Photo Dump! Tikal, Guatemala.

Hello, Globetrotters!

My life is still balancing out; we found a car, but I’ve been sick all week, and found myself behind on homework.  I am working hard to bring you all great content in the coming months!

For this post I wanted to share with you photos from my recent trip to the historic site, Tikal, in Guatemala.  Located in a National park, Tikal is the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, thought to have been called Yax Mutal by the Mayan people.   It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization.  Keep an eye out for a Destination post with cool tips for traveling to Tikal!  For now, enjoy my travel photos.

-The Globetrotting Scientist

20171215_111157

The ancient Mayans studied astronomy.  They calculated the position of the sun based on the time of year.  The celebrated the Fall and Spring Equinox and the Summer and Winter Solstice.

20171215_110044

They built some of their temples and monuments based on the position of the sun at certain times of year.

20171215_115618

They used some structures to observe the stars.

20171215_121642_HDR

20171215_121758_HDR.jpg

Today we have an amazing view of the rain forest.

20171215_121913

 

The entire site made up a large city in ancient Mayan times.  It was abandoned when the Spanish conquistadors began their conquest of Latin America.

20171215_132418 Much of the city hasn’t been excavated, due to the risk of erosion and high cost of maintenance. However, the city center (pictured above and below) has been mostly restored.

20171215_133102_HDR

20171215_133251_HDR

The city was built by hand, on the backs of the lower-class workers.

20171215_133848

They did not use pack animals, so every stone was carried by humans.

20171215_134149

The average life expectancy of a lower class Mayan was 25-30 years, due to the nature of this hard labor.

20171215_140629

Today many Guatemalans have incorporated their historical Mayan culture into Catholicism.  When we visited, many locals were gathering to celebrate.

Did you enjoy this post?  Have you visited Guatemala before?  What about Tikal?  Tell me about it in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Advertisements

How I Moved to India for 2 Months with Only a Backpack

A big thank you to David Anthony for sharing his packing skills in this post. If you would like to learn more about packing light, check out my posts: 6 Tips for Packing Light,  A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip, and Travel Mistakes I Made (So You Don’t Have to).

“Ounces make pounds” is a phrase that’s often thrown around in an infantry platoon, often by your team leader when you start trying to pack another hokey gadget. Spend enough time carrying around your life on your back, and you get a first-hand feel for the consequences of not packing light. In so many aspects of life, overpacking causes grief for a number of reasons.

USA-India.png

This past summer, I completed the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship in India. Besides goals like learn as much Urdu as possible and eat my own body weight in chaat, I had another specific goal: successfully survive and thrive in India for two months with only a 38L carry on sized backpack. To do that, I had to be very diligent in which clothing and gadgets I took. I didn’t skimp though. I had my computer, clothing for a week, a towel, business casual clothing, and space for souvenirs. Sure, I didn’t have eight pairs of shoes or a personalized bathrobe, but you don’t need that stuff to travel. Trust me.

Backpack.jpg

For clothing, the best advice I can give can be summed up in a few key points: make it interchangeable, bring lightweight stuff, and roll it up. Lay out all the clothing you plan to take with you. Now, close your eyes, mix it all up, and pull out a random shirt and a random pair of pants. If they don’t go together, your stuff isn’t interchangeable. This rule should apply for everything you bring. Every single thing should work with everything else. This will give you more options with less clothing. In India, I had about four button up shirts, two or three t shirts, four pairs of pants, and a single t shirt and shorts for working out. You’ll have to do laundry, but you probably do that about once a week anyway (right???). I also took a comfortable pair of running shoes I could use for walking around the city and a pair of flip flops (sandals are very common in India). The final tip for clothing is to roll it instead of folding. For my grunts out there, we all know the Ranger roll is superior to folding. The same applies to packing for travel. Linked is an instructional video about rolling clothing.

