6 April 2022

Belize Trip

  1. Leaving foggy Atlanta for a few days Apr 6, 2022
  2. Flying over Isla Mujeres Apr 6, 2022

    The cerulean waters look magnificent!

    You can see the city of Cancun on the left top corner.

  3. Flying over a familiar spot Apr 6, 2022

    Just below us you can see the city of Cancun. The long strip of land along the ocean is the Zona Hotelera. And at the bottom of the picture to the left side (where the couple of clouds are) is the hotel where Nikita, Sharmila and I spent a week. That was Spring Break exactly four years back (April, 2018).

  4. Playa del Carmen Apr 6, 2022

    Have heard great stories about that place. Never been there.

  5. Belize: Country #46; Airport #148 !! Apr 6, 2022
  6. River Belize Apr 6, 2022

    We did not get much of a chance to explore the river but it looked beautiful as it snaked thru Belize City.

  7. Indian restaurants are ubiquitous! Apr 6, 2022

    We were waiting for our water taxi in Belize. It is a small dock serving about twenty or so water taxis in a day. This is nowhere near the big port where the cruise ships come. The first thing we noticed as we stepped up to the ticket counter was this Indian restaurant!

    I remember once reaching the top of Jungfrau and in the building there, at the uppermost level was nothing but an Indian restaurant! Run by a Swiss guy!!

    Then there was the time I was strolling around near Estoril – 30 minutes of train ride from Lisbon. I had walked into a mall there and the first thing that had hit me in the food court was an Indian restaurant!

    These seem to crop up at the most unexpected places!!

  8. Enroute Caye Caulker Apr 6, 2022

    One and a half hour of boat ride

  9. Caye Chapel Apr 6, 2022
  10. If I were the ruler of Belize for a day, Apr 6, 2022

    I would have made this picture the national flag and then slept on the beach for the rest of the day.

    Incredible play on the blue colors as we approach Ambergris Caye.

  11. Sail’s down! Apr 6, 2022
  12. Finally reached our hotel! Apr 6, 2022

    Marriott had sent me a brochure when they had opened up this hotel less than a year back. A friend of mine – Geoff Dougall – visited a few months later and gave rave reviews of it.

    For me, I don’t care about the beach much – too much sea weed. I remember we had the same problem three hundred miles north from here – in Cancun. We will try the reef side beaches tomorrow.

    The hotel though is impeccable. The pool area is elaborately done with all sorts of luxury. The artifacts, the furniture, the lights and every fixture is very classy. The team at Autograph Collection has really outdone itself.

    The staff is very friendly. Reminds of India and Japan. Moment we sat anywhere, somehow, somebody materialized asking if we would like to have something!!

  13. First order of business… Apr 6, 2022

    … grab a drink by the poolside!!

  14. First time ever I played chess with her Apr 6, 2022

    The bar behind did wonders to the quality of the game!

  15. From chess, we moved on to cornhole Apr 6, 2022

    I think she was just throwing randomly.

    I, on the other hand, paid careful attention to the wind speed and direction and the weight of the bags.

    I got creamed! It was not even close!!

  16. Rooftop poolside Apr 6, 2022

    Missed seeing the sunset today. Will try tomorrow…

  17. Our four wheeler for the next three days… Apr 7, 2022
  18. A quick trip to the Island Wonder Beach Club Apr 7, 2022

    They were closed for breakfast. We were there for drinks last night. Have to go back for lunch or dinner some time..

  19. For a beach called “Secret Beach” Apr 7, 2022

    there seems to be a lot of advertisement. However, if you ever come to this end of the world, do not forget to visit this place. It made up for the beach I did not like on the east side. Actually more than made up for it. It took a 50 minute golf cart ride over some really rough roads to get there. It was totally worth it though!

  20. Patrick Butler! This is for you!! Apr 7, 2022

    This morning, I woke up to a FB message from my friend Patrick Butler – who is in Nepal now – that he saw my FB posts about Belize. And that if I went to Secret Beach, I should go to Bamboo Fence Swing Bar.

    Once I reached Secret Beach, I had to weave thru all those overzealous folks trying to help us find a golf cart parking spot near their restaurant/bar and instead went straight for Bamboo Fence Swing Bar. I went in and asked for the owner. Giovanni, who was working at the bar, came out and introduced himself. I told him the story how my friend had come to his bar last September and asked me to go nowhere else but his place.

    He was totally flattered!! He made a couple of welcome shots for us himself.

    Before we left, we took a picture together. He asked me to send it to my friend.

