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  1. #21
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    Mar 2016
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    Default Hitting the Pause Button in Merida

    Day 7: Over breakfast the next morning, we planned our next move. I figured we should spend at least one, possibly two full days in Merida, and I wanted to hold the driving to a minimum. Traffic in the city was terrible, one confusing roundabout after another, and the streets were filled with idiots who apparently considered driving a blood sport.

    Our reservation at the Dolores Alba was all set and paid for, but the room wasn’t supposed to be available until 3:00. We drove over there anyway, and presented ourselves at the desk, to see if we could finagle an earlier check in. That wasn’t possible, unfortunately, but they did agree to let us leave the Jeep in their parking lot, and that was almost as good. The Dolores had a much better location than our first hotel. It was just three blocks from the main plaza, so we’d be able to do practically all our exploring on foot.





    The Dolores was actually nicer than we expected, with a double courtyard, a pool on one side, and a dining area on the other. Prints of Frida Kahlo’s surrealistic paintings hung on the walls, setting the tone for the place.




    Prints of paintings by famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo hang on corridor walls throughout the hotel


    $35 per night for a double room seemed like an unusual bargain. I asked about their prices, and was quite surprised to learn that our rate was a special discount that was only available through Expedia, a big savings that more than offset the booking fee. If we had walked in off the street, they would have charged us $50 for the same room, which was the opposite of what I would have expected.

    Merida is a Colonial City with a long history, dating all the way back to the 16th century. There is no “modern” downtown with steel and glass skyscrapers of the sort we saw in Monterrey and Queretaro. Instead, Merida, known as the “White City,” has a core of historic buildings, fine examples of the Spanish Colonial Architecture that once dominated this part of the world, featuring arches, colonnades, wrought iron, and elaborate cornices decorating old buildings plastered with white stucco. The cathedral on the main plaza dates back to 1562, and was built, at least in part, using stone recycled from ruined Mayan temples.








    Scenes in and around the main plaza in Merida


    We spent the day wandering the area near the Plaza. The sky was cloudy, threatening rain, on and off, so it was a bit humid, yet not overly hot. The climate in Merida is a lot like South Florida, with balmy winters and steaming hot summers. This was October, so it was pleasantly in between.

    Merida was a walled city at one time in its history, fortified against the occasional native uprising, and some of the old city gates are still standing, as monuments to a very different era. Touring the downtown in a horse drawn carriage is a popular activity for tourists, as well as for locals.





    There was quite a bustle of activity around the square, preparations for the big Festival of the Maya that would be taking place over the next 10 days. That first night, the big event was going to be a recreation of the ceremonial ball game that was played in the ancient Mayan cities, and the following night, a huge celebration with costumed dancers. We met several local people that day, and they all made a point of inviting us to the festivities. We knew nothing about any of that in advance, so our excellent timing was purely a stroke of good luck!

    One gentleman in particular, on the pretext of practicing his English, gave us a lengthy spiel about Panama Hats.



    The real ones come from Ecuador, and I knew a bit about them, because I used to live there, and I’ve traveled in the Province where they’re traditionally made. Our would-be friend informed us that they made them in the Yucatan as well, just as good and much cheaper! I expressed some skepticism about all that, and the next thing I knew, he’d steered us into a dingy, cluttered shop on the next block. This was his uncle’s store, he explained, and he’d get us the best deal in town.

    The “uncle” came out of the back and started in on the hard sell. A real Panama hat costs $200 or more, and these were just 1500 Pesos, a bit more than $80. I examined the weave, pointed out that it wasn’t all that tight, and offered him half that amount, $40. He threw up his hands, claimed we were trying to rob him, and countered with $60. After some back and forth, Mike and I each bought a hat, and paid just $50 apiece. The price seemed fair, and we felt pretty smug about our bargaining skills, until later that day, when we discovered that everywhere else in town, the same hats were selling for $30!



