When people think of South America, drug cartels, violence, and guerrillas automatically come to mind. But those misconceptions do not even come close to the real South America. The continent may not be postcard perfect like Europe, but it is teeming with history, culture, and natural beauty – a true backpacker’s paradise.
For months, my hubby and I prepared for our first trip as a married couple and when it came down to choosing which country to visit, we decided to go with Peru.
Home to a section of the Amazon rainforest and one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Peru is more than the World Heritage site Machu Picchu – the famed Incan citadel perched on top of the Andes Mountains. Peru’s capital Lima alone offers a wealth of sites and attractions for many kinds of travelers.
The city boasts different types of architecture, from Renaissance-style cathedrals and towers to neoclassical chapels and buildings. And because Peru was a former Spanish colony, Baroque style balconies can be seen in various parts of the city.
It’s also interesting to note that Lima is a Sister City of Manila, Philippines, my home country. They share many cultural and linguistic similarities due to the Philippines’ 300-year-long history with Spain. But that’s a story for another time.
Before arriving in Lima, we were pretty much aware of the security situation in the city, as well as the terrible traffic. But having lived in Manila for more than 5 years, I think Lima is not as scary and stressful as many make it out to be. 😉
We were, however, extremely wary of getting ripped off by taxi drivers, so we used Uber throughout our stay in Lima. The last thing we wanted was to get in a sticky situation with the locals, we felt using the app would be the safest option. Booking an Uber ride wasn’t a problem (or so we thought) since most of the places we ate at had WiFi.
But for the most part, our stay in the capital was quite pleasant. It also helped that I can pass as a Latina and my hubby speaks good Spanish so we didn’t have a lot of trouble exploring. In fact, it was fun seeing the bewilderment on their faces when they talk to me in Spanish then I would respond with “No hablo Español,” and my husband would speak for me. It was like I could hear them thinking how can this Chinese-looking guy speak Spanish but not this chica? :’D
On our first day in Lima, we toured the following sites:
MATE – Museo Mario Testino
One of the greatest treasures of Peru is not a place but a person. Mario Testino is among the world’s most prolific fashion photographers, having shot almost every famous person you can think of – from A-list celebrities and supermodels to none other than the British Royalty.
Perhaps his most iconic work is his portraits of Princess Diana, which he shot for Vanity Fair in 1997. Those pictures turned out to be the last portraits the world will ever see before the Princess’ tragic death the same year. These portraits, along with a replica of the Versace dress Princess Diana wore during the photo shoot, are now displayed in MATE – Museo Mario Testino in Barranco, Lima – Testino’s hometown.
My personal favorite, however, is Testino’s portraits of Peruvian locals from Cusco, donned in their colorful traditional attire. Named the Alta Moda series, the collection exquisitely depicts the heritage and culture of Peru.
If you look closely, you’ll notice intricately embroidered symbols and geometric patterns on the subjects’ capes and skirts. These symbols hold a very special meaning for the Quechua, the direct descendants of the Incas in Cusco, Peru.
After visiting MATE, we decided to grab lunch and explore some parts of Barranco district. If there’s one thing that unites Peruvians, it’s their love for color. This part of town is honestly so Instagram-worthy, I think I snapped a photo of every establishment in the area (lol). From the libraries to the cafes, every building is painted its own bright color.
Parque de la Reserva
After lunch, we headed straight to Parque de la Reserva in downtown Lima to catch the popular light and water show, called the Cirquito Magico del Agua. We paid 4 soles each to enter the park – not bad considering the various activities you can do inside. We arrived quite early for the show so we spent most of our time lounging and people watching.
It was interesting to see the similarities between Filipinos and Peruvians. They’re so laid back and so affectionate towards family and friends, which made me miss home a little bit.
I wish I took photos of the water show but I was so fascinated by the whole thing, taking pictures didn’t cross my mind. This is the same fountain, taken both during the afternoon and at night before the show began.
The show ended at around 8PM. It was still quite early, but wandering in the dark in a foreign country can be scary. After eating dinner at one of the makeshift restaurants outside the Plaza de Reserva complex, we looked for a cafe with WIFI to book an Uber. Unfortunately, we got lost and ended up on a sketchy street. We were scared shitless so we decided to go back to where we started and eventually found a restaurant that allowed us to use their WIFI.
We got home safe and sound. And despite what happened, we were excited as hell for the next day’s adventure.
Stay tuned for Part 2!