Tonight I will leave around 18.20 with the night bus back to Merida in one go. So today is another day of just strolling around, taking some last pictures and buying some last souvenirs. I arranged a late check out of my hotel and I start with a good breakfast in very small eatery on the main shopping street of the town. It is a pretty cold day and I am glad I bought a warm lambs wool sweater on the market yesterday and some winter trousers. The bus also will be cold, as they like to put the air conditioning on high!
Today I also go for a long hike into the back streets of the town and I realize that three days is not enough to explore this beautiful city. I am happy to be here in this time of the year, as in the winter the temperatures can drop until below the 5 degrees. Mexico is such an enormous country, with many different climates and often people don’t realize, that these mountain villages can be very cold! When flying into Mexico City, 5 weeks ago, I even could see snow on the mountains!
I leave San Cristobal with the hope I might be back one day, but then by plane! Or, from another route by car or bus. I prepared myself for the long bus trip with an extra scarf I bought on the market, thick socks, drinks and some food, earplugs and sleeping pills and above all……Gravol. I take one tablet an hour before getting on the bus. Until Ocosingo all is well. I have two places for myself and it is still light and I get distraction from outside. Then the movie starts; very loud and very violent! After two hours we reach Ocosingo, the only stop before Palenque. It is dark by now and more people are getting on board of the bus. The lady before me is not happy and neither am I, as a very old and sick man is going to sit beside her. He probably has to go to the hospital in Palenque and has the most awful cough I ever heard in my life. I get a guy beside me; too bad. The chauffeur puts the second movie on; more violent than the first one and even louder…… The guy before me coughs more and the lady beside him starts eating. I smell chicken and other ingredients. The road is very curvy now and it is so dark that I can’t see a thing on the road. I get sick, very sick. So happy the guy besides me sleeps, or pretends to sleep. I was prepared for this, as I am not good in buses on curvy roads. For two hours I am sick and then we reach Palenque. I feel relieved, as I know that after Palenque the road will be straight. Maybe some street bumps, but better than curves! I have 5 min. to freshen up in Palenque bus station and then we continue our trip to Campeche, the next stop. The sick guy is gone and I am still there. The movies are finished and it is sleeping time. That’s when the lady at the front decides to stop eating, but to start talking, with the neighbour on the other side. It is 2.00 a.m. At 3.00 I ask them, if they are willing to shut up? No, they aren’t. They continue until 4.00! We reach Campeche and I finally have the two seats for myself again and after the two Gravol pills from before and half a sleeping pill now, I finally fall asleep until 6.00 a.m.
By the time we enter Merida, it is already 8.00. I walk to the mini bus in the historical district and get home around 9.30.
Never again!!! Next time, I take the plane and pay $400 more!!!
The last few days I take it very easy. I only go one more time back to the city, to buy an extra bag for all the souvenirs I bought and the rest of the time I work on my blog and read.
On Saturday, I take the pre-arranged airport bus to Cancun, which is a straight road, and get into a crazy busy airport, where lots of construction is going on. My flight to Toronto is going on time. I will stay for two nights in a hotel at Toronto airport and then I will take the plane to Calgary, for my next house sit of one month in the town of Canmore in the Rocky Mountains. I am really looking forward to this house sit, as I have been in this beautiful area before and because my son is living in Banff, the next town!
On Sunday I take it easy and just wander around the streets of San Cristobal. Not only the many churches are attended well, but also the colourful artisan market places.
I can’t resist to buy some souvenirs and of course after quite some negotiating about the price, as they all start way too high. It is not allowed here to take pictures of the people and even when I asked a lady, from whom I bought some textiles, if I could take a picture of her baby daughter, the answer was “Oh No”. When I asked her why not, she told me that her daughter was not able to sleep, after a picture was taken…..
All the children here are adorable and especially when they are wearing those beautiful, colourful indigenous costumes. I have never seen so many babies at one place, as on the market in San Cristobal. The mothers have them in wrap carriers at the front, or back or side and it is perfectly normal to breast feed them, while selling their ware. Of course there are dozens of other little children running around on the market place.
Outside the market, people are selling plastic bowls with all kind of tasty pieces of fruits for 10 pesos and halfway the morning I buy one and it is so very fresh and delicious!