    Merida was a friendly town, and we didn’t feel unsafe in any part of it, not even when wandering in the public market, or down by the bus terminals, traditionally the sketchiest neighborhoods in any city. There were numerous displays of public art on and around the Grand Plaza, but my favorite had to be the Staircase Murals, painted by Mexican artist Fernando Castro Pacheco in the early 1970’s. They can be seen above a staircase in the courtyard of Merida’s Palace of Government:






    The Staircase Murals, by Fernando Castro Pacheco

    By the end of that day we were pretty well beat from all the walking, so after an early dinner, we headed back to our room, and skipped the Mayan Ball Game. (One of many lazy decisions I later regretted!)

    Next up: Festival of the Maya (a very colorful affair!)

  2. #22
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    Mar 2016
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    Default Festival of the Maya

    DAY 8: MERIDA

    Having missed the opening night of the Maya Festival, I was determined to make the most of the celebration planned for the second night, on Day 8 of our Road Trip. I extended our stay at the Dolores Alba for one more night, and we spent the morning and afternoon wandering the city. The more I saw of Merida, the better I liked it. It was easy to imagine renting a house there some day, and sticking around for a while.

    That evening, as soon as the tropical sun went down, the Meridanos, (the good citizens of Merida), showed us just how much they love a party, Maya style!

















    That night, the dancers and their costumes were extraordinary. There were no strangers in the crowd, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so included in a public fiesta!
















    The good citizens of Merida–the Meridanos–most definitely know how to party!


    Our stop in Merida was, all in all, a great success, and I was ready to move on to some serious Mayan ruins. Uxmal was an hour south of the city, and Chichén Itzá was an hour and a half to the east, not quite halfway to Cancun and the Riviera Maya. I figured we should spend a day and a night at Uxmal, and then hit Chichén Itzá the following day. After that, Tulum, the Mayan city by the sea, and after that? Still to be determined, but I was quite sure we’d figure it out. There was so much to look forward to, I had trouble falling asleep that night!

    Next up:Circling the Yucatan, Uxmal vs. Chichén Itzá

  3. #23
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    Default

    Great photo captures from the festival.

    Mark

  4. #24
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    Jan 1998
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    Default this is quite a narrative!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Quinn View Post
    Day 7: Over breakfast the next morning, we planned our next move. I figured we should spend at least one, possibly two full days in Merida, and I wanted to hold the driving to a minimum. Traffic in the city was terrible, one confusing roundabout after another, and the streets were filled with idiots who apparently considered driving a blood sport.
    Sounds like my kind of town! Have you ever driven in Montreal?

    Seriously, this is quite a narrative!

    Mark

  5. #25

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Quinn View Post
    $35 per night for a double room seemed like an unusual bargain. I asked about their prices, and was quite surprised to learn that our rate was a special discount that was only available through Expedia, a big savings that more than offset the booking fee. If we had walked in off the street, they would have charged us $50 for the same room, which was the opposite of what I would have expected.
    Perhaps it does make sense.

    Online, one can see many options, so they have to try and offer the best pricing (or best value) to get each person to choose them.

    Once having arrived there, the customer can see what the place is actually like, and as long as that impression is good (which, from what you showed it certainly was), they are probably less likely to leave and try elsewhere for a minimally better price, with the chance that those cheaper places are also not very good, thus either getting worse accommodations or trying to go back to the better place who may now offer higher prices knowing you didn't find something else.

  6. #26
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    Mar 2016
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    Default Which ruin is the coolest, Uxmal, or Chichén Itzá?

    DAY 9:
    Uxmal vs Chichén Itzá? There wasn’t really a competition between these two Mayan cities, it was more of a question that I’d been asking myself. I’d seen plenty of photographs of both, so I knew more or less what to expect, but I also knew that photographs never really capture the true nature of such places. The two Archaeological Parks, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are located relatively close together, so we planned to visit them back-to-back, and I was quite curious to compare them, and to decide for myself, which was the most impressive.

