A Brief Look of Cozumel

Before heading back to the United States, we had a day to spend in Cozumel. I’ve already visited Mexico a couple of years ago and I’ve seen the states of Quintana Roo and a little bit of the Yucatán Peninsula. Since our cruise ship docked in the port of Cozumel, what better to do than to have a brief look of Cozumel.

Welcome to Cozumel

Cozumel is an island and municipality in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The municipality is part of the state of Quintana Roo with the likes of Cancún. The economy of Cozumel is based on tourism. The place is famous to tourists for scuba diving, snorkeling and its beaches and shoreline. We were in Puerta Maya and was exploring the stores and places around.

Puerta Maya and me
Puerta Maya photo location with cruise ships as backdrop
Stores and more stores
Souvenir shops in hut
Refreshments in a hut

The port of Cozumel is so famous of cruise ships that everyday it is packed. It is busy with travelers. Stores are full of buyers and customers. It is indeed a good location due to the proximity back to the port of call in Miami, Florida.

Carnival Glory
Carnival Paradise with Cozumel’s shores

It was brief but I was slightly disappointed. I was really looking forward to swim in Cozumel. My expectation was set so high that I got dissatisfied with my visit. I really thought they would have a swimming area like what Grand Turk has.

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Xunantunich Mayan Ruins of Cayo, Belize

Xunantunich is about 2 hours from Belize City. While we were on the road, our tour guide gave us some important facts. Xunantunich is a famous Mayan archaeological site in western Belize, in the Cayo District. It is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border which is less than a mile to the west.

photo credit: Google Maps

The journey began with a relaxing scenic trip to the Mopan River, passing several villages and towns along the way. We passed Hattieville and our tour guide, Maude, got our attention to look on the mountains that looks like a sleeping giant. The locals called it, the Virgin of the Sleeping Giant.

Virgin of the Sleeping Giant

We passed the intersection that will lead to Belmopan. Belmopan is the capital city of the country. It is located also in Cayo District at an altitude of 249 feet above sea level. Belmopan was constructed just to the east of Belize River, 50 miles inland from the former capital, Belize City. The government was moved to Belmopan and made it the capital due to the former city’s near destruction by Hurricane Hattie.

Crossing to the Belmopan Sign

I took a quick shuteye for about 30 mins and then, we got to Santa Elena. Santa Elena was used to be a separate village and was absorbed by the town of San Ignacio, making the latter the largest settlement in Cayo District and the second largest in the country after Belize City.

Santa Elena roundabout

About 20 minutes from Santa Elena, we arrived in San Jose Succotz. San Jose Succotz is a Maya village consisting mainly of people of Yucatec Maya descent. It is also the location of the famous ruins. After we got off the bus, we, then, took a 5-minute ferry ride crossing the river to access the remote ruins. Next was a van ride approximately 5-10 minutes to get to the site. We have to walk uphill and after few minutes, we finally saw the ruins. It was truly a sight to behold.

Xunantunich Sign
River crossing
Van ride to the ruins
My first sight of El Castillo of the Xunantunich

Xunantunich which means stone lady; xunan for stone and tunich for lady. This site was a major ceremonial center during the Classical Period composed of six major plazas and surrounded by more than 25 temples and palaces.

El Castillo

The largest temple, El Castillo, has been excavated and partially restored; it is famous for its frieze, a banded stucco decoration that at one time extended around the entire pyramid. It is the second tallest structure in Belize. El Castillo is the ‘axis mundi’ of the site, or the intersection of the two cardinal lines.

Front view of El Castillo
Top of El Castillo and its intricate carvings, meanings and stories

Visitors can climb the ruins, sitting atop a natural limestone ridge, the site provided panoramic views of the hilly Cayo District and even a town in Guatemala. I got tons of photos and it sure was mesmerizing. It wasn’t as hot as Chichén Itzá since there are a lot of trees where you can rest under the shade.

View on top of El Castillo
View of Guatemala from El Castillo

The Introductory Site History and Display Centers is found at the entrance to the center and is also one of the major attractions in the ruins site. Guests can see more of the artifacts. They can get more and detailed information of the discovery and history of the Mayan culture.

Xunantunich Visitor Center
Artifacts

After exploring the ancient Mayan site, we returned to San Ignacio area for a local lunch before heading back to Belize City. We went to Hode’s Place Restaurant and Bar.

Hode’s Place Restaurant & Bar
Coconut chicken with rice and beans, fried plantain and coleslaw

We got the coconut chicken with rice and beans, a fried plantain, and a coleslaw. It was one of the best meal I had during this trip. It was delicious that I want to have more but we were on a tight schedule.

