Just a few days and this year’s X-Max is on the honorable heap of history. We’re on our way thru Yucatan’s flatland. Beautiful Campeche, touristy Uxmal Maya ruins, slightly disappointing Merida. And some more adventures, including some socializing with the all-beloved police.
We’re absolutely aware of our promise to diversify this post. No more the solely concentration on fairy tales about the good old Maya – those guys having ruled the area for centuries before their evacuation on the ash heap of history. Nevertheless, we have to admit we found some more old stones of these guys, thus among others some more tales of times long passed.
Campeche, 17th December
But let’s return to real life. The small town of Xpujil where we currently are is definitely no beauty. It’s just the jump off place to visit Calakmul.
Thus, no reason to stay any longer. We drive on to Campeche at Yucatan’s west coast.
The direct road thru very lonely forest land. Only few villages, the road pretty narrow, partly more potholes than asphalt. A road crying for maintenance.
Late afternoon we reach Campeche.
Fortunately, we discover the 57th street in the old town to recover from the pothole torture. It’s a pedestrian area. To avoid empty spaces in the middle of the road it’s occupied by all kind of watering holes’n’muncheries. And they sell beer by the liter.
Well, there’s even more: a X-Mas bazaar with a Mexican belly dance performance. Where else in the world can you admire Mexican beauties in X-Mas costumes wobbling their belly to the rhythm of the music from 1001 nights …
… or admiring a cathedral immersed into this flashy red light.
Next morning. Definitely you don’t need to visit Campeche for its Malecon or the town’s beach. The sea if of a grayish-black color.
But don’t worry, it’s all about the old town with its noble, pastel colored buildings, …
… many with exquisite inner courtyards.
The old town is still partly enclosed by a wall and fortifications erected by the Spaniards in the 17th century.
Obviously, Campeche wouldn’t be a Mexican town without its churches.
Of course, the big Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Purisma Concepcion at the main square – despite its incredible name inside rather nondescript.
More interesting the Iglesia de San Roque. Especially inside.
And last but not least, as X-Max is approaching, there’s even more to experience than Mexican belly dance.
Sorry guys, but the next day we’re again on our visit to Mayan stone collections. Simply because they are on our way – and somehow places you have to visit should you be passing by.
Hence, we drive to nearby Edzna. An archeological Maya site abandoned some 500 years ago. Many buildings in pretty good condition. And a place rarely visited by all these package tourists sneaking thru the Yucatan Peninsula.
In the center of site, the magnificent Templo de Los 5 Pisos, …
… unfortunately, they don’t want anybody to climb up. A decision difficult to understand considering the situation anywhere else we’ve been so far. And the many sights on the higher levels.
Looks like the guys feel a little guilty for not letting you visit Edzna’s main sight from nearby. Thus, they try to offer you an alternative – even if it’s more a zoological 1.
Whatever, Edzna remains a pretty impressive site with many things to explore – and without the hassle of all these guys trying to get your bucks into their pockets.
Santa Elena, Uxmal, 19th December
The next morning, we drive on. To Uxmal. Just to see some more Maya sites. Now those on the so-called Ruta Puuc.
We leave wonderful Campeche to head northwards to Uxmal. Just at the entrance of the highway it happens:
Well, we’re approaching tourist hotspots, thus it’s unavoidable to encounter some traps for the poor visitors. As experienced by most people in this area, there are some lovely policemen desperately raising funds for X-Mas. Probably the gift for Uncle Pepe is still not financed.
Whatever. The guys stop us, as usual we forget immediately every single word of Spanish, are the friendliest guys on this planet and so dumb, you cannot imagine.
Well, it takes a while until we’ve finish phase 1: smalltalk. The guys in Spanish, we in English. Not easy if you understand each single word they say, and the poor policemen just nothing.
Follows phase 2: They are even allowed to admire Martin’s expired international driving license, cannot find anything wrong with it and we have it back.
Phase 3: the nastier of the 2 guys takes his phone and starts using a translator. Now communication gets more serious. Unfortunately, we’re very bad in typing on a phone. So, it takes the hell a lot of time for us to reply. Nevertheless, now we can exchange ideas. We learn that the police suspect us not to have yielded to a pedestrian in town – some 10 km away. Thus, we have to be heavily punished. As we just answer no and ask politely if now we can move on, it gets more complicated for the poor policeman. Well, for us the opportunity to take our phone, discuss loud and clearly about an embassy – suddenly we realize, that the guy understands some English – at least the word embassy. Quickly he deletes his Spanish text.
Phase 4: the lovely policeman writes a pretty long text. Then he even explains the whole thing in Spanish, while we’re reading the translation. To make it short: we may drive on, exceptionally he excuses our infraction, reminds us to drive carefully and wishes us merry X-Mas. And off we are.
What we’ve learned of this: it’s extremely difficult to be absolutely dumb and stupid without laughing.
2h later we’re in Santa Elena without further incidents. Still it’s very cloudy, occasionally raining and pretty cold. We learn, that a huge cold front from Canada and the States is the reason for this terrible weather.
Now we’re on the Ruta Puuc. And we’re ready to visit the most famous of the sites along this road: Uxmal. Even 1 of the most famous in Yucatan.
Arriving there, immediately you feel its importance. Just look at the entrance they built. No, not the good old Mayas, no the Mexicans constructed just an impressive building with ticket boots, many entrance gates, numerous souvenir shops, restaurants ready to feed the crowds of the huge buses, etc.
