Indulging my wanderlust

Published: December 13th 2012
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natural hot springnatural hot springnatural hot spring

this one is specifically for back massage
6 hours bus ride and I finally arrived in the small town of Copan. To get through the boarder overland, we were asked by the shuttle driver to fill-up 2 custom papers. The declaration questions I find quite bizarre; I must declare about anything and everything I am bringing to Honduras with no exception to my personal belongings. Maybe it was just me or the alcohol still floating in my system from the night before in Antigua but I found myself repeating the declaration statements over and over again. In my head: how the heck do I answer this!? ... Anyways, confused and feeling like an idiot, I just declared the gifts I purchased in Guatemala and see how it goes.

To exit the Guatemalan boarder, I was asked to pay 10Q about roughly $1.40 US. There are guys loitering around the boarder with a stack of money in their hand ready to exhange anyone's quetzales or dollar to limperas with a promise of the best rate. I didn't hesitate, much more of the great rate I just needed to exchange my quetzales to limperas just in case I have a hard time finding a bank machine that works or a place who will exchange. 1Q is about 2.2 limperas. So I exchanged.

We were asked to walk over to the Honduras customs building. There I wasn't asked any questions but just to pay $3US (entry fee). So I did, hassle free. I got my stamp! I am officially entering Honduras.

What seemed like a stress-free ride to Honduras was later on shut down by this nauseating stench coming inside the shuttle. Literally nauseating, another traveller sitting behind me was puking his guts out while the shuttle is in motion. Good thing he sticks his head out of the window and vomits it all out although the undigested pieces of food clings on the side of the shuttle. Everyone in the shuttle was obviously pissed off but no one said a word. No remorse of sympathy.

We arrived at the destination, I was already looking for a tuk tuk (taxi) until I noticed, we were dropped off in front of my hotel. Sweet!

I stayed at Don Moises Hotel, I booked for 2 nights then eventually became 3 since my initial plan to go to San Salvador wont work if I had not stayed there for another day, there are only a few scheduled shuttles that transports people from Copan to San Salvador and its best to ask the person in the front desk so they can call ahead of time to find out the transfer schedules. Reservations and all, I was not on the list of people arriving to the hotel that day, but the son's owner Jose Luiz is awesome, he played it cool and said 'no problem! Your room will be upstairs in room 5'. So I dropped my pack, grabbed my camera and my day pack (with my Rough Guides book tucked inside). I asked Jose Luiz for any cafe places he would recommend. He pointed me to Cafe Welchez and another coffee spot that I dont remember the name.

Copan is a small town, easy to get around by foot (at least everything is walking distance) and if your lazy or simply feel the need to be treated like a star, there are always tuk tuks available to ride. Don Moises Hotel is only 2 blocks away from the centro. I walked to the coffee shop. Cafe Welchez is right at the corner of a busy intersection, it's hard to miss. With its white-washed building and big sign on top of the entrance, I went in. I ordered an cafe con leche- 20L(local Copan coffee beans of course) and a baldea- 50L(flour tortilla, with fried beans, cheese and sour cream served with pickle). The best coffee I've ever had in Central America! Baldea is another phenomenon in its own, it was so good that I scarfed it within 10 mins! It was only 10am and I have enough time to visit the Copan ruins, decision decision. Suddenly I felt the dire need to go back to my hotel because what I just had did not sit right. I payed and left as quickly as possible. I still did not get sick.

I like the tuk tuks in this town, they are colour coordinated and normally they park on a line by the centro which is hard to miss yet again. It is supposedly a touristy area because of Copan ruins but I don't see much tourists loitering around. The locals are so laid-back that they often hang around the centro people-watching. Food vendors don't normally come out until later in the afternoon. So much street food! I tried this miniature looking mango, green in colour, called kokote. Awesome fruit! They prepare it with some spicy spice and lime. Another street food I encountered was this beef taco? I'm not sure what it's called but oh man... amazing! Still, I did not get sick.

Through the course of my stay I have met both locals and travellers. I had a full-on cultural conversation with 19 year old Jose Luiz who is wiser than he looks and judging with his age, he is mature. Security guarding the entrance of banks carry a shotgun (I guess they want to make sure that if they shoot it's to kill, or maybe just to pose around so no one mess with them). There are men with massive machete standing in some corners, their job is to keep an eye on petty theives or any misdemeanor, they would call the police... now what is the purpose of the machete? Well, to make sure they use it to any aggressors they encounter... ooohh I'm sure they wont hesitate, besides who likes to keep their blades rusty?

