How ya living? – Antigua Edition

As I end my fourth month of travel and prepare to begin my fifth straight month of being away from home maybe some of you are wondering how I manage to do it. How can I travel for so long? Or more generically, how ya living?

I think I could answer this question in one word really. Are you surprised? Surely it can’t be that simple. Okay, in some ways I’ll admit it is not, but in the most important way it really is. And what is that one word answer? I’ll get to that later. For now, let’s take a look at how I am living. Do I sleep in the streets under cardboard? Do I eat beans and rice for every meal? Do I walk everywhere I go? The answer to theses questions is a firm NO.

First off, lets look at where I live and how much I pay for it. Currently, I am staying at the Itzamna Spanish School here in Antigua, Guatemala. I’ve stayed in three different rooms here in over two months here. The first month I stayed here I was in probably the nicest room here for exactly 2000 Quetzals per month, or about $270.00 US Dollars. This was a private room with a queen sized bed and private bathroom including a hot water shower. I switched to a different room for a week or two and then to a different room where I am staying now. The room I am in now costs 1500 Quetzals per month, or about $200.00 US Dollars per month. To put that in more easily understood terms, I pay under $7.00 US Dollars per day for my room. In this cheaper room I don’t have my own bathroom. I share three bathrooms down the hallway with 5 other people living here. Two of these bathrooms have hot water showers.

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Hostel Review: Flores – Hotel Casa Del Lancandon

The island of Flores is so small that any place to stay on the island will probably do.  That being said you may want to shop around for a place or a room with a view that you prefer.  I stayed 4 nights at Hotel Casa Del Lacandon.  The rooms were definitely cramped and the beds were not the most comfortable, but the price was right.  I shared a small room with two single beds and private bathroom for less than $7 each.  I also stayed in another cramped room for two nights on my own for $9 per night.  A few of the rooms in the rear had great views of the lake.  If you didn’t have a room with a view you were only steps away from a magnificent view from the terrace.

The showers had plenty of hot water and the wifi was reliable.  These two things, along with the spectacular terrace view make Hotel Casa Del Lacandon a nice budget option for backpackers.  The owners are nice and also speak a little English.  They offer laundry service and meals at the terrace cafe.  I needed a place to store my computer the day I visited Tikal and the owner kept it locked up in his room.  Not an ideal place in my mind, but it was my best option at the time and it worked out well in the end.

Hostel Review: Jungle Palace

After years of backpacking and hostel after hostel all of the places I’ve stayed in tend to become a blur. Not many places I’ve stayed in are memorable or they are memorable for the wrong reasons. The Jungle Palace in El Panchan near the Mayan ruins of Palenque would be a glaring exception to that rule. You really are IN THE JUNGLE. You live with the plants, bugs, and animals. In fact when you first arrive you begin to wonder if you live with monsters too, as in the mysterious “monster” from LOST. You hear this horrific noise in the distance that surely has to be otherworldly or from another time. If you watched the video clip above you can hear what I am talking about for yourself. As it turns out the noise is actually from the howler monkeys that are your neighbors here in El Panchan.

I stayed in El Panchan for 3 nights and if you can live without wi-fi I recommend that you do so as well. I didn’t stay in Palenque town, but I imagine if I did I would have already forgotten what it was like. If you really are suffering withdrawals from the Internet you can take a 10 minute ride into town if you need to connect back to the outside world. Or better yet, this may be your only vacation from the “internets” in a long time. Although you do not have Internet, the Jungle Palace does have electricity and clean bathrooms with hot water showers. The beds in my room were comfortable and hanging around in my room listening to the sounds of the jungle was relaxing, at least when the howler monkeys were not around. Another important feature is the free use of metal lockers for valuables as many of the rooms feature screen windows that could be easily broken into. The Jungle Palace can also arrange your transportation or tours to nearby places and attractions. In fact I booked my 8 hour trip to Flores, Guatemala with the receptionist.

