My Dumbbells Strength Training Exercises –

Dumbells Strength Training Exercises

As requested by those who participated in my Strength Training With Dumbbells workshop, here are the different exercises I use.

Chest: bench press, side flys or a combination of the two

Back: pull ups while leaning over (one side at a time)

Shoulders: side raises, front raises, shrugs

Arms: bicep curls (standing or seated), tricep extensions

Forearms: wrist curls (seated), reverse curls (standing)

Legs: squats, lunges, calf raises

I currently do each exercise using weights that I can comfortably do ten repetitions each and I do two sets of each chest, back, arms and leg exercises while for shoulders and forearms, I do just one set.  I do strength training twice per week for most of the year while during ski season, it’s once per week.

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How Foreign Languages Helping My Swimming –

fitness foreign language sheet cheat

Foreign Languages Good To Know

Most of us agree that knowing at least one foreign language is a good skill to have.  Never did I ever think that foreign languages would ever help me in my fitness program.

During the summer, I’m swimming in my pool about three to four days each week.  My pool workouts are a big component of my summer fitness program particular for the cardiovascular element. But one thing I have a hard time with is keeping count of my pool laps.

Swimming Workout Involves Laps

My swimming workout has been doing 70 laps in the pool plus threading water.  I love the fact that I can get a great workout without sweating since I’m in the water.   But since like many other types of cardiovascular exercise, boredom can set in especially if movements are repetitive.

I frequently end up daydreaming while I’m doing my laps and as a result, I lose count.   To ensure that I get enough laps in when I do lose my count, I’ll do extra laps.

Counting In Foreign Languages Help

So what I started doing this summer in the pool is instead of keeping count of my laps all in English, I decided to count each set of ten laps in different foreign languages, specifically, Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and French in addition to English.

Before you get all impressed, no, I cannot speak five different languages but I do know how to count from one to ten in these specific foreign languages.  And what I am finding is that if I focus on counting from one to ten in these foreign languages, I do not lose count of my swim laps.

Here’s how you count from one to ten in each of these foreign languages;

English: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Cantonese: yut, yee, saum, say, mmm, look, chut, baat, gow, sup

Mandarin: ee, are, sum, se, oo, leeoh, chee, bah, jeow, shur

French: un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix

Spanish: uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez

 

So if you get too bored when counting out your exercises or laps and end up losing your count, try counting in foreign languages and see if it helps.

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Chinese Dim Sum Lunch Not Just For Asians –

chinese dim sum asians

Chinese Dim Sum Lunch

It’s amazing how far Chinese dim sum lunch has come over the years.   Although dim sum is still unheard of in most North American cities and towns, if you go to any city that is big enough to have a Chinatown and/or sizable Chinese population, there will be dim sum.

In Canada, cities that have dim sum restaurants include the Greater Toronto area including many where I’m based in Mississauga, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal.  In the USA, New York, LA, San Francisco and San Diego will have dim sum.

What exactly is dim sum?  Well it’s a type of lunch or brunch that consists of many different types of little dishes of dumplings, rolls, buns and other smaller portions of Chinese delicacies that were invented in Hong Kong.   So dim sum does not originate from main land China but instead, it is a Hong Kong Cantonese tradition.  Typically, it is served only during the daytime hours.

Not every Chinese restaurant has dim sum.  Most of the better Chinese restaurants that do serve dim sum specialize in it, ie, their daytime business hours are dedicated to dim sum.   Many of the bigger dim sum restaurants have servers pushing carts filled with different dishes throughout the dining areas and customers just select what they want.  Other restaurants do not use carts and just rely on customers ordering from menus.

Dim Sum A Cantonese Tradition

When I was a kid growing up in Toronto, I remember that most weekends, families would go to dim sum for brunch.  Indeed, this Cantonese tradition continues today but I’ve noticed that there are many more dim sum establishments in the area where I live.  Of course this growth is related to the growth of the Asian population.

One really good thing to see is that there are more non-Asians seen in dim sum houses these days.  With the growing diversity of many communities, non-Asians have been gradually introduced to Chinese dim sum, usually by somebody from the Chinese community.

