Guatemala Part VII: Guatemala City


Pretty kitty!

When I checked into the hotel in Coban I thought travelling to Antigua the next day was going to be simple. I thought I was going to get on a shuttle that would show up in the morning and I would get to Antigua in the early afternoon and everything would be great. This did not happen.

When I got a shuttle ticket the dude at the front counter told me to be ready for the shuttle by 1030, so I was down in the lobby at 1020 having spent the morning reading the news. I waited around because the shuttle might be there as late as 1100, I was warned. At like 1105 it hadn’t come so the dude was calling and at 1115 he led me out front where I was picked up… by a pickup truck. Apparently, we were going to go meet the shuttle elsewhere. He drove me around Coban where I was somewhat disappointed to discover a McDonald’s. Then I was more disappointed to discover we were going to the McDonald’s. I had figured out that this shuttle was coming from elsewhere and so was stopping at McDonald’s for lunch. This was all very disappointing to me. I should have gotten lunch but I didn’t come to Guatemala to eat McDonald’s. The bus showed up and I couldn’t really get on right away because everyone left the bus and I didn’t know what seats were free. It was supposed to be a 15-minute stop (it showed at 1135) but it turned into more like half an hour. I was annoyed because I knew I was going to be hungry, I was next to a McDonald’s, and I thought this shuttle would be fine because I thought it was leaving at 1030, not noon.

Eventually I got on the bus when some other people got on, selecting a seat that appeared empty. It wasn’t. The girl who had been sitting in the seat got on, but didn’t tell me, and instead wandered around confused for a bit until someone else told me. I knew it was her seat at this point but I didn’t care. But then I got up (why should she actually be able to claim it?) and we futzed figuring out where to put me until I wound up… in the jump seat right next to the girl. I was annoyed by the whole thing man but we were on our way. I regret taking the shuttle. There was the thing where it was late but mostly, I don’t like being around the other tourists. I hate saying this, because every tourist complains about tourists and if you’re going to go do touristy things then by definition anywhere you go there are tourists because you are there. But what I don’t understand about this brand of tourist is why they wear shorts. You never see the Guatemalans wearing shorts. Why do they feel the need to? It’s hot? Grow up, it’s not that hot, and if it is too hot for you don’t come to the country. I don’t like how they act and I don’t like how they dress and I don’t like being with them. But on we rode.

Some notes: I saw a field of cabbage. There were several fields of trestles growing I don’t know what. One I saw fully covered in some sort of vines, but on a lot more I saw plastic on the ground or plastic spread across the poles fully or just like plastic strips. The first part of the drive was very foggy. I didn’t get a good look out of the windows because I was in the aisle and also it was foggy. I suspect the driver didn’t get a good look either but I chose to ignore that. We passed a place that was called (in Spanish) “The cabin of the two cheeses and more.” At one point the bus pulled over and it appeared the driver was buying flowers (we were in front of a flower stand) but it seems he was picking up a bag. I would have preferred the flowers. Eventually, it started to clear up more as we gained altitude. The entire drive it seemed was uphill, passing into country that was more dominated by pines than palms. Long stretches of it reminded me of crossing the mountains in Washington, where you’re in a valley that follows a stream with small bridges crossing it. I was getting a headache from not eating but later on we stopped at a convenience store where I got some twinkies so that helped. Some people also got off which opened up some seats, so I got a real chair. I was annoyed to discover that the woman next to me was sprawled out on two seats where I had the seat behind the wheelwell and therefore had no leg room. She also had hung, I believe, her bra off the back of the seat in front of her (off the handle thing) and I think also her underwear/shorts? See what I’m saying about these tourists?