roll-your-clothes

In India, I knew that I’d be spending most of my time in class. The city I was in was also not exactly known for its thrilling adventure, so I knew I would need something to keep me busy. For me, that was my phone and computer. On my phone, I kept the Amazon Kindle app, which had several books for reading while trying to adjust to the jet lag. For a computer, you want to take something lightweight and durable. I personally had a Chromebook. While big PCs and Macbooks are nice, they aren’t always light or easily replaceable. Chromebooks, being tied to your Google account, are a snap to replace if they break or are stolen. Simply log into a new computer with your Google account, and it will instantly start to backup your stuff. They’re also cheap. For my coders out there, it’s easy to install a custom Linux distro called GalliumOS on a Chromebook, really allowing you to unlock its potential. Light, durable, flexible, and easy to replace. No computer is perfect, but for those who are planning to travel light, the Chromebook is close.

chromebook.jpg

The fact that I was moving to India made things much simpler than if I was backpacking from city to city every few days. I could afford to spread out a bit and get comfortable. Knowing this, I intentionally packed very light in terms of toiletries. I really only took some travel sized items to use if I got stranded in an airport for the night. The best thing to do is buy most of your toiletries once you get to your destination. Not only will this save room in your bag, but exploring the shops is a great way to get to know a new city. I also only packed a small microfiber towel, and upon arrival in India, I bought a larger bath towel for everyday use. Many sundry items are also going to be cheaper abroad than they are in North America. If you’re concerned with having to throw it all away when you leave, look into donating them to an NGO or non-profit. My classmates and I gathered all of our unused toiletries as we were leaving the country and donated them, meaning there’s no issues with having to use up an entire bottle of shampoo before you leave.

toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas-2.jpg

The principles for longer term stays are the same as the ones for short jaunts: be a fanatic about weight and space; always assess and reassess if you really need the things you’re packing; try to pack items that are as multipurpose as possible; and trim down the items you can buy once you’re in-country. It’s that simple. So get out there, start paring your stuff down, and enjoy the simplicity of lightweight travel!

Did you enjoy this post?  What are you hacks for packing light?  Share them in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon link in the body of this post and make purchases through it, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Shout-outs:
Microfiber towel link: http://amzn.to/2DCHvdv
Ranger roll video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq07hyTlrcU
Rolled clothing image: http://forum.expeditionportal.com/threads/57992-Clothes-Storage-for-travel
Travel-sized toiletries photo: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/5-tips-to-travel-size-toiletries-for-minimalist-travelistas/

 

Destination: Knoxville. Part II: International Eats

Knoxville, TN is one of my personal favorite destinations. It’s a bit of a hidden gem in the south: people tend to focus on Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, or beach towns like Myrtle Beach, Miami, and Charleston when planning visits to the southeast, but Knoxville has a lot to offer. If you’re interested in a general guide to Knoxville, including entertainment, museums, bars, restaurants and general tips, check out my Destination: Knoxville post here.

Flags.png

If you’re interested in out-of-the-way, unique, international eateries and markets, Knoxville has you covered, and so do I. See below my recommendations for cool places to eat and shop.

Quality Turkish Market

TurkishDeli

The folks are Quality Turkish Market are very kind and helpful, especially to a noob like myself who had never tried Turkish food before. The setup is order at the counter and pay in advance, but the food is, as the name suggests, quality. It’s delicious and filling, even the 100% vegetarian dish I enjoyed. They also have a small market area where you can buy imported sodas, candies, and other non-perishable treats.

Gosh Ethiopian

Gosh

Have you ever tried Ethiopian food? You should, and you should start at Gosh. They have lots of options and simple explanations of the unfamiliar food. Get ready to eat with your hands!

Sitar Indian Cuisine

Sitar-Indian-Cuisine-5a21b35521874.jpg

Sitar serves up traditional Punjabi dishes, just what most Americans expect when they sit down at an Indian restaurant. I would recommend starting with Samosas, which are crispy turnovers stuffed with potatoes and veggies. Our table devoured ours in record time. For main courses they have a variety of curry dishes, many vegetarian, but plenty of meat-lovers’ options: lamb, chicken, shrimp, etc.

