Colonia de Sacramento – The Perfect Weekend Affair

Finally, an Uruguayan town that has a little more life and culture! Unlike the hustling cement prison of its capitol Montevideo or the abandoned ghost town of its beach resort Punta del Este, Colonia de Sacramento is a charming cobblestone-adorned town that almost makes up for the rest of the country (that is, for those like us who didn’t plan ahead and travel during the fall/winter season). A simple 2-hour bus ride from Montevideo or 1 hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires, Colonia was discovered by the Portuguese and settled later on by the Spaniards. These colonizations are especially apparent in its historic barrio which boasts of beautiful yet modest stone architecture (note my obsession with the doors), ruins of the city gate, and remnants of its wooden drawbridge.

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Aside from its alluring history, there are a few other things that highlighted this portion of our trip:

1. Food – one can eat so many milanesa (thin breaded filet of meat, think a wimpy version of our country fried steak), morcilla (blood sausage, yup you read right), or empanadas (the Russian roulette of all food, you can’t tell if they’re stale and bland or fresh and flavorful until you pull the trigger and buy the damn thing). So when we stumbled upon a handful of restaurants that stepped up their game in offering not just variety but gourmet execution and presentation, we were ecstatic! A la Pipetua had both tasty food and an atmospheric terrace at a reasonable price (even for backpackers like us). For $420 pesos or $16 usd, we ordered the seafood paella that was big enough to share between two people. Add in a few liters of cerveza, it was the sweet combination to kick back and enjoy a rare sunny day in Colonia. Another standout spot we discovered was the romantic cobblestoned patio of Buen Suspiro. For under $20 usd, we were presented with a nice bottle of white Sauvignon Blanc, charcuterie plate, mini torta bites, and an array of regional cheeses. Service was exceptional and it was the perfect setting for a lil’ night cap!

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2. Lodging – As a backpacker, where you sleep at night is mostly dictated by cost, but that’s not to say you can’t find nice places without forking over your wallet. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s all about being a savvy shopper. In Colonia, we found Rio Hostel & Suites at only $14 usd pp per night. It was by far one of the cleanest hostel we’ve stayed at and provided plenty of amenities! We had complimentary breakfast each morning outside in its courtyard and were able to cook lunch and dinners in its detached craftsman-styled kitchen. It’s these little details that can upgrade an experience based on convenience to that of comfort.

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3. Friendly porteños– Also while there, we were fortunate enough to run into some porteños (those residing in a port city like Buenos Aires) who made us realize that our dreams to go to Patagonia was not lost. Spending more time from their weekend vacation than they should, the super friendly couple basically gave us a pro bono tour guide of places to visit as well as things to do at each location. Sure, there is something nice to be said about having privacy at a hotel but if we had not bunked with them at the hostel, we would have passed on the opportunity of a lifetime!

Despite Colonia being a refreshing change of scenery for us, as with all small touristy towns, it was an infatuated affair that could only last a few days and not much more. Time for us to move onwards and visit its more glamorous celebrity sister across the water, Buenos Aires!!

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3 Reasons Why You Should Go to Punta Del Este During Off Season

Punta Del Este is famously known for being the party hub for the rich, famous, and beautiful from Brazil, Argentina, and all over the world.  It is remotely placed about a 2 hour bus ride north of Montevideo, and is typically only accessible by bus (for most of us), or private plane or yacht. It has been dubbed the Hamptons of South America. The typical summer day, mid-December until March 1st, sees the streets littered with sun bathers showing off their bikinis and bodies while drinking expensive champagne on some of the most beautiful coastline in South America. The city sits on a peninsula that is occupied with high rise luxury condos and shopping boutiques that every girl dreams of. The weather is perfect and the party goes all night. Now, I know it sounds like all good reasons to go, and they are, but here are the top reasons why you should go during the off season based on a trip my wife Anh and I recently took.

