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Visited Belize in September 2018, September is hot and humid, not the best time to visit. Everyone speaks English though locals speak Kriol among themselves.

Day 1                            

                                           Belize City Airport to San Ignacio 

I had booked a shuttle online to take take me from Belize City airport to San Ignacio, for $55 USD. They canceled on me as minimum 2 people are needed to take the shuttle or I could pay double. I took my chances as I coudl not find an online company to take me from Belize Airport to SAN Ignacio, so basically arrived around noon and immigration is quick and easy. Once outside the airport, cab drivers approached me, the price was $160 to go to San Ignacio, I declined and asked the taxi drive how much to go to the bus stop in Belize City, the price is $25 and I agreed. I had already searched the online forums and knew that to be a fair price.The taxi drive tried to convince me to go to San Ignacio, he kept saying the buses will be full.

At the Belize City bus stop I waited for 15 minutes and was on a Bus to San Ignacio. There are no AC in the bus, the ticket was 5.50 USD or 11 Belize dollars. And the bus was full, though I got a seat. Roughly 3 hours later I was in San Ignacio.


Belize City main bus terminal

                                                     San Ignacio 

 Small little border town, just a few city blocks, one can walk anywhere. Cayo welcome center is where you can get all the tourist information from. Its by the main bus stop, now in San Ignacio there is no bus terminal, just a stop by the road side. Locals are friendly and will help you directions if needed. Hot and sweaty from the bus ride, I headed to my hotel that I had booked though booking.com for $25 a night. Private room with attached bath.



After a refreshing shower, I was off to explore the town. Found a place that sells organized tours, booked a day tour through them to Tikal Guatemala, for the following day. Price was $135.

Day 2 was spent in Tikal

First day in San Ignacio, I had dinner at Erva's, its on Far West street. A dinner of fish, rice and beans and a side salad with a beer was around 10 USD. The next night I ate a Chinese restaurant called Maxim's. There is also an Indian restaurant call Tandoor. There are no shortage of eating options in San Ignacio.

Day 3 and DAY 4, I headed back to Belize City, again at the bus stop in San Ignacio cab driver approached me, to take me back they wanted $75 this time. I took the bus back.

                                                                    Belize City

My hotel in Belize city was located between the main Bus stop and down town. The price was $60 a night for an A/C room with breakfast included.

TIP -  if you want to use ATM to get local currency, there is an ATM in downtown from Scotia bank, its near the Broadies supermarket.

Belize city is divided into 2 main parts, north side and south side. South side has extreme poverty. Broken down shacks with more than one family living in them, Belize city has 35% unemployment as per my cab driver. A lot of houses are on stilts due to flooding from the sea. North Side is the richer and nicer area with a lot of ex-pat and retires calling it home.

I made my way in South Side to St. John's Cathedral. Its the oldest Cathedral in the Caribbean built in 1812, made by bricks used to balance the ships that came from Europe and Africa.



The first picture is the Cathedral and the 2nd picture is what is left of a wall around the Cathedral, the slaves had to be on the other side of the wall.

I did go inside the Cathedral, it is beautiful.

Behind the Cathedral is an old governors mansion by the ocean. I had a cab drive me along the south part of the city. We drove past old cemeteries, the graves are above ground due to sea water in the ground. We went past government buildings, museum's, schools - kids in Belize wear white uniforms. Then we went to the nicer part of the city the north side. Beautiful drive along the ocean, beautiful colonial houses, sea side bars. Embassies and casinos and the cab driver gave me an commentary as he drove along. The hour and a half ride along Belize city in the Taxi cost was 25 USD.


 

The first picture above is an old colonial house on barrack street, back in the 1800's there was no A/C and the houses were built with all those windows to ventilate and keep the house cooler.
The 2nd photo is of Brodies supermarket, they have a deli for cheap eats. Downtown, though rest of the stores were Chinese and Indian owned as far as I could tell.

Due to lack of time I plan to visit Belize again to see the Belize Cayes (Islands)
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Explore the Fascinating Quito, Ecuador

Quito happens to be the capital city of Ecuador, the highest capital in the world as far as altitude goes, and it can be found tucked away in between the breathtaking beauty of multiple mountain peaks.  The streets are always busy, but there is still a calm in the air, as the locals prefer a relaxed atmosphere at any hour of the day and night.

I visited Quito in July 2018, evenings can get cold. Pack a jacket with your clothes.

Airport to City Taxi will cost $25 USD one way.

