Almost exactly one year ago, I was packing my newly purchased backpack, almost ready for yet a new adventure: Colorful India. Right now, I am in Guatemala – not much less colorful and just as full of adventures. Both countries have their charm, their up- and downsides. But which of the two countries do I like better?
Lago Atitlán, Guatemala
Nature & Activities
River Ganges, Varanasi, India
Watching the sunrise on the Ganges
Nature-wise, India has a wide variety on offer but pollution is a huge problem and sadly, this often downgrades otherwise beautiful landscapes by a lot. The dusty city, and cultural heart of India, Kolkata, while many people’s favorite, utterly disappointed my friend and me. Moving along the Ganges to the spiritual city of Varanasi definitely improved our image of the country. Sitting along the Ganges to watch religious ceremonies like the cremation of the deceased or weddings – what a contrast within only a few steps distance – was amazing. And watching the sun rise, while being rowed in a boat along the Ganges, definitely let us forget about the disgustingly polluted river and gave us some goose bumps (okay, these could also be the result of not wearing enough clothes when it is 10°C in the morning…). Varanasi was so vibrant with colors. The Taj Mahal, as if we hadn’t already anticipated that, is, while without doubt impressive, an overrated and overrun tourist attraction. It wouldn’t hurt you to leave it out of your itinerary and instead spend a few more days in Rishikesh. As one of my favorite places in India, this little, spiritual town at the foot of the Himalaya is famous for its Yoga and quite the Hippie hotspot. Hiking is also very nice there and if I ever find the time, a few weeks of adventures in the Himalaya are definitely going to happen.
About Delhi, well, I guess big cities in India are just not my kind of thing, Mumbai and Kolkata included, they boast with pollution and poverty, are loud, busy, confusing. India has more beautiful places on offer. And this brings me to the country’s West Coast. The Southwest, Kerala, is stunning – stunning beaches and cliffs, laid-back atmosphere, sun, sun, and more sun. And dirt, dirt, and more dirt, destroying the beautiful scenery quite a bit. Moving further North along the coast, one reaches the district of Goa – the not so touristy beaches appeal more to my taste than those boosting with (Russian) tourists. What most impressed me through nearly all of India was the colorfulness, the contrasts and the extent of extremes one encounters while traveling through this country.
Central Park in Antigua, Guatemala
Exploring the area around San Pedro La Laguna on Lola
Colorfulness and extremes are things that also Guatemala is not short of. From Guatemala’s elite commuting within the City not by private limousine but by helicopter, while below, on the City’s streets, people are begging for money and food to daily armed robberies in the City and Guatemala’s safest village, San Juan La Laguna, it is not far by chicken bus, and certainly not by helicopter. The colonial city of Antigua, which is so neat and charming, stands out from most of Guatemala – it is considered the culinary heart of the country, and delicious it is! It is also surrounded by three volcanoes, one of which is active 24/7. Guatemala has both Caribbean and Pacific beaches, and Livingston, on the Caribbean side, is supposed to be beautiful. Semuc Champey is a ‘water park’ created by Mother Nature and Lago Atitlán is a stunning sight, too. The villages around the lake, despite being so seemingly equal, are actually quite different and each single one of them is worth a visit. San Pedro and San Marcos La Laguna are hippie hotspots (Japanese hippies are a common sight which I still can’t get used to – Japanese and hippie just doesn’t work for me…). San Pedro is good for partying, drugs are commonly used. From San Pedro, one must climb volcano San Pedro or go horseback riding around the lake through coffee plantations, cacao farms and forests (call Pedro for a great horseback riding adventure, his number 4621-1957). Chichicastenango supposedly hosts the country’s best market for artisanal products; it’s on my itinerary for this or next weekend.
Watching the sunrise from the Mayan Nose, Lago Atitlán, Guatemala
Both countries offer a variety of cool activities and have quite some beautiful places to discover. But: Guatemala is much cleaner than India and I prefer the atmosphere in Guatemala over that in India as it is more laid-back and happier.
Oh, the food!!! What can I say – delicious in both countries!
Street Fruit Vendor in Kolkata, India
While I’m in love with eating corn tortillas fresh from our kitchen’s stove that works with wood three times a day, I could also easily eat Naan bread all day long. Indian curries are heavy but delicious. Frijoles and eggs come lighter and while simple they are just as good. Traditional Guatemalan breakfast beats the Indian by far – I just can’t do those spices in the early morning. Thanks God that fresh fruit salads with granola and yogurt are available – and yummy – in both countries. I prefer Indian mangoes over the Guatemalan ones, they’re juicier and sweeter but I’d die for the fresh Guatemalan avocados. In Rishikesh, which is a vegetarian town, the food is simply amazing and along the India’s West coast, there’s fresh fish daily for a price one can only dream of in Europe. In Antigua, you don’t really have to go for traditional Guatemalan food – there are so many good choices. I think the Indian cuisine is more diverse and explodes with a variety of flavors and mouthwatering dishes. Since I mainly eat eat vegetarian, India is the perfect place for me – though I’d never say no to some Cashew chicken (Sandy, you know what I mean).
Frijoles, Queso, Huevos, Salsa y Tortillas
Fresh Corn Tortillas
My favorite – Fruit Salad with Yogurt and Granola
Fruits, Yogurt, Granola and Oreos in San Pedro
Fruit Salad with Granola and Dried Fruits in Anjuna Beach, Goa
Ohhh, Indian Food is Amazing
Garlic Naan in Palolem Beach, Goa
Some Indian Spices
Fresh Seafood in Kovalam Beach, Kerala
Ayayay, the food part is difficult to decide upon – I think they almost tie with but my preference goes towards India. However, if you can’t do spicy food, you might go for Guatemalan over Indian.
Indian Woman on her Wedding Day in Varanasi
Oh, the people… This is the easiest part and I won’t keep you waiting for my answer to that question for long: Guatemalans win big times over Indians. Such friendly, happy and warm-hearted people. I guess this goes for every Central and South American nation – I don’t know what it is but they seem to enjoy life much
more than most – despite many problems they still encounter. I’m not saying Indians aren’t friendly – I have met such lovely people (from) there but something, no idea what exactly, makes me feel more comfortable with the Guatemalan. They give off a much more joyful vibe and I extremely enjoy talking to them. And maybe it is just that – the ability to actually talk to everybody in their native language. Also, the way women are treated and respected is so much more appealing in Guatemala than in India and makes me as a woman, feel much more comfortable living and traveling here. Let’s not forget about the language either. Indian to me sounds like one of the most unappealing languages. Spanish, on the other hand, OH MY GOD, so beautiful – it will melt your heart. Soooo, I guess this point goes to Guatemala as well.
Guatemalan Indigenous Woman Selling Handicrafts
And, drumrolllllll, the winner is: Guatemala! Will be happy to be back here any time and for now, I’ll enjoy my two and a half remaining weeks here. Tomorrow is finally going to be my Yoga day – in San Marcos, of course… Good night, peeps!