Tuesday, December 27, 2016

El Salvador Trip: Ruins Day


On my third day in El Salvador, Edwin brought me to famous archaeological sites. The first stop was Joya de Ceren which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Edwin told me that initially, it was a site for an agricultural project but when they started to dig, they found some ruins and what looked like a farming village that was intact under 14 layers of volcanic ash. The excavation sites were roofed as it should be protected from the sun and rain. It was discovered that the first settlers of the site was around 1200 B.C.  



It was amazing that the ruins were well preserved because of the perfect temperature of ash. It was about 70 structures that were discovered and uncovered which consist kitchens, living rooms, storehouses, place of worship and even a sauna!



'Parque Arqueologico San Andres' was the next stop. Here, you will find Mayan ruins of San Andres that lies in the valley of Zapotitan. It was around 45 minute drive from the capital San Salvador. The park also have a small museum that displays old tools that belonged to the first inhabitant of the place on 900 B.C. 


The main attraction of the park is the Acropolis. It is like a throne where the Mayan lords ruled their domain. It is very noticeable that most of the buildings were created in mud or adobe bricks. It is also believed that it could be the regional capital between 600 to 900 AD. 



The last stop was the 'Sitio Arqueologico Tazumal'. The ruins in this park is considered as the most important and best preserved in El Salvador and in 1947, it was declared a National Historic Monument. The whole area is like a big complex and the most outstanding structure is the main pyramid. It was estimated that the first settlements in the area is around 1200 B.C.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

El Salvador Trip: Volcano Day


On my second day in El Salvador, Edwin brought us (me and one Chinese tourist guy who also stayed in his house) to visit volcanoes. Parque Nacional Los Volcanos, also known as Cerro Verde National Park is more than two hours drive. Before entering and starting the hike, we first took a glimpse of the beauty of Izalco Volcano. It got its' reputation as 'Lighthouse of the Pacific' (El Faro del Pacifico) because of it continuous eruption from 1770s to 1950s. 


After paying the entrance fee, a local guide explained the dos and donts in hiking the Santa Ana Volcano (Ilamatepec). I understood some of what he was saying and fortunately, Edwin translated some of it for us. Basically, a local police will be with us and if it started raining, we have to cancel the hike.


The way to the top was very challenging. It was more than two hours of trekking with terrains that were sometimes muddy, dry, grassy and rocky. I felt my heartbeat during that time and it was so tiring. But I didn't give up and training before traveling really contributed a lot to my endurance.



Once we reached the top, oh, my, gosh! It was so beautiful and all those muscle pains just suddenly vanished. There was this guy who was selling frozen banana chocolate and it helped us to recover from sweating and the heat that we felt. The view down the crater was so amazing! The color of the crater lake was like light green and it was almost touching the clouds. We rested there for more than an hour and took a lot of photos. It was a magnificent feat for me to reach it. It was like another an another accomplishment.


The way down was easier and the view was an added bonus. I didn't even feel any legs soreness as we enjoyed every step down the hill. 


The highlight of the day was our late lunch! Edwin took us to this restaurant overlooking the Lago Coatepeque. It was a very refreshing view and I think the foods became so tasty because of that sight. It is one of the largest lakes in El Salvador and an hour drive from the capital San Salvador.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Don't Skip El Salvador


Most of the headlines that I have read about San Salvador, El Salvador is that it is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It also has a record with one of the highest murder rates. But trust me, all of those are not true and it is always about how to be safe while travelling. Definitely, El Salvador is one of my favorite countries in Central America. I stayed at Ali's Downtown and I am recommending this hostel. Edwin is definitely the best! His place is just 20 minute walk to the Plaza Civica.


Also known as Plaza Gerardo Barrios, this square is located in the heart of the city. Opposite to it is the Palacio Nacional which was constructed in 1911. To fund the construction, the government charged one colon for every quintal of coffee exported. This building is now being used as office of the foreign minister and office of the president. It used to house the supreme court but now it is the defense minister's place. Of course, their offices are separated, each of them use big Salon.


Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador is on the right side of the plaza and is the principal church of San Salvador. Pope John Paul II visited this cathedral twice, in 1983 and 1996. Sadly, it was a site of a violent massacre that killed more than 40 people in 1980. But now with the current view and status of the cathedral, it is a picture of peace. 


The next day before Edwin took me to the Sta. Ana volcano, we stopped by first at Plaza Libertad. It is the location of the 'Monument to the Heroes', to commemorate the 100th year of the 'First Cry of Independence' in 1811. It is also the main plaza where the Salvadorans celebrate their independence day. 


Opposite to the Plaza Libertad is the 'The Rosary Church' (Iglesia el Rosario). Edwin told me that when Ruben Martinez submitted the design to the Vatican, it was initially rejected. But he explained that he will mostly use recycable materials and will use natural light. Eventually, it was built and is now considered as one of the most unique churches in the Americas. #DontSkipElSalvador

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Honduras Trip: La Tigra National Park


From El Picacho, I tried to negotiate with a cab driver to bring me to La Tigra National Park. It was more than 1 hour to go there. In the end, we agreed to a payment of 50 USD back and forth. He will bring me there and bring me back to the hotel. He was a very nice person with two kids but don't speak English but we understood each other eventually. So after the deal was closed, we drove to an uphill climb to Honduras' first national park.



The entrance is 10 USD. The park encompasses a cloud forest and eight hiking trails. I took the 'Sendero Bosque Nablado' trail. The trail is more than 2 hours hike and obviously, going down is easier. I was told that the place could be chilly so proper clothes is advisable. Also, guides are not really needed as long as you stick to the main trails.


The park is heavily forested with towering trees, orchids and large fens. The trails are easy to walk with, steps and small stairs are provided. The name of the park means 'The Tigress' and I was fortunate that I didn't see one. I was told that the park have several elusive creatures around. I actually didn't see any animals around but I must admit, it was a bit scary hiking alone in the middle of the forest.


La Tigra is the biggest remaining natural area near the capital Tegus. The park also supplies about thirty percent of the city's fresh water consumption. If you are planning to visit this place via bus, there are buses leave from Parque Herrera about four times a day. You will also need to bring anti-insect spray or lotion. If walking through the cloud forest and hiking is your passion, don't miss this park.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Honduras Trip: El Picacho


The name of this tourist spot in Honduras sounds like the famous online game now but it is totally different. From Hyatt Hotel, you can take a taxi to the mountain of El Picacho for 7 USD. The most famous landmark of it is the statue of Christ on the top. When I saw it, I couldn't help but compare it to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro which I also visited last year. Nevertheless, the place offers different atmosphere and approach in enjoying every moment of your visit.


The entrance to the main park is about 2 USD and they will give you a map. Surprisingly, El Picacho is not mainly about the famous statue. It also has parks (including for kids with complete playground) and a small zoo. From the entrance it is almost 30 minute walk to reach the top where the statue of the Christ is located.


While walking, you will see many spots to take a look at an amazing view! You can see the entire Tegucigalpa city. It was indeed a very refreshing moment for me. I was just sitting there and looking down to those mountainous places and how the simple lives of Honduran people happen everyday. 


From that spot, a few more walk and you will see the statue of Christ. Unfortunately, there is a separate entrance fee to reach and see the famous icon. It was around 5 USD or less so it is still okay.


On the front of the statue, there is also a perfect spot to see the amazing city.


Around it is a small park when people can walk around and sit for few moments. Historically, the statue was completed in 1998 after just one year of construction. It is 98 feet and in elevation at 4,353 feet. If you are in Honduras, try to visit this place and make sure to spend few hours to just appreciate the wonderful view of Tegus.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Honduras Trip: Tegucigalpa City


After more than six hours of bus ride to Honduras, I checked in my hotel and was a bit disappointed because it was raining. I was planning to roam around the city but unfortunately, that was not possible. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a bit of luxury in Hyatt Hotel. The next morning I prepared early to walk around Tegus (short for Tegucigalpa). The city is located in a mountainous area and the houses and buildings that surround it make a picturesque view.


