Wednesday, August 31, 2011

La Ceiba – Copan Ruinas – Tegucigalpa, Honduras 26-30 Aug 2011

I spent 1 night at La Ceiba after getting back from Roatan. I had a look around La Ceiba, a small port city by the northern coast of Honduras. A place where  travellers pass thru to go to the Bay Islands. The night in Banana Republic Hostel, I was bitten badly by a bed bug, I finally manage to kill it when it run over my face. Luckily I had my “Minyak Angin” Chinese oilmen with me to apply to get rid of the itch but unfortunately I left it on the bed when I left. :-( It’s something very useful for travel.

Waking up without sufficient sleep, I dragged myself to the bus station and catch the 7am bus to San Pedro Sula. San Pedro Sula is the 2nd biggest city in Honduras, all the buses from the north, east and south transit here. So I have to catch another bus from here to Copan Ruinas. The bus from La Ceiba to San Pedro Sula broke down 1 hour before we arrived to San Pedro. We had to switch to another bus but the other bus broke down 10 minutes after. :-( We had to wait 30 minutes by the road site for the next bus to pick us up. The journey was long. Lucky for a helpful Honduran, he shown me the bus to take to Copan Ruinas. The journey continue for another 4 hours.

I’m happy to arrive in Copan Ruinas and found the hotel to check in. I was not expecting to see a pretty little town on the hill site surrounded by jungle. I came to Copan Ruinas to meet up with Santiago, a rendez-vous. :-) We visited Copan Ruins the next day, I was surprised with the hefty entrance fees to the park. It was a rip off when the gal told me that tourist have to buy the combo ticket to the park US$15 together with the entrance to the tunnel which is another US$15.

RosalinaThe ruins are not as huge as Tikal and the area is not as wild. Yet the architecture and sculpture are amazing. We also visited the 2 tunnels- Rosalina and Los jaguares which no where else in Central America ruins you get to see this. In the Rosalina tunnel we could see the old structure of Rosalina temple. We also stroll thru the jungle trail by the ruins area and around the Copan river. Unfortunately compare to Tikal, there isn’t much wild life here.
I spent a great weekend here with Santiago but we have to bid farewell. After Copan Ruinas, I made my way to Leon, Nicaragua. I need to break the trip into 2 days because it is a 16 hours journey and there is no direct bus. Getting to Tegucigalpa the capital city of Honduras is not every travelers favor because this city is known to be doggy and extremely dangerous. I had no choice, so I got in before sunset, check in to a hotel and left the next morning.

I had took Tica Bus to Leon, Nicaragua. Even thought it is more expensive compare to the normal chicken bus but it is more convenient. I didn’t even need to cross the custom myself, the bus assistance did everything. The only thing we need to do is to bring our bags thru the custom check in at Nicaragua border.
I left Honduras after 12 days. I’ve enjoyed Roatan the most. People are helpful and friendly here.  The country is not as colorful and  interesting as Guatemala I must say.

La Ceiba – Banana Republic Hostel – L150 for a dorm bed with kitchen
Copan Ruinas – Hotel Calle Real – US$20 for a double bed private room with TV and attached bathroom
Copan Ruinas – Hostel en la Manzana Verde – L130 for a dorm bed without kitchen
Tegucigalpa – Hotel Granada – US$20 for a double bed private room with TV and attached bathroom

Bus from La Ceiba to San Pedro Sula – L100 non air condition
Bus from San Pedro Sula to Copan Ruinas – L130 non air condition
Bus from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa – L110 non air condition
Bus from Tegucigalpa to Leon, Nicaragua – L380 air condition Tica Bus
Taxi from bus terminal to Hotel Granada – L80 per way

Copan Ruinas – US$30 entrance fee to Copan Ruinas archeological site and underground tunnel

