Buenos Aires (11 – 13 November and 8 December 2013)
I had been talking about it for the longest time. And it was fear that stopped me from doing it. It is well known that South America is quite unsafe. At least that was what I thought South America was like based on the various publications I had read about the continent. South America seemed so dangerous but I was so curious about it.
While I was employed, I had the perfect excuse to not go there. It was so far away, why would I want to waste my time and money getting there for just two weeks which was all the time I could have taken off at one go? This time however, I could no longer use that excuse. I finally had all the time in the world. I had to take myself to South America. I had to satisfy my curiosity.
And so by ignoring that part of my brain that is responsible for sounding out alarms for potential danger, I booked my flight to South America. My gate into and out of the continent, Buenos Aires.
I think all of my friends believe that I am a seasoned traveller. Personally I think that their faith in me is terribly misguided and misplaced. I always feel extremely inadequate before I go on an exploring trip. But is that not what exploring trips are about? To experience and hopefully learn something new about the world. If I am to start a trip feeling cocksure about everything then it is merely a vacation.
It took me more than 30 hours to get to Buenos Aires. My first flight took more than 7 hours to get to Dubai with a stopover for an hour in Colombo. At Dubai I changed to another flight to Buenos Aires with a stopover in Rio de Janeiro. I could not believe that I had spent more than an entire day trying to get to South America and I would have to do the same thing to get home except without a stopover at Colombo. But I was glad that I had that stopover at Dubai. I think it is important to be able to stretch my legs properly in the middle of long journeys.
The drive from the airport to my hotel in the Maipu district of Buenos Aires was a smooth one. I had arrived at the city after sunset and it was comforting to know that someone was coming to pick me up and take me straight to my airport. I was still feeling somewhat anxious about being in South America. It definitely did not help when I realised that the area around my hotel seemed deathly quiet at night.
It was really not all that bad however. People generally ignored me which was not a bad thing. However my senses were up on high alert every time I went out.
Buenos Aires is a modern metropolis and a major city in the southern hemisphere. It is probably not the best place in South America to get a culture shock but it is a good place to start in South America to ease into the more hardcore stuff. There are also some interesting places in the city to visit. It was unfortunate therefore that I was uncomfortable with the idea of walking about in the city after dark. Yes, I was like a little girl.
The most unique place in the city I think is the Recoleta Cemetery. By virtue of the extravagant mausolea of famous people there, the cemetery has become a tourist attraction.
I did not know almost every single person interred at the cemetery though. All except one. This one I am sure should be world famous by now even to people who are not interested in world history, all thanks to Madonna. I am just surprised that her tomb is not as elaborate as many others near her.
There is a church next to the cemetery, the Church of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and was a nice place to have a short rest in.
Buenos Aires is also a city of museums, at least I think I can call it that, and there are a number of art museums there.
I liked the National Museum of Fine Arts best with its good collection of paintings.
Although I did not encounter any street Tango performances as I had hoped, my walks in the city revealed to me some interesting buildings.
After the war with the British over the Falkland Islands, the Argentine authorities renamed the Torre de los Ingleses to the Torre Monumental. The locals still call it by the old name though. Just across the road and directly facing the tower is a memorial to the Falklands War.
The jacaranda trees were in bloom and they made some of the more boring streets look so pretty. I wish we had these trees in Singapore.
Buenos Aires is apparently the most visited city in South America. But despite the interesting buildings and museums, somehow I could not shake off the feeling that like many other tourist cities in the world (Paris I am thinking of you) Buenos Aires is mostly living on a hype created by hoity-toity Western tourists who imagine themselves to know best. Maybe if given time I would have grown to like the city very much. But till today I am still far more curious about other places in South America, including those in Argentina outside Buenos Aires. Nevertheless, that is not to say that my time in the city had been a waste. I enjoyed my visit at the Recoleta Cemetery and the National Museum of Fine Arts. I also did like my walk through the city on that last Sunday morning before I flew home when it was mostly quiet. I just think that there are far more exciting places outside of the city.