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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chronicles of Planning a Trip to South America: Peru

  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites Cuzco City
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site Machu Picchu
  • Amazon Rainforest

Here's an excerpt of the suggested itinerary by Frommer's for a week in Peru.

Day 1: Arrive in Lima; Transfer to Cusco
All international flights arrive in Lima, Peru. With only a week in Peru, there’s little need to linger in Lima if you can avoid it; but there are no direct flight to Cusco but via Lima. Try to arrange it so that an overnight flight gets you there very early in the morning, with time enough to get a morning flight to Cusco (note that flights are occasionally delayed by weather in Cusco, though, so the earlier the flight, the better).

Take it easy in Cusco on your first day. Drink a lot of water (and perhaps some coca-leaf tea or acetazolamide twice a day two days before arriving to treat altitude sickness) and get a good night’s rest. The altitude (more than 3,400m/11,000 ft.) combined with an overnight international flight will prove very taxing. Have a light, relaxing lunch at Jack’s Café Bar, a popular gringo hangout. Limit yourself to taking a stroll around the delightful Plaza de Armas, popping into the tourist information office to pick up your boleto turístico (tourist ticket for the main sights in Cusco and the Sacred Valley) and choosing a spot for dinner. A choice of Cicciolina or A Mi Manera, or for views of the Plaza de Armas, La Retama.

Day 2: Colonial Cusco
Sticking to the area near the Plaza de Armas, visit the Cathedral and the Santa Catalina Convent in the morning. After lunch, see the superb Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun) to get an idea of the Incas’ incredible masonry and the clash of native and Spanish culture. Take a walk along the Calles Loreto and Hatunrumiyoc to see some more magnificent Inca stonework. In Plaza Nazarenas, check out the beautifully designed Museo de Arte Precolombino and some of the upscale alpaca goods shops on the square. Then stop at MAP Café , the chic restaurant in the museum’s courtyard, for a celebratory dinner. Have a pisco sour at one of the lively cafes or bars near the Plaza de Armas afterward.

Day 3: Sacred Valley: Pisac
Time you visit on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Sunday—those are market days in the Urubamba Valley (the Valle Sagrado de los Incas). Take a combi or taxi to Pisac and check out the popular and lively artisans’ market. Have lunch at Ulrike’s Café right on the main square.  After lunch either hike up to or grab a taxi to the Inca ruins looming above town. Pisac’s ruins will give you a taste of what you’re about to see in Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Head a little farther along in the valley (again by taxi or combi) to a rustic country hotel near Urubamba or Yucay, where you’ll have dinner and spend the night.  The most popular place by tripadvisor is the Kuychi Rumi.

Day 4: Sacred Valley - Ollantaytambo
Wake early and take a taxi to Ollantaytambo, where you’ll want to arrive as close to opening as possible to
explore the Fortress Ruins before the busloads arrive. Then take a walk around Ollanta’s Old Town and grab lunch. If you have the energy and can manage a few hours after lunch, go for a hike in the Valley, perhaps to Salineras de Maras, the ancient salt mines near Urubamba. If you don’t mind moving around, you could transfer to a hotel in Ollanta to enjoy it at night when there are few tourists (and be there for the train the next morning to Machu Picchu). Otherwise head back to your hotel near Urubamba.

Day 5: Machu Picchu
Catch an early morning train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, the rough-edged town that sits below Machu Picchu. REMEMBER:  Tickets are not available at the entrance at Machu Picchu, buy them in Cuzco or Aquas Calientes.  Catch the bus up to the ruins and spend the day exploring them (hiking up to the Huayna Picchu peak for panoramic views if you’re in shape). Have lunch at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge next to the ruins and stay until late in the afternoon, after the large tour groups have left. Spend the night either next to the ruins (if you’ve got very deep pockets) or back down in Aguas Calientes (which is actually more fun). Hit the bars along the railroad tracks to share stories with some of the backpackers who’ve survived the Inca Trail.
Here are more tips on how to arrange on your own to reach Machu Picchu by

Day 6: Back to Cusco
Now that you’ve acclimatized to the Andes and seen some of the greatest legacies of the Incas, head back by train to the old Inca capital, Cusco. In the afternoon, stroll around the hilly San Blas neighborhood, site of dozens of cool shops and art galleries. Do some shopping for handicrafts, souvenirs, and art. If Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo have intensified your interest in Inca architecture, catch a cab (or walk) up to the fantastic ruins, Sacsayhuamán, overlooking the city. If you have any energy left, get a taste ofCusco’s hopping nightlife at one of the pubs or nightclubs around the Plaza de Armas. Then make your way up bustling Calle Procuradores, Cusco’s gringo alley and restaurant row. If you’re dining on a budget, pick an informal restaurant along Calle Plateros, just off the Plaza de Armas, such as Chez Maggy; if you’re
looking for something more refined, try Greens.