Friday, August 26, 2011

La Ceiba and Roatan, Honduras 18 - 25 Aug 2011

It was a long day, I left Livingstone 6am to La Ceiba, arriving at the Jetty with a beautiful sunrise. It was a perfectly calm sea after the rain. The ferry ride took 1.5hr to Puerto Barrios, a collectivo pick me up on the road and I managed to bargain for a good price to the Honduras border, I got my passport stamp out smoothly at the Guatemala side, then it was about 5km ride before arriving at the Honduras border at 10am. I got my entry stamp, paid L60 to enter the country. Changed my Quetzales at the border and I am ready to explore a new country! From the Honduran border, a 5 minutes walk out to the street, I took a chicken bus to Puerto Cortes, it was another 1 hr. As soon as the chicken bus stop at the bus terminal, a guy run up and ask if I am going to San Pedro Sula, as soon as I said yes, he pick up my backpack and took off, it was funny that I have to run after my bag. A luxury air condition collectivo awaits me, that’s the most comfortable ride I had since Mexico. 1 hr later I arrived at San Pedro Sula and here I boarded a non air condition bus to La Ceiba, finally 4hr later I arrived at La Ceiba. It was smooth travel. :-)

Honduras currency is Limpera, the exchange rate is US$1 to L18.5 or Q10 to L23. It makes the calculation more difficult with 2 figures. At first everything feels expensive as you need to pay more in terms of numbers. But actually it is the same. At La Ceiba, I checked in to a hotel with a private room, bath and tv and paid a hefty US$17.5 for a night as I was too lazy to go hunting for a cheaper one. It was nice to finally watch some English movies the whole night. :-)

The next morning I left to the ferry terminal at 8am to catch the first ferry to Roatan. It was an expensive ride. 2 way for L1024. We arrived 1hr 15mins later at Roatan, the weather wasn’t so good, cloudy and drizzling. :-( Here, I couchsurf with Carlos, he stayed in Sandy Bay 10 minutes by car from West End. He told me that storm Harvey is approaching, I should go diving now before the storm arrives else it would be another 2 days. No, not again!! Everywhere I went diving it has been a storm. In Cozumel, I have to skip diving because of a storm, in Belize it was cloudy and overcast due to a passing storm. When will I see blue sky and crystal clear water? :-( We tried to dive that afternoon but the dive center cancel their trip as the storm is approaching. That Sucks! I was very disappointed and praying hard that the storm will be over in a day.

The storm arrived 3am in the morning, I was woken up by the strong wind and rain, the house was shaking, I can hear things flying outside the house, lucky it was over by day break. The day after storm was not diverble. The sea is still choppy and the vis is crappy. We went to West Bay where all the high end resorts are to chill and watch a performance. The local band was amazingly good.

The EagleFinally on the 3rd day, I woke up with sunshine and calm sea. I finally get to dive. :-) The first dive was a wreck called El Aquila(The Eagle). It was sunk on purpose in 1997 by Anthony's Key Resort to make for a new premier dive site. The visibility was good after 15 meter, I was enjoying more the wreck then the fishes around, but there was actually not many fish. :-( 2nd dive was boring, we saw a turtle, some gigantic crabs and lobster and that’s it. This dive we were 10 in the group with an Instructor. :-( I was diving with Native Son Dive Center.

I did another 2 dives on the 4th day with Carlos, my host. I switched dive center as Carlos only dives with Coconut Tree Dive Center. It was a better dive center in fact, they have loads of DMT, and tons of Instructors around, more professional in terms of organisation and facilities and the dive group is smaller. We had a better dive on the 2nd dive at the Light House, there were more fishes around. Lobster seems to be abundant here. I did 2 more morning dives on the 5th day and that was nice too. I had to stop before I make a hole in my pocket. :-(

In general the dive sites here has less fishes then Indonesia, not much macro, have not seen a single nudibranch, reefs are covered with lots of corals but they are not as colorful as in SEA, the terrain are more like a canyon of coral that breaks into small swim thru latches with white sandy bottom. Nice to swim in between them. Water is warm and calm, I could even dive with just my rash guard. No current (that explains why there isn’t much action) There are plenty of dive sites to choose from so not many divers cramp in one dive site. They hunt and kill lionfish here, said to be killing all the coral reef fishes, a report  was written in 2009 about this I am not sure if this was the reason why there is not much fish in the reef.

