Suitcase and World: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Semana Santa Processions. San Felipe de Jesús

On our way to dinner tonight, we saw procession heading towards us from the direction of Parque Central. What's more important, dinner or doing that once-in-a-lifetime thing of watching an amazing event unfold before your very eyes. Yeah, it was a no brainer decision. We hung around for the procession.  This was just the second one we had seen a procession since our arrival into town so every second of it was exciting to watch.

Semana Santa Processions. Children's Procession.

Today, it was the kids turn to showcase their devotion to Christ.

It all started earlier in the day when the boys and I were visiting La Merced. As we entered the church courtyard, we heard the shouts and pitter patter of a lot feet. We had no idea what was going on until we asked a woman who, in very good English, explained to us that the children were at the church to pick up their badges to march in the procession.

Horseback Riding with Mark and Mo.

After throwing myself off a cliff this morning, I decided to end the day by doing something a little less life threatening. I went horseback riding with my brother and Mo.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3 Men & 2 Tubs

While I was busy flinging myself off a cliff paragliding, the guys went fishing. Both Soon and Valiant took photos and videos of their time on the water so I decided, for fun, to compile them and tell a tale of their time on the water.  Someone has to preserve the memories :-)

Come fly with me!

So excited when I woke up this morning. Yesterday, Maria had Sue arrange for us to go paragliding. I've not done this since my trip to Turkey and I was very much looking forward to doing it again. Maria had never been and was absolutely terrified....not surprising considering she's afraid of heights. I understand the need to do things outside one's comfort zone and tried to help calm her down.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cruisin' around the lake.

The landscape around Lake Atitlán is dominated by three volcanoes.  On the right is Volcan San Pedro.  On the left are two volcanoes - Volcan Tolimán in the foreground and Volcan Atitlán slightly obscured in the background.

Today we left Pana to visit several of the villages located alongside Lake Atitlán - Santiago Atitlán, San Pedro La Laguna and San Juan de La Laguna . The only way to reach the villages is via boat so we started out this morning headed towards the boat docks.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How NOT to make a tortilla.

Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don't.

In my case, the time that didn't made for a few good laughs. :-)

On our first night in Pana, we had dinner at what I would describe as a Guatemalan restaurant aimed at tourists though this one was run by a family who's patriach was very entertaing. He kicked off our dinner with a bit of history about the Mayans and in particular, the Mayans in the area around Lake Atitlán.

I don't know how he got on to the topic of making tortillas but he did and he ended his tale with an offer to learn how to make one. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity :-)

Chillaxin' in Panajachel.

Calle Santander, Pana's main street, lined with commercial establishments targeted at tourists including yours truly :-)

We arrived into Panajachel ("Pah-nah-hah-shell") from Antigua via a short drive from Chichicastenango.

The town is nicknamed Gringotenango ("place of the gringo") by some, in reference to the number of tourists who visit and the foreigners who choose to live in Panajachel, but most people call it "Pana" for short.

Chichicastenango, my kind of Mayan town!

It's dusty, dirty, noisy and absolutely packed with locals selling their wares but Chichi as it's simply called is the type of place that I absolutely love to be sucked into. It's full of local color, interesting people going about their daily business and enticing smells of cooked food wafting through the air.

Chichi is well known for its Saturday market where indigenous Mayans hawk their wares.  Translated, that means it's the mecca for shopping for Guatemalan handicrafts and where we would see the largest concentration of indigeous Mayan people.  Handicrafts I was certain I could get in any Guatemalan town though I had already planned on starting my shopping sojourn here.  I had in mind the colorful wood masks that I had seen in Antigua. 

We had a two hour stopover in Chichi today, on our way from Antigua to Panajachel.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Killing time in Flores.

If there was eve such a thing as a sleepy little town, on an island in the middle of a lake, Flores would be it. It's a s-l-e-e-p-y place.  I think we walked every street on the island and there were few people out and about.

After spending the morning touring Tikal, we had about 6 hours to kill before we had to get to the bus station in nearby Santa Elena to catch the bus back to Guatemala City.

Tikal. Part 2.

After my brother and Soon scaled down from Temple II, the gang headed off to the next site - Temple V.

We followed Aquilino, back along the stone paved causeways that link various parts of Tikal.  Quite amazing how the Mayans built what is essentially a system of roads to interconnect the sections of this ancient city.

Tikal. Part 1.

Tikal!! Today, I will finally get to visit one of the great archeological treasures of the ancient Mayan civilization.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The long ride to Flores.

Before we left for Guatemala, I had booked a tour to Tikal for the four of us through a local company called Turansa. 

Last night, someone from Turansa stopped by the hotel and dropped off our vouchers and tour itinerary for us.

According to the schedule, a driver would be by our hotel to pick us up at 7:30am. So, to make sure we got up in time, we set our alarms for 6:30am.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

As night falls in Antigua.

Iwas  laying on my bed in the hotel room, completely exhausted from a long day travel and walking about the town. The sun was starting to set and thoughts of dinner came to mind.  According to the hotel receptionist, walking outside after dark is not advisable so we were all thinking we should head out to grab a bite before the sun set. But, I was way too tired to go out and my brother was napping in the room.

Antigua. A first look.

Me standing in front of Parque Central. 
Bellies full from a big lunch, we hit the streets – walking towards Parque Central which is ringed by buildings on three sides and by the beautiful Catedral de San José on the fourth. Most of the buildings housed banks and commercial establishments.  With the buildings all draped with purple banners, it seemed appropriate for the trees in the park to also be awashed in purple.  The purple blooms of the jacaranda trees added just the right touch.

First things first, lunch!!

We've settled into our rooms (spartan but comfortable) and gotten a street map. With a restaurant recommendation from the hotel receptionist, we hit the streets in search of lunch.

As we walked towards the restaurant, we passed under Arco Santa Catalina. The brightly colored archway is a symbol of this little town – you see it just about every write up there is on Antigua.

Guatemala, here we come!

When I fall asleep tonight, it will be in Guatemala!!

The SuperShuttle arrived bright and early at my house this morning – 3:30am to be exact.

By the time I arrived at Reagan National Airport, it was around 4:30am. Soon and his brother, Valiant, had already arrived and checked in. Before the van pulled up at the terminal, Soon had already text me to warn me that the check-in line was VERY LONG. Luckily, the flight didn’t leave until 6:15am so I had plenty of time.

Sure enough, the line was a mile long but was able to use express check-in and bypass the line. Got my backpack checked in and then met up with Soon and his brother to go through the security check which we all breezed through.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Now.....that's a wad of cash!

Since Soon and I have convenient access to a Credit Union that dispenses currencies from around the world, we took it upon ourselves to order the Guatemala quetzales (GTQ) for this trip.

We place our initial order with the Credit Union several weeks back. Late last week, Soon asked me if I had received any notification that our currency had arrived. I hadn't heard any word so we decided to go ask in person. The teller told us that our order had arrived a while back, that someone had called us and when they had not heard from us, they took the currency back. So, we had no choice but to place a second order. Each of s put in a purchase order for the equivalent of USD300 in Guatemalan quetzales.