Approaching the ticket counter, you start wondering about the prize. They don’t ask you to pay the usual 50 or 75 Pesos to enter. No, they added some 300 Pesos for the State of Yucatan. Unfortunately, they forgot to indicate what for they’re asking this amount. Well, as we still think there should be a minimal value for the bucks wandering from 1 pocket to the other 1, we feel definitely slightly ripped off. And it looks like we’re not the only 1s.
Maybe the State of Yucatan considers a visit to Uxmal illegal – so it might be a simple penalty for unconscious tourists. Who knows. We can’t get an answer.
Having a closer look at the board you’ll have an experience normally you only live in proven banana republics like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Turkmenistan: They even have 2 different prizes. A cheaper 1 for Mexicans, a higher 1 for all others. In Mexico we’ve never seen such discrimination before. Maybe they think Mexicans cannot afford to pay this awful supplement? Or, do they imagine destitute Mexicans would travel around and pay entrance fees? Or, are Mexicans less illegal when visiting Uxmal?
Whatever might be the logic behind it, probably it’s simply populism of a local government and a tendency to see tourists as pure milk cows. Anyway, dear government of Yucatan – shame on you.
Finally, dear guys, if you introduce such things at least you might consider a single entrance ticket. Just to avoid 2 ticket controls. Even in Congo they arrive at that level of management.
Back to the site: Uxmal is definitely huge, well restored and fascinating to visit. If you go before all these tour buses from Merida arrive it’s definitely worthwhile. And maybe even the local government will 1 day stop penalizing innocent tourists.
Once you have passed the 2 counters where they check if you really have paid whatever they ask for – your attention will be fully tantalized by the hugest pyramid you’ve ever seen in Mexico. The Pyramide del Adivino.
Unfortunatel, again you’re not allowed to climb up. Probably they’re afraid of too many accidents of these Cancun-luxury-hotel-tourists in their high heels.
Thus, all the ornaments you may just admire from pretty far away …
… and you need to concentrate on other buildings. But there are many of them.
Heading for Uxmal’s main attraction: El Palacio del Gobernor …
… a building famous for its ornamental decoration and the great view over the whole site.
Walking beyond the palace you quickly enter the forest. Just trees and heaps of stones. Definitely also former buildings of the Maya, but not (yet) restored. Or maybe not restorable.
Who knows. Seeing these stones lying around between the trees you can only hope that the archeologists restoring the other buildings knew how they looked like many centuries ago. And it’s not just imagination derived from a Walt Disney movie or from Google Pictures.
Enough seen of Uxmal. A site definitely worth the visit, despite the discriminating fee system. At least after this visit you know how it feels to be a milk cow.
Whatever. Driving the Ruta Puuc means that you have to visit more of these ancient stones. Sites less visited, thus without Uxmal’s hassle and tourist penalties. Among the more important are Kabah, some 20 km from Uxmal, …
… Sayil and …
Somewhen it’s getting late and you’re tired of all these places the good old Mayas constructed to attract tourists – even if Ruta Puuc offers a few more. Time for a change: Merida.
Merida, 21st December
A short drive to Merida – and we’re in the Yucatan State’s proud capital. Some 800 000 souls, known as a beautiful town, a very lively place you have to visit. Otherwise you may not have seen Mexico.
It’s a town famous for the splendor of its historic buildings. Reflecting the wealth and the abundance for the guys living here. Approaching the old town, definitely there are places with these exuberant houses. You won’t find them all over the historic center as they built modern houses inspired by the worst 3rd world architecture everywhere between these great old buildings.
Nevertheless, around Merida’s Zocalo the good old stylishness and elegance is still visible – at least in parts and from some distance.
Nevertheless, it looks like the square needs some tight security.
And a closer look to the famous shops and restaurants at the Zocalo show a certain negligence and decline of a once proud city center. Looks like many places start to uniquely depend on package tours visiting for 1 hour or so.
Despite all this, the Zocalo is an interesting place to observe some demonstrations and protests of unruly inhabitants who probably want to see more of their tax money at work.
If you walk a short distance beyond the main square, the town quickly changes. Much less splendor and many places crying for imaginative improvement.
Or you simply enter very lively shopping areas – especially now with X-Mas just a few days ahead.
1000s of small shops. In fierce competition. Forced by economic necessity to be creative.
Of course, between ugly modern constructions you may still find pearls of eroded splendor.
A few steps further you enter real Meridian life: Mercado Lucas de Galvez. Of course, many shops fully concentrate on X-Mas. Others are just gourmet muncheries or sell Chinese shoes. And finally, a few 1s are specialized in real practical issues of everyday life.
After a day we’ve seen Merida. Definitely we’re not sure why so many tourists visit this town. Compared to many other cities there’s simply very little to do or to see. Never mind, tomorrow we’ll move on. To Mexico’s most famous tourist hotspot.
So, that’s all for the current post. Next, we’ll move to Mexico’s center of mass tourism with millions of Americans, Canadians and Europeans flying in to spend their best days of the year in the very best luxury hotel you can get with a cheap special offer. And each happy tourist will be surrounded by even more people – all expecting to get some profit from these immensely rich guys from the north: Hawkers, touts, wannabes, notgoodforanythings, alluselesses, mayihelpyous and iloveyous. You name it you find it – probably you may even identify a few ordinary Mexicans. You know the guys you find everywhere else in the country.
Let’s see for how long we’ll be able to deal with that. Or when we’ll speed up to leave for Mexico’s small brother – Belize.
Definitely we’re already afraid of what awaits us – and unfortunately our expectations are definitely below 0.