I had a very pleasant stay here with my host Carlos. He was a cool guy with a cool job, he make use of FB to promote Roatan Resorts and Activities. Check out his site :- 

People here speak English generally, but I practiced my Spanish with the local taxi drivers and people working at the stall. This could be a potential place to live and work in diving industry or Hotel services. Many foreigner came here for few days and end up in years. :-)

La Ceiba – Hotel Caribe – US17.50 for a private room with TV and attached bathroom
La Ceiba – Hostel Banana Republic - L150 for a dorm bed with WIFI and kitchen
Roatan - Couchsurf

Livingstone to Puerto Barrios – Q20 by ferry
Puerto Barrios to Corinto (Honduras border) – Q15 by collectivo
Corinto to Puerto Cortes – L51 by chicken bus
Puerto Cortes to San Pedro Sula – L48 by aircon collective (luxury)
San Pedro Sula to La ceiba – L100 by bus
La Ceiba bus terminal to Hotel Caribe – L20 by taxi
Hotel Caribe to Ferry terminal – L50 by taxi
La Ceiba to/from Roatan - L1024 by ferry
Taxi from Roatan ferry terminal to anywhere – US$10

1 dive at Roatan with equipment – US$30
Marine Park fees – US$10 valid for a year

Monday, August 22, 2011

Antigua, Rio Dulce and Livingston, Guatemala 9-18 Aug 2011

Antigua 9-13 Aug 2011

Finally left San Pedro La Laguna, my heaven for 3 weeks. :-( It is difficult to let go something so beautiful and move on to a future that is unknown. It’s like quitting my job in Singapore and leave for this trip. You never know what is awaiting you next.

We made it to Antigua after another day of delay due to some unforeseen circumstances. Eric, Noa and I went back to Umma Gumma Hostel in Antigua. We like this place when we first stayed here 3 weeks ago. This hostel is quiet and clean, staffs are friendly, and they have WIFI and kitchen at the roof top garden.

We all have our things to do here, Noa has to find out how she is getting to Nicaragua, Eric has to find out how to get to Tikal and me, I was waiting for Santiago to arrive :-) someone special that I met in San Pedro, and he is coming to Antigua. Noa finally got her research done, she was very worried to take this trip to Managua, Nicaragua. She has listed down a few options and either way it is going to be an 18 hours trip.

The next day, Eric and I went hiking to Volcan Pacaya. Noa has been there before so she didn’t join.  On May 27, 2010, Volcan Pacaya erupted, followed by several tremors. At least 3 people were killed in the eruption, two villagers and a journalist who tried to approach the crater and was hit by bombs. According to newspapers, at least 9 children are missing, more than 20 people injured and thousands fled their homes or were evacuated. Many buildings were damaged.
Volcan Pacaya is an hour car ride from Antigua. We arrived at the foot of the volcan and started walking up the mountain with a guide and 30 other people and some on horses. The horses serve as a taxi for those who can’t walk up, they took the same route as us, as you can imagine all the horses shit along the path, we were literally looking at where to put our next step the whole way up. We spent 1.5 hours walking up the slope, we were not allowed to climb up to the crater, and we stopped at the lava flow area. From there we had the view of the 3 other volcanoes in vicinity. Volcan de Agua, Volcan de Acatenango and Volcan de Fuego. We were lucky to have a clear day, the view is magnificent. We can see Volcan de Fuego puffing out smoke every other minute. Way down was easy.

While back to the city, people are more in a rush. I missed the smile from the local and greetings from everyone on the street. I missed the view of the lake and the noise from Filipe kids. :-( I have to find something else to do. So I went for a Salsa class trial out with Eric. Eric was pretty stiff but he learns fast. I was hooked immediately, I decided to sign up for 3 classes. One to one, 1 hour per class @ Q80. It was great! I relearn a lot of the steps and new steps.

Rio Dulce and Livingstone 13-18 Aug 2011

It took me 6 hours to reach Rio Dulce by bus. I met Audrey from America who is also heading to Rio Dulce. She is a nurse who quit her job and now travelling for 2 years. Eric has made his way to Rio Dulce as well after Flores. 3 of us stayed at Hotel Backpackers by the river side. It was cheap but the bed do not have pillow or blanket. At the hostel, we met John from Ireland. There is nothing much to do in Rio Dulce, we ventured into the town across the bridge and had our dinner. We left the next day to Livingston. We have to take the boat package to Livingston which includes a drive by the El Castilo de San Felipe, a village with lots of water lily and a hot spring area. It was a rip off! :-(

