Pondering in Panajachel
There's nothing of any cultural significance in Panajachel—I wonder if there ever was.
I think Pana is good for about three things: shopping, changing buses, and catching the (overpriced) ferry to one of Lake Atitlán's hillside towns. About all you can do with your days here is shop for trinkets or souvenirs—some of which are actually quite exquisite.
I read that this town sports one of Guatemala's most extensive handicraft markets (it's full of traditional clothing, jade, leather items, and wood carvings). Sigh… After over six months of traveling without buying a single trinket, I finally broke down and bought a little necklace.
I'm staying at this nice little guesthouse called Villa Lupita. The room here is honestly one of the most warm and cozy spots I've stayed in. Even though I'm in the middle of the city, it feels like I'm in a little Latin cabin in the woods. Sadly, it's about Q$10 (US$1.30) more than I want to spend right now, and will probably relocate to a less romantic spot that I sniffed out (Hospedaje Elí) tomorrow.
I get the greatest reactions when locals ask for my name, and are given something they can pronounce. "Craig" is much too hard for the Spanish tongue, so I've been using the rough Latin equivalent—Sergio (sehr-he-ohh). I like it.
I'm interested in continuing west to the commercial center of southwestern Guatemala, Quetzaltenango—simply called Xela (shay-lah) by most. Xela is Guatemala's second-largest city, and should provide a good base for a trip to a natural hot spring somewhere in the nearby mountains. After, I'll briskly move to back to the eastern side of the country and begin my 25-day descent through Honduras and Nicaragua. Yee-haw.