    Uxmal is said to be the most wonderfully preserved and restored of all the Mayan cities, with some of the finest surviving examples of post-classic Mayan architecture. Chichén Itzá, on the other hand, has that perfect pyramid, the one called the Castillo, which was designated one of the new Wonders of the World, alongside Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal. Chichén Itzá is by far the most popular Mayan site, receiving as many as two million visitors in an average year, while Uxmal peaks at around 300,000. The difference has nothing to do with the quality of the ruins, and everything to do with the relative distance to Cancun. Starting from the beaches of Margaritaville, Chichén Itzá is just three hours away on an air conditioned tour bus, six hours there and back. Add in some time at the ruins, it’s a perfect day trip, and you’re back at your hotel in time for Happy Hour. Uxmal, on the other hand, is four hours away, so you’re on a bus for eight hours, altogether, and you don’t even get a Wonder of the World. It should come as no surprise that most of the sun loving vacationers opt to skip it.

    We were starting from Merida, so none of that applied to us. From Merida, Uxmal was actually the closer of the two, only an hour away to the south, so our plan was to drive down early, and try to get to the Park by 8:00 AM, when they first opened for the day, a tactic that worked quite well for us in Palenque.


    Route from Merida to Uxmal




    We used Expedia.mx to find lodging in Merida, and we were so pleased with the result that we decided to try it again with Uxmal. There was no town or village near the ruins, but there were several hotels, including a relatively new one called the Uxmal Resort Maya. The rooms were quite reasonable, less than $50 per night for a double back in 2015. (This year-2024-the same room can be had for $62 per night. Still quite reasonable!)


    Uxmal Resort Maya, a great hotel just minutes from the ruins


    The drive down from Merida was a straight shot on MX 261, a State highway, complete with potholes, livestock in the road, and topes (killer speed bumps), but it still took less than an hour, and that put us ahead of schedule. The hotel was right along the way, and since we had time, we stopped to look it over. The place was even nicer than we expected, but there were surprisingly few guests, almost as if the hotel was so new, it hadn’t been discovered yet. October is the off season in the Yucatan. Everywhere we’d been was what you might call “lightly-touristed,” but this was extreme (and very much to our advantage).

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    The drive back to the parking area at Uxmal. Through the doors of an unassuming building lie wonders that will blow your mind!


    The Archeological Park was just minutes from the hotel, and we got there just as they opened the gates to the parking lot. Unlike our experience at Palenque, there were no hustlers lurking about, demanding payment for “keeping an eye” on my Jeep while we explored the ruins.

    From the parking lot, the building where they sell the tickets looks a bit like the entrance to a shopping mall, or a multiplex, but the moment you step through the door, you’ll discover that it’s actually a time machine. That entryway is a portal to the world of the ancient Maya, a thousand years into the past.

    In its heyday, Uxmal was home to as many as 25,000 people, spread across a territory of several square miles. Today, there are building foundations, ruined temples, and other minor archaeological remains scattered about in every direction, much of it unexcavated, centered around a relatively small sector of the ancient city, the administrative and ceremonial complex at the heart of it.
    Back in 2015, we paid a buck and a half to park in the lot, along with our entrance fee of about $16 per person–twice what we paid at Palenque. (New taxes imposed by the State of Yucatan have raised that fee to a bit more than $30 per person in 2024.)






    Walkway to the ruins, and a map of the archaeological zone


    A tree-lined path with wide, shallow steps leads up a slight rise from the entrance, and the first thing you see after you walk out into the open is a pyramid, and not just any pyramid: rising 115 feet from an eliptical base, this thing is a monster, and what you’re looking at is the back side of it, which features a massive staircase climbing all the way up to the temple at the top.


    My first look at the Pyramid of the Magician. “Dwarfed” by the massive structure, I paused to take a quick photograph.









    Several views of the Pyramid of the Magician, also known as the House of the Dwarf

    Walking counterclockwise around the pyramid, you can see that it’s really five different temples built one atop the other. Legend has it that the structure was created in a single night by a magician, a dwarf with magical powers, but in reality, the building of it spanned several hundred years. I was in awe of that thing, deeply disturbed at the thought of all the lives used up during its construction, and all the blood spilled down those steps from the altars of human sacrifice at the top.