At our social Meetup group GTA Free Spirits,  we have been doing our part in introducing newbies to Chinese dim sum as well.  We usually get together for dim sum every other month or so and we do a circuit of the best dim sum houses in Mississauga.  There are currectly eight such restaurants that we rotate through just in Mississauga alone.

Quite often at our dim sum events, there will be a newbie or two who have never experienced it before.  So they will join our regulars for quite a feast since with a table of ten people, we will be able to sample many dishes.  Indeed, skipping breakfast is well recommended for that day.

Here’s a goofy but fun short video showing myself with one of our regular non-Asian dim sum fans enjoying one of our recent outings.

So if you have never experienced Chinese dim sum before, you really don’t know what you are missing. Get yourself to a city with a sizable Chinese population (Cantonese speaking) and visit a dim sum house.

It’s probably best for the first time to recruit a Chinese friend or colleague who can accompany you to help identify the different dishes for you in order to ease you into the dim sum world, which can be a bit overwhelming (but tasty) when you first walk into a busy venue. The popular dim sum restaurants often have lineups waiting to get in during the weekends so it’s best to go early if on a Saturday or Sunday. Our group meets for 11 am for any of our dim sum outings.

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Stranded Overnight At Airport – What I Learned –

stranded overnight airport travel

Stranded Overnight At Airport

What was suppose to be a quick fly in-fly out day trip to Washington DC last week turned into a really bad travel experience for me. A company considering on having me as their keynote speaker at their big meeting later in the fall wanted to have me come down to meet with them in person.  The plan was to fly in during the morning, meet with them for a few hours and fly back home at the end of the work day.

When I boarded my 5:15 pm return flight, we were told that here would be a slight delay to wait for a lightning storm to pass by.  After awhile, we were told to deplane and wait inside the terminal.   The latest news came after 8 pm when they told us that other lighting storms are coming in and all outgoing flights north to Canada were cancelled for the rest of the night.

So I had to wait in this extremely long lineup for United Airlines customer service to rebook my flights for the next day.  The best that they could do was to rebook me for a 9:45 am flight with Delta Airlines but instead of a direct flight, I would have to connect through New York JFK, which was fine by me since the next available United flight was not until 10 pm the next day.

At the same time, I was also told that all hotel rooms within a 25 miles radius of the Washington Dulles airport were completely booked.  I confirmed this with a call to one of the hotel chains I use.

It was already about 10 pm and instead of having to deal with ground transfers to hotels located further away and back again to the airport to catch my morning flight, I made the decision to stay put for the night.  So effectively I was stranded.

Sleepless Night At Airport

The airport chairs, while comfortable for sitting, are not great for sleeping.  I for one cannot sleep while seated and since the arms of those chairs are fixed, there’s no way to lie down on them.  There was a ventilation grill behind the chairs where some other stranded passengers laid down.  As soon as I tried to sit on one of those things, I could feel the cold air coming out of those vents.  So for me, that was not an option.

Although it was quite peaceful at the airport terminal overnight, it wasn’t exactly quiet.  There was music on the PA systems, although not loud, which played continuously overnight.  There were also cleaning staff with their equipment doing their duties as well.

A few people actually slept on the floor but it would be too hard for me and I was still wearing the same business suit too.  So I sat around to listen to some music, go on the internet using the airport’s wifi and walked around like a zombie for the entire night.

At about 5 am when the security gates opened up again, I went through the security check and proceed to my gate.  There was about an hour delay at JFK for the flight to Toronto but I finally made it back home at about 4:30 pm the next day.  This was about 22 hours late past my original scheduled arrival back home the day before.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I was mainly worried about my two Lhasa Apso dogs.  I had forgotten to turn on the air conditioner for them although I did leave windows open.   They can stay on their own overnight like they did for my vacation trips but I had a pet sitter come in to feed them and check up on them twice per day.

This time around, I did not give any notice to my pet sitter since I was expecting to be home the same day.  And even if I did contact my pet sitter from Washington DC, there’s no way she would have gotten into my home anyway since I had one set of keys on me while the other one was hanging in my closet.