Indian Grocery

IndianGrocery.jpg

The Indian Grocery on Kingston Pike is quite large; this is no corner store. They offer many fresh, non-perishable dry goods, and frozen ready-to-eat meals. The selection is impressive, and there are plenty of options for the novice cook!

Holy Land Market

HolyLandMarket.jpg

This middle Eastern/Mediterranean market features a grocery section and a small deli. You can pick from an impressive array of olives, teas, and Turkish Delight, as well as many other grocery items.

What are your favorite international restaurants and markets in Knoxville? What about your hometown? Share with me in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Shout-outs!

A big thank you to Maria Grissino for allowing me to use her photo of the Tennessee Theatre as my featured photo on this post!

Original Destination: Knox: https://theglobetrottingscientist.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/destination-knoxville-tn-usa/

World’s Fair Flags Photo: http://www.knoxvilletennessee.com/downtown/worlds-fair-park.html

Sitar Indian Image: https://smokymountains.com/restaurants/sitar-indian-cuisine/

Weekly posts

Hello, Globetrotters!

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe in the winter weather that hit the southeast this week. I sincerely apologize for not adhering to my usual weekly post on Sundays. Right around the new year I began to have issues with my car and have spent basically every free moment searching for a new one. Hopefully I will find one soon and life will balance out a bit. I look forward to getting back on schedule ASAP.

Have a wonderful weekend!

The Globetrotting Scientist

10 Cool Gadgets under $100 you can buy with your Amazon gift cards

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen, living room, or office, you’ll find something irresistible on this list. Happy spending!

  1. Water resistant bluetooth speaker
    This waterproof speaker is perfect if you love singing in the shower. It also has waterproof controls so you can skip songs, adjust the volume, and even answer phone calls.
    Average rating: 3.9 stars
    Price: $14.99+

    5 star review from Jason:
    “What a great product! So much that both my wife and I have one. We take this all over the house. In the shower. Kitchen. Workshop. Back Deck. Study. Easy to set up and link via bluetooth. To proceed with the next song/podcast/etc it’s a simple press down of the left/right arrow keys, while holding them will adjust the volume. Loud enough to be heard while doing dishes and taking a shower. Battery lasts for weeks, so you’re not constantly recharging it (and we use ours a lot). When the battery does run low, it beeps at you and you have about 5 mins of battery left. Sound quality is better than an iPhone. Suction cup on back works well, only following off it the surface is dirty.Highly suggest getting this if you use your phone all over your house and even other places. Better sound, better volume and thus more enjoyable.”
  2. Amazon Fire TV stick with Alexa voice remote
    If you love streaming TV and movies, you’ll love The Fire Stick. You’ll have access to Netflix, Hulu, and many other streaming channels. It can be plugged in to any TV, making it portable.
    Average rating: 4.4 stars
    Price: $34.99+

    5 star review from King:
    “This 2017 generation fire TV stick works great for. Just plug it in. It comes already connected to your account if you buy it directly from Amazon. If you don’t want it connected to your account from out of the box? Then select the gift option. Or when you setup it up for the first time it will ask if you are so and so? And you just press no. Then you can connect it to a different account.
    So yeah it great,portable and easy to use and navigate through the menu with the remote or the built in Alexa voice control button. Picture quality is great and no slow downs or hiccups while watching video programs like Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu or YouTube. $40 well spent. Cutting the TV cord really soon. It has all the programming you want. When or if you want it or not. You are in control not the networks or broadcasters 😊👍”
  3. Instant Pot (3Qt)
    The Instant Pot is this year’s kitchen it gadget. This little guy is the 3 quart version, making it a great choice for small families. Just like it’s big brother, it’s a multitasker and can function as a Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker, or Warmer.
    Average rating: 4.6 stars
    Price: $58.31+