1.  Cost of Accommodation:

The city only has about 9,000 year around citizens, but the infrastructure has been built for 200,000. This allows for those willing to come during off season to find fantastic deals on housing. Anh and I stayed at a hotel that would traditionally go for around $150 – $200 per night.  After dropping in unannounced I was able to negotiate $36 per night for us. That is over 75% discount!  This hotel included private bathroom that has been recently remodeled, white sheets, air conditioning, heater, HBO/Showtime/cable TV, mini fridge, breakfast, and $10 bike rentals for the entire time we stayed. I know this sounds like a normal room, but if you have read our post about Montevideo then you will know that it was a huge upgrade and was very welcomed compared to the $13/night hostel. We also noticed that there were private residences and condos for rent as low as $65 per night on So if you are a budget traveler, like we are, and still want to be able to experience everything an area has to offer, then this is a good choice.

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2.  Private Beaches:

Anh and I woke up this morning to sunny blue skies and 62 degrees. We took advantage of the bikes from the hotel and headed off with nowhere in mind. We knew absolutely nothing about the area, but were armed with our GoPro and since of adventure. Almost immediately outside of the hotel we were met by a beautiful white sand beach that had gentle but long breaking waves that allowed a few surfers to practice. We continued on and since there were no crowds, we actually took the bikes down onto the sand and just rode for miles. We got our feet wet and took in the view of the city across the street.  We continued along the coast line for another 7 miles gawking at the amazing mansions and chasing the pigeons. About 6 miles north we ran into a small beach town called La Barre and stopped to grab lunch and a beer. It was fantastic being the only ones there and it felt like our own private island. The beach continues to spread out for miles. The serenity of being alone allowed us to sit and watch the waves uninterrupted by loud music, smoke, or drunk people. It was an experience I had never had and would not trade it in for the hustle or bustle at all. Take a look at our time lapse video of some of the sites we saw today!


3.  Peace & Quite Together:

Not only are the beaches deserted, but the entire town has a feeling of abandonment that slowly draws you in. We did not have the worry of what to see next, where to make reservations, or what we were going to miss. It was just relaxation. Anh and I have found that when we are traveling, we tend to feel the need to do everything and see everything, which makes coming back from a trip just as exhausted as when we left. Don’t get me wrong, we really love taking in new things and experiencing new places, but the last couple days of not having an agenda has brought us even closer than before. Sure, there were still a couple of restaurants open in town, but for our money, going to the grocery and grabbing prepared food and a bottle of wine was not only economical but very enjoyable!

This was just our experience of Punta Del Este and believe me, it was totally worth the visit during off season. That’s not to say we wouldn’t both love to come during summer as well to celebrate in all the craziness. The bottom line is, when traveling don’t let other people’s idea of the norm get in the way of you experiencing something off the beaten agenda. Punta Del Este is just as beautiful in the fall as in the summer, but just a little different. If you have the right travel partner and a sense of adventure, then nothing else really matters.

Until next time, keep exploring!

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La Barra Bridge (wavy bridge) Punta Del Este
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Playa Barra
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Street Vendor La Barra
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Watching the sunset
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La Barra






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Sunset Punta Del Este


Not Backpacking Newbies, but….

Habla Inglés?

That seems to be what we found ourselves asking the Uruguayans of Montevideo mucho times. If we could rewind back the clock, we would probably had spent more effort trying to learn Spanish instead of binge-watching Unbreakable: Kimmy Schmidt (it was our award after long hours of packing up the house for this trip). Luckily the people in Montevideo are really friendly, so along with Tyler’s un poquito de español, we managed to get along pretty well so far!

Aside from learning to speak the land’s language, there are a few other preparations we felt had or would’ve made the trip a little easier:

1. Outlet Adapter – if you’re in any way in touch with today’s technology, you’re probably traveling with a shitload of gadgets like we did. For those who’ve been anywhere outside of the states, outlets are different and without an adapter you’re just stuck with a bunch of dead phones and laptops. Really, we should’ve known better but had forgotten about them during the packing frenzy. So avoid the mistake we made and get some (easily found on before leaving for your trip!

