Things I Like About Antigua

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There’s a lot to like about Antigua. It’s charming, clean, relaxed and easy on the eyes. Even better, it has just enough quirks to make things interesting. Here’s a few of my favorites:

The guy who rings the church bells is nuts
I really can’t figure out the church bells here. In Copan de Ruinas the bell would ring once for every hour — when it woke you up at 5 am, you could count the rings and think “I would have liked to have slept for another 4 hours”. That’s useful information.

But here, whoever is working that rope goes at it like he’s having a grand mal seizure. I counted 41 tolls one morning at 9 am. I have no idea what significance that number might hold other than that it’s a prime number. Maybe there’s a Guatemalan Rain Man up there, just marking time until he gets his shot at Vegas.

And there’s something about the mountain air here that plays with the sound levels in weird ways. It sounds something like “ding ding Dang CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG Dang ding ding…” Every time it happens, I wonder if that bunk acid I took back in the 80′s has finally kicked in.

Suck it Naples — we have three volcanoes
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to build your capital city within the blast radius of three volcanoes, especially after the previous one has been destroyed by a volcanic mudslide. But the Spanish did and it makes for an impressive sight, especially in the morning.

The most active one can be hiked fairly easy, though I didn’t — I have a trick knee and the lava hadn’t been flowing so it didn’t seem worth the limping afterwards. That’s my excuse, at least.

The highest one can be hiked as well but requires a climb of something like 50,000 feet straight up while dodging gunfire from bandits. There’s even an alligator pit. It’s so strenuous I had to stop the tour operator halfway through his description to rest and catch my breath.

Dangerous curves ahead
Now this isn’t specific to Antigua or even Guatemala but after spending over a year in Asia, it’s nice to see women showing off their figures and not immediately thinking “put some clothes on, touron“. And what figures they are — my friend Rich and I spent a week running into lamp posts and falling out of chairs in Honduras before we acclimated. (Don’t tell his wife, Maria, that I said that.)

At breakfast a few mornings ago, a stunningly beautiful woman joined some friends at a nearby table. She was well past fifty yet still wore jeans poured out of a paint can and sported the kind of cleavage you could lose your keys in. God bless her.

Cobblestone streets that don’t kill
The stones they use to pave the streets are small, rounded and well-set, unlike Copan de Ruinas where the streets are paved with only the finest imported rubble. Walking home in the rain at night there is inviting disaster — you may as well pick up a plaster cast on the way.

And why does this matter in Antigua? Sidewalks here easily fit two Guatemalans or one of me. So far my ankles are still intact.

The Maya are anti-giants
They really are a tiny people, on the whole. At six feet, I’m used to being the biggest guy around but I’m a giant here. I wandered into the back of the market one day where people from the surrounding villages had gathered and it felt like I had stumbled into a village of very tanned Hobbits. It took all of my meager willpower to resist sticking my arms out and stomping through the place, shrieking like Godzilla.

Instead, I tried my best to avoid knocking anything over and stay out of the way as they all elbowed each other and tittered amiably at the huge gringo in their midst.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam January 2, 2012 at 4:51 am

Had to laugh, an over enthusiastic church bell ringer.

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James Pham January 2, 2012 at 8:40 am

Loved the Quasimodo description! I’m currently in Bangkok and am looking at the women for all the WRONG reasons. Androgyny is definitely IN here and not in a good way….

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wes January 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Ha! Watch the hands and Adam’s apples ;)

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Amanda January 3, 2012 at 12:30 am

Hahaha, tanned hobbits and a crazed church bell ringer? Sounds like a fun place!

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Dave January 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I hiked Pacaya when I was there, great experience. Our guide took us to the far side of the volcano where you could get up close to the lava flow. I roasted a marshellow over the lava as it was flowing, even with a big stick I could barely stand close enough without my hand burning. But the interesting thing was that as soon as the molten lava had molted over, I was able to put my hand right next to it and light a cigarette from the molten lava through a crack in the outer crust.

Which is the highest volcano that you speak of that requires a 50,000 foot climb?

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wes January 4, 2012 at 1:38 pm

That sounds well worth the climb! As for the 50,000 ft volcano, I may have been making that part up ;)

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ayngelina January 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I love how you can find charm in places that I did not.

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wes January 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Ha! It took awhile, to be honest. Exploring the busy center of town didn’t really do it for me but once I dove into the market and started hanging out in that area, it won me over.

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Alex January 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm

I have long had Antigua on my list. I can’t wait to visit here someday and hike those volcanoes!

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wes January 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm

You’ll dig it!

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Sergio Felix January 3, 2012 at 12:31 am

Hey Johnny,

You got me with the crazy guy of the church bell too haha

I remember that when I went to the Aztec ruins, the steps for the constructions were really narrow and high.

It goes beyond my comprehension why they were built that way but you can certainly trip over and kill yourself.

Sergio

PS. The Godzilla bit was hilarious too LOL

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wes January 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Good point about the steps. Angkor Wat is the same way — very narrow and steep. A guide told me that was for a purpose: the top of the pyramid represented heaven and it shouldn’t be easy to reach heaven…

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Bret @ Green Global Travel January 3, 2012 at 7:54 am

This paragraph– “But here, whoever is working that rope goes at it like he’s having a grand mal seizure. I counted 41 tolls one morning at 9 am. I have no idea what significance that number might hold other than that it’s a prime number. Maybe there’s a Guatemalan Rain Man up there, just marking time until he gets his shot at Vegas.” — made me LOL more than anything I’ve read on a blog recently. And I agree with you about the women in Latin America. I’ve already forewarned my lady about going to Colombia, telling her everyone there looks like Sofia Vergara and I can’t be hel responsible if I come back with whiplash (again). Great post!

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wes January 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Thanks, Bret! Bring a neck brace ;)

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TheGourmetCoffeeGuy January 3, 2012 at 11:45 pm

You crack me up! What a funny post. Antigua is definitely very beautiful and a great place to visit. Thanks for the humorous writing, very enjoyable.

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kristy January 5, 2012 at 9:34 am

you have managed to get me very excited to visit guatemala next month! thank you!

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Dani | Globetrottergirls January 11, 2012 at 12:18 am

Great post, Wes! Had to laugh about the church bells observation. We miss the quirky things you only experience in Guatemala, the crazy chicken bus rides, the colonial towns, the little Maya boys who used to surround us, always eager to show us something (we took them up on their offer in Chichi & explored the cemetery there with them, highly recommend it – very entertaining :D)

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wes January 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Ooh, that does sound like fun. For it being such a small country, there sure is a lot to see.

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Wrabbit007 March 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

I’ve been to Costa Rica a lot, but never Guatemala. I think I might have to change that – I want to meet this bell ringer dude. I’ve always wanted to pull the rope and then dangle off of it while the bells go crazy – this sounds like the place to do that!

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Roy Marvelous April 25, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Will be in Antigua in 5 days. Interested to experience these observations myself!

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Jeff @ planetbell November 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

I love the post. Antigua is one of my favorite cities and I love your humor.

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