Guatemala, Days 6-7 – Chichicastenango

Recently I went on a trip to Guatemala. These are days 6-7 of my 9 day account.

Of course, we are up early to catch the morning bus to Chichi. Coming along with us is a French diplomat and his wife, who are very friendly. He has a pretty cool life – he gets to travel around to different countries but I imagine its tough when you have to relocate all the time.

The trip is long and punctuated by wrong turns and random delays. We are stuck in a traffic jam caused by a landslide for over an hour, as the machines move the rubble.

Upon entering Chichi, we were initially unimpressed. It’s more of a village than a town. And a dusty one at that. We check into our hotel, the Santo Tomas, which is actually quite beautiful.

After we’ve settled in, we head to the market square. As it is Wednesday afternoon, the market is not yet in full swing (Thursdays and Sundays are the main days for the market. Still, it gives us a chance to look around, check out the church, and scope the market for tomorrow. I was particularly interested in the church because of its syncretic characteristics (the town’s church combines elements of Christianity and Mayan religion). A funeral happened to be taking place as we passed by.

Another characteristic of this town is the huge mural that covers two inner walls surrounding the market.

After we surveyed the market, there was not much to do so we checked out Lonely Planet’s suggestion to check out the idol at a nearby hilltop. Walking to this idol seemed scary and dangerous, not because it was in the middle of the woods, but because it was so out of the way and unpopulated, heightening the fear that we would be robbed. We walked by a machete store and got directions to make sure we were on the right path. He was a really sweet old man and asked if we wanted a machete. I wondered if I needed one! In any case, the idol was not worth the hike, but it was a cool and scary adventure nonetheless.

We then retired to the hotel and ate there as well. The food was uneventful and the wine terrible. We did have a great local rum at the bar, however. Afterwards, we returned to our room which was freezing. We tried to light the chimney ourselves but it was damn difficult and we gave up (the staff would have lit the fire but we didn’t bother).

The next day we did all of our shopping. In retrospect, I wish I had bought more here, because they really have stuff you don’t find anywhere else in Guatemala, even in Antigua. There were some really nice silk scarves and other things as well. You must bargain with everyone, and it makes sense to start at half of what anyone is offering you and not go too far past 60 percent as a final price. Even then, you are likely being ripped off, especially on the wooden Mayan masks that are so popular.

Having learned that there is no direct shuttle bus to Monterrico, we headed back to Antigua with the idea that we would hit an early morning bus to Monterrico the next day. This bus was larger, and absolutely packed. We ran into another traffic jam, of course. This one was slightly different though, in that it was enormous, and it seemed almost designed to create a local economy in peddlers and roadside vendors. It otherwise didn’t make sense that the vendors where to expect the traffic jam on a highway.

If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would not stay two days in Chichicastenango — there just isn’t enough to do there. Better to catch an early morning Thursday bus and return the same evening. Also, the travel options are not great going to or from Chichi on any other day besides Thursday.

We arrived in Antigua and returned to our old standby hotel, Quinta de las Flores, since Casa Azul is sold out. No matter. We retire early in the night, to rest up for our early morning shuttle to Monterrico. Beach, here we come!

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