I considered myself an explorer the moment I left the Yoga farm in lake Atitlan to face my fear and backpack on my own. So I pressed on for more conspicous information. I learned that there are a lot of rich drug dealers in Copan who strive hard to keep peace within the town. 6 months ago there was a band of bandits forming a gang of petty theivery, the drug lords took care of that, the scoundrels flee and some dissapeared (good opportunity to use my imagination). Another incident was not too long ago one of the rich drug lord's daughter is dying from some kidney disease so he hired someone to kidnap children in the town. The children were never to be heard of afterwards. Rumour has it that he would feed his daughter the children's kidneys so she would get better. It became such a nuisance to the town folks of Copan. Instead of reaching to the cops, they went straight to the other drug lords. Sure enough, they put their foot down and kidnapped the kidnapper and phoned the culprit as they gut the kidnapper. There were no more kidnappings; the daughter eventually died.

Ironic, when normal people feel they are in a dangerous place surrounded by drug dealers, I in the other
man on the phoneman on the phoneman on the phone

peering through the construction materials outside the church while the inside is being renovated
hand felt really safe! I know for a fact that if I play it smart, no harm will come to me. Tourists are one of the biggest assets in their economy, I'm sure as a tourist I am protected by the hidden eye of the drug lords. So I roamed the city with no worries. One night a dutch traveller and I decided to walk a canadian traveller back to her b&b after a night of drinking and live jazz music. It was quite far and out of the way. At 1am, the moon was out, lamp posts illuminate the dark streets, a bunch of men, a man with a machete, a drunk man, a family just walked pass us with a simple gesture of 'buen noche'. The only thing I find alarming were the barking and growling dogs caged inside the house. I was safe, no harm came to me.

Copan ruins is worth the trouble, i didn't think otherwise. The whole archeological site hold plenty of original artifacts and information that helped archeologists decipher the Mayan mystery. The place was excavated by the Japanese, Americans, Guatemalans, and more that I just can't remember. A guide is a must, but a good guide is a bonus. To get there, either take a tuk tuk for 20L or walk it for 10-15 min from the centro. It's a safe walk but its advisable to use the side road rather than the walking path as there may be kids on trees that can swiftly snatch your belongings, otherwise it's safe. Entrance fee to the ruins is 300L or $15US, another entrance to the tunnel is about the same (I did not bothered going, it's not a long tour), and the museum entrance is cheaper I forgot how much but they highly recommend to visit the musem. The entrance fee to the ruins includes an entrance fee to another archeological site about 10km from the Copan ruins. we took a tuk tuk to get there, we were charged 20L each, I bartered. we paid 15L each (for my Australian friend/traveller- I met during the tour). The residential area is covered in thick jungle, its quite an easy hike, and the whole ground can be covered within an hour. Just make sure to ask the tuk tuk driver to come back a certain time if you desire to take the tuk tuk

Floured tortilla with fried beans, cream and cheese served with pickles.
back to town. Copan ruins is big and with a good guide ($25 normally unless you emmerse yourself in a group and come up with a good deal per head- which I did. I paid 150L or $7US -it was a small group after all). I learned a lot about the Mayan civilization. I am slowly understanding the puzzle.

It all came down to relaxation in the end. My last day in Copan I joined the two American travelers to the natural hot spring offered in Copan. It's about an hour and a half drive from the town. we were at the back of a pick-up truck with home made metal rails and bars to hold the seats for comfort otherwise I stood up the whole way, I feel dangerous like that and I am enjoying every second of it. The ride was very scenic ranging from mountains to small houses alongside the road. Bumpy yet mostly paved. The natural hot springs really live up to the name. The sauna part was pure sulfur, and we all know what that means. It reek of egg! Otherwise it was a good relaxing moment. For a mere $20 for transport and entrance fee, it was definitely well worth it! I was sitting right in the middle of the jungle enjoying the hot spring on a cool day. What more can I ask for? Wonders of nature.

Last minute decision, the day before I leave Copan for San Salvador, I changed my mind. Suddenly, I dont have the drive to see San Salvador, I was more excited to explore Tikal (definitely Copan ruins had a lot to do with this!) So I booked the last minute shuttle. The next day I left. My journey to the northern most part of Guatemala begins.... (a gruelling 9 hours bus ride- I'm go!)

Additional photos below
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tuk tuk... tuk tuk...
tuk tuk...

on the way to Copan ruins
Cafe WelchezCafe Welchez
Cafe Welchez

so I came back the second time... it's that good
Cafe WelchezCafe Welchez
Cafe Welchez

The best coffee I've ever had in Central America
Cafe latte mochachinoCafe latte mochachino
Cafe latte mochachino

35L ... amazing! Must try!

13th December 2012

Hmmm...children's kidneys...
Interesting blog. Would love to travel Central America some time. The food and coffee look pretty decent, too. Have fun in El Salvador! Cheers, Jens

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