Day 7: Back to Lima
Do some final shopping in Cusco before catching a flight to Lima. You’ll probably have an evening flight back home, so you may have enough time for a ceviche lunch in Lima and, if you’re ambitious, a short tour of colonial Lima Centro in the late afternoon.
NOTE:  Altitude in Cusco,:@11,000ft., Sacred Valley: @9,000ft., Machu Picchu: @ 8,000ft. At altitudes up to 9,000ft., people usually do not have bad altitude problems, but above it, they might. Gradual acclimatization is the best to prevent altitude sickness.

Some local tour operators:

Kuoda Travel
Pachamama Explorer
Peru for Less

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Talima Adventure Water Park, Mactan Cebu

Warning: the park is temporarily close due to non compliance of necessary permit to operate. (reopened: June 19, 2010)

The Talima Adventure Water Park, a water park at Talima, an island off Mactan, Cebu, opened last May 22, 2010.  It's a waterpark with life size inflatables much like the ones set up in Lago del Rey, Camarines Sur but at a smaller scale.  
Cebuano's really has the knack (including me) for trying new places.  So I pooled by friends and family one Sunday.  Aboard a rented outrigger boat, we left Queensland Wharf and got to Talima 30 minutes later.  Unfortunately, we (along with so many other boats) were denied entry since they were too full.  We ended up island hopping in the waters of Mactan.

After having been to many other places, it makes me appreciate the waters of Mactan.  I'm lucky to have access to white sandy beach 30 minutes from where I live.  The rest of the day was spent jet skiing!  Oh boy, it has been many years since the last one.  When we were younger, we would beg to rent it for just 30 minutes, and share the time among us siblings.  Jet skiing is an expensive sport, renting one costs about P3500/hour.  Thanks to my friend JJ and her brother, who lent us the unlimited use of the jet ski!  We went skiing circling the islands of Mactan together with the kids.  It excited them as well, fortunately, the sea was calm in the morning.  

Later in the afternoon, we went jet skiing again, near the shores of Mactan Island from Punta Engano to Imperial Water Park Resort.  The water was rough! I was sharing the jetski with my friend A.  We were soaked right from the start with big splashes while our seasoned friends were swiftly skiing with the waves.  As we went along, I was curious about a newly built  resort with a row of villas and a bridgeway hanging on an infinity pool.  It's the Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan, the resort component of Seascape Resort Town by Filinvest Development Corporation.  I ought to check this place out next! :)


How to get here:

Option 1:  Rent a private boat from any resort/outrigger boatman in the shores of Mactan, Island,  a medium sized boat with capacity of 15 pax costs about P2500-3000, while bigger ones with capacity of 30 pax costs P3000-4500; this can be used the whole day.

Option 2: Take a common boat by Islands Banca Cruises at the Hilton Wharf (after Hilton Hotel) for P50/pax one way.  Daily trip schedule (except Wednesdays) is as follows:  8:30 am, 10 am, and 12 noon.  The last returning boat from the park to the  Hilton wharf is at 4 pm.

Option 3:  Take a public outrigger boat for P16 to Sta. Rosa, Olango Wharf at the Hilton Port.  Upon reaching the Olango Wharf, you may need to ride a trike going to Talima Adventure Water Park.

Talima Adventure Water Park Fees:

Don't be deceived by the P100 entrance fees.  On top of the entrance fee, you need to pay the following:

P250 unlimited use of inflatables including life vest
P100 unlimited use of zip n splash
P300 30 mins atv rental

Warning: Timing of the tide is crucial since the inflatables are a few meters from the shore, thus it will be closed during  low tide.  Zip n splash is likewise not allowed during low tide.

Bringing of food is not allowed.  There are a few restaurants and food kiosks like Cheaverz inside the park.  The prices are similar to that in the city (or so they say), but lechon is sold at a hefty price of P600/kilogram.