Orange Walk Town, Belize
Orange Walk Town, Belize, is about as interesting as the seven hour bus ride that it took to get me here.
The town of Orange Walk isn't all that large, perhaps the size of the greater Playa del Carmen area, and it's a little scary to think that this is the second largest city in Belize. After spending several hours walking around the bulk of the city today, I've seen enough to make me plan to catch another bus tomorrow morning.
Orange Walk is really just a collection of small mini-markets and homes along a main road (Queen Victoria Ave), and resembles one of the hundreds of insignificant towns that you'd pass through without a second thought if you were on a road trip in the southwestern United States (or Mexico). Most of the (few) visitors that arrive here use the town for a river excursion south to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai (which I'm not particularly interested in visiting).
As I walk down the streets I can't help but notice something really weird: almost every single restaurant in town (at least 90%, if not more) is serving up Chinese food. A local told me there's a large Asian population living in the country, and it would seem that Belizeans (at least in this city) love the international flavor of it (rice or noodle dishes of chicken or shrimp seem to be the most prevalent).
The past few days I've been growing concerned that Belize is going to be a another version of the Caribbean island scene—expensive and without an adequate backpacker infrastructure—and being inside the country now has only made the feeling intensify. Prices for accommodations are not the least bit friendly for a solo traveler, and I think this reason alone is enough to push me out of the country well before my 30-day visa expires.
I've sniffed out all the available lodging in this city (even hunting down one without a sign of any type), and the cheapest of the bunch was still more than I was paying for in pricey, tourist-saturated Playa del Carmen. Leafing briefly though the suggested hotels in my guidebook doesn't reveal much encouraging news either. I'm patiently waiting to uncover (in conversation or research) something that will really peak my curiosity about the country. I've seen plenty of amazing beaches; I feel no need to seek those out.
As I traveled south, it was interesting to watch the dry, jungle landscape of Mexico dissolve into the cultivated, sugarcane and banana fields of Belize. The subtle changes in home construction probably went unnoticed by many, but the strong characteristics of Caribbean design stood out immediately to me.
There's a certain feel that the homes and cities of developing islands in the Caribbean have, and after about a month of immersion in Mexico, entering into Belize feels like slipping on a old pair of shoes. The question is, how long do feel like wearing them again?