It was about this point that I decided not to take the bus all the way to Antigua. It would be too late for me to see anything. So when we stopped in Guatemala City, I got off and caught a taxi. I really need to learn Spanish because telling the taxi driver where I wanted to go was hard. It was mostly me showing him my phone which was not the best option in a moving car. But at least I was free of the bus. From the taxi I noted that there were dudes selling random stuff at intersections, so I guess some things are just universal. I also saw little McDonald’s signs everywhere, advertising I think like UberEats or whatever. Like little Golden Arches sitting on top of street lights. But the taxi driver who was very nice and helpful got me to the hotel and I got a room. I set out for dinner only to discover that my hotel was next to yet another McDonald’s. I think my new rule for travel will be to not go to countries with McDonald’s in them. They just throw me off man. I don’t like them. But I found a place called a “Pasteleria,” which lead me to believe they would have like, linguini. This was not true, it was a pastry place that was also a cafe, where I had a just fine burrito thing and then went back to the hotel where I took a shower and turned in.

On my full day in Guatemala City, I went to a whole lot of museums. After breakfast I set straight out. I walked to the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Couple of points. First off, the crosswalks work differently. Back home they tell you to stop walking before the light turns. Here it is green for walk right up to the second the cars get a green, so I nearly got run over. The walk was largely about me noticing American food chains. Today I passed Taco bell and Dunkin Donuts. Last night there was Hardees and TGI Friday’s. At the zoo there is a Dominoes. Uber Eats was everywhere! I don’t like it. I also saw a dude on an electric scooter, but that’s unrelated.


I made it to the museum at like 0920. It was supposed to open at 0900, but when I found the door the security guard had me wait a few more minutes. I finally got in at 0930. It is not a well-trafficked museum, but it is pretty fantastic. Very modern, very well done, and packed with artifacts. It was cool wandering around. They had the bones of one of the rulers of Tikal just tucked away in a corner and that’s crazy. After wandering through and I next decided to go to the zoo. The zoo was also fantastic. Super well done. Tons of animals. Frankly it felt a bit silly because the first part is “Africa Land” and well, I’ve seen a number of these animals in real life. Real life is a dumb thing to say. In the wild. But I enjoyed seeing the Spanish names of these guys, and they had jaguars and I wanted to see those while in Guatemala. So that was fantastic. I had lunch at the hotdog place at the zoo, where you could order a “Gringo Hot Dog.” It was indeed how I would normally eat a hot dog, but I had the “Mexicano” instead. Then it was across the street to the Artisan Market. I was looking for the touristy kitcsh but they didn’t have the kitsch I was looking for so I left without buying anything.


The mortal remains of the legendary Jasaw Chan K’awiil, 18th ruler in the dynastic line of succession at Tikal.

Since I was close, I went to the Natural History Museum that was next to the Archaeology museum. It was pretty bad. That’s not fair, it was just basic natural history stuff (and an elephant and giraffe skeleton) so I didn’t spend any time in there. I decided to flag down a taxi and go across town to the other natural history museum, the USC one or something. I arrived and in some rapid-fire Spanish I believe what the lady said was that the museum was closed but the botanical gardens were open and hey it was free so I looked at the gardens. They were very lovely.


Botanical gardens.

From there I still had time for museums so I walked to the Museo Ixchel & Popol Vuh. Or at least tried to. It’s on the campus of a college and I wandered in trying to go where took me and it took me into the dorms of Galileo college. Which are nice! I asked a security guard about it, saying “museo,” or so I thought, and he lead me on a winding route up to what I think was a media lab, where I met some more nice people, who finally understood I was saying “museo” (I can’t imagine what I was really saying), and then the security guard lead me to the right place. Those museums were nice but I was going through them a bit perfunctorily. I am not actually that interested in textiles, though they had several looms and it occurred to me I don’t actually know how to operate one. After I got home I ordered a Guatemalan backstrap loom off of etsy.



Then I popped over to Popol Vuh which is full of artifacts. So that was neat. Learned about the Dresden Codex and stuff. Um yeah. At this point I was tired and my foot was hurting me so I hobbled back to the hotel where I chilled for a bit, looking forward to my flight home the next day. And then, defeated by other food options, I gave in and went to McDonald’s.