Sunday, November 29, 2015

last stop: panama

The last leg of our trip was from Costa Rica to Panama. Rather than flying, due to close proximity, we took a BUS from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Panama City, Panama. Guess how long the bus ride was? 17 hours!

We left Costa Rica at midnight, and were anticipated to get to Panama City at 5 pm the next day. That included the time to cross the border and a few quick stops. Our plan was to try to sleep as much as possible during the night, which we were both able to do relatively okay. However, we were woken up at 6 am when we got to the border crossing. Unfortunately, the border didn't open until 7 am, so, we waited and waited and waited... when the border finally did open, it was another confusing and complicated process. If you were from some countries of origin, you needed a copy of your passport (luckily not us, since we had no idea how to get copies of our passports at 6 am in this border village!). You also needed to have $500 cash on you, as well as prove that you had a ticket/method/plan to return to your country of origin. (not sure how that works if you are traveling and not going directly home?! Good thing we were heading back to Canada!)

As long as the bus ride sounds, it really wasn't THAT bad. They fed us both breakfast & lunch at least, which was good because we had only brought little snacks & drinks, assuming the bus would be stopping at places to get food. (they didn't)

Alas, this was the last leg of our honeymoon, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience so many cool cultures & experiences on this once-in-a-lifetime trip! (I just tried typing this after the photos, but for some reason its not letting me type there... apparently I need to blog more to get back into the swing of things!)

This was what our breakfast came in - isn't it adorable?! It's a bus! (Tica Bus is the bus line we rode, it was like  Greyhound bus. Thank goodness this one had air conditioning!)

Inside, there were games. This kept us occupied for a solid 30 minutes.


So, after a long bus ride, we were finally in Panama! (this picture was actually our last day there, but again, weird blog things are happening. The photos aren't uploading in order for me for whatever reason....) We were staying downtown Panama City, and it's a huge metropolitan area. High rises everywhere!
 

This is on the other side of the pedestrian crossing the above photos are on. Traffic was nuts!!! Also, despite it looking gloomy, it was HOT.
 
This was our dinner once we got to our hotel and settled in after the bus ride. PF Changs! Delicious! There are a lot of chain restaurants, stores etc. in Panama.

The view from the patio of our hotel was gorgeous! (I apologize that I'm too lazy to go through and edit all the date stamps out of the photos...)

The first full day we were there, we took a big, red, double decker sight seeing bus around the city. This was cool to help us get our bearings straight of where things were!



There was some really pretty architecture on our drive.

This is at one of the mall stops. The malls in Panama are HUGE. Like we are talking THREE food courts huge. All of the entrances have a letter & animal associated with them, and there were alphabetical entrances. I am pretty sure it got about 75% through the alphabet - it was ginourmous!

One of our first stops - the Panama Canal!



Unfortunately, we had JUST missed the last boat of the day going through the canal. This is it, almost done.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't know much about the canal & how it worked prior to going here. My smarty pants husband taught me all about it though, and it's fascinating!



There's a 5 story museum that we went to; lots of cool history about the building of the canal, types of sea life in the area, people who work there etc.
 
Another beautiful part of the drive! We drove to some islands, and this is the view of the city on the way back.


We went to Old Panama. The bus dropped us off and you could go wherever, and just be back for the next bus. (it was a hop on hop off kinda deal) We went to the right in Old Panama, and ended up in some quite sketchy areas. The good news is that I got a cheap watch that I love! (albeit it's needed a new battery already since coming home... haha) Once we got back to the bus stop area, we realized that if we had gone to the left in Old Panama, there was a quaint, charming, pretty part of the city. This would have been much nicer than where we went!!

So, we had a quick beer in the nice part of Old Panama before heading out. (see my watch there?!) (also, please note, SO HOT)


On our last evening in Panama, we went to an authentic Panama restaurant, that even had a show, called Las Tinajas. This is my rice and beans.

My seafood dish - I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was good!!

