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Day 11 - Chichen Itza

Written on: Tuesday March 28th, 2006

A journal entry from: Mexico 2006

Hola,

We woke up early this morning for our trip to one of the most important Mayan ruins in Mexico: Chitchen Itza. We were awake before our hotel served the continental breakfast so we walked up a block to the corner of the Quinta and Calle 2 to a hip little cafe playing great music called Fresh!. Kevin had a strong coffee (heīs had difficulty finding coffee with a punch up to now) with a chocolate brownie and I had a chamomile tea with a croissant and strawberry jam for about 70 pesos.

We walked over to our designated meeting location to meet our rep who then walked us to another meeting place to get our van. It arrived 20 minutes late, but thatīs okay weīre on vacation. The van could accomodate 11 people comfortably including the driver and we were 14 people. As you can guess it was tight and hot in the van but we got to sit in the first row of seats so we got the air conditioning directly on us. We felt bad for the family in the back row with their 2 kids, they were dying of heat.

We drove down the main highway along the coast, past Playacar, the eco-parks Xcaret and Hel-ha then turn on the highway to Tulum. The highway along the coast is being expanded to a 4-lane road to accomodate the massive amount of development in the area. At this time, the highway is a 1 1/2 lane on each side, where the slower cars pull-over into the 1/2 lane to let the faster cars pass. Our driver was speedy-gonzales and would pass anything and everything. We would be half in our lane and half in the oncoming traffic lane with barely any space to spare. It certainly freaked some of our fellow passengers.

Like all tours, our first stop was an artesan shop along the highway. They, like most stores weīve seen in Playa sold pottery, blankets, weavings, stoneware, wood and stone sculptures, silver jewelry etc. We havenīt seen anything original from shop to shop. Itīs all the same. The salesman all tell you that itīs made by them and their families, but thatīs just a sales pitch. Mexico must have factories mass producing this stuff. I did buy a silver bracelet with the mayan zero, I was negotiating just for fun with the salesman but he was quite insistent and kept lowering the price. He wanted 350 pesos for it and he finally sold it to me for 150 pesos. He chased me to the van as we were leaving. Turns out I was his first client of the day and itīs good luck if they make their first sale with their first client. Glad to oblige!

We got to Chichen Itza at about 11:30 and spent about 2 hours at the archealogical site. Our guide Armando, who spoke 5 languages, would give the same speech to each of us in our respective language. We had a large group of french speakers, a group of spanish speakers, german speakers, italian speakers, and finally Kevin and I were the only english speakers. We can speak and understand french, so we listened in twice to make sure we really got all the details that Armando was sharing about Chichen Itza. This was our first time visiting a mayan site and it certainly did not let us down. The temples have been rebuilt and there are some information cards displayed, but I really recommend that if you to hire a guide either through a tour group or at the site. The information they provided enriches the experience greatly. We saw people without guides and we couldnīt understand how they could enjoy looking at a bunch of temples made of rock and not know their history and purpose. The temple of Kulkukan (mayan for ?Feathered Serpent?) is the most famous and impressive temples at the site and justly so. The location of this temple and the size renders it nothing short of beautiful. On the spring and fall equinoxes (March 21 and September 21), a special event happens. The sun is located precisely at the perfect angle to form a shadow on the side of the temple to make it appear like a snake weaving itīs way down. We missed seeing this by a week! Our guide said there were over 5000 people there that day to experience the phenomena.

After visiting Chichen Itza, we stopped at a buffet restaurant for lunch. The food was okay, nothing too exciting but we were happy to eat since we were starved. It was about 1:30 PM and we hadnīt eaten since 7 AM this morning. During our meal, we got to know some of our fellow tourists. We met Guy and Isabelle from France and Fred and Audrey from Belgium. They were very nice and we formed a quick friendship with them. They are staying at the Iberostar resort in Playa Morelos (between Cancun and Playa del Carmen).

After lunch, we stopped at one of the many cenotes found in the area. The cenotes we visited was called Samula and it certainly was popular with the tour groups, lots of people there! The water was really cold but crystal clear. Through the hole in the ceiling, a tree had its roots reaching all the way down to the water from high above. Occasionally little birds would follow insects into the cenotes and would fly out again.

To complete our tour, we stopped at the colonial town of Valladolid. We only spent about 20 minutes and we visited the town square and the cathedral on our own. It was very pretty but you could tell the the town was poor and needed the tourist money to help with the maintenance of the cathedral.

We got back to our hotel room at 7:30 and crashed in our beds, ready for another early morning wake up to visit Tulum and Coba.