A Travellerspoint blog

Equator.. Ecuator.. Ecuador!

The middle of no where

Originally I didn't have any plans to stay in Ecuador. I just had 2 extra days and wanted to get away from Colombia as soon as I could (see last post). I was going to hike at 4000m later (that's 13,000ft for those who doesn't know what the metric system is, yes you America) and didn't want to look like a drunk bastard while hiking, I thought, what the heck, I will use Ecuador as a stepping stone for altitude acclimatization. Sorry Ecuador, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I promise I will come back once I get a chance... I promise.

(Click on the photos for bigger version and even more photos!)

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First stop? You guessed it. Food. Unlike last time with the empanadas, I went to a local supermarket to make sure I get the real deal. For $1.50 (yes that's a 1 not a 7), you get a delicious, handmade, freshly cooked, healthy, organic, fair trade, kosher, grass fed, open range full breakfast without any preservatives, artificial fertilizers, pesticides, gmo, or stains on your conscience. Ok, at least it was delicious... probably because I was also hungry at the time.

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Quito was a little hilly, which was good because I got to improve my non existent cardio. I had to stop every few steps, especially when going uphill. It was a good thing that I had my camera with me, I could pretended to take a few pictures every few steps, like I was doing some sort of artsy project.

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Walking in the main town square, I saw a group of people encircling a few masked men running around chased by a women. At first I thought it was just a demonstration of how men were treated in a typical Ecuadorian family setting, but it turned out to be an Ecuadorian version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, or at least from what I could understand.

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What's the point of visiting Ecuador if you don't actually visit the equator line? Well, after 1.5 hrs and $2 on the local transportation, I have arrived at the CENTER OF THE WORLD!! Which was accompanied by great fanfare and a huge monument. There was a small astronomy museum that played Star Trek music on the side as you walked in, which had nothing to do with the monument and costed $2 extra (remember, that amazing breakfast was only $1.50). As I was taking self portraits standing proudly on the line, I over heard that this place is actually not the equator line... apparently pre-GPS era calculation was off by 240m (a little more than 2 American football fields). What would we do without GPS these days? How many tourist would've been spared by the disappointment that they didn't actually stand on the equator line? I did go to the "real" one behind the walls through a little alley, but apparently that one is not super exact either =/

It was a short trip, even for blitzing standard, but it was a great experience. With such destinations yet to be visited like Cotopaxi, Galapagos Islands, Baños, and Maquipucuna, I will need to return to this place once I have the money.... and the time.

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Posted by btang 16:09 Archived in Ecuador Tagged south_america ecuador Comments (0)

Colombia? Why would anyone want to go there??

Danger EVERYWHERE!

When I told my friends and family that I will go down to South America for the first time for a 5 week solo backpacking trip, half of them freaked out and wondered why anyone want to go to such a foreign place by themselves with no friends or family there. And when I told them that I will be going to Colombia, the other half freaked out. Well, suffice to say that I have successfully made it out alive in one piece with everything intact and where it supposed to be. I hope.

(Click on the photos for bigger version and even more photos!)

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Like any traveler going to a country the first time, the first place I visited was the nearest local food stand right after I got out of the airport. Originally I thought Empanadas are a local treat in Colombia, but I found out afterwards that it is a standard snack across the entire Latin America; heck, I've even seen one in the grocery store here in the US after coming back.

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The Gold Museum is a museum located in Bogotá, Colombia. It displays an extraordinary selection of its pre-Hispanic gold work collection - the biggest in the world - in its exhibition rooms on the second and third floors. Together with other pottery, stone, shell, wood and textile archaeological objects, these items, made of what to indigenous cultures was a sacred metal, testify to the life and thought of different societies which inhabited what is now known as Colombia before contact was made with Europe. (Yes, I copied that entire paragraph from Wikipedia) Oh and it is free on Sundays (yay).

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Since there aren't many foreign travelers to Colombia, especially Asians, we are more of a novelty to them. The young chap on the left approached me as I was walking down the busy street. At first I thought I had violated some sacred law in Colombia and would have to spend the next 10 years in prison. But to my surprise, he just wanted to talk to an Asian. Now given that I don't really speak any Spanish, other than asking where the bathroom is, and he doesn't really speak any English, other than telling tourists where the bathroom is, it was a difficult conversation to say the least. But in the end we managed to discuss topics such as what it is like walking on the Great Wall of China? What are the military ranks are in Colombia? And are all Asians tall and good looking like me? We had a great time and talked for hours standing on the street. At one point he actually tried to hook me up with an Asian girl who happened to walk by.

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The Salt Cathedral, located in Zipaquirá, used to be a rock salt mine back in the pre-Colombian times. The mine was used for major economic activities throughout it's history. As time passed, miners began to carve out a section for prayers before starting work. Eventually the mine became the cathedral that is today. Since there are no bishops in the Salt Cathedral, it has no official status in the Church. Nevertheless, it is considered one of the most important architectural accomplishment in Colombian history. (No, I didn't copy that from Wikipedia)

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To be honest, I am not a big beach fan. Since I have so few vacation days and there are so many places to see, spending a day on the beach seems wasteful to me. But that doesn't mean that I won't visit some coastal cities, such as Cartagena, which contained some beautiful colonial style buildings. The street food, especially the seafood, was a treat. There is also a mud volcano that is nearby, which is really just a pile of dirt pile containing mud with 'minerals' to attract tourists. The pit was filled with so many tourists I can't say for sure what is all really in the mud...

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Now this is no ordinary shot glass. This is a shot glass drunk by my Colombian bunk mate in the hostel that I stayed at in Colombia. On the last night before I left Colombia, we decided to go out for a drink. After a few drinks, he started to share his life story with me. He, who is currently trying to establish his cell phone business in the city, spent 7 years in a Japanese prison for international drug trafficking. The conditions that he went through was similar going through a concentration camp in WWII. Suffice to say, he is no longer in the business after that near death experience. Although he pulled out a packet of cocaine while we were talking and started using it. The drug gave him more energy and clarity as the night went on and the conversation lasted well into the night.

I must say that even though I only spent a short time in Colombia, it has been one of the most interesting places that I've visited. Was it as dangerous as it was hyped up to be? Probably, if you went to the conflict zones and take up stranger's offers to give you free drugs, which one of the travelers actually did and got robbed after followed them into a dark room. Should you go visit? Well that depends on you. If you have more common sense than the guy who got robbed after trying to score some free drugs, then Colombia will offer you some of the most friendliest people you will meet in South America.

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Posted by btang 18:14 Archived in Colombia Tagged colombia south_america Comments (0)

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