“I’m scared of Honduras. It just seems like urban homicidal chaos wherever you go.” This was the beginning of the conversation that prompted the spontaneous change of plans and our foray into El Salvador.
Initially we had planned to spend a week on the island of Utilá off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, known for its incredibly cheap scuba diving courses. In practice however, that meant spending a night in one of two of the most murderous cities in the world: Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Deciding to postpone diving until a safer country, we made plans to loop into El Salvador from Copan Ruinas, just across the border in Honduras. Assuming this would be an easy feat from Guatemala City however, was a mistake. Leaving in the early hours of the morning, the moon still high in the sky, seems to be a theme of the long distance Central American bus. Our plans for the ruins scuppered, we hopped on the afternoon bus for San Salvador…
Although I’d read up on El Salvador, and was impressed by the glowing blog posts, vivid pictures and the constant claims that it was an “undiscovered gem of a country”, I didn’t quite believe it until we arrived. The affluent west districts of San Salvador are bright and modern, complete with four-wheeled drive cars and gated properties. Aside from the omnipresent security card with the machine gun posted every few gates, it could have been any suburban city. It was calm, well served with restaurants and banks and the occasional flowering tree added a pop of colour to the whitewashed walls. Our first day was spent in search of the Museum of Modern Art, supposedly an easy twenty minute stroll, but unfortunately Google Maps doesn’t account for the steep hills and high humidity. We suddenly understood the need for a swish car with air conditioning…
Throughout our trip, we have been purchasing a few souvenirs from each country, from art and ornaments to jewelley and textiles. Knowing that San Salvador was a very liberal, arty city, I was determined to purchase a small canvas painting from the artisanal market. After wandering the maze of stalls, I opted for a beautiful cubist piece, reminiscent of the many murals we had seen gracing the walls.
The following morning we decided to venture out of San Salvador to the small colonial city of Suchitoto. We hopped on our first Central American chicken bus bound for downtown, before catching a slightly jazzier green and red chicken bus to Suchitoto. To our delight,
a chicken actually boarded the bus – whether as a pet or as dinner, we’re uncertain. The journey having taken far longer than anticipated, we had time for a quick lunch in the adorable Casa de la Abuela, a bright yellow building in one corner of the main square, and a stroll around town.
Suchitoto is a beautiful city, full of heat and colour. It also has, and this seems to be a Salvadorean trait, some of the politest people I have ever met. Clients coming into Casa de la Abuela greeted us and wished us a “buon provecho”, in San Salvador we were greeted in the lift by everyone entering… The country has been a lovely surprise, and although our day trip to Suchitoto was slightly marred by my phone being stolen, I would without hesitation return to El Salvador and the many towns, beaches and beautiful landscapes that we missed. El Salvador, it’s been a pleasure.