The whole Xunantunich Mayan Ruins trip was wonderful. Belize brought me great memories! I have learned few facts about the country and its rich ancient Mayan history. It was an amazing experience with whole bamboo chickens group of Maude, our tour guide.

Visit my YouTube channel for my Un-Belize-able vlog:

Un-Belize-able

The cruise arrived in Belize from Honduras at 0700H local time. Cruise passengers need to go to the tender port to get to the country. We took a ferry for 15 minutes to get to the coast. Cruise ships usually drop anchor outside the port and tendered by locals.

The cruise arrived in Belize from Honduras at 0700H local time. Cruise passengers need to go to the tender port to get to the country. We took a ferry for 15 minutes to get to the coast. Cruise ships usually drop anchor outside the port and tendered by locals.

When we got to the coast of Belize City, we were welcomed by Belizeans with smiles. We hopped to a bus right away and our Un-Belize-able journey began.

Flag of Belize

Belize was once called as British Honduras and was changed to its current name in 1973. The nation got her freedom in September 21st of 1981 and declared independence from Great Britain. Belize is as big as the state of Massachusetts. It has 6 districts with 200 islands. The flag of Belize consists of the Coat of Arms recalling the logging industry which led to the British settlement of the land. The mahogany tree represents this industry. The red and blue stripes symbolizes the two partylists running the country. The humans depicted in the flag is a mestizo (British) and an African descent (Belizean).

We drove around Belize City and flags were everywhere celebrating their coming independence day. We were in there last 09/12/2018. While we were driving around the city, our tour guide was also giving us some important information.Belize City is the largest city in the country. It was once the capital of the former British Honduras. The city is located at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, which is a tributary of the Belize River. The city is the country’s principal port and its financial and industrial hub. The city was almost destroyed when it was hit by Hurricane Hattie back in 1961. It was then that the capital of Belize was changed to Belmopan in 1970.

Central Bank of Belize

We passed through this building. This building is the Central Bank of Belize. It was established in 1982 and was built like a Maya temple.

CARICOM Flag Monument

CARICOM or Caribbean Community is an organization of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies whose main objective is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policies. That is the CARICOM Flag Monument in Belize.

Belize City Civic Centre

Belize City Civic Centre is located at the foot of the Belcan (Belize-Canada) bridge. It is the location for big and small events. This multi-purpose mega facility has airconditioned area with a seating capacity of 4,500. It has 3 practice courts, media boxes, offices, and multiple locker rooms. It has a basketball court with 24 hours access and a wide parking spot.

Roundabout sculpture of a hand holding a leaf

This sculpture is located in the Cemetery Road and it caught my eyes. It was intriguing. I wanted to know the reason and the story behind this sculpture but I forgot to ask the tour guide. Anyway, I still like it though.

Marine Parade Monument

This monument stands about twelve feet tall and is a replica of a Mayan site but it is surrounded by canons. The Marine Parade Monument is erected in one of the prized city areas facing the sea. The placement and design of this monument made a lot of controversies when locals agreed that it is out of place and out of touch and the roundabout would have been more appealing if it was surrounded with flowering plants instead.

Bhojwani Promenade

Bhojwani Promenade stretched from the end of the Sand Lighters Promenade to the traffic circle on Marine Parade. It is a little section, the actual sidewalk right from the Maya-inspired temple to the fish market. This area was named Bhojwani Promenade to honor the benefactor.

I can somehow track some of my pictures taken and these were random Belize City street photos.

Head Sculpture in George Price Highway
Building in George Price Highway
Street Vendor
Santiago Castillo

Santiago Castillo is one of the largest food distributors in Belize representing a wide variety of international brands. Its headquarter is in the city and it has built a reputation by continuously providing quality products at competitive prices with delivery service all throughout Belize for both wholesale and retail markets.

Random Photo

It was a brief road trip within Belize City. I was able to see the locals how they spent their regular day and I was amazed how clean their streets were. It was indeed an un-Belize-able day. Next post will be my trip to one of the most famous attractions in the country.

Top 10 Best of Roatán

Our next destination coming from the Cayman Islands is the Honduras. Honduras or officially called the Republic of Honduras is located in Central America. It has been referred to as the Spanish Honduras to differentiate from the British Honduras which is Belize now. Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, El Salvador to the southwest, the Gulf of Honduras to the north and a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

Flag of Honduras

The ship docked at Roatán port. Roatán is one of Honduras’ Caribbean Bay Islands or Islas de la Bahía. It is part of the huge Mesoamerican Barrier Reef which is known for its beaches, dive sites and marine life. We were in Mahogany Bay and got assisted by the Carnival cruise staff directing us to the right shore excursion. I chose the Top 10 Best of Roatán since it includes the Top-10 best attractions of the place.

