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Fat Boys, Bat Men & A Lake in Paradise

More wonders to tempt the curious traveler unfold in Part 4 of The Budget Babe's International Travel Advisor Fifi LaMode's trip to Guatemala. —TBB

by Fifi LaMode
Each day brings new wonders in Guatemala. From the markets in the highlands to the ever-present volcanoes, to the strange "Buddhas" in the town plaza in the town of La Democracia, this country continues to fascinate. The "Buddhas" are actually pre-Olmec stone sculptures about 2,500 years old. They are huge boulders minimally carved, probably because of the lack of sophisticated tools, i.e. metal, with the feet and arms wrapped around the body, which is a round blob.

Scientists call them the "Fat Boys" of Guatemala. They're magnetic, by the way. We don't know if the sculptors knew that, but they are. They're also rather endearing, with open eyes staring to the heavens. No, these roly-polies are not space aliens; people here were astronomers even 2,500 years ago. Some think the Fat Boys are star-gazing.

On the way to Atitlan we stop at another market, in Solola, where men have bat wings embroidered on their shirts. Solola is derived from the Mayan "ztotz," or bat. Bats live in caves and thus lead the way to the underworld. This passage from one world to the next is very important in Mayan mythology. The market is the event of the week: Students banter, farmers bring their produce, and anything from dried fish to socks is sold. There is much laughter and music all around the square. Add the ubiquitous colors of the huipiles, or embroidered blouses, and the entire scene is quite overwhelming - and fun.

On to Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes. Once you get out of Panajachel, or "Gringo-tenango" as it's called locally (because it's packed with turistas) this is a lovely place. The Hotel Atitlan, an old coffee plantation, is on the lake and has its own botanical gardens, with over 260 varieties of roses. It also has macaws, a toucan, and peacocks. The rooms are beautifully tiled with hardwood furniture, angels on the walls (always a good sign to know they're watching over you when you travel alone!), and a balcony with views of the lake and more gardens.

Just when I thought it could not get any better, I had a meal in the restaurant, decorated in beautiful bright colors and overlooking the lovely lake. I ordered traditional Guatemalan cuisine - beef, beans, rice, fried plantains, some guacamole (avocadoes come from here) and a strange little round pancake-y thing that has cheese in it - it's really good. No processed food here, all natural stuff and good for you. As usual, the service was friendly and efficient. I really felt like I was in Paradise. If this isn't heaven, it's pretty much my idea of what heaven should be.

Previous weeks:
A dream trip!
#1 Tina Topaz (Homepage) on 2008-04-09 12:11 (Reply)
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