Day 34: Cancún - Playa del Carmen - Chetumal - Belize City (3)
Belize City Travel Blog› entry 46 of 120 › view all entries
On to country number 2: Belize.
What a difference. Despite the fact that we are in LATIN America, Belize is an English speaking country. What? Yes, you heard me right, English speaking. Spain never had any particular interest in Belize, so the English who were very well represented in the Caribbean claimed Belize, as well as a large chunk of the Caribbean coast of Honduras and Nicaragua.
It wasn't until 1981 that this country became independent, while most of the rest of Latin America became independent around 1830. The country is also part of the Commonwealth, which means that like Australia or Canada the sour face printed on the money is that of someone else's queen, hundreds of miles away. Having been under English rule also means that English is the only language children learn in school (even though at home most speak Spanish or Creole) and there is a strong social class system where about 2% of the population is very rich, 20% is poor, and 78% is extremely poor.
An interesting detail is that not every country acknowledges the independence of Belize. Guatemala for example still claims the country as part of Guatemala, and on a Guatemalan country map Belize is included, with the border drawn as a dotted line with the words “border not definite”.
Belize is roughly the same size as The Netherlands, and has a population of 250,000. In comparison, in Mexico an average *village* has even more inhabitants!
Belize City is a mess. Every year hurricanes pass across the Caribbean sea onto Belize City, so it is not much use building a city if it blows away every year, so the entire city resembles a shanty town, without a real centre.
A disadvantage of Belize is that it is expensive. Tourism is the main source of income and with such a small population there is no national tourism. The tourists that visit Belize are mainly Americans and Canadians, and most of these arrive by cruise ship, i.e. rich people!
An obvious result is that all facilities tourists use (hotels, tours, restaurants) are quite expensive. Not outrageously-Tahiti-expensive, but rather prices similar to the Spanish or Italian Mediterranean coast. For that reason Belize is not an ideal country for backpacking, but it is an interesting holiday destination (but more on that later).
But the people. The people are just so incredibly friendly! What a contrast with Mexico, where people are generally indifferent towards gringos. Everywhere you walk in the streets of Belize City people will greet you and stop for some small talk. And all of that in that brilliant Creole-English accent, you know, Ya-mon! Don't worry be happy!
There isn't an awful lot to do in Belize City itself, but as we arrived mid-afternoon we had little choice but to stay here for the night.
The hotel wasn't much to write home about, but it would do for a night. However, the double bed Robbel and I had to share was so worn that we rolled out our camping mattresses on top of it in order to have some comfort.
We did a little tour around the city and had a look at the one and only 'sight' in the city - a steel swing bridge from 1923. At the bridge we were approached by an old guy who introduced himself as 'a guide'. He warned us for the area across the bridge, as it is very dangerous there night. We chatted for a while and he pointed us to a nice little restaurant where we could have some Creole dinner.
But he wouldn't just leave. He was enjoyable company, but it was a bit weird, I mean, we were a little happy family having dinner together, and he just kept sitting next to us, watching us eat. We offered him a drink, but after he had finished it we gave him a couple of dollars to leave.
After dinner we searched for a nice bar of some kind, but couldn't find any, so in the end we bought some cola and a delicious Belizean rum in a little supermarket, which we drank in the lounge of our hotel.