Mahogany Bay

Our first shore excursion stop was Arch’s Iguana and Marine Park. It is one of the little known treasure of the island. The iguana farm is located along the main paved road in French Key, just past the French Harbour. Iguanas have long been the basic ingredient to make iguana stew in Roatán. The main reason Sherman Arch built and started the iguana shelter. Visitors can feed hundreds of different iguanas in their natural habitat.

Arch’s Iguana and Marine Reserve
Xach feeding the iguanas
Bird Aviary
Barracuda and other fishes in the Marine Enclosure
View at the Marine Enclosure

After our visit in the farm, we headed to the only Cameo Factory in the Americas. The Cameo Caracoles Carving Factory is located in the Coxen Hole. It is a very interesting and rare experience watching the trained Honduran to change an ordinary conch to a magical art piece. According to the tour guide, only few are left trained on conch carving. They harvested conch shells and make it beautiful masterpieces. Too bad, I’m too poor for such delicate and expensive artworks 😉 . We even had the chance of watching master craftsman create jewelry and art by carving away at shells, conchs, coral and stone.

Cameo Caracoles Carving
Master craftsman carving

Next stop was the Roatán Rum Company. It has been in business manufacturing fine rums way back 1765. There were a variety of authentic homemade rums. I don’t drink hard liquor but the rum cake tasted the really good. We only stayed in the store for few minutes. I took a picture behind the store with its nice view of the Roatán coast.

Roatán Rum Company
Roatán coast view from the Rum Company

Just across the rum company was El Faro Lighthouse. With a small fee of USD5, guests can climb the steps to the top of the lighthouse and be able to enjoy the spectacular view of the West Bay side of the island.

El Faro Lighthouse

On top of the El Faro Lighthouse is the landscape of the island with blue sky, green vegetation in the background and fresh island breeze. It was refreshing even with the sun glaring and the heat scorching. While everyone was having fun in the rum factory, I was in the lighthouse enjoying the view. The location is a good place to see the island. Next attraction was just located near the beautiful beach of Half Moon Bay. It is a stop in the West End Village’s ‘The Rusty Fish’. The Rusty Fish is a store gallery that offers great insight into the life in the area, tourists visit the gallery to purchase some of the recycled art created by the locals. Their products were interesting and buying them helps the community since the profit will go to the families needing assistance.

Rusty Fish’s handcrafted items
more handcrafted items

Just few miles from Rusty Fish was the Roatán Chocolate Factory. In the factory, they provided us a demonstration on the process to make some of the world’s best and rarest chocolate. They have wide varieties of chocolate flavors. They even gave us information on how to distinguish 100% organic chocolate from the rest of other chocolates. Their chocolates were really good. After the chocolate demonstration and free tasting, I went outside. Just across the store was the beach. I made sure to take a photo of the clear water, green sea and blue sky.

Roatán Chocolate Factory
West End beach

We, then, headed back to the coaster after Roatán Chocolate Factory. They drove us through Coxen Hole and passed City Hall on the way to a private beach. We went to Sol Y Mar Beach Club and Restaurant or Sandy Bay.

Sol Y Mar Beach Club and Restaurant
Beach Packages

Sol Y Mar Beach Club and Restaurant was our last stop. It was a great idea having the beach club as our last destination. Tourists can relax the beautiful beach before going back to the ship. The beach club offers different passes and packages. The beach resort has fine, powdery white sands, clear blue waters, and fresh sea breeze. I was able to have an R&R. While in the beach club, we were also entertained by the local Garifuna tribe members with their music, dancing, language and some of their foods. The shore excursion in Islas de la Bahia was great. Thanks to our awesome tour guide, Lina and our driver, Dimas. We had fun and explored almost the whole Bay Islands. Now, I can put a checkmark on Honduras as countries I have visited. The whole experience was fun and informative. Even though, I ran out of cash. It was a lesson learned in the hard way while traveling in the foreign country.

