As budget travellers, one of the main things that we scrimp on is our accommodation. However, being married and generally old(er than the standard backpacking crowd), we’ll normally pay the extra $5 for little “luxuries” like private rooms instead of squeezing into dingy,underground 50-men dorm rooms (a feat that we have actually accomplished before. True story).
But other than that, we would still search for the cheapest accommodations possible. This has led to us bunking in at some pretty “unique” places. So far, we’ve stayed in little villages on the outskirts of cities, hostels with tiny rooms stuffed under the stairs, South American suburbia, icy cold monasteries in Tibet, and of course the unholy tripartite of cheapo lodgings: love motels, druggie streets and red light districts in various permutations. Of course, the stays vary GREATLY in terms of comfort and… pleasantness, but we are almost certainly guaranteed a unique experience.
Our cheapness was also what brought us to the bohemian neighbourhood of Barrio Bellavista when we were in Santiago.
Framed by Cerro San Cristóbal and radiating out from the house of Pablo Neruda (more about wacky Pablo in another post), Barrio Bellavista is a kaleidoscope of funky restaurants/cafes, new-age art galleries, weird boutiques, beer joints, dance studios and high octane dance clubs. With a high concentration of students and artists in the area, you can almost feel the whole place pulse with raw energy.
Walking from downtown Santiago into Bellavista is like tumbling down the rabbit hole into Burton/Banksy’s bastard child’s vision of Alice’s Wonderland. Graffiti covers every open surface… and I mean that in a good way.
It was definitely a lot better than the “tags” that we saw in other parts of the city. A local told us that these “street artists” of Bellavista have an unspoken agreement amongst themselves – They would never paint over each others’ works.
When word of this got out, shop owners in the area who were sick of having to constantly whitewash the unsightly “tags” from their store fronts commissioned graffiti artists to draw murals onto the exterior of their buildings. The hipster residents of Bellavista quickly followed suit.
That way, they have control over what goes on the walls AND honestly speaking, in my (not too) expert opinions, the murals look A LOT better than any tags would anyway.