I am extremely sorry that I have been neglecting this space for quite some time as I have been travelling quite a fair bit in the last few months and I did not have much time to blog about all that has been happening so far.
In this post, I will be sharing about my recent trip to Peru, a country that is located in the continent of South America.
The Super Long Haul Flight
To fly to Peru from Singapore, I took a Singapore Airlines flight to Los Angeles, USA and then took another flight with Lan Chile Airlines from Los Angeles, USA to Lima, Peru. The flight duration from Singapore to Los Angeles, USA was about 19 hours 30 minutes and the flight duration from Los Angeles, USA to Lima, Peru was about 8 hours and 25 minutes. Overall, the total flight duration from Singapore to Peru was about 27 hours and 55 minutes.
A little side track here…
Layover in Los Angeles, USA
I had a layover of 7-8 hours in Los Angeles and I seized the opportunity to explore Santa Monica and Citadel Outlets; both of which were close enough for me to visit without missing my flight.
So… not only did I travelled to Peru, I also visited USA and even stayed one night in Los Angeles (due to a flight delay). Although Singaporeans do not require a Visa to travel to USA; do note that you will have to apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization two days before your departure. Failure to apply for ESTA may result you in being denied entry to the US.
Santa Monica is a beachfront city west of downtown Los Angeles. Santa Monica Beach is fringed by Palisades Park, with views over the Pacific Ocean. The storied Santa Monica Pier is home to the Pacific Park amusement park, historic Looff Hippodrome Carousel and Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Next to the pier is Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym established in the 1930s. In the city center, Bergamot Station houses several art galleries.
To get to Santa Monica from Los Angeles International Airport, take the Airport Shuttle Bus to Lot C Bus Terminal and board Big Blue Bus Rapid 3 that will take you all the way there. It cost just $1.25 USD for a single trip ticket; which is way cheaper than if you take a taxi or Uber.
For a visual understanding of where and how to get to Santa Monica from Los Angeles International Airport, check this out.
What I really enjoyed during my trip to Santa Monica was having the opportunity to soak in the local atmosphere and to see for myself the beautiful beach that Baywatch was filmed at. If you need a quick meal, Santa Monica also has some nice bistros and diners around.
The best part?
It’s not too far from Los Angeles International Airport.
Citadel Outlets is a 700,000 square foot mixed-use commercial property, featuring a hotel, four office buildings, and Los Angeles’ only retail outlet centre. The historical façade was built more than 75 years ago and is located just 10 minutes south of Downtown Los Angeles.
Citadel Outlets boasts 130 brand name stores offering 30%-70% off retail prices and a variety of fashions and accessories can be found at Michael Kors, H&M, Kipling, COACH, Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, kate spade, Tilly’s, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, Banana Republic Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, BCBGMAXAZRIA and MAXSTUDIO.COM.
Sportswear abounds at well-known manufacturers like Under Armour, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, Reebok, Puma and Nike. Young adult shoppers thrill at the up-to-date selection at Guess Factory Store, Converse, Quiksilver Factory Store and Hurley. New fashions for children are offered at The Children’s Place, Gymboree and OshKosh and families love Old Navy and Gap Outlets.
Food choices are plentiful at Citadel Outlets with over 16 food choices including Starbucks, Ruby’s Diner and Pronto Café.
Although it is cheaper to take the public transport to Citadel Outlets, the journey from Los Angeles International Airport will take at least 1.5 hours and it is better to save some time by taking Uber or Lyft. A single trip by Lyft will cost about $32 USD .
New to Uber? Sign up for an account here and key in z06ob (z zero six o b) under the ‘Invite Code” column to get your first free ride!
Since I had time to kill, I went on a major Christmas shopping spree and bought lots of gifts and souvenirs at Citadel Outlets. I must say, the deals and offers are simply so irresistible that I spent my entire layover time at Citadel Outlets.
If shopping is your cup of tea, you definitely should swing by Citadel Outlets during your layover; just don’t forget to buffer some travelling time to avoid missing your flight.
Citadel Outlets is open Monday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. through 9:00 p.m.
