There are some countries which seem to be the melting pot of different cultures and people. The Continents of North andSouth Americaare the prime example. In theUnited States, the pot seems to be simmering and the contents evenly cooked and almost uniform. Most cities have a uniformity and sameness that seem bland after a while. Of course there are a few cities like San Francisco,New York and New Orleansthat still have their own unique character but these are the exception rather than the rule. Travel to Central andSouth Americais an experience in contrasts. One actually comes to expect the unexpected here.

Brazil with its thick, dense foliage and people of every hue and colour is as vividly beautiful as its cities are dangerous. From the dark coloured descendents of African slaves to the fair skinned Portuguese descendents, the people are exotic looking. Brazilian cuisine is different but pleasantly so; cheese is used liberally in soup, chocolate is sometimes used in sauces used to flavour meat and even the beer comes in the sweetened variety if one wishes to try it. Life is a celebration all year round and not only at carnival time.

If it’s Samba in Brazil, then it’s Tango in Argentina. One can notice couples of all ages dancing the tango in restaurants and cafes, even in parks and street squares. The people seem to be mostly of European descent in this country, although recent immigrants are fromJapan,Korea,Vietnam, China and theMiddle East. The long voyage up the River Plate to the ports of San Lorenzo and San Martin saw us passing through thePampas. We saw many horses and Gauchos or local cow-boys. The sweet scent of wild grass followed us until civilization was reached. Beautiful golf courses and polo grounds were everywhere. The cuisine was delectable but I was disappointed that the famous Argentinean steak that I ordered took very long to reach my table, maybe becauseArgentinaexports most of its meat to countries all over the world!

The port of Valparaiso in Chile was as chilly as it was scenic. We reached there in June when it was the peak of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. People of all colours and races lived here but there seemed to be many Orientals too. Shops were a study in contrasts; there were huge Department Stores and open market places, delicatessens as well as vendors selling fish by the roadside. Tucking into crabmeat and squid warmed the cockles of my heart and I soon forgot the nippy weather!

The port of Bolivar in Ecuador was once again a wonderfully different experience. The people were of all races and their features ranged from classically blonde to broadly oriental. The shopping seemed to be straight out of oriental bazaars and goods from CDs to delicate porcelain could be bought at very low rates. Giant pots with crab claws simmered gently at roadside kiosks. Big platters of prawns and lobsters were served at fine Restaurants and resorts but the prices seemed unrealistically low!

The transit through the Panama Canal and the visit to Panama City was always rushed and hectic. People spoke English as well as Spanish here maybe because of the American influence. On one lucky occasion I got to visit the  small port of Almirante which could really be called a one-horse town. It seemed to be a part of the dense rain forest but the tiny restaurant I discovered there served delicious turtle soup, rabbit stew and lobster barbecue. As I savored one of the most delicious meals that I have ever eaten, I suddenly realized that I was not as interested in finding out about the melting pot of different cultures as I was in tasting the hot pots in different places!

 

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20 responses »

  1. gc1963 says:

    An interesting travelogue! But must be difficult for veggies?

  2. vimala madon says:

    I yearn to visit South America but am sure I never will, the cost being too prohibitive. Lovely travel blog!

    • Beyniaz says:

      Vimala, in earlier days it was difficult to travel anywhere abroad, now things are much simpler. ..am sure many more low fare airlines will soon start making trips to SA from India taking into account the number of people wanting to visit.

  3. Eva Bell says:

    Haven’t been to South America but makes me want to. Lucky you, sampling all those yummy dishes. Very nice travel article.

  4. Shernaz says:

    How lovely, Beyniaz, that you get to see so many places. But we are lucky too to have you sharing their beauty with us in these interesting blogs. Thanks.

  5. vimalaramu says:

    Excellent blog. How lucky for you that you travel so much and visit so many places.

  6. kamy says:

    Have you been to Melbourne Beyniaz? We have our own Chinatown in the city, a Vietnamese enclave in Springvale, Little India (that’s what it’s called) and an African precinct In Dandenong, a pervasive Greek and Italian presence in Oakleigh and Carlton.The Northern and Western part of the city have pockets of the Middle East and North Africa: Lebanese, Iraqi, Ethopian and Somalian.There is a large Jewish population in affluent Caulfield and St Kilda

    It’s easy to eat well and adventurously in Melbourne. We have a robust food culture: excellent coffee ( as you know, Italians are great baristas) fresh, innovative cafe cuisine, a plethora of ethnic restaurants and of course, overpriced fine dining.We have delis and dhabbas, gourmet pantries, farmers markets that sell fresh produce, artisan bread, cheese and preserves. Jewish cake shops, Middle Eastern bakeries (roti,sweets dripping rose scented syrup).

    You enjoy food. Visit Melbourne.

    • Beyniaz says:

      Kamy, have been to many places in A’lia but not Melbourne.Yes, food is really fantastic there as one gets to sample all kinds of cuisines. Another city with varied cuisine is Antwerp in Belgium.

  7. piquant says:

    I felt as if I’m on the cruise with you. Love the way you write…full of appreciation with a pinch of humor! Americas look crowded don’t they! A sharp contrast to what I saw in Europe!

  8. sudha says:

    nice article! feel like visiting after reading your article.

  9. sushi says:

    Hey Beyniaz!!!lovely blog! i have never traveled to South America,,, and its definitely on my list.. now if only that lottery has the winning number ….!!!! lol

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