I have always wanted to visit the Rio De Janeiro Carnival in Brazil, also known as the biggest show on Earth. I managed to live that dream last year, when I travelled to Brazil – and six other countries in South America – for three weeks.
I visited Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paolo in Brazil; Buenos Aires in Argentina; Montevideo in Uruguay; Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile; Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru; La Paz in Bolivia; and Bogota in Colombia.
I started my journey from San Francisco, California, in the US. If you depart from Malaysia, you may have to add an extra three days just for your flights from Asia to America.
My flight from San Francisco to Rio had a 10-hour layover in Bogota, so I took the chance to roam the city. As I entered the airport terminal in Bogota, I could already smell the wonderful aroma of Colombian coffee.
From the airport, I took a bus (US$2/RM8) to the La Candelaria historical centre. There, I visited the amazing Bolivar Square and Cathedral of Bogota, built in 1823. I also visited the Narino Presidential Palace, which is the official home of the Colombian president.
I sampled some empanadas, a street snack similar to the curry puff. I also went to the Gold Museum which displayed 55,000 pieces of pre-Colombian gold artefacts.
In Rio, I went all the way to the Corcovado mountain to get a glimpse of the famous 38m-tall Christ the Redeemer statue.
The view of the city from the top of the mountain was breathtaking. Next, I took the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain to get a good view of the Guanabara Bay.
I also went to Ipanema, a beach made famous by the song called The Girl from Ipanema, as well as to the world-renowned Southern Copacabana beach.
On my last day in Rio I went to the 2014 World Cup Maracanã Stadium, the 2016 Olympic venue and took part in the Carnival.
The Carnival was held at Sambódromo, and the fiesta always begins from 10pm. Partygoers danced all night long, while floats from different samba schools took part in the parade.
In Montevideo, I checked out the old town, the Salvo Palace, Puerto Old Market and walked along the beach.
You can get to Buenos Aires from Montevideo by ferry. It’s not a very long journey and the ferry sails through the widest river in the world called Río de la Plata.
Upon arrival at Buenos Aires, I joined a walking tour of Recoleta Cemetery, where the tomb of Argentina’s famous first lady, Evita, lies. The walking tour took us back in time and lasted 1.5 hours.
Other places of interest there include Puerto Madero, Retiro and La Boca; you can also check out the Madero Tango Show.
In Santiago, a quick way to see the city is through the Hop On-Off bus, which covered Congress Building, Moneda Palace, Armas Square, Santa Lucia Hill, Santiago Tower (tallest skyscraper in South America).
From Santiago, I went to Valparaiso and joined a walking tour, covering 14 points. The highlights are Reina Victoria Elevator, Anibal Pinto Square, Turri Clock, and Prat Dock.
At Cusco, which is about 3,400m above sea level, I visited the Cusco Cathedral, Santa Catalina Museum, and drank plenty of coca tea, to eliminate altitude sickness.
The next morning, at 4am, I took the train to Machu Picchu.
This place is a heaven for photographers and is filled with mysteries. I explored Temple of the Sun & Condor, the main plaza, and made friends with the llamas.
In La Paz, I went to a hill to get a panoramic view of the city and went on another walking tour of the city.
In retrospect, South America is a huge continent, with a wide variety of culture, civilisation, biodiversity, festival and climate.
There’s also lots of adventure to be had!