Guatemala to USA – Guatemala City to Houston, 25 September 2010

Last morning in Guatemala – there is an exit tax of about 3 USD. I didn’t get an exit stamp on my passport. Hopefully this is normal!

Since Houston is a hub and transit point for Continental, and I have some friends living in Houston, I decided to drop by for a visit. Camera died, though, so no real pictures from this.

Houston seems pretty spread out, with a small downtown. It also reminds me of the suburbs of Seattle, in that the malls are spaced out. As K was driving me around, I couldn’t really get a sense of the geography. But based on the informative drive, it is kinda divided into neighbourhoods, and he was living somewhat near the Asian neighbourhoods.

Seeing all of it fleetingly, what struck me the most was the number of Republic of Vietnam flags, and other statues dedicated to the regime. It seems as if this regime from 35 years ago (fell 1975) just imported itself into this part of the US, and settled there, living out the nation’s life in the territory of another. It was very interesting for me, since this is what I study, and this just made me want to study it more.

It was also museum day, so all museums were free, which resulted in crowds. Guess Singaporeans are not the only ones who go to museums when they are free! We ended up going for an exhibition on Central Asian mummies in the Museum of Natural Science. It was pretty fascinating, though baby mummies do creep me out (especially if they are blue in colour!)

On to the topic of food, K brought me to this deli where they serve beef brisket. I never had a liking for beef brisket done in Chinese style (well, Crystal Jade style), but I definitely loved the brisket done in this deli. We also had ribs, which was excellent. Thank you Rs for being such wonderful hosts! I enjoyed chilling out at their house, just watching silly movies like Sharktopus. (mutant animal movies just got better as the night went on)


Guatemala – Guatemala City, 24 September 2010

Can’t quite leave a city without visiting the old district, right?

In the late morning, I took a taxi from Zone Viva to the historic centre (think it cost about 50-60Q [~8 USD]). Alike many other cities, the most important buildings were built around Central Park with a fountain. Around it was the National Palace and the Cathedral. There was a shopping arcade, which felt like an Italian shopping arcade, and sold mostly jewelry. To the southwest of the Park, there was a pedestrian shopping street. To the West of the park was the National Library. And to the east of the Park behind the Cathedral was a local market.

After a quick survey of the imposing buildings around the Park, I headed to the market. The market was a pretty entertaining experience for me, as it gives me an idea of what is important to people, and I guess it also gives me some sense of cultural difference sometimes. First off, there was a lot of religious paraphernalia like candles, and other religious statues. This was almost like the street in Tinos that was leading up to the church. Another thing which I found amusing was how dry foods were sold – the dog food bag was beside the rice bag! Outside the market, there was also a little van selling Christian music by blaring it through a loudhailer.

After the walk in the market, I headed East, and walked down the pedestrian shopping street. Wasn’t particularly looking for anything, but I ended up in a building with really old arcade machine, and a guy who rocked in Dance Dance Revolution. I guess it just reminded me of the days I used to spend sitting in arcades and playing games, some ten to fifteen years ago. It did bring me on a journey back in time, where some of the machines were not in big arcade operators, but a few machines thrown together by an enterprising shopowner.

I am a little ashamed to say that I did not hop on to one of the chicken buses. It was somewhat terrifying!

Central Park

National Palace


Religious paraphernalia

Some music while shopping

Dog food and rice

Art Deco


Chicken Bus

Cool, cute building

Megatron Disco

Pedestrian shopping street

DDR maestro

The owner of the legs

Guatemala – Antigua to Guatemala City, 23 September 2010

Today, the main item on the agenda was to get from Antigua to Guatemala City for my flight out on 25 September.

Another instance of untrustworthy travel agencies, which left me standing in the central plaza, waiting for a minivan. I bought a ticket from one of the agencies at the central plaza (about 40-50Q, be sure to negotiate!) for a bus at a designated time. The minivan never showed up, and once again, no apologies were offered. In the end, I ended up on a minivan that was from a rival company. If you are ever getting tickets from any of the agencies south of the fountain, go for the one that is a little more to the east side. It was the one that was a little more to the west that was unreliable.

After arriving in Guatemala City in the late afternoon, I checked into Barcelo Hotel, which was in Zone Viva. After a bedbug scare in Playa Del Carmen, I decided to go with safe options that would definitely be clean, and avoid backpacker operations for this trip. Barcelo is pretty decent value for money. For about 60-80 USD, you can get a single room with a hearty breakfast thrown in. There are also plenty of facilities, including a pool, a well-equipped gym, and a futsal (!!!) court. They also offer free airport transfers both ways, and it is in the middle of the business district, and surrounding by 24-hr fastfoods, so starving or being out of money wouldn’t be one of your chief concerns. My room came with a balcony, a large array of bathroom amenities, and a pillow menu, too. I would highly recommend it for middle-of-the-road traveller.

Somewhat broke, I couldn’t afford the fare to the old district, so I simply walked around Zone Viva. It is pretty modern, with malls, and the requisite international chains like McD, and there are clubs around, but it didn’t appeal much to me. I tried some Mexican fastfood, and it was pretty offer. I think I have been spoilt by the real deal.

Large single room

Well-stocked toilet

Well-stocked room

Mall in Zone Viva, Guatemala City

Zone Viva

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)