Belize to Guatemala – Caye Caulker, Belize City, Flores, 18 September 2010

Another long journey today that involved moving from Caye Caulker to Flores, so it was boat and bus. That boat ticket was fairly simple – I showed up at the Belize Water Taxi stand, paid up, and boarded the water taxi (btw, if you buy it on the spot, it is cheaper by a little bit).

After arriving at the water taxi station in Belize City, I went to get a bus ticket. Central America really isn’t my territory; or perhaps I should do more research in the future. Seeing the sign “Fixed Price”, I stupidly didn’t negotiation, and paid the full price of about 13 USD for a ticket to Flores, Guatemala. I later learned that the price is actually negotiable.

With some time left, I just ventured out of the bus/water taxi station for a bit. Seems like those little shacks are typical of small businesses in Belize. Belize City seemed a little … scary. In the shops around town, it seems that the standard practice was to have a metal grille to separate the owner from the customers. Not a very comforting sight. Also spotted an Orioles fan! Saw even more Chinese, and made productive use of the rest of my time by writing and sending out postcards, given that the post office was just across the street. (the only batch of postcards from the Central America trip that arrived in their intended destination so far)

The journey to Flores, Guatemala was pretty uneventful. Along the way, I noticed even more grocery shops and supermarts that were run by Chinese. Seems like the Chinese have a monopoly of this! Also, I spotted a couple of Mormons cycling along the road. If someone gave me a quarter for every Mormon I spotted, I would have enough quarters for quite a few cycles of laundry!

Journey through the border was fairly easy-peasy, though it involved some costs. There is a departure tax of sorts for those leaving Belize, which was less than 10 USD, I think. After crossing the border, there was another surcharge of less than 5 USD for the Guatemala immigration.

Flores seems to be quite charming. It is on a lake, and the houses are of different rich colours like red and yellow. Very pleasing to the eyes!

I stayed at Hotel Casazul, which was highly rated on Tripadvisor. It was nice and big, and probably more appropriate for like 3 people than just me. But I would also suggest checking out its neighbors – they are cheaper, and have swimming pools. It was about 40 USD for a single.

Belize City, Empty at 8am

Belize Library

Chinese Supermart

First impression of Flores

Hotel Casazul – blue is the theme.


Belize – Caye Caulker, 17 September 2010

After a few days of long journeys, I decided to sleep in today. That’s what vacations are for, right?

At noon, I sauntered out of my guesthouse for lunch. Stopped at a pretty cool sports-themed bar, and had fish and chips. It faced the sea, and the very powerful sea breeze was toppling everything in the restaurant!

After lunch, the sweltering heat and the slow pace of life in Caye Caulker led me to a very cute pastel-coloured ice cream palour, where I enjoyed my frosty dessert. Following that, I simply went back to my room, sat in my balcony, and read, looking up every once in a while to enjoy the placid blue waters.

After a few hours of reading, the tummy rumbled again, so I headed out for dinner. First, I headed for the bar at the split, which looked pretty awesome and fun, but did not serve food. I ended up having a lobster pasta at another restaurant, which was pretty decent value for money. I debated the merits of going for trivia night, but in the end, the mind was willing, but the body had other ideas, so I headed back to my guest room, but not before grabbing a beer from the local grocery for a sampling.

Some interesting notes:

1. All the grocers are Chinese!

2. There is a bar that’s on the third floor, and has swings for seats. Pity it was empty. Was told it used to be an excellent reggae bar!

Creative Beauty Salon in a Cute Hut

Sports Bar with an Awesome Sea Breeze

Go Slow

The Split; there’s a sunken bar a little to the left

Lighthouse Lager – pretty nice and light! (about 4%)

Mexico to Belize – Playa Del Carmen, Chetumal, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, 16 September 2010

Twas a long travel day, from Playa Del Carmen to Chemtumal to San Pedro, finally ending in Caye Caulker.

I started out on a bus from Playa Del Carmen, at the bus station near 5th Ave North, thinking I had the bus timetable down pat. But it turns out that I got it confused with the other bus station that was a little further up. It was a little too late for me to walk to the other bus station, so I just waited around, and took a second class bus from this bus station to Chetumal.

After a five hour bus journey, I arrived in Chetumal. I guess in the future, I really should do more research. I bought my boat tickets from Chetumal to Caye Caulker from the bus station, but when I got to the water taxi jetty, I realized I paid a few bucks too much for the San Pedro water taxi. It was quite a sight, as the shops looked more like make-shift shanties (think it was closer to 20 usd if you got one at the little shack itself). Oh well…

Little shack that sells tickets

With an hour before the water taxi departs, I decided to walk around Chetumal. There were remnants of the Grito celebrations in Chetumal. Somewhat hungry, and peso-poor, thankfully, I did manage to have a delicious oregano and cheese pizza at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

Chetumal Governor Palace

The boat ride was a little surprising. I was expecting it to be fancier, but thankfully, it was not too choppy, and I avoided a land border crossing.

Arriving at San Pedro, I had another classic visa encounter. When I was in Iran last year, the customs don’t deal with Singaporean passports very often, so they actually had to flip a booklet to try and figure out what to do with my passport. At the tiny counter at San Pedro Town, Belize that was “immigration”, the lady at the counter had to call some other authority to figure out if I was allowed into Belize (yes! Singapore passports don’t need visas!).

“Immigration” in Belize

More waiting in San Pedro Town for the next water taxi, there were some serendipitous encounters. Right outside the water taxi jetty, I saw many little kids throwing baseball with each other. And the TV was showing Sleepless in Seattle. This is the first time I am watching this, since I moved to Seattle. Someday I might watch the whole film.

Kids playing baseball in San Pedro Town, Belize

I arrived at Caye Caulker after dark. It really reminds me of Havelock Island, India, though it is much smaller. It has a laidback charm, and there are many seafood bbq joints along the road. There are also no proper roads on the island, just beach paths, and one of the more common modes of transportation are golf carts. The buildings on the island are also mainly made of wood, remind me of kampong houses, but are painted in beautiful pastel colours.

My chicken on the BBQ!

One downside? Accommodation was pretty pricey. I stayed at Blue Wave Guest House, in a private room for 60 USD. It had a nice little balcony that looked out to the sea.

View from Blue Wave Guesthouse

Upcoming: Mexico-Belize-Guatemala, 11-25 September 2010

Tentative Itinerary:

11 September 2010: Cancun

12 September 2010: Cancun – Chichen Itza – Cancun (bus)

13 September 2010: Cancun

14 September 2010: Cancun – Playa Del Carmen (bus)

15 September 2010: Playa Del Carmen – Tulum – Playa Del Carmen (bus)

16 September 2010: Playa Del Carmen – Chetzumal – San Pedro Town (bus, ferry)

17 September 2010: San Pedro Town – Caye Caulker (ferry)

18 September 2010: Caye Caulker – Belize City – Flores (ferry, bus)

19 September 2010: Fores – Tikal – Flores (bus)

20 September 2010: Flores – Guatemala City  – Antigua (bus)

21 September 2010: Antigua

22 September 2010: Antigua

23 September 2010: Antigua – Guatemala City (shuttle)

24 September: Guatemala City

25 September: Guatemala City – Houston (plane)