 At Livingston, we checked into Iguana Hostel. A place recommended by the lonely planet and other travelers. We were welcomed by the owner Rusty. He explained us that there is a communal dinner at the hostel every night @ Q40, wireless and TV is available till 9pm at night, that is because he prefer everyone to socialize and drink in his bar, instead of watching TV and surf net, Jungle boat trip available run by Eric @ Q200 for a day trip with all you can drink and lunch on board, they have tap system in the hostel which means you pay at the end of the day when you check out. We were quiet happy with the dorm we get, it seems nice. The communal dinner was good too. BBQ chicken with red bean rice and salad. The party goes on and on, music was loud. I went back to sleep at 9pm after a drink and the nightmare begins. I was literally attacked by hundreds of mosquitoes, too hot to sleep I took a shower to cool down and sprayed myself with loads of repellent, but that didn’t stop the mosquitoes from attacking.  I woke up the next morning with little sleep to find the rest of them had the same problem as well. I was shocked to see Audrey as she had a lot of red spots on one side of her face. Eric who was too drunk to feel the bites has it all over his shoulders. Those bites look more like sand flies bite to me. Lucky me I didn’t have any. It was horrifying. Audrey and I changed to another hotel immediately the next day. The 2 guys change their dorm. I doubt that will help much. I was glad I moved. We moved to Hotel Maya with private bath and mosquito screen on the windows. It only cost us Q35 pp/pn. There have internet and kitchen.

The weather here is so hot and humid comparing to San Pedro and Antigua. It is just like back home. We sweat just by walking out from a shower. :-( We walked around the town of Livingstone and find nothing interesting, here there are mix of Garífuna, Afro-Caribbean, Maya and Ladino people. We reach the point on the other side of the jetty, the beach is not very impressive and the water is dark grey in color. None of us feel like jumping in for a swim. We spoke to a guy who told us that he walked to the nearby waterfall along the beach. It took him 2 hours. So we had that planned for the next day.

We started our walk 10:30am along the beach and it was disgusting. There was tons of rubbish washed out on to the shore. We pass some houses and resorts, I would not have enjoy my stay here at any of this resort with a beach like that. We finally arrived at the waterfall at noon. Exhausted! It was a pretty small waterfall with 7 layers of fall according to the name Los Siete Altares. We chilled in the pool of cool water, had some shrimps pedicure and chips. :-)  Time to head back, we walked another 2 hours of course. :-( I don’t feel my foot anymore when we arrived.

I stayed another day in Livingstone doing nothing just to rest my legs.  I had to find out how to get to La Ceiba, Honduras the coastal town where I can get a boat to Roatan. The package with shutter cost US$40 with minimum 6 to go, since there isn’t anyone else going I will have to go on my own. The entire journey includes a boat ride and change of 4 different buses. It is going to be challenging!

Antigua – Umma Gumma I ( – Q40 pp/pn for 5 bed dormitory with shared bathroom with hot shower WIFI available and communal kitchen.
Rio Dulce – Hotel Backpackers( – Q30 pp/pn for 20 bed dormitory with shared bathroom without pillow and blanket, WIFI available.
Livingstone – Casa de la Iguana – Q40 pp/pn for 6 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, WIFI available till 9pm, Hotel Maya – Q35 for private room with attached bathroom WIFI available.

Antigua to Guatemala City to Rio Dulce – Q150 by shutter and bus
Rio Dulce to Livingstone – Q140 by boat with drive thru a few places
Livingston to Puerto Barrios – Q20 by ferry

Volcan Pacaya tour – Q70 for transfer and Q50 for park fees
Salsa Class – Q240 for 3 classes 1 hour each

Friday, August 12, 2011

Antigua 16-18 July San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala 18 July-9 Aug 2011

Antigua 16-18 July

Antigua is another UNESCO World Heritage Site with the influence of Baroque Architecture and a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches. The town is very touristic and well known for its Spanish Language School. The whole city is full of historic buildings, monuments, fountains and ruins. It is located at 1510m above sea level surrounded by 3 big volcanos, the most visible one is the Volcano Agua @ 3766m high. The temperature here can drop to 16c at night. I spent only 2 nights here as I wanted to start my Spanish class the following Monday at San Pedro La Laguna. Here, I met up with David, Amit and Noa from Lanquin and Ele who plan to go to San Pedro La Laguna as well.

