Dec 20-21 Guatemala or Bust!

In the morning one of the Spanish speaking hotel staff took Holly to the hospital to get a rabies shot.  No need for Olivia to sit around hospital so I took Olivia for a walk along the beach and we had lunch at a nice seaside restaurant.  The food was decent there but a When we returned later in the afternoon we found that Holly had been unsuccessful at getting a rabies shot.  It turns out that rabies shots are not commonly stocked in Mexican hospitals.  Mexico has a successful anti-rabies program which provides free rabies vaccinations to all dogs and so the last human fatality from a rabid dog was in 2006.  The hospitals would need to order the shot and it would not be available until Monday at the local clinic.  Good thing we had the preventive shots so we had extra time to get the shots.

The next day we all returned to the clinic in anticipation that it would be a quick shot but the vaccination was STILL not available.  The doctor tried to get Holly to just wait a week to see if the dog had rabies but Holly was having none of it and yelled at them until they agreed to give her the shot.  However, they would still need to order it and they made an appointment to return to the clinic at 8:00 AM the next day to get the shot.

Afterwards we went down the street to a small restaurant for lunch before returning to Rover.  There Holly asked the hotel staff to arranged a motorcycle taxi to pick us up at 7:30 AM to take us to the clinic.  Since we would have an early start we figured we might go to the border and see if we can get our six month tourists visas renewed after getting the shot.

The next morning we get up and go to the hotel gate but no taxi.  Oh well, I half expected that so we walk a bit to the main road where we were able to hail a motorcycle taxi and still got to the clinic at 8:00 AM.  Holly goes into the clinic while I take Olivia across the street to oceanfront walking street.  Although oceanfront there was no beach, just a huge line of breakwater rocks between the street and the ocean, not very scenic at all.  Half an hour later Holly comes back out to inform us that the vaccine had not arrived yet and that it might get there in an hour.

With yet another setback, we decided that we might as well get some breakfast instead of just waiting around.  Even at 8:30 in the morning it was already sunny, hot and humid.  As we walked down the street in search of breakfast,  I noted that at least the delay had gone down from several days, to the next day to now just 1 hour so we were making progress.

A little ways down the street we found the Marisqueria Guadalupana restaurant where we had a surprisingly delicious orange juice which they had put in the freezer for a while so it had almost a slushy consistency and in addition they had added some apple juice so it was naturally sweeter.  A whole pitcher was only US$3 and it was so good and so cheap that the three of us drank three pitchers.  They also had a quite tasty shrimp and eggs dish for only US$4.  We have found that eating out in Mexico is consistently a pretty good deal compared to the USA.  Generally every meal out we have would cost two or three times as much in the US.  We still don’t eat out that often because even though it is cheaper it is still more expensive than cooking ourselves plus Holly is able to make the things we normally like eating.  It is also healthier since we have found that Mexican food does not have as much cooked vegetables as Chinese food.

After breakfast we went back to the clinic where Holly was able to finally get her rabies shot.  The doctor told her that she would need to come back in a week to get the second shot.  Well there goes our Christmas plans.  Well, with the delay it was no longer quite so early but we were up and outside so we might as well go to the border anyway. 

We walked down to the main part of town to get a bus to the nearby main town of Tapachula, about a half hour away, where we would need to transfer to something else to get to the border.  We easily found minibuses to Tapachula for 30 pesos per person. It quickly became obvious that this was going to be one of those days that would test our perseverance and resolve when our minibus got a flat tire not five minutes down the road.  OK no problem, we waited a few minutes and caught the next minibus that came along.   This minibus brought us safely to Tapachula and dropped us off in front of the Walmart which turned out was in a mall.  We can’t resist a mall so we went in to check it out. 

The Galerias Tapachula mall turned out to be pretty good.  Modern, medium sized single floor inside mall with a good selection of stores. There was even a Holiday Inn Express right next door.  What was surprising was there was an honest to goodness Chinese restaurant called Lonng Gua right at the front of the mall.  Not a ratty hole in the wall with five tables or a Panda Express fast food place but a newish, reasonably decorated, clean, sit down Chinese restaurant.  The only problem was that all the staff were Mexican.  It was still a bit early for lunch so we decided to check out the rest of the mall before eating.  Walking through the mall we got another surprise, there was an honest to goodness Chinese novelty store named Mini-Panda.  It carried a full range of cheap junk like those cats with waving paws, imitation Lego sets, ear cleaners, giant Chinese fans, etc.  More exciting was that there was a small selection of Chinese foods and sauces such as noodles, dried mushrooms, tofu, Chinese BBQ pork sauce, soy milk and so on.  While none of this is particularly special in California it was a delightful surprise to find this kind of store in the far south of Mexico.  Further on I hit the ATM to make sure we had enough money for the border and then we got to the food court where there was not one, but two Chinese food court options in addition to a Sushi place.  Amazing.  Really there are Chinese people EVERYWHERE!