    5 star review from Diane:
    “I bought my first Instant Pot, a Duo80, before Christmas and fell in love. Although there are only two of us, the 8-quart was a wise purchase because I love to make up big batches of stuff and freeze it in portions for me and the SigO to pull out whenever we want. My “Papa Bear” Instant Pot is great for that. But it’s overkill if I’m doing something just for a dinner, and it’s also nice to have the separate pot for cooking something that has to cook a long time. I can do my steamed veggies and such in the big pot for just a few minutes while I’m cooking something like pork loin I want to be very tender and shreddable in the mini. Or vice versa! My Corelle 16 oz. bowls fit in the mini great when I want to do oatmeal or heat up leftovers. “Baby Bear,” my mini, has two fewer buttons on the sides, which works out just fine, but the Keep Warm button is in a different place from my Duo80. I’ll just have to cook less on auto-pilot when I’m using both of them!”
  4. Shiatsu massage pillow
    This small, heated massager is perfect for targeted massages. It’s designed for the neck and shoulders, but can be used on the lower back, calves, or feet. It comes with straps so it can be secured to your favorite chair during your relaxing massage.
    Average rating: 4.5 stars
    Price: $39.95+

    5 star review from Kelly:
    “I love this massager! I use it every day several times a day if I’m sitting a lot. I’m a writer so I sit a lot. The best part, for me, is that it heats up. When it heats up everything starts to loosen up and feels so much better. I highly recommend this product, it’s been great. This is a great product and we were so satisfied with it we bought one for my boyfriend’s sister for Christmas.”
  5. Stovetop Espresso pot (3 cup)
    This Italian espresso maker is perfect for a single person. It makes 3 shots of espresso on your stovetop so A) You don’t end up with a ton of extra and B) You don’t need a bulky espresso maker taking up a ton of counter space.
    Average rating: 4.4 stars
    Price: $32.99+

    5 star review from M:
    “Received this little 3-cup maker a few weeks ago and have enjoyed several mornings of great lattes and espressos already. This is very simple to use and only takes a minute to get a brew going. Simply add water to the base, add a tablespoon or so of grounds in the filter, screw on the pitcher and heat up. Espresso is ready in just a couple minutes. Great little design that is very easy to use and clean.”
  6. Earbuds with or without mic
    These earbuds are inexpensive, without being cheap. They’re basic, but ergonomic earbuds, with a low price tag and over 45,000 positive reviews on Amazon.
    Average rating: 4.2 stars
    Price: $8.03+
    earbuds

    5 star review from megallo:
    “I am at work, next to the window, and there is a LITERAL JACKHAMMER outside the window. I have these headphones in, listening to music, and I can’t hear it at all. If you want that in your life, these are the earbuds for you.”

  7. Food Processor
    Food processors are a fabulous kitchen must-have: you can prep everything from hummus to ground nuts. This one has a scraper attachment for easy cleanup and getting the most out of your food.
    Average rating: 4.2
    Price: $30.59+

    5 star review from BLRG
    “I tried several others before settling on the Hamilton Beach Bowl Scraper Food Processor. For a start, this one is quieter, very easy to use, has a pulse and two speeds, the quality is up there with much more expensive food processors and it performs great. I use it quite a lot and it is easy to clean, use and looks great. The scraper comes out if you don’t want to use it but it is very effective. I was surprised at how well it works so I tend to leave it in. Another aspect I really appreciate and is just peace of mind is that Hamilton Beach have an online store and it is very easy and inexpensive to get spare and replacement parts for this unit should you ever need them, including the bowl, blades, slicer and more. So effectively eliminating the need to get a whole new food processor should a part get lost, break or wear out – very nice. Easy 5 stars!”
  8. Mini portable photo printer
    This little printer allows you to print directly from your smartphone (android or iOS) anywhere you go. It is fully wireless and comes with a free app to edit your photos before printing them.
    Average rating: 3.7 stars
    Price: $89.99+

    5 star review from Elaine:
    “The mini printer is great very easy to set up the pictures are very clear , very fast to print. Pictures are small but it’s nice to have them in a few minutes. Love this little printer.”
  9. Flexible tripod with smartphone and gopro adapters
    This is not your ordinary tripod. It’s much smaller with flexible legs making it portable, and easy to set up. You can secure the tripod’s legs around a tree or balcony, set your camera’s self-timer and take awesome group shots with ease.
    Average rating: 4.7
    Price: $14.99+

