BootsnAll Travel Network



Waiting it out: Quetzaltenang (Xela)

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I kind of had to do some strategic planning as I was reaching my last country of Mexico, but more importantly the holiday season of Semana Santa was quickly approaching. Semana Santa is a cumulation of events and activities which lead up to what is our Easter Sunday. Here in Latin America Semana Santa ranks up there with Christmas as much of the countries residents take the week off to either go home for the week, prepare for the week long celebrations at home, or to go off on a less traditional vacation to the beach, mountains, or vacation spot of their choice. What that meant for me was partially some activities to see, but more importantly a log jam on the transportation and lodging scene. In Guatemala, Guatemala city and Antigua are the two main points of interest and people worldwide plan a year in advance to partake in the week long celebrations. As I had already done those two locations I figured that the best plan of attack would be to pick a somewhat outlying town not so much on the tourist trail, but large enough to have some events that would be interesting to watch.

Xela is considered a good mix with it being a moderately large town, there is no mass tourism but the town itself has a somewhat draw in that it is unique in that for a time the Germans infiltrated the town and built a central park which is more European Colonial than Central American. Xela also became known as a spanish language school center with students who are fairly serious about learning as well as doing more local integration type projects.

My first couple of days I did not click with it. I had a little bit more than a week before Easter but I was fine with dropping anchor for a while and taking a break before my final push through Mexico. Right off the bat it was kind of a hassle as the but station is pretty far from the town center and I had to walk quite a distance through the hectic market area just to get to where the local mini buses were located that would take you into the center of town. Fortunately a guy who was on the main bus I was on asked if I wanted to follow him as he was also headed into town. In town minibuses are kind of a pain especially when you are carrying your pack but without another viable option I had to do it. After a scrunched drive I got off in the central park area. It looked pleasant enough and seemed like a nice chill place. My next priority was getting a room. As I was going to be staying for a while I definitely wanted a place with a tv and a hot shower. What I learned walking around was that all the little places around the town center had been converted to these spanish schools/guesthouses. Every single one I looked at while doing my snail shell circle around the park area were the same thing. They were okay places, but they catered to the cheap backpacker who just wanted basic rooms or dorms. I wanted comfort and I just couldn´t find a thing. Hours later I found a little place on the top of a strip mall. It probably was a decent place at one time but it looked like the owners just didn´t give a shit and let it go to hell. It was dark and dingy and somewhat sketchy looking but in reality it was an okay place to stay. There were no outsided windows to give any natural light so walking through the halls and even my room was pitch black without some other light source. The room that had a tv didn´t have a key as they couldn´t find it but it was a nice family who promised that no one was able to walk around without them seeing them, so I gave it a try. Another issue I had was that the central park area was dead. Usually central parks are the main hub of activity for cities but for some reason although beautiful and neat, there weren´t that many people around. Food was also a problem as the usual food stall that usual circle the park in the evenings were non existent. It also was plagued by the darkness disappearance of people where as soon as the sun goes down everybody disappears and all business are closed and locked up. My last big problem was that the way the central area was designed most roads are all one way single lane roads with maybe one to two foot sidewalks on either side. Just walking around was a hazard as you were rubbing elbows/sideview mirrors just walking down the street. I just didn´t have a good vibe about the place and now was worried at what I was going to do.

Fortunately, on one of my neighborhood strolls I headed up hill to see if there was anything else to see in the town. A couple of kilometers up the hill I ran into the busy market area and where another park was. This was the hub of the town and which was crammed with activity. I was much more interested in this area and found a hotel that was fairly nice right on the edge of the busy market. It fit all my requirements so I packed my stuff and moved over. What a huge difference that made. Things are open all the time, there is stuff going on, things to see, and as I was more comfortable at where I was at it gave me time to explore the city.

Xela once you get away from the central park area is very interesting. There are two very busy markets one in the area I am at and also one by the main bus terminal. The markets are also almost strictly run by the very colorful clothed ladies from the highlands but are much bigger. There are less visited but just as colonial looking areas dotted throughout the town. I found the modern shopping mall areas and got to be civilized for a few hours. Food options are everywhere with excellent almuerzos and cenas as well as my favorite italian restaurant right across from the hotel. Internet is the cheapest that I have seen averaging around $.30 an hour. And to top it off I have a pretty good assortment of English tv channels.

My original plan was to take a break for a few days and head on down to the Pacific side beach at Champerico, I started to read about how busy the beach resort places had been getting and figured it wouldn´t be worth the hassle for only a few days and I would be spending some quality time there in Mexico anyway.

So for now I am just sitting in Xela with a few activities during the first part of the week with the major processions being thursday through Sunday.

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I found this little cafeteria warehouse where a bunch of mamas set up there little food stalls. Great local food for 15Q / $1.85US.

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The Central Park European gothic buildings.

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Yea, Mcdonald´s.

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Yup, they have volcanoes overlooking the park as well.

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Amazing diet food. Watermelon, pineapple, mangoes, papaya,and strawberries, covered in honey. Wow. Usually I don´t find watermelon and papaya sweet enough to be considered a dessert food, but add honey and they are excellent. Highly recommended. 5Q.

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This and the following pictures are of a parade that went past the hotel (nice having a balcony). The lady at reception told me it was put on by the local University students. From what I can tell it was sort of geared towards crime/criminals, police, government, and all the corruption that it entails. They staged little skits where half of them were in criminal outfits and the other half were in police outfits. The police would come and arrest all the criminals, then the criminals would slip someone some money and they would all be let loose. The funner things they did would pull people out of the crowd and make them jump rope, grab girls and make them salsa with them, hand out condoms, ask for donations, and basically have a good time.
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One response to “Waiting it out: Quetzaltenang (Xela)”

  1. jim says:

    Steve, do you by any chance have the phone or mobile number of the minsk mechanic in Phonsavan, Laos? Thanks. if u can reply to my address above or to

    dynamorph@yahoo.com

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