Of the ancient ruins, the site at Xunantunich (Mayan for “Aztecs Suck”) is larger and more remote. Located in the far west of the country, you can’t even drive directly to the site. Instead, you have to park your car by a small creek. Then, some guy who looks like a Mayan Walter Brennan (except for the not being dead part) ferries you across on a raft which would make Huckleberry Finn pee himself with excitement.
After surviving the raft trip, you embark on a trek of a quarter mile before finally arriving at the ruins. Quickly overcoming the “Man, that’s old” feeling, you proceed to examine the foundations of what was once a bustling city complete with a palace, market district, main plaza, and the awesome “Rip-Their-Hearts-From-Their-Chests-Because-They-Were-Too-Slow-To-Escape” pyramid.
If you’ve ever wandered the ruins of Rome, you’ll find it remarkably similar. But, with a lot fewer terra-cotta and cheese sculptures of the Pope.
But, if exploring dead cities isn’t your bag, Belize has much more for the adventurous.
Boasting the largest reef in the Western hemisphere, there are ample places to snorkel, skin-dive (Al’s Nature Tip: Don’t pet the barracudas), or otherwise enjoy the blue waters of the Caribbean. Or a Pina Colada.
Most visitors go to Ambergris Caye (pronounced “Key.” Hey, don’t laugh; we can’t make up our minds whether it’s MissouREE or MissouRAH).
Following a peaceful idyll on sandy beaches, vacationers flock to San Pedro. The hub of the island, it offers an abundance of nightlife including exotic restaurants, live music, trendy nightclubs, and foosball tables.
Back on the mainland, the Belize Zoo is a pleasant way to observe native Central American wildlife. Although, I must say I felt sorry for the howler monkeys. They were forced to plant their “boys” (if you know what I mean) on huge wooden branches without the protection of shorts. Hell, I’d howl, too.
|Best Picture of a Jaguar I Could Find|
And don’t get me started on the Scotch Tapirs (Predictable stupid joke. My apologies).
Taking a drive through the interior is equally pleasant. I recommend the Blue Hole Rainforest. In addition to an awesome nature walk (made all the more compelling in that much of the actual “nature” can kill you), there is the “Blue Hole,” a very deep freshwater spring. Some say it’s “bottomless”, but, then again, these people believe you can't get food poisoning from a 7-Eleven hot dog) freshwater spring.
While driving there, you’ll get a chance to see some of Belize’s natural beauties like huge mangrove forests, the majestic Maya Mountains, and massive tire fires.
Plus, an Amish family driving their buggy along towards the capital (I am NOT making this up).
Anyway, to make a long story short (I know-too late), I’ve included some Frequently Asked Questions:
What language is spoken in Belize? English is the official language. On San Pedro, though, they also speak “pidgin beer.”
Can I drink the water? Yeah, uh, sure, go ahead. Still, you may want to pack some Poland Spring and/or kaopectate.
What is the unit of currency? Parrot beaks and shells were once common but have been supplanted by the Belizean dollar. However, the American dollar is accepted EVERYWHERE (unlike Americans themselves).
Are there any diseases I should be concerned about? There are no serious epidemic diseases in Belize. However, anti-malarial medicines are urged in case you’re going to run around naked in the jungles.
Are there any dangerous animals in Belize? There are snakes, cab drivers, and I wouldn’t recommend going “Here kitty, kitty” to a jaguar. And, while not dangerous, the damn birds are up at the crack of frikkin’ dawn just in time to have a cup of coffee and cigarette before dumping a truckload of avian crap all over your windshield.
What will it cost to send a letter home? Letters!? May I introduce you to a little something I call the “Internet?” Where do you think you are? British Honduras?
Is electricity 110 or 220 volts? Heck, I don’t even know that here. Suffice to say, you can plug in your shavers, irons, and inflatable cows.
What is Belize’s climate like? Not bad, all things considered. Kinda hot in the summer and, as for winter, don’t be such a big shot, wear a jacket. Rains a lot, though. You may want to wear your rubbers if it does rain. Or you meet a hooker (sorry, couldn’t let that one go by).
What are the public holidays? New Years, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Holy Moley, Holy Crap-Look at the Size of That Rabbit!, Easter, Easter Monday, Labor Day-May 1st (go figure), Commonwealth Day-May 24th (where they dress up as their favorite member of the Royal Family), St. George’s Caye Day-September 10th (where they leave coconuts in children’s shoes), Independence Day-September 21st (theirs, not ours, you dope), Columbus Day, Garifuna Day (haven’t a clue about this one, I think it’s a Mafia thing), Christmas, and Canadian Thanksgiving.
Do I need a passport? What kind of question is that? Where do you think you’re going? The Jersey shore?
What’s the local cuisine? Fish is pretty big (duh), as is Jamaican jerk Chicken (although the Jamaican that comes with the meal can really get on your nerves) and, surprisingly (or maybe not...great, NOW I’ve hacked off China!), there’s loads of Chinese restaurants. Hot sauce kinda smells like feet, though.
What kind of beer do they have there? Now THERE’S my kind of question! One of the local brews is “Belikin.” It’s Belizean for “beer.” Well, not really, but it sounds pretty neat.
Paper or plastic? Plastic, of course. Screw the environment.
Well, I could ramble on a lot more about a country about which I grew very fond. One of the jewels of the Caribbean (Al’s Fun With Pronunciation: It’s either CaribBEEan or CaRIBbean. Your choice...have fun with it).
Belize, to me, is a great place to unwind and enjoy the simple life. The people are the friendliest I have ever met, the sites are tremendous, and you could do any number of things from beach-combing to discovering if the Ancient Mayans had public restrooms (Al’s Travel Tip: They didn’t).
Unfortunately, since it’s been a few years, things may have changed. Americans, as you know, are about as welcome as Osama Bin Laden at a Bar Mitzvah. But, I somehow doubt you’ll get a lot of grief in Belize. Especially if you speak in a Canadian accent.
So go ahead. Consider Belize for your vacation plans.
At least you’ll understand the locals.
Unlike in Miami.