Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Montevideo, Uruguay Feb 16th-Feb 18th, 2011

Traveling: I took a bus called the Santo Anjo from Punta del Este to Montevideo. I had not planned to stop in Montevideo, but it is the capital of Uruguay, and I had to bus there because my ferry left from here for Buenos Aires, so why not see it? The bus was comfortable and only took 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Culture/Stuff about there: It is a smaller city, the people are friendly. However, there is not too much to do, I’d recommend exactly what I did. Stay for one or two days, see the Ciudad Vieja, which translates to the Old City. It is actually very fun to see, and like a relaxed European looking city. However, at the time where it starts getting darker, and the sun begins to go down, get out of here, it looks very dangerous, and I was told to not be here late in the night. The other areas are semi neat, but nothing special.

A shot of the old city streets when it was a non-busy time

Language: Spanish, besides Brazil and some of the French owned countries up North, everywhere in South America speaks Spanish. It does change from location to location, just like how people speak differently in California than New York. It was nice to be able to try and recall some Spanish from high school, and attempt to start learning again. I did a little Rosetta Stone here, but knowing the key verbs such as:

Have - tener

Like - gustar

Am I able - poder


How do you say… …in Spanish - Como se dice… …en Espanol?

What is this - Que es esto?

By using these you can build upon your language skills.

Is very important. The best way by far to learn it is to understand the basics, and just attempt to ask questions and talk to people in Spanish. People are very willing to try helping once you show an effort to try. As I type this, it is difficult for me to type in English, because I am trying to learn Spanish, so some of my English vocabulary is not coming as easy to me, and I find myself speaking broken English here.

Safety: The normal areas are fine at night, but do not be in the Old City when it begins to get dark. Everything begins to shut down and more homeless people start to the line the street. It certainly is not the safest during the day time, but is worth a visit, and is fine if you are not aloof to your surroundings.

Transportation: Cabs were not too expensive, but everything you want to see is within a decent walking distance. Therefore I just recommend using the feet here instead of being like an American. If it is dark in an area and you are lost, hop in the cab like you would anywhere else to be safe, but that’s just common sense.

Population: ~1,400,000. However, with your location and what you see, you won’t experience it as a city with this many people living in it.

Currency: Uruguyan Peso. It is about 20 pesos to 1 USD, however USD are commonly accepted here. However, when they convert the price for you if it is listed in Uruguyan pesos, they typically make an extra 5% or so off of you. Therefore, I’d recommend carrying both currencies on you.

Place Stayed at: El Viajero Hostel (Ciudad Vieja), it was a nice hostel near the town square. The location was ideal for site seeing, although the sites here were nothing special at all. The rooms were tight and cramped, but the bathrooms were nice and clean with hot water. Also, there was a very nice rooftop terrace to drink and relax on. The staff were also very friendly and willing to give good advice on where to go and what to do/see. I certainly recommend this place.

The tight bunks at the hostel

Food: I ate more American style food here like burritos, so I did not experience the food for the area. However, common dishes ARE

Here is a random dish with cheese, it is commonly found in South America and was good

Beers/Drinks: Pilsner, Patricia, Zillertal – they were all decent, but nothing special

Entertainment: We went to a decent bar, myself, the Brazilians and the Chileans, it was fun and one of their better bars. It was chill and people can hang outside. A huge side note, the Brazilians brought a bottle of vodka, you can just simply mix and drink outside the bars to save money and go in, brilliant to know this, especially for anyone trying to stay on a budget.

My Brazilian and Chilean friends on the rooftop before we headed to a bar.

Internet: It seemed decent, but I couldn’t do anything very fast as I expected. It was not suitable for downloading/uploading, or doing anything where speed or connection was important, such as using Skype.

Sites to see/Things to do: A casino, but it’s pathetic compared to the US ones, about 20x smaller, with no loud music, and you pay for drinks, so with this on here it becomes obvious why it makes no sense to stay here for long. La Ciudad Vieja is very cool to see the rustic old buildings and cobble stoned pathways. They also have a theatre which was not impressive, as well as their tallest standing building, at only 26 stories. They also have a crappy small casino. They also have a nice little town square that is peaceful to hang out at, this is where there few sites are to be seen.

