Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Feliz año nuevo!

To all our followers, Happy new year, Gelukkig nieuwjaar, 新年快樂 !

We spent the xmas and New Years holidays travelling between 3 places: Guatemala City, where we stayed with our friend Mario; Asunción Mita, where Mario's parents live - they were super welcoming by inviting us to spend xmas with them; and Antigua, where we spent the past few days including New Years eve.

These towns are very close to each other and yet extremely different from each other. Asunción Mita is a small town in the South of Guatemala, very close to the El Salvador border, where we met the Guatemalan Christmas tradition: stay up till midnight on 24th, countdown for Feliz Navidad, light up fireworks (Guatemala LOVES fireworks) and exchange the xmas gifts!

This is Kendy loving the xmas fireworks!  

Christmas between the palm trees.. strange feeling :)

This is where Guatemalans buy fireworks: hundreds of small shops next to busy streets. Very safe in sunny 25 degree winter weather. 

Then there is Guatemala City, or Guate, which was described by Lonely Planet as follows: "Depending on who you talk to, Guate is either big, dirty, dangerous and utterly forgettable or big, dirty, dangerous and fascinating".

Indeed, Guate is known for high crime rates, and a huge difference between poor and rich. The poor live in shelters or on the street, while the rich live in separated areas, guarded 24/7 and spend most of their free time in shopping malls - also high on security. The brand-new cars (all with 100% tinted windows) drive next to 20 year old cars hold together by duct tape, and even the book stores are guarded with shotgun carrying security personnel. Not really a city we would recommend to travelers but an interesting experience for us.

Guate from a viewing point on a mountain, overlooking the city and the volcano next to it

Then there is Antigua, a beautiful old town which used to be Guatemala's capital until several earthquakes destroyed many buildings in Antigua in the 18th century - which is when Guatemala City became the capital.

Present day, Antigua is a beautiful small Spanish-looking town, popular by tourists and very safe compared to Guatemala City. It's also a Unesco site, which is why the city is clean and preserves its historical buildings. The streets are made of old big stones, which gives you a foot massage if you walk on flip-flops :) The colorful streets, many good restaurants and coffee bars, numerous activities nearby and surrounded by 3 volcanos make Antigua a perfect tourist destination, and it was a great place to spend New Years eve!

Beautiful colors in front of the volcano

 Antigua's central square (left) 

Even they have to adjust to the color coding rules!

Sunset in between the volcanoes