Sunday August 14, 2011 – Merida to Cancun

From Merida we headed east to Cancun. After almost always going south in Mexico it is a bit of challenge to orient oneself to driving east to west.

Sunday our big stop of the day was Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is on the cover of both of our Yucatan guide books and is the most visited of all Mayan sites.

There was never a single monolithic Mayan empire. Instead thee were independent city states in an almost constant state of shifting alliances. This reminds me of the city states of Italy.

The classic Maya era is considered 250 AD to 900 AD. Chichen Itza is the one city in the post classic Maya era (900 Ad – 1500 AD) to surpass the glory of the classic era.

In contrast to Edzna which we visited on Saturday, Chichen Itza had a lot of visitors when we were there. Partly because it was a Sunday and partly because Chichen Itza is at he top of everyones must see list.

Chichen Itzu is impressive. As you walk in the first thing you see is El Castillo. It is huge!

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As we wandered around the site which covers a lot of ground it started to rain. It rained hard for about 15 minutes. This actually felt really good. The cool rain was a nice change from the heat and humidity.

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We continued to explore and bought a few souvenirs.

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Back at the car we changed into dry clothes. One really nice thing about southern Mexico so far has been how many butterflies (mariposas) we see. They are ubiquitous out in the countryside.

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In Cancun we are staying at our friends' house. Unfortunately they are on vacation back in the U.S. right now so we don't get to see them.

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When we got here we went out to the store and bought food for dinner and breakfast. It is great to be able to do laundry and just relax. We are at about the half way point for distance on our trip.

Here Duke is eating a Pitaya or Dragon Fruit. It was good.

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Saturday August 13 – Campeche to Merida

Saturday we drove from Campeche to Merida in the state of Yucatan. Along the way we stopped to visit our first Mayan ruin and to do some shopping.

The Mayan ruins at Edzna are mainly from building done between 600 and 900 AD. Edzna was at the height of its power from around 250 BC to 150 AD. As we were entering the site we saw this sign. I thought the alien bit was entertaining.

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We had the site almost to ourselves. The size and complexity of the ruins is really impressive. I know next to nothing about Mayan history and seeing Edzna made me want to learn more.

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Our second stop of th day was Becal. Becal is a town of 6,400 people and is the center of the Yucatan panama hat trade. According to Lonely Planet about one third of the adult population make their livings weaving hats. The hats vary in price based on the fineness of the fibers used and the tightness of the weave. We saw hats priced well over $100.

A bike taxi showed us one of the back yard caves where the hats are woven from the fibers of the huano palm tree. The cave was about the size of a small room and we entered it using narrow stairs in the shop owner's yard. The hats are woven in the caves because the humidity keeps the fibers pliable.

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The hat remains very pliable. It can be crushed and will go back into shape very easily. Duke did some bargaining and bought a hat for about $27.

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In Merida we stayed at the Gran Hotel which was opened in 1901. The hotel was indeed grand. I suspect that much of our room was original. Although it was a bit worn it was still good.

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When we left Marida on Sunday morning most of the streets around our hotel and the main square were closed to traffic. There were lots of people strolling, bike riding and out enjoying the day.

If you would like to see all of my picture they are on Flickr here. If you have questions or if there are other things about our trip you would like to know please leave a comment or send me an email.