Steven Tan climbs Peru’s ma­jes­tic Rain­bow Moun­tain

At some point, he was tempted to turn back—‘Train your lungs, work out like you’re train­ing for a marathon’

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - LIFESTYLE TRAVEL - By Cheche V. Moral @In­q_Lifestyle

Since the age of 25, Steven Tan has vowed that each year, he’d visit a place he has never been to. Only two weeks ago, he made his first trip to Peru, a 30-hour jour­ney from Manila, via Narita and Los An­ge­les, to the South Amer­i­can coun­try’s cap­i­tal, Lima.

It was a des­ti­na­tion that’s not usual for the well-trav­eled Tan, SM Su­permalls’ chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, mainly be­cause it in­volved trekking. Of the over 60 coun­tries he has been to, Peru was most phys­i­cally tax­ing.

“If you’re plan­ning to go, my one ad­vice is, train your lungs, work out like you’re train­ing for a marathon,” he said.

While Tan him­self goes to the gym five days a week, he said he still felt em­bar­rassed that Inca women, much older than he, moved faster on the up­hill ter­rain.

There pri­mar­ily to see Machu Pic­chu, the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal rem­nants of the 15th-cen­tury In­can citadel in the Peru­vian An­des, Tan said the high­light of the trip turned out to be the hike to Mon­tana de Si­ete Colores ( Rain­bow Moun­tain) or Vini­cunca, 17,000 feet above sea level, in the Cusco re­gion.

Psy­che­delic slopes

The ma­jes­tic Vini­cunca is fa­mous for its bright, psy­che­delic slopes—sed­i­men­tary rocks ex­posed by mil­lions of years of ero­sion.

On Tan’s visit, the moun­tain was cov­ered with 10 inches of snow, which made the climb even harder. What typ­i­cally takes only 45 min­utes took him two hours, in­clud­ing a ride on the back of a horse.

“Tourists usu­ally take two to three days be­fore they make the climb, just to ac­cli­ma­tize to the el­e­va­tion,” Tan said. “But due to the time con­straint—I had only a few days for the trip—we went the morn­ing af­ter we ar­rived.

“I was glad to have reached the peak, es­pe­cially as peo­ple were turn­ing back. It was mar­velous at the top, and I felt that sense of ac­com­plish­ment be­cause, at some point, I was also tempted to turn back.”

‘Mate de coca’

It’s stan­dard for climbers to bring por­ta­ble oxy­gen tanks for the trek. To pre­vent alti­tude sick­ness, it’s also com­mon to drink coca tea or mate de coca, derived from the coca plant, which Tan did through­out the trip to Cusco.

“It opens up your breath­ing and it re­laxes you. I had some reser­va­tions at first, be­cause what if I get tested for drugs when I get home?” he said with a laugh.

Tan also mar­vels at new strange eats he got to try on this trip, in­clud­ing the cuy or guinea pig and the chicha morada, a corn-based drink.

“I equate travel with ad­ven­ture, and I’m def­i­nitely will­ing to try new things,” he said. “We ate whale in Ice­land. I go to great lengths when it comes to food.”

At D.O.M. in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the Miche­lin-star res­tau­rant of chef Alex Atala, “They served us a raw pork dish.

“When I travel for work I carve out time be­tween meet­ings to check out the re­tail, F&B and gen­eral life­style scene,” said the re­tail ex­ec­u­tive, who’s at the helm of 71 SM malls here and a few more in China. “And when I’m on va­ca­tion, I also grav­i­tate to­ward places that bring in­spi­ra­tion that I can draw on for work.”

Nikkei cui­sine

In Lima, Tan and his friend dined at Cen­tral Res­tau­rante, chef Vir­gilio Mar­tinez’s flag­ship res­tau­rant, listed sixth among the World’s 50 Best Restau­rants of 2018. “It’s noth­ing like any Nikkei cui­sine I’ve ever had,” he said.

Tan also mar­veled at the col­or­ful lo­cal mar­kets, the wo­ven fab­rics and other unique knick­knacks he found.

“In ev­ery place I visit I make it a point to im­merse my­self in the cul­ture. This in­cludes try­ing the lo­cal food and mak­ing friends. One must is to hit the lo­cal mar­ket. I try to do a sweep as much as I can.

“I try not to travel to be a tourist. I want to travel and dwell. For­tu­nately I have com­pan­ions who share the sen­ti­ments, to the ex­tent of do­ing travel pre-work and re­search.”

Tan pre­pared for this sev­en­day Peru­vian ad­ven­ture, stay­ing in some lux­u­ri­ous ho­tels. A back­packer also has op­tions for his bud­get, he said.

He’s fly­ing to Paris, where he stud­ied and used to live, later this month. It re­mains his fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion for sen­ti­men­tal rea­sons.

Next year, Pe­tra in Jor­dan, and Egypt are on his list. Ar­me­nia is also in the works.

“I can­not think of any place I would not want to go back to,” he said. “Ev­ery place I’ve vis­ited re­mains spe­cial. Not all places are com­fort­able but I’ve al­ways thought that travel is com­mit­ting to a new ex­pe­ri­ence that might not al­ways be within your com­fort zone. You have to look at travel side by side with dis­cov­ery and just em­brace it fully.”

His ad­vice for would-be trav­el­ers? “Be open, em­brace the new,” he said. “Im­merse your­self fully in each and ev­ery place you visit. If pos­si­ble, try to dwell. There are the tourist at­trac­tions you should see, but also make time to dis­cover tiny al­ley­ways. When you travel, you open your eyes and your heart to new ad­ven­ture and learn­ing.”

Travel is com­mit­ting to a new ex­pe­ri­ence that might not al­ways be within your com­fort zone Steven Tan


Steven Tan on top of Machu Pic­chu

Inca woman feed­ing a baby al­paca

Maras salt mines

Tan with friend Dos Quong (left) and chef Vir­gilio Mar­tinez of Cen­tral Res­tau­rante (cen­ter)

On horse­back to Mon­tana de Si­ete Colores

Reach­ing the top

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