After one year’s worth of saving and preparation our world tour has finally began! Our First stop is a place known to be “Paris of South America”; it is also known as the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires. From Adelaide, we took a 4 hrs and 30 min flight to Auckland, stopped over for 55 min and took another 11hrs and 30 min flight to Buenos Aires. This direct flight route from Auckland to Buenos Aires only began last year (2015) in December. Thanks to the difference in Time zone, when we left Adelaide it was Tuesday 12:00pm, after our 17hrs travel time, it was only 3:00pm Buenos Aires time. Seemingly we hardly lost any time at all. In this completely foreign country, I am very fortunate to have an old friend who grew up and lives here locally to take us around. Buenos Aires is really different to all other cities I have been to before, I will now share with you our little Buenos Aires adventure!
From airport to city central, you can catch a shuttle bus Manuel Tienda Leon to the shuttle main station, then the shuttle company will transfer you to your hotel. The ticket office is on the left hand side directly before you leave customs. Don’t walk straight out! Our ticket with “Manuel Tienda Leon” costs 210 Pesos (20AUD) per person 420Pesos in total for two. However after arriving at our hotel, I realized that if I actually ordered a private pick up car, it would also cost me 420 Pesos, which is exactly the same. I was really surprised that the airport shuttle service is as expensive as the private transfer. The shuttle service is still a lot faster than the public transport and our South American friend warned us that it is not wise to take the Taxi if you don’t know the language or familiar with the ways they could scam you with.
Normal public transport turns out to be quite cheap. Subway and bus tickets are 5 pesos per person (0.5AUD). You could also buy the SUBE which is a rechargeable card system that can discount your ticket price. One SUBE card can also be used with multiple people, however if you are only in Buenos Aires for a short stay and stay centrally, buying SUBE card is probably not worth it.
The area we were staying in is at Microcentro, which is close to “Plaza de Mayo”. There are quite a few famous land marks around this area such as the “Obelisco de Buenos Aire” and the widest road in the world known as “Avenida 9 de Julio”. The true benefit of staying in area Microcentro is because the transport is very convenient as all bus and subway station cross over in this area. There are a lot of offices located in this area and this area can get very busy and congested around peak hour times.
My hotel is calledReino Del Plata (Official site), it is a three star hotel. We booked this hotel from Reino Del Plata- Booking.com and because we got it on special, it was cheaper than all other hotels. Most importantly, this hotel includes breakfast and air conditioning. We have discovered air conditioning is essential in Buenos Aires summer as the weather is hot and humid almost every day. Currently we are still live quite luxurously. After we head towards Patagonia, we will be staying in Hotels. We shall soon find out if we will survive that!
An area that you definitely have to visit is the Recoleta area (This area is loved by foreigners as it is the safest but the most expensive area to live in). in Recoleta, you’ll find the world’s second most beautiful library “El Ateneo Bookstore” and “Recoleta Cemetery . There are also many sophisticated shops and classy restaurants in this area and walking around here late at night is quite safe. If our budget was higher we would have chosen to stay around here.
Buenos Aires Sights/ Attractions
Although we stayed in Buenos Aires for five nights, we didn’t see all the essential areas. Mainly because it is so hot and stuffy during the day, we wanted to stay in our hotel with our air conditioning and finish planning the remainder of our world trip. The following is what we have done during out time here in Buenos Aires. Keep in mind that the areas we missed are the many worthwhile seeing museums and art gallery so please do your own research if this is your interest.
One of the Ten Most Beautiful Café in the World: Café Tortoni
Close to our hotel, there is a café known to be “one of the ten most beautiful café in the world”. It’s name is Cafe Tortoni (Official Site). It opened in 1858 and the décor inside is finely crafted, especially the details on each pillar. Over the last 160 years, since the store is opened, many celebrities had visited this store including the very famous Albert Einstein! However the hot food we ordered from this place was very plain and simple, came in a very small portion and was relatively expensive. Honestly, I was quite disappointed with the food.
