Monday, April 27, 2009

S America - Chile

I have asked Fiona to share with us the delights of the trip she made recently with her husband Walter to South America . She has graciously sent us an excellent article with some impressive photos capturing the highlights of their visit to this great continent . Here is Part 1 of her article. I enjoy reading it very much and I am sure you'll like it too.

This was the first visit to South America made by me and my husband. Our first stop was Chile. At Santiago airport, we could tell Chile has good relationship with which countries just by looking at the airport entry taxes chart posted high up showing the respective amounts to be paid by Americans, Australians, European community passport holders and Canadians ranging from US$30 per head to US$132 per head though no visa is required for citizens of those countries to visit into Chile. There is no charge for Chinese. Chile produces large quantity of seaweed which is sold to China and Japan. China is an important buyer of Chilean crude oil. Inside the Chilean fjords, there are a lot of salmon farms in the quiet waters. No wonder Chile does not seem to be too hard hit by the economic turmoil.
Chilean people are friendly and seem to be pretty down to earth. I spent 4 days in total in Santiago going around the city on our own in taxis and underground trains, strolling down main roads and side streets on foot and yet I did not see any European cars made by BMW, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Volvo, or Japanese cars like Lexus, Accura, and Infiniti. The Chilean people use their own domestic small and mid-size sedans. The underground trains are not air-conditioned and windows are left half open. The military police with armoured vehicles station in the historical and shopping downtown districts. On weekdays during lunch hour, lots of neatly dressed men either in suits or smart casual wear gether around the main historical square downtown to play chess. The city government labourers arrange chess tables and chairs for people to play under a huge gazebo in the historical square downtown and when all the tables are occupied, they push more tables and chairs out and put them in the shade under the palm trees. I estimate there were no less than one hundred people involved in chess in the square. It was quite a unique sight. Strange enough I found only one old lady chess player. The cruise along the channels along the southern Chilean coast and Strait of Megellan and the Beagle channel between Chile and Argentina was very pleasant. This part of South America is scarcely populated. The landscape still is natural, an undisturbed art of the creator of the Earth. The Andes with snow capped mountains run down to the coast to meet the water. The ship cruised along the mouths of many fjords. Though the hills along the fjords are not as high as those along the Yangtze three gorges, the scenery gave me tranquility and a very comfortable feeling. Sailing close to the glaciers which run to the sea is the highlight. But of the 6 glaciers we passed by, only one remains to end at the coast and the rest has retreated a little distance up the valley.
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