Roland and I really do try to avoid violence when we travel. I tend to shy away from places where tourists are being targeted or from places with sustained random violence. But the best laid plans, as they say... We wound up arriving in Egypt in 1997 the day after over 60 tourists were murdered by terrorists in Luxor (which is exactly where we were going). We were practically the only tourists in the country-- and had an amazing time. We were in civil war-torn Sri Lanka a few days after rebels shot and killed dozens of people at a shrine. Roland was fascinated by all the blood still on the stones. Once I stood with my hands over my head surrounded by screaming Afghan militiamen pointing automatic weapons at me for an hour and we've had interesting scrapes with red shirts in Thailand-- a restaurant we always eat in was mortared-- and with pissed off Palestinians on the West Banks, Turkish bomb throwers in Istanbul and anti-royal Maoists in Nepal. "Hey dude, I'm on your side when it comes to monarchies," doesn't cut it.
But this month I was just looking for a restful, no-drama easy trip after the stress of being in Morocco for a month. I picked Flores, an island town on Lago Petén Itzá in northern Guatemala, near the ancient-- and glorious and alluring-- Mayan ruins at Tikal. The airlines make it so inconvenient to get to, with their selfish, money-grubbing hub-cities policies that a trip that should just take a few hours entailed a whole day of inconvenient travel going and coming, eating up a minimum of two full days out of the 5 we had. So we decided on a town with direct flights from L.A. that we've been to before and really love: Guadalajara in Mexico. And much safer than anywhere else in Mexico-- until now. Banditos opened fire in a restaurant today killing half a dozen people, wounding 37-- and just down the street from a hotel we had been considering. Guadalajara is Mexico's second biggest city with almost 4-and-a-half million people. Lately a drug gang turf war has broken out. This is a bummer for Guadalajara since it's supposed to host the Pan American Games in October.
Last week the State Department warned about driving in the western (hipster) part of the city at night.
The U.S. consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, posted a message on its website Thursday saying that it had prohibited U.S. diplomatic personnel from traveling the highway to the airport at night, and that it "recommends that U.S. citizens consider similar precautions."
On Tuesday, assailants hurled grenades, burned vehicles and blocked several Guadalajara streets and highways in seven near-simultaneous attacks that injured a policeman and two transportation workers. Such tactics have been used by cartels in the past to aid their escapes from police.
The attacks were staged by drug gangs, possibly in retaliation for the arrests of their members, said Fernando Guzman Perez, interior secretary of Jalisco state, where Guadalajara is located.
Tlaquepaque is our favorite part of Guadalajara. I was surprised the guide is wearing a bullet-proof vest in the video: