[Day 2] Traveling to Old Town

Sleeping on the heating mat really helped me. My fatigue was pretty much gone and felt like I was ready to travel around. I didn’t think I was going to be able to walk around for breakfast on the first day so I had asked for breakfast. My first meal in Lima. Korean food. But it was really good Korea good. The owner of the hostel was a great chef. There were about 6 side dishes, including a meat dish, and soup and rice. Perfect Korean breakfast.

After breakfast, I walked to the main street, Av. Jose Pardo to exchange USD to Sol. The owner told me that there are several money exchange places on that street so I went to check them out. The walk wasn’t too bad and I felt very safe. There were lots of people on the streets, tourists and locals.

At the corner of Av. Jose Pardo and Av. Arica

After walking for several minutes, I found 4 money exchange places, all next to each other. I ended up going to Western Union because it was something I was familiar with and all the stores around it had the same rate. The rate I was given was 3.3 Sol to 1 USD. At the airport, it was 3 Sol to 1 USD so I was getting some more.

After the money exchange, I met up with a friend and planned on getting some local foods. We both wanted to try the ceviche and I really wanted to try Chez Wong‘s restaurant because Anthony Bordain had recommended it. We took an Uber to the location was it was closed until 1pm. We decided to walk around the area and wait. We walked to the local market, Mercado Cooperativo Balconcillo. It wasn’t a super big market but it had all the essentials. Fruits, veggies, meats, fish, flowers, clothes, toys, and more. They had small food stalls for chicken soup, sandwiches, fresh fruit juice, and desserts.

splitting the dough and frying them!

My friend really wanted to try the fried dough. This was the only food stall that had a long line. So we got in line and tried it out. We really wanted to save our belly for the ceviche so we asked for 2. Or we used are fingers to say 2. As in 2 pieces. But we ended up getting 2 soles worth of it, about 12 pieces. O_o They were pretty good and very filling. We also got some guava and eat it while walking around the area.

At 1pm, we walked back to the restaurant, only to find out they don’t take walk in customers at all! Only reservation. When we got there, the restaurant was completely empty but still no. We were so sad but had to move on. Anthony Bordain, I will be back again to try your recommendation.

While walking down the street and talking about what to do, we found another ceviche restaurant called Puro Tumbes. The restaurant was bustling with people so we checked the Google reviews and found it had great rating so we decided to check it out. And what a great choice! Their menu was pretty extensive. They don’t have an English menu but there are lots of pictures that can help. We ended up getting the Ceviche Nando (mix) and Picante de langostinos.

Top: Ceviche Nando / Bottom: Picante de langostinos

Everything on the ceviche was great. The octopus and the fish were my favorites. The flavors are on point with the lemon and herbs. And I thought the langostinos would be spicy but it wasn’t. I saw picante = hot, but it was more… 5/10 spicy level, closer to curry. It paired perfectly with rice. It was on the pricier side but still cheap using US standards. It was a great first meal for both me and my friend.

After the meal, we Uber-ed to Historic Lima, the Old Town. From my list, I knew I wanted to see the Basillica y Convento de San Francisco (catacomb), Palacio de Gobierno del Peru, Catedral de Lima, Plaza de Armas, and Santa Domingo Priory. One great thing is that these are all walking distance from each other and there are a lot of other things to see around here.

I really wanted to see the catacomb since I’ve never seen one before but there was a huge line when we got there. I believe a tour company came with a large group and I couldn’t even get to the ticket booth. We had gotten to Old Town later than I expected so I had to pass on seeing catacombs 😦 We took pictures in front of Basillica y Convento de San Francisco and walked over to Plaza de Armas. The street leading to the Plaza was really pretty. There were lots of old architecture with iron work and small shops and cafes to visit.

We ended up doing a quick visit to the choco museum and grabbing some chocolate dessert. We walked to the front of the Catedral de Lima, sat on the stairs, ate our chocolate dessert, and people watched everyone visiting the Plaza. It was so peaceful. I heard Old Town could be dangerous but there were so many people here, including guards and police everywhere. I was carrying both the camera and my phone and I still felt very safe. Of course, this is during when the sun was still up. It may be different during the night.

Santa Domingo Monastery

After seeing the other buildings nears the Plaza, we moved to Santa Domingo Priory and it was so pretty! Pink! I was satisfied with just taking pictures from the outside and I didn’t even know there was a tour. But when we got inside, the tour guide told me that he was going to do the last tour in English so I was sold. The entrance was 10 soles and the tour would be of the Bell Tower and the museum. It is 100% worth it! The Bell Tower provides an amazing aerial view of the city and also there is a lot to see inside. The garden, the library, the tower, the cloister, and more. Come early to see all the museum as to offer.

view from the Bell Tower

Old Town was so beautiful and full of charm. I didn’t get to see everything in the area but what I saw was amazing. I do wish I could have spent more time at each location rather than just stop and go. I would recommend a full day or even seeing it for 2 days if you have time.

