So I got my flight down to Santiago yesterday morning and arrived at my hostel in the early afternoon. I got the bus in from Santiago airport and then the clean modern and extremely frequent (there are practically trains every minute in the week) metro to my hostel.
After grabbing some cheap lunch I headed over to Cerro San Cristóbal. There is usually a funicular to the top of this hill but it is currently shut for maintainence so I walked up the hill. As the guide book assumes you’ll take the funicular no walking instructions were given so I walked up to the zoo. At which point there was no obvious path but after a short time I resumed my climb. It did seem to take forever to reach the top as the path wound around the hill and I was sweating like a pig by the time I got to the top. At the top there were impressive views of the city as well as a large statue of the virgn Mary making it a little like I imagine Rio is.
Then after a short wander round the top I headed over to the cable car station to get the cable car down the other side of the hill. This is run with bubble cars that are tiny. Just big enough for my bag and me. This then takes you to a car park on the other side which is in the leafy district of Provendencia. After a short walk I landed up back at the river where I first saw boys getting money at the traffic lights by balancing a long pole on their chins. It was very impressive and obviously when the lights changed they had to get out the way so they only had a short chance to get money. After this I headed into the park on the riverbank which was full of statues and lovers kissing, something you don’t see a park devoted to back in the UK. As the sun set I headed in a couple of blocks and got the metro back to my accommodation. This gave me a chance to practice my Spanish to find out where the station was.
Then this morning after a good nights sleep I had breakfast and then found what my accommodation was doing about my room. After an hour of waiting it transpired that they didn’t have space after all so they found me alternative accommodation. By this point it was the afternoon and I headed to the central square the Plaza de Armes and the cathedral which was pretty but not as nice as Cusco’s. After that I went to the local pre-columnian museum which appears to be free today. Even though I have seen several before this one was interesting as it cover most of the Americas including Mexico and that was very interesting to find out a bit about. The pieces were also well explained in Spanish, English and often French too. The flaw with the museum was that it’s layout was a bit schitzophrenic and it was difficult to see the continuity between the different pieces.
Overall Santiago is without a doubt the richest city I’ve been in in South America and it seems comparable in wealth to cities in Europe and North America, though maybe a little poorer as I haven’t found the equivalent of Chelsea in London or the Upper East side in New York yet. The buildngs are very nice and the buses and metro are as nice as those in London. Chile is also apparently the worlds fastest growing economy at the moment which given the number of iPhone ads, especially in Santiago, doesn’t seem a total surprise. But still, I’d be surprised if it was growing faster than Viet Nam, it doesn’t have the same energy that I felt about Viet Nam when I was there.