But when I finally got home, both my dogs were just fine even if they missed two meals and their daddy for one night.  My neighbours later confirmed that they did not hear them bark at all even when the windows were wide open.

My dogs did not leave any mess at home either since they are both indoor dog litterbox potty trained.  They don’t have to go out to do their business since they have a designated spot right inside the house which they used.

Lessons Learned From This Travel Experience

I did have a few lessons learned from this travel experience which I will list below.  I’ll use these if I go on another day trip that involves flights.

  1. Bring toiletries and extra change of clothing
  2. Have numbers of major hotel networks on cellphone
  3. Prepare for best alternative internet connections in case airport wifi fails or not for free
  4. Leave house keys with pet sitter just in case

Any future day trip that involves flights perhaps should be regarded as likely overnight stays and if I happen to get home within the same day because flights happen to run on time, then it should be considered a nice bonus!

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Summer Fitness Workout Program Starting Early –

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Summer Fitness Workout Program

There are four different seasons here in Canada so I have four different fitness workout schedules that make full use of the outdoor elements whenever possible.   This year, my summer fitness workout program will be starting a bit early as it begins with the opening of our outdoor swimming pool here at my townhouse complex.

Although it will likely be a bit cold water swimming until the summer temperatures really come, I’ll simply do what I always have done in the past and that’s to wear my scuba diving wetsuit in the pool.  The swimming workouts have been extremely effective for me in both cardio and trimming down to the leanest physique that is practical for me.

This summer fitness program is similar to past summer programs I’ve followed but this year I’m going to push up the stretching even more because I’ve noticed that the minimal stretching I do during the winter does set my flexibility back a bit.  So I’ve had to use all spring to catch back up.  I would like to eliminate this up and down cycle and even try to increase my flexibility even at my retired from active martial arts competition older age.

So here is my planned day to day summer fitness program;

Mondays – swimming plus stretching

Tuesdays – martial arts forms plus stretching

Wednesdays – swimming plus stretching

Thursdays – weights strength training plus super stretch

Fridays – swimming plus stretching

Saturdays – martial arts weapons plus stretching

Sundays – weights strength training plus super stretch

The reason why I allocated the various days of the week to my various workout activities is that I want to avoid being in the swimming pool during the weekends since those are the days when the pool is busiest with crazy kids.

Also, the super stretch element is different from my normal stretching routines.  The super stretch is for increasing flexibility while the normal stretching is for maintaining flexibility.  I have found that the super stretch element is ideal right after my strength training with weights.

Not stated above, I’ll also do ab work several times per week usually just before lunch as a separate element from my main workout for the day.  There is no particular reason for this as it’s just a pattern that I have found to be effective in terms of actually fitting in ab work into my fitness program.

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Time Required To Become A Certified Scuba Diver –

scuba diving honduras utila roatan nurse shark

Time Required To Get Certified As A Scuba Diver

In my last blog post, I discussed the time required to add adventure in your life through skiing.  This time, we’ll cover scuba diving since that is my other adventure sport and many people think about trying it especially when they see photos or videos of nice colourful tropical fish and coral reefs.  As I mentioned in the last article, it’s great that people want some adventure but they have to be realistic on the time requirements needed in order to learn the skills involved.

For scuba diving, there are a lot of new skills to learn in the water as well as knowledge about safety and physics required in order to get certified.  There are programs out there known as resort courses or Discover Scuba sessions which give you a taste of what scuba diving is all about. But these lighter programs which allow you to try out scuba diving do not get you certified.

Full basic certification scuba diving courses whether through PADI, NAUI, SSI or any other dive training agency involve classroom time, pool sessions and open water dives.  Such courses can be done over a few weeks (one night per week) or in one intensive weekend.

I always recommend the longer version since there are so many new skills to master in the water and there is also a written test you have to successfully pass in order to get certified.  The longer version will allow more time for you to master the skills in the pool and to study for the written test.