Lake Atitlan

San Pedro La Laguna 18 July-9 Aug 2011

San Pedro La Laguna is a small village by Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlan), it is located at the Guatemalan Highlands of 1562m. The lake is volcanic in origin, filling an enormous caldera formed in an eruption 84,000 years ago. Now the lake is surrounded by 3 volcanos. We arrived with a stunning view from the mountain. I went straight to the school to enquire about the course. Looks like I can start the next day! :-)

I chose to study at Cooperativa Spanish School ( as this school supports the local community and have good recommendation online. The school is at a hill slope overseeing the lake. The classroom is in a garden surrounded by plants and flowers with the view of the lake. I planned to study here for a week and then move on to Xela for another week. It didn’t happen! :-) Noa wanted to study Spanish as well so she joined me at the same school and we decided to stay with the same family. We had our own private room and shared toilet. The house has a big garden with a dog and 2 cats. The family of Felipe and Rosa has 6 children, 4 boys still living at home from the age of 5 to 12 and 2 gals who are married with a kid each. So we had quite a crowd at home. :-) We signed up for 4 hours of class in the morning. 5 days of 4 hours class cost US$90 and 7 days accommodation with 3 meals cost US$60. No wonder so many people study here and live here indefinitely. :-)

During the first week here, we juggle between class, class activities and doing things with David, Amit and Ele who didn’t take up the Spanish class. It was pretty occupied. We went to visit coffee farm, the only major agriculture here in San Pedro. The coffee beans are produced organically which means there is no use of chemical, they recycle the coffee bean skin by decomposing them using one type of worm and the waste of the worms is used as the fertilizer. It is a cooperative organization where locals used their own land to plant coffee with the guidance and support of the organization and they will send their harvest to the organization to process. They all get a fair share of the coffee they produced.

We went to San Marcus (another town by the lake) this place is famous for yoga and meditation. It’s too quiet for my taste. We found a place where we could jump off from an 8 meters platform into the lake, it took me a long time to overcome my fear to jump off. :-) It was short and quick once I leap off. The water in the lake was refreshing, with the sun to tan and warm up our body after a refreshing swim was just pleasurable. We had to bid farewell to David, Amit and Ele after the fourth day as they move on separately. At school there is salsa class every Wednesday, I wouldn’t have miss it for a night. :-) Luis was our instructor, he is a great dancer. He can make anyone dance like a pro. :-) Every week I was just looking forward for Wednesday.

My teacher’s name is Mynor, he has 9 years experience teaching Spanish. He looks very serious all the time that made me nervous. But after some session, he is actually funny and cheeky. He is a fantastic teacher. He has a way to teach and make me understood Spanish easily, that makes me want more. He makes learning fun. We had fun playing table tennis and catching crab in the lake. :-) I could learn Spanish for a few more weeks with him.

The family who hosted us was another reason why I stayed for 3 weeks, the 4 boys in the house were charming, and my favourite is Mario. He is such a mummy boy, he will help his mom while the rest are playing, he will come to chat with us and he is always sweet. :-) Agustin the eldest, he will ignore his mom’s call but he will take care of the rest when they go out. Juan is the quiet one who didn’t give me much impression, only heard his cry more often. Jose is the youngest and the one that always makes lots of bullshit. :-) Felipe is a referee for football and Rosa is housewife who takes care of the whole family meals and well being. She also spent a lot of time at the church doing flower arrangement for the church. They are a great family! :-) Living with this family really makes me happy. I also spent some time with the boys swimming in the lake after school, they love it when I offer them my mask. They could snorkel and see fishes in the lake. Seeing their smile makes my day.

We climbed the Indian Nose Mountain one Saturday with the school, we were surprise that the gardener was bringing us. He probably is in his 60s but damn he can run up the mountain if he wants. Noa was having trouble with breathing so we went up slowly and eventually reach the top in 3 hours. The view from the top is breathtaking, only the photo can show you how beautiful it is.

We also went to Chichi market on Sunday, it is the biggest market in Guatemala where many indigenous people will travel down to the market to sell their handmade stuff, spice, food, vegetables and fruits. It was very grand and vibrant. They sell a lot of embroidery textile and blouse. I found some which are simpler for souvenir. The Mayan people are very short, I was almost 2 head higher than them, and I felt like a giant. :-) Thought they are small they are strong, they carry big basket of material above their head and they will push people around to get pass.

