Sunday, February 7, 2010

Guatemala ( City, Panjachel, Lake Atitlan, Xela) - Central America

Pardon everyone for the long hiatus :) I'm back

After the trip in Mexico, I planned to travel along Central America for the remaining 2 weeks or so.
Checked the airlines and it seemed it was cheaper to fly to Guatemala then Belize so I decided to skip Belize and go back there if I still had time. Guatemala was fantastic – the food and the people

In Guatemala, upon arrival at the airport, my Singapore friend and I tried to find the house via public transport, but we did not expect Guatemala City to be even more chaotic then Mexico streets. The street numbers and names did not follow and some of the street names had changed. After probably 2 hours of searching and all, we finally made our way there.

Because it was a weekday and our couchsurfing host had to work, she dropped us off at the main central and told us to be very careful for it was known to be unsafe. We shopped around and found things there to be cheap in relative to Monterrey. And I searched around for the small markets that were known for their local delicacies. However being a town as it is , it was very similar to Monterrey, Guanajuanto etc.

However for Guatemala, I realise that the children are the one doing the business such as setting up their own stalls selling fruits etc ( even bird feed ! ) - really entrepreneur!

And since you are in the city, it is a must to step into the markets to check out their local delicacies. So off we went -Settled for the tostado with frijoles and cheese ( it was lovely, i liked the thick layer of frijoles) while my friend settled for a famous fried sandwich. And lastly a very refreshing licuardo to quench our thirst. Their licuardos are amazingly nice and fresh. There's horcharta ( rice drink) - which I love - it tastes a little like Almond drink , hibiscus drink - which I love too - it tastes like fruit punch yet not so sweet and unnatural , lime drink , honeydew drink etc etc

The next day, we hopped onto a bus on our way towards Panajachel & Lake Atitlan which had fabulous sunsets and lakes. And boy, were we not disappointed. The place was magnificent. However to get there weren’t easy as a lot of changes had gone through Guatemala, stations shifted and were all over the city ( from one end to the other took close to an hour by car) and some had only one timing which we had missed by the time we reached the bus station. - thank God our couchsurfing friend drove us around else we would have really been lost ( although we made her very late for work and she had to take half day leave) We finally decided upon the local bus together with the locals.

At every stop, some people would be let on the bus to sell their food such as rice and chicken, lollypop. Chocolates, fruits, snacks ( I totally loved the atmosphere and the food servings) Such a fun and good way to make money – low cost operations and such a proactive way. This is something I really miss since I left Guatemala.

Along the way to Lake Panajachel, we passed by really dusty roads that had kids playing alongside, some selling their wares and some selling food and drinks. With nothing they could self-entertain themselves for the whole day – somehow seems amazing to me.

In Lake Panajachel, the scenary is amazing - its a very good place to just chill and relax and indulge in the Guate-atmosphere. The fresh air blowing at you, the smell of the lake , the small open-air restaurants all around etc etc

And when night falls, I love it even more. The contrast in the colors, the silence - In awe!

And if you are into shopping, my friend loved their earrings. Self-made and really cute! And I love their bracelets and wallets- no pictures though. Its very Mexican -Guate like. Very unique.

Similarly, there were also a lot of young kids carrying their younger baby siblings, at the same time, trying to sell you their seashell necklaces or string bracelets.Must bargain with them k!

If we had time, I could stay there for a long time:)

The next day early in the morning we caught a bus to Quetzatenango ( also known as Xela) which was along the same street where we dropped off. Xela is well-known for its spanish schools for foreigners to learn spanish - its teachers are known to be good and the cost is within an affordable budget.

Since it was the day of the dead, we joined our friends in their 'excursion' around town holding the lamps.It was great fun , visiting the households and then witnessing their ceremony.

The next morning before we left the town, we popped by the nearest market to check out whether there any special local food that we should try but it was filled with too many people, so we went to our bus terminal heading back towards Guatemala.

Back to Guatemala, everyone was celebrating the day of the dead too.

We visited houses and drank ponche ( i love it when its hot, yummy!) and ate sandwiches.

Celebrating a festival with the locals is the best thing to be doing on a trip to a foreign country. You get to interact with the locals, learn about their culture and the food they cook during such times.

Thats all for Guatemala, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan and Xela

Stay Tune for my next destination..... to Livingston and rio dulce before I cross over to the land of Honduras, Nicaragua then Costa Rica :)

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