    5 star review from MariaBrad:
    “This tripod is really cool. The legs move in all directions making it quite easy to wrap around items to secure your phone for photos or video taking. Very convenient. I would really recommend this tripod to anyone.”
  10. Coffee bean and spice grinder
    You can officially stop buying ground coffee and spices: up your freshness game with this nifty grinder. It can grind up to 3 oz of coffee beans in seconds. Tired of pre-ground spices that have been sitting on the shelf for oh, a few years? Get fresh spices and grind ‘em up yourself!
    Average rating: 4.1 stars
    Price: $17.99+
    coffeegrinder

    5 star review from Gabriel:
    “This coffee grinder is awesome and simple to use. It really gets the job done. We use this for multiple things also. I can use this to grind up herbs, seeds, and coffee. You can’t clean it using water, but it’s really easy to clean – just wipe away with a paper towel after each use. Or if you insist of using soap, just use a small amount with paper towel and clean out just the inside. I wouldn’t get the exterior wet though. I’ve had this for a couple months now, so this review is much deserved. The speed is really fantastic, I feel like it’s high quality grade – something they might use in a small coffee shop. Love it! Would definitely recommend to anyone who loves coffee and needs a coffee grinder.”

Are you ready to put those Amazon gift cards to good use yet? What are your favorite gadgets? Share with me in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Reviews were edited for length/clarity.  If you follow the links in the body of the text, I may receive a compensation from Amazon.  This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

 

Destination: San Ignacio, Belize

San Ignacio: A quick look

Language: English*
Currency: Belizean Dollar
Drinking Age: 18
Public Transportation: Most Belizeans use “chicken buses,” old school buses that ply the major cities several times a day. Price varies depending on how far you go, but are always very cheap
Passport: Yes, US citizens can stay in Belize for up to 30 days without a visa
Vaccines: Routine

*The locals speak Belizean creole with each other, but generally speak perfect English

Before you leave:

Stay with Airbnb! San Ignacio has many cheap Airbnb options; I even found them to be cheaper than hostels for 2 people. I am in no way affiliated with Airbnb; I am such a satisfied customer that I’m encouraging you to give them a try simply because they are that great.

To get to San Ignacio from the Belize City airport, we hired a shuttle through Belize Shuttle and Transfers, which was $35USD/person. It was clean, air-conditioned, and we were dropped off right in front of our Airbnb.

Every time you exit Belize, you must pay a $40BZ ($20 USD) exit fee. It is not a scam! Even if you exit and re-enter on the same day, this fee applies. It also applies when you fly, although airlines typically include this fee in the price of your ticket.

plane

Once you get there:

San Ignacio isn’t very big, so walking is the best way to get around. It’s very hilly, so often it feels more like hiking, but the views are fantastic and a little exercise never hurt anyone. If it becomes overwhelming, there are a plethora of taxis and the drivers are very kind.

The Belizean dollar is tied to the US dollar at a fixed exchange rate of $2BZ to $1USD. Many places in Belize accept USD for this reason.

  1. Cahal Pech

    CahalPech

    Did you know there are Mayan ruins right in San Ignacio? We were able to walk from our Airbnb to the Cahal Pech ruins in San Ignacio. There’s a museum where you pay your entrance fee ($10BZ/person), can learn about Mayan history, and observe many of the artifacts that were discovered on site. You’re then free to walk around the ruins for as long as you like, with or without a tour guide. They aren’t very spread out, so it’s mostly exploring the ruins themselves, many of which are open and you can climb on top or inside.

  2. The Green Iguana Conservation Project

    gnome

    Green iguanas are endangered in Belize. This is due mostly to the local custom of eating iguanas, which they call “bamboo chicken.” The Green Iguana Project is a non-government organization dedicated to preserving green iguanas in Belize. It’s located outside of a hotel, and tours are offered about every hour for $9USD/person. You must visit with a tour guide. There is an iguana house with many green iguanas, including Gnome, a 10lbs, 5ft long male iguana, who is fabulous with people. Everyone on our tour was able to hold him, and he was very docile the entire time. If you want a unique opportunity, visiting the iguanas definitely fits the bill.