The theories you will learn during the classroom sessions as well as the written test are not that difficult since teenagers get certified in scuba diving.  But some folks have failed this test because they did not study adequately when new concepts were introduced forthe first time during intensive weekend courses.   If you must take the weekend course rather than the longer version, I highly recommend that you obtain the course manual ahead of time to read in advance.    At least this way it will give you more time to prepare for the written test.

In most cases, the scheduled course covers the classroom and pool sessions as well as the written test.  This does not mean you are certified yet upon completion of these sessions.  The final part in scuba diving certification is to do four open water dives.  This means that you have to demonstrate your scuba diving skills in open water rather than in a swimming pool.

Open water can be the ocean, a lake or a river.  Usually two open water certification dives are done each day over a separate weekend if you are doing them locally.  Another option, especially if you do not like cold Ontario water temperatures, is to go to a tropical destination as a vacation and do your four open water dives with a scuba diving instructor there in warm waters.  Many tropical destinations around the world have scuba dive operators with instructors on staff.

Upon completion of your tropical open water dives, the instructor there will sign off on a document that you will bring back to your local instructor back home.  Then you will become fully certified and receive an official scuba diving certification card.  This certification card entitles you to scuba dive recreationally with dive operators around the world.

So as a minimum, in order to get fully certified as a scuba diver, you will have to allocate one evening per week for several weeks or an entire weekend for the course itself.  Then you will have to schedule another separate weekend to do your four open water dives or take a vacation to a tropical destination somewhere and do the dives there.  It will usually take two days to do all four required open water dives.

Many scuba diving students schedule in additional pool sessions at home just to get more practice with the skills before they do their open water dives.  These are useful if you end up with a time delay of several weeks or even months between when your course sessions ended and your vacation when you will do your open water dives.

You can choose to bypass the Discover Scuba program if you already know that you want to become a certified scuba diver.  Discover Scuba is not a prerequisite for the certification course but needless to say, you must demonstrate that you can swim during your first pool session.

Hopefully this will give you a good idea on the time commitment you need in order to become certified no matter which route or course duration you take.

Sidenote – if you read my last blog article on time needed to learn skiing, unlike Discover Scuba, the Discover Skiing session is a prerequisite for new skiers before taking my Beginner level class. The only time this prerequisite is waived in my ski program is if you can already demonstrate skiing skills that are similar to somebody who has successfully passed Discover Skiing.

Adventure Requires Some Time Sacrifice

So as you can now realize, adventure especially in the form of activities like scuba diving and snow skiing, requires some time sacrifice on your part.  If you already have a full schedule doing other things, you would need to ask yourself if you are willing to give up some of your time for scuba diving and skiing (as well as for other adventure activities that involve learning new skills).

If you are already happy with your present lifestyle the way it is, then by all means continue with what you are doing.  But if you really want to add some more adventure to your life, you will need to make time commitments (and the money) in order to fit in these new adventures.

If you do decide to go for it, you will get awesome life experiences that the vast majority of the world’s population will never have.  These are the same life experiences that your own friends and relatives will never have either if they do not commit the same time required for adventure

They may try to hold you back if this means taking some time away from them.  After all, if you choose adventure, you will be choosing to do something very different from what they are doing.

So you decide.

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Time Commitment For More Adventure In Your Life

adventure ski skiing discover

If You Want More Adventure In Your Life

Some people look at photos and videos of my scuba diving or snow skiing trips and decide that they too would like to try one of these adventure sports.  This is all great in my opinion since as an avid skier and scuba diver, I already know the great benefits plus enjoyment you can get from these two activities.

The one big dose of reality to realize however, is that both of these particular sports as well as many other such adventure activities, do require learning some new skills.  To learn the required new skills and to further develop them to a level of competency where you can actually do them fairly well require time.  It’s not just a matter of being in good physical shape since these sports involve brand new skills.

Let’s take a further realistic look at the time commitment required for these mentioned activities over two back to back blog articles.

Time Required To Learn To Ski

Many people try to ski on their own and results are usually disaster stories.  This is not surprising since skiing involves learning new skills that are not natural.  One just cannot learn these unnatural skills well on his or her own.

