Tikal vs. Palenque

Tikal   Palenque   Comparison  

Eleven or so years ago, I visited Tikal, the "Heart of the Mayan World", during my first trip abroad ever. Recently, while passing through northern Guatemala, I thought I'd stop in and have an other look.

Tikal is dang impressive. The temples are big, the jungle is vast, and your chances of seeing a monkey flying through the canopy above are high (we saw both spider monkeys and howler monkeys, which make the most incredible, well, howls).

I had a great group of people to tromp around with which made it that much more fun. They let me act as tour guide, of sorts, and even humored me in letting me get a geocache*.

Yeah, walking around in the jungle with amazing ruins all around isn't a bad way to spend a day, even if I have "been there, done that" before. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I find myself back this way again before I die. Some things are just worth seeing again.

Friday March 26 2010File under: travel, Guatemala

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Bold Backpacker Balks at Border Bullies

BETHEL GUATEMALA — A backpacker frustrated with corruption at the border and being taken advantage of decided to make a stand today at the remote border crossing from Guatemala into Mexico. The fee at issue was very minor, only $5us, but it was principle, reports Wren Schultz, that made him refuse to pay.
   Many countries charge an exit fee upon leaving their borders. Some charge this fee only when leaving via airplane and some at all border crossings. When flying in and out of a country, the exit fee is often included in the price of the ticket.
   Just two days previous, Schultz, a self-styled traveler "in the know", paid $18.25us to cross from Belize into Guatemala. "In Belize, the price was clearly marked and they even gave me a receipt," Schultz reports. "The guys in Guatemala just whispered among themselves and made vague threats."
   Schultz reports that the rest of his busload of mostly backpackers unquestioningly paid the fee. "The border people

Across the border, after the attempted bullying and a 30 minute boat ride
claimed that their system was down, and that is why they couldn't scan our passports or even let us talk directly to the border agent," continued Schultz. When he asked for a receipt, or to see an official form proclaiming the fee, a series of first unofficials, then officials came out to hem and haw about why neither of these things existed, and what would happen if he didn't cough up the money.
   A similar $3us fee was requested at the entry point 2 days earlier, which Schultz paid, claiming he was caught off guard. But after thinking about it and hearing about other travelers' experiences, he was ready.

   In the end, he got his passport stamped along with everyone else. "I think I might have also seen the border agent give me a knowing you-caught-us-good-for-you smile," Schultz said, obviously pleased with himself. The threats of accumulating a ridiculous fee for when he next returns to Guatemala will likely be shown false if he ever decides to return.
   Schultz does admit that the border agents were just trying to make a buck and were actually very friendly about the whole thing.

Wednesday March 17 2010File under: travel, Guatemala

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