Check my vlog in my YouTube channel showing the Top 10 Best of Roatán:

Explore Cayman by Land and Sea

As a birthday present, I went on another cruise adventure. This time, I traveled with a special someone visiting new territories and countries. Since my first cruise trip was thru Carnival and I was pleased with the experience, thus, I picked them again. Coincidentally, I got Carnival Glory again. The same ship I sailed last year when I visited the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos Islands. I titled this trip, Cruising Together. The first stop was the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands Flag
Grand Cayman Port

The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory that encompasses 3 islands in the western Caribbean Sea. Grand Cayman is the largest island and is known for its beach resorts and varied scuba diving and snorkeling sites. Next is the Cayman Brac which is popular launch point for deep-sea fishing excursions. Then, Little Cayman, the smallest island, is home to diverse wildlife from endangered iguanas to seabirds. The ship was plotted its stop at the Grand Cayman. Carnival Cruises offered various excursions but we chose something that we’ll explore the island. So, we ended up with Explore Cayman by Land and Sea.

The Nautilus

After we were tendered to the port of George Town, we were ushered by the tour organizers to our coaster. In a few minutes, we left the port and headed to our first shore excursion destination which was the Nautilus. The Nautilus is a spacious, air-conditioned luxurious semi-submarine where tourists can explore the fabulous wonders under the sea.Thru Nautilus, we were able to see amazing coral reefs, a spectacular fun-filled fish feeding show, and two ghostly shipwrecks. These shipwrecks were sitting in the bottom of the sea for years and years, the Cali from Germany and the Balboa from Italy. Kudos to Martin and Dennis for a job well done in touring us under the sea.

Inside the semi-submarine, Nautilus
Coral Reefs
Feeding the Fishes
Balboa Shipwreck
Cali Shipwreck
The shipwrecks adding more attractions under the sea

We, then, continue on land in our air-conditioned coach as our tour guide regales us with tales from the island’s colorful past. Our next stop is at a place called Hell. It was just a short drive.

Xach1 posing in the sign, Welcome to Hell

The Hell is a group of short, black limestone formations located in West Bay. It is roughly the size of a football field. Visitors are not permitted to walk on the limestone formations but there is a viewing deck. There were numerous speculations on how this place got its name. It was claimed ‘Hell’ from the fact that if a pebble is thrown out into the formation, it echoes among the limestone peaks and valleys and sounds as if the pebble is falling all the way down to ‘Hell’. Regardless of how it first came to be called Hell, the name stuck and the area has become a tourist attraction, featuring a red hell-themed post office from which you can send ‘postcards from hell’, and a gift shop passing out souvenirs.

Limestone Formation
The Devil standing in the Hell Limestone Formation

After the Hell, we had a brief stop at one of the island’s rum cake centers where we got to taste the local delicacy. We were in Tortuga Rum Store. It is an authentic treasure and taste of the Caribbean.

Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake in Grand Cayman
The View Just Outside the Store
The Cracked Conch Restaurant and Tiki Bar near the store

The last stop was the Cayman Turtle Center. It is the only sea turtle center in the world. We were guided and educated about these turtles, from tiny hatchlings to the big breeders.  We were able to pick up a turtle for a ‘turtally’ fantastic photo opportunity. I am usually not a fan of taking photos with endangered species but somehow, this picture will help awareness to the world about taking care of mother nature and the ocean. Because we don’t know, one of these days, these harmless creatures will be found only in the pages of our books or ebooks. Let’s help save Mother Nature.

Cayman Turtle Centre
Breeding Pond
Turtles…
….and more turtles.
xach1 and I posing with the baby turtles

The whole time I was in Grand Cayman was amazing. Too bad at the end of our tour, we were hit by a sudden gust of strong winds and rains. We had to go back to the cruise ship and everyone was so eager to get to the ship, making the longest and tightest queue I had experience during my cruise adventure. But all in all, it was awesome. I got to explore Cayman by land and sea thru a semi-submarine.

Watch my vlog entry that featured my trip in the Cayman Islands:

KFC, Kentucky Finally unCovered

I’ve been passing thru Kentucky when I went to my trips. I visited Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee and also in Georgia but I never really stayed and explore Kentucky. So, this time, I traveled to the state. I called my trip, KFC, Kentucky Finally unCovered.

Kentucky is located in the east south-central region of the United States. Kentucky is one of the four U.S states constituted as a commonwealth, the others being Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The capital of the state is Frankfort but the largest city is Louisville. So, I ended up having a quick trip in Louisville since I am coming from Marengo, Indiana. In Louisville, I had stopover in Louisville Water Tower but to my surprise, they were close for a renovation. But even though they were closed, I took some photos.

