Tag Archives: Latin America

My memories in music… Part 2

Carrying on with Georgina’s love affair with Latin Music. here are the remainder of her favourite tunes:

Orishas – Chan Chan

Chan Chan – the song made famous by Buena Vista Social Club. Orishas are Cuban born French rappers who give this beautiful song a poignant twist  and highlight the feelings of Cubans who love their country, but who have had to leave.

Mana – En el Muelle de San Blas

Mana have been massive in Latin America for as long as I can remember – they are the U2 of Latin America and every single country I have visited there knows and loves them. They are poets and their lyrics are just beautiful. Reminds me of the whole of Latin America and very happy times spent there!

Calle Real – Ya lo Se

This song just makes me want to go dancing – I cant ever sit still when I hear it!

Marc Antony – Ahora Quien

This is probably Marc Antony’s best known tune on the Salsa scene – everyone loves it and has to dance and sing along!

Los Confidenciales – Aceite Agua

Regaetton is so popular in all clubs and parties in Latin America. It  a reminds me of dancing in Cuba with my friends there and also with Cuban friends here in London.

Alejandro Fernandez – Canta Corazon

This man is huge in Mexico. The girls love him and his songs are typically romantically Mexican. I have a soft spot for him too!

Un Monton de Estrellas – Polo Montañez

I hear this song ever time I go to Cuba. Without fail, I hear it in the cafe you stop at on the road between Havana and Varadero called El Peñon, where all buses stop. This song is Cuba for me and the lyrics are so sweet. Polo Montañez was a poet.

Coldplay – Clocks (Salsa Version)

When I hear this song it takes me back to many happy times I spent in Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Our friend owned a cool lounge bar and used to play this album as we sat up on the roof sipping cocktails in the warm evening breeze.

Let Georgina help you re-live her best Latin American moments – Georgina@Chimuadventures.com or visit www.chimuadventures.com 

 

Chifa- Chinese food that conquered Peru.  

With the World top 50 restaurants in, there is yet again a spotlight on Peruvian cuisine.  Its no surprise to us, we’re always loved Peruvian food!

While the top end restaurants certainly have their place and are well worth a visit for a special treat while you’re away (make sure you book ahead!), local Peruvian food is much closer to our hearts.

We are very lucky to have offices across Latin America, which give us regular insights into ‘what’s hot’. Sandra from our Lima office tells us about the new Chifa revolution in Peru, that is growing popular across the world.

I first heard about Chifa from my colleagues here in Lima, when they suggested it for lunch. Working principally with Peruvians is a huge advantage when you want to get to know a city; they introduce you to new food and show you the hidden gem restaurants which you would never find yourself.

Credit  Jan van der Crabben
Credit Jan van der Crabben

When they suggested Chinese, I found it difficult to imagine Chinese restaurants lining the streets of Lima and feared that I would be presented with the same bland food, lacking in authenticity that I had tried in other areas of the world. How wrong I was.  As it turned out, Peruvian Chifa is very different from regular Chinese food that I have tasted in other countries.  Chifa is a fusion of Chinese with Creole Peruvian food and the result is a unique taste that not only makes it popular in Peru, but slowly, all over the world.  Whether you like Chinese food or not, you need to taste Chifa when you are in Peru!

After doing some research, I discovered the Chinese culture is a deeply rooted part of Peruvian history, though quite often forgotten.

Due to a labour shortage after the abolition of slavery in the mid-19th century, tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants came to Peru to find work in mines or on sugar plantations. Many Chinese people were also hired as cooks on the ships for the long journeys across the ocean. Once on land they continued cooking on ranches.  When their contracts ended, they were able to start up Chifa-restaurants which served typical Chinese food made with South America ingredients.

Since many ingredients were difficult to find in Peru, the Chinese modified their cuisine and incorporated many Peruvian elements to create the fusion food Chifa. Even today it is difficult to find authentic Chinese cuisine in Peru, but with the prevalence of Chifa, nobody seems overly concerned by this. Over time, these Eastern influences have found their way into traditional Coastal and Andean dishes. Chifa has become so integrated into national cuisine, that is is not longer really considered Chinese. The famous dish Lomo Saltado- beef and vegetables sautéed in soy and Szechuan root is just as at home on a Peruvian restaurant menu as guinea pig or ceviche. Indeed, Chifa is now very much recognised as  authentic Peruvian food.