    So there, Patrick! This one is for you!!! We even matched our clothes for you!!!

  21. The welcome shots! Apr 7, 2022

    This is the Giovanni special welcome shot. From the look of it, my guess is this is a drop of Grenadine, white rum, pineapple juice and Blue Curacao!

    They were gone before you could say “Belize”!!

  22. I guess there is a reason this place is called Bamboo Fence “SWING BAR” Apr 7, 2022
  23. That is a good bargain, if you ask me 🙂 Apr 7, 2022
  24. The bar scene in global warming days? Apr 7, 2022
  25. I guess this is truly a “wet” bar? Apr 7, 2022

    That is Samir bringing us our drinks! I was stunned to find out that he is a local Belizean and his name is a fairly common name from the part of India I come from.

  26. Because there was not enough blue already, you know… Apr 7, 2022
  27. That is what relaxation looks like… Apr 7, 2022

    … especially after that Pina Colada drunk straight from the pineapple!

  28. Another look at relaxation Apr 7, 2022
  29. Some quirky side of island life Apr 7, 2022

    Do you remember how I had run out of cash in Eleuthera and both the ATM machines were down? Well, we had a similar experience this time in Secret Beach. We were wrapping up and gave Giovanni our credit card. Just as he was going to ring us up, apparently the internet went down. Guess what he had to do? He went around outside waving the credit card machine in his hand hoping to catch some cell phone connection!! Which he eventually did! It was strong enough and long enough to run my transaction anyways!!

  30. Loved this sign! Apr 7, 2022
  31. The hotel at night Apr 7, 2022
  32. 04, 05, 09 or 22? Apr 8, 2022

    First morning (yesterday), Sharmila and I came down to enjoy some coffee by the pool at around 8am. The first family I met, I asked “So, where are you visiting from?”
    “Atlanta”
    “Really? Where in Atlanta?”
    “Roswell”
    “Where in Roswell?”
    “Next to the Roswell High School. Do you know the area?”
    We let them know we are from Milton – about 5 miles away!!
    What is the chance of coming to Belize and the first family we make friends with live within 5 miles from us? They could not have lived any closer…

    WRONG!!

    As we were standing there, another family came by.
    I asked them too..
    “So, where are you folks visiting from?”
    “Atlanta”
    Now the first family and we looked at each other! What is the chance of this happening?
    “Where in Atlanta?”
    “Milton”
    “WHAT? Where in Milton?”
    “Crooked Creek”
    “We are on Summit Road. Literally a couple of miles away!!”

    Two families and both in our backyard!!

    That was not it.

    Remember the picture of Sharmila and I with the “Secret Beach” sign? Well, turns out two ladies were returning the favor of us taking their pictures there before that. After that, again, as is my way to break the ice on vacation, I asked the two ladies where they were visiting from. Wouldn’t you know – they said “Atlanta”? This time a little further away from us – they were from the city.

    And still we were not done!

    We left land and went into the water. You probably saw the pictures of Sharmila and I drinking the pineapple drink sitting in a table out in the water. Presently, a group of tourists came by us and asked if we could take a picture of them.

    “Sure.”
    And as I took a few shots of them, I asked the usual question.
    “Atlanta!”
    “Us too!!”
    “Where in Atlanta?”, one of the ladies asked.
    “Alpharetta area.”
    “04, 05, 09 or 22?” She asked.

    It took me a second.
    “Are you talking about zip codes? Then 04”.

    In case you were wondering, Alpharetta area has the following 4 zip codes, 30004, 30005, 30009, 30022.
    Why would anybody ask such a question?

    Well, because she works in the US Postal Service and delivers mail in our area!!!

    Is life cool or what?

  33. Should software be developed in Belize? Apr 8, 2022

    One observation about The Ambergris Caye (the island we are in). There is one key difference we noticed in this Belizean island compared to every other Caribbean island we have been to. There are virtually no bugs!! And therefore virtually none of the predators – like lizards either. We did see one small iguana though.

  34. The next adventure in Belize awaits… Apr 8, 2022
  35. Another lifetime experience Apr 8, 2022

    You remember my pictures from Eleuthera – the straight line dividing the dark blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea? Well, this one is almost a perfect circle!

    The adventure of this morning was to fly over the Great Blue Hole! This is literally a sinkhole in the middle of the sea!

    Around the end of the Ice Ages, a part of the earth collapsed (like Cenotes we saw in Mexico) and then as the ice melted and water kept filling up the earth, this part of the world became flooded with water. In the middle of fairly shallow waters with beautiful hues of sky blue, you have this sudden deep drop with dark blue water.