Town Square #1, yet another man on a horse, seemingly one in every South American country, most are of a great leader in the past, or a war hero.

Town Square #2, myself at the entrance to it

Town Square #3, a neat black and white shot w/ what I believe is the tallest building they have in Montevideo, standing at a non-impressive 26 stories high.

Teatro Solis a popular old theater here, it was not impressive or anything though.

Said crappy casino

Recommendation: Stop here on a connection between Punta del Este and Buenos Aires to relax for a day and see the old city, no more than this is needed, you can do much more fun stuff at other places.

Other Pics:

Graffiti #1, this girl is famous cartoon character in South America

Graffiti #2, almost like a fat buddha

Racy Maxim cover, I bought it in Spanish to learn some more. However, when I began to read later on I found out that it was more pornographic than Playboy in the US, who knew?

Random Statue #1

Random Statue #2

Rating: 6/10, it is a neat little city to stop in, but there is not much to do, and you are better off getting to a more happening city.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Punta del Este, Uruguay Feb 11th-Feb 16th, 2011

Hola, language change from last stop, now in Spanish instead of Portuguese

Traveling: I got here via a bus in Porto Alegre. The bus was expensive, about $120 or so. I have a feeling it included some fees for crossing the border, but I’m not sure. In the end, it was an insanely comfortable 9 hour bus ride or so that we took over night. The seats were amazing and it was very easy to sleep. I recommend traveling overnight, it saves you the money for a hotel for the night, and you also don’t miss anything going on.

Leg room on said bus

Culture/Stuff about there: Very laid back, it is a beach area where the wealthier people in Argentina and Brazil vacation, so it is similar to something like Florida for people taking vacations in the USA. Not as far as needing money to do that, but more of a comparison between the equivalency to something that we have. The beaches are nice, with two more family oriented beaches, the more popular being Playa Brava which is their “surfing” beach. You cannot actually get any good waves here, there are just more than the other beaches, but it is clearly not a surfing destination. The days start later here, as people stay out later at night. Most people wake up around noon, grab food and what not, then head to the beach from about 3pm-8pm. There is a beach that was a 15 minute walk from the hostel, that they refer to as “Bikini Beach”. It is a beach that still has more families than younger people, but this beach is the best of the three, and does have more of a younger vibe. The water was nice over here, not too cold or anything. I somehow stumbled in to a hand ball tournament on the beach that was going on for the weekend, that was hysterical to watch. Besides that, you just relax and grab food through out the day. The area is split kind of like South Beach where you can walk from a beach on one side of the strip to the other fairly quickly. Bikini beach is on one side, and Playa Brava is on the other. At night time, since the nightlife doesn’t get going in these countries until about 1am,, people start to pregame later as well. You can grab beers at the supermarket here for about $3 for a litre. A litre is about double what a normal beer is back home, it is similar in size to a 40. There is a strip on the pier which was about a 15 minute walk at night to go out. The bars are okay here, but nothing too special. The most popular bar is Moby Dick’s, it is decent. The bars stay open late, and it is common for people to be heading home at a time close to sunrise. I am a night person, so it is easy for me since I am always up late back home, but for a normal person this difference would take some adjusting to. I’m also starting to enjoy the music played at bars here better than the music in the USA. They play the popular US songs, well some of them, with a mix of the better South American music, which I like. They have a few small casinos, the Conrad being the larger of the two. It is owned by Harrah’s, and people talked about it as being good, but it is a joke of a casino, just insanely small. But, I guess they are not used to the ones in Las Vegas, so to them it is nice, but not even worth a visit like people tell you, unless you just want a good laugh at seeing the difference. Lastly, I’m really beginning to despise the United States for not allowing drinking in the street. People here do it everywhere and it is illegal, and they don’t abuse it or anything, but it helps create a more laid back atmosphere.

