Antigua, Guatemala Felix Wong

Report from Day 1 in Guatemala:

I made it to Guatemala so can give you some first-hand impressions now. I got to the airport on time and was through customs and out of the airport pretty quickly. However, it turned out that on x-mas day almost no shuttles (collectivos) were running that I was counting on (usually there are supposed to be many). So I ended up taking a taxi from the airport to Antigua by myself.

The taxi wasn’t a bad deal, though. Normally, it’s supposed to cost something like $35 for a taxi ride, but due to some negotiation before getting in the car (with the assistance of a travel dude outside the airport whom I paid a $1 “commission” to), it cost $20.

Considering how dangerous I read the country is, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and how I felt so far. I feel quite comfortable here. Guatemala City really looked no worse than any other big Central American city I’ve been to, and not a far cry from, say, Oakland, CA for that matter.

Antigua feels especially low-key and safe with less people than I expected. I went to an indoor ATM at Bank of America Central (BAC) by Central Park that had an armed guard pacing inside; no chance of getting robbed in here.

After I got some cash, I bought some yummy street food including crunchy tacos made with beets and bread filled with chicken. A street was closed off by Central Park where a bunch of fireworks went off (they are still going off)—however, they were fireworks not in the air, but on the street.

The kids here also have a thing for throwing “mini-grenades” (marble-sized things that spark and sound like a bb-gun when you throw them on the ground), including right in front of the airport.

I am leaving here tomorrow morning to San AndrĂ©s Itzapa (30 kilometers west of Antigua; I mistakingly wrote earlier it was 30 miles south), but could imagine coming back to Antigua for New Year’s. We’ll see. It’s a nice town.

Update 8:00pm, same day: Ok, the fireworks are definitely in the air! They are still going strong and their “bang” continues to reverberate against the walls of my hotel room. I did go outside to take a look, and they seem to be north of the city. I can sort of see them but buildings block their view most of the time.

Word has it that firecrackers are totally unregulated here.

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Mountains (volcanoes?) beyond Antigua.In Parque Central in Antigua.Santa Claus was at Parque Central.A carriage pulled by a horse in central Antigua.Lots of motorbikes!The Naked Veggies Vegetarian Restaurant was right around the corner from my hotel.  Too bad it was closed; I would have loved to have tried it even though I eat meat sometimes.My hotel (Casa Cristina).  Notice that every residence and business has wrought iron window- and door-guards.La Iglesia de La Merced was right around the corner from my hotel, too.  Here I tried to jump into the shot after putting my camera on timer mode.La Merced.Lots of people (including myself) were eating food from venders outside La Merced.Lights and ground fireworks by El Arco, just north of Parque Central on x-mas day.

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