The Sol is the currency of Peru and it is interesting to note that the money changers in Singapore do not offer the Peruvian Sol. You can either exchange US Dollars for the Peruvian Sol when you transit at USA, withdraw Peruvian Soles from the ATM in Peru or change it with the money changers at Jorge Chávez International Airport upon arrival in Peru.
If you do withdraw cash from the ATM in Peru, do be wary of card skimming crimes and always cover the number pad when keying in your pin number.
Although some retail shops accept US Dollars, I will recommend that you pay in Soles. In fact, I changed my US Dollars to Soles at Los Angeles International Airport and I got a pretty good rate for it.
The official language used in Peru is Spanish and unless you speak and understand Spanish, you might have a hard time trying to communicate with the locals in English. This is the time when Google Translate comes to the rescue.
Speaking of which, I would really love to learn Spanish. Does anyone know of any reputable places where I can learn Spanish?
Upon arrival at Jorge Chávez International Airport, there’s a mobile telco counter (Claro) where I rented a mobile data SIM card. Although prepaid SIM cards were available; I was told that they were only meant for Peruvian citizens. For 10 days of usage with a maximum data cap of 3GB, it cost $64 USD; which I considered to be slightly expensive as I don’t really spend that much on communication when I was travelling around Asia. Nonetheless, $64 USD is still cheaper than my telco’s (Starhub) international data roaming rate.
I erred on the safe side when I was in Peru and avoided hailing taxis from the street. In fact, if I needed to get from one place to another, I walked (if the place I wanted to go was close by) or used Uber (yes, Uber works there). Traffic can be quite congested during the day time and I mean it because for a 14km journey, it can take 1 to 1.5 hours!
The Places That I Visited In Peru
I was in Lima throughout my trip and I hardly ventured far from the capital of Peru as I did not have the luxury of time. While most people I know would visit Peru because of Machu Picchu; I sadly did not have the opportunity to do so and I hope to visit Peru again to get a complete experience.
Nevertheless, here are some information about the places that I visited when I was in Peru.
Miraflores is a district of the Lima Province in Peru and it is an exclusive residential and upscale shopping district south of downtown Lima. It is also one of the most affluent districts that make up the city of Lima. In fact, Miraflores is one of the main tourist attractions in Lima and is somewhat safer than other regions in Peru.
I stayed at Hotel Señorial, a 3-star hotel which is located only three blocks away from Larcomar and in case you are wondering, a night’s stay cost about $81 USD inclusive of a simple buffet breakfast. What makes Hotel Señorial an attractive choice of accommodation is the fact that it is nearby to many places of interest (some of which are within walking distance).
The Larcomar is a shopping centre in the Miraflores district of Lima owned by Chilean company Parque Arauco S.A. It is frequently visited by international tourists, as well as by locals from Miraflores and other parts of Lima. It is located on Avenida Jose Larco, and it is along the cliff next to the ocean (mar means ‘sea’ in Spanish) thus the name Larcomar.
The Larcomar has indoor and outdoor areas and includes a cinema, bowling lanes, a food court, museum, tourist shops, Tony Roma’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Chili’s restaurants, book stores, clothing stores, and electronics stores.
What I really like about Larcorma is that it overlooks the Pacific Ocean and offers a breathtaking view for some really photogenic shots. However, do note that shopping and dining at Larcorma is relatively more expensive than downtown Lima.
Monastery of San Francisco
Convento de San Francisco is the Spanish name for Saint Francis Monastery located in Lima. The church and convent are part of the Historic Centre of Lima, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991. Aside from being a church and monastery; it also contains a library and catacombs.
I visited the catacombs and even as I typed this, I could still recall the solemn and eerie experience that I had there. The catacombs were actually part of Lima’s original cemeteries, which were built under churches. Tour guides say an estimated 75,000 bodies are buried under the Monastery of San Francisco alone, and many of the remains are exposed, stacked in strange patterns in circular stone pits. The catacomb tour is certainly not for the squeamish or the claustrophobic.
As photography was not allowed, I didn’t manage to capture any images but a Google Search actually revealed some photos which other visitors took.
If you are a history fanatic, you will definitely want to include a visit to the Monastery of San Francisco into your itinerary.