[Day 1] Traveling from SAN to LIM

I love traveling and seeing the world. And because I love traveling, I also like to collect points/mileages! I like to consider myself a pretty loyal person so I tend to stick to one airline or a group. With that being said, I am currently an avid user of Star Alliance flights, collecting mileage for Asiana Airlines and luckily, United, part of Star Alliance, had cheap flights to Lima and I took it.

There was no direct flight to Lima from San Diego. So I had a layover in Houston. Houston is United Airlines’ largest hub so I had planned on using their lounge while I waited for the next flight.

My flights!

My original flight was to leave SAN at 10am and arrive at 3:10pm in Houston. My next flight was at 4:30pm. However, there was an aircraft change and my flight was delayed. I didn’t have time to use the lounge in Houston and I was a bit worried about where my next gate would be. I heard that Houston was a big airport and I have never been to it. While in air, I asked one of the flight attendant about my situation and she was able to locate the arrival and departure gate. My arrival gate and departure gate in Houston was right next to each other so I did not have to rush too much. The flight attendant was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. She gave me some tips for Lima and also on traveling.

Once off the plane, I quickly grabbed snacks from the closest store and got back on my next flight. The flight over to Lima was long and I was not tired at all! It was a day plane as well so I ended up watching endless amounts of movies until we arrived in LIM at 11pm. I watched Captain Marvel, Avengers:Infinity War, How to Train Your Dragon, and episodes of Big Bang Theory.

My little movie theater

They give us “dinner” but it was very small. A sandwich and carrot sticks. I was super glad I picked up some snacks from Houston. If you are flying this route, make sure you take some food with you.

Dinner from United Flight to Lima

Once I landed, it was 11pm. Since it was a late flight, I thought going through immigration would be quick. Boy, was I wrong! There must have been other flights that landed around the same time because by the time I got in line, it was already wrapped around 3 times! The officers were working quickly but it did not take too long. Estimated about 35 minutes?

The airport itself is relatively small. So once you are done with immigration, you walk right into the baggage claim. I had checked 2 things. 1 luggage and 1 box. The luggage was on the belt but the box was in a separate area by the security office. If you are sending boxes or oversize items, I believe you can pick them up from the security office area.

Also, I heard drones are a no-no in Peru. So when I packed my drone, I expected to pay some tax or fees to get it through customs. When I got to customs, I told the officer I had a drone in my bag and he said just put it through the x-ray machine. (NOTE: All bags will go through x-ray machine when you exit so please claim everything or you will be fined) He saw my drone and just let me pass. I’m not sure if it was because of a new law or if it was late at night, but I was able to pass with a drone. This might not be the case for everyone so be very careful when you enter Peru with a drone.

Once I was out, I found a driver holding my name at the front. I had arranged with my accommodation for a pick up at the airport since I was arriving late. Many places offer airport pick up for a fee, usually a bit higher than taxi, and if you are not sure about how to get around, making an arrangement might be the best. Once you exit the airport, there are tons.. I mean TONS of taxi drivers who will approach you and ask if you need a ride. Be cautious when getting in any taxi at the airport. When I was doing my research, everyone recommended Green Taxi or Uber. Yes, Uber works in Peru so please use it! Also, I did not want to exchange money at the airport since I knew they would be more pricy. So by using Uber or prior arrangements, I wouldn’t need to have Soles yet.

Outside the Lima Airport

For my accommodation, I booked a Korean Hostel called Hola Peru. I usually don’t like to stay in Korean places but since I was new to Peru and super unfamiliar with the area, I thought it might be nice to get information from the locals. And the location was really good too. It was in a very quiet, residential area in miraflores. It was walking distance from the main street and that was really the selling point for me.

They had several rooms and I got to stay in a double by myself. The prices are: single $25, double/triple $18 per person. They have 2 shared bathrooms with plenty of hot water, shared mini-fridge and Korean snacks you can buy, great wifi, and a printer. They do airport pickups and dropoffs, provide luggage storage service, and also tours. They offer Korean style breakfast and it was 20 soles per. One thing I did not know until I got there was that they provide heated mats for each bed. Guys. This is a super plus! After a long flight, having the heated mattress for my sore back really did wonders.

Peru and Bolivia Master Plan 2019

This was the first time I took a long vacation in 4 years. Mostly of the time, I would attach 1 or 2 vacation days to a weekend or a work trip. The most I have taken was a week. So this was definitely something special for me.

I took 2 weeks to see Peru and Bolivia but this was definitely not enough. Of course in the span of 2 weeks, I did my best to see the major cultural points in the 2 countries. Or at least what I wanted to see.