Also, when they joke here they type it….jejeje, and in Brazil they type….jajaja, and in the USA we type hahaha, so it is funny to see that.

A shot from out hostel, bikini beach is a fifteen minute walk in the background

A shot on the way to Bikini Beach w/ the Aussies

Bikini Beach

The Norweigan doctors and me, and Mads

Language: Spanish, besides Brazil and some of the French owned countries up North, everywhere in South America speaks Spanish. It does change from location to location, just like how people speak differently in California than New York. It was nice to be able to try and recall some Spanish from high school, and attempt to start learning again. I did a little Rosetta Stone here, but knowing the key verbs such as:

Have - tener
Like - gustar
Am I able - poder


How do you say… …in Spanish - Como se dice… …en Espanol?

Is very important. The best way by far to learn it is to understand the basics, and just attempt to ask questions and talk to people in Spanish. People are very willing to try helping once you show an effort to try. As I type this, it is difficult for me to type in English, because I am trying to learn Spanish, so some of my English vocabulary is not coming as easy to me, and I find myself speaking broken English here.

Safety: It is very safe here, you can walk around at any time of the day or night with anything and be fine. So it is certainly fine to take valuables to the beach here or out at night. Also, you can walk at night with peace of mind, and so you don’t need to take cabs back at night like you do elsewhere.

Transportation: Cabs didn’t cost much here, but it is easy to walk 10-20 minutes to anything you need anyhow, so get some exercise unless you are in a big rush.

Population: 7,300, but it gets up to near 500,000 when the popular summer season comes around between January and March

Currency: Uruguyan Pesos or US Dollars. Both are accepted most places, they tell you the price in Pesos, but it is certainly fine to pay in US dollars. Keep in mind that they make a small amount off changing the way you can pay, about 5% when I was there. The peso trades currently at about 19.5 to 1 USD. They don’t have real small change here, so it is common to get a candy at the grocery store instead of real small change, it’s rather entertaining.

Place Stayed at: 1949 Hostel. I highly recommend this place, it was a stones throw from the beach. The room was just like any other hostel dorm room, and the restrooms were not great, but the stay here wasn’t expensive, about $30 a night per person, compared to the cheapest hotel here being $120 a night when we can. People chill out during the day in the area where their bar is, or outside in the front. The bar serves alcohol, but it is about double the price as getting it at a supermarket. There was a shorter guy at the front desk who would ask me to get beer for him when I went to get it at night, and he was totally cool with drinking it outside, but there was another guy who tried to enforce the “no outside drinks” policy. When you hit up the bars, their prices here are double what the hostel bar charged, so do the majority of your drinking with drinks from the supermarkets or gas stations.

view from outside the hostel

hostel hang out spot outside

I needed to take a nap in the bar/hangout area

Food: They had Italian places and it catered well to tourists here. Still, they have pretty good meats here, and I would either have a steak, or grab stuff at the grocery store to make at the hostel. Overall, the food is good, but nothing special compared to anywhere else that sets it apart, it’s certainly a little worse here than food I’d get at home.

Watch out, they serve random things on food in these countries that you don't expect, here is a burger with eggs on it

Beers/Drinks: They serve Patricia and Pilsner a lot, also Zillertal was common to get at the bars. They also sold a lot of Stella, the beer is pretty good here, but also nothing insanely awesome or anything.

Entertainment: Go to Playa Brava or Bikini beach during the day and then at night pregame some, and then walk along the pier until you see a strip of bars, Moby Dick being the one that was the best.

Shawn, I, y mi dos amigos de Uruguay

Internet: Very slow upload/download speeds, as well as disconnections while playing poker. If you lived here though, I’m sure you’d be fine when just hardwired directly to the modem or router.