The first time I saw the menu, I was utterly confused. I couldn’t make head nor tail of  random names of the dishes. I ended up messaging a friend for recommendations. I am going to do you a favour now and pass on my personal recommendations, so you don’t get lost when you go.

My absolute favourite is the Fried Wonton.  The delicious pork filled pockets are served with a sweet chilli dip and are great as a starter to share. I am not a huge soup fan, but the Wonton soup is also delicious. Other popular Chifa dishes include : Tallarin Saltado (Fried Noodles) and of course the Arroz Chaufa (Fried Rice), which is a big favourite.  The fried rice is made with eggs, vegetables, meat and sautéed in soy sauce and oil. Other versions of Arroz Chaufa include shrimps, chicken, beef, pork and mushrooms.

crispy-southwestern-wontons-20a
Crispy Wonton
Peruvian fired rice
Peruvian fried rice

Chifa is generally, not very expansive, so whether you pay US$20 or US$3, the food will generally be  delicious and of a good standard. So it’s really down to your own personal preference of the sort of restaurant you like to eat in- low key and local, mid-range or fancy.

Inca Kola
Inca Kola

Whatever restaurant you choose, be sure to order an Inca Kola with your meal to add to the authentic experience. It is a bubble gum flavoured soda, using a herb native to South America. This Hierba Luisa flavored drink was actually created by British immigrants. Through clever marketing, this drink has managed to knock Coca Cola off its throne as number one beverage in Peru.

 

Here are our top Some Chifa restaurants recommendations

1. Chifa wa Lok.

Av. Angamos Oeste 700, Miraflores, Lima

Peruvian Peking Duck
Peruvian Peking Duck

Wa Lok is among the best Chifa restaurants in Lima. Hidden on the second floor of a casino, this restaurant has dozen of appetizers and huge portions, so you better be hungry! Their Peking Duck is amazing!

 

http://www.walok.com.pe/

  1. Madam Tusan

Av Santa Cruz 859, Miraflores, Lima

Chifa Madam Tusan
Chifa Madam Tusan

Opened in 2011, Madam Tusan is a restaurant of the iconic Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio. This Chifa will challenge your senses with a variety of 112 dishes and a great selection of cocktails.

http://www.madamtusan.pe/

3. Chifa Chung Yion -Union

Jr. Unión 126, Barranco, Lima

Chifa Chung Yion -Union
Chifa Chung Yion -Union

This is the first Chifa experience and I always return to this restaurant. There are literally thousands online reviews raving about this place. It also has a fantastic  section of vegetarian dishes. It is more of a local place, which is always a good sign.

4. Chifa Hou Wha

Calle Carlos Tenaud 490, Miraflores, Lima.

This spectacular Chifa restaurant  has a beautiful Chinese garden. They have a high quality buffet with a huge variety of dishes on offer.

http://www.chifahouwha.com.pe/

For more on Peru, visit www.chimuadventures.com

 

Rio de Janeiro – The hot spots

Rio de Janeiro is the words on everyone’s lips and why not? Its possibly the best city in the world! With stunning beaches, incredible topography and home to some of the most iconic tourist hot spots, Rio de Janeiro is THE PLACE TO BE!

Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro

This blog often explores the unsung heroes and hidden gems, but in Rio, one cannot ignore these unmissable highlights.

Christ redeemer

Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer

Rio’s Christ statue is one of the world’s iconic landmarks and no visit to Rio would be complete without a visit. The panoramic views from the top of Corvovado Mountain are out of this world and the enormity of the 30 metre statue has to be seen to be believed. It is well worth booking your trip to visit Christ in advance with Chimu Adventures as the ticket office at the bottom is now closed in order to control the daily visitors. Tickets can be bought online, but you need a CPF number (Brazilian social security) or join the ridiculous queues outside the central tourist office.

Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)

Sugarloaf
Sugarloaf

Another un-missable Rio highlight. We recommend visiting in the evening in time for sunset. The views are again, incredible and watching the sun set and then the lights of Rio light up before you is an unforgetable experience. Alternatively you can go early and best the crowds and then visit one of the nearby beaches. There are also a number of hiking routes for the more active.