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Ty sitting patiently next to the only outlet that can charge our gadgets before we bought an adapter

2. Toiletries – okay, you’re probably thinking duh, this is a given but there were some items that even overlooked. Sure, this is after all a backpacking trip so we tried to pack light and in turn, disregarded a few things. Aside from the necessities (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant) what do you really need, you ask? Well you don’t need to bring these items but they will certainly make your trip more comfortable!

If you’re truly backpacking, then most likely you’re going to stay at hostels. Not all hostels are the same; some are nicer than others and some, well, are a pig sty. The one we ended up in Montevideo wasn’t extremely horrible but it wasn’t pristine either. It missed out on the following I considered essentials: toilet paper, soap of any kind, and towels ($5 rent charge). Avoid having to pay surcharges or hunt down these items in an unfamiliar country and pack them along with these other useful items: hand sanitizer, flip flops (for the shared showers), bug spray, locks (you’re living with dozens other backpackers so better to be safe than sorry), steripen (to purify drinking water), lightweight sleeping bag (just in case you don’t trust their sheets), laundry soap ($5-10 for the hostel/hotel to wash your load will add up, so you’ll find yourself doing laundry the old-school way), and guys stop reading here, tampons (you won’t be able to buy these anywhere here).

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The girls get their private banos
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Our short-term home








3. Foreign-friendly credit & debit cards – this is a MUST! You should never carry around a pocket full of cash while traveling. Take out only small amounts at a time based on your needs (especially when you’re traveling to multiple countries that use different currency so you don’t have pocket full of leftover change). A credit card without foreign transaction fees gives you the flexibility to charge large purchases while receiving a somewhat good exchange rate. There’s a list of credit cards you can apply for based on your preference but we’ve found Chase Sapphire and Barclay’s World Elite to give the best travel awards. For cash withdrawals, we love using Fidelity! Not only can you easily pull out the country’s currency easily, Fidelity will reimburse all  ATM charges (which eliminates that as an additional expense). It’s truly been a lifesaver.

Again, this is based on our experience thus far so filter as you must (those who know me, know I am a little OCD). We do hope you’ll find these tips helpful for your travels!

Until then, stay calm and travel on.

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2nd floor lounge room view
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Very boho-chic, no?

Montevideo, Uruguay – a City Without an Identity, but a Meat Lover’s Paradise

When Anh and I first decided to travel to South America we looked to the obvious places: Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Machu Picchu, and Santiago. To be honest, we had probably never thought of the capital city of Uruguay. It wasn’t even on the radar, but with Machu Picchu hiking guides being booked until the end of the year and Visa issues into Brazil, we took the closest and cheapest alternative – Montevideo, Uruguay. We were armed with pretty much only a few facts: Montevideo is the capital city of Uruguay, it’s very close to Buenos Aires, and there are 3:1 cattle to people in the entire country. One episode of Anthony Bourdain later (being the carnivores and adventures we are), we pulled the trigger and bought 2 one-way tickets. What awaited us after 24 hours of traveling was a city that had a different feel than anywhere we had ever been.

The Vibe

At first glance, Montevideo seemed just like any other city. After landing we took a 30-min bus ride into the city (which was an adventure all on its own). The bus had standing room only so when 2 Americans with 70 lbs of luggage got on, we received a lot of stares. For you to fully understand how cramped this really was, my backpack was about as wide as the aisles. To cap it off, we didn’t even know where we were going. This was when my infant level of Spanish kicked in. I began throwing out every and any word I knew to get the assistance of the lady next me. With the help of a map and some aggressive hand signals, we had it slightly figured out. Then during one of the stops, a girl about 20 years old passed by us on her way out and said in perfect English, “have a good trip.” Imagine the conversation from her vantage point! It must have been the funniest thing to watch.

