I just returned from another brief yet amazing trip abroad. It might sound puny to people that live in Europe where multiple countries within the free Schengen zone are just a short train ride away, but I live in a region of the world where countries are somewhat large and traveling abroad can be kind of expensive.
I've been counting the countries and now I have seen 8 of them. Wow, just, wow. I still wished they stamped my passport in Lima to be able to brag I went to Peru last year, but they didn't do it because I was simply in a transit flight to Chile. Too bad.
So, what is Belize like? It's a pretty cool country and it wasn't how I expected it to be. For starters, I never really knew what language I should use when I spoke to people. English? Spanish? It seems like everyone speaks multiple languages among them Kriol, Garifuna, Mandarin and three dieferent Maya languages and most people never really sounded fluent in either one of the two languages I speak.
The other thing that massively surprised me is the beer. It's really, really good. Central America seems to be the mecca of quality beer. Okay, so I have only been to Guatemala and Belize and I'm missing the other 5 countries to make a final judgement, but neither one of these 2 countries has let me down. To curb the heat, they like to serve it ice cold, lovely.
I was shocked that soda was so expensive. They began to tax it in Mexico last year and despite the tax, sodas cost 4 times more in Belize than in Mexico. Even though the Belize dollar is pegged to the USD, you can buy two Belikan beer for 1 tiny soda of Dr. Pepper. It was little surprise that I never saw Belizeans drinking Coca-Cola even though its relatively easy to find. People in the street taco stands either drink instant coffee, beer or fruit juice. The cups of fruit juice costs around 15-20 MXN which is rather similar to Mexico, fresh and they aren't as laden with sugar as the mexican beverages. I was shocked that cans of Arizona tea cost 4 times as much in Belize. I really suspect the country has a hefty tax on insanely sugar ladden beverages. While I did see obesity in Belize, it was around the same percentage of people as I saw in Chile. Mexico keeps on being the king of the obesity epidemic and the bucketload of sugar they chug into every drink can explain part of the cause.
Do they sell tacos in Belize? Yes they do and they don't taste like the stuff in Mexico. They sell arachera sliced beef or pork that is cooked on a large pan with these rather delicious fluffy small tortillas and covered with an exquisite coleslaw and cooked onion topping that has a strong vinegar flavor. It seems like there is a strong Chinese cuisine influence in Belize and as odd as the ingredients sound, the tacos are great. Very different from Mexico. If you are looking for mexican street fare such as nopal, mole, campechanos, adobo, pastor or chorizo, you will not find that here. Maybe in the northern towns of Corozal or Orange Walk you will be luckier, but I stuck to the central region of the country.
To rap it up with the food, I never had a crappy meal in this country. The worst was a slice of cheese pizza that was "okay", something quick to eat. The corn on the cobs they sell on the street look like American cobs but they serve them sort of mexican style with mayo and have a strong habanero flavor mixed with pepper. Despite the golden color, the corn tasted a lot like mexican white corn. Rather tasty and the price was comparable to Mexico. I loved eating Cassava chips which I have never seen in Mexico. There are no 7-Eleven or Oxxo type convenience stores, all of the small supermarkets are family owned and almost unanimously run by Chinese families. It was a bit of a strange sight for me.
I couldn't buy a lot of gifts because the prices were hurtfully expensive here. It seems like an effect of the USD. I only bought a few small gifts for my coworkers and a strange looking chandelier for myself. I kept an awesome Belikan drink coaster for myself. Really kitchy.
Belize indeed has pyramids and they are spectacular. I only went to 2 of the 16 well established sites (Cahal Pech and Xunantunich) and the entry fee was a very reasonable 100 MXN for each park. They were well maintained and the sites were restored with US foreign aid assistance which I find to be really nice. I got horrible vertigo when I stood at the top of El Castillo but I couldn't see the nearby El Naranjo pyramid in the Guatemalan border because the place is oddly very hilly.
I was in the country for a scant 6 days and only got a glimpse of Orange Walk, Belmopan and Corozal but I enjoyed my trip. I mostly stuck to Caye Caulker and San Ignacio which were both great small towns.