To escape the heat and have some quiet time, I visit the textile museum in the Na bolom Cultural Centre, beside the church and the artisan market, and I am surprised how interesting the displays are; even more than 100 drawers to open and every drawer showcases another indigenous weaving of the Chiapas district and even beyond. Very well-organized and beautiful displayed!
In the afternoon, I book a boat trip for the next day at a tour operator. All the other trips they are offering, consist of long distances in the bus and that is something I want to avoid!
San Cristobal is full of small eateries and it is fun to sit on the small patios and watch the people, as it is such a mix of cultures!
The next morning, a minibus full with tourists is collecting me from the hotel and I squeeze beside a big Mexican guy and the window all in the back of the bus. We drive over a nice highway through the mountains direction Chiapa de Corzo. It is an hour by bus and more than enough for me. Once there, we all get a bracelet and hop on a small and fast open boat, which speeds over the Grijalva river, situated in between Tuxtla Guitierrez and Chiapa de Corzo.
It brings you right into Surmidero National Park, where you can see crocodiles on the banks of the river and pelicans and even monkeys, if you are lucky! The walls of the Canyon are at some point more than 900 meters high, very impressive! The whole tour takes about 2 hours and on the moments we are laying still to watch a waterfall or a crocodile, you notice how hot it is; sunscreen is very necessary here!
Once back in Chiapa de Corzo, we get some time to wander around the town, but everybody is “overheated” of the boat trip and I decide to have a drink and something to eat in one of the little stalls beside the road. The hamburgers look fresh and they put them long enough on the barbecue to give it a try……
We arrive much later back in San Cristobal and after a shower and an early meal in a Catalunian eatery, I decide to have an early night. My bus trip of 14 hours back to Merida will start the next evening, so I need some extra sleep now.
After reviewing the information I got from the lady at the bus station, regarding the time-table for my connections, I returned on the 19th downtown, to book the tickets for my trip from the 20th until the 25th of August. I wasn’t really looking forward to this long bus ride, especially not the one back home; 14 hours in the evening/night bus from San Cristobal to Merida straight! I did check the flights from Merida to Tuxtla Gutierrez, the airport closest to San Cristobal, but prices were around 300 to 400 US, so out of the question. For the bus ride from Merida to Palenque one way, leaving at 22.00 p.m. I had to pay 568 pesos (a rough 35 USD). I also booked the bus ride from Palenque to San Cristobal for the 22nd at 9.45 for 206 pesos. Last trip I had to book was the bus ride from San Cristobal back to Merida on the 25th in the late afternoon, for around 750 pesos. After all this was done, I had to start packing. Camera and computer and clothes for very hot weather (Palenque) and for “in between” weather and even cold in the evening (San Cristobal). Well, I didn’t bring any winter clothes or boots for my trips to Costa Rica and Mexico, so I did have a small problem there. The taxi picked me up to bring me to the “night” bus and I had for all trips reserved places, as I am not good in the back of the bus (nor at the front, but this is where the Gravol comes in handy). My trip to Palenque wasn’t that bad. I got some sleeping pills from the nice pharmacist in Merida and the bus made a stop every 2 hours at a decent place, where there was a decent washroom available; very important, as the ones on the buses make me even more “seasick”. The last part of the trip was through a lot of villages and that means “speed bumps” in Mexico, after every so many meters, so impossible to sleep………Once arrived in Palenque it was daylight and I was so happy be outside again, that I avoided all the taxis and walked to the hotel. It was easy, as Palenque is not a big city.
My hotel room was “interesting” and clean and everything was there and of course I was glad to have my earplugs handy. After a shower and a quick nap, I went looking for a place to have breakfast. Within a few minutes walking, I found a nice, open eatery, where I asked for a normal breakfast and then I got this enormous plate with eggs, thin tortillas and sauces at the side and somewhere a bowl with fresh fruits, coffee and freshly pressed juice with way too much added sugar! I couldn’t eat more than half of it and they asked me, if it was not tasty enough!
Mexicans like their food and they can eat! By now it was already around 11.00 and I had to go to the Mayan ruins of Palenque, which are situated in an enormous Natural Park, mainly covered by jungle. Around 10% of the old city is revealed; the remains are still uncovered and are overtaken by the jungle.
