The Otium

[remodeling soon!]

Exploring Tikal

My golden rule of travel is No Tours.  I like being independent and making my own arrangements.  I like guiding myself through an attraction at my own pace, with the freedom to dwell on something that captivates me, or to jet when I’m bored.  The S.O. likes hiring our own car, which gives us even more freedom to explore where we want, when we want.

But we made an exception to our no-tour rule for our day trip to Tikal — mainly because we would have been crossing the Belize-Guatemala border in a rental car, which we didn’t want to fuss over.

And at the end of the day, we were both so surprisingly happy with the tour — our local guide gave us so much insight about Tikal and life in rural Guatemala, which we never would have learned on our own.  Scroll through for some shots around Tikal National Park and some Tikal travel tips.

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Temple IV is the only climbable temple on the site:

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Visiting the Jungle Towns of Belize & Guatemala

San Ignacio and Santa Elena, Belize, are on opposite sides of a river and are connected by a narrow wooden bridge.  San Igancio has a more developed downtown with tourist facilities:

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While Santa Elena, on the south side of the river, is a little more rustic.  The main route through Santa Elena is lined with small shacks (or sometimes, just tents or lean-tos) where a family makes their living by selling tacos or grilled chicken.

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Grubbing on Caye Caulker

The Belizean Cayes have three seasons:  summer, conch, and lobster.  Conch runs from around October through May; lobster, mid-June through February; and summer, all the time.

Just our luck, we were in Caye Caulker early June — the only time of year when nothing is in season.  But we still ate well on Caye Caulker, finding caught-that-morning fish, juicy grilled chicken, and delightful snacks from bicycle vendors.  In Caye Caulker, dining is not for the sunscreen-slathered tourist, but is rather a peek behind the curtain into the everyday lives of those who’ve never called anywhere but the Caye home.

Upon disembarking from the water taxi, we picked up these plantain chips from a vendor at the dock.  Light and crisp, drizzled in a tart mango-habanero sauce.

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Chinese immigrants have made their mark on Belize, and have Caribbeanized their food for the local palate.  China Town Palace Restaurant’s fried rice has a touch of spice and curry, and is best accompanied by Belize’s famed Marie Sharp’s habanero hot sauce.

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