Belize and Guatemala April 2009 travel blog

Chichicastenango

Panajachel


At least the fast drive the night before meant we arrived before midnight, so had some time or some sleep before our 8am departure for Chichicastenango. The market there is meant to be one of the highlights of a trip to Guatemala, so was a must do. It only happens Sundays and Thursdays - hence the rush to get there! The market was indeed huge. I feel a lot of it has developed out of the tourist trade - the part you get to first is certainly full of stalls selling mainly various textiles, which are beautiful, huge and relatively cheap (depending on your bargaining skills). It would be easy to buy lots of stuff you had no room for in your bags or use for at home! Still I did buy a hammock (and am determined in my garden re-modelling to have somewhere to hang it, so I can use it!) and it did take up a lot of space and increase the weight of my rucksack. We did, after some time manage to find the more local area of the market. There were less tourists there - it seemed they all preferred to stay on the tourist side rather than explore some of the local culture. There were loads of fruit and veg stalls, flower area, kitchenware and loads of places cooking food that looked really good - fried chicken and chips seemed to be an unexpected speciality! Tempting as it was to eat at one of these, we did opt to go back and eat in the tourist area, at a restaurant with a balcony overlooking the market. More expensive and touristy I know - but we wimped out opting for the safer on your stomach option! On the way back, we did have an interesting experience where our minibus broke down! Seemed he'd run out of petrol. Now why he didn't realise that in the 4.5 hours in Chichi, I have no idea. Anyway, he dropped all of us by the road side. Being the paranoid traveller I am, I grabbed our bags out of the bus and water before he went, which others ten wished had done the same (we had no idea how long he would be and were slightly paranoid he might not come back too quick!). Still it turned out we had no reason to worry, as it wasn't too long before he returned and all was well. Gave us time by the side of the road to try and get photos of elaborately decorated chicken buses (the local transport - converted old US school buses, avoided by tourists as renowned for you having your valuables stolen on them, but also renowned for transporting anything, including chickens) going by anyway! Our unexpected stop didn't leave us too much time when we got back to Panajachel, but we did have a wander around the town and down to Lake Atitlan. It's an OK town - a bit touristy. It has one main road in and out which is lined with plenty of tourist shops and restaurants so you have plenty to choose from. We found a nice Uruguayan steak restaurant that evening - very nice.



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