Another fun thing to do at the Jungle Palace is to strap on some thermal vision glasses borrowed from Arnold and pretend you are in “Predator“. Make sure you turn up the volume to eleven. Check it out-

bridge over the stream

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Hostel Review: B & B Le Gite Del Sol

entrance to the hostel

My first night in San Cristobal de Las Casas I stayed in a basic dorm room. The next day I lugged my bag over to B & B Le Gite Del Sol. I highly recommend this B & B/ Hostel. The hostel is spotless, the beds are comfortable and the staff and owners are nice and friendly. They also included a tasty breakfast, free wi-fi and the use of a computer and kitchen facilities. The hostel is conveniently located, a 5 minute walk from the main tourist street. There are actually two locations within one block of each other. The friendly owners can help you with bus tickets and reliable bus information. It can get cold during the night in San Cristobal so it is important to have thick blankets and this hostel passes that test as well. While the basic rooms are somewhat spartan, I still feel the hostel is a good value, especially if you are splitting the costs of a room.

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Hostel Review: Casa Angel Youth Hostel-Oaxaca, Mexico

I stayed 5 nights in the Casa Angel Youth Hostel in Oaxaca, Mexico.  The hostel was very clean and comfortable.  The staff was nice, helpful, friendly and yet incredibly low-key at the same time.  The staff spoke some english and was knowledgable about any tours offered or sights to see in the area.  I took a day tour to sights in the area and was pleased with the tour.

Breakfast was included with the room and was cooked for you every morning from 8-10a.m.  The breakfast was enjoyable if lacking in variety.  It included fried eggs or scrambled eggs with or without chopped-up hot dog, cereal, bread, bananas with coffee or tea every day, without fail and without change.

I slept in two different 3 bed dorm rooms during my stay.  The rooms were very clean and the bunk beds comfortable, but the rooms were slightly cramped if occupied by three guests.  Lockers were provided inside the rooms free of charge.  Luggage storage was also provided free of charge, which came in handy for the common late night bus departures.  The bathrooms were well kept and the showers had a good amount of water pressure and hot water.

The common area on the ground floor had a couple of comfortable couches to watch cable TV or a movie on the DVD player.  A good selection of quality films on DVD were available to select from free of charge.  The wifi was reliable and 2 computers were also provided free of charge.  The kitchen had an oven, microwave, refridgerator, cupboards, and a good amount of counter space to work with.

A nice feature of the hostel was a rooftop terrace which included a bar.  It was a good place to relax with a book, suntan, or just chat and enjoy the view.  On Sundays a good BBQ lunch/dinner was available.

The hostel was located about 10 blocks from the main plaza of the city.  A few cheap restaurants with good Mexican food were just around the corner as was a place to drop off your laundry.  A small convenience store with drinks and snacks was right aross the street. Walking to and from the main sites of the city was a pleasant stroll with plenty to see so it didn’t seem like a long haul.

Overall, I was very happy with my time at Casa Angel Youth Hostel.  The friendly, unassuming staff along with the cleanliness of the facilities and the amenities provided were a good value for the budget-concious backpacker.  My only minor complaints would be the lack of variety in the included breakfast and the slightly cramped rooms.  These minor drawbacks were substantially outweighed by all of the positive aspects of this well-run hostel.

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Hostel Review : Amigo Suites Hostel – Mexico City, Mexico

While I was in Mexico City I stayed in 2 different places. My first night in Mexico City I had the minor misfortune of staying in a disgusting room in a cheap hotel near the historic center. The following 8 nights I stayed at the Amigo Suites Hostel. During the 8 nights I stayed in a 3 bed dorm room and also a 4 bed dorm room, both with ensuite bathroom. The rooms were simple and somewhat small, but were adequate considering the other features of the hostel.

The rooms were always clean, as was the entire hostel. I found the rooms to be slightly cramped, but not ridiculously so. I think if I could only change one thing about the rooms it would be the mattresses. The mattresses were of average quality for a hostel and slightly thin for a good night’s rest. The showers always had plenty of hot water and good water pressure. The bathrooms were clean and everything functioned properly for the duration of my stay.

The hostel also featured a spacious rooftop terrace/bar which also doubled as the dining area. Off of the dining area were two computers with free internet usage. Along with the computers the hostel provided free, reliable, and strong WIFI Internet access with the password posted on the wall of each floor. Interestingly, the hostel also contained a vending machine stocked with snacks, water, condoms and cold beer. I’d never seen beer in a vending machine before, but I suspect this may not be the last time. The price for the room included a good quality breakfast from 8am-10am and also a sufficient dinner from 6:30ish to 8pm. If I had a choice I would have rather had a reduced room price instead of the included dinners. The food for the dinners was always fair, if not completely desirable.

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