    The area in front of the pyramid was a courtyard, a gathering place where the people once stood to watch the colorful, sometimes gruesome ceremonies taking place at the top of the structure. On the far side of the courtyard is a wall penetrated by an arch, and through the archway is another courtyard, this one known as the Nunnery Quadrangle. (The name was given by the Spaniards, who thought that the small rooms in the buildings resembled nun’s quarters in a convent.) The level of detail on the upper sections of these structures is extraordinary, a type of mosaic comprised of thousands of pieces of carved stone. This merger of art and architecture is known as the Puuc style, and Uxmal is where it developed, and reached its ultimate expression.









    From the Nunnery, we made a beeline to the second most famous building at Uxmal: The Palace of the Governor (another name supplied by the Spanish, that might or might not reflect the original purpose of the structure). The Palace is actually three buildings joined together to form one massive edifice, 320 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 26 feet high. The mosaic frieze surrounding the upper section is 300 meters long, and was assembled from twenty thousand individually carved elements, some of which are as much as a yard long, weighing hundreds of pounds. Considering the complexity of the design, and the perfection of its execution, there are many experts who consider the Palace of the Governor to be one of the greatest architectural achievements of all time.









    We spent the entire day exploring the ruins at Uxmal, and in that entire time, we saw no more than a few dozen other visitors. The “uncrowded” conditions at our hotel obviously carried over to the Archaeological Park, and I, for one, was loving it! Not that I have anything against my fellow tourists. It’s just that crowds have a way of spoiling the ambience at a place like Uxmal, and the fact that we had the place practically all to ourselves made the experience that much more enjoyable. I don’t know if this would be considered typical for mid-October; I think it’s more likely that we just got really lucky!


    View of the Ball Court from the top of the Grand Pyramid. On the day we were there, we saw no more than a few dozen other visitors.

    The ruins are surrounded by thick tropical vegetation, and thanks to an especially wet rainy season, many of the trees were in bloom. Mayan cities are known to have been quite colorful, the buildings stuccoed and painted, many in bright shades of red. With a few rare exceptions, the pigment has long since flaked away, reduced to faint traces on the bare stone. I don’t know if the flowers are there at other times of year, but during my visit, they provided a beautiful contrast with the otherwise drab stone walls. The overall aspect of Uxmal is simply stunning, and the splashes of color from the flowering trees adds significantly to the beauty of it.




    Flowering trees surround the temples and pyramids


    Like all Mayan cities, the jungle surrounding Uxmal is constantly encroaching, threatening to reclaim the ancient buildings. Uxmal has more funding and more staff than many of Mexico’s archaeological parks, but even with almost continuous maintenance, it’s impossible to keep up with the growth. Windblown seeds land in the cracks between the stones, and find just enough windblown soil to sprout. Add rain, and the next thing you know, you have tropical plants growing sideways out of the walls, faster than the landscaping crews can chop them away.






    It takes no time at all for the jungle to reclaim these ruins



    The Great Pyramid, 90 feet high and 300 feet wide; in 2015, they still allowed visitors to climb it.


    The restoration of the ruins is an ongoing process. In some areas, cut stone still litters the ground

    As impressed as I’d been with Palenque, Uxmal had that place beat by a mile. Everything about it seemed bigger, more elaborate, and our visit was perfect, with so few other tourists, and decent light for photos throughout the day. There was supposed to be a Festival of Luz y Sonido (Light and Sound), a sort of light show among the ruins with music and colored spotlights, scheduled at 9:00 PM. Unfortunately, it started pouring rain, right after we finished our dinner, and they ended up cancelling that evening’s performance. We hung out in our room instead, with our sliding glass door opened wide, content to watch the rain as it churned the water in the swimming pool into froth.