Some of the dancers in the show we saw during dinner. It was very interesting to see the cultural dances, and hear the music and stories. I'd totally recommend this place for a true Panamanian experience if you are there!! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

costa rica

Next on our honeymoon was Costa Rica. We flew from Guatemala City to San Jose in Costa Rica. The flight was quite short, however once in San Jose, we had to get about 6 hours North to our resort, which was near El Jobo near the border of Costa Rica & Nicaragua. There are of course lots of shuttles & cabs, however for that distance, they are crazy expensive. So, my hubby found us a bus to take instead! This was the first of two lengthy bus rides we took on our honeymoon - more on the even longer one in my next post about Panama! Unfortunately I didn't take many pictures of the commute from San Jose to El Jobo via bus. There wasn't air conditioning, so let's just leave the ride at that.

We did take quite a few pictures in Costa Rica, however, after going through them, realized there is a LOT of just us hanging out at the pool, and things like that. We truly had a great & relaxing time and this resort was beautiful. I'd recommend the resort itself for sure, however due to its location, it's very challenging to get to.

FYI: people kept saying that monkeys are everywhere in Costa Rica, but we didn't see any whatsoever. We didn't even see them when we woke up early one day to go on the guided trail hike where they supposedly see monkeys all the time! Bummer.

Our resort, Dreams Las Maraeas, was absolutely gorgeous. This leg of the trip was our all-inclusive & majorly relaxing portion of our honeymoon. The intention was to lay by the pool, and not do too much more.


The beach at our hotel. This was the first day there and we wanted to swim in the ocean. So we did! It was warm, minimal waves, and not many people were there. Later that day, we were at the front desk inquiring about excursions, and they let us know that swimming in the ocean is actually prohibited right now due to sting rays & strong currents. Apparently we didn't notice the red flags on the beach that were supposed to tell us not to swim in the ocean. (maybe they should tell you to look for those upon check-in...)


Our names were in the daily news letter! "Congratulations Honeymooners: Mr. & Mrs. Obando"


There was a snack bar by the pool that served nachos, hot dogs, burgers, and quesadillas. It was incredible. I ate nachos, or just chips, guac & salsa as pictured here. This always equated to a very happy Shannon.

Our hotel patio included a jacuzzi on it! It was like a double-wise bathtub. It was awesome, like our own personal pool. We had a few beers in here a few nights.
 


Check our Edwin's ring tan!


We went to a show one evening, and Edwin got pulled up on stage. It was hilarious! Here he is, flexing his muscles for the audience as per instruction.

This is how I spent most afternoons, with my dance crew on the pool deck.

Aaaand this is how Edwin spent most of his afternoons, napping poolside.

We had big plans to go on excursion snorkeling. Prior to doing so, we wanted to practice in the pool. Turns out, we never ended up signing up for the excursion so this was the only snorkeling we did on the trip!

The drink on the right was my favorite drink, called a green monster. Edwin starting calling me a green monster because I drank so many! It was a fruity blended drink, but with mint in it. SO GOOD. Edwins drink on the left is a "Bob Marley" as its the Jamaican colors.

At the Mexican restaurant for dinner one evening.

After a few drinks, finding a piano is ALWAYS fun.

The resort was especially pretty in the evenings.

This is us taking the city bus leaving the resort. We took the bus back to San Jose. In San Jose is where we needed to get on our NEXT bus to get to Panama. (again, stay tuned for a long bus ride story...)

I feel like I look really tanned in this photo, so I'm posting it ;)
After this post, only one more left: PANAMA!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

guatemala: part 2 (and belize!)

We are now onto the next leg of our Guatemala & Belizian adventure. As you recall from last time, this was our overall plan for the road trip:


In the last post, we went to a bunch of cities in Guatemala: Antigua, Retalhuleu, Panajachel, and Chichicastenango. (I love the names of the city - this alone kept me entertained practicing how to say them) From the market in Chichi (the cool, short form of Chichicastenango I learned), we went to Rio Dulce. Then, we drove quite far North to Tikal, and then East to Belize. We did a lot of driving, but had tons of fun along the way. Road trips are awesome. 


This is at our hotel in Rio Dulce. It was basically a stop overnight on our drive to Tikal, which was quite far. However, we enjoyed the morning in the sun before heading out for our next portion of the drive. This scenery was really pretty as it was on a lake.

Tikal National Park is 575 square km of ruins and jungle in Guatemala. The hotel we stayed at is the ONLY hotel located inside the national park, and was quite the adventure to stay at. They did not have air conditioning, but did have giant ceiling fans. They had electricity during the day, but asked you to use it conservatively during the night as they were on generators then. They had one little restaurant, but had limited supply of items. (They had run out of avocados, bummer) It was a positive experience, but definitely different than a 'normal' hotel!

