Thursday, September 29, 2016

Another Successful Visa Run to Tapachula

This was my second solo visa run to Tapachula by chicken bus and it went pretty well. A couple of the transfers were a little different than last time but I still managed to get there and back in good time and with minimal discomfort.
I love seeing men in traditional clothing. There are fewer of them around than women. It seems it's only older men who wear these type of clothes anymore.
We were almost to Malacatán when the chicken bus stopped behind a lineup of cars. After the ayudante made a phone call, one word echoed through the conversations on the bus: derrumbe. Landslide! The bus driver turned off the bus and a few of us got out to stretch our legs.
A traffic jam in Guatemala??
I was actually excited to get off the bus cuz I wanted to take a closer look at something in the forest next to the road. It looked to me like they were tapping the trees for something! There was a whole forest of similar trees with these little metal cups attached to them.
After I got home, I researched my hunch and was pleased to know I had guessed right. They're "gum" trees, or chicle trees. For a bit more information, check out this excerpt from a book about chicle.
Tapping chicle trees!
chicken bus Gautemala
My chicken bus. Super fancy.
One of the tricky transfers I had on the way to the border was at Malacatán. I had told the ayudante I wanted to get to the border so he motioned to me to get off the bus at a certain spot in Malacatán. Then he gave some rapid-fire directions, of which I understood barely anything, before waving cheerfully and driving off. Hmmm. I started walking in the general direction of his hand movements and ended up having a very interesting walk through the market. But I didn't see any combis/minivans/colectivos for the border. Hmmm. Got to an intersection and noticed a sign saying "El Carmen" this way, so I turned down that street and walked some more. Another turn and some growing concern that I was lost and then...yay!...a minivan comes up behind me with a young guy yelling "Tally-man!" That's me!
This colectivo was a sweet ride. It had fringe hanging from the ceiling! And who doesn't love a baseball cap that says "Dope"?
First order of business upon arriving in Tapachula? PIZZA. Yes, I actually went to Domino's before even going to my hotel. It's 174 pesos for a large three-topping pizza. Pretty expensive for me but so worth it. It's my reward for nine hours on chicken buses!
Domino's pizza with bacon, pepperoni, and mushrooms, plus some awesome chocolate bars I can't get in Guatemala. Best dinner ever!
I had an awesome sleep in my hotel -- Hotel Cervantino -- and woke early. What to do on my one day in Tapachula? Find my medication and take in some sights! I started early to beat the heat but was covered in sweat within five minutes of walking. Ugh. I love Mexico but the heat kills me every time. I feel disgusting the entire time I'm there and get tons of comments from store owners and waitresses. I always just reply, "Soy de Canada." (I'm from Canada.)
There was some sort of religious demonstration going on at the Bicentennial Park.
Third Street is my favourite! It was still decorated from Mexico's Independence Day on September 16th.
For some reason, I thought this was funny. El Mas Cronchi -- the most crunchy. I love how they appropriate English words. :D
OMG HALLOWEEN STUFF!!! I am in heaven!
The coolest pop can I've ever seen. See-through! I didn't buy it though. I bought a root beer! Yummy.
After circling around to several Farmacias Similares to gather up enough medication for six months (so I don't have to do another visa run for six months), I walked to the Chedraui in the north end. Last time, I went to the south end one. I got a bit lost and asked for directions, which is when I found out the true pronunciation of Chedraui -- ched-ROW-ee. The last two syllables sound like "rowdy" without the D.
Chedraui is like a big huge awesome Walmart. I can spend hours in there. Plus, it's air conditioned! Ahhh sweet relief.
Baked sandwich-y things in the Chedraui bakery section. The type of filling is baked right into the crust or something. Must be food dye. Pretty cool. I was tempted to buy one but I had already filled up on cold leftover pizza.
After some lovely cool shopping, I headed back out onto the street. While I had been on the shuttle into town, I had noticed a nice walkway by the river, so I headed that way. But first, I had to pass through the market. So awesome!
Gorgeous flowers plus a cheese store. CHEESE! Cheese is expensive in Guate but seemed to be everywhere in Mexico.
The "fresh" meat always cracks me up. Oh, plus we sell backpacks. Why not? :)
Found the fish section! They had whole octopi and other neat things. Really crowded and busy though, so I didn't get more pictures.
A view of the flower vendors from a second floor parking garage.
I walked up to the second floor of a parking garage and took a video of the market street. You can find it here on my YouTube Page.