    If I’ve piqued your interest about Uxmal, and you’d like more information, you might be interested in reading my blog post: Uxmal: Architectural Perfection in the Land of the Maya. There’s more of everything, especially the history of the site, and there are many (many!) additional photos.

    Next up: Moving on to Chichén Itzá: Is it really worth all the hype?

  7. #27
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    Mar 2016
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    Default Chichen Itza: The New Wonder of the World

    Day 10:

    The morning of our tenth day, the sky was solid overcast and threatening rain, so there wasn’t going to be any morning light that might have made it worth going back to Uxmal for more photos. But that was okay. Our visit the day before went so well, there was really no need, so we checked out of our hotel right after breakfast, and set our sights ahead to our next major stop: Chichén Itzá! To get there, we reversed course on MX 261, back through the outskirts of Merida, and then headed east on MX 180, the well paved, mostly divided highway that leads from Merida to Cancun. The ruins are located more or less halfway between the two.



    Our hotel In Merida, the Dolores Alba Inn, had a sister property near the Archaeological Park, the Doralba Inn Chichén Itzá, We’d reserved a room in advance, and it was a good thing we did, because unlike Uxmal, all the lodging in this area was fully occupied. The Doralba Chichén was different from their main location in the city. That one was old and historic, with a colonial era feel, while this one was newer, and more typically tropical, with thatched palapas on the grounds, and ceiling fans in the rooms. As usual, we were too early to check in, so we just stopped long enough to confirm our reservation, and after a quick lunch at the hotel restaurant, we drove to the ruins.



    Unlike Uxmal, the parking lot was full to overflowing, much of the space taken up by tour buses from Cancun.



    There was almost a carnival atmosphere by the entrance, with crowds of people milling about, boarding and unboarding buses, assembling into groups for the tours. A troop of performers with face paint and feathers posed for pictures with the tourists:




    When you headed toward the ruins, you had to run a gauntlet of vendors selling everything from painted plates to sugar skulls, some of it interesting, and some of it seriously tacky:





    In 2015, we paid about $25 apiece for admission to the archaeological park, and another $5.00 for parking. Just as at Uxmal, the State of Yucatan has since added an additional fee, which, along with inflation, triples what we paid before, to a whopping $76 per person in 2024. In 2015, admission to Chichén Itzá was double the cost of Uxmal, and today, the difference is even greater.



    A sign by the entrance provided the basic layout of the park: “X” marks the spot for “You Are Here,” along with the relative location of the major buildings. I had a small guidebook in my camera bag, so I took a minute to match up the map in my book with the map on the sign. That done, we set off down the path, to a continuous chorus of “Ssst! Hey, Meester,” as all those people selling stuff tried to entice us to buy.

    There were quite a few tourists walking back and forth, some on their own, but most of them bunched up in groups, following their tour guides like so many flocks of ducklings. I had to keep reminding myself that this was the off season, and I tried to imagine the place with double or triple the crowd, like Disneyland in July. Not a good image.

    When we left the entry path and moved into the open, there it was: the Castillo, the famous Wonder of the World, in all its glory. The pyramid looked amazing, just like every photo I’d ever seen.



    There were rough areas on two of the four sides:



    But the other two sides were fully restored and geometrically perfect, an extraordinary accomplishment, given the relatively primitive building techniques used by the ancient Maya. (I did some research on that subject, and what I found was quite interesting. If you’d like to read the real story behind the vaunted “perfection” of the Castillo, see my blog post: Chichén Itzá: Requiem for the Feathered Serpent).

    The huge structure was surrounded by open space, and it was also surrounded with people.



    I started snapping pictures anyway, but it was impossible to compose a photo of the whole thing without getting at least a few brightly dressed tourists in the frame. “We need to come back tomorrow,” I said to Michael. “Right when they open for the day. I don’t know if we’ll have it to ourselves, like we did at Palenque and Uxmal, but it’s got to be better than this!”