So the ski industry in recent years has developed a special introductory program called Discover Skiing which is designed for those who have never skied before or tried once or twice before with poor results.  Many ski resorts now have some sort of Discover Skiing program but they usually last for only about an hour.  My Discover Skiing program is two hours long with a maximum of six participants.

My program in particular has a great track record of helping adults get started with skiing the proper way and under supervision to maximize safety.  Many of my own current Intermediate level ski students started skiing with me through taking Discover Skiing.

The time commitment for Discover Skiing is pretty well much of an entire day since in addition to the two hour session, there is travel time to and from the ski resort, time in the rentals department and additional time to try out the skills you learned during the session.  Then of course there’s also the lunch and social apres ski time at the end of the ski day to share stories with each other.

If participants pass Discover Skiing the first time around (5 out of 6 will pass while 1 will require additional sessions), they are eligible to attend my Beginner level ski class for next ski day.  Subsequent ski days are usually full day commitments as well and if you are not a morning person, that’s going to be rough because skiing usually involves early days since the best snow is generally in the mornings.

In order to complete Beginner level and get into Intermediate level which focuses on blue and black (steeper) slopes, it usually takes much of an entire ski season if a ski student comes out skiing on a fairly regular basis.  This means a ski student should ski with lessons at least every other week throughout the winter.

If a Beginner skier comes out only 2-3 times all winter, it is unlikely that this person will make it to Intermediate level.  History has shown this to be true as those who make it into Intermediate attended several Beginner classes during the ski season while those who came out less, usually get stuck in the Beginner level even the following season.

In skiing, the progress becomes more gradual as the ski levels increase.  We can get many keen ski students to pass Discover Skiing and into Beginner level within a single day.  After several ski classes in Beginner, it is very possible to make it into Intermediate level by late season since the momentum in improving skills will be there.

But once in Intermediate level, that’s when things slow down.  The technique improvements come slower and require much more time on the slopes to perfect. In fact, 85% of recreational skiers will never make it into the Advanced level.  They are known as ‘Perpetual Intermediates’.  But that in itself is not a bad thing.

As an Intermediate level skier, you can still enjoy about 60-70% of the slopes at any ski resort while as a Beginner, you can ski about 15-20%.  I always tell my Intermediate ski students that if they want to make it into the Advanced level, they need to put in at least 12-15 solid ski days per season in order to get any significant improvements in their skiing.  But don’t let this deter you in skiing because as I mentioned, Intermediate skiers can already enjoy skiing much of any ski resort and therefore add ski travel as an exciting new adventure.

So if you want to add skiing into your life, you will definitely have to start planning ahead and allocate full ski days to your schedule.  Our ski days are run only on certain days.  If you already have other things going on during those days, you will either have to reschedule them or try and find another ski program that runs on your available free days.

Many people who did not plan ahead for the ski season, lose opportunities to learn simply because the winter flew by so quickly.  Winters are relatively short here in Ontario which impacts our ski season.  If one does not plan ahead and make the commitments for full ski days, then it is very easy to lose that entire season completely.  You will then have to wait for another year before the opportunities come again.

If you want more adventure in your winters through skiing, get ready to make time commitments.   Try to reschedule some of the usual things you normally do to other days or even after the ski season if you can.  Remember that our winters are only a few months in duration so it’s not a long ski season we have here.

In my case, I decrease my martial arts and swimming workouts significantly during the ski season just to free up ski days.  To me, that is more than okay since I have nine months of the year to do my other activities.

It will be harder especially if none of your friends nor relatives ski but if you take the initiative and make the time commitment to learn how to ski properly, you will end up experiencing (and seeing) the beautiful snowy mountains in ways that most people in this world will never do.

skiing discover ski

So if you want to ski next winter, I strongly suggest that you start planning ahead during late fall before the ski season starts in December.  I’ll discuss the time commitment required for scuba diving in the next blog post.

