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

1 comment:

  1. Loved to read about your experiences. With all the good stuff I am reading about San Pedro and Cooperativa, how can I not go! With any luck I will be there next month for a month.