The first time I’ve heard of Belize was when I was 14 years old.
I was sitting on the 7 subway train coming into Manhattan and my friend Sara Yoo was sitting across from me when she looked at me in the eye and firmly declared: “I want to visit Belize before I die.” The conviction on her face left such an impression that her dreams had made a mark on mine as well. Since then I’ve never forgotten Belize…and 11 years later I’m finally here. It’s a literal childhood dream come true.
Despite a ridiculously relaxed and simple border crossing (similar to the one we did in Vietnam to Cambodia) that made it seem anyone can simply just walk on over, the differences between the two countries are noticeable from the getgo:
From Mayan to Rastaman, crew cuts to dreadlocks, spanish to creole, crooning Guatemalan singers to chilled out Bob Marley, the road from Guatemala to Belize is as if you’re witnessing the progression of the region’s history in fast speed. Gone are the typical images you may have of Latin America; Belize is much more Caribbean than you expect.
The border crossing is exactly like that of what we did in crossing from Vietnam into Cambodia: get off your bus, get your exit passport stamp, cross the border, get your entry passport stamp, declare customs, get back on the same bus.
And then you’re off to Latin America’s version of the Caribbean:
So after a 5hr trip from Tikal Inn (leaving at 8am), we arrived in Belize City in the early afternoon at 1:30pm. At the moment the bus stopped to park, we were rushed out to a water taxi ($30 Belize Dollars or $15 USD; $55 Belize Dollars for a roundtrip ticket that’s good for 3 months) that would take us to the Northern Cays for the true Belize experience: Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.
The former is smaller, more remote, and easily explorable in the span of 2 hours. Ambergris Caye (or aka the town of San Pedro) is more developed as a tourist haven, but supposedly still retains a laid-back paradise feel to it that would make a backpacker feel less guilty for making this a destination. Due to our limited time, we chose the latter.
Views from our water taxi:
Our immediate reaction of San Pedro: a damn charming tropical paradise. Enough said. Yes, tourists and tourism abound, but the town has more of a “mom and pop” shop feel than anything resembling gentrification.
Therefore, San Pedro feels genuine, as if you’ve stumbled upon a sleep little resort town only the “cool kids” know about.
And the coastline…don’t get me started how pretty it is.
But the real draw of Belize is its sense of humor and its unique examples of character we encountered:
And of course, after 11 years of dreaming of Belize…
So we walk along the coast some more…
And we stumble upon a public performance at San Pedro’s Central Park:
Afterwards we search for a place to have dinner along the beach.
And then we look for dessert at San Pedro’s famous DandE frozen custard shop, which was delicious.
DandE is supposedly San Pedro’s sole frozen custard and sorbet dessert shop, and we get a sense that the entire expat community descends upon DandE nightly as the people who run it seem to know everyone by first name when they walk in. It was touching to be given a window into San Pedro’s expat community here, as it was made even better slurping on frozen custard as we watched the night go by.
All in all, a quaint little day in the tropical paradise of San Pedro. Of all the places I’ve been to in my life, this is one of the very few places I can say that I wish I could’ve stayed longer…as mad as it even feels to me when I say it: tomorrow I fly home. And I don’t want to go home yet.
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- At time of posting in Belize / Phillip Goldston Intl. Airport, it was 24 °C - Humidity: 69% | Wind Speed: 9km/hr | Cloud Cover: few clouds