7. April (Saturday): We wake early, since we need to find a new
hotel to stay. The Holiday Inn is a tad too expensive. We also need a tourist office
to book our further travel within Guatemala. LP lists the official tourist office to be just a few
blocks away from the hotel so we check out of the hotel, deposit our bags at the porter
and set off on foot in search of the tourist office.
Most towns and cities in Guatemala have a nice way of naming
streets, they don't have names but rather numbers. In towns based upon a grid layout,
the roads in one direction are called 'Calles' and those perpendicular to them
'Avendidas'. So if you can count, you should be able to find your way around town. But
then Guatemala City has the added complexity of 'Zonas', it's divided into zones, each of
which has it's own street-numbering. Furthermore, there are some diagonal streets as
Well, to cut a long story short we didn't find the tourist office, it had
moved, and a travel agent gave us some information and an info-book about Guatemala which
was quite helpful, with lots of hotel addresses all over Guatemala. He said since today
was Saturday and also nearly Easter (Semana Santa), the only tourist office open would be
at the airport.
Our King Size bed in Hotel
Holiday Inn Guatemala City
Mayan selling coloured, flavoured ice shavings
We decide to walk to the airport and that was a bit of misjudgement, since it's quite a long walk. Luckily Guatemala City has a bit of elevation
(1000m) so it wasn't as burning hot as in Havana.
Reaching the airport we try to enter the
arrival hall but the security man wouldn't allow us saying it was reserved for arriving
passengers only! Annewien managed to convince him to get someone from the tourist office
to the door and when he was there we explained that we'd like to go to the town of
'Antigua Guatemala' tomorrow and we'd like to book a room there. He was off and booked us
one. He said we could take the shuttle bus from the airport tomorrow. He also booked us a
room in Guatemala City for the night.
We then took bus 83 from the airport into Guatemala
City to take a first look at the town and get a bite to eat. The bus was slow and it took
ages to get to the centre.
Ice cream man
at Easter procession carrying float
We walked around a bit and decided to eat in a local
restaurant which looked friendly. The food was ok and strange (I didn't really know what I
was eating) but service was good.
We then continued to Plaza Mayor, which is enormously
large, in the centre of the city and caught an Easter procession starting from the church there. The people were
carrying large floats on their shoulders with religious figures on them. A brass band with
a drum played extremely sombre music and they marched to it.
We hung around the plaza, having a
beer and looking at the short, funny
Guatemalan Mayas and the goings on (ice cream sellers ringing their bells, a man selling brightly coloured,
Afterwards, we decided to get our bags from the
Holiday Inn and check to the hotel which we booked. We waited at the main road at the place
where we expected a bus to arrive but no number 83 arrived. This was the first of a number
of length frustrating failures to catch this bus line. Eventually we took a taxi to Holiday
Inn and fetched our bags.
We tell the driver to continue to our other hotel and now he starts
saying how bad it is, it's in a bad part of town and he knows a much better hotel for much
less money. I should have known NEVER to trust a taxi driver who tries to recommend
something, but he said it so convincingly and looking at the area where our hotel would be,
we decided to go his way. He led us a bit out of town to two hotels. The first was full
and the second had a room without any windows for quite a steep price. Well, that's what
you get! I was quite mad at the guy and even more so at myself, since in my uncertainty I
hadn't asked him about the additional cost and he was now asking for a hefty supplement. I
don't accept this and we manage to agree on a lower fare.
We deposit our bags in the room and set out around the corner
to a small fast food restaurant. The place has a man with a shotgun guarding it. We have
some beers there and then return to our room.
By now it is dark.
As we turn the corner, I notice
a pickup with about 10 men carrying weapons taking the corner and stopping hard just in front
of us, cutting off our way. The men leap out and surround us!
They tell us to drop our bags and to put our hands in the
air. Seeing they are dressed like police, I'm not too nervous, but you never know
what mischief they're up to! They tell us to put our hands in the air and
they're all carrying shotguns. They start body-searching me for weapons and a policewoman does the same to
Annewien. They want to look in our bags but then soon notice that we're harmless
tourists and they let us go.
Annewien was quite shaken by this event and needed more than
one cigarette to calm down again.
Back at the hotel we buy a map of Guatemala and need to pay
the room in advance. The receptionist was the first Guatemalan I noticed saying the
typical 'ah-hah', which is uttered in a nasal, melodic (low-high) and humble manner and is a
universal substitute for 'yes' and 'ok'.
Our room is terrible! It's small, no windows, somehow grubby
if not really dirty. It's warm inside and I request the remote control for the air
conditioner. It's just on the takeoff lane of the airport and throughout the night I feel
that we were just going to have a Boeing land on our bed. Everything was vibrating!
was to be the worst hotel room of our entire trip, by far.