I have extended my stay here for the 3rd week, this place just captured my heart. I felt so calm, happy and relax. There were a few days of rain. Other than that, it was great. The tranquillity and heart warming people just makes this place the BEST place to live. Many foreigners who live here stayed here after their first visit. They just fell in love with this place and people here. Almost every day I will hang out at Café Atitlan to do my homework, this place has the view of the lake and free Espresso with any other purchase. Sometime I will go back to the school to use the WIFI there.

On Thu, Fri and weekends, we will hang out at Buddha Bar, this place just became the meet up place for everyone. Every week we have farewell party for old students and we met new people here. The Pat Thai here is not bad, I didn’t have a chance to try the Malaysian Fried Rice though.

On the last weekend here, the school organized Canopy tour, it was a 150m and 400m long zip line with the view of the lake. We were standing at the back of the truck for more than an hour before we reach the peak of a mountain. They get us fasten with the hardness, helmet and glove. We first trek thru the jungle to reach the 150m line. It was a zip line that goes thru the jungle. A quick and short one! Noa was freaking out with her fear of height but she did it. We then head to the peak of the mountain for abseiling, it was from a 10m tower. The finale was the 400m zip line from one peak to another. It looks scary! We could view the lake while we were in the midway. I felt like I was flying above the canopy. It felt really amazing! Noa went tandem with the guide. :-)

It has come to an end at San Pedro, we have decided to leave finally. It was sad to leave this heavenly place. We said good bye to our family, friends and teaches in school. I would come back to this place if given another chance. :-)

Antigua – Umma Gumma I( - Q40 pp/pn in a 5 bed dormitory with shared hot shower, WIFI and communal kitchen
San Pedro La Laguna – Home stay US$60 pp/p 7 nights including 3 meals, private room with shared hot shower

Antigua to San Pedro La Laguna – Q60 for shutter ride
San Pedro La Laguna to Antigua – Q40 for shutter ride
San Pedro La Laguna to/back Chichi Market – Q50 for shutter ride
San Pedro La Laguna to San Marcus – Q20 for boat ride from Santiago dock
San Marcus to San Pedro La Laguna – Q15 for boat ride to Pana dock
San Pedro La Laguna to Santiago –Q20 for boat ride from Santiago dock (same for return)

Coffee Farm visit – Q30 pp excluding transfer
Indian Nose mountain trip – Q50 pp excluding transfer
Weeding Factory tour – Q30 pp including transfer
Canopy tour – Q120 pp including transfer

Friday, August 5, 2011

Flores and Lanquin, Guatemala 10-16 July 2011

Flores-Photo from Wikitravel
Flores and Tikal 10-13 July 2011

It felt good to be back in a Spanish speaking country. I seem to miss the language after spending 7 days in Belize. Dimitri and I have the same level of Spanish, so now we will have to team up to get the best out of our Spanish. :-)
In Guatemala the currency is Quetzales in short Q. US$1 = Q7.5 We took the collectivo from the border to Flores, it cost us Q30 per person. We didn’t expect to be squeeze like sardine in the little van with 4 in a row, some of them have to sits on some make shift stool. The conductor stood all the way at the door during the 3 hours ride. :-) Flores is an island in the lake Peten, connected to the mainland with a 100m crossway. The island is very small. We could go around in 20mins. Flores is a popular place to stay for people who wants to visit Tikal ruins. Tikal ruins is the ONE place that one should visit when in Guatemala. It is WILD, all the ruins are located in the 570 square kilometers Tikal National Park.

We checked into Los Amigos hostel for Q30 pp/pn about US$4.5, that is a big change from a US$15 per night in Belize. The hostel has a nice garden and restaurant with amazing breakfast and smoothies. When we arrived at the hostel, we met a guy who has a broken wrist; Brian, he slipped and fell in Tikal due to the rain and slippery floor. He was worried of what the doctor in the local hospital will do to his wrist the following day. With his limited Spanish, is even worst. As Dimitri is a Doctor to be, he offered to have a look at his X-ray to see if the operation is going to be a big deal or not. A guy who speaks Spanish went together with us to the hospital. I would also freak to see the condition of the hospital but it turn out that they did a great job after all. :-)