From hotel, it was more than 30 minute walk to Plaza Morazan which is located in Calle Bolivar. This square is considered as the heart of the Tegus' old city. The most notable icon is the statue of Francisco Morazan (obviously, the plaza was named after him). He was a great solider and the president of Central American Republic in 1830.



It was Sunday when I visited the plaza and Honduras was still celebrating their independence day. There was a program that time and the kids that were performing were all smiles and were wearing an image of proudness of their country. It was mostly musical program that ended with flag raising in the main square.


Also located in the plaza is the Catedral San Miguel (also known as Catedral del Arcangel San Miguel). It was built from 1765 to 1782 and it is very well preserved. Unfortunately, it was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1823. 


When I entered inside the cathedral, I was strucked with amazement of the design of the main altar. There is a beautiful sculpture of San Miguel in a rock garden style. I can say that this cathedral is a "must see" when visiting Tegus.


Upon walking further, I saw this very noticeable structure. It was actually the old presidential house that was used from 1919 up to 1972. The main entrance has a stone facade. In 1972, it was renovated and is now home of the Center for Documentation and Historical Studies of Honduras. As oppose to what I read, Tegucigalpa is a very safe city. You can just walk around and the people are nice.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Nicaragua Trip: The Lion Cities


Nicaragua has 2 lion cities. The first one is 'León Viejo' (old Leon city) which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded in 1524 but unfortunately, it was buried by eruptions of the Momotombo volcano in the 1610s. In 1960, the site was excavated that resulted into a ruins park.


For foreigners, a 5 US dollar entrance fee is required. The site is rich in history and unbelievable stories. The fee I believe is being used to preserve the heritage site and its continuous restoration.



The founder, Francisco Cordoba was decapitated in the main square of the site. It was ordered by governor Pedrarias Davila. The sad thing about the place is that most of the ruins are still buried and only top most structures are visible. Each point of sites has a description both in Spanish and English. It is an important part of the history as it displays city planning from 16th century and it was never altered so the preservation is a huge plan of the government.


Also from this site, the famous Momotombo volcano can be viewed. It stands in the Lake Managua and just erupted in 2015. 


From the old, the new León City is situated 30 kilometers from León Viejo. The iconic symbol in the new León City is the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of Leon. Because of its solid construction, it survived and have endured earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This is the largest cathedral in Central America.


The new lion city also houses the monument of Maximo Jerez. He was one of the leaders that pushed the unity of Central America. He is considered as greatest political thinker in Nicaragua. The statue was built for his honor.

Nicaragua Trip: Managua City


After checking into the hotel and did a quick rest, I started to roam the city of Managua. This is the capital and the largest city of Nicaragua. The population as of 2015 is more than 1 million. This city is very clean! I was actually surprised. It is way cleaner than San Jose. From hotel, it was just a walking distance (around 30 to 45 minutes) to Plaza de la Revolucion.


Also known as Republic Square, this plaza is home to Managua's historical buildings. This place experienced a terrible earthquake in 1972 that most of the structures around it were almost destroyed. Somehow, some of them survived and restored. The square's main spots are as follows:


Old Cathedral. Also known as Catedral del Santiago and designed by Pablo Dambach. 


National Palace of Culture. Also built by Pablo Damach, this building survived the 1972 Nicaraguan earthquake. Currently, it is also the site of National Archive, National Library and National Museum.


Casa Presidencial. Also called 'Casa Naranja', was constructed to house the government officials of the republic.


Monument of Ruben Dario. It was built to commemorate his contribution to the Nicaraguan poetry. He was a very influential figure in the Spanish literature and journalism in the 20th century.



Next, just a 5 minute walk from the plaza is the tourist port of the capital 'The Salvador Allende Port'. There is a one dollar entrance fee. This place is filled with restaurants, markets, playground for kids and and area to just sit and relax and watch the sunset by the lake.


There is also a service being offered if you want to sail by the lake with a small cruise.


Of course I wouldn't miss to try the food from there. I ordered this big fried fish and I wasn't able to finish it so I had to ask to pack it for take away. Though it was a tiring day, it was still worth it. I was impressed by the cleanliness of this city and the very nice people who always smile.

 
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