After a quick look it was time to head to the border.  There are several border crossings between Mexico and Guatemala. Talking to people and on the internet it seemed that most people went to the border at the Talisman bridge.  Google maps did not indicate any public transport options to Talisman so we just hopped into a taxi which took us to the border for 180 pesos which I though was reasonable for a 20 minute ride. 

Once at the border we went to the Mexican immigration office and told them we wanted to extend our visas.  The immigration office said that it was impossible.  We could not extend our visas.  We might be able to come back when our current visas expired in a couple weeks and get new visas.  So I asked what if we went to Guatemala and returned and she said that she could not do it but perhaps if we went to the other border crossing at Ciudad Hidalgo they might be able to help me. This other border crossing was about a half hour drive away. OK, fine, on to plan B.  I knew that this might be a hassle and we still had a couple of weeks before or current visas expired so we had plenty of time to figure things out. 

Since we were at the border already and had nothing better to do we figured we might as well go to the Ciudad Hidalgo crossing and give it a try there. After asking around we were directed to get on the back of a covered pickup truck collective taxi (30 pesos per person) with a bunch of other people and twenty minutes later were dropped off along the road and directed to get on a minibus which dropped us off in the center of Ciudad Hidalgo. 

The border town of Cuidad Hidalgo was pretty similar to any other small Mexican town.

By this time it was almost 1PM and we were getting tired and hungry so we had lunch on the second floor of the local market which had a bunch of little food stalls and some nice balcony seating.  Refreshed we walked a few blocks to the border crossing.  On the way to the border I exchanged 1500 Mexican Pesos for 600 Guatemalan Quetzal because people had told me that we might need to pay a fee or a bribe to get our immigration stamps.  We get to the Mexican side of the border and after the usual confusion we go through Mexican immigration and get stamped out of Mexico.  Then we walked to the border bridge and had to pay 5 pesos per person to get on the bridge.  As we passed the pay turn stiles a bicycle taxi offered to give us a ride across the bridge for 10.  We hop on and a three minute bike ride later we were on the other side of the bridge.  There the bike guy asked for 30 Quetzals, 10 for each person.  1 Quetzals equaled 2.5 pesos so this came out to about 75 pesos which was quite expensive for a 3 minute bike ride.  Silly me for not clarifying the currency but I didn’t want to fight over being scammed for US$4 so I let it go, paid him and chalked one up to experience. 

The bridge over the river to Guatemala was only a 10 minute walk or an expensive bicycle taxi ride.

We go to the Guatemalan immigration lady and she is sitting at the end of the bridge at a plastic table.  Entry into Guatemala requires a Covid test which we had deliberately not taken.  We feigned ignorance and when she told us that we could not enter Guatemala or get our passports stamped we asked her for a note and she wrote one up for us.  Note in hand we walked back across the bridge where we went back to Mexican Immigration and told our tale of woe of not being able to enter Guatemala.  The nice immigration officer asked us how long we wanted to stay in Mexico and we said we would like a 6 month visa please and he said fine.  We paid 580 pesos per person for the new visas and we were on our merry way.  Mission Complete!

And so we were out of Mexico! Only to return 30 minutes later.
Technically we were in Guatemala, just never actually crossed immigration.
Olivia and I with a foot in Mexico and another in Guatemala.

We hopped onto the next mini-bus back to Tapachula which took a surprisingly long time, over an hour to return.  Of course it took us to a random part of downtown Tapachula.  We wanted to go back to the mall to have dinner and because this was the one place we knew the mini- bus back to Puerto Madero stopped.  Of course we had no idea how to get back to the mall so we walked to the main street going the general direction of the mall and started hailing mini-busses. It was dark by now and it had been a long day so we were also looking for just a straight taxi but we all the ones passing by were full.  Eventually we found a mini-bus which we thought the driver said was going to Walmart but after 5 minutes it stopped and the driver was pointing us to go somewhere.  We walked in that direction but didn’t find anything however we were able to finally find a taxi that brought us back to the mall.

We had dinner at the food court Chinese place where we found out that both Chinese food court places were owned by the same person.  One place was a standard Chinese fast food court place while the other was cooked to order Chinese dishes.  We tried both and while the standard place was, well, standard, the cooked to order place was both more expensive and did not taste as good.  I ordered a Wonton soup and a mixed Chop Suey and both were bland.

After dinner we went to find a mini-bus back to Puerto Madero but nothing showed up and we eventually just hailed a regular taxi for 200 pesos.  We finally got back to Rover almost 10:00 pm and we were all too tired to shower so we went straight to sleep.






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