In Palenque there are mini vans, which are going back and forwards to the park. They stop by the entrance and you first pay around 30 pesos for entering the park. After, you have to pay the officially fee for visiting the ruins, which is around 65 pesos. Many people are offering their knowledge as guides, by the entrance of the park, even boys no older than 8! I never make use of them, as I need my time for taking pictures and these people are most of the time in a hurry……
It is a great area to wander around the archeological sites, or hike into the jungle and enjoy the beauty of the nature and listen to the howler monkeys. The setting is totally different in comparison with Chichen Itza; far more impressive. Also fewer vendors than Chichen Itza. The structure of the buildings is different too. If all the ruins would be discovered from beneath the jungle grounds, it will show what an impressive city this site must have been.
After a short visit to the museum on site, I call it a day and head back to the city by minibus, have a shower and walk around Palenque, where every night an open air market is held and many other vendors occupy the pavements. By now I am extremely tired and find a quiet spot in a restaurant. Tomorrow, another bus drive of 5 hours and I need a good night sleep! The next morning I have time for breakfast, a bit computer work and some quick souvenir shopping. I left a tip in the room for the cleaning lady, but the clever receptionist goes first to “check” the room, after the clients return the key. That way she can cash the tip!!! Though seemingly it is necessary to check if everything is still there, as I witnessed that a businessman had to open his computer bag, where one of the small bathroom towels was hidden. Yes, it is hot in Palenque and we all need a towel now and then……….
Half an hour behind on schedule, we leave Palenque for San Cristobal. While driving away, the bus driver first had to make the sign of the cross and later I understood why……..as soon as we left Palenque, the road goes high into the mountain and gets very, very curvy! First though, we had to return to the busstation, as they forgot two passengers, who were in the bathroom. Then after a few km. the chauffeur realized that he lost the keys of the luggage storage. While driving, he started looking all over in the front of the bus and managed to find them. I was sitting on the front row at the other side and witnessed his face expressions. This was only the start of the journey! He also managed to eat a sandwich, have a coffee and check the passengers list, while driving through the mountains. The road is the main road to San Cristobal, but nothing like a highway. It is just wide enough for the buses to pass each other.
I must confess that our driver was very competent! I even tipped him at the end, which is not common here, but he appreciated it. I had taken a Gravol and tried to make pictures during the trip, which distracted me from getting sick and there was so much to see on the way, that it took all my attention. We passed a lot of villages, where Mayan people were dressed in colourful outfits and everywhere they had different costumes; different patterns and different colours.
A lot of poverty, many houses reminded me of Cuba. Children were washed in wooden feeders of the animals and women were doing the laundry on old fashioned washboards. It was a very interesting trip, but also very long. We made one stop for petrol (all the curtains had to be closed; why, I still don’t know) and another, where you could quickly get a drink or some food.
Once we arrived on the highway, it was a quick drive to the beautiful mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas. A short taxi drive of 10 minutes brought me to the Parador Margarita, a quiet hotel with spacious, rustic rooms and a nice courtyard. Very centrally located, but just out of the noisy area of downtown and above all, the bells of the Cathedral and all other churches. From the 2nd floor you have a great view over the mountains and part of the town.
After getting settled in my hotel room, I walk the short distance over the cobbled streets towards the old historical center of San Cristobal and I enter another fairy tale; cozy streets with small patio’s, filled with people from all places of the world. Musicians playing all kinds of instruments, indigenous women with the babies on their back wandering the streets, “retired” hippies from different foreign countries mixing with the locals and of course the homeless and disabled……..Everybody seems to get along with each other fine.
In front of the huge Cathedral are many indigenous people selling colourful blankets and sweaters, scarves and mittens, as it can be cold in the evening here in San Cristobal. I find a cozy eatery, with the name “La Surreal” on Real de Guadaloupe, where they serve big glasses of nice red wine and tasty sandwiches. I now realize how hungry I am. My last meal was breakfast and it is by now 8.00 p.m. I sit inside, as the temperature has dropped to around 15 degrees C. and after the heat of Palenque, it is quite a change. I realize I have to buy some warm clothes on the market, as soon as possible! Once back in the hotel, I enjoy my quiet room with the king size bed and I look forward to another day of exploring this vibrant city.
