So Where Did You Go?

RTW map latestFinally I was able to create a map version of where we disappeared into during that 9 months or so.

Comparing to our rough initial plan (to use the world ‘rough’ would be an overstatement), this map had a lot more dots on it. Although the basic itinerary (which continents for example) remained the same roughly, the exact countries – and places in each country – had changed and evolved so much throughout the trip.

A few notable changes: we added Patagonia in Argentina/ Bolivia (loved it)/Colombia (thank goodness)/Nicaragua; we didn’t go to Chile/Brazil, and we shortened the time in Costa Rica significantly. At times these changes seemed daunting, and other times they were obvious decision. Initially we thought we would stay in each place for a few weeks, and very quickly we realized it was not realistic nor necessary. I will come to some of these changes with more detail in relevant posts.

It’s once again a powerful proof to that good old saying: change is the only constant.

The tool that I used to create this map was an online tool called ‘travellerspoint’. Although it wasted me a few precious late night hours when I tried to create the map for the first time (it just didn’t want to save. Totally No stress!), I did find some interesting merits. For example, it told me that:

  • We travelled 77,279 kilometres
  • Days travelling: 282 days
  • The total distance travelled is roughly equivalent to circling the earth 1.9 times! (so we’ve got a lot of carbon footprint to be accountable for …).
  • Distance travelled by mode of transport:
    • Boat: 593km
    • Train: 1,117km
    • Bus: 3,064km
    • Car: 4,520km
    • Airplane: 67,731km
  • we have visited in total 17 countries (although 2 should be deducted as they were just transits)
  • It even allowed me to export my trip to an excel format, which was quite handy.

Now I will stop sounding like their sales rep, and return at once to the most burning question.

So where exactly did we go??

Here is a map for visual person like myself.

countries travelled

Here is a list for the more brave-hearted (of the places we either spent at least one night or as major transit stops):

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Tokyo, Japan
Paris, Ile-de-France, France
La Capelle-les-Boulogne, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
Lyon, Rhone-Alpes, France
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France
Hauteluce, Rhone-Alpes, France
Grenoble, Rhone-Alpes, France
Antibes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France
London, United Kingdom
Paris, Ile-de-France, France
Madrid, Community of Madrid, Spain
Buenos Aires, Argentina (here, bookstore)
Montevideo, Montevideo Department, Uruguay
La Barra, Maldonado, Uruguay
Cabo Polonio, Rocha, Uruguay
La Tuna, Canelones, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, Argentina
El Calafate, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
El Chalten, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina
Salta, Salta Province, Argentina
Tilcara, Jujuy Province, Argentina
Tupiza, Potosi Department, Bolivia
Uyuni, Potosi Department, Bolivia
Nuestra Señora de La Paz, La Paz Department, Bolivia
Copacabana, Copacabana, La Paz Department, Bolivia
Puno, Puno, Peru
Cusco, Peru
Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Peru
Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru
Lima, Peru
Bogota, Colombia
Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
Taganga, Magdalena, Colombia
Barichara, Santander department, Colombia
Villa de Leyva, Boyaca, Colombia
Bogota, Colombia
Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
Lima, Peru
Miami, Florida, United States
Oviedo, Florida, United States
Miami, Florida, United States
San Jose, Costa Rica
La Fortuna, San Jose, Costa Rica
San Carlos, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua
Apoyo Lagoon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua
Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua
San Juan del Sur, Rivas, Nicaragua
San Jose, Costa Rica
Miami, Florida, United States
New York, United States
Newport, Rhode Island, United States
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
New York, United States
Vienna, Virginia, United States
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Fort Collins, Colorado, United States
San Diego, California, United States
Pismo Beach, California, United States
Palo Alto, California, United States
San Francisco, California, United States
Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Village, California, United States
Mammoth, California, United States
Lone Pine, California, United States
Los Angeles, California, United States
Pape’ete, Windward Islands, French Polynesia
Moorea, French Polynesia
Atoll Rangiroa, French Polynesia
Auckland, New Zealand
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

SUBE card and BsAs

ISUBE was clearing all the cluster in my wallet tonight, and found this credit-card-size card written ‘SUBE’. It took me a little while to remember what it was. It was the public transportation card in the city of Buenos Aires (or BsAs as affectionately called by the locals) that I bought when we spent 3 weeks there back in February. it’s the equivalent of OPAL card in Sydney (the new invention while we were away!).