Louisville Water Tower

Louisville Water Tower is located in downtown Louisville near the riverfront. It is also known as Louisville Water Company Pumping Station. It is a U.S National Historic Landmark. It is a famous location for weddings and formal gatherings. It has two towers. The towers were wide and beautiful. The buildings were under construction but the towers were a sight to behold.

The Two Towers

The Cast Iron Tower

The New Tower

The Tower with the statues

The Tower with the building

I only stayed for 5 minutes, took pictures while in my car and then left. After the tower, I just followed the River Road and parked at the Waterfront Park and walked to the Lincoln Memorial Park.

Waterfront Park View

Jug Band Pioneer

Kids’ Playground

View of Louisville skyscrapers from Waterfront Park

Clark Memorial Bridge

Waterfront Park is a city destination for walking paths, water features, kids’ playground, vast lawns and public art. It has big green space for hiking path with the scenic view of the bridges especially the Clark Memorial Bridge. The river breeze was cold and refreshing making it more relaxing while Kentuckian doing their morning walks or jogs. It took me about 5 mins to get to Lincoln Memorial Park and got awesome views of John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge

Street Signs

JFK Bridges

Lincoln Memorial Park is located in Waterfront Park. It has a statue of Abraham Lincoln depicted as he would have looked before he became the president of the United States. The sculpture is bareheaded seating on a rock with an open book in one hand and the other in an outstretched welcoming gesture.

Abraham Lincoln sculpture in Lincoln Memorial Park

John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridges view from Lincoln Memorial Park

Right next after the Lincoln Memorial Park, I went to the biggest and longest cave system in the world. The Mammoth Cave was established as a national park on July 1, 1941. It became a World Heritage Site and an international Biosphere Reserve.Mammoth Cave National Park preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley and hilly country of south central Kentucky. It is a wonder of the world not because it is the world’s longest cave system, but it protects diverse and fragile cave life. The national park is also recognized for its preservation of evidence of prehistoric cave exploration, mineral mining, and prehistoric domestication of plants.

Mammoth Cave of Kentucky

Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world at 412miles.

Passageways

Northern Cavefish (Amblyopsis spelea) grows to more than five inches long. It can live up to 60 years and go two years without eating if necessary. Adapting to complete darkness, it is a specialized cave dwellers being an eyeless cavefish.

Cave Crawfish is an eyeless crawfish that grows to more than four inches long. It has no pigmentation in its outer shell. Its claws make it a formidable predator of small invertebrates in cave pools and streams.

Just a heads up, guests should book a reservation a day prior to their visit because tour tickets are selling out quickly like hot pies. I reserved a historical cave tour, my first choice was the domes and dripstones tour but it was sold out already. Thus, I didn’t have a clue on what to expect on the cave tour I picked. Good thing I did some reading before doing the historical cave tour at the Mammoth Cave museum. Then, that made me equipped on what’s ahead of me.

When we were in the mouth of the cave, the air temperature just suddenly dropped to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

And so the journey begins…. it became darker and darker.

The cave trek has two paths to pass through, the Fat Man’s Misery and the Tall Man’s Misery. First is the Fat Man’s Misery, the path becomes narrow that we have to walk sideways to get thru the obstacles. Then there is the Tall Man’s Misery which is the photo above. Here, we have to duck for us not to hit our head.

It was fun and everyone was gasping of air and cursing while traversing the paths. It is not suitable for the faint of heart and the claustrophobics.

After we passed thru the Fat and Tall Man’s Misery, we were going deeper and we’re huddled on a historical location where soldiers carved their names on the ceiling.

When we hit the lowest level of the cave allowed for tourists to visit, it was our time to head back to the ground.

Following spiraling staircases to the above ground while taking photos.

The formations were magnificent.

Then, we got back to the assembly point before exiting the cave.

Then, I finally saw the exit..

My cave tour has ended. It was amazing and I still want to do it again. Mind you, the trail was for 2 hours but when I was in the cave, it never felt like I was in there that long. I was like a cave explorer. I was thinking of getting something for souvenir thus, I made a quick stopover at Big Mo since they were selling all kind of rocks that you can find inside the cave. But, I found this.

Big Mo

Sea Monster, Mosasaur

World’s Largest Fossilized Mosasaur Skull

Therefore, I can say KFC. I finally uncovered Kentucky. I toured Kentucky from riverfronts to old and new towers, to caves and underground world, to historical landmarks and heritage sites. It was worth the trip just to get out of the routine. My next trip will be a couple of months but I won’t be traveling alone anymore. Thank you for visiting and reading my blog, fellow bloggers and readers. Safe travels to everyone!