You are seeing correctly - there is jaguars in the jungle in the park. There is strict guidelines on when you can be in the park, and if it is in the dark, you must be with a certified guide. (I guess they are trained in jaguar confrontations?!)

Alas, this was the ONLY animal we saw in the entire national park. It is a capybara-like animal.

We went on a tour with a guide on the day we were there. It was about a 3 hour walk through the jungle and ruins. The ruins in this park are gorgeous. You can only climb some of the pyramids, since they are trying to preserve some and for safety reasons.

Such pretty stone work; everything was very beautiful.

At the top of one of the pyramid. Back in the day, this area would have been 'downtown' Tikal, where everyone hung out and all events happened. 

Do you see the monkey in the middle of this photo?! It was the only monkey we saw on the ENTIRE trip!! I thought for sure we'd see more in Costa Rica, or elsewhere, but nope. This was it! He was a spider monkey jumping through the trees around the pyramids.

Okay, so, some of the pyramids are VERY high. Like climb a billion flights of stairs high. This is one of them... but the view at the top is gorgeous!! See next photo.

This is at the top of the aforementioned climb. You are way above the treetops! Its gorgeous! See the pyramids in the background too? Super cool!! I will admit, worth the looonnnggg climb.

After seeing the ruins in Tikal, we headed out on our drive to Belize with our trusty map. (#MajorTourists) The border crossing from Guatemala to Belize was pretty special. Border crossings in Central America are nothing like the one we are used to here with Canada/the US! There are no instructions whatsoever on where to go or what to do. This results in us not exiting Guatemala properly (you have to "check out" of the country) and having to pay a small fine to re-enter. Whoops!

The hotel we were staying at had a great restaurant, but only one. We wanted to eat something local and explore, so Tina's Kitchen was recommended to us. Now, keep in mind that the city we were in, Hopkins, is only a town of 1,000 people, there aren't a lot of restaurants to try! Tina's Kitchen was basically a little shack with some tables and chairs, and Tina herself in the kitchen.

My lunch at Tina's Kitchen - shrimp with rice and beans. SO GOOD. I ate it all up. Plus, a Belikin to drink, Belize's national beer. (it was so hot, you NEEDED a cold drink at all times)

We biked around town!

This is the most colorful library I've ever seen - I love it!

We had indicated we were on a honeymoon at all hotels we stayed at, and this was the first that did something special for that. Champagne, flowers & candles! We took our champagne down to the beach and drank it there.

The view of the the super moon we had from dinner.

Oh how I adore the ocean. (and this super cute bathing suit cover up my mom got me last year in the Caribbean!)

Honeymoon life is the best life. #HammockLounging

My handsome husband. This pool was lovely, right beside the ocean. It was HOT here, I think mid-30's or so, but felt like more due to humidity.

Swim up bars = best invention.

I drove in Belize!!!!

The above concluded our road trip. We drove from Belize all the way back to Guatemala City, which was about a 14 hour drive, including a few stops. It was a long day! Once we were back in Guatemala, we spent a few days at Edwin's parents and did some family activities.

We had lunch with Edwin's friend Alejandro.


We went to the beach with Edwin's dad's side of the family. Right to Left in this photo is: Edwin's dad, Edwin's dad's brother, Jorge, his wife Amanda, and myself.

Edwin and his niece Stephanie.


Little Liam. He is way too cute.

Edwin's parents threw us a mini-wedding reception at a hotel in Guatemala City. This is Edwin's uncle (Edwin's moms brother) Tio David, showing us which treadmill is his at the gym in the hotel. (he works out here a few times a week.)

At the top of the hotel with Edwin's mom post-reception


McDonald's does delivery in Guatemala! As does Subway, Wendy's etc. I found that so fascinating. This was at a McDonalds restaurant where they kept all their delivery motorcycles.

Did you know: Happy Meals from McDonalds were invented at this exact restaurant we were at?! Therefore, they shaped it like a happy meal. Kinda fun!

Next, we are off to Costa Rica! We flew first class, and got "priority" tags on our luggage. I'm not going to lie, it felt pretty darn cool. (don't worry - we didn't win the lottery - the flights for first class seats just were not very much more expensive than the regular seats so we went for it!!)  Next blog post: Costa Rica!