Memories flooded back when I saw the card.

The card was a life saver, once we managed to finally get one. Theoretically all major metro stations and big grocery shops in BsAs would sell it. It took us almost a week to finally find one. Theoretically a free card, we paid an equivalent of 3 dollars for it. Why? In a country where rules were not written, and you were not far away from being illiterate as far as spoken language was concerned, we learnt to accept that some questions would remain unanswered forever.

Well, we paid 6 dollars as we bought two, and only a few days before we left the city we found out that multiple people could use the same card even for the same trip. In metro station you simply swipe twice when you got it. On the bus, you had to tell the driver where you were going when you got on, and the driver would key in the correspondent amount.

Well, why were we so eager to getting hold of the card anyway? Because it was an excise of driving us insane not having one. The bus/metro fare were very cheap in BsAs, but how the fare was calculated was still a mystery to me. The worst part was that the fare almost always involved some weird number, such as 3.83 pesos, 4.22 pesos. And you had to have the exact amount of changes with you because the drivers were not supposed to give back any change. So we would collect all the changes we received from each grocery shop (only big supermarket wouldn’t be angry with you if you didn’t have the exact change, so go figure how painful it was to collect some small changes), and preciously put them into our pockets and wallets and backpacks, as if they were the treasure of our lives.

What’s worse, the value of different coins and bills in Argentina were notoriously difficult to decipher (due to very similar colors to my taste), so sometimes when we were trying to compose the right amount of bus fare, a long queue would form behind us. On a hot summer day, I felt quite guilty of making others wait in the sun, although inside the bus often it wasn’t really any better as most buses were not air conditioned.

So we were very happy when we got the card. We hoorayed and jumped as if we won the lottery.

So what happened to the second card we paid for unnecessarily? Well we gave it to a couple we met in Cuzco/Peru who were going to BsAs afterwards. During our trip, we had been on the receiving end of random kindness for so many times, and we tried to do what we could to be on the giving end, even if it’s just as little as a SUBE card. It could just save them a week worth of frustration trying to get one. If I had this SUBE card with us at that particular moment, I would have given it to them too. I had no idea how it ended up staying in my wallet till now – it’s perhaps the only non-essential thing from the trip staying in my wallet. But I’m glad it did, because memories flooded back thanks to it.

I could almost tag this post ‘nostalgic’ – it was just 8 months ago when we just began our real adventure after the good old France. And it felt like ages ago.

But it’s not.

It’s more like a reminder that memories are often composed of all these little things. A card. A chance encounter. The feeling you felt at one random split moment. Some otherwise unconnected place/people/things that somehow became connected.

It’s a reminder that the 461 pages of diary I managed to jot down on my phone – some days there was just a few words while other days there were a few pages – was perhaps one of the best things I’ve done during our trip. It was also one of the hardest things to continue doing.

It’s also a reminder that I will continue to honour my own promise to put the relevant parts of that 461 pages onto this site. So that memories could be retrieved and relived, even after the SUBE card would be long gone.

[D64] National Library of Argentina – Another Architectural Masterpiece

[D64, Feb 19, Buenos Aires/Argentina]

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National library. Oh what a unique building. It reminded me of the slaughter house in Shanghai. Love the chairs, lounges etc – a series of classic design of mid century.

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Weirdly they destroyed an old building – used to be presidential residence so quite significant – to make the way for this industrial looking structure built in the 50′s. Hea

Visited a few floors but couldn’t go inside the library to read some books.

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Had lunch in cafe, again the purpose designed chairs just for the cafe probably.

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Then fine art museum, just on the opposite side of the big avenue. On the lawn, two young dancers rehearsing their dance, with horse head. So powerful even Nina became a fan, watched for quite a while.

