Belize, the Central America Paradise

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Paradise on Earth? You Better Belize It

“We want you to feel at home in Belize”

"We can't go out and explore the world, so we want the world to come here"

“We can’t go out and explore the world, so we want the world to come here”

In what is said to be record rainfall this year in Belize, California is ready to declare a state of emergency from their driest year in recent history. Belize is a third world country, so yes, it’s going to have high theft areas of crime. Thankfully, there are just as many safe havens full of the nicest people of any high traffic tourist area. The people of Belize are limited in traveling only across near borders. Without a visa, the furthest they can go north is Mexico, and thus they depend on the tourism industry to meet people from around the world. Ambergris Caye is the place a lot of the mainland people move  because of the serenity of the island. It sure feels like paradise when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing off the shore. They may be seeing record rainfall, but the sun is still shining hard every day periodically between what I know from living on the west coast as pineapple express weather.

Most people know Belize through the hit television show Breaking Bad mentioning it as an analogy for murdering someone. Luckily, my trip to Belize didn’t have such a drastic ending. People either catch this reference, don’t have any idea what or where Belize is, or have been to Belize themselves and know of the paradise with a lack of infrastructure. This emerging getaway has seen many people including Harrison Ford and Madonna come and go. It’s undeveloped compared to that of the Myan Riviera, or Cancun, which is perfect for baby boomers looking for nostalgia. Beach bars blast Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones while people bet on horseshoes or eat at the adjacent barbeque. The amount of diversity is astounding and everyone is eager to mingle with each other tourists and locals alike.

Sunday beach party at the Crazy Canucks Bar

Sunday beach party at the Crazy Canucks Bar

This island was compared to paradise from all the locals I encountered, people from the mainland who saved for years to come to the emerging island get away, American Army vets looking for a place to retire. The Ambergris Caye is located off the east coast of the mainland of Belize, only a fifteen minute plane ride away.  This small island is only a mile wide, allowing you to see the sea on both the east and west coast simultaneously. The crystal blue waters include a river through the island resulting in a lagoon as well as the vast beautiful turquois ocean, the Caribbean Sea. The beach is composed of coral reef sediment sprouting from the second largest reef in the world just off the coast of the island, if you focus on the horizon you can see where the waves crash upon the summit of the reef to ease the waters heading into the Caye. Many citizens of San Pedros own boats and other aquatic craft to navigate the local area efficiently as well as go to the mainland for food, supplies, etc. Most bars are on the beach, some even featuring jet –ski access. The popular clubs of San Pedros are located in the high traffic tourist area, and the locals will be keep you partying there all night if you let them. The most popular club on the island is called “Jaguars” featuring an awesome entrance that’s intriguingly welcoming as you enter the mouth of a Jaguar next to the city center clock tower.

"Jaguars is the place to go" - Yaneli Young

“Jaguars is the place to go” – Yaneli Young

At home in Canada, a dollar doesn’t go very far anymore. In fact, unless you go to a dollar store or settle for subpar quality, you can’t even get a soda for a dollar anymore. Ironically enough, most dollar stores are even bumping their rates to $1.25. But in Belize, your dollar goes a bit further into the realm of minor refreshments and beyond. Your American dollar is worth double in Belize, and though this may sound appealing, there is a price we the tourists pay, then another price for the locals that can’t afford as much. In some cases locals will trade things with each other, such as fishermen trading for produce. This allows for some old fashioned bartering with the right establishments. In souvenir shops, for example, where cheesy shirts say “You Better Belize It!” or “UnBelizeable” which is eye candy to tourists, but not necessarily appealing if the price tag exceeds the novelty.

Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014

Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014

In Mexico or Jamaica, you might come across people desperately trying to convince you to enter their establishment or buy some product in an attempt to make ends meet. While I always felt uncomfortable being led into random, sometimes sketchy places, you won’t encounter much of that in San Pedros. People here are not pushy. They may ask if you would like to have dinner at their restaurant but they leave you alone at no. If you show interest, they might show you the menu before directing you into the establishment, still allowing you to decide for yourself. Most of the time, people greet you in the streets and ask you how you are enjoying Belize. They don’t necessarily want your money, they’re genuinely glad to meet you and are always willing to strike up a conversation to a passerby.

Better than front-row seats, this is our slice of beach feet away from the front door

Better than front-row seats, this is our slice of beach feet away from the front door

Belize has a struggling economy, due to the world economic struggle and their attempts and enticing more people to come to Belize thwarted by the fact that money is going into the wrong areas of town, funding seems to get lost in translation. Despite the rap that parts of the mainland have cases of crime, one thing is for certain, the people of Belize, at least the people of the Ambergris Caye, are welcoming people that are very kind. There is no stigma of keeping to yourself so as not to defend the wrong people like in North America. This spreads the feeling of community, a feeling that even just as a tourist that you’re a part of something bigger and better when you can just walk up to anyone on the street and strike up a conversation, provided you speak enough English or Spanish. That kind of thing doesn’t happen here without being branded as out of the ordinary, despite the fact that humans were made to be communal beings. That all got lost in translation in a lot of places it seems, but you better believe that it hasn’t happened here in Belize.

