Thursday, April 10, 2008

Guatemala and Belize Itinerary

HKG -> LAX, stopover for 16 hours, LAX -> Belize City (BZE)

9.3.08 (Flores)
Arrived BZE in the morning. Took local bus to Benque Viejo del Carmen and then taxi to the border. Entered Guatemala. Shared a van with some foreigners and went to Flores. Joined a sunrise tour to Tikal.

10.3.08 (Bus)
TIkal sunrise tour departed at 3.00 a.m. Walked up to Temple IV under the dark. Rained rained and could not see sunrise of course. Left Tikal at 11:00 a.m. and returned to Flores. Rent a car in the afternoon to Yaxha. Stayed there till 6:00 p.m. and watched sunset after heavy rain there. Night bus to Guatemala City (advised by many ppl, don't take night bus in Guatemala except this one).

11.3.08 (Antigua)
Bus arrived at 6:00 a.m. Changed shuttle to Antigua. Plenty of guesthouse in this old colonial town. Relaxed atmosphere. Looked for guesthouse and arranged local tours occupied whole morning. City tour in the afternoon.

12.3.08 (Antigua)
Cont' city tour and went up to Cerro de la Cruz with a good view over the town (warned by LP, this was a hot spot of robbery and mugging in the past. you may ask the tourist police to accompany you. i saw some foreigners did but i dunno how to arrange). I joined a local tour (departed at 2:00 p.m.) to Volcan Pacaya in the afternoon. Hiked for 2 hrs to see the lava flow. Hot but great! Returned to town at around 9:00 p.m. Most of the restaurants have closed already

13.3.08 (Thu) (Antigua)
Took tourist shuttle bus to Chichicastenango (Thursday and Sunday Market). Should go on Sunday as more religious activities. Very disappointed. A tourist oriented rather than authentic market. If u look for authentic market, Solola at Lago de Atitlan may be a good choice.

14.3.08 (Antigua)
Bought a transport package to Lago de Atitlan. You may go to Panajachel after Chichi market. Then took the tourist boat at Lago de Atitlan (departure time 8:30 a.m.). We took same boat which would stop at 3 villages including San Pedro, Santiago and San Antonio. If you have time, stay in one of the villages and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. My friend told me it was very cheap also. The day I went was cloudy and affected my impression of Lago de Atitlan. It should be one of the most beautiful volcanoe lakes in the world.

15.3.08 (Antigua)
Took tourist shuttle bus to Monterrico. Had a paddle boat trip in the mangrove area. Visited turtle sanctuary there and enjoyed black sand beach.

16.3.08 (Antigua) (Sun)
Day of procession. A couple of days before Good Friday. Now it was Semana Santa (Easter Week). Though I can't stay till Sunday, I can still enjoy the rich religous atmosphere. Hundreds of ppl in deep purple robes, revered church sculptures, clouds of incense, cobble streets covered with colored sawdust and flower petals. I saw processions in both Antigua and Guatemala City. Morning in Antgua and afternoon in Guatemala City. Beware of your wallets.

17.3.08 (Coban)
Joined a 3d2n tour to Semuc Champey. First took 5 hours bus to Coban. Visited Biotopo del Quetzal in the afternoon. I saw Quetzal (national bird of Guate) in the exhibition hall . However, the cloudy forest air is fresh. Coban is just a small town and not many restaurants.

18.3.08 (Coban)
The view of Semuc Champey is great. Many turquoise lagoons form natural swimming pools. I had a great time in the pools also after tiresome climb to the mirador. Visited Grutas de Lanquin. I think Guilin stalactites caves are much better.

19.3.08 (Flores)
5 hours bus to Flores. Returned to the same guesthouse as we first arrived Flores. However, the room price increased by 40% because of Easter. City tour in this tiny town.

20.3.08 (Belize City)
Early morning bus to BZE. Heavy rain at the border. Took chicken bus to the capital of Belize -- Belmopan (perhaps smallest capital in the world), just a few blocks government buildings.

21.3.08 (Belize City) (Good Friday)
Dead city. All shops were closed, so did public transport. Rented a taxi to Altun Ha. Very expensive of course. Altun Ha is a tiny Mayan site. Returned to BZE in the afternoon. City tour in the dead city. Only Chinese ppl shops were open.

Safety of BZE is not good. Don't walk after dark esp near the local bus station (though we did). Many many Chinese in BZE. You can't imagine so many chinese restaurants there.

22.3.08 (LAX airport)
Rented the same taxi to Belize zoo. Many exotic animals there. National cycling race and many roads were blocked. Went to airport 5 hours before because of road block. Left BZE in the evening. BZE -> LAX. Slept in LAX airport.


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