Thursday, 11 January 2007

Santiago - A tale of two cities

Yesterday we went out and did the tourist thing round the centre of Santiago - we did the LP walking tour, and also did a couple of things that had been recommended to us by some Chileans. We didn't come back that impressed - the few sites on the walking tour weren't overly interesting (or accessible), and the city centre seemed to just be fast food joints and discount clothing shops. We where also trying to find somewhere to buy a camera, and where remarkably unsuccessful - all the shops here seem to be very small, and specific. We where constantly going into places that looked hopeful, expecting there to be 10 stories we could browse through and finding... one small room, with most of the stuff for sale in the window.

We'd also been strongly recommended by some Chileans to go the Mercado Central (Central Fish Market) for lunch, as the seafood was supposed to be excellent. The market itself was pretty interesting, especially seeing what you could/couldn't get as compared to Sydney. There was heaps of Salmon around (it's farmed heavily here, and Chile is the 2nd biggest producer in the world, Norway being the biggest). However at least 50% of the floor space in the market was occupied by one massive restaurant (the place we'd been recommended) called 'Donde Augusto', an obvious tourist trap. There was some other smaller places in the periphery, and all of them had very aggressive spruikers trying to get you in. We ended up trying the place recommended in LP (nothing special), but I couldn't recommend the experience at all, reminded me too much of the strip in the Cross!

We chatted to our host in the hostal that night, and he told us all about how he never goes to that area of town anymore. It used to be the rich area of town, but got trashed pretty badly during the governmental troubles in the '70s. Rather than rebuilding, the better area of town just kept moving further and further east (towards the mountains), so the central part and anything west of there just become more and more de-gentrified.

The next day we decided to try our luck in the west, which was a completely different experience. A few suburbs on from us is Las Condes, definitely a more upmarket area - all skyscrapers and suits. We did check out some really nice wine shops (the best one amusingly having psytrance playing as muzak), but it was $400US to ship a case, so we decided not to. A real shame when some really nice wines go here for $5.

We also went to one of the malls out this way, which could easily rival anything in the US - it was a suburb all to itself! We managed to find many a camera in there, even a Nikon shop. All in all a very different experience of Santiago to the day before.

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