Stay: I stayed at Hostal L'Auberge Inn for about $12 a night, private room with shared bathroom. Loved my stay there, check booking.com for discounts.

Food: My Hostel was half way between the Old town and the New part of the town, walking distance to both. New part of the town is where all the clubs, Bars and fancy restaurants are, though street food is everywhere.

Transportation: Taxis are cheap in Ecuador, I did a lot of walking in Quito also

TIP: Learn some Spanish, its hard to get by with just English

Basilica del Voto Nacional Quito
Those who choose to visit Quito will be amazed at how much history can be seen and experienced without even stepping foot in one of the museums.  Everyone will love wandering the streets as they stop to admire the treasures that can be found within spectacular plazas and historical buildings and churches.


Here are the best things to see as people are exploring the fascinating Quito, Ecuador:

Old Town

Old Town is the historic district of this capital city and it is easy for everyone to wander around on foot as they look at every inch of it.  While in Old Town, there are plenty of museums to venture into, but most visitors will be more impressed with the plethora of old churches.  La Compania de Jesus was constructed during the 17th century and it is covered in gold, while the Roman Catholic San Francisco Church has been around since the 16th century and contains the Virgin of Quito.

Teleferiqo

Because of the high altitude, I was out of breath and didn't end up going up there.

The Teleferiqo is the cable car that takes visitors up twelve thousand feet so that they can see panoramic views that go on for miles.  This is the best way to see the nearby volcanoes, especially Cotopaxi, which is one of the world’s tallest ones.

Basilica del Voto Nacional

A 10 minute walk from my hostal, went there twice. There is a 2 dollar fee to take the elevator to the top. Once you exit the elevator you can view the city from the top or go even further higher by stairs to get to the tower, not an easy climb. The Basilica is a  must do/see in Quito.

El Panecillo


El Panecillo is a large hill that has a statue of the Virgin on top.  While everyone can see the Virgin from different vantage points within Quito, many people prefer to take a taxi to the top to see the statue up close.  It is also possible to walk to the top to see the fantastic views of the city below.

Important TIP: I Visited Panecillo in the evening, everyone I asked advised me not to go in the evening as its not safe, I wanted to take some night photos and went anyways, nothing happened to me. Besides I had less than 20 bucks on me, if someone was to rob me, no big deal. Now my advise, don't go there late in the evening.

El Panecillo


Carolina Park

This is the best place in the city to go and relax on any day of the week, but it is busiest on the weekends when the locals do not need to go to work.  Inside the park, everyone will find an exotic botanical garden, a planetarium, museum, and a reptile house.  Those who wish to participate in one of the many sports inside the park can play soccer or they can try to learn how to play Ecuavoli, which is volleyball with specific rules and three people to a team.  There are also paddle boats that people can take out on the water.

Middle of the World

I hired a private Cab to take me to the Middle of the world Monument in Ecuador, the cost was $30 dollars round trip, the cab drivers told me for an extra 15 U$D he would also take me to Pululahua volcano and Crater and I agreed.




Middle of the world Monument in Ecuador - YouTube


Calle de la Ronda

This unique street in the area of Old Town is covered in cobblestones for visitors to walk over as they venture in and out of the interesting art galleries and artisan shops.  No one will be able to resist making a purchase or two when they are there, and most people will stop in one of the little cafés for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee when they need a little break.  The best time to visit this area of the city is when they are hosting heritage and cultural events, and there are many of them throughout the year.

Now I on my 2nd day in Quito did a free walking tour of Quito that one through the old town, the tour is not free its based on tips, I tipped the tour guide 10 USD.

Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, Quito

La Compania church in Quito



Both these Churches have beautiful gold work done inside and are a must see.
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Visited Marrakesh March 2018, used my frequent flyer miles and took a flight from from Dallas Texas to Madrid Spain and onwards to Marrakesh


Safety in Marrakesh Morocco In general, I found Marrakesh to be a very a safe city. Nevertheless, taking general safety precautions you can never get it wrong.

Money The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (MAD). At the time of writing this 1 US Dollar is equal to 9.12 MAD.

Scams:  I don't shop, no scams, I was hoping someone would try to lure me into their shop, that never happened either. Marrakesh is easy to navigate and I didnt have to ask for directions, no scams there either.


Airport to Hotel, my Hotel arranged for a taxi for 20 euros, on the way back I got a taxi and we agreed for 100 MAD and the driver charged me 150, so yes I was scammed for 5 USD.