Going to Chichen Itza means preparing yourself for a long (and hot) day. Especially, when going by local bus. My stay in Merida was extended with two weeks, so I thought I had all the time of the world for more sightseeing around Merida, though my plans changed. Since the homeowners of my “housesit” arrived back and I was able to rent “my” casita for another two weeks, I suddenly got the freedom to travel even further than the surroundings of Merida. My son, who just came back from a trip to Central America, advised me to go and see also Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas. According to him it was well worth it. While investigating the map, I noticed how far those places were situated from Merida. I gave myself some time to consider the pros and cons, but finally the “adventurous part” of my brain told me to go. That meant, I had to start organizing my trip very quickly and I also couldn’t delay seeing one of the Seven Marvels Of The Modern World, Chichen Itza.
So on Tuesday, the 18th, I went early downtown and walked to the CAME bus station to hop on a first class bus to Chichen Itza. No luck, as the bus was fully booked. There was another chance to go 45 min. later, at 9.15, with a minibus for 120 pesos (7 US$). For the way back I only could go with a local bus (80 pesos, not even 5US$). Well, there was no other choice. While waiting in the first class bus station, which is around the corner from the second class bus station, I thought I better get some information about the bus trip to Palenque and San Cristobal, as those buses are also first class. A very nice and helpful lady took plenty of time to check with me the possibilities and connections from one place to the other, as my schedule had to be thoroughly planned. She wrote everything down, as I needed some time to think about it. It was time for boarding and the drive to Chichen Itza went pretty quick, via the same boring road, as when I went to Izamal. After around 1 hour and 45 min. we arrived at the entrance of Chichen Itza.
What a tremendous busy place! So many people and so many vendors. After paying the 220 pesos entrance fee, you have to follow the crowd along an alley of vendors and it never ends. They are everywhere. What a pity, that such a beautiful site, with so many impressive temples, pyramids, platforms and columns, is partly destroyed by the screaming colours of all the articles for sale.
Mind you, I love many Mexican products (and even bought quite a few) and I also understand that in a place like this you get a lot of customers; only there should be a limitation in vendor stalls and places. Dzibilchaltun is way less impressive than this old Mayan city, but walking there all on my own, with only the sound of birds, was more enjoyable for me. Still, I managed to escape now and then the hundreds of tourists and walk on my own in between the pyramids and platforms, with their variety of architectural styles, which finds its origin in the diversity of the population.
Chichen Itza was a pre-Columbian city. It was also one of the largest Mayan cities. Apart from the monuments, there are also two large natural sinkholes (cenotes). What I really loved about Chichen Itza is the variety of details on the monuments. I could take pictures forever; so beautiful!
Besides the ruins, I observed this beautiful bird: the blue crowned motmot. I also saw a very small owl, on a low branch and it was looking me straight in the face. I just focused my camera and at that moment a group of Italian tourists passed by and then it turned its back on me!
I had to take the local bus back at 3.20 p.m. and it finally arrived at 3.45 and then a very long drive back started. It took about 3 hours to go back to Merida, as the bus stopped in every village along the way. The only good thing was that vendors with food hopped on the bus to sell their goodies and they were dropped off in the next village. We even got a guitar player on the bus, who was singing the most beautiful love songs with an even more beautiful voice!!! Also he got off in the next village, but first he cashed quite some money, as the Mexicans are very giving……..
It was a long and hot day again, but well worth it.
For most of my trips in and around Merida, I took the local bus. There are four different main bus stations in Merida and it all depends which direction you go. Sometimes you can choose between a first class or second class bus and those bus stations are also different, but often close to each other situated. So it is a little bit a puzzle to find out the right station, the time schedule and if you have to buy your ticket a few days in advance or just the day of travelling.
To go to Izamal, I left with the bus from the main station Orient at 8.30. It was a drive of around one and half hour and the road was pretty boring, as Yucatan is flat and dry and the only distraction was a stop in the village of Hoctun.
Once in Izamal, the San Antonio de Padua church and convent is immediately towering in front of you, with its specific colour of golden-yellow, also the colour of most of the houses in Izamal. The altar piece in the church is of carved wood and gold leaf overlay and dedicated to the Virgin of Izamal, patron Saint of Yucatan. Pope John Paul II chose this church to hold the Meeting of America’s Ethnicities, because of it’s profound indigenous-Spanish symbolism.
