Memories of Mexico

Yucatan Travel Blog

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   This trip, like all the others, started out innocently enough.  And, just like all the others, it ended with a lot of interesting stories, harrowing adventures, and a lot of fun times thrown into the mix.  Believe it or not, I booked this trip only 48 hours before the deadline.  A professor at Tyler Junior College had suggested it to me in January of 2007, but the catch was that I had to book it immediately because it was a small school group that was going.  Naturally, I agreed to tag along.  By small group, it was just five people- myself, the professor, and one of his students who brought along her husband and child.

     Our plane departed Bush International Airport in Houston around 7:00 in the evening on March 10th, with arrival in Merida at about 9:00 p.m.  As soon as I arose the next day, I immediately fell in love with the city.  Of all the places I have gone to date, Merida rranks at the very top of my tourist destinations.  The city is indescribably beautiful, and romance is in the air- I saw many couple kissing and holding hands in public, madly in love.  Think of Merida as the Mexican version of Paris, with just a touch of New Orleans Mardi Gras flavor during the night time.  We stayed at the Hotel Caribe, a quaint little hotel and former convent just one block from the zocalo, or main plaza, of the city.  Since we were in the ciy on Sunday, I decided to attend a Cathloic Mass, my first one (just for reference, I am not Catholic).  The church was impressive, and even though I barely understood a word of the sermon (I wasn't as fluent in Spanish then as I am today) I enjoyed worshipping with people I barely even knew.

     My next stop was Uxmal a fantastic archaeological site about fifty miles south of Merida.  Though people clamor to Chichen Itza, I actually enjoyed Uxmal more- there were less crowds and the site had more of a genuine Mayan cultural atmosphere.  Furthermore, the patrons at Uxmal are less restrictive about climbing the pyramids- it is forbidden at Chichen Itza now because of its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  If you go to Uxmal though, make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and water, as shade is scarce.  One thing that a lot of visitors will notice is that there are iguanas running all around the place!  Most of them lay about sunning, so snapping pictures of them is a relatively easy task.

     I did go to Chichen Itza, the grandiose Mayan ruins located more or less in the north-central portion of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Spend the extra couple bucks to see the light show held every night- it is, to say the very least, spectacular.  If he's still there, say hello to Pedro, our Chichen Itza tour guide.  It was from him that I learned the Mayan phrase "yach kutz", which translates in English to marijuana.  While Chichen Itza can get crowded, especially on Sundays, it it still a worthy destination and should not be ignored.

     The last leg of our journey constituted the city of Cancun and the offshore island Isla Mujeres.  Cancun is too touristy for my taste, but it has good shopping.  A word of caution: the drivers in Cancun are crazy!  They just point their vehicle where they want to go and drive a straight line, pedestrians and other motorists be damned.  Imagine a near death experience when you're crammed in a tiny cargo van with thirteen other people, no door on the side, zipping through the streets of Cancun at 90 miles per hour.  Unless you're a brave, adventurous soul, taking the bus around Cancun is your best bet.

     Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, is another place I fell absolutely in love with.  It has the most scenic beaches, even more breathtaking than Cancun, and is just a thirty minute ferry ride from the mainland.  There is also a cliff at the eastern end of the island offering a panoramic view of Cancun.  If you like seclusion, then this is definitely the place for you.  There is the Garrafon Natural Reef Park, the Hacienda Mundaca, and the lighthouse, all worth checking out.  There is a small ruin site, El Rey, at the end of the island, but it mainly just offers more stunning beach views. 

     While in Cancun, we decided to take a short trip down to Playa del Carmen to grab a bite to eat.  John, the college professor, assured us he knew of a great restaurant IN THE CITY (key words), so we agreed to see what culinary delights he kept raving about.  Well, we're driving in our Cadillac Escalade, and I know the city's about ten miles behind us already, so I ask John, "I thought you said this was IN THE CITY!"  He turned around briefly and stated, "Well, it's around the city."  I was really skeptical when we turned down a dirt road and drove for another few miles before stopping in front of this woman's backyard.  This was a bad section of "town", if you could call it that, and we look like drug lords stepping out of this massive behemoth of a vehicle.  Before we even got out of the Caddy, John said, "Keep your gringo English to a minimum".  Despite the fact that we were in the absolute middle of nowhere, the lady who owned the house fixed some of the best food I have ever tasted.

     John made it up to us later on when we went down to Akumal to the Lol-Ha Hotel, which has a restaurant located right on the beach.  This was my kind of place, eating lobster and steak, watching the waves crash onto the beach.  We also made an excursion to Xel-Ha Water Park.  It's a beautiful place, and offers a lot of water activities such as swimming with dolphins and exploring underwater caves via snorkeling.  It also has a hiking trail, which is where I spent most of my time.

     Overall, I can't wait to go back to the Yucatan again (and indeed, I made a return trip in January 2009 on a cruise), and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys sweeping views of the beach, stepping back in time to an ancient era, traditional tourists who love to shop, or people who want to get away from it all and enjoy a nice, relaxing vacation.

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604 km (375 miles) traveled
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photo by: travelgrrl