macado's se asia adventure I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

2Jan/100

Exploring Flores and Tikal Guatemala

Woke up at 5am and took the bus to Tikal. Bus ride took about an hour. Spent about 5-6 hours exploring the ruins before heading back to Flores.

The weather was absolutely perfect for exploring the ruins this morning. It was overcast with a great little breeze. I climbed most of the ruins in a long sleeved shirt. Last time I explored Tikal the weather was absolutely brutal.

It´s definitely better to get the first bus to Tikal in the morning before it rains or the sun comes out. You also have a greater chance of seeing more wildlife. Today I saw a bunch of howler moneys, wild turkeys, an izote (coatamundi), and some tucans. Took a bunch of pictures of Tikal which I will upload when I get home.

Met another guy down here named Ted who is on holiday for about 3 months in Central America. He has lived in Korea for the last 15 years teaching English. He is also taking the bus to Guatemala City tonight. We finished walking around Flores today and took some pictures. This is a really awesome little place. You can walk around the entire island in about 15 minutes. Most of the bars and restaurants also have a great view of the lake.

Decided to cheap out and ate some delicious tacos at a street vendor in the park for 5 queztals (65 cents US each). Flores seems to be relatively expensive compared to the rest of Guatemala but still cheaper than Mexico. I imagine Antigua and Guatemala City might be the same.

At this point I am just killing time until the sleeper bus to Guatemala City leaves at 9:30pm tonight.

26Feb/070

Tikal, Guatemala

I am writing this from my phone so it will be messy until I edit it.  One of the hotels/hostels in Tikal has wireless internet access that I "borrowed" after I used one of their computers to log into the router and find the encryption key for their router which was unpassworded.  I guess they don't expect many Computer savy people to log into their router in the middle of the rainforest. 🙂  Although my phone is quite useless for making calls down there; it functions perfectly fine with a wireless internet connection meaning I now have free Internet. 

2nd day in Guatemala/Walking around Tikal park. I awoke at 5:00am in the morning by the sound of exotic bird calls and howler monkeys. Looking out my window the entire jungle canopy was covered in a misty fog that gave the morning a certain hallowed feel. I am really in the middle of the jungle. 

The park officially opens at 6AM but after quickly getting changed and making my way towards the entrace I entered approximately at 5:45am. Unlike other Mayan ruins I have visited in Mexico this park is deep in the jungle with ruins hidden under mounds of moss rising of above the forest canopy. Most of the temples and ruins are about a 20 minute walk apart though it seemed like a lot less. 

The morning is very cool and there is a nice breeze. I can only imagine making this walk under the hot Guatemala sun in the afternoon. From the beginning it seemed as I was the only one in the entire park. As I walked through jungle I could see spider and howler monkeys swinging from the trees and toucans, parrots ,and wood peckers sitting and flying high above the branches. It was an awesome expensive triumping my visit to Taman Negara in Malaysia. As I walked through the jungle to the Mayan ruins all I heard were the calls of birds and monkeys. It wasn't until about 2 hours into my walk that I actually saw another person, amazing.  The sounds of the jungle were eerie but at the same time relaxing.

Climbing some of temples gives an impressive view of the jungle below. Mayan temples shoot high above the jungle canopy.  It seems most of these ruins were hidden for centuries until parts of the jungle and moss on the stone structures were cleared away. Although it was too misty/foggy to see the sunrise the thick jungle fog itself was more than satisfying. It was still dark enough that it seems lots of the notural animals were still out making their rounds, invisible to me yet deeply camoflaged and hidden somewhere around me.

I spent the better part of the morning from 6:00AM to 11:30AM exploring the temples until the brutal sun finally burned off the rest of the fog and the park began to fill up with its usual amount of afternoon tourists (still only a fraction of people visit here compared to the ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum in Mexico)

Suprisingly I have noticed my limited Spanish abilities are being to improve. It seems the majority of the tourists here are from other Latin American countries and South American countries. The majority of the locals here certainly don't speak much English (not that I would expect them to) yet even though my Spanish is limited I find the locals extremely hospitable and friendly.    I have not once enountered the "in your face" selling that I got all over South East Asia and a little bit in Belize city.   Every local Guatemalan I have encountered seems to always have a smile on their face.

When I got back to the hotel in the afternoon I inquired at the front desk about the possibility of getting a bus ticket in the morning to Chetumal, Mexico (border town) all in broken Spanish.  Although the friendly girl at the front desk had trouble understanding what I was saying, I did eventually gather that the bus company they use was either full or not running.    This sort of presented a big problem since I sort of needed to be in Mexico ASAP.   I figured in desperation i'd need to get another minibus to Flores, fly back to Belize City then fly to Chetumal due to time constrants.  Turns out I was wrong, one of the hotel staff walked me to another hotel in the area and helped me sort out a bus ticket to Chetumal for 35USD which leaves at 5:00AM.   I guess I am in the a LONG LONG day tomorrow.  I had hoped that I could get a nice bus to Chetumal but apparently no such option exists which I guess is a good thing because apparently it could be dangerous at night.  I don't really mind taking a bus as long as I get there on time since it will save me approximately 180USD in the end.   Will report on the bus and my night in Mexico when I get back.

26Feb/070

Arriving in Guatemala

I guessed you could say I cheated and took the non-backpacker way out because I was too stretched for time. I took a puddle jumper flight on Tropic Air from Belize City to Flores, Guatemala which took approximately 45 minutes. The puddle jumper flew over the jungle and just occasionally Mayan ruins could be spotted towering above the jungle canopy.

The fun began before bordering the flight and when I arrived in Guatemala . Unfortunately I was unable to exchange in currency in Belize because exchange counter seemed to be closed on a Sunday. The bigger problem occurred when I got to Guatemala. Although the bank was open they do not exchange Belizean dollars (Guatemala apparently still has a grudge against belize) when I tried to use my ATM card I discovered that the only ATM I could find was out of cash. I was beginning to think I was in a bind until I realized that visa of course is accepted everywhere

Although the bank would not accept my 400 Belizean dollars (approx 200usd) they gladly gave me a cash advance on my visa for 1100 quetzals (approx 150usd) which is more than plenty for two days in Guatemala.

My other problem I ran into was that it being Sunday almost everything was closed so I had to take 40USD mini bus to Tikal from Flores which took approximately an hour and through beautiful Guatemala country side (the landscape reminds me of Cambodia with its numerous farms and lush landscape) the big difference being that Cambodians speak more English than it would appear Guatemalans do.

In the past day I have had more trouble traveling in Guatemala than all of South East Asia. My basic Spanish language abilities are being taxed to their max and utilized to their full limited extent.

Actually I am impressed. I managed to hail a taxi, negotiate a price, request a room for one peron for one night all in Spanish. That's pretty much all of my spanish language skills combined.

Although I thought my next big trip was going to be India I am starting to heavily lean towards backpacking more through Central America. The culture seems friendly. The countries are beautiful and it's reasonably cheap.

Unfortunately I got here too late to really explore any of the park/ruins so that is my plan tomorrow. That also means ill have to spend another night in Guatemala which is going to complicate getting to Mexico on a bus for my flight out. I had hoped to have at least one full day in Cozumel or Playa Del Carmen which at this point won't be possible unless I fly and then even then it seems I'd probably get there in the late afternoon. My flight leaves out of cancun on the 28th at 3pm and I am planning to leave Guatemala on the morning of the 27th if all goes well (which has to because I am due back at work)