Tag Archives: guatemala

Day 3 – The Tikal

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The Tikal was so surreal. It’s so hard to believe that Mayans once walked in those jungles. The podiums that the Mayans used for sacrilege were still intact and in place. It was kind of eerie knowing that human beings used to select one of their peers to die on those but at the same time it was SO COOL. The podium was still covered in ash and even though I’ve never seen or experienced anything of the sort, it was so real that I could almost see it happening. My imagination was supplemented with scenes from the movie “The Road to El Dorado” even though it has nothing to do with Mayans or Guatemala. 

From zee journal:

6:30 am – breakfast in the car
7:30 am- arrive at the Tikal!
1:00 pm – lunch at Mundo Perdido Restaurant
2:30 – 11 pm – drive back to Guatemala City (butt pain, need to urinate, motion sickness)
8:20 pm – pit stop at sketchy gas station
11:30 pm – dinner at Casa de los Amigos (pollo plancha, bread, mashed potatos, steamed veg)

Tikal Sites Visited
Templo 1
Templo 2
Acropolis Norte 
Acropolis Central

Templo V
Plaza de los Siete Templos
Mundo Perdido
Acropolis Sur
Templo 3

Palacio de las Acanaladuras
Grupo G

Tikal Day! I’ve been waiting for this day to come! I love history and it’s a been a while since I last had a “history field trip” and the history nerd in me just really needed to be fueled again! Plus, it’s the freaking Tikal! There is no better place to travel back in time!

It was such a surreal experience. The thought that kept running through my mind was “I can’t believe I’m here.” Honestly, I never thought I would visit a place like this, knowing how unadventurous I am.

Everything was so breath-taking. Some of the architecture has been around since 4th century BC! Isn’t that crazy?! Some of the templos are super high and made entirely out of rock/stone that are of the perfect straight-edge shape. How did they build everything?! 

Steph and I tried to get to as many sites as possible. We went to most of the sites except for some around Templo VI and one of the palacios. All in all, I think we did pretty great at hitting as many templos as possible. Even though it was at the expense of our knees and legs.  there were a heck of a lot of stairs to climb! 

I can’t express in words how beautiful the park is. Tall jungle trees. Exotic bird calls. Monkeys. Coatimundis. 

The best view was from the top of templo IV. Steph and I were nearly crippled from walking up the 10 flights of narrow and tall steps that led to the top. Yenno what made it worst? My extreme fear of heights. The stairs were study enough but it was made from thin pieces of wood just nailed together and it made me nervous because a) there were 30 other people climbing on these at the same time b) I could see through the steps and look down at how high up I was. 

By the time I climbed the 3rd flight of stairs, I was shaking and sweating. Not from exhaustion but from trying hard to stay calm and telling my feet to keep going when all they wanted to do was turn around and go back to solid ground. 

In the end it was all worth it. The tip of templo IV rose above all the trees in the entire park. At the top, I could see templo I, templo II, and templo III just peaking through the tree cover. The view was absolutely gorgeous. 

Oh, back track. When we first arrived at the entrance of the park, one of the staff was selling maps to the park for 20Q. Once I opened the map, I saw A GIANT PICTURE of a jaguar. And I mean GIANT. The picture took up like a quarter of the map. I guess he noticed my slight anxiety attack  so he quickly explained that the jaguars are nocturnal and so we won’t see them around. Even after that, I could not rest. My heart was racing just from the thought of running into a jaguar. If it happens, there is no escaping. Jaguar > Connie. I’m terrified of ALL animals, so how in the world am I going to outrun or fight a jaguar?! I was so freaked out that I almost wanted to quit the trip all together. 

So glad that I didn’t let my fears get to me though. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life

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Day 2 – Flores and Rio Dulce

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For our rest days, we decided to visit the Tikal!!! Since it’s 8 hours away from Guatemala City (where we stayed at our hostel), we had to drive out to a city that’s closer to the Tikal to stay for one night. The city we stayed at is called Flores, which is the capital of Petén (a department of Guatemala) and it is located about 1.5 hours away from the Tikal. So we drove, for 8 butt-numbing hours, from the south-centerish region to northern Guatemala. 

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From my journal:

6:45 am: Breakfast
7:30 am: Left Guatemala City for Flores
11:00 am: Traffic jam/block because apparently there was a protest. Some of us got out of the car, walked past the block to a bridge that overlooked the Rio Dulce
1:00 pm – lunch at Jocelyn Restaurant, boat ride along Rio Dulce
3:00 pm – on the road again, butt-numbing 8 hour ride continues
7:00 pm – arrive at Saint Helena (?) for dinner at a mall complex
9:30 pm – arrive at Jaguar Inn

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Finally, this country-girl-at-heart gets to experience the real country side. Even though I’m tired, I want to keep my eyes open for as much of this road trip as possible. There is so much to see (and smell, ahah). I just know I’ll miss this place when I get back to Vancouver.