Sites to see/Things to do: The beaches and the nightlife, and the nightlife is nothing great at all compared to other cities in South America. There is also this huge hand which I’d tell you that you should get a photo with at the entrance to Playa Brava. I didn’t do it, but renting a motor bike is cheaper here than at other places I’ve been, at about $15 for the day, so taking a bike to tour other area. Such as driving over the bordering town of Maldonado would be neat to just see what else there is along the coast line. You are supposed to have an international driving license from a place like AAA back home which is only $15, and that I have, but apparently no one really cares. So if you forgot to get this, I think it’s fine to still drive here.

Talk to the hand

Recommendation: Come here during their summer months, January to March. It’s also fine to come as early as October, but it’s not as nice then. At other times I assume it is not as happening here so I wouldn’t bother coming during those times. Also, three or so is ideal here. There are not sites to see, or crazy nightlife to witness, it is just a cool chill beach area. If you are craving beaches though, you can stay longer. I am heading to big cities for the next two weeks, so I won’t have access to the beaches as easy. This is a place that would be real awesome to have a vacation home at, and to live at as your place of residency, but as far as touring it, it just offers good beaches, and no sites to see.

Other Pics:

My boy Joe from Bristol

Los tres amigos

Sorry, but if you are using that dance move I'm going to have to get a picture

Random funny ad at the hostel

Arcade, I'm still a kid at heart

Me being a tourist

Sunset, I never got a great one because I was always a little getting down there, lie on the beach at night and you are sure to get really good ones

My outside work out area, located across from the casino and right off the beach, ideal for me imo

Cool hand ball tournament on the beach, I luck boxed getting to see this

Their pathetic, tiny Conrad Casino

Rating: 8/10, the proximity to the beaches was much enjoyed by me, and the night life was okay, but the place lacked awesome site seeing. I enjoyed my stay, but now don’t have a huge need or desire to go back any time soon. It is a terrific spot to vacation too, but not worth the money to fly far to get there unless you have the extra cash or are traveling South America. It is also not a place you would be able to live year round, but could do during their summer months.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Porto Alegre, Brazil Feb 9th-Feb 11th, 2011


Traveling: It was about a nine hour bus ride from Florianopolis down the coast to the South. We took a bus with the bus company Santo Anjo. The total cost for the bus was about $38 or so. We had decent room, not lying down room, but plenty of leg room, and a decent amount of room to lean back. They did not provide food on the bus, but we stopped at a place mid way to get food at a stop. Overall, I’d certainly recommend it to someone traveling as a solid option.

Culture: Porto Alegre was much different than Floripa to say the least. Floripa is a beach area that is not heavily populated outside of the main city. The streets are hectic during the day. There is an area of about 4x4 blocks where there are just endless stores that people frequent all day long. I was convinced no one worked since the streets had an insane amount of people at all times of the day. Then, when night time came along, at about 7pm, every shop besides pharmacies shut down for the night. As far as food is concerned, make sure you eat by 6pm to ensure you have some options. Some places also close during the day time to nap or just shut down, so it’s possible that between non-lunch hours the place you desire might be closed. The area is amazing, I really liked the busyness and the atmosphere. At night time it completely changes, there are suddenly no one on the streets and it is almost like a ghost town compared to the day time. I had never seen anything like this before, but certainly don’t walk on any dark streets at night time, always take a cab. The people are nice and try to help if you attempt to speak Portuguese. Lastly, they also claim that the most beautiful people in Brazil live here and I agree wit that so far.

Streets during the day time, more busy than this street in most areas of the city

On the streets at night time - 1

On the streets at night time - 2

On the streets at night time - 3

On the streets at night time - 4

Religion: Over 70% are Roman Catholic

Language: Portuguese, it is a more complex version of Spanish basically. Due to this, those who speak Spanish cannot understand Portuguese, but those who speak Portuguese can understand Spanish since it is simpler. Almost all of South America speaks Spanish, except for Brazil, so I’d highly recommend learning Spanish for the trip, as it would be the most beneficial, and if time permitted to begin learning Portuguese. It is very, very hard to communicate in towns without the knowledge of Portuguese or Spanish, so do your studying ahead of time. Otherwise, you will feel very lost and somewhat outcast, even when trying to get food. I picked up some Portuguese here very quickly on my last night, and it helped a bunch. The people were very receptive and tried to help us out whenever they could. If you can speak some they are somewhat impressed and see you as sort of a novelty, so they will enjoy talking to you or helping you. A very friendly guy named Marcelo overheard me speaking English and stopped me to have a beer. I learned quite a bit of Portuguese from him, good stuff.

