If someone says he or she loves backpack traveling, they’re instantly a friend of mine. Then if they say they would rather stay in cheap hostels than luxury hotels, I know we already have a lot in common. Yes, I don’t want to be stuck in a luxurious hotel surrounded by rich tourists.

I met lots of interesting people during my trip, as usual, and sometimes their stories fascinated me! I always learn something new from everybody I meet.

A German woman on the airplane to Guatemala
She was sitting next to me on the airplane from Houston to Guatemala city. She has been living in Guatemala with her Guatemalan husband for more than 15 years and now she is volunteering for the community.  She gave me some good advice. “Go to Chichicastenango market before 6 am, then you will get almost everything at a cheaper price. If you go late, the price suddenly goes up because tourists are coming”

She answered shortly, “don’t do that.” My question was that I wanted to take local transportation to meet as many as locals as I could. She said, “you will see many locals, but take a tourist shuttle bus through a travel agency even though the ticket price is more expensive.” But later I had a chance to take a local bus, which was very fun. People are not harmful, and they are always smiling, and it was comfortable enough.

Andreas (German)
I met him at a guest house in Antigua.  He has been traveling Central America more than 3 months now. He is still traveling in Mexico. He said he finished his university degree and is supposed to do some internship in USA in a few months. He decided to travel before his work starts. He is a very calm, smart, and adventurous person.

The day before I left Antigua, I asked him, “Where is your next itinerary? ” He said, “I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet. Anywhere I stop on the local bus (chicken bus), it will be ok, but finally I will go to Mexico.

Next day, I was walking down from steep hill side in San Pedro, I saw a man who looked familiar, was walking up the hill! I was very happy to see him again there! “hey, good to see you again here! When did you come?” He said, “actually yesterday evening I arrived here!”. I asked, “Where did you go for dinner last night? I did not see you around here?”. He said, “yeah, I met 2 girls who are traveling together on the bus and we went out together!”

He invited me to his friends’ party that night and had a great time thanks to him!

Hilda (Norwegian)

Hilda did not look like a backpacker. At first, she was wearing a huge flower pin in her hair near her right ear. When I heard her name was Hilda, I thought the name matched her look.

She said her hometown is a very northern part of Norway where 6 months of a year has only night time. She feels very depressed during the ongoing dark days. She has to put on sunblock cream because her skin is very weak. She wants to look for spiritual truth and it led her to travel to Guatemala. She is a passionate dancer. When we went to a live music cafe, she was the most popular girl among the customers including the staff. She left Antigua before me.

A few days later, I met her again in San Pedro again! I was on the bus on the way home back from Chichicastenango Market visit. She was walking the right next to the street outside the bus. I forgot her name at that moment, “hey, hey!” She looked back and found me. Once I got off the bus, we were so delighted that we held hands and jumped together.

She is learning Yoga and studying metaphysics and meditation in an institute now. She said she will go back home after January, 2010.

Montreal lady
I met her everywhere. I met her at a restaurant where I had my paella. She seemed to be interested in being alone instead of meeting new people. Next day I met her at a coffee shop. I said hello and talked to her for a short time.

When I went to Chichi market, she was on the same bus, but she did not pay attention to talking to me and she seemed to like to practice her Spanish language with the Guatemalan driver. However, I was told that her next itinerary was Tikal, which is where I was going.  In Frores or Tikal, I did not meet her.

The day before I left Guatemala, I met her again on the street!  “I’m going home tomorrow!”, I said to her. She said, “Me,too!”  I said, “Next time if I happen to meet you again, I will kiss you!” : ) haha, it will never happen because I don’t know what she does, what her name is even I almost forgot what she looks like.

A Coban man
When I looked for a hotel by following my travel book’s information, he suddenly approached.  He asked, “speaking Spanish?” “Where are you going?”  I said, “Zona 1”. He said, “here! follow me!”  I know how to find the Zona 1 by myself, why why do I have to follow him! I was annoyed. He did not even seem to know where the area of Zona 1 was. He asked another guy about it in Spanish. I checked my travel book and found the direction. I walked faster to avoid his approach. He kept following me until I found the hotel. Then he acted like he found the hotel for me by pointing and reciting the hotel name!

When I got to the hotel, the gate was closed tightly. I said to the hotel staff, “this man keeps following me. I don’t know what to do. “The staff let only me in and closed the gate. I saw him through a small gap on the gate. Suddenly I felt sorry for him. I treated him badly!

