going on so the only way up was to walk or get a taxi... instead we opted to go to Santiago Zoo with Joe, a guy from England who we met in the hostel.  At the top of the zoo the view was still quite nice.  Some of the animals in the zoo looked a bit sad though.

In the afternoon Joe, Oliver and I caught the metro again, this time from a much closer station, and caught a bus to Valparaiso, on the coast of Chile, about two hours away from Santiago.

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