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Scuba Diving In Bay Islands Honduras Video

scuba diving honduras utila roatan nurse shark

Scuba Diving In Bay Islands Honduras

With a bit of video footage of scuba diving in Bay Islands of Honduras, it turns out that I am able to produce a third travel video from my recent Central America trip after all. If you missed the first two clips, you can see them at the El Salvador article and the Copan Mayan Ruins article.

Like all of my tropical destination travel, my main activity besides experiencing local culture and cuisine is scuba diving.  This trip was no exception as I spent three days diving in the island of Utila and one day at Roatan.  My main objective for this scuba diving trip was to see whale sharks in Utila which is why most of my dive days were allocated there. Unfortunately, there were no whale shark sightings during the entire three days at Utila but I did get to see and experience some really cool marine life encounters there.

One encounter involved a moray eel.  These creatures are usually found among rocks and coral with only their heads poking out.  Rarely do we ever see them come out.  But during this one dive in Utila, we were warned of a possible aggressive moray eel that likes to harass divers and sure enough, we got one.

Not only was this moray eel swimming out in the open showing it’s entire six foot length, it had a definite interest in our group of divers.   At one point, it came straight towards me.  This was a first in my 120 open water dives so far as I never had a big marine animal intentionally come at me before (not including the friendly dolphins during my dolphin dive at Freeport, Bahamas).

As instructed during the dive briefing, I kicked out my dive fins towards it and it turned to our divemaster instead.  Even though another divemaster spotted a nice sea turtle, we kept looking around for this moray eel to make sure that it didn’t come up from behind us while trying to admire the turtle at the same time.  so this was one exciting dive!

Another neat encounter was at Roatan where three very large groupers checked us out pretty close.  Again, groupers rarely show any interest in divers and although I have seen them in dives before, I have never seen more than one of them at a time.  This time, there were three of them who came quite close to us and stayed around for awhile.  We were briefed about them in advance of this dive since these are known groupers that get fed at a local resort so they were looking for food handouts.

Scuba Diving With Nurse Shark

It’s too bad I did not get any video footage nor photos from the moral eel and trio of groupers but fortunately our divemaster in Utila, Shaun Doyle, captured both a bit of video and photos of our encounter with a nurse shark.  I have seen nurse sharks before and they are usually quite docile prefering to just stay at the bottom of reefs.

This one particular nurse shark in Utila was uncommonly active as it swam among us for awhile.  It never showed any aggression as it retained the typical docile nurse shark temperment but I have never seen one so active before especially around scuba divers.  Here is the bit of video I got with this nurse shark encounter.

Here are some more photos of my scuba diving experiences captured by Shaun Doyle, originally from Texas.  He is a dive instructor and was our divemaster for all three dive days in Utila.  I saw him carry a camera down on every dive we did.  More of his work can be found at Shaun Doyle Photography.

scuba diving honduras utila roatan nurse shark

scuba diving honduras utila roatan nurse shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaun took the underwater footage of the video above as well as all the photos featured in this article.  As a side note to all photography enthusiasts here, all underwater photos need extensive colour correction.  Below is the original version that Shaun took of me going throught the coral crevice.  As you can see, the shot has a lot of blue and green which is typical of underwater photos.  The deeper the shot is taken, the more lost of natural colours occur, especially reds.

scuba diving honduras utila roatan nurse shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I downloaded a Photoshop action commonly known in the dive photography community as the Mandrake action.  By putting dive photos through the Mandrake action, about 90% colour correction can be achieved.  Then further adjustment of the colours in Photoshop will get decent end results.  You can compare the original photo above with the colour corrected version at the top of this article to see dramatic improvements.  Even the underwater video was colour corrected in Photoshop before I edited it in Final Cut Express.

Scuba Diving Vacations

So as you can see, unlike the mass tourism market, I refuse to spend my vacation time lying on a beach (beach whale) or taking the booze cruises.  I do get up early in the morning even during vacations just so I could get to the morning dive boats and experience this wonderful underwater world.

Although most dive boats are not nearly as nice as tourist catamarans used for booze cruises, as a scuba diver I actually get to see more of the coastlines of islands during the dive boat transits (which can take an hour as in Utila) to the dive sites than what most tourists see on the pleasure boat rides.  This is a bonus in addition to the diving of course.

