Five Perfect Photo Opportunities in Mexico and Central America

As a travel blogger and a social media enthusiast, I would like to list some of the best photo ops in Central America that will get your toes wiggling for an adventure!

5. Bacalar, Mexico

Where better to have a relaxing few weeks on the crystal blue waters and laid back town of Bacalar?

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The little town of Bacalar on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is home to one of the most beautiful open, calming, clear blue waters I’ve ever seen. Walk along the streets and you can find lovely huts that take you right up to the water, rendering it a stunning spot to take photos.

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While you’re there, don’t forget to take a dive in the famous Cenotes Azul, going as deep as 200 feet! Let the large and deep body of water excite and scare you as you take a leap from the tree branch!

We made a wonderful community of friends from Couchsurfing, who showed us the best secret spots to eat and play in town! Bacalar became a sweet place for us to remember our great friends and the adventures we took.

#4. Carnival, Caye Ambergris, Belize

We had the wonderful opportunity to witness Carnival in several cities in Central America. However, Caye Ambergris (Belize) was my favorite.

The colors, the music, the energy, the food, the people-  everything is wonderful about Carnival. The beautiful thing about it is that you are bound to encounter it anywhere in Central/South America! Make sure you check and mark your calendars!

I loved Caye Ambergris because we were right by the water as well as all the festivities. After an exhausting night out, we were able to stumble right up to our hostel for a rest.

For a more peaceful getaway, Caye Amberghis is a great island hop spot to a nearby island, Caye Caulker, where visitors explore on foot and golf carts!

The nice fun fact about Belize is that everyone speaks English and takes US Dollars! There are also a lot of Creole people in Belize, with a completely different set of fascinating foods and cultures. Not to mention is the island frequently referenced in Madonna’s song, “La Isla Bonita!”

#3. Colorful Mercados (Markets)

Ah, beautiful markets of Central America. It’s almost comparable to my markets in Southeast Asia. The haggling, the tropical fruits, the cheap clothing. What’s not to love?

The reason I picked markets as one of my favorite photo opportunities is because it’s the perfect place to capture locals in their element. I love finding cheap horcatas or strange stalls of food to try out. Of course, I will first have to ask if it has carne (meat). market

#2. Colonial Streets – Central America

With a heavy influence from the Spanish colonization era, colonial towns in Central America.

EditThere are not enough words to describe the glorious cobblestone streets of Central American colonial towns. Honorable mentions to Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua!

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#1. Twin peaks: Volcan Acatenango and Volcan Fuego in Guatemala

Camping on top of a volcano makes it to the top of my list. There is no other feeling as exhilarating as sensing the earth rumble and a burst of lava fill the air right in front of us.

10399594_10207428749890366_760704894419302331_nAnd be honest, aside from being on a plane, when was the last time your legs have taken you above the clouds before? 12592512_10207428749650360_1420307703996003216_n (1)


Have you been to great photo ops while traveling? Please leave your favorite spots on comments!!! 

I’ve been slowly improving on my eye for photography, showcased on Instagram. I would love some feedback!!

Travel Blogging Challenge – Week 5 (Top Three Cultural Foods) The Time I Ate Too Much

Food, food, food, food, food! Is what most people hear when they travel with me. In all of my travels, food plays a crucial role to my enjoyment.

As a vegetarian since birth, I’m always wary of eating out at restaurants. Luckily, I am blessed with a wonderful mother, who is the best chef in the world. However, when I hit the road, I am always excited to try other cultural foods!

As you can imagine, being a vegetarian abroad can be quite complicated. Some countries think fish and chicken are not meat, therefore, it is okay for it to be in a vegetarian meal. I have to learn some key phrases with every foreign country I visit, to convey the entirety of my vegetarian-ess. With every mistake I make, I learn a lot to have a better experience the next time.

Because of my continuously adventurous vegetarian taste buds, I have gotten to try amazing vegetarian dishes from around the world. Here are top three favorite countries’ dishes, in collage form.

  1. Korea for its crazy food inventions. I am in love with korean-style ramen. I love their desserts, bibimbap (rice and vegetable mixture with excellent presentation and sauce), and japchae (clear noodles). Ever heard of cold noodles in ice? Not my cup of noodles, but I tried it anyway! Thanks Korea. 🙂
  2. Nicaragua – Choosing a country from the many favorite foods I had in Central America was quite difficult. I chose Nicaragua purely because I had an amazing street food experience there. Shave ice desserts called granizado were all over the streets. Central American foods sometimes overlapped each other, so I was happy to find some of my favorite foods in neighboring countries. Some of my favorites are elotes (corn), traditional rice and beans con queso (with cheese) dishes, platanos (plantains), and pan (bread).
  3. Thailand – How do you beat $1 phad thai? Love the diversity of street foods in Bangkok. Also a great place for noodles and spicy food, which is right down my alley.

Note: I left out some of my favorite foods (because I think I am biased towards them). For your interest, I will list them below:

Vietnamese foods. Being Vietnamese by blood, I’m always partial to my native country’s cuisines. I am immensely proud of the variety of Vietnamese foods. It’s colorful, tasty, and full of culture.

Japanese foods. As one of the most amazing cultures out there, they have so many creative dishes. 🙂 Home to sushi, green tea Kit Kat, soba noodles, and tempura, it’s possibly some of my favorite foods. Unfortunately, most their foods are not vegetarian friendly.