Transportation: Cars are the main transportation here, with less motorcycles than Floripa because it is a big city. Renting a motorbike is too expensive for tourists compared to the buses, which run around town for just a few dollars, however I did not use one at this stop. Taxis are rather expensive, but they are unavoidable when going far or traveling at night, drop the extra cash to ensure your safety.

Population: 2,000,000 in the main city, it is insanely crowded and fun to walk around all day.

Currency: Reai (Ray-eye). It is currently trading at 1.67 Reai to $1 USD.

Place Stayed at: Lido Hotel, right in the heart of the city. It was about $61 in 2 nights and I’d recommend it. Nothing special here, a small clean room in a good location. It is safe, and the staff does not speak much English just like everywhere else. It is a good budget hotel.

In front of our Hotel

Food: There were a lot more options here than in Floripa. You could get pizza and cheeseburgers if you are American, but they are still not good at all compared to in the states. Most burgers are served with ham on them here, sometimes they have an egg on them also. Here is a picture of food I had there, but I don’t know much about their food, just that they have lots of meat dishes.

A dish I had with chicken, tomatoes, cheese, onions, etc.

Beers/Drinks: We still had some Skol here, but it is basically the same all around Brazil, with people drinking lots of Caiprinhas and then heavy Brazilian beer. Most of the places do not have light beers like in the US.

Entertainment: During the day, the streets are packed in the heart of the city. You can walk around this area all day for fun and people watching. There are a ton of shops, and it seems like no one is working, because the streets are insanely packed on all days with people shopping. In the night, that goes away, and the streets are dead, so do not walk outside in any dark areas at this time. At night you can go a few places for drinks. We went to Cidade Baixa, and it had a good mix of bars. Some smaller bars to socialize, or some bigger bars that were more like clubs. It was not the best night scene, but it did just fine.

Internet: The internet worked just fine at our hotel

Sites to see/Things to do: The Central Market, in the heart of the city. It is not big, but a decent place that most people go to buy their groceries. Cidade Baixa is not a must see, it is where the night life is, but it is something I’d recommend you do to see the different cultural nuances. There are parks and museums here, but nothing that is a must see either. Linha Turismo is a bus company that gives you a tour of the city in a little over an hour for a cheap rate. We couldn’t do it since it rained the two days we were there, and they cancel the tours when it rains. Note that the building is extremely hard to find, the sign is on the second floor from the outside, and there is no label on the door. It took me about 20 minutes of walking to finally find it.

Me at the central market

Me at the central market

Pigs heads at the market

Recommendation: If you like cities, and speak some Portuguese, this place is a great option for you. It is not a tourist area, but was great to see. I would absolutely love to live here. My write up is not very exciting, because there aren’t any big sites to see, but the city itself impressed me, and I really enjoyed the area.

Other Pics:

Yeah, you can get HGH on the shelves here

They had these guys at a lot of buildings, appearing to be holding the weight of the building on their shoulders, pretty cool

Lots of police every where to make it safe for the upcoming World Cup in 2014

Most of their stuff is not based on fast food stuff, but it was cool to just see a random ice cream machine on the streets

This is about $220 and $240 respectively for the shoes, they are insanely expensive here

Neat little park area near the hotel

Funny to see our movies in their language

Really fuckin random, but funny

Quentin decided to get in a ghetto work out in the streets

Loads of neat graffiti - 1

Loads of neat graffiti - 2

Loads of neat graffiti - 3

Rating: 8/10, a place I’d love to live, not a place to stop and see as a vacation, unless you are backpacking or traveling a lot and want to places.