My best friend in Belize, a young lady I will never forget.

My best friend in Belize, a young lady I will never forget.

Top 5 FREE Things To Do At the PNE

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Hey everyone! With the PNE wrapping up and the crowds dying down, I figured I would write an article about the top FREE things to do at the PNE. I was just there doing some media coverage, and having a blast a couple days ago, and all I spent money on was food. I will include my budget and what I got in a different blog, but without further adieu, this is: THE TOP 5 FREE THINGS TO DO AT THE PNE!

1. PRESIDENTS CHOICE SUPERDOGS:

If you haven’t seen the Superdogs by now and you’ve been to the PNE before, YOU ARE MISSING OUT. It is good fun for the whole family, with some great crowd interaction, and this year even came with a couple of great messages. The announcers at one point said: “That’s one of the purposes of this show. To show you to play with your dog, take care of your dog, love your dog.” Along with the way they started the show by presenting us with two puppies and telling us (the crowd) that any dog can be a Superdog (we are all super). And the ending to the show was a classic: We are all winners. Anyways, if you have kids, GREAT, take them to the Superdogs, if you have pets at home, the Presidents Choice has a table set up for all your pets needs. But best of all, the show is free, and at the end you can even come down and pet the dogs you spent the whole time watching. I enjoyed this event as a young child, and I enjoy it still as a young adult. Who doesn’t love dogs at least a little bit?

2. ACROBATS SHOW: 

I will admit it, this year was my first year ever watching this event. I wanted to experience everything free this year, and I was completely shocked that I had never seen such a tremendous act before. I won’t ruin ANY of the acts for you here, but you simply must go see it if you haven’t yet. There are many death defying acts, many acts leaving you scratching your head as to how they are able to contort their bodies, and some acts that left ME personally saying: “What the hell is going on here?” I was skeptical if this was an event for kids, as it requires patience for some acts, like the chair stacking, however, kids sat behind me and they were very well behaved. It’s really up to you parents, but do go see this show at some point of your PNE day, you will not regret it. Just don’t take any photos with a flash, that is VERY dangerous for the performers as they need all their focus on what they are doing.

3. STAR TREK THE EXHIBITION

First things first, I will also admit that I am a Treky. I spent most of my time in the line for this watching the Star Trek video provided via overhead televisions, but how could you blame me? It was at the climax! This line up can be quite long, but fear not everyone, once you’re in it, you will find it moves quite fast. Me and my girlfriend were actually surprised at how little time the seemingly endless line took to die down. I believe our wait was about 10 minutes, and the line was about half full when we joined it, so it’s about a maximum of 20 minutes, but boy is it worth it. This exhibit isn’t just for Star Trek fans, but for everyone really. It has SO MAY props, costumes, set pieces, art, etc. that my mind was just blown, I literally could have spent my entire day here if my girlfriend wasn’t with me. On top of everything, you can get your picture taken on all of three set pieces. The captains chair from the original series, the bridge, and the transporter. You’ll be saying “Beam me down Scotty.” right after you say “Fire  photon torpedo’s”. However, ye be warned, the photos are quite costly, and I ultimately couldn’t afford mine sadly, but if I had the money I would have gladly spent it, because how often do you get to sit in the ORIGINAL CAPTAINS CHAR!

4. FREE CONCERT!?!?

That’s right, a FREE concert. The PNE provides a million dollar stage for performers of all genres to play free shows on just for you. How expensive are concert tickets in today’s day and age? Well here, you can sit in the stands and watch a show for free! Check online to see who is playing there when to get your FULL money’s worth, but how amazing is it that such a thing is free at the fair? Sounds very fair if you ask me. 😉

Be sure to show the artists your support, and also show the PNE you appreciate their hard work. Just kick back and relax on the nice grassy area, or the stands provided.

5. MONSTER TRUCKS

Boy I had a hard time deciding number five. It’s hard to decide what the last thing to make the cut is. Ultimately I picked the monster trucks as it was a big part of my PNE experience as a child. Now I know my parents probably just took me to this event to drown out the noise of me constantly chattering, and now I also realize how much of a headache I probably gave them considering now I get a headache from this event every time, but it’s worth it to watch these massive monster trucks defy gravity. But, be warned once again, they are extremely loud! There’s a lot of power packed into one of those suckers. Take your kids as a break from all the headspinning, stomach altering, high flying rides that we all know and love, if for no other reason then to make sure they’re not throwing up in your car.

This has been my top 5 FREE things to do at the PNE. It was really hard to decide a top 5, but I think you’ll find these events are on your top 5 by the end of it as well. You know, people often forget with all the things that cost money there that lots of it is free too, along with what is mentioned above, there’s a Family Feud event, pig races, a petting zoo (with other animals to look at because they’re adorable, or you just don’t see them that often at home), there’s dirt bikes which are also stunning, you can vote for your favorite sand castle which artists have worked long days in the hot sun on, play in an assortment of amazing jungle gyms (only recommended for children, and especially not for people with a history of neck injuries). You can hang out with your favorite radio DJs, take a walk in the fair and see all the products you see on tv and more, and kids can play Beyblades with the YTV crew. But best of all, enjoy the experience, because it only happens once a year.