Dimitri only had 2 days in Flores so we had to visit Tikal the next day even thought the weather was shit. We left with the 5am shuttle in a heavy down pour. Arriving to Tikal with light drizzle, we opted for no tour guide as we both preferred to be away from the crowd. At the entrance we bought a map from a guy at the tourist information while he was holding a gun! This place is really unsafe? Tikal is surrounded by dense jungle, we saw plenty of animals while walking in the ruin’s compound. We saw grey fox, Coati, paca, spider monkey, keel billed toucan, laughing falcon, curassow and chachalaca. The ground was covered with algae and very slippery, after seeing what happen to Brian we were extremely careful.

We climbed up Templo IV which is the highest in Tikal, we were surprise by the view from the top. We had the view of the jungle canopy, mist from the jungle, 3 other temples peak, toucan flying off the canopy and the sound of howling monkeys. We sat there for pretty much an hour, just admiring the view and chill. We spent 6 hours to cover 80% of the area. After which my knee starts to hurt. It was really annoying! :-(
Dimitri left the next day to Belize. I was really sad, he was a great travel buddy and dive buddy. L I hung around for another day at Flores just to reorganize myself to travelling alone again. What I want to do? Where I want to go? How do I get there? Etc I find it hard every time I have to part with someone and restart the entire meet new traveler thing again. :-(

Lanquin 13-16 July 2011

I booked myself on a shuttle to Lanquin. Shuttle here is a private minivan that only takes tourist and go to a fixed destination. Usually there is no air condition. All our bags will be up at the roof top. The journey to Lanquin took forever, we left at 9am and we arrived at 6pm in the dark in the rain and freezing weather. I followed the group I met in the shutter to the same hostel called Zephyr Lodge. We were lucky that the driver help us to make a booking before we arrived. The other groups that arrive much later didn’t have a place to sleep. Our accommodation is Q25 PP/PN=US3.5 at the Loft, a queen size mattress on top of the bar/restaurant. They told us it is going to be noisy as there is party every night. Well at this point in time we had no choice as other hostels were fully booked. With the price that they are charging I guess I could live with it for a night! :-) Too tired to be bothered by the loud music, I slept like a baby.

The next day I woke up with the view of mountain, valley and river. The hostel is located at the edge of a hill top with breathtaking view. How can such beautiful place exist? I am in heaven? I could stay here longer if not because of the crazy party.  That afternoon I went tubing. Tubing is an activity in the river where you just sit in the giant tube and float down the river with the rapid. It was fun and relaxing. All the crazy Irish had a dozen of beers on the go. At night they crashed the hostel.

The highlight of this place is Semuc Champey. 10km off Lanquin. We hop on to the back of the truck and stood all the way on a bumpy and hill road. This place is known to be the most beautiful place in Guatemala. It has a series of turquoise pools that formed on top of a limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabòn River.  The bulk of the water went under the bridge of a series of turquoise pools. We climbed up to the El Mirador (view point) to capture the best view and spent the rest of the afternoon soaking in the pool.
I could not stay here another day longer with those crazy party and crazy Irish. Didn’t slept on the last night as the Irish bought some liquor and hide them in the dorm, they were going in and out of the dorm to fill up their drink. It was really annoying and disrespectful for those who are sleeping in the dorm. I took the 6am shuttle to Antigua the next day.

Flores – Hostel Los Amigos( – Q30 pp/pn in 10 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, Q40 pp/pn for 6 bed dormitory with private bathroom in the dormitory, WIFI available
Lanquin – Zephyr Lodge – Q12.50 pp/pn for a double mattress on top of the bar with shared bathroom. Q35 pp/pn in a 9 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, WIFI available

Belize border to Flores – Q30 pp by collective(to find the collectivo walk 5 minutes across the bridge after Guatemala border)
Tuk tuk from bus terminal to hostel – Q5 pp to anywhere in Flores
Hostel to/back Tikal – Q60 pp by shutter
Flores to Lanquin – Q140 by shutter
Hostel to/back Semuc Champey – Q60 by pickup (pay direct to driver)
Lanquin to Antigua – Q90 for shutter

Tikal Ruins- Q150 pp
Tubing – Q50 pp
Semuc Champey – Q20 pp