At the back of Café Tortoni, there is a stage where there host Tago shows. Price for the show is 300 Pesos without food. My friend thought the performance would not be spectacular on such a small stage so we decided not spend money here. However the on-line review for the Tango is actually quite good.
The World’s Second Most Beautiful Library “El Ateno Grand Splendid”
This book store was voted to be the second most beautiful book store in 2008. This book store was original built to be an opera house. In year 2000 it was changed to a book store and 1050 seats were replaced with book shelves.
The Opera house stage is transformed into a café where people can sit and look back at the rest of the opera house. You can also choose sit and read quietly from one of the many theater boxes. The Theatre boxes have been kept exactly the way it was before and makes the reading experience very different. When you stand in the middle of this bookstore, you truly can feel the grandness of the opera house previously situated there. The bookstore is a worthwhile visit even if you are not a passionate book reader.
The World’s Widest Avenue “Avenida 9 De Julio” & The Obelisco
Close tour hotel is the world’s widest avenue”Avenida 9 De Julio”. It is named after the date Argentina declared independence. This avenueis roughly 110 meters wide. Wider than any avenues in the world! There were so many traffic lights when we attempt to cross this road. Also in recent years, the government built a specific bus lane right in the middle of this road to improve the public transport infrastructure.
To celebrate 400 years anniversary of Buenos Aires, a monument named “Obelisco” is erected in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio in year 1936. It’s roughly 67.5 meters high and shaped like the Washington Monument. It is a major land mark in Buenos Aires and We came here to see it on our first night in Buenos Aires.
Positioned close to the Recoleta Cemetery, there is a 23meters tall stainless steel flower named “Floralis Generica”. This flower was built in year 2012 and is the first sculpture on this scale that moves. Floralis Generica opens its massive peddles at dawn and closes slowly at dusk. Each stainless steel peddle weighs 3500kg. We went to see it at midday that day and the flower was already half closed. At that point I thought the flower looks a massive satellite dish.
La Recoleta Cemetery
La Recoleta Cemetery is quite similar to the Père Lachaise Cemetery which we visited last year but the Recoleta Cemetery is better maintained. In year 2011, La Recoleta Cemetery was voted the most beautiful cemetery in the world and in 2013, CNN also recognized this cemetery as the top 10 most beautiful cemeteries in the world.
This cemetery is truly fascinating. Every stone tomb is unique and many built a long time ago. The smaller sizes of the tombs are like telephone booths and each of them are a piece of art. There are many famous people buried in this tomb such as all the pervious Argentinian presidents. Among the famous names in this cemetery is Evita Peron who lies in the Duarte family mausoleum.
Almost all these tombs have a door and most have glass windows. Many of them also has a basement connected with a spiral staircase and in these tombs, most of the coffins are placed in the basement. Tombs without a basement have their coffins placed on the ground floor and can be visible. The cemetery seems quite peaceful with many statues of god, Jesus and angel statues carved everywhere. Although some of these tombs are over hundreds of years old and looks quite spooky; like Dracula might burst out anytime spooky.
The Recoleta Cemetery began to be operational since year 1822 in an area which was classy and remains classy. It was a Cemetery meant for the royals and it is truly beautiful. If you visit Buenos Aires, you cannot miss out of this most beautiful cemetery in the world!
Tango- The Dance that you must see in Argentina
In Argentina you must see their national dance, Tango. The dance itself is full of passion and moves are sexy. The interesting thing is that they all seem to keep a straight face when they dance. We soon discovered that Tango shows are absolutely everywhere in Buenos Aires and you have the option of watching the show only or with dinner. The tickets that includes show only are quite cheap but usually have the worst seating. However, shows with dinner can be as expensive as $160 USD. Although it was a lot of money, we thought we should at least see one Tango show.
Our choice of Tango ended up to be Madero Tango. It was quite a good show and it was a mixture of old and new Tangle style. The show explores through a few short story plots and the scenes moved from the olden days to the modern time. The ticket for the show includes pick up from the hotel around 8:00pm and drop off after the show finishes around Midnight. The price for this show ranges from $25 USD to $150 USD. The $25 USD one does not include dinner and has the worst seating and the $150 ticket includes central seating and the most expensive menu. The ticket we chose was $40 USD per person and our seating was located on the side of the stage but the view was still quite good. We got the basic house menu but we got the three course meal and wine. Our ticket is definitely worth the money.