Izamal is a mixture of Spanish Yucatan, Mayan Yucatan and today’s Yucatan. It is also one of Mexico’s “pueblos magicos”……
There are three pyramids and Kinich-Kak-Moo is one of them (house of the sun). I climbed part of it, but with my fear of heights, it was just too much. The pyramid is around 22 mtrs. high! To go up is not the problem, but how to go down, when there is nobody to hold on to? Although???
Apart from that, the heat was intolerable; I kept on walking until around 2.00 p.m. and by that time I nearly fainted. I quickly entered the museum, in the hope it had air conditioning, but nothing, not even a washroom! I did get the opportunity to take some nice pictures.
The Papholchac is the other pyramid and the base of the church and convent. The third one is Itzamatul, also 22 mtrs. high.
Sunday was a perfect day to visit, as the bus arrived just before the Sunday church service started and outside on the Plaza, as well as inside in the market hall, lots of vendors were selling all kinds of stuff.
Around 3.00 p.m. I took the bus back to Merida and by the time we arrived in town, it started pouring. Orient station is on the worst spot in town, regarding water drainage. I had to wait for another hour before I could walk to the center of Merida and hop on the bus home. The water was just too high! Finally, most of us just went into the water, which was almost knee high and I had to ask the road three times, as I couldn’t recognize the streets anymore!
Nearly every evening during the summer months, there are performances in the parks around the old centre in Merida. Sometimes a band is playing and people are challenging the heat by showing off their best performance. Another evening, in another park, dances are performed by different groups in costume, from different regions.
Trovadores (troubadours) are performing in another park on another evening. Friday evening is set for the Pok A Tok, in front of the Cathedral. This was a sacred ball game from the Mayan people and it started with a ritual performance. The teams were not allowed to touch the ball, only with their hips or chest etc. and the ball had to be thrown through a ring, which was so difficult , that one game could take days. It was attended by important people (chiefs and kings) and the captain of the team that lost, was often beheaded.
On the 9th, I went to “The Great Mayan World Museum”, which is situated in a new and modern building in Northern Merida. I was a little bit confused, which bus I had to take. From where I am staying, you just walk to the main road and hop on a local bus, which is going up-North, but not all the buses are stopping at the museum. The best thing is to take a bus to Grand Plaza (a shopping mall) and walk the last few meters, though there are two buses, which will stop very close to the museum and a friendly lady, who was waiting at the same spot where I was standing, informed me about that. People are all very helpful here and I needed them, on the many occasions that I got lost.
The museum is divided in two departments, one is scientific and art related (a lot about the “birth” of Yucatan, astronomy, meteors and dinosaurs) and the other is the Mayan department. It tells you about the way of living of the Mayan people in former times and nowadays. A very interesting and interactive museum. To see all it has to offer, you can easily spend acouple of hours in the lovely air-conditioned rooms.
On Monday the 10th, I took the local bus to Dzibilchaltun, a place North of Merida, where you can find many Mayan buildings, among them “The Temple Of The Seven Dolls”, named so, as they found 7 dolls inside its chamber. Dzibilchaltun means in Mayan language “The Place of Scriptures on Flat Stones. To find out, how to go to Dzibilchaltun, was an excursion itself. On one of my walks, I found a tourist information kiosk with a huge poster on the window, informing that there are now special buses straight to this place for 150 pesos, return ticket. The guy inside told me I could get the ticket at Park St. Lucia and the bus went three times a week. So next day I went downtown to buy the ticket. When I finally found the tour operator, they told me that due to the low season, those buses don’t go, but I better should ask the main tourist office on the Plaza Grande. There, they told me to go to Park St. Lucia! Oh well, I was there already? Then I better should go to the local bus station from Progreso and get a ticket to Chablecal and then go with a mototaxi to Dzibilchaltun. I thought I better go and investigate where the bus station was situated. It was easy to find and just a short walk from the Grand Plaza. Once there, a sign said “daily buses to Dzibilchaltun, except Sundays”!!! So, I went back with this information to the tourist office and they were very grateful to get this information, as many tourists had asked about this trip……..Why I, as a tourist, had to inform them about the bus schedule to a famous tourist attraction????