The Government Palace (also known as House of Pizarro) is the seat of the executive branch of the Peruvian Government and the official residence of the President of Peru. It was erected in 1535 over a huge huaca that had a shrine of the old Lima valley’s cacique Taulichusco and it has undergone many transformations over the years.
The palace is a stately government building with a set of ornamental guards and it is recognisable by the large wrought iron fence that surrounds the building and lines one side of the Plaza Mayor behind the Rímac River. Although access to the palace is strictly restricted, you can see the changing of the palace guards which takes place each day precisely at noon.
The Huaca Pucllana is a great adobe and clay pyramid located in the Miraflores district of central Lima, built from seven staggered platforms. It served as an important ceremonial and administrative centre for the advancement of the Lima Culture, a society which developed in the Peruvian Central Coast between the years of 200 AD and 700 AD.
With the intended purpose of having the elite clergymen (who politically governed several valleys in the area) express their complete religious power and ability to control the use of all the natural water resources (saltwater and freshwater) of the zone, a Great Pyramid was constructed in the Huaca.
As I wasn’t able to go to Machu Picchu, visiting the Huaca Pucllana was the next best alternative to check out some Incan ruin.
Barranco is one of 43 districts in Lima, Peru. The district is considered to be the city’s most romantic and bohemian, being the home and working place of many of Peru’s leading artists, musicians, designers and photographers.
In the 19th-century, it was a very fashionable beach resort for the Limeño aristocracy, and many people used to spend the summer here and in neighboring Chorrillos. Today, Barranco’s beaches are among the most popular within the worldwide surfing community, and a marina completed in 2008 provides state-of-the-art services for its yacht club.
The name Barranco (Spanish for ravine) is descriptive of its topography, featuring homes and restaurants in and around a ravine near a cliff overlooking a sand strip which runs from the Miraflores District to Chorrillos (now flanked by a highway, Costa Verde Ave.)
Barranco has many houses in the colonial and Republican style (called “casonas”), flower-filled parks and streets, and appealing beachfront areas. Lima’s contemporary art museum, the MAC, is located in Barranco, as well as the Museo Pedro de Osma, which hosts one of the best collections of colonial art and is itself one of Barranco’s best kept examples of late-19th-century architectural style. The district includes numerous restaurants, nightclubs, discos, bars and peñas, where one can appreciate Peruvian music shows.
El Callao is the chief seaport of Peru. The city is also called Provincia Constitucional (Constitutional Province), the only province of the Callao Region. The Historic Centre of Callao is located 15 km west of Historic Centre of Lima, the country’s capital, and is part of the Lima Metropolitan Area. Callao borders Lima Province on the north, east and south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west.
Jorge Chávez International Airport is located in Callao.
Inca Market is located in Miraflores and many foreign tourists come here to do their shopping because it offers many kinds of Peruvian products and souvenirs that will suit everyone’s liking. From the Peruvian poncho, to handbags, jewellery or even musical instruments; you will be able to find all sorts of Peruvian handicrafts to bring home. As many tourists come here to shop; do expect prices to be marked up significantly and if you’re keen to purchase an item, do bargain for at least half or one-third of the selling price.
What to Buy
If you’re visiting Peru and you’re wondering what souvenirs or gifts to bring home for your friends and loved ones; I would suggest any of the following:
Ceramics | Alpaca Scarf | Art Painting | Musical Instruments (Cajon) | Pisco | Chocolate
I would recommend that you get souvenirs from Inca Market because you can get some really good deals there; just don’t forget to do some bargaining. Also, avoid getting souvenirs from Jorge Chávez International Airport as they can be really expensive and overpriced. If you have no choice but to do some last minute shopping at the airport; do so only when you have cleared immigration as there are some souvenir shops near the boarding gates that are friendly on the wallet.
As for me, I was crazy enough to buy six 1.5 Litres bottles of Inca Kola to bring back to Singapore.
Although the journey to Peru was a long one for me, I honestly enjoyed my trip to Peru and I really hope to bring the Mrs there one day. Since my journey to Peru is not complete; it is also my wish that I visit Peru again just so that I can check out Machu Picchu in this lifetime. Peru is indeed a beautiful country with a rich and dynamic culture and heritage and I would recommend avid travellers to include this country into their bucket list of countries to visit in this lifetime!