The rolling green hills seem to never end. Studded with old barns, it adds that rustic touch that I love so much about the country side. All along the road, there are clusters of tall and towering palm trees that can put LA’s palm trees to shame. At first, I thought that they were papaya trees since the coconuts had an orange skin, but that’s the unripe stage of a coconut!

This 5 hour road trip (so far) is actually making me feel so nostalgic. Guatemala smells just like China. It’s crazy how after 12 years, the thing I remember most about China is the smell.

***Couple hours later***

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We stopped for lunch at a restaurant along Rio Dulce. After that long car ride I was starved! It wouldn’t have taken so long if there wasn’t a protest happening at the other side of the bridge (This is a small detail that I will leave out when I tell les parents, they’ll freeeeak out). It was well worth the wait though because the restaurant and the view of the river was absolutely gorgeous! The restaurant was small and cozy with its straw roof and rustic wooden furniture. There is nothing like this in Vancouver, which is a city made of glass, polished mahogany and chrome metallics. 

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Lunch was going to take awhile to cook, so we took a boat ride to pass time. I love love love rivers/lakes/any water body. I like the way they make me feel. I love seeing ripples rise up in peaks then soften out again with every wave. I love feeling the breeze that blows off of the tide. There was so much activity on this river. Along the banks, women were washing their laundry on the rocks. Oh and we passed a bunch of cute homes which have me convinced to move here for retirement.

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Best part: Castillo de San Felipe. It was a little piece of history that stood unwavering over decades of  change. That’s why I find historical structures so fascinating, it provides a glimpse into the past. You can deduce how people used to live and how things were back then. (Danggit, should’ve been a history or anthropology major.)

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To have had this experience in an entirely different country with a bunch good spirited people was such a privilege. Two days ago, these people were just strangers, but now they’re more like family 🙂 I don’t think I’ll ever get over how lucky I am to have met them.

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Day 1 – Arrival In Guatemala

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Top (left to right): Isbelle, Stephanie, Julie, Me (duh), Na (our trip leader), Kay, Jamie, Yuki, Jessica, Vivian and Kyle
Bottom: Derrick and Amanda

Cheeseballs alert: The upcoming posts contain super cheesiness and extensive recounts of feelings which may resonate with some of you or cause total disgust. Reader discretion is advised. 

I’m still deciding how I should tell the story of my trip to you guys. I think the best way would be to copy what I wrote in my journal while I was on the trip and add some retrospective thoughts. Sooo… bear with me ok?! I’m not an eloquent writer 😦

***

Throughout the day, I saw everyone in the group (which I introduced to you at the start of this post) feverishly write at least once in their journals. Stephanie, one of my best friends who came with me on this trip, is an amazing writer and reader. Where I would read a couple pages of a book at a time, she inhales the entire story in one sitting and then craves for more. She, and others, wrote pages and pages which made me think: “Am I missing something here? What are they all writing about?! I don’t wanna be the only one with an empty journal!” So I waited and waited for “that moment” to come so that I could write about something. 

“That moment” happened to me on the flight from Dallas to Guatemala. It was 6:48pm, just after golden hour (my favourite time of the day). Normally at this time you wouldn’t see much of the sunset left, but since I was high up in the air, I got to see a whole new  angle of post-golden hour. Verdict: it was the most beautiful sunset ever. It was such a simple thing, but that it was all I wanted to write about because it made me feel. I can get lost in a view for hours just staring at its beauty. For others it may be cooking, writing, singing, composing, running and etc. For me, it’s scenery. I measure my experiences by what I see. 

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Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

February 16th – Day 1 

4:45 am – Wake up and breakfast with sis, bro and mom
5:15 am – Leave for airport
6:00 am – Arrive at YVR
11:00 am – Arrive in Dallas
8:00 pm ish – Arrive in Guatemala
8:30 pm ish – Arrive at hostel (Casa de los amigos)

This is it. This is the surreal and defining moment that I’ve been waiting for to begin my journal on what I hope will be a life-changing trip. 

It’s 6:48 pm Guatemala time and I’m witnessing my first ever non-Vancouver sunset. Unlike the sunsets back home that burn bright for a couple of minutes then sink behind the mountains, this one is lasting. 

All across the horizon, there is a blazing red. It’s like the sun set a ring of fire around the globe. Totally bad descriptions but I can’t explain how beautiful this sunset is right now. (Yep, I wrote that in my journal. I’m critical with myself even through writing.)

Bright crimson red meet the dark clouds in a straight line across the horizon and fades off into softer oranges and golds, all blanketed by the upcoming night.

I’m so excited to get to Guatemala. Never thought I’d do something this BIG, but here I am and I’m glad I chose to be here. 

***

Here are some photos from the first night at the hostel:

Though this place was a little run down, it was A LOT better than anything I expected. We had clean beds, bug free spaces (minus a few spider carcasses in the shower), lukewarm showers, DELICIOUS meals and the kindest hosts.

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