Much like what I did with snow skiing, I’m slowly starting to build a scuba diving community within my social Meetup group GTA Free Spirits. We will help people become certified scuba divers and once they are certified, they can travel with us to dive the oceans and hopefully get cool experiences like I did on my dives.

scuba diving honduras utila roatan nurse shark

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Copan Mayan Ruins Day Trip In Central America

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

Copan Mayan Ruins In Central America

I’ve always said that whenever I vacation, I refuse to be a resort ‘beach whale’.  That is, I refuse to spend a week at a typical beach resort and just lie on the beach.  I will get totally bored.  For my vacation time, I would much rather enrich my life with unique cultural experiences and adventure activities like I did with my recent trip to Central America where I scuba dived in Honduras as well as sample local cuisine as shown in the previous El Salvador article and travel video.  Included in the unique cultural component of this trip was also the Copan Mayan ruins.

Copan is considered to be the most impressive of Mayan ruins from an artistic point of view.  The artwork on the Mayan ruins here are considered to be the most detailed of any site discovered so far.  The ruins are located near the town of Copan Ruinas which is actually in western part of Honduras very close to the Guatemala border.

Getting To Copan

So from a travel logistical point of view, Copan is actually closer to get to from San Salvador in El Salvador rather than from Roatan in Honduras where I was scuba diving.  It’s a four hour driving trip from San Salvador which took us across the western part of El Salvador crossing into Guatemala for about 1.5 hours and then into Honduras to reach Copan.

There are buses and other tours to get to Copan from other parts of Honduras and Guatemala but for me, I was flying through San Salvador after my Roatan stay so it made the most sense to do my Copan tour from there.

The drive itself was fairly easy as I hooked up with Roberto Marroquin of El Salvador Custom Tours.  He picked me up at my hotel at 6 am and we stopped in the town of Santa Ana just west of El Salvador to have authentic El Salvadorian pupusas for breakfast.

border crossing copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing the borders was pretty easy too although we had to check in at the customs office for each country we were departing as well as the counterpart for each country we were entering too.   This was of course a waste of time in my mind since I didn’t understand why we had to check in with anyone upon exiting any country.  Fortunately, the customs officials just stamped our passports without asking much questions.  We also had to pay a $2-$3 fee when entering a country.

At The Copan Mayan Ruins

After driving through the quaint town of Copan Ruinas, we finally arrived at the Copan ruins.  The entrance to the site was $15 US with additional optional fees of $10 for the museum and $15 for the tunnels which you have to pay all at once.  The museum is highly recommended while the tunnels can be skipped as they are not that impressive (I saw YouTube videos in advance).

Since the site is outdoor in a very hot climate, it is also suggested to buy a bottle of water at the visitor centre as well.  Then it was a short walk into the main site.

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the main open plaza area, there were monuments called stelas which were my first glimpse at the ancient Mayan artwork at Copan.  As Roberto will explain in the video at the end of this article, these stelas recorded the history of each governing era.

stela copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

stela copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we went over to the Mayan ball game area where I saw nice stone representations of the maccaw bird.  This area was next to the stairway which also recorded the history of Copan with over 1,000 hieroglyphics.  This stairway is now protected under a canopy.

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism maccaw

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After going up the Mayan observatory structure, we saw another plaza where it reminded me of the ruins where Roman senates use to have their business.  External to this plaza was where an upscale neighbourhood use to be.

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

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When we were leaving the Copan site, we checked out the local resident maccaw birds up close which was a nice bonus to the Mayan attractions so far.

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism maccaws

 

 

 

 

 

 

The museum located in a separate building across from the parking lot is a must see in my opinion.  It houses some of the original sculptures and artifacts from Copan as well as some reproductions of temple and other parts from the ancient city to show what they would have looked like in their glory days.