    Interestingly, the first time divers went to the bottom of this sinkhole was less than four years back. Apparently, there is big layer of hydrogen sulphide that is sitting midway thru and there exists no life below it (no oxygen). But they did find a coke bottle, a GoPro and the remains of two human beings!

    We stayed comfortably up from all that at about 5000 feet above sea level.

    But what a grand view it was!!

  36. You cannot beat Mother Nature’s palette Apr 8, 2022

    While flying to the Great Blue Hole,, I took this shot. This is basically the colors of the water around the reefs. As the water gets deeper, so does the hue.

    Can you conceive of any shade of blue that Mother Nature has not provided in this simple shot?

    What a beauty to sometimes just sit back and watch Mother Nature in its full glory!!

  37. The Witconcrete shipwreck Apr 8, 2022

    The romantic historical story would have been how we spotted a poor ship that got shipwrecked as it hit the shallow waters of the reef about a century back. The reality is that this 375 feet ship which was used as a cargo ship most of the time has been recently purposely sunk (after it outlived its purpose) so that corals can have a lively place to settle and grow off from and divers would have a fantastic spot to explore!

    I liked the false historical story better 🙂

    Incidentally, to give you an idea how clear the water is… the ship is actually completely under water!!

  38. The Turneffe Atoll Apr 8, 2022

    One out of the three atolls in the Belizian Reef

  39. The Lighthouse Reef Apr 8, 2022

    Second atoll out of the three atolls in the Belizian Reef. This is where the Great Blue Hole is.

  40. Half Moon Caye Apr 8, 2022

    This is a beautiful island surrounded by the reefs. (Check it out on Google Maps in Satellite image mode). I could not capture the whole of the island since I was in an airplane – but got the east edge of it. Just look at the difference in water colors. Reminds me of Eleuthera again!

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  41. Massive spreads of sargassum Apr 8, 2022

    You probably remember about me complaining about the seaweeds on our side of the water in the island. We had faced the same thing in Cancun. Seen from an airplane – you can see the vast spreads of the seaweed (sargassum).

  42. Can you spot the snorkelers? Apr 8, 2022
  43. Sandy Toes Apr 8, 2022

    This area is filled with restaurants and bars in the water!

  44. First drink at Ugly Duck Apr 8, 2022
  45. Second drink at Losers Apr 8, 2022

    Check out Sharmila’s Gin Smash !

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  46. The most exquisitely made Old Fashioned I have ever had Apr 8, 2022

    The previous night I had met Johan at the pool bar and we got talking about Old Fashioned. He invited me to join at the Piano Bar the next day. I was promised that I will never forget the Old Fashioned from there.

    So, I showed up the next evening. Met Subhash who is a molecular mixologist. He has been tending bars at various Marriott locations including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Belize etc. Looks like we missed each other at the Kempinski in Muscat by a few months. Also, we found an intersection point with another bartender – Varghese – who I had first met in the JW in Juhu Beach, Mumbai!

    The process to make the Old Fashioned was very elaborate, to say the least.

    First, the bitters are a mix of a couple of bitters they make in the bar. The bourbon is a mix of bourbon infused with orange peels (for thirty days) and some caramelized bourbon. The infused bourbon loses its ABV to 35% and the caramelized bourbon restores it to around 40%.

    There is the smoking of course and the round ice!!

    It was a total spectacle!

    The Old Fashioned tasted great! Nothing like I have ever had anywhere before. The length was unusually long!

    Loved it. If any of you ever come to Alaia Belize, make sure you visit the Piano Bar and have Johan or Subhash make you their special Old Fashioned!!

  47. I guess there is a reason he is called a molecular mixologist… Apr 8, 2022

    His bar setup looks like a veritable chemistry lab!!

  48. Run in the 27th country Apr 9, 2022

    Thru the mangroves in Ambergris Caye in Belize

  49. Checking out another island – Caye Caulker Apr 9, 2022

    This is a limestone coral island. Really a sand bar sitting on top of a limestone shelf. It was mostly barren before the Mayan/Spanish descent people fleeing the Caste War of Yucatan in 1847 started taking refuge here. Most of the island is dense mangrove with very rich birdlife.

  50. I thought this would be a terrible idea Apr 9, 2022

    However, she insisted on taking this picture. Now I am worried 🙂

    (The Split is actually a very shallow stretch of water no more than a few hundred yards wide that splits Caye Caulker into two islands. This is where the beach life is.

