Chichinango Markets Guatemala and where to find a bargain
Chichinango markets are by far the most famous markets in Guatemala and are open only on a Thursday and Sunday.
To get there, you can take a bus or private shuttle from Antigua. This shuttle stops at a cute mountains-side café for a morning hot chocolate or coffee, whilst you warm yourself by the fire. Silly us had worn shorts and t-shirts and flip-flops and so we huddled around the fire pot. We pass locals, loaded to the hilt, in their truck.
We then headed further through the misty hills til we arrived with bursting bladders at the back of ChiChi town (as it is fondly referred to). 5 ladies flew out of the mini-van to the bathrooms! Definitely regretting the coffee we had purchased in the hills earlier that morning.
We then wandered down the street. A man stops and tells us to be careful of our belongings and not to be pick-pocketed. He also offers to guide us through the 4 markets. We decline.
We head down the centre lane, and are amazed at the myriad of stalls. Off to the side I spy a fabric store. The cotton woven fabric is so colourful, I really wanted to buy some – the price was crazy and low, but the shipping would soon put an end to the bargain.
One lady promised me she had more fabrics at the staff, and soon we were weaving around the aisles and were lost.
This made me cranky, as we wasted good time trying to track back around to where we had whisked past things I wanted to see.
One good thing was we ended up in a lane to the left, parallel with the main lane where stacked up to 3 metres high were masses of fabrics, where the locals and wholesalers came.
There slightly away from the hustle I was able to purchase two embroidered tops I could turn into cushions for about ¼ of the market price. This is definitely the place to head if you want the traditional embroidered large tops / blouses / and fabric pieces.
We headed back to the centre aisle. We had achieved very little, and were tired and hungry. So we stopped inside an arcade area where there were a few more market stalls, and a local restaurant.
Here they severed traditional food at local prices, in a clean setting.
I ordered soup, and my son ordered a vegetable and bean and rice platter.
Not concentrating, I picked up the bowl of hot sauce and took a soup spoon full. It was quite the dance around the courtyard with my mouth on fire. I grabbed and drunk heartily from the water bottle to quench the fire in my mouth. Then Explorason decided he needed water too. Residual hot sauce was on the water bottle sipper, and soon he was experiencing the same burning agony. It was a great laugh.
I think we sat around the courtyard for about an hour, and ended up buying him a new hat, and I purchased a carved picture frame, and a woven belt.
Heading back to the mini-van I am confronted with the same street seller who seems to constantly find me in Antigua on and off over the past 2 weeks. She has a stall here. Her embroidered fabric has gone from $80 to $20, but by now I have seen better and nicer, and am turned off by the price difference and lost interest. She however hasn’t and continues to try to sell it to me. So we race off!
It just started to pour with rain as we made it back to the mini-van. We had stored our backpacks in the van, and had to change vans to get to Panajachel on Lake Titilan. The driver was pretty unhappy and borderline rude. He told us to walk around to the front of a hotel in the main street, so we raced through the rain and huddled in the doorway. Inside were amazing birds, and a lovely courtyard.
Then to our surprise the same mini-van driver appears. I could not believe he was not even polite enough to drive us around. Thankfully he was not our driver, so after about 30 minutes and a few panicky passengers, we finally had our mini-van arrive. We all piled in, then sellers pile upon us.
We chatted our way to the lake. As soon as we arrived at Panajachel it seemed like a completely touristy town, and I had no interest in staying there. I wanted tradition. So we grabbed a tuk-tuk and headed to the lake. They helped us get a boat to Santiago across the lake for 50 Quetzales.
We seemed to wait about an hour for it to fill up with local passengers. We sat and watched and said ‘hi’ to a boat-load of happy American ladies as they took off on their private chartered boat.
Eventually we arrived at Santiago and were once again swamped with sellers waving fabrics at us.
A man came up to help us find a hostel, but we didn’t really want his help. However he had our trolley backpacks, so we asked a couple who spoke English and Spanish to assist us. They led us up to where the main square was. But being a Sunday it was mainly closed with locals sitting around.
We hunted in vain for a hotel, and it really didn’t look at all like there were any.
We had however spotted a resort hotel as the boat sailed by. So our new friends offered to drive us there, and to assist us with getting the best price.
We ended up with a great deal including breakfast, and we sat and enjoyed dinner together as the sun set.
We really enjoyed their company and positive outlook on life, and felt like they had just come along at the right time to help us.
To our surprise, along came the group of happy American ladies for dinner. We felt really comfortable at the Bambu Hotel, and had a lovely upstairs room.
If you go to Santiago, you will enjoy the great service and the fabulous location of the Bambu Hotel as you look across the lake and out to the volcanoes.