Day 33, Central America trip, Dec 2012 & Jan 2013
Day 2, San Salvador – El Salvador
Today is my first morning in the capital city of El Salvador aka San Salvador after a 12 hours grueling bus ride with crampy legs room from Flores – Guatemala the day before. I bought the ticket directly from the bus terminal for 220 Quetzales/$30 USD but it ended up being like chicken bus because the driver would pick up additional people along the way. The normal, popular tourist route after Flores – Guatemala is to stop-over in Rio Dulce, the Caribbean side of Guatemala or to travel overland via bus over to either Belize or Palanquen in Mexico or Coban ruins in Honduras. I might have followed a similar path if I didn’t over stayed in Guatemala for weeks beyond my initial plan and if money were no object. Esta buen! No problemo….because I can go to another backpacker friendly country instead of the beautiful but expensive Belize; which brought me to the country of El Salvador. Based on my research, El Salvador per day budget is on par or slightly more expensive than Guatemala but still a budget country for backpacker that came under $40 USD/day.
Partial exterior of Galerias mall in San Salvador
I preferred slow travel and if it wasn’t for a non-refundable, scheduled in return ticket from Panama City in Panama, I would have just stay in Guatemala even longer. After the Mayan pyramid ruins of Tikal, I had enough with Mayan pyramids/archaeological sites and skip Copan ruins – Honduras altogether, which differ from my original itinerary. Instead of gotten out of the hotel for sightseeing, explore the country on my first morning or joining Mariani (my travel companion whose stayed in the same hostel with me in Flores) to the beach in Libertad, I am on a mission to go to the mall. Yup! You heard that right…………thhhhheeee mall aka commercial center. For those of you who know me well, you know that I dread going to the big, boxy shopping mall (because I am the online shopping queen ehhehehehee) unless I absolutely have to and I tend to make it a get in, get out mission. Now….small, independent run stores, arts and crafts are different animals for me, lol.
Entrance to Galerias shopping mall
As you see, I have a bit of a dilemma and unless I get it resolved, I will greatly regret the remaining leg of my Central America trip for the lack of pictures of all the places I am visiting. I have somehow managed to lost/misplaced the OEM USB charging cable to my camera (which I’m now certain I have left it in the hostel charging station by Semuc Champey).
Contemporary in design, water fountain at the Galerias mall in San Salvador
Instead of taking a thousand pictures, like I normally do at other places prior, I conservatively and strategically took a selected few pictures at Tikal, the Mayan pyramid/hub of civilization in an effort to conserve my camera battery juice. Then I spent the late afternoon into the evening soaking wet (due to sudden tropical rain) running from stores to stores on cobble stones around Flores trying to find a replacement cable. No luck! I talked to Chris @ Los Amigos hostel in Flores and he said: you shouldn’t have a problem looking for a replacement. San Salvador is a real city! I should have known what he meant by it.
Yet to removed Christmas display inside the Galeria mall
For my entire month in Guatemala, I haven’t see or set foot inside a mall (I heard they are all in Guatemala city) but the tourist trail that I was on had no mall. We only have tiendas (or the mom and pop convenience stores and neither 7-11 stores. Thereby, this business model feed many small businesses and self sustain for the citizens of Guatemala. Needless to say, I got both culture and sticker shocks on my first evening in this capital city of El Salvador. Granted that I’m staying in a very up scale neighborhood of the city – Colonia Escalon (the taxi driver actually mumble something about “old money” during our ride. If you noticed, there’s Starbucks coffee in the balcony above the Christmas tree in the prior pictures.
Double edge sword of globalization. Every imaginable US based fast food chains or restaurants can be found here, at the mall.
Did I just get teleport back home to the USA? Or I’m actually in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador? I can’t speak for other tourists but I myself is disappointed in finding the same stores, culture, styles, eating options exactly like how I would back at home, due to globalization. Sharing the mall concept is fine but with local brand instead. I felt “culturally cheated” because I didn’t fly thousands of miles to be eating, drinking, shopping and wearing the exact same thing that I found at home.
By the way, the Salvadorean dumped their own currency a while back and besides mimicking the American lifestyle, they also use US Dollars here. Yup! You heard that right. The currency of El Salvador is the US dollars. It does made it a bit more convenience for traveler like myself because I do not need to exchange money. However, everything cost as much, or even more than back home because they’re all US brands, imported from the US, with the exception of locally grown produce.
Yes, Walmart also have a present in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador
Well, culture and sticker shock a side, I’m here on a mission. I bought a 5 pounds replacement charger kit for $45 USD that I didn’t want to buy in the first place because of the weight. What backpacker travel with a 5 pound charger and its included car charge? With my limited Spanish, I told the sale clerk guy that I’m traveling and have no “car here in Central America” to “charge it”. Beggar can’t be choosy because that was the only option so 5 pound of extra weight to my travel luggage it is. Having accept and use the US dollars as their currency, El Salvadorean businesses do not have to convert the currency. Therefore, credit cards are widely accepted here, without the add-on surcharge, unlike in Guatemala. I was so happy to use my credit card for this small purchase, after 6 weeks on the road. It is a bit of familiarity and comfort after such a long time.
$10 USD worth of USB cable
Only upon exiting the mall I found Radio Shack hidden behind a big pole that carried just the exact cable that I needed. I asked Radio Shack if the prior store would accept a return? Well, I tried any way because I do not want to lug that death weight on my back. The sales guy wasn’t too happy losing his sale commission but I made the return and got rid of the 5 pounds charger in a heart beat.
This story totally remind me of my time in Europe, eon ago. There were no such thing as “return policy” in Europe, especially the Netherlands where I was visiting. I bought a small/compact audio recorder at a local electronic store and came to realized it was better to buy a stereo player with CD instead. I marched back to the store, demanded a return and purchase a stereo instead. I literally amazed my European family when I told them the story because such a policy is unheard of their entire life in the Netherlands. Being a tourist does have it advantage, sometimes, don’t you think?