Ok sorry for the long side-bar, back to Montevideo. As we wandered toward our hostel, we noticed that the streets we rather empty for an afternoon. Montevideo is about the size of Philadelphia, but really doesn’t have the feel or glam of a modern day city. The skyline halts around 15 stories with rundown buildings that seemed out of place and sidewalks that needed major repairs. Having been occupied by Argentinian, Spanish, British, Brazilian, Portuguese, and French influence, the city displayed a lack of identity and struggle to find its own personality. It didn’t have much draw for an international traveler, as we tried to find it. Unlike any other coastal city we’ve been to, Montevideo did not have any cafes, bars, patios, or restaurants lining the beach. It was as if the inhabitants of Montevideo were oblivious to the beauty that was in their front yard. After miles of walking, we couldn’t find a place to have a drink to enjoy the view and bought a bottle of wine to bring back to the hostel (yes, I am very romantic).

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The path to the port
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Different architecture on every block
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A gaucho roaming the streets
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Strolling the waterfront











The Food

Variety in food is not something that Uruguayans and in particular, citizens of Montevideo, have a lot of. However, it doesn’t mean that they don’t do it right (vegetarians, you may want to skip this section). I am talking of course parrilla, or when translated it simply means grilling.  After watching Bourdain gorge down on plates of meat, we knew we needed to visit the famous Mercado del Puerto near the port of Montevideo. With every step closer I noticed I had begun to involuntarily salivate. I love to smoke meats at home and have my own home smoker, but this was smoking on ecstasy. The masterful mix of both the smell charcoal and natural wood chips filled the air outside. With the anticipation nearly having me jump up and down like a kid getting ready to go into a candy shop, we walked inside the red brick building.

It was open layout with high ceilings, brick walls, and bars after bar lined up. The bars do not showcase booze but rather the 15-ft wide open brick chimney with barbeque grates lined with sizzling, crackling, juicy cuts of red meat waiting for me to devour them. I was in heaven! It was hard choosing which bar to try until we saw an Uruguayan businessman devouring down some baby back ribs. We immediately grabbed the stools next to his. As we sat there, the host poured us a complimentary glass of Medio y Medio (1/2 champagne and 1/2 wine) then we were presented with slabs of ribs to choose from. Let’s just say, the experience and flavors definitely met our expectations and we fell in love with parrilla! We were lucky and got the chance to try it again the next night, only this time with the local Uruguayans at the hostel. I got to watch them during the preparation as they used a mixture of both coals and wood pieces to start the fire. It was an honor to be invited into their intimate circle since parrilla is mostly shared between family and friends. The barbeque ribs, sweetbreads (innards), chorizo, and blood sausage were to die for! Possibly one of the most memorable experience yet.

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Mercado del Puerto
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Yummy ribs!
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Parrilla with the locals
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I’m in heaven here
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Tyler trying not to salivate…


















The Drink

Yerba Mate. You’ve probably heard of it before or seen a commercialized can of it tucked in the drink aisle of Whole Foods, but it is EVERYWHERE here. Wandering through Montevideo, we saw many Uruyuaguans (mostly students and elderly) holding a special cup with a metal straw-like stick, and a thermos bag. It was cult-like and reminded us very much of our own Seattlelites and their Starbucks cup in hand. After more interrogation and study, we realized that Yerba Mate is very common beverage in South America and in some countries, surpasses coffee or tea as a stimulant. It naturally contains a lot of nutritional values and has a very unique social symbolism behind (its origin and details are very fascinating and you can read more here One of our hostelmate shared with us his gourd (cup of Yerba Mate) and we got to try it. To our unfamiliar tongues, it was really bitter and has a lot of tannin. Not yet a fan of its taste but who knows, we may learn to love it by the end of our trip!

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Yerba Mate drunk on the streets
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The gourd sold on street markets






After Thought

All in all, Montevideo was a very work-oriented city voided of vibrancy and pizazz. We are still glad we had a chance to experience what it had to offer as the streets felt safe and the people are inviting. We walked over 20 miles, met good people who welcomed us to their dinner table, and ate some of the most amazing barbeque…AND I got to do it with the most amazing woman in the world! Montevideo has left me with the hunger for more.

Until next time, keep exploring!