As I was nearing the end of the open air booths, I noticed many people walking into a large warehouse-type building. Of course, I had to check it out! Turns out it was the biggest indoor market I'd ever seen. There were mazes of aisles selling all sorts of neat things. I walked and gawked for almost an hour before deciding to find an exit.
These are slot machines...kinda. I know they are for gambling. I'm not sure how you play them.
Dried chilis and beans and mysterious things.
One of the many meat aisles.
As I was wandering through the aisles, an ancient old lady came up and said to me, "Quieres una gallina?" I smiled at her and at the live chicken hanging from her arm and said, "No, gracias." What would I do with a live chicken??  Ha!
Had a good laugh at these! I asked the butcher if they were for cooking. He said no and said something and made chopping motions with his hands. They laughed at me when I made a dramatic fake horrified face and exclaimed, "Pobrecitos!" (Poor things!) We chatted a bit about Canada. They wanted to know if there was snow there yet. :)
When I finally found my way out of the building, I took this picture of it. Seeing as how there's not really much to do in Tapachula, I would recommend a walk-through of this place and the street market. Very vibrant and full of interesting sights.
Tapachula has some nice parks. I was grateful for the clouds and the breeze as it kept me a bit cool.
I found the river path and walked the entire length of it. I was pretty much the only person on there for most of my walk.
The river was high and muddy. The stone path ... perhaps it was the old path? I walked on the smooth red cement part with the arches and flowers and benches.
A bit shocking to see some pretty bad poverty right next to the fancy river walkway.
A meeting of pigeons on the yellow rail and more shacks behind.
Fancy long walking path.
I am fascinated by the different lifestyles I get to see in my travels. Laundry hanging to dry, a woman cooking on an open fire in the yard, chickens running around, and children playing in the dirt. 
Goes on and on. A nice walk!
Lovely flowers growing up over the arches.
This was a very tiny, very spectacular flower.
Super pretty!
These blossoms are quite big!
At the end of the walkway, I turned in the general direction of where I thought the central park was. Strolled through some neat old neighbourhoods and took a few wrong turns before finding my way back to the central park and my hotel.

An interesting observation I have about Tapachula. It seems to me that the city must have been more prosperous at one time than it is now. Things just look worn out or in disrepair. It's like at one point they had a lot of money to make fancy buildings and sidewalks and stuff, but then the money ran out and they can't afford the upkeep. It's a bit sad. But all the people there seem content and there is a lot of food and shopping available, so they must be doing pretty well. It's just my sense of the place. I still like visiting there though!
I saw an awesome cemetery and really, really wanted to go in to look around but there were shady-looking men hanging about at the entrance waiting for me to be alone so they could take all my monies. NOPE! Not falling for it! I settled for taking pictures over the wall.
I am fascinated by cemeteries.
I got back to my hotel just in time to avoid the afternoon downpour. I watched some movies subtitled in Spanish, good for learning, and wandered around the hotel until the rain stopped.
Pictures in the hotel. Yeah, not creepy at all.
The hotel is attached to some sort of chapel. I am too nervous to go through the doors to see. Perhaps the hotel was a housing area for nuns? Anyway, they have neat religious stuff.
Central Park in Tapachula. Great place to sit and people-watch.
For dinner on my second night, I went to a Chinese restaurant. It tasted just like the Chinese food you get in the mall back home! Ha! I was disappointed they didn't have chicken balls but was glad to eat something with vegetables. I was tempted to eat a more daring local food but reconsidered due to my past bad experiences with throwing up on buses. Ugh.

I purposefully slept in on Sunday because it was so blissfully quiet compared to my place in Guate. No barking dogs, crowing roosters, loud party boats, or pets demanding my attention. Ah, sweet sleep!
But soon enough I had to get up and get back on the numerous shuttles and buses to get home to Pana. Everything went smoothly, I got my new 90-day tourist visa stamp, had a nice stopover in Xela for a bit more shopping, and made it home just as dark was falling. A successful trip!
I love that the vendors come on the chicken buses to sell snacks! This guy was very popular. He sold fruit for Q3 and coconut for Q5. When the lady behind me bought coconut, he put all sorts of things on it. I think it was sugar, spices, and maybe lime juice? One day, I should try it!
I took some more video of riding on the chicken bus. Not super interesting as the dramatic views were shrouded in fog. Head over to my YouTube channel to see if there are any videos you've missed!

No comments :

Post a Comment