David Tong

Joined March 2016
  • Day7

    Tiwanaku, Bolivia

    April 2, 2016 in Bolivia ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Day 4

    If you have seen History Channel's #AcientAlien, or if you have read a book from Erik von Daniken, chances are you have heard about the mysteries of Tiwanaku and Puma Punku.

    In fact, this is one of the two reasons I wanted to visit Bolivia so badly. (The other is Uyuni Salt Flat.) I have been telling Sandy that I want to visit Tiwanaku and Puma Punku for many years. I want to go just to touch the stones!

    What's special about the stones at Puma Punku is that there's no record of who and when in the ancient time the structures were built. The stones were carved with precision that even with modern technology it is extremely hard to replicate. Some giant stone blocks are over 100 tones. And some blocks look like they can be attached to each other like puzzles and would fit perfectly.

    A lot of claims made about Puma Punku that it was built with lost technology or even by extraterrestrials.

    Tiwanaku, the most famous archeological site of Bolivia, is about 3km from Puma Punku. There is a wall of faces that some call it races of the galaxy. There is a lot to talk about it and I am not sure if all of you are interested...

    So today I am very excited about crossing out my #1 place to visit.

    We then take an afternoon flight to Uyuni to stay at the salt hotel. It isn't entirely made with salt, but walls and grounds are mostly salt. More about this later...
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  • Day4

    Lake Titicaca

    March 30, 2016 in Bolivia ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Day 2 & 3

    Lake Titicaca is the highest lake of the world. It is believed by the native people to be the birth place of spirits. Our main destination there is Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun).

    It takes almost 6 hours to get there. Because of the even higher altitude and the steep hike to get to our hostel, Sandy gets even more sick, even with a sip of water from the Fountain of Youth (no kidding, that's the actual name of the fountain) on the Island.

    The Island is so isolated that there is seemingly zero pollution. We get to meet some alpacas and donkeys. Alpacas are amazing animals. Their cuteness is out of this world.

    With a sleepless night at the most basic hostel without hot water, heat and sufficient oxygen, the thought of terminating the trip comes to my mind. She is really sick.

    Luckily, we are alive. We are then treated with a gorgeous sunrise above Island of the Moon.

    Words just cannot describe the beauty of Lake Titicaca and Sun Island.
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  • Day2

    La Paz

    March 28, 2016 in Bolivia ⋅ 🌬 12 °C

    So why Bolivia as the first stop of our honeymoon?

    While Sandy prefers luxurious and comfortable resorts, I am an adventurer. When Sandy and I were discussing where to go for our honeymoon, she picked Bora Bora. I said, "okay, we could go to Bora Bora, if you follow me to Bolivia and Easter Island first."

    Those were my top 2 dream destinations since many years ago.

    So here we are in La Paz. At about 4000m above sea level, it is the highest capital of the world. Technically the highest capital is Lhasa of Tibet, but it got invaded by China in recent years and Beijing isn't that high.

    Sandy gets very sick on Day 1 even though we took a lot of altitude sickness prevention stuff such as Rhodiola Rosea (herbal supplement) and diamox.

    I feel perfectly okay, but it sucks when Sandy throws up four times when walking around in the city.

    We are joining quite a few tours on this trip. The reason is that while I like to do all the planning, I still have to make our honeymoon safe and comfortable. Wandering around looking for transportation simply isn't a thing in the equation.

    So Day 1 is mainly about making payments, taking the amazing cable cars, and dealing with her altitude sickness. The cable cars here are one of the few that aren't used for sightseeing but for practical transportation purpose of local people. La Paz is a strange place - rich people live in the crowded areas while poor people live on top of the hills with gorgeous views.

    Bolivians are mostly Catholic, but they visit Shamen for sickness and fortune telling. They bring skulls of their ancestors to Catholic churches.

    As the poorest country in South America, things are super cheap here. A taxi ride is typically around 15bs (about US$2.1). A meal is about 25bs.

    Almost every other house is incomplete or broken on purpose. They do that in other to avoid tax...

    More about this country on Day 2 and 3.
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  • Day1

    Centurion Lounge Miami

    March 27, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    Our long awaited honeymoon is finally here! It requires so much elaborate planning and mileage mining that consumed us almost a year to pull the trigger.

    The first destination is Bolivia's capitol La Paz. Day 0 is basically all flying. We managed to make it much easier with lounge access and first class cabin. Many of you questioned how I managed to do these, so here are some strategies to share.

    We fly first class on American Airline from SFO to LPB all by miles. I actually don't remember how many miles were needed when we booked back in August, but it was something like 65,000 miles each way. However, La Paz isn't a typical destination for most Americans; there is no direct flight from the West Coast. We need to stop at LAX and MIA.

    Fortunately, we are able to do some lounge hopping. At SFO, because we are first class passengers, we can enjoy a simple continental breakfast the the Admiral Club. It isn't spectacular, but it is a 7am flight so we are fine with something simple. Alternatively, this lounge can be accessed using Citi Prestige card with a same day AA ticket.

    We are lucky to be allowed in the Oneworld Business Lounge at LAX. Typically, they only allow those with Platinum status with same day tickets on AA to use their facility, but they make an exception for us. The lounge is probably the largest one I have been to, with full food bar and multiple beverage areas. The fire pit is gorgeous.

    At MIA, we have 3 hours to spend at the American Express Centurion Lounge. We use the Amex Platinum card to get in. Every time I am at the Centurion, I am tempted to use their shower room, which is always fully equipped with amenities. At this lounge I also get a complimentary chair massage session!

    The flight from LAX to MIA is a 777-300ER. The first class cabin has 8 seats, which is takes up about the space of 30+ economy seats. My wife Sandy complains that I am too far away! We receive a 4-course meal that consists of crab and lobster. Although the seat reclines only about 150 degrees, it is partially made up by an attentive flight attendant who looks like a young version of Steve Carell!

    Everything I mentioned above, including lounge access, food, beverage, and the flight tickets, is almost free using points and miles.

    Now flying is easy. In the next few hours, I will need to tackle the biggest challenge of this trip - to get admitted into Bolivia. As a British National Overseas, it is unclear if a visa is needed, or if it can be done on entry... Worst case scenario is that I will be denied entry and we will have to fly to Santiago, Chile instead...
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