Excited about visiting a South American country for the first time, I started my journey to Santiago De Chile from Miami on March 2nd, 2012. To start with, I was skeptical about the quality of a Chile based airline. But, I was amazed by the excellent service provided by LAN airlines. My perception about a Chilean company changed then and there. Also, prior to my flight I doubted whether the officials in the flight will understand English (even though we were assured by the Professor that there wouldn’t be language problems during the travel) and my doubts didn’t fructify. In fact, the quality of the food given to us in the plane set up a high expectation for my one-week long stay at Santiago. Day One
After watching the Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s end, a movie which I have been craving to watch for a long time, and a couple of hours of pleasant flight, we landed in Santiago on time. As soon as the automatic door swung open letting me in to the airport, I noticed a group of people standing before a counter that was used to collect a reciprocity fee. The notice board before the counter showed “US - $140”. As I didn’t fully understand what a reciprocity fee is and since I was coming in to the country from US, I stood at the back of a very short line counting my $140. When my turn came, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it applies only to US Citizens and that it is a one-time charge only for the life of the passport. I wondered what the reciprocity fees was and later found out that this was the amount the US charges Chileans entering the country. For that reason, the fees are referred to as “reciprocity”. After a little research, I found that out of the countries in South America, five of them charge a fee: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay. The fees charged are in direct relation to what the home country of the passenger charges residents of the country you are visiting. The fees look like a good source of revenue for these countries. I reached the Atton El Bosque hotel by hiring a taxi from the airport after a little struggle to explain the hotel name and location to the taxi driver. After resting for a while, and after a brief orientation meeting, we started a City Tour. The tour guide who accompanied us was very knowledgeable about the history and culture of Chile. It was a pleasure to see the La Moneda Presidential Palace and was interesting to learn about the history of the palace. Construction of the La Moneda started in 1784 and was constructed to be the country’s official mint, hence the name which translates to The Mint. A wiki entry shows that coins were minted from 1814 to 1929. And, in 1845 the palace became the residence of the president. I learnt an important history of Chile that day about the Chileans having a different 911 to remember about and that was about the military coup d'état on September 11, 1973. The then Commander-in-chief Augusto Pinochet led the coup against the President Salvador Allende. Despite the air raids and ground attacks on the palace, the President vowed to stay in the presidential palace and rejected the military’s ultimatum to step down. Eventually the President killed himself (although this is questionable and still under scrutiny). The tour guide explained this really well to the group and pointed to a closed door, which was guarded by a uniformed officer, mentioning that the dead body of the president was taken out through this door. After finishing the tour around the palace, we had a stop at Los Dominicos for some artisan shopping and then the first day of the trip officially ended. Later for dinner, we went to a place nearby the hotel and the service was not so good. So we decided to tip him lesser than the 10%. But to our surprise, the waiter stood there demanding for the remaining tip. We didn’t know if it was a Chile culture to tip 10% mandatorily. Later I found out that the livelihood of most of the waiters depends on tips....
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