    On our left as we walked into the central plaza was another famous attraction: the Grand Ball Court. Every Mayan city has a court for playing their ritual ball game, where opposing teams clad in leather armor tried to knock a heavy ball made of natural rubber through stone goal rings, without using their hands. Chichén Itzá’s ball court is the largest that’s ever been found, and it’s been very nicely restored, but it was tough to get a good photo.



    Just like the Castillo, the Ball Court was chock-a-block with tourists. Nice for providing a sense of scale, not so great if you’re trying to capture the ambience of an abandoned ancient city.

    I’ve been shooting pictures in crowded places for decades, and I know how to work around the people to capture images that don’t include them.



    Sometimes it’s just a matter of stepping to one side, and zooming in:



    Sometimes, having people in your photos is a good thing. Editors looking for travel pieces often prefer pictures with people; better yet, if you have people interacting with the scenery, in ways that their readers can relate to. A few random tourists, properly spaced, can add a splash of color to a composition that might otherwise appear a bit drab and lifeless.

    Too many people, on the other hand, really does spoil what might otherwise have been a much better photograph, from an artistic or documentary point of view. Since we were definitely planning to come back the next day, hopefully early enough to beat the crowd, I used my zoom lenses to focus on details, saving the wide shots for later.







    Since we’d arrived in the park relatively late in the day, we made no attempt to see everything, instead focusing our attention on the main plaza: the area surrounding the Castillo, and some of the adjacent structures. The second largest building at Chichén Itzá is the Temple of the Warriors, a high platform with steps leading up:



    And an iconic reclining “Chac Mool” sculpture at the top.



    There were plenty of people milling about in front of the temple, but nobody on the steps, because climbing is not allowed; in fact, throughout the park there are rope barriers in place, preventing visitors from getting too close to most of the buildings. That made it simple enough to step back and use my zoom to compose images with no tourists in view–in spite of the crowds.

    They started moving people toward the exit a little before the 5:00 PM closing time–but I didn’t mind. I had what I needed, plenty of good closeups, along with a solid grasp of the layout, so that when we came back the next day, I’d know exactly where to go. The weather report called for rain over most of the next 24 hours. I kept my fingers crossed (as well as my toes), in hopes of completing our second visit to the ruins before it started.

    Next up: Day 11: Chichén Itzá, Without the Crowds!

  8. #28
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    Mar 2016
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    Default Chichén Itzá without the crowds!

    Day 11:

    We were up early on Day 11, packed and checked out of our room by 7:30 AM. The sky was definitely threatening rain, but there was none falling just yet, so I crossed my eyes, to go along with my crossed fingers and toes, to forestall any downpours until after lunch. I was so determined to be first in line that we skipped breakfast, and drove straight to the archaeological park, arriving there at least 20 minutes before they opened.







    We waited, a bit impatiently, for the attendants to open the gate to the all but empty parking lot. The day before, we were lucky to find a single space in that lot, but this time, we had our pick. Once parked, we made a beeline for the ticket window just inside the entrance. Tickets are only good for a single day, so we had to pay another $25 apiece to get back in, but as far as I was concerned, it was going to be well worth it. Just one other person showed up for the opening, a young Canadian tourist who arrived in a taxi. He was actually more eager than we were: the second they opened the entry gate, he took off at a dead run, probably headed for the Castillo.


    The Castillo, aka the Temple of Kukulkan, as it appears at 8 AM, before the buses arrive!


    The light wasn’t as good this day, thanks to the heavy cloud cover, but the plaza was wide open, with not a single soul in sight (not even the Canadian sprinter). I took at least three dozen unobstructed photos of the big pyramid, and then I turned to the Grand Ball Court. Because it’s so near the entrance, that space is NEVER free of people during the day, but for us early birds, it was completely empty, and I was able to take as many photos as I liked, free of distractions.





    The Ball Court is massive when compared to the courts at Palenque and Uxmal. The high, sheer-sided walls would have made it nearly impossible to score a goal here.