Where to Stay in Marrakesh Morocco The city has a remarkable choice of places to stay. Hotels, hostels, riads or dars in Marrakesh Morocco offer plenty accommodation options. Riads and dars are old grand houses transformed into hotels and inns. They usually have gardens or open courtyards and represent examples of astonishing Moroccan architecture.


I stayed in Dar Daoud for 3 night, it was USD 100 for 3 nights 4 Days with breakfast included. Dar was 5 minutes walk from Jemaa El-Fna square.

Marrakesh is divided into two different parts: the Medina, the historical city and Gueliz or Ville Nouvelle, the new and modern European district.

Day I

Arrived in Marrakesh Airport, all tourist have to fill out immigration Arrival forum, expect long lines, the whole process is relatively easy. Once outside the airport I located my Cab driver, he had the Riad sign, and off we went through the streets of  Marrakesh, he dropped me off to one of the entrance to the city square, cabs are not allowed after 12 Noon in the jemaa El-Fna square. My hotel all in one receptionist, chef and tour guide was there to walk me rest of the way.

After check-in and a nice cup of mint tea, I got a map of the city from  the reception and was off to explorer. I walked through the old souks and arrived at jemaa El-Fna square, it was still early, evenings and night time is when the square comes alive, with 100's of food vendors selling traditional Moroccan food, Juice stalls, Artists performing, dances, snake charmers and thousands of people. This square is the highlight of Marrakesh nightlife, its one of the biggest squares in Africa. 

From the square, I walked past all these horse drawn carriages to Koutoubia Mosque. The Koutoubia Mosque is not only at the epicenter of Moroccan culture, it is an architectural marvel that has influenced structures in Rabat and Spain since the 12th century. I took a few photos and made my way back across the street to the hop on hop off bus stop. Got the info I needed to take the bus  From there I headed back to the square, There I found an ATM next to a pharmacy. Got local currency and was off to get an early dinner. Found a seafood vendor as I am not into eating meat and got a delicious meal for under $10 USD with mint tea.






Henna Tattoo at the  jemaa El-Fna

A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Apr 16, 2018 at 3:23pm PDT


Above picture of the Souq.


DAY 2

I had stayed late out the night before and slept in, the breakfast gets over at 10:30 AM, I dragged myself out of the bed by 10 for some delicious Moroccan pancakes. Still was feeling jet-lagged. After shower it was close to noon, I took off to see. Jardin Majorelle, Over a course of 40 years, the famous French painter, Jacques Majorelle worked on bringing this mind blowing garden to life. Later, the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent stepped in to finish the process.

Caught a cab for 3 USD, and I was at the entrance of the Garden, there were very long lines to buy the ticket and get in to see Jardin Majorelle, now I am not a big fan of long lines or big crowds, so I saw my cab driver and headed back to the Riad. The cab driver wanted to show me the clubs in the European district, I declined, not my thing.

Long lines outside Jardin Majorelle

At the Riad, I was checking online for a sunset camel ride, my Riad (hotel) reception dude told me He'd hook me up for the Palm grove camel ride for half the price. So after a few minutes this other Gentleman shows up, We walked though a maize of narrow streets, there was an SUV waiting and and I was off to the palm Groves.Cost 25 USD.



I did ride the camel, but mostly walked alongside the camel, later was Invited to mint tea and riifa (a Moroccan version of a crepe, a dough flattened and folded over, then cooked in a frying pan) at a Moroccan Berber family house. Its not free you are expected to tip the family.



Day 3

I had caught up on my sleep and was over the jetlag,  after breakfast went the hop on bus, cost 20 USD. Spent all day exploring Marrakesh. Both the historical city and the modern European district. There are 2 Hop on Hop off lines, red and blue line, I went on both.





Bab Agnaou and Saadian Tombs was my last stop of the day


Those who love history should include the Saadian Tombs in their Marrakech itinerary. The tombs were created for members of the Saadi dynasty, including Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour Eddahbi and had been lost to the sands for centuries, until they were discovered in 1917. The entire area is decorated with beautiful tiles, carvings, calligraphy and other splendors.



Shopping: Now I don't shop but if shopping is your thing, Don’t miss to visit Medina Souks shops sell anything from famous Moroccan spices to traditional kaftans, bargain letter shoes, jewelry and and other junk. I walk through the Souks is quiet an experience and highly recommended.



City View
There are several rooftop cafes around jemaa El-Fna square, Pick one and enjoy the experience, now I highly recommend this.