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P.S: to follow our RTW experience: Trilingual Family blog, or join Trilingual Family facebook group


[D119] How Has Nina Been Coping

Almost 120 days after we officially started our round-the-world trip, 5 countries stamped in the passport and 21 different beds later, I came to the conclusion that kids are just unpredictable creatures – at least Nina is!

Uyuni 01

What I thought would be the most difficult to cope – changing beds so often in new room/country/temperature – Nina had absolutely no issue with except the very first few days in France (largely due to the time zone changes between Australia and France I suspect). She has so far slept on 21 different beds – sometimes with her own bed, sometimes in a cot, sometimes on a mattress on the floor, occasionally sharing a bed with us. Regardless the bedding arrangement, as soon as the light was out in the room and door was closed, she promptly falls onto her bed and is ready for her night. I cannot be thankful enough for this priceless gift that Nina is granting us!

But then, sometimes, in the most unexpected moment, Nina would become the most horrible creature on the entire planet. Some days, nothing but taking off her pyjama, changing her nappy and putting her day clothes on would take more than an hour, with screaming and physical wrestling. At days like this, by the time we were ready for breakfast, I was exhausted, and seriously asked Nicolas why we were doing this to ourselves.

Nina, as all other children I guess, had a natural talent in keeping herself entertained with the most unexpected objects. While we walked on the most mundane street in BsAs, she could spend incredible amount of time joyously walking on and off the steps in front of apartment buildings. Lately she is in love with wooden sticks mostly branches fallen off the tress. She would laugh with excitement when we found one for her, and even more so if we found two at once! Many times we couldn’t keep the sticks with us (well, for a 6-hour bus journey for example), she would constantly ask where her sticks, and we had to promise her once and again that we would get her new sticks when we arrive.

Talking about long distance bus trips … I was very concerned with having to going through this with Nina, as well as the well-being of other passengers. Nina was all over the place on a 2-hour bus journey in Uruguay already, and I thought that was the sky limit. Then Nina surprised us again and again – she was ok with a 3-hour one, then a 4-hour one. The record so far was a 6-hour extremely bumpy bus ride in a Bolivian version of tourist bus (reading: no air condition, no reclinable chairs, etv) – she not only endured it but seemed actually having enjoyed it.

One of the most challenging aspect of travelling with such a young child – as far as I am concerned – is the fact that you are stuck with each other 24*7. She needs other kids to play with. I need ‘me time’ for my own sanity from time to time. But the fact is that we are constantly on the move, and it’s not realistic to get reliable babysitters in a country where you don’t even speak their language properly, so there is just no escape. After a full-on day, there is still research to be done for the next destination, hotel to be booked, bus ticket to be bought, luggage to be packed, diary to be written, emails to be replied. Sometimes, it just feels overwhelming. And why the update of this blog has been slow (I’m trying my best still!).

But then it’s all made up by the fact that we get to discover the world together. And I as a parent get to witness how she’s learning, changing, building up her language, while getting to know the world with her parents. It’s a privilege that I cherish.


P.S: to follow our RTW experience: Trilingual Family blog, or join Trilingual Family facebook group

[D66 – 70] Buenos Aires

D66, Feb 21, 2014, BsAs

Got the news from my sister that a niang (our paternal grandmother) passed away yesterday ? now she would unite with a ya. And I couldn’t even be there … It’s too much emotion to write inside this blog so I will just say this much.

Tren de la costa to Tigre. A little cute train going to the delta, only 30 min. Although it took us 1hr almost to get to the train station. We had to wait for next train for 25min as we just missed the previous. There was a quite nice antique market adjoining the train station.

The train went along the coast. Nina excited about La Mer as she saw the water and cried.