Strangely whenever I walked around the neighborhood, he appeared. The day before I left Coban, I was buying some bread for next day’s breakfast on the bus, I found he was right behind me. I bought another bag of bread and gave it to him.

He said “Gracias!” and disappeared quickly.

A Korean man
I went into a clothing store in Guatemala City. An Asian man was sitting at the counter. When I got close to him, I found he was watching a Korean comedy program on TV! I asked, “Hangook booniseyo? (Are you Korean?)” He said, “Si? – Yeh!”

He answered  “yes” in Spanish and also Korean at the same time! : )  He must have been shocked with my question in  Korean. : )

He asked, “Are there any places for sightseeing in Guatemala?” that made me surprised. There are about 10,000 Koreans living in Guatemala. He said he misses Korea a lot and wants to go back if he can.

I asked “why don’t you?” He said, “I can’t afford it! Everything is expensive in Korea and I can’t survive there even if I went back, here the price of rice has increased a lot.” He gave me a Korean-style coffee and looked sad.

2-girls-on-the-busThese children were standing right in front of me on the local bus from Flores to Coban.  The driver had an assistant who picks up customers waiting for the bus on the side of the highway. Whenever they found the customers, they stopped and pushed them into the bus. The “bus” is really a van, but there were 20 of us packed like sardines or cigarettes!

heavyIt was interesting to see that he was trying to carry heavy boxes by balancing! Left shoulder, right shoulder, and head! The red shirt guy should carry some, too! : ) When I took this photo, the man carrying the boxes got so excited he almost dropped his stuff.

localSome local people got off the bus. I took this photo from the bus.

MayanladyWhere is she going? I wished I followed her. What would her house look like? What did she buy in the market? Or did she sell something in the market? Who is waiting for her in her house? I was so curious! BTW, I hope the man squatting next to the car was not peeing into his car. ; )

homemadechocolategirlOn the bridge on the way to Semuc Champey, some girls were selling homemade chocolate!

scorpionmanHe called me from behind when I passed him in Tikal National Park, “Amigo! Amigo!” He took out a glass jar and showed me this huge spider he caught. I asked if it is poisonous, he said, no. How did I ask about it? : ) body language. He wanted to put it on my arm, but I refused.


2boysand-momOn the tourist shuttle bus when I left San Pedro for Guatemala city, I met a woman with 2 boys. The woman in curly hair is the mom of 2 boys. She had a lot of luggage, so the driver put her all luggage on the roof of the bus. I found she had some large furniture.

On the bus, I overheard her conversation with another tourist. “… I am leaving here that I lived years and moving to another place.” Someone asked her, “Where are you going?” She said, “Honduras” It sounded like she has no friends or relatives in Honduras.

She said she was making a living giving massage to tourists. I realized that the huge furniture must be her specially-made massage table. She said the reason she decided to leave the town is that the lake is getting contaminated and it is getting worse and worse as time passes.

What a woman with strong will she is! I wish her good luck. Leaving the town for me was just moving to another place, but for her, the leaving was a life changing decision! We were on the same bus for a few hours, but our lives would be totally separated after that.

babyI met him at a crowded bar. It’s an unusual scene to see a baby at a bar. I asked him, “Is this baby yours?” He said, “No, I’m taking care of my friend’s baby” I said, “he looks so cute!” He was happy to hear my compliment, “Yeah, his mom is Canadian and his father is Guatemalan” Later I met the mom, Stephanie. What a coincidence! Her hometown is Bloor and Yonge in Toronto where I used to live! Small world!

balloonThere are many students learning Spanish  in Guatemala. These students learned how to make a balloon. I asked, “how long did it take to make this balloon?” The guy who made said, “only a couple of hours.”

When the balloon was full of air, he put a candle inside of the balloon.

Then everybody counted from 10, 9, 8, 7….0!

The balloon was flying up and up!

balloon1The balloon in the sky! I’d like to learn how to make it someday.


  1. I love your travel philosophy! I am the same way. Eating and talking my way through new places. Jan. 20th I go to India! Thanks for sharing, Maangchi. -Kimbo

  2. Love your people stories! Makes me want to go on a trip and talk to people! :-) Thank you for sharing!

  3. Wonderful post! It was great reading about the different type of people you met on your travel.

  4. tina sappington& has 3 comments

    Maangchi thank you so much for sharing. I love your stories and pictures!

  5. Maangchi,

    Very nice people stories… however, the man that kept following you, that sort of freaked me out. The best part of your trip is featuring the people and the food.


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