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach
Ipanema Beach

Rio is the home of many beaches and we fully recommend visiting them all. Each one has its own character, but none like the famous Ipanema beach. This beautiful stretch of sand has long been home to the beautiful people of Rio. It is the perfect place to relax, unwind and indulge in some serious people watching. It is worth bearing in mind that different areas are home to different tribes. Posto nove (Lifeguard post no.9) is the beautiful people hangout. Posto Oito (8) is where the rainbow flags fly and this part of the beach is principally frequented by gay men. Posto sete (7) is more of a family and surfer vibe. It is worth bearing in mind that the water is more polluted around posto dez (10) and also that, at times there are some dangerous rip tides, so keep an eye on the life guard flags and don’t go in alone if you are not a strong swimmer.

MAC- Museu de Arte Contemporânea

Museu de Arte Contemporânea
Museu de Arte Contemporânea

 

MAC- Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Contemporary Art Museum) is housed in one of Rio’s most iconic buildings. The flying saucer like building was designed by one of Brazil’s true greats, Oscar Niemeyer, one of the 20th century’s best architects. Set against the backdrop of Niterói’s hills and with incredible views across the bay to Rio, it’s well worth a visit, even if modern art isn’t your thing.

Jardim Botânico

Botanical Gardens. Credit Aleia_Barbosa_Rodrigues,
Botanical Gardens.
Credit Aleia_Barbosa_Rodrigues,

If the heat of the day gets a bit too much for you, why not escape to Rio’s wonderful Botanical gardens? Originally a plant nursery of Prince Dom João VI, the gardens certainly have a regal feel. With towering Imperial Palm, Orchid and Bromeliad gardens, it is a gardener’s dream. There is also a vast quantity of birdlife and even resident toucans and monkeys.  The main house has now also been restored and plays host to national shows and films. Look out for Q and A sessions from famous Brazilian film-maker Walter Lima Junior.

Visit Rio with Chimu Adventures. Visit www.chimuadventures.com for more information.

Street Art – Latin style

Street Art, Graffiti, Vandalism. Whatever you want to call it, one cannot deny the ever growing popularity of street art.

Credit- Os Gêmeos
Credit- Os Gêmeos

 

Latin America is considered to be at the forefront of international street art. The unique style of Saner, Os Gêmeos, Bastardilla and Vitché  amongst others are widely respected on the international scene. Many of them have now also transcended the traditional art scene with pieces of their work being exhibited in renowned galleries including Tate Modern, London and Fondation Cartier, Paris.

Credit Vitché
Credit Vitché

So why is Latin American street art so great? Its not a huge surprise when you think of the wonderfully colourful and vibrant people you find there. This coupled with the mixture of indigenous cultures, local folklore, and the history of European colonization results in a very unique visual style. 

Credit Saner
Credit Saner

Given the history of political unrest throughout Latin America, it is not surprising that  Street Art has been used as a kind of social commentary and expression. As the continent has developed however, it has become part of the national identity and pride.

Favela Painting Haas and Hahn
Favela Painting Haas and Hahn

In Brazil Street Art has been used in some of the poorest areas of Rio de Janeiro to help change attitudes and encourage social change and pride in the community. The phenomenal and  heart-warming story of Haas & Hahn’s Favela paintings truly shows the power street art can have.

Why not check it out for yourself. Visit www.chimuadventures.com  to arrange your next adventure.

My memories in music….

Music is such an important part of life in Latin America, so its not surprising that their music brings back some incredible memories for so many of us. Georgina, destination specialist in our UK office, is more passionate that most about Latin American music and over the next few weeks she will reveal her favorite tracks and the memories surrounding them.

Marc Anthony – Vivir mi Vida

Marc Anthiny is, in my opinion, the best Latin artist. He always inspires me to dance and want to be surrounded by Latin vibes. His voice is like honey- Incredible!

Enrique Iglesias and Juan Luis Guerra – Cuando me Enamoro

Juan Luis Guerra is Dominican bachata singer whose music has been in my life since I was small. I love this song with Enrique Iglesias and the video starring well known Latina actress Ana Ortiz. It was the theme tune for a Mexican telenovela of the same name.