Here was my list of to-do.

For Peru:

  • Machu Picchu
  • Vinicunca/Rainbow Mountain
  • Sacred Valley Tour
  • Humantay Lake or 69 lake
  • Huacachina (Dune Buggy)
  • Nazca Lines Tour

For Bolicia:

  • Uyuni Desert
  • Ride the teleferico
  • Witch’s Market
  • Valle de la luna/Moon Valley

I knew I didn’t have a lot of time. So I had to compromise on what I can see and do. I heard the beauty of 69 lake from other travelers but that was quite far from where I planned on going and it would not be a day trip. So instead of 69 lake, I decided to visit Humantay Lake. From reviews, many travelers said that if the weather permits, Humantay Lake is also beautiful. I took a chance. I also wanted to see Nasca Lines since it is close to Huacachina. However, it was another compromise I had to make since I would need to stay in Huacachina for a night and I wanted to do a day trip.

Also, I knew I was going to have only a day to see La Paz because of Uyuni. I have been told that Uyuni’s weather can be unpredictable and if you want to see the salt flats as you see on the internet, you might need to stay extra days just in case.

So with this in mind, here is the schedule I made.

So when a plan, I was pretty set. Now, I just needed to pack.

Packing was a bit challenging. I did not want to take too much but since the weather was all over the place, I had to basically pack summer AND winter clothes. Overall, the weather was going to be in the high 60s to mid 70s. However, Uyuni Desert was something else. Everyone said to take winter clothes, lots of layers.

So things I packed:

  • Travel essentials (toothbrush, paste, shampoo, skincare, etc)
  • 2 Long sleeve and 2 short sleeve
  • 1 sweater
  • Water proof winter jacket
  • 2 Jeans, 1 jogger, 1 yoga pants
  • Pajama
  • 1 hiking boots and 1 rainboots
  • 12 packs of disposable heating pads
  • Flashlight, wide brimmed hat, disposable raincoat
  • Camera (Sony A5100)
  • Phone (Samsung Galaxy note5)
  • Portable Wifi (GlocalMe U2)
  • All the charging cables
  • Journal and pen

I made sure to book accommodations that offer laundry service for a fee. So I planned to pack as little as possible.

Of course, with traveling, there are always mishaps even if you try to account for everything. So even though this was my plan, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to. I will write about my day to day and how my travel plans changed. I will also do reviews of the travel companies I used and the accommodations I used throughout my trip.

Spontaneous Peru and Bolivia

While I was planning my trip to Grand Canyon, a friend from College contacted me asking if I wanted to travel to Peru with her and her group. I’ve always wanted to visit Machu Pichu so I had no reason to say no to her, right? They always say follow your heart so I did. It was totally spontaneous since I had no plans for Peru this year but since she gave me ample time to plan, I went away with it. She told me that the trip would be in May for about 12 days including Memorial Day and this was good for me since I get national holidays off and can save on PTO days (I have so few ;_; ). She gave me her initial itinerary and I started to work on it.

I started to look at what to do in Peru and a lot of people were suggesting crossing over to Bolivia. Bolivia was also on my bucket list because of Uyuni Desert so I started to do my research on both countries. Of course with 12 days, it wasn’t going to be enough so I changed my plans to 16 days. I still feel like it isn’t going to be enough but I would be able to just hit some of the places. More like touch and go. I would not be able to get the full immersive experience but at least I would be able to cross them off my bucket list.

I’m a big advocate for using books for research. So the first thing I did was to visit my local library and borrow books about Peru and Bolivia. Libraries are a great resource for any type of research so I recommend you use it to your advantage. I mean, you can get all the books for free! If your library doesn’t have it, you can make a request to your librarian and I’m sure they will be happy to assist you with it.

the three books that helped me with my planning

There were certain things that the group wanted to do that I was made aware from the beginning. The main thing was the Inca Trail up to Machu Pichu. This is a 2 day trail that covers about 10 miles and you would be able to see some of the Inca ruins close up along the way. This trail is also only for people who book through registered guides and would require us to make reservations way in advance. I’m not against hiking but to do a 10 mile hike in high altitude was new to me and I did not want to risk myself getting too sick in the beginning of our trip. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who was backing out of the trail from the group. So we were able to split the group a little.

The second one was doing one of those fancy dinners at one of the course meal places in Lima. Lima is filled with amazing food choices and I was learning more and more about them as I was researching. Two restaurants in Lima are Top 10 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant and it would be a great opportunity to try them while visiting Lima. And I’m always down for good food so I was becoming more and more excited for this trip.

I only had Machu Pichu and Uyuni Desert in mind but with more research, there are more and more places I want to visit so I’m looking forward to what my itinerary looks like when it’s finished. I’ll share it with you once it is all finished.