Day 4


Another late night and another struggle to getup, after breakfast, got the day to a start, walked through the Souks, had a nice lunch was off to the airport and was headed to Barcelona.
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Visited Masai Village


On the banks of the Nairobi River, this fast-growing metropolis is one of the largest cities in Kenya.  The city is constantly growing and adapting, with chaotic roadways, open green spaces, and beautiful natural attractions just on the outskirts.  It is a very enjoyable place to spend a few days before beginning a safari!

When to Visit

The climate in Nairobi has comfortable, temperate conditions all year.  The nights are cool, and the days are warm with temperatures around 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.  Temperatures are highest in December to March, while the best time to see migrations are from July to October.  The wettest months are April and May, so be sure to plan ahead to get good prices while avoiding the rainy season.

Best Things to do in Nairobi

There are amazing activities both inside and outside the city of Nairobi for you to enjoy when visiting. 

The best way to get around Nairobi is by taxi or matatu.  Taxis don’t use meters and can be notoriously unreliable.  Use a reputable company only, and verify the average cost of a ride with a third party to ensure you don’t get ripped off.  Matatus are basically short buses, and they add to the chaos and confusion of the dizzying roadways.  But, they offer an easy and inexpensive way to get around.  If you aren’t going far, then walking on foot is usually a good option—many neighbourhoods have improving safety for visitors, but it is always best to check with your hotel first.
Downtown Kenya offers many attractions such as the old parliament buildings.  There is excellent colonial architecture in the downtown area.  If you want to learn more about the history and culture, check out the Nairobi National Museum.  Looking for some time away from hectic traffic?  Spend your afternoon at the lovely Jeevanjee Gardens, or cool off at Africa’s largest ice skating rink, Solar Ice Rink.  A visit to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where baby elephants and rhinos live, is an incredible way to support conservation efforts and get an up-close glimpse of these playful giants.

Find quality souvenirs and goods at the Maasai Market—a huge open-air market filled with vendors selling any number of handcrafted items and local delicacies.  Masai Market is only open on weekends.


At the The Giraffe Center in Nairobi

Food in Nairobi

If food is a big component of your travel, you can enjoy excellent Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Indian cuisine in Nairobi. Common local foods include Chai, beans, cornmeal, and chapatis which are a lovely thin, crispy bread.

The adventurers can turn their eyes to the horizons beyond Kenya—here you will find the northern face of Kilimanjaro.  You can trek up this mountain or the nearby Mount Kenya.  The true adventure lies to the west, at Masai Mara National Reserve.

Visit Wonderful Masai Mara

If you are in Kenya, a can’t-miss destination is the Masai Mara game reserve.  Masai Mara (also known as Maasai Mara or The Mara) is one of Kenya’s largest game reserves.  This is a popular destination for those that visit Kenya.

Getting There

About 280 kilometres away from the city centre of Nairobi, the easiest ways to get to Masai Mara are driving and flying.  The drive takes around 6 hours along a smooth, scenic road to Narok.  After the Narok pit stop, the road gets rougher, with pot holes or dirt roads only.  You can rent a 4x4 and a driver for the day to take you to Masai Mara. 
The other alternative is to fly.  A short 45-minute flight will take you over top of the expansive landscape.  Many safaris offer chartered flight options.

I used African Comfort Zone Safaris. The cost was around 300 USD for 3 days and 2 nights safari, and I recommend them. 


Visiting

The Masai Mara area is mostly open grassland, making it an excellent spot for wildlife viewing.  There are almost one hundred land animals and over four hundred birds that call the area home.  It is an important area of studying wildlife conservation and for visitors to garner respect and appreciation for these expansive natural surroundings.

The annual wildebeest migration sees 1.5 million animals coming into the are in July and leaving in November.  This is a prime time to visit, and it is common for visitors any time of the year to see the Big Five—buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino.  Other common animal sightings include zebra, crocodile, baboon, warthog, gazelle, cheetah, and hyena.

The best way to see Masai Mara is with a safari guide.  The local Maasai people work with certain companies to offer an in-depth and unique view of the animals and the local culture.  These guides know the land like no other and are able to provide visitors an authentic experience.  Stay at a basecamp, and work your way out from there with your guide on day trips, night safaris, outlying camps, and visits to local communities.  Many of these camps are truly world-class retreats where you are treated to excellent local cuisine, and comfortable lodgings.


However you choose to explore Nairobi and Masai Mara, it is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with unforgettable sites and wonders. 
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