Welcome back to our travel blog! Whether you are a familiar reader who graced us with your company during our Round the World trip that ended more than a year ago or a new reader, we are delighted that you are here. We don't have quite the extended trip planned this time, but it sure is an interesting one for us and hope it is fun for you to read as well. You will notice that we have our itinerary figured out for the entire trip unlike the RTW trip where we just played it by the ear.
Central America is an inviting destination during the Northern winter despite its reputation as a hotbed of drug-traffic related crime. That negative reputation is more than offset by its many attractions: the opportunity to explore the history of the mysterious Maya, the abundant bird life, the hilly forested terrain, lakes and volcanoes and the myths surrounding them, the narrow landmass bringing two great and different oceans into close proximity and most of all the friendliness of its people. Having visited several countries during our RTW trip that had similar reputations and learned how to equip ourselves with the requisite precautions, we decided to take full advantage with a short sojourn to the region.
Tegucigalpa airport is reputed to have one of the most dangerous runways to land in the world due to the hilly approach way. Recent excavations have made it easier with the area adjacent to the end of the runway being cleared for a smooth approach. The Honduran countryside looked green and hilly from above before the houses started appearing and at some point the plane appeared to be beneath their level before touching down. Despite us being at the extreme ends of the aircraft (M in first class and V on the last row) and that the deplaning happened on both staircases, we found ourselves at the end of a long immigration queue on a warm tropical afternoon (Tegucigalpa's latitude roughly matches that of Chennai in South India).
Video: Tegucigalpa Landing Approach
Video: Tegucigalpa Landing
We were almost the last to be let into the country that afternoon. The smiling official very kindly helped V with his troublesome fingerprints. We made quick work of finding a working ATM to dispense a roughly calculated amount of Lempiras (named after the indigenous Lenca hero who fought the Spanish conquistadors) before walking outside to flag a taxi down. We did not find any waiting taxis and so went back to inquire about their whereabouts. A helpful woman walked outside and spotted someone who wanted more than what our guidebook said and he went and found someone who did meet our demand. The taxi made quick work of the short distance to the historic center.
After checking into our hotel, we found a Chinese restaurant nearby and wolfed down rice and vegetables before heading out for a walk in the central area. It was Christmas day afternoon and there were a few people walking about. The streets looked mostly empty with military personnel patrolling the Parque Central. All the residences and shops were barred with iron grids. As in most Latin American cities, the Cathedral (formally Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel) was situated adjacent to the central park area. Built between 1765 and 1782, it was damaged by several earthquakes with the final restoration in 2009 restoring its exterior color to its original painted peach. We indulged in our usual practice of paying a visit. We were not entirely surprised to see plenty of people being seated in the pews, this being Christmas Day. But we were really gratified as someone standing behind the last row turned around as we entered and smiled a very warm welcome and pointed at a few empty spaces near the back rows.
We were not quite prepared for the sudden appearance of the opening bars of the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony played live in the church with full orchestra and chorus! We sat through the entire finale with the orchestra and chorus in fine form. After hanging around for a few more pieces, we walked out and around the city to sample a day (albeit a festive one) in the life of a new country (for us!). The casual groups around a taxi rank, people waiting at bus stops, parks and churches with young and old, families and friends.
Video Playlist: Tegucigalpa Cathedral Orchestral Performance
The museums and art galleries were closed for the holiday even if we had a spare half hour or so, which we did not. The weather was perfect with the height of the Northern winter conspicuously absent due to the low tropical location. After a spot of coffee and more people watching around the square, we returned back to the hotel after stocking up on a few essentials for the days ahead and a light snack for supper. The guidebooks do encourage you to visit the areas near the city center during day time and also list areas where you have to be particularly careful. But they all are in vociferous agreement that one should never venture outdoors in the dark. After enjoying the sight of St. George slaying the dragon in front of the Iglesia Dolores at twilight, we quickly returned back to the safety of our hotel and realized that we were the only residents of the establishment for the night!
Aside: United Airlines managed to catch the attention of even the most jaded air travelers with their novel new in-flight security video. Watch it here
Wonderful to see the blog come back to life. Happy travels in Central America.
M in first class ?? Hmmmm . Much impressed :)
Real pity that you can't venture out in the night. Is it that dangerous ? Half the charm of a place is lost if it can't be enjoyed in the late evenings. From , on Dec 31, 2014 at 03:39AM
Beethoven's 9th is serendipitous alright. The choral aspect must make it particularly special when performed live. I also imagine it can become banal quickly as a celebratory ode owing to overuse everywhere. From, on Jan 17, 2015 at 05:40AM
The UA video is smart ! Also, anything that opens with Rhapsody in Blue is bound to catch the attention I guess :) From, on Jan 26, 2015 at 02:55AM
@Kishore - UA has featured Rhapsody in Blue as their signature tune for as long as I can remember From, on Jan 26, 2015 at 05:11AM