The area where the show was held is called Puerto Madreo and it is an area worth while visiting. It used to be an abandoned harbor but now transformed into a very modern dockland. I personally think that it looks like Melbourne’s Dockland or Sydney’s Darling Harbor. There is also a famous ship that docks in this Harbor and now used as a museum. It has sailed around the world multiple times and has also participated in First World War in Japan. Another worthwhile seeing landmark is a very beautiful white modern bridge that can be opened when a boat approaches.
The Colourful La Boca
Located south east of Buenos Aires there is a place called La Boca. According to my friend, this place is a must visit. The place was built by people who couldn’t afford too much in the past. The walls were built with metal scraps from the ship yard and painted with whichever paint they could get their hands on. Hence La Boca is so full of random colors. La Boca is still currently quite a poor area and can be quite dangerous especially if you wonder around here at night time.
La Boca cannot be accessed via the subway and the only way in, if you don’t join a tour, is via bus. We saw the non-touristy side of La Boca as my friend took us through a way that is not commonly taken by tourists. The area seems to be extremely dangerous and I never seen so many broken and abandoned cars on the streets. My friend warned us to not speak loudly as locals will immediately know we are tourists if they hear that we don’t speak local Spanish.
The true touristy side of La Boca is only a few main streets. Once you leave the touristy side, the area can get quite dangerous. The La Boca football team is also quite famous as well and on our way to the La Boca tourist central, my friend also showed us their stadium. Their Stadium is also quite unique. Only three sides of the football field is built up as they couldn’t buy out the fourth side. Around the stadium there were quite a few specialty stores selling souvenirs for football fans and there were many famous football star statues for you take photos.
La Boca’s central area is very touristy and many shops specialize in selling souvenirs ranging from fridge magnets to Argentinian art. I personally really like a few that features tango dancing and tempted to buy a few. However, knowing that I have no way to bring them home in my 8kg backpack, I have to restrain myself.
Casa Rosada- The Pink Parliament House
Situated at the Avenida de Mayo is the Argentinian parliament house, which is a large pink building known as Casa Rosada. Most of the Buenos Aires subway line joins at this point. Many of the buildings here dates back hundreds of years because Buenos Aires first began in this area. This is the area we chose to stay for our visit. My friend said that the reason for the pink color for their parliament house is because of the combination of the original two major parties colored red and white. Usually the parliament house is opened for the public on the weekend but the viewing was unfortunately temporary suspended when we were there.
My thoughts on Buenos Aires
- For a place declared to be the Paris of South America, it sure does have its charms. When you walk around the city centers you may think you are in Western Europe. When you head north of Buenos Aires, you will see the city still remains beautiful and charming, but when you head south of Buenos Aires, you will see the poverty and messy side of the city. It is a city with huge difference between the rich and poor.
- The public transport in this city is extremely easy. Buses operate over 24hrs and subways travel in all direction. You could clearly see that this city was the forefront in urbanization and one of best developed city 20 years ago. Unfortunately with the down turn in economy caused the country to go bankrupt few years ago, the whole city’s infrastructure seems to have frozen for 20 years. Although the transport is convenient, they are dated and there are almost no air-conditioning in all of the transport. That is quite unacceptable considering the city is extremely humid and hot. Hopefully with the newly elected government, there will be changes but that will still take many years before this city catches up again to the modern cities.
- I only visited a few location that I found interesting in this city on this visit to Buenos Aires. There are still many things to see here, including theaters (this city has the most theaters in South America), art galleries and museums. Since I was only here for 5 days and I want to slowly enjoy this city so I ignored all these.
- There is so much potential in this city and we could clearly see the improvements already occurring. I look forward to visiting Buenos Aires in a few years’ time and see how much it improves. But for now, we will be heading south to Patagonia and slowly to the end of the world!