So on the morning of the 10th, I got up at 5.45 and packed a bag with my camera, water, a hat and sunglasses. At 6.30 I got immediately the bus into town and walked to the bus station, where I had to stand in line for the bus. The ticket had to be bought in the bus and gosh, I was happy to be on time, as it became packed! I paid the amount of 14 pesos for a one way (better than the 150 pesos!!!) and asked the chauffeur to let me know where to get off. I noticed that often people shout “baja”, which means “getting off”. The ruins are only around 20 km from Merida, but as the bus stops every 5 min. to load or unload people, the trip took about an hour! Once arrived, I had to walk another 15 minutes from the main street to the entrance of the park. I was the first visitor of the day and the park just opened! They also allowed me to bring in my shopping bag, while everywhere it says that no bags are allowed, only swimming gear, in case you want to swim in the Cenote (underwater sinkhole). In Dzibilchaltun, you walk into another world……. Very pretty and interesting and wonderful to be the only visitor for at least one hour! Lots of birds singing and many iguanas. The heat was getting unbearable and that was another reason I was pleased to be so early. I didn’t go for a swim, but watched the only other 2 guests having a dip.
The cenote “Xlakah”, which means “Old Town”, has been the center of religious rites and also provided water to the settlement. The only disappointment was, that the museum was closed on Mondays! That wasn’t mentioned in the Yucatan Magazine. Supposingly, the museum here is very interesting. So by 10.30 I was completely steaming of the heat and I walked the long road to the main street again, this time using my umbrella against the sun. Once on the main road, there was immediately a moto taxi, which is a type of bike with a motor and a seating place at the front. He dropped me off at Chablecal, where I was so lucky to find a bus to Merida in a few minutes time and the bus dropped me off on the Avenida 60, very close to my casita. Within two hours it started pouring, with severe thunder! So glad I got up early today!
Today, the Cultural Centre Olimpo is open and I start with a visit to one of the three exhibition places. Portraits of Mozes, Ghandi and Mother Theresa…..Another room with paintings, which were not my style. The third room was just fun. The way different “artists”, if you want to call them artists, made their garden into a special living place, with lots going on and using all kind of colours and materials. In their section, enormous pictures of the artists, working in their own place. In the midst of the different displays, a hairdresser, who is cutting your hair for 3 US$, while he is singing the Italian songs he plays on his exhibition stand. It was just a very crazy showcase, this room, but for sure the three guys, who were “on guard” had fun! According to one, especially while interacting with the public……..
From Olimpo, it is just a few meters walking to the Palacio del Gobierno (governments building), where I had already a short visit during my first day here in Merida, but this time I wanted to spend some more time learning about the history from Yucatan and the Mayan people, all expressed in the beautiful murals of Fernando Castro Pacheco, who is from Merida. We saw his work already in the Municipality Museum, but here his work is on every floor of the building present and tells you so much about the suffering of the people, their religion and their legends (the birth of man, is through a stalk of corn). Besides the impressive murals, there is this soft green coloured building with many arches and enormous red ceramic pots filled with palm trees. What a gorgeous setting!
From the Palacio del Gobierno, I walk via Parque St. Lucia and Parque St. Ana to the Paseo de Montejo. Opposite park St. Ana, I find a very small and simple eatery, called “Jardin Santana”, where I have a pollo “Yucatan”, a water and a beer, all for 70 pesos ($4.20). I even get taco’s with avocado, as appetizer. Very nice staff and an “interesting” bathroom.
The Paseo de Montejo is called by some “the Champs Elysees of Yucatan”. It is a wide avenue, with pavements covered by trees. On every intersection there are statues and further up the Paseo you will find the impressive “Monumento a la Patria”. The houses along the Paseo are beautiful historical buildings from Spanish and French architecture. Mostly owned by banking firms or turned into hotels, others are in state of demolish and often for sale.
Once walking up the Paseo, I decide to just continue my walk and see if I can make it home by feet. As long as you have water with you and don’t do these kind of things in the middle of the day, it is a nice “hike”. I will do this more often!
Today it is Sunday and Merida’s downtown will be closed off for traffic, to give pedestrians and cyclists the chance to explore the downtown area and the famous Paseo de Montejo (with it’s beautiful old mansions and monuments) in a very relaxing way. That’s the reason that my friend Liz decides to show me a little bit more of the city by car, as it will be quiet even on the outskirts of downtown this morning. So we drive from East to West and I get to see the 300.000 US$ homes, which is here the expensive neighbourhood, the gated communities, the shopping plazas and the middle class neighbourhoods.
We visit Itzimna, which was in the colonial era a separate village, just like the area