Belize, the Central America Paradise

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.
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Top 5 things to do in SUNNY Vancouver

I live in Vancouver, and always have, and I like to think I have a decent grasp of what to do and where to go for a sunny summer day in Vancouver, as I know we get too few to let slip. Having done many things in Vancouver on sunny days, it is really hard to narrow down to a top 5 list, however, this is what I think is a good start if nothing else.

1. TRIP TO STANLEY PARK

This park is one of the most amazing parks in the world, and it is in our own backyards. Visit the Aquarium if you’re looking for something to do with the kids, the abundance of aquatic animal life will intrigue them for hours upon hours. Are you a young couple looking for a way to enjoy the sunny weather together? Go for a nice walk through the park or along the seawall. This walk allows for great views of the mountains, the city skyline, or the vast ocean, take a rest along the way and just enjoy the view and hold each other tight (Enjoy the moment!).

Aquarium website link: http://www.vanaqua.org/

Stanley Park link: http://vancouver.ca/parks/parks/stanley/

2. VISIT GROUSE

Grouse is a great place to check out during the summer time. There are many great shows going on, and many great trails to walk along, and once again, this location is great for young couples. Once again you can enjoy nice views of Vancouver city atop the mountain. Are you a thrill seeker? Go Ziplining between two peaks. If you are looking for a nice challenge, help yourself to the notorious Grouse Grind. Top it all off with a lumber jack show to see some amazing talent at work.

Grouse Mountain Link: http://www.grousemountain.com/

3. ENGLISH BAY

Just want to relax? Take a trip to English Bay! This is a central location in beautiful Vancouver, and has a great beach. This area is great for a day on the town with the girls. Bask in the heat of the suns rays, but be sure to use sunscreen! I hear the Boathouse in this location is top of the line and has some great service despite being under pressure from so many orders. I also hear the Cactus Club nearby is a great alternative as well!

4. BARD ON THE BEACH

Check out the great acting at Bard on the Beach. This event has some great talent as well, and hosts the best representations of Shakespeare plays I have ever seen. Take a date to this event, and I guarentee a great night. After the show, take your sweetheart for a walk around the park. Not looking to date? That’s okay too! This event is for everyone, and certainly rivals a trip to the movie theater. Take your kids for some entertaining education! But be sure to give your support to the actors and crew!

Bard on the Beach Link: http://www.bardonthebeach.org/

5. ART GALLERY

Need a break from the sun and a great way to cool off during your guilty shopping spree? Take a break and enjoy some fantastic art. Our Vacouver art gallery is in a central location, surrounded by some great shopping centers, and should not be overlooked. The art Gallery gets some amazing exhibits from across the world.

Vancouver art Gallery link: http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/index.html