6 hours layover in Santiago

Arrived Santiago at 2pm and the next leg of our flight will not leave until midnight, giving us a good 6 hours to tour the city.

Salt lake of Chile seen from the plane

Whenever I visit a new city, my must-do list includes checking out the local market, try a local dish, visit a museum and a jog in the park. This time I didn’t have enough time for a jog in the park but did visit a park, Parque Forestal, in the heart of Santiago City. Here’s my recommendations for Santiago if you ever find yourself with 6 hours of idle time.

Starts with Mercado Central de Santiago. It was opened in 1872 and its intricate cast-iron roof structure was fabricated in Scotland. Inside the market are mainly seafood stalls and food stalls and restaurants. The shops around the market sells cheese, fruits and vegetables. For a late lunch, Clarita Restaurant offers local dishes. Try their Cazuela, the ultimate Chilean comfort food. The version I had is a beef broth with potato, pumpkin, shell pasta, bell pepper and lots of cilantro.

Mercado Central de Santiago is the central market of Santiago de Chile, opened in 1872.
Skip the touristy restaurants in the middle and head for one of the tiny low-key stalls around the market’s periphery.
Mercado Central is primarily a seafood market, with touristy seafood restaurants in the middle section.
Go to one of the local restaurants at the peripheral of the market. This is where you get authentic local food.


Cazuela at Mercado Central
Local comfort food Cazuela at Mercado Central. The liquid in the bottle is fresh lemon juice.

After the market, head south to Plaza de Armas, the main square flanked by several museums. Then head east towards Barrio Lastarria, the hip and happening district.

Chess player at the square
Plaza de Armas. Great for people watching.
Tarot reading stalls

Barrio Lastarria is the old historic part of Santiago filled with European style buildings, now a bustling place full of cafes and restaurants. There are street markets selling artisan crafts. Check out Restaurant Bocanariz which is supposed to be very good for wine pairing. Unfortunately didn’t get to try it as they were fully booked.

Barrio Lastarria

Parque Forestal is a long and narrow stretch of park land in the middle of the city. Find a bench for your tired feet to rest or even better lie down on the grass, like the locals do. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is at the edge of the Park, and entrance is free. The museum building itself is spectacular but the exhibition at this time didn’t impress me, except for a bronze sculpture at the entrance hall.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is at the edge of the Park, and entrance is free. The museum building itself is spectacular but the exhibition at this time didn’t impress me, except for a bronze sculpture at the entrance hall.
Tótila Albert Schneider, Chilean sculptor 1892 – 1967
Parque Forestal at Santiago

Restaurant Castillo Forestal, housed inside a castle (tiny one) also inside the park, serves French food. In the summer time, the sun doesn’t set until about 9pm so guests can dine surrounded outdoor surrounded by green foliage.

By this time, my 6 hours is up, time to head back to the airport for my red-eye flight at 1am!

Packing for all weathers and social occasions

I travel all year round for work, typically 2 to 3 days trips. Packing for such trips is easy. Packing for vacation is another ball game all together. I would get all worked up as it involves outfits for many different occasions. On this trip I need to prepare for summer days of above 30 degrees in Buenos Aires and also single digit temperature in Patagonia. To further complicate things, we need to pack for cosmopolitan city socializing and also be ready for hiking the rugged terrain, all within 15kg checked-in luggage limitation imposed by the domestic flight operator.

Tasks completed so far:

  • Downloaded a translation app. I am testing iTranslate and Voice Translator now. The latter seems to be more accurate on a test of five Spanish words.
  • Signed up a data plan for South America. Will be collecting the wifi router from “台灣之星” at the airport.
  • Set up Google Trips app to keep all my flight and hotel reservations in one place

Most important stuff on the packing list is obviously the iPhone; decided to go light with just an iPhone and accessories. Not forgetting the power banks. For video and photography, I packed the following:

  • Wewow lightweight stabilizer
  • Olloclip lens (fish eye, super wide and macro) for iPhone
  • Shure MV88 iPhone microphone for sound capture

To make sure I will not be glued to the phone the whole time, I brought a book, Collection of Fictions of Jorge Borges. This is my ritual to read something relating to the country I am visiting. I read Coetzee while traveling in South Africa and Neruda in Chile. This time it was a toss between Bruce Chatwin on Patagonia or Borges’ collection of stories.

Everyone needs a Walkabout

A spontaneous journey through the wilderness of one’s choosing in an effort to satisfy one’s itchy feet, a need to be elsewhere, the craving for the open road, that space over the horizon… you can’t quite touch it so you have to go find it because you just know it’s there…Or maybe it just feels good to go walking around. This is the description given by Crocodile Dundee.

On a more serious tone, the term Walkabout comes from the Australian Aboriginal. The idea is that a person can get so caught up in one’s work, obligations and duties that the truly important parts of one’s self become lost. From there it is a downward spiral as one gets farther and farther from the true self. A crisis situation usually develops that awakens the wayward to the absent true self. It is at this time that one must go on walkabout.

It is time for me to go walkabout, to a land so far over the horizon that it will take several long haul flights to get there.