Not knowing exactly what to do once I arrived at Tigre, we followed the crowd and took a cruise of one hour. Oh I was so glad I did. Only later I learnt there were so many rivers(Rio) running around this delta area. I saw some most charming houses along the rivers, with diverse architecture and style. What they all had in common was there was no road access and they all relied on boat (or kayak as I saw a few) for supplies and getting around. The ferry we took also took on some sort of delivery job. At the dock leaving Tigre, grocery/water/packs were loaded, then along the way, the ferry stopped numerous times at private jetty to unload the delivery – sometimes someone was waiting and sometimes goods were just thrown off to the jetty and left there. I guess it was pretty safe as no one could easily access the jetty anyway.

Tigre itself was quite crowded though and nothing much made us fancy without walking a lot. So after helado stop, we decide to take the train back but stopped midway at St Isda as LP said very good things about this place. It was a much quieter place to start with, then a nice cathedral. A tree lined square. A tourist info office that didn’t open.  It seems many wealthy locals choose to live around this area. We walked around the cathedral, dealing with a child who just woke up from insufficient nap and threw a tantrum. It would have been nice to visit the various museum and old villas. Oh well.

D67, Feb 22, 2014, BsAs.

Today was a rest day. No visiting nor much walking. Fetch laundry. Went to our cafe around the corner for a late lunch for 2 hrs. We are becoming local. Then went to the playground for 2 hrs. It’s almost like we were living here, although we had still to refer to LP from time to time.

D68, Feb 23, 2014, BsAs

Another leisure day, back to Chinatown for a meal at Taiwanese resto. Long wait. Full. At 2pm, we were yet to order. Fortunately we had enough crepe in the morning.

The lady sitting at next table started a chat with us asking where we live, in Chinese, as she recognized us speaking 2 languages. As it turned out, she grew up in Vietnam, studied in Germany, married a porteno and moved to BsAs. She was quite interested that we spoke 2 languages with Nina, and complained the slow service of the restaurant, which apparently changed the owner recently from a Taiwanese to a non-Taiwanese.

Then the helado stop, part of daily routine now.

Walked to plaza belgramo. Oh a lovely market, craft, creative, mostly sold by the artists themselves. In a nice surrounding, park, trees, next to the big (quite beautiful) church with round dome, and next to one of the best playgrounds we’ve come across in this city.

It’s almost like a local resident’s weekend, rather a visitor. Isn’t it what we were after?

D69, Feb 24, BsAs

I said I wanted to go back to La Boca for some photos, and off we went. The one hour bus became a bit boring, esp in a non-aircon’ed bus in a hot summer day. Nina wasn’t the only one who wanted to get off the bus asap.

Unfortunately the museum was closed, ah it’s a Monday!! Why didn’t I learn my lesson? But the streets were a little less crowded, although definitely still busy. Still tango dancers pose for the photos with tourists – some were actually nice poses. We chose a restaurant to watch their tango shoe, but it was their senior men’s band and live song that won our heart.

On the way back we decided to take bus only to the plaza de mayo and then take metro to get home faster.

Noticed people buying full trolley load of grocery and had someone packing their shopping, and very likely doing the delivery. That’s quite handy.

D70, Feb 25, BsAs.

Went to change some cash with xiao Liao our money changer on my own so they two got some down time with no fuss of bus. The bus became unbearably long: almost 1h30min just to get to his place. Should have taken metro.

The inflation in the country was so real, because Xiao Liao was told by a merchant walking in during our chat their selling price of something increased again … Liao was selling a bottle of detergent for 18peso last week and now his buying price become almost 25.

I walked along Defensa, for the last time, north bound to plaza de mayo. It’s such a quick walk, without Nina. I made sure to say hello to a statue of Mafalda, and asked to be taken a photo with her. She was sitting on the bench, easily to be missed if not knowing she was there.

There was a group of people protesting next to plaza de Mayo, but I didn’t understand what for. A quick metro ride (10 min) home, but they were out. Text, phone didn’t work, was anxious. Then Nico called me, I joined them in playground. Lunch at nearby cafe/confiteria. Good value for money of set at $62, the bread was in an edible biscuit basket, cute. Tea was in a nice tea pot. The vuelta (mixed fried potato, cheese, ham) nice.

Ran a few errands (last load of laundry, bought a small duck for Nina from the Chinese shop), pack. Time to leave tomorrow. Already.