12 June, 2013

Long Distance Run Around

Tuesday morning at five o'clock, as the day begins... Whoops, that's something else, isn't it? Or, pretty close anyway. Sorry, Beatles.
Tuesday it was, and 5:00 AM it was too, and as the day begins as well. It was when Dianna and I were picked up by David and Elizabeth for a trip over to Belmopan.

We rode along to:
  1. Keep them company during a largely boring drive,
  2. Take advantage of the opportunity to do some sightseeing,
  3. Provide limited navigational services, or
  4. All that and more.
Of course, the answer's 'd'. Well, actually, it was supposed to be for us to play chaperone, but you know how that goes.

Anyway we made it over to Belmopan in a couple of hours, taking the Burrell Boom cutoff, windy road that it is, which shaved at least an hour off the the journey's time if we had had to drive clear through Belize City.

The first place we had to hit was the Belmopan Police Station, or more properly, the National Police Headquarters, where David and Elizabeth had to submit paperwork for their police report in preparation for their obtaining their Permanent Residency.

Man, the process and procedure for that alone has changed so much from we went through it just a few short years ago. But that's something for another story. Anyway, suffice to say we got that done by around 8:30 AM.

From there, the four of us hot-footed it over to the Immigration Department. Well, that's changed too. New building, new processes, and a lot more folks in Immigration uniforms working behind the counters.

Elizabeth mentioned that she didn't think it was really a new building. She pointed out as we looked up in the hallway waiting area, you could see 'Histology' bleeding through under the 'Immigration Residency and Nationality' sign. My guess is the building used to be either part of a hospital or a teaching facility of some sort.

After a suitable waiting period, David and Elizabeth went in to meet with in Immigration officer to get their residency application accepted in good order, which it was. All they had to do now was pick up their police report from Police HQ, and get back to Immigration before they closed at 5:00 PM.

After they were done, Dianna and I got to go in and meet with a different Immigration officer. It seems that for our Nationality application, our 'referees' or 'references' had somehow gone missing, even though they are listed on our receipt form from when we turned in our applications.

Anyhoo... We got those turned in and accepted. We even got a yellow hi-lite marking in our application log (I'm sure that's a good  omen). Then our Immigration Officer told us what happens next is our app gets looked at by the Minister and if the Minister accepts it (signs off on it, I assume) we get called to come pay our fee of $300 BZD each and then get scheduled to get sworn at. That was it for us for today. Our work there was done.

We headed outside to find David and Elizabeth at a little kiosk outside of Immigration, having some of their stuff photocopied. Once that was done, we all decided to go and check in to the hotel that Elizabeth had made reservations for. It was at a quaint Chinese hotel, the Yim Saan Hotel on the Hummingbird Highway in Belmopan. TripAdvisor said it was #2 out of 4 hotels in Belmopan. Sure.

Before we get into critiquing the hotel, let's have a beer to cool down. So, that's what we did. And we also had lunch at the hotel restaurant/reception-front desk/concierge, etc. The beer was cold. The workers tried hard, but the Chinese-English language barrier can be almost insurmountable at times.

I may have some of the sequences a tad out of order, but who's counting? The gist is the thing and it's close enough.

After lunch, we checked into our rooms. First things we noticed were that I couldn't figure out how to lock the hallway door as the door latch lever inside the room was broken. We also couldn't figure out how to unlock the balcony door as it's lever was non-existent.

Luckily, we saw the girl we had talked to at reception just a couple of rooms down, so she came over to show us how to work everything. Turns out, you open the hall door from the inside by keeping the key in the lock and turning it a bit further to move the lock's latch.

It got a bit trickier with the balcony door. She showed us how to open the window beside the door and reach out to use the lever on the outside of the door to open it. "Pretty tricky..." No, I'm not going to say it. That would just be wrong.

Anyway, the bed was firm, the room was clean. The TV, fan, air conditioner and fridge all worked. We didn't find any WiFi - but then again, we didn't ask about that either. There was plenty of hot water in the bathroom, soap was provided, and there were clean towels. What more could you want?
A Casual Shot of Our Hotel Room
After our nap, I took a quick shower to rinse off the day's sweat and felt much better. Just as an aside, the whole place was, I think shipped in from China. From the textured glazed brick tiles outside to the doors and room chandeliers - in short, just about everything, was shipped in to Belize from China. Maybe when the place was built, you couldn't get half the stuff to build it the way the owners wanted, so shipping was probably the only choice.
Our Room's Chandelier
One thing we did notice however, was that they probably did use Belizean builders. We knew that because the toilet was about a foot away from the back wall and way off center fore and aft, being almost wedged up against the bathroom wall. You're probably wondering why the tank lid is on the floor. We had to put it somewhere, because each time we used the toilet, we had to remove the lid to jostle the float to allow the flapper to close down inside the tank. It was just easier to leave it on the floor.
Our Misplaced, Malfunctioning Terlet
While we napped, David and Elizabeth went back to the Nick, got their police report and then over to Immigration where they got it turned in, accepted and were assigned a receipt number for their application and  got a date and time scheduled for their residency interview. Like I said the whole process has changed, and by the time you do your residency, it will likely be completely different again.

So, for Tuesday, we were done. All four of us had accomplished more that we thought possible to do. So we decided to celebrate by going out for dinner. On a whim, we chose a place on Constitution Street in Belmopan, the Blue Moon Restaurant. What a great choice that was. It's run by Marwan Haddad, C.M.C. Marwan was born in Tehran, Iran, moved to the states as a child, attended culinary school and became a chef (hence the C.M.C. after his name - Culinary Master Chef). He's opened restaurants all over the world and sold them. About four months ago, he opened the Blue Moon. It's outstanding.

Not a great deal of highfalutin furnishings, in fact, rather plain. But, the staff - very professional, from the busboy on up. And the food - simply to die for. I had a taco salad - partly because we had never eaten there before so I was cautious. But, it was great. Dianna had shrimp quesadillas (I had some of those tonight back home, as there was too much for Dianna to eat last night. They were simply outstanding. Elizabeth had the Tostadas - not sure if she had the beef or chicken. But, she said they were the best she'd had in ages. I've completely spaced on what David had but he was raving about it as well.

Simple menu, simple food, prepared exquisitely, presented well, and reasonably priced. It was really yummy. Afterwards, Marwan came and talked with us for a bit. It was obvious he cared about the food he served. We will go back. I recommend you do to. You won't regret it.

Then back to the hotel for another beer and then crash city. I think the four of us were pretty well wiped out by bedtime. We all slept reasonably well, considering we were away from our home cots and hammocks.

In the morning, we had a powerful craving for coffee and breakfast. What better place to try than the Belmopan market. Dianna and I had eggs over easy, refritos, fry jacks and coffee. A very good breakfast all around.

From Belmopan, we headed back out on the Western Highway (now renamed the George Price Highway), back to Belize City.

Before we left Belmopan, we asked David to stop for a photo op - this place. At least 11 to 14 stories high. We don't know what it is. A girl we asked said she thought it was a part of a casino but wasn't sure.
Easily the strangest and highest building in Belize.
Not Sure - Casino, Rocket Ship?
This time, we didn't take the Burrell Boom cutoff, but continued straight into Belize City, past Old Belize and the Cucumber Marina, where there's almost always a few spendy yachts and other boats moored.

We stayed on that road all the way in to the Belize Port Authority. Wish my delivery from Hyde Shipping was in and ready to be picked up. We were right there! Dangit. Oh well. Next time.

We back tracked a bit and made it to the downtown edition of Brodie's store. They seem to have everything - by Belize standards, anyway. Also, there's a fare number of touts and hustlers to deal with to and from your car. Not bad today, but stories do exist of problems.

From Brodies downtown we made it over the Swing Bridge and onto the Northern Highway (also now renamed the Phillip Goldson Highway) for a stop at Bennie's Hardware. Always a treat getting to ride their 'electric staircase' as a little old lady called it when it opened. it's the only escalator in Belize. Dianna bought some pillows.

When we first went into Bennie's, Dianna saw these tables and chairs sitting in the snack bar area of Bennie's. No price tags but pretty cool looking. they were obviously being used as seating in the snack bar. We're looking for something like that for our dining room.
Brodies Snack Bar Table and Chairs
From Bennie's we drove toward Orange Walk Town. Doug had told  me of a new hardware store just past Bennie's (or so i thought). We never did see anything resembling a new hardware store. I think he was dreaming.

We went uneventfully on up the Norther - Goldson Highway to the northern entrance to Orange Walk, where we stopped at our fav little road house, El Establo, for a couple of beers and lunch. David had fish and the rest of us all had chicken wings. I had the buffalo wings - simply breaded and fried wings dowsed with a bland BBQ sauce. Even though they weren't hot like I was expecting, they were still tasty. Dianna and I brought the chicken bones from our table home for the doggies (bribery for having been gone, you know).

Well, that's the story of our adventure. We'll relax tomorrow and sometime next week, we'll head back down to Belize City. The shipper called this afternoon and told me our packages had arrived at the Port and would be ready to pick up Tuesday or after. Maybe then I can find that missing hardware store.


Anonymous said...

There is also an escalator in a large San Pedro store, but it was not operational when I was last there in 2010.

Dave Rider said...

Hi AnyMouse,

I'm sorry - non-functioning electric staircases don't make it across the finish line in this race. We can reconsider when someone remembers to plug the thing back in.

I wonder what the big store is? "Think, damnit, think," I told myself to no avail.

Alright, this is Belize. We'll give a little... Broken staircase wins second place.

That's cause it's pool time.