 Michel Telo – Ai Se Eu Te Pego

This song reminds me of amazing times in Brazil. It just captures all the fun I had and being so happy in that amazing country!

 Jorge  Aragao – Amor a Primeira Vista

I saw Jorge twice in concert in Rio. I was introduced to his music by friends when I lived there for 3 months. The second time I went, I met Ronaldinho, the world famous footballer in the audience. Jorge Aragao’s music is so gentle and chilled and just makes you feel relaxed and happy.

 Toke de Kada – Lamento Boliviano

I have loved this song for over 15 years and danced it with many lovely Latin friends. It brings back so many happy memories.

 Havana de Primera – Pasaporte

This song reminds me of a good friend of mine who is a dancer. It also reminds us of the social situation in Cuba, a country so full of contrasts. Beautiful dancing in the video as well, like only a Cubana knows how.

Los Van Van – Me Mantengo

Some Cuban friends of mine feature in this video . They are professional dancers. I love the beat – it’s pure earthy Cuban music.

La Charanga Habanera – Gozando en La Habana

These guys are the most popular boy band to come out of Cuba. Girls go wild for them. They are just great fun! I have seen them live here and in Cuba several times . They just make me want to get up and boogie!

That’s it for this week. More to come…

 

2 Cool Llamas

So, I guess by now that it’s pretty obvious that we’re bonkers about Latin America here at Chimu UK.  But, its not just the amazing landscapes, the beaches, the culture (I could go on) that we love. We love the unique and wacky side of Latin America. The mad animals, crazy dancing and all out love for life, that is completely infectious.

Here, because its Friday (and because we’ve been laughing at it all afternoon) are two very cool Llamas…

Enjoy 🙂

A little piece of Peruvian Paradise

DSC03481_Fotor

Our Product and Marketing Assistant Sandra, who is currently working in our Peru office, spent a wonderful weekend at Huacachina on the Peruvian coast and this is her story. Sat in cold and wet London we’re not jealous… much!

Imagine…it is 6 o’clock in the evening and you are sat at the top of a giant sand dune watching the sunset over a breathtaking landscape, where golden yellows, rusty reds and pinks blend with each other. Below lies an oasis with a desert lagoon surrounded by exotic palm trees.

It took thirty exhausting minutes to climb  the sand dune. I spent the entire climb trying to convince my friend that we didn’t need to go all the way to the top, the view from the middle would be just as good. It was serious work out for the thighs! But her stubbornness was in the end our gain. Pull yourself together and get up that dune! I promise, every welding sputter will be worth it when you see the the view she said. And my goodness, she was right!

Huacachina is a tiny town in southern Peru, around five hours from Lima. I had always wanted to see it for myself. Unfortunately I missed out when I was travelling through Peru for the first time last year. I am now working at the Chimu office in Lima, so Huacachina seemed like the perfect little getaway for the weekend.

My friend and I took the Cruz del Sur Bus on Saturday morning from Lima and travelled south.  It is a five hour journey by bus to Ica and then a ten minute drive on to Huacachina. Tourists visit Huacachina for three reasons:  the beauty of the desert with its massive sand dunes, the opportunity to sand board and to ride around in one of the four-wheel-drive dune buggies that whiz up and down the dunes at a breakneck-speed. You can certainly count on having a lot of fun when you visit DSC03443_Fotorthis little Oasis.  The town is quite small and visitors can easily get from one end to the other in a few minutes.  Right in the centre there is a huge lagoon surrounded by palm trees and huarangos trees. You can hire paddle-boats or swim in the lagoon… but be aware of the mermaid! According to legend, a mermaid lives in the lagoon and takes one man each year. I think, however that certain Peruvians inability to swim is a more feasible explanation of the yearly drowning!

Climbing to the top of one of the dunes for the amazing views of both the gorgeous lagoon and the city is an absolute must! It is simply mesmerizing! I would recommend setting off a good hour before sunset, particularly if you have similar fitness to me (virtually non-existent). Take plenty of water, your camera , maybe a cold beer (which will be warm by the time you get up there anyway, but better than nothing right?) and maybe a scarf to protect yourself from the wind. You will notice that it is a common ritual to finish the day on top of the dunes. After that, we jumped, rolled and fell back down 400 meters, back to our hotel.