 

Filipino foods. Raised in the Philippines, I came to love eating mangoes, bananacues (caramelized, roasted plantains), and various different vegetarian snack options.2174887938_28dc5b40d0_z

Thanks for reading!! What are your favorite foods???


Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Read more of my posts from the Travel Blogging Challenge:

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

Who else is doing the challenge?

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

 

Floating on the Clouds: Volcán Acatenango

Everyone who visits Guatemala must visit Antigua, and anyone who visits Antigua, must try to climb Acatenango, a dormant volcano since 1972. It is the dream destinations for activities as a backpacker. Cultures, nightlife, colors, foods, nature, ruins… Guatemala has it all! One of the many reasons why Guatemala falls on the top of my favorite list is Acatenango.

Why must you climb this volcano?

Reason 1: Acatenango is a twin peak. That means, sitting right across from it is a twin sister, Fuego, who happens to be a very active and angry erupting volcano. The twin volcanoes Acatenango and Fuego draw hundreds of visits from travelers every day. Fortunately, there have been no casualties of people hiking to see the eruptions.

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Fuego, photo taken atop Acatenango

Reason 2: At over 13,000 feet high, Acatenango is the tallest volcano in Guatemala, and the third tallest in Central America. To put this in perspective, Grand Canyon is only 6000 ft deep. Therefore, scaling it is not for the faint of heart.

Not only is Acatenango very tall, the incline is ridiculously steep throughout the hike, averaging about 20 degrees incline. People who wish to scale the volcano are recommended to join a group guided hike. Cuong and I, being budget travelers and very, very brave individuals, decided to go on this trek by ourselves- no guide.

Going up 13,000 feet stressed the importance of traveling light. I only took the things that I truly needed: cellphone (which unfortunately got stolen on the bus ride there), tent and sleeping gear, outerwear, 4 liters of water (heavy, but paid off), 2 giant bags of red beans, 1 bag of apples, 1 bag of tortillas, and 1 bag of bread. All these things were essential in supplementing our energy. We also invested in two sturdy hiking sticks in preparation for the steep hike.

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This is the outfit I chose for the big hike.

The Hike took blood and sweat to climb all the way up to Acatenango. With the incline, I felt as if I was trying to climb a vertical wall. About 30 minutes into the hike, I was already out of breath. There was still over 8 hours left!

We took frequent breaks, and were able to admire the beautiful views of the nearby Guatemalan cities.

About an hour into the hike, we encountered park officials, who required that we pay an entrance fee of 50 quetzales (about $7, a pretty hefty fee for Guatemala). We thought that they may just be extorting money from us as corrupt officials. So we haggled it down to about 40Q.  It turns out they were legitimate, and were there because they started collecting fees to deter criminals and thieves away from the trail– perfect.

We set off again on long trails of dirt paths, switchbacks into the woods. Once we’re high enough, we started to see beautiful lush green floras. Large vines, thick shrubs, and huge trees surrounded us. The one downside of going on a grand hike without a guide is the inability to know where you’re going.

About halfway through the hike, we were lost. To make it worse, it started to rain. We weren’t going to make it to the peak before nightfall. Thankfully, we ran into two guys who were also hiking to the peak. Misery loves company. We were so happy to meet people who also don’t really know what they’re doing. We set up our tents next to each other and huddled to keep warm and talked through the night. Careful to not deplete our food supply, we restrained ourselves from eating large meals.

The higher we climbed, the colder it was and the thinner the trees became. Pine trees were abundant in this section of the volcano. Soon enough, we reached the cloud forest. It was bizarre to hike through the clouds, and see it around us. I thought of how being above the clouds meant that we can’t be rained on anymore.

Each we start again on the torturous, I would be reminded of why we took the break in the first place. In my head, I was kicking, screaming, and deeply regretted my decision to do this hike.

…. and then…

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Above the clouds!

There it was. A deep rumble coming from within the ground. It’s difficult to describe what I felt at the time. It was a mixture of excitement, adrenaline, and fear. It reminded me of the first time I scuba-dived with a whale shark, completely out of my comfort zone.

It was so large, dangerous and strange, yet so natural and comforting.

We were just a two miles from the lava erupting from Fuego.  We were close enough to hear and feel Fuego. The angry twin sister erupted every five minutes. Every moment I lost hope on this seemingly never-ending hike, Fuego erupted again, and renewed my determination to finish the hike.

Finally, we’ve reached the top! I thought this moment would never happen. Hours and hours of scaling up the massive volcano.

What they didn’t tell us about the peak: it was freezing cold. 

You’d think being on- or near- an erupting volcano would be at least tropical warm. Wrong. There was nothing shielding us from this force of nature. The air is paper thin, the wind is vicious, and it’s absolutely frigid cold. We set up our tent right across from Fuego, seeing first class views of the bright eruptions throughout the night.

That night, we laid wide-awake, freezing, breathing in ashes, and listening to the volcano roar. We watched as the lava fill the night sky with angry, bright red. We were enthralled by the rumble, captivated by the colors, and felt fear of mother nature’s true power. The satisfaction of watching Fuego far outweighs all the hardships we’ve been through. I can’t wait to come back.

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We set up our tent right across from Fuego, giving us first class views of the eruptions.

I would love to hear from you! Please leave your thoughts, comments, questions, and let’s exchange stories!

via Daily Prompt: Climbing