    We had the whole place practically all to ourselves for at least an hour, and I made good use of the time, taking uncluttered photos of all the structures nearest the entrance. That done, we headed for the south forty, the section known as “Old” Chichén, which we had not visited the day before.

    One of the best known attractions in Old Chichén was the building known as the Caracol, the Conch (or Snail), named for the spiral staircase in the center, reminiscent of the spiraling chambers inside of a Conch shell.





    The main section of the building is round, which is highly unusual in the world of the Maya. It’s thought that openings in the walls align with certain celestial events, so the Caracol in it’s original form, may have been an observatory, used by the Maya to predict solstices, crop cycles, and other dates important to their agrarian society.

    Chichén Itzá was built over the course of many hundreds of years. New temples were built atop older temples, and, depending on the era, the construction utilized a variety of architectural styles and building techniques. The main plaza, “New” Chichén, was the domain of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent, whose carved likeness seems to be everywhere. “Old” Chichén, built before the arrival of the Toltecs and their scaly deity, was the province of Chaac, the Mayan rain god, whose hooked proboscis protrudes from every corner of every building, as well as from most of the spaces in between.





    We walked back to the main plaza, and from there we followed the sacbe, the raised, stone bordered walkway that leads from the plaza to the Sacred Cenote, the Mayan well of Sacrifice. It was a little bit of a hike, from the south end of the complex all the way to the northernmost section. The Cenote was nothing more than a natural sinkhole in the limestone bedrock. It didn’t look like much, but in the age of the Maya, pools such as this were vitally important sources of fresh water, in a region without lakes, rivers, or streams.





    This particular cenote served an additional purpose: it was considered a sacred portal that led directly to the underworld, and as such, was frequently used as a receptacle for sacrificial offerings, including human sacrifice. Pretty creepy!

    About the time we finished checking out the Cenote, the first buses from Cancun pulled in to the lot, and disgorged the first batch of the day’s crop of visitors. Most of the new arrivals headed straight to the Snack Bar (and the Rest Rooms), while the rest charged toward the Castillo, at which point our “exclusive” photo session ground to a halt. The clouds were thicker than ever, and as we walked toward the exit, the first few drops of rain spattered down on us. It felt pretty good, to have timed our visit so perfectly!

    From Chichén Itzá, we were headed for Cancun, about a 2.5 hour drive on a paved divided highway. I wasn’t all that excited about going there, even though I’d never been. Cancun is a great place for vacations if you like beaches and nightclubs–but it was the wrong time of year for the former (the tail end of the rainy season), and, while I can’t really speak for Michael, my own days of partying in night clubs are pretty well behind me. Mostly, I was just curious to finally see the place for myself, after hearing about it for forty years!

    As for Uxmal and Chichén Itzá, we’d seen enough of both Mayan cities to at least form an opinion. What was the final verdict? From the beginning, I’ll admit to being biased in favor of Uxmal, mostly because I found the crowds at Chichén Itzá such a turnoff. We’d successfully resolved that issue by going back a second time, before the daily herd of tour buses arrived. Stripped of that major difference, and focusing strictly on the ruins themselves, the competition pretty well evens out. Both sites are an incredible testament to the skill and the artistry of the builders, and each of them has unique features that you won’t see anywhere else. Anyone who is seriously interested in the Mayan Civilization owes it to themselves to visit both. The rest of you (90% of you, anyway) will ignore everything I’ve said, and you’ll follow the herd to Chichén Itzá. But, hey–it’s not like that’s a bad thing!




    Next up: Cancun, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya

  9. #29
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    276

    Default Yikes

    Just catching up now with your adventures. Man, I could never stomach this kind of precarious traveling. The stress of trying to get from one place to another without ending up in a jam with the locals would always be planted in the back of my mind.

    Loving all the pictures of the ruins and your other destinations. Maybe someday I'll get down there through conventional means but in the meantime will continue living my Mexico traveling through you lol. Good luck with your remaining time and come home safely!

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    11,051

    Default It would be quite the adventure

    Joey,

    Nice to see you on here.

    Mark

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