  51. One more morning… one more cocktail! Apr 9, 2022
  52. The official motto of Caye Caulker Apr 9, 2022

    … is “Go Slow”. Remember the sign in Reggae Beach in St. Kitts – “Rush Slowly”?

    Later, I found out that the island has two cemeteries. But no hospital. I kind of have an idea how they chose their motto 🙂

  53. Some funny boards in Sip ‘N Dip – local bar in Cay Caulker Apr 9, 2022

    Reminded me of the Budda Bar in Spanish Wells off Eleuthera

  54. Gotta love the simplicity of island life Apr 9, 2022

    Noticed the man come biking to the shore of the island on the other side of The Split. He then took a ride in a canoe with his bike. Upon reaching this side, he put his bike on his shoulder and climbed up the step. Then he simply biked away. He had a small purse in his right hand.

    All the time he was carrying a beer bottle in his left hand and drinking from it though!!

  55. “They call me Jello-Man” Apr 9, 2022

    While sitting by the Lazy Lizard in the Split and enjoying a cocktail, we were approached by a gentleman who was selling jello shots. He had two flavors and they were made in an orange peel. “You can throw away the peel in the water – the fish love it. My jello shots are bio-sustainable!”. His accent was very different. I could clearly understand what he was saying. None of the local dialect.

    We bought two of the shots. But when he came back for the money, we got him to sit down and talk to us. He is from St. Louis (which explains the lack of dialect) and has moved to the island because he loves the life here. His two sons also have moved with him. They (the sons) work in some local stuff. And to pass his time, he himself makes jello shots and sells on the beach!

    “What is your name?”
    “They call me Jello-Man!”

    Jello Man, it was!!

  56. Some of the island cocktails from this trip Apr 9, 2022
  57. Intersection points again!! Apr 9, 2022

    On our boat ride from San Pedro to Cay Caulker, Sharmila and I sat on the upper floor of the big catamaran. Eventually, I gave up my seat to an elderly lady and stood at the forward edge on the bow side so that I could take in the wind as we sped towards our destination. There was a local gentleman standing next to me and then another couple next to him. Thru the trip, I could hear the lady chatting up the local. From the accent, I had no doubts that she was Indian. In any case, soon the conversation became white noise as I started taking the beauty of the cerulean waters in.

    I did overhear her asking him when the last water taxi to return would be at. He professed ignorance but suggested “most likely 6 o’clock”. For a moment I thought of letting them know it was 6:15 but thought the better of butting into their conversation.

    In any case, after enjoying the day on Caye Caulker, Sharmila and I caught the 3:45 water taxi back. I, again, stood on the bow side. Surprise! Surprise!! Suddenly the same couple came and stood next to me. This time, I broke the ice – “I thought you were going to take a later boat?”

    “Yes, but we are a little far away from San Pedro boat station. So, we are taking this earlier one.”

    Presently, we got to talk about where they lived and what they did. Their daughter was also on the boat traveling with them. I did eventually go talk to her. Like every adolescent kid, she was keeping a safe distance from her parents!

    “So, where are you originally from?”, I asked.
    “India. Both of us”
    “Where in India?”, I asked thinking I might find some connection.
    “West Bengal.”
    “Oh! Where in West Bengal?” (As you must have guessed, I am from that state too)
    “Kolkata.”
    “Really? Both of you? Where in Kolkata?”
    “I am from Tollygunge and she is from Dunlop Bridge”.

    You can only imagine their surprise when I told them that my brother stays a stone’s throw away from his house!!

    “You are Bengalis too?” she asked
    “Of course!!”

    By this time, the boat had picked up speed and it was becoming difficult to hold a conversation down with Manosij and Sudipa in the strong winds.

    However, after getting down, we did finish up our conversation and exchanged our contacts. And then as parents often do with their adolescent kids, we made her daughter take a picture of us. Which Ariana gracefully did.

  58. Kelly Talele, you think they made this sign for me? 🙂 Apr 9, 2022
  59. Third time was the charm! Apr 9, 2022

    Finally caught the sunset from the rooftop.

  60. And the sunrise from this morning Apr 10, 2022
  61. Tropic Air – 35th airline for me Apr 10, 2022
  62. Sad to start our return journey Apr 10, 2022

    Ever since Belize became the first country to open up to vaccinated Americans in March, 2021, we have been wanting to visit this place. It finally happened a year later! We are definitely sad to leave. Collected a lot of memories and photos for future!