I Heart Wong

Nobody likes Lima. At least that’s the way it seems. Save two travelers, everyone we met prior to our entering Peru, told us to spend as little time there as possible. Even National Geographic, in an article on Peru, says to leave Lima behind ASAP. And hey, they have their reasons.

Lima is a sprawling, chaotic city. It seems to stretch forever, without any real rhyme or reason to its construction. Getting around is a pain in the butt. Sure, there are buses, but you have to know exactly where you’re going and which bus goes there if you’re to have a chance to make it to your destination. And talk about overcrowded. People are on top of each other, hanging out the doors. Taxis, well, they aren’t particularly cheap (especially if you are a gringo), and you’ll sit in traffic forever. The attractions—a few museums, some churches, a plaza or two—are nice but nothing special. You’ve seen better elsewhere. So yeah, Lima shouldn’t top any travelers list of place to go.

But me, I like Lima. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. Wong.

Wong is the name of one of the major grocery stores in Lima, and to put it simply, it’s awesome. In all of our months of travel, it’s by far the best grocery store we’ve found. They have everything. Want to have a Thai cocount curry? They’ve got the ingredients. Want pita bread, croissants, ciabatta, foccacia, or any other type of bread you can imagine? It’s all fresh-made, warm from the oven. Want fruits that you have never heard of and can hardly even imagine? They’re at Wong, and they just might be sized bigger than your head. Fresh-squeezed juice? Just let them know what size you want. Pre-made lunches? Good luck choosing between the Asian stir-fries, the Italian food, and the ceviche. Oh, and don’t forget a piece of chocolate cake for dessert. And while you’re trying to decide between the million and one pieces of deliciousness in the Wong, go ahead and take one of each of the thousand free samples they’re handing out. Maybe it will help you decide; maybe it will just confuse you more.

Lest I shortchange the Wong, let me tell you that it’s not just groceries you can buy there; you can also get any other item your household might need. Plus essentials such as bus and air tickets. In sum, everything; you can get everything at the Wong.

And while normally I lament the supergiants that take over, driving mom & pop out of business, I have to admit that when I went into the Wong, my first words were “Jeff, I think we’re in heaven.” After months of supermarkets without any selection, bakeries out of bread, and meals concocted from what we could scrap together rather than the ingredients we really needed, the Wong was just what I needed.