The following morning we went on a dune buggy ride, which took us out to the desert.  The buggy drove with such a speed up and down the dunes, that the little 12 year old in you screams with delight….weeeeee!!! Within a matter of seconds we went from 0 to 35mph with nothing more than fine grains of sand serving as a grip. The scary part is when you can’t even see over the hill you are about to hurtle down, but you soon realise that the steep

DSC03523_Fotor dunes are the most fun!  After some speeding fun, we drove to the top of a dune so we could do some sand boarding. I would suggest renting a real snowboard, with the right gear, so your feet are properly attached to the board. This way you are able to do turns. Before booking a tour, remember to mention this to your tour guide, otherwise they give you a ‘Chile board’ which is basically just a wooden board and with nothing to attach your feet to. Sand boarding is a lot of fun for everybody, whatever your age or fitness. If you fall, the worst thing that can happen is that you might need a bit more time in the shower,  removing the sand from every possible corner of your body!

After two days we headed back to Lima feeling pretty miserable. Huacachina is such a chilled little oasis with so much to offer. When planning your trip to Peru, don’t forget to put Huacachina on your list.

For more on Peru visit http://www.chimuadventures.com/country/peru or contact Chimu UK: uk@chimuadventures.com

From Cuba with love…

shutterstock_112151030

When you ask anyone at Chimu What is it about Latin America? A huge smile appears across their face and their eyes glaze over as they are transported back there. Some will be thinking of the morning they saw the sun rise over Machu Picchu, others of snorkeling with baby sea lions in the Galapagos or maybe sailing along the awesome Amazon River. Wherever their mind takes them, they are all thinking of the same thing- the moment I fell in love with Latin America.  For me personally, it’s the sand dunes of Genipabu just outside Natal in North East Brazil. I was literally fresh off the plane at the beginning of my year studying out there. I’d spent the day whizzing across the dunes in a dune buggy (an experience not to be missed!) and swimming in crystal clear lagoons. It was the end of the day and as I stood on top of a dune looking out to sea watching the sun set, I turned to my friend and said I think I’m going to like it here. That moment has always stayed with me and from then on I was hooked.

In this series of blogs the wonderful staff of Chimu Adventures from across the globe (we have offices in Australia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and the UK) will tell tales of their favorite destinations. The first blog is from Matt in our Sydney Office.

Having traveled extensively in Latin America including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, it’s difficult to pick a favourite, but if I’m really pushed, I’d have to say Cuba. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever been in the world!

Building

I think it’s the history of the place that fascinates me the most. The revolutionary times of Che Guavara and Fidel Castro, which still leave their mark on the landscape today. It’s as though the entire country stood still in the 50’s while the rest of the world carried on. In Havana,  vintage American cars wend their way through the crumbling colonial old town giving the place an air of yesteryear grandeur. It has to be seen to be believed.

There are no shops to speak of in Cuba and nobody really has any material possessions. Despite this, people seem very happy. They are so warm and welcoming. Everyone wants to talk to you, find out where you’re from, why you’re in Cuba. They all love to sing and dance and of course enjoy their famous Havana Club rum- something I certainly enjoying getting involved in!

There is a wonderful old bar in Havana called El Floridita. It’s famous for its amazing daiquiris and for being a favorite hangout of Ernest HatHemingway. Its probably just as popular now as it was then and I doubt much has changed from the bars decor to the drinks they serve up. If you do go to Havana its an absolute must!

Trinidad in the south also has a stunning colonial centre filled with salsa bars. If you like dancing, you’ll love Trinidad! The great thing about Trinidad is its location. The old town is just inland, but a short 15 minute drive to the stunning Caribbean coast and some incredible beaches. Then north of the city is the spectacular Escambray Mountains, which is a great trekking destination.  The Topes de Collantes nature reserve in the south east of the mountains is only a short distance from Trinidad and showcases a whole host of beautiful waterfalls, rivers, caves and canyons. A day spent there is my idea of bliss. I can’t wait to go back!

If you’re interested in visiting Cuba, visit http://www.chimuadventures.com/country/cuba