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism museum

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The final stop included in our Copan ruins tour is another small museum which is not located here but in the town of Copan Ruinas itself.  There are some nice original artifacts here as well including some stunning jewellery still in full colour.  These reminded me of King Tut’s treasures in Egpyt.  It’s amazing to realize that these beautiful works of art were created so long ago and has survived up to present days when we can still admire them.

copan mayan ruins central america el salvador honduras travel tourism

Recommendation Of Tour Guide

My tour of the Copan ruins and museums took about two hours which was enough for me. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend anymore extra time especially at the outdoor site as I was starting to overheat. My guide Roberto gave me just the right amount of information at the important parts of the tour as I told him a general overview was more than adequate for me. Just being there to see these magnificent ruins and artifacts was good enough for me.

I would highly recommend Roberto of El Salvador Custom Tours for not only the Copan tour but also for any sightseeing in El Salvador. His rates are very reasonable and his tours are completely customizable and flexible. He does not need to stick to a posted itinerary and time schedule.

On our way back to San Salvador (where there are no other border fees required for the return trip), we stopped at Santa Tecla to see some local sites and experience a quick authentic El Salvadorian dinner before calling it a long but very worthwhile day.

Here is the video of the highlights from my day trip to Copan. It is actually the second travel video from my Central America trip as the first one was in the El Salvador article.

Hope you enjoyed the video and this article. Share it with others who are also interested in Mayan ruins.

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Is El Salvador A Safe Country To Travel To?

travel el salvador san salvador central america tourism

El Salvador Safe To Travel

Whenever I travel to foreign countries, usually for cultural experiences and scuba diving, I like to visit multiple countries in any single vacation trip.  I see where my flights connect and instead of choosing the shortest layover at a connecting airport, I extend the layover so I can spend some time in that country I’m connecting through.  For my recent scuba diving trip to the Bay Islands of Honduras (Utila and Roatan), I took the opportunity to spend three nights in neighbouring El Salvador on my way back.

El Salvador has a reputation of being an unsafe country to travel to because of the gang violence.  But after much research and due diligence about the country as well as its capital city San Salvador, I decided to give El Salvador a try.  My research suggested that San Salvador was like any other big city where there are both safe and dangerous areas.

It’s a matter of being smart enough to stay in the safe areas and avoid the dangerous ones.  And I hooked up with a knowledgeable local guide to show me around.

Safe Areas In San Salvador

I learned that the areas considered dangerous in San Salvador were to the north and east of the city.  I stayed at a budget hotel called Happy House that was clean and safe minutes from the Metrocentral shopping mall and the Intercontinental Hotel.  This area was pretty safe as I walked around where there were lots of locals in the area.

My guide Roberto from El Salvador Custom Tours showed me a few places around the city including the Santa Tecla area as well as the town of Santa Ana.  We also did a day trip to the Copan Mayan ruins where we went across El Salvador, crossed into Guatemala and into Copan which is actually located in Honduras – a future blog article and video on my journey to Copan coming up in the near future.  He was a wealth of valuable and interesting information.

Trying Out Local Cuisine In El Salvador

One of the things I like to do whenever I’m in a foreign country is to try the local cuisine.  Although San Salvador had plenty of American food chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Pizza Hut, I steered clear of them.  I did not come all the way to Central America to eat pizza!

pupusas el salvador tourism san salvador travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roberto showed me some local places to eat pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador and I loved them.  To me, eating where the locals eat is a great way to experience authentic culture.

Here is a video of some of the sights I saw while in El Salvador.

So overall, El Salvador has a lot to offer in terms of culture, cuisine, natural sights like volcanoes, beaches and lakes. Touring the country with a guide like Roberto of El Salvador Custom Tours is definitely the right way to go and ensure that you stay in the safe areas and avoid the dangerous ones. El Salvador is indeed a safe travel destination if you travel safe.

Now that I’m back in Mississauga, Canada, I have a sudden craving for pupusas and baleadas (a dish from Honduras).  My friend Janine (originally from Honduras) tells me that there are no pupusas nor baleadas to be found in Mississauga which is really unfortunate!   That’s one drawback of eating authentic foreign cuisine — you might end up liking certain dishes so much that it sucks when you can’t find any near home!

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