Travel


The Indian Express reports that the Indian Railways will pilot voice and data connectivity in trains between Ahmedabad and Mumbai; liveblogging about the difficulty of managing one’s bodily functions on a squat toilet with a malfunctioning lock soon to follow.

Procession in La Antigua, Guatemala, celebrating the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Trumpeter waiting alongside instruments outside a church in La Antigua, Guatemala, on Easter Sunday.

Yesterday, I stumbled into the very cool Iglesia y convento de Santa Clara, founded in 1699 and later destroyed (a number of times) by earthquakes. Now it’s a tourist attraction, but it has another purpose as well: retreat for horny teenagers — I ran into three couples (like the one above) macking in hidden corners.

 

For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to climb a volcano. “Where else but Guatemala?” I thought. In that same spirit, I decided to climb not just to the top of volcano to ponder its awe-inspiring power, rivulets of flame snaking down the side of the hill, but to explore mere feet from cascading flows, the bottom of my sneakers even beginning to melt. We spent so long on the volcano that the sun set and the group (a motley crew of about 50 ne’er-do-wells, ranging from high school kids studying Spanish in Antigua to a BBC correspondent and a duo that was driving from North Carolina to Colombia) had to hike for two hours in the pitch dark, saved only by a few prescient souls who thought to bring flashlights or headlamps.

Stupid tourists! Get away from that lava!

No! I said away, not closer! Doh!

Or, pictures of people observing the Semana Santa processions in La Antigua, Guatemala:

(Above: Surf ad in Chichi.)

In addition to some great painted advertisements, I discovered a bit of graffiti in Chichicastenango, the market town about an hour from Antigua. I didn’t ask anyone for details about it, what it means, who the artists are, but I’d be interested to know more about local visual culture and artistic resistance, etc.

Girls hoist a float of the Virgin Mary on the Viernes procession in La Antigua, Guatemala.

Textiles at Chichicastenango’s Thursday market.

Tiny little cars, so bright!

Paintings galore!

Spotting of the day: Sarah Chalke from Scrubs in an advertisement for a pharmacy, shot at the market near the bus station in La Antigua, Guatemala. Trust her! She’s neurotic and quirky!

A father and his daughter, as well as several teenage girls, wait for the procession at La Merced to begin. More photos here!

In honor of my upcoming trip, links to Guatemala information:
Mayan ruins!
Contemporary art by Mario Madriz
Oil paintings by Mayans at Arte Maya Tz’utuhil!

It’s strange to me that I’ve never been to Central America (not even Mexico) but have spent so much time in India. My Hindi is better than my Spanish, but a four-hour flight is much more appetizing than a ten-hour one. I’ll primarily be in Antigua, taking in the festivities surrounding Semana Santa. If you’d like to meet up, or have any great tips for me, fire away! Trip is somewhat inspired by Xeni Jardin.

I keep trying to “find” Long Island City, but unlike most NYC neighborhoods, it doesn’t suffice to just jump off at the nearest subway stop and roam. Or it does, but what you find is not what you expect to find. That is, instead of hipsters, I took in sights of gritty urbanity on a two-mile urban hike through LIC’s industrial stretch, from the Hunter’s Point 7 stop to the Socrates Sculpture Park, far down the vast stretch of Vernon Boulevard.

Which is not to say my meandering was entirely unenjoyable. In addition to documenting a lot of excellent graffiti, I happened upon the Taxi Depot, which, among other things, supplies olde tyme cabs (as in the picture above) to the film industry. If not for the van parked in front of it, the cab would have transported me back in time, I think.


Photo of Flanders’ Big Duck, licensed under Creative Commons by Mr. Guybrarian on Flickr

Well, no, I don’t. But I have just invested a ZipCard, so I can now reserve a car, pick it up in Astoria or Flushing, and tool around for 180 miles at a relatively low cost.

All of which has inspired me to revisit the great American pasttime of idly driving to take in wacky roadside attractions. Roadside America has state-by-state listings of popular spots; I’m thinking heading out to the Secret Caverns in Cobleskill, NY, for a touch of crazy hippie culture (although, on second glance, it seems that the caverns may not open until April). Then again, I could also try and spot the Big Duck in Flanders (which I suppose would be hard to miss, seeing as it’s 20 or 30 feet tall), the 48-foot Marian shrine in Stony Point, or the two-story outhouse in Phelps.

Environment be damned. I’m ready for the open road.

Other resources for American tourist kitsch:
Wikipedia’s list of the world’s largest roadside attractions; alternative list of the world’s largest attractions
Roadside Fans
Roadside Tourist
The American Roadside
Route 40 roadside attractions
Budget Travel’s jaw-dropping roadside attractions
30-minute NPR story on roadside attractions

Final photo posting from Florida; these are from Bradenton’s Red Barn flea market.

In addition to the crazy-awesome barnside mural, we saw huckster tactics aimed at those fearing a recession ….


(Sign reads “Depressed by the recession/Relax with a good book or C/D”)

… as well as inappropriate black-face magnets for the bargain price of $1 (I suppose that while we red-blooded Americans fear the fall of the almighty dollar, we’re always game for a bit of insensitive racial politicking).

An MP in the U.K. has called for the introduction of tea trolleys — manned by a bevy of beautiful young ladies, natch — at airports as a salve for weary travelers.

The managing director for Waitrose, who also supports the idea, said, “I do a lot of foreign travel and I have been progressively disappointed with how poor it feels when you return home. The whole experience is pretty bleak. I thought wouldn’t it be nice if, when you arrived in the UK, you were greeted with a nice cup of tea.”

But for the concomitant sexism, I’d say it’s not a half-bad notion.

While in Bradenton, I developed an unnatural obsession with birds. I donno; sometimes I’m like that. As such, you are now privy to some of my pictures (including, of course, some poor amateur Photoshopping).

 

For the rest of my myriad shots … –> The Birds!

Visiting the in-laws in Florida. A note: JetBlue’s terminal at JFK, terminal six, is infinitely superior to Delta’s ramshackle terminal two. Long live Papaya King!

The Smithsonian gets in on the list game by presenting 28 must-see destinations, broken down by theme (for example, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” — wonders on the verge of extinction — and “In the Presence of God” — temples “so magnificent they could only have been built by divine inspiration”).

I’ve seen two: the Taj Mahal (which I don’t have any fond memories of) and Angkor Wat (which really did make me feel alive in some intangible way). I may happen upon http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/lifelist-tikal.html when I’m in Guatemala, but I imagine that I’ll be so absorbed in watching Holy Week unfold that I won’t go too far from Antigua.

So … can you beat my utterly inconsequential score?

In preparation for my trip, I’ve been poking around the Interwebs for information about street culture in Guatemala. I love the idea of public art, sanctioned or unsanctioned, and it appears that there’s an active graffiti community in the country. Mi Mundo offers a vivid glimpse of this, as well as interesting commentary to contextualize the images. Wire Tap also has a story and interview on HIJOS (Hijos e Hijas por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio (Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice against Oblivion and Silence), the group responsible for the graffiti.

(For kicks, a Flickr set of public art in India.)

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