Mexico – Chichen Itza, Valladolid, Cancun, 13 September 2010

This wasn’t just a beach holiday, as Cancun is an excellent base for checking out some cool historical sites. First stop was a cenote, a deep water hole that is naturally formed. Some of them are over 50 meters deep. Some people went to take a dip as relief from the hot weather, but I was happy to just look.

Next stop was Valladolid, the first Spanish colonial town in Mexico. Architecture is Spanish-influenced, and according to the guide, most of the buildings were built from stones from old Mayan temples. This includes the oldest church in Mexico

Finally, we got to Chichen Itza, the large archaeological site of Mayan civilization. Surprisingly, for a site of this stature, there weren’t many tourists. When it was first found, nature had taken its toll, and most of the stones were on the ground. It was rebuilt by Edward Thompson, who was hailed for his great work, but also shamed for being an artefact thief.

The guided tour was very interesting. Without the guide’s explanation, I would never have known that the Kulkukan Temple was meant to be a calendar, since the steps on each side add up to the number of days in a year, and the big steps add up to the number of weeks in a year. Also, during the solstice, a ‘snake’ created by the shadow also appears to descend from the steps, marking the change of the seasons. It was also built in such a way that if you clapped your hands in front of the building, there will be an echo that sounds like a jaguar.

After reading about the Mayan ball game in a class, I did finally get to see the ball court, which was pretty cool! I must really admire the ball players – they could only hit the ball with their elbows and hips! Although I am not sure if winning or losing is a good thing, since it involves someone dying at the end of the game.

And on that note – apparently, human sacrifices isn’t a Mayan practice. It was done in Chichen Itza, as it was a combination of Mayan practice, and the Teltums – a tribe of the Aztecs. Therefore, many of the carvings have eagles and jaguars, as it symbolizes the union of the two civilizations.

And of course, at the end of the tour , the tour guide had to reveal something – much of the information was obtained, because of things found in the cenote that we were at earlier. This includes skeletons. Thank goodness I didn’t swim then! All in all, it was a very interesting tour!

Evening was also well-spent. I stay at a hostel that is near a plaza where locals hang out. Pretty much every evening, they have street vendors selling yummy snacks like churros and chips. There was also a local food center there, which sold Mexican delights at a steal. On weekends, they sometimes have music performances. It is nice to people watch at the plaza.


Colonial Valladolid

Chichen Itza – Quite empty, no?

Not all of it was nicely restored – some of the stones are now Valladolid

Ball Court

Local Taco Stand

Cheap and Tasty Tacos – about 2 USD


Mexico – Cancun, Isla Mujeres, 12 September 2010

Part of my plan for this Central America tour is to hunt for surf waves, and there is reportedly surf to be found on Isla Mujeres, which is an island a little off Cancun. So, the morning started with an attempt to get to the ferry terminal to get to Isla Mujeres.

Apparently, nobody told me that the map wasn’t drawn to scale. What looked like a 1.5 mile-30 minute walk turned out to be much further. After walking for a good 30 minutes under the sweltering hot sun, I threw in the towel, and hopped onto a cab. It was another 5 minutes by cab.

Thankfully, I managed to catch the 10.30 ferry to Isla Mujeres for 70 P (6 USD). It was a comfortable 30 minute ride in an air-conditioned ferry. For more information on ferry services, go to this site .

After hopping off the ferry, I hired a motorcycle. Another more popular form of transportation for tourists on this island would be the golf cart. Think it costs me around 10 USD to hire it for an hour. It doesn’t cost much more to hire it for half a day (maybe around 15 USD?), but yeah, I didn’t want to spend that much time zipping around. The golf carts were about 5 USD more.

Zipping around, it became evident that there were no waves to be found in the calm, azure waters. Nevertheless, the Caribbean waters are gorgeous! The clear, azure waters must have made snorkeling remarkable! It wasn’t a wasted trip, and Isla Mujeres was definitely less hectic than Cancun.

After my hour on the bike was up, I decided to return via another route, so that I can explore another part of Cancun – the hotel zone where many foreign tourists wall themselves off from Mexican society. Also, I was on a mission to add to my uncle’s collection of Hard Rock Cafe bears.

Once again, distances on the map REALLY do not indicate the actual distance. One would have thought that I would have learnt my lesson by now, but well, apparently not! I thought I was gonna get skin cancer just walking from point to point under the sun. Apart from the very beautiful Caribbean waters, the hotel zone seems to be some sort of home-away-from-home for tourists, where they can busk in the sun, do some shopping, and think they are on a holiday. In other words, I found it rather charmless. And, they were out of Hard Rock Cafe bears. Grr.

Journey back, I got lost once again, since I took the wrong bus, which kinda brought me into the suburbs of Cancun. Erm, I guess I learnt that the drainage system is not so good, since there were like ankle floods from some rain earlier in the day? Oh well …

Gorgeous Waters

Saw an iguana

Fake Pirate Ships in the Hotel Zone

Mexico – Cancun, 11 September 2010

Today was a travelling day that started out early in the morning in Seattle, and ended in the evening in Cancun.

Two main observations from all the traveling, one of which has nothing to do with traveling:

1) I am seriously considering never checking in my luggage, unless necessary. Without check-in luggage, I made a world record in clearing customs. Although of course, my world record at clearing customs meant I spent more time than anyone else, waiting for the bus from Cancun International Airport to Cancun.

2) I am still as horrible as I can remember with reading maps. I went in the wrong direction about 3 times, and got so horribly lost, that a 15 minute walk ended up being a 2 hour hunt. Yes people, DON’T EVER HAND ME THE MAP! Well, on a brighter note, I managed to see the Municipal Palace in Cancun, which was all dolled up for Grito, and I also managed to eat a 15P hot dog. (about 1.30 USD)

Municipal Palace

Excellent (probably artery-clogging) Hotdog

Upcoming: Mexico-Belize-Guatemala, 11-25 September 2010

Tentative Itinerary:

11 September 2010: Cancun

12 September 2010: Cancun – Chichen Itza – Cancun (bus)

13 September 2010: Cancun

14 September 2010: Cancun – Playa Del Carmen (bus)

15 September 2010: Playa Del Carmen – Tulum – Playa Del Carmen (bus)

16 September 2010: Playa Del Carmen – Chetzumal – San Pedro Town (bus, ferry)

17 September 2010: San Pedro Town – Caye Caulker (ferry)

18 September 2010: Caye Caulker – Belize City – Flores (ferry, bus)

19 September 2010: Fores – Tikal – Flores (bus)

20 September 2010: Flores – Guatemala City  – Antigua (bus)

21 September 2010: Antigua

22 September 2010: Antigua

23 September 2010: Antigua – Guatemala City (shuttle)

24 September: Guatemala City

25 September: Guatemala City – Houston (plane)