Palenque, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Oaxaca – Friday and Saturday August 19 and 20

We spent Thursday night in Palenque in a very nice hotel, The Hotel Chablis. After a beer on our patio overlooking the jungle we had dinner in an open air restaurant next door and had the best meal so far. I had soup and a garlic rubbed grilled fish and Duke had a mixed grill. I can't remember the Spanish name for it but it included some wonderful steak and plantains. After dinner we went for a walk. Duke thought about climbing these vines.

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The ruins at Panenque are just a few miles south of the town  where the mountains start to rise from the plains of the Yucatan peninsula. The mountain jungle setting made them very different from all the other ruins that we have seen. We were there fairly early which was good because it was already hot. We climbed around and enjoyed ourselves. I was especially impressed with the magnitude of Palenque.

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The museum at Palenque had things found at the site. I liked this timeless Mom.

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Driving south from Palenque into the mountains the roads became very windy. There was no way we could be in a hurry. We stopped first at the Misol-Ha Waterfall. It was very high and beautiful. We hiked up behind it

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Next we stopped at the Aqua Azul waterfall. it is very different. Duke was here many years ago and there were only a couple of people and no vendors. When we were at the falls there were a lot of people and many many vendors.

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We also stopped to buy some shirts from a road side vendor. The children were fascinated.

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We spent Friday night in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. It is a big town. We walked around the square, had a good dinner and got on the road early to drive to Oaxaca. The drive to Oaxaca was long. Some of it was on very good toll roads and some of it was on very windy mountain roads. We did stop and buy some Mezcal along the way.

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Wednesday and Thursday August17 and 18 – Coba, Laguna Bacalar and Palenque

From Tulum we drove down the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula and then across the base of the peninsula. But before we headed south from Tulum we went inland to see the ruins at Coba. Coba was very different than the other ruins we have seen because it is all in jungle. We had to walk quite a distance between the various ruins at the site.The paths are old Mayan stone highways.

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The town that is now the ruin at Coba had around 40,000 people living in it at its peak between 800 and 1100 AD.

We saw the ball court.

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And we saw several other impressive structures. But the most awe inspiring was the pyramid. It is 42 meters high and is the second highest pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula. We climbed it. The view from the top was of endless jungle.

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On the road back to Tulum from Coba we stopped at a road side stand and bought a cold coconut. The vendor opened it. We drank the coconut juice and then the meat. We added salt, chili powder and lime to the meat. It was really good.

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We spent Wednesday night at Laguna Bacular on the second biggest lake in Mexico. We ate dinner in a little restaurant on the square and walked around the fort that the Spanish built for protection from British pirates. We were only a few miles from Belize.

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From Laguna Bacalar we drove to Palenque almost 300 miles on some not very good roads. Palenque is right at the edge of the mountains.It also has  big Mayan ruin. it is amazing how many ruins there are. we only scratched the surface. And we visited five. I'll talk about our visit to the Palenque ruins in my next post.

 

Monday and Tuesday August 15 and 16 2011 – Cancun and the Mexican Rivieria

While we were in Cancun staying at our friend's house we did laundry and got food from the grocery store for our meals. It was a nice break in our travels.

I didn't realize that Cancun is a recently created city. In the 1970s Mexico decided to create the resort of Cancun. Pretty much everything we saw in Cancun, all the roads, restaurants and over the top resorts, is no more than 40 years old.

We drove through the hotel zone which is a 10 or so mile long strip of land with very impressive resort hotels. We parked near the Ritz Carleton and walked through it down to the beach. Later we went swimming near there. The beaches are sparkling white and the water is a stunning azure blue. This picture was taken a little farther down the road at an overlook point by the public beach..

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While we were in Cancun we also spent and hour checking out the gambling at the Dubai Palace. They had an electronic black jack table with no cards but with a dealer. It is the first one like it I have ever seen. We lost a bit but it was still interesting and fun to play someplace new.

We left Cancun Tuesday morning. Tuesday night we stayed in Tulum about 80 miles south of Cancun on the Mexican Riviera. On the drive from Cancun we saw lots and lots of very fancy resorts. We stayed at a hotel called Green Tulum. We had a second floor cabana room that felt like we were in a tree house.

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 In the afternoon we explored the ruins at Tulum. It was a walled city that was thriving when the Spaniards first sailed along this cost. The ruins overlooking the white sand beach and sparkling blue water are stunningly beautiful.

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After a dinner of fish tacos in an outside restaurant we watched the moon rise over the Caribbean.

From Tulum we head south almost to Belize.

 

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.