  3. AJAW Chocolate and Crafts

    AJAW.jpg

    We stopped by AJAW Chocolate and Crafts hoping to pick up some local chocolate. What we found was so much better. They offer tours where you learn the ins and outs of traditional Mayan drinking chocolate, made with cocoa beans grown in southern Belize. They take you through step by step from fruit to drinking chocolate, with lots of taste test opportunities along the way. We even got to help grind the chocolate on a traditional volcanic rock. Then, you are able to try the chocolate with and without honey, cinnamon, allspice, and chili flakes. Finally, you’re given a sample of chocolate to take home. It’s a fantastic way to learn about traditional Mayan chocolate making.

  4. Farmer’s Market

    San-Ignacio-Farmers-Market-locals

    Every day except Sunday a huge Farmer’s Market is open in downtown San Ignacio. You can buy everything from local fruits and veggies to crafts in this traditional farmer’s market. We visited during the week, but I’ve been told Saturday is the best day to go.

  5. Kayaking

    kayaking

    Although we didn’t get a chance to do it, several tour companies in San Ignacio offer a kayaking trip down the river just outside the town. If you’re looking for some adventure in nature, this is your chance to do it!

  6. ATM Caves

    ATM-Cave-Expedition-Viva-Belize

    This was another thing we didn’t get to try, but that absolutely everybody recommended. Considered one of the Top Ten Caves in the World by the National Geographic Society, it’s full of Mayan artifacts and stunning nature. Due to safety concerns, you must go with a guide. Virtually every guide service in Belize runs tours to this area, though.

Restaurants:

  1. Montero’s BBQ

    montero-s-bbq

    It’s not always easy to GPS your way around San Ignacio, but this family-owned streetside barbeque joint is worth going off the beaten path for. It’s located “up the hill” near La Sante Pharmacy on Benque Viejo Rd. They offer just about anything you can throw on the grill including $3BZ burritos packed with chicken, beans, and veggies, stuffed jalapenos, local beer, and mixed drinks. Belikin is the beer of choice for Belizeans and you can get a bucket of 7 for $20BZ during happy hour at Montero’s. They offer local rums, and can mix up a rum and Coke, local favorite called the “Panty Ripper” which is fruity and tropical, or basically whatever you want, just ask. If you want to eat like a local, go straight to Montero’s.

  2. Eva’s Restaurant

    20171217_175537

    Eva’s is located downtown on the pedestrian street, Burns Ave. It’s a bit more tourist-y, but they offer a selection of Belizean food, beers, and mixed drinks. I had the most amazing quesadilla of my life, while my husband had stewed chicken (a Belizean staple) and a Belikin stout.

  3. Serendib

    StewedChicken

    Serendib is across the street from Eva’s, and is an Indian restaurant. While they offer many curry dishes, they also have Belizean food, and their stewed chicken is amazing.

  4. Pizza place next to Sweet Ting on Benque Viejo Rd

    20171216_171428_hdr.jpg

    Cheap, made-to-order pizza in what looks like someone’s kitchen. They aren’t open all the time (on Sunday there was a yard sale going on out front) but it’s worth stopping by if you catch them.

If you are in Belize, you absolutely must go to San Ignacio.  It’s such a cool city that really captures Belizean culture, and its rich Mayan history.  The locals are friendly and genuine, and there’s a lot to do without being overly tourist-y.

Shout-outs!

San Ignacio Farmer’s Market Photo: http://rumorsresort.com/san-ignacio-farmers-market-2/

ATM Caves photo: http://www.vivabelize.com/tours-activities/atm-cave-expedition/

 

Happy Holidays!

Hello, Globetrotters!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. We are having a great time in sunny Belize, but look forward to seeing family and friends soon before life starts running full speed again. Please stay up-to-date with our most recent posts:

10 Gifts Under $20 for your favorite Bookworm

A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition

Christmas Drinks

Easy Fudge Recipes

And our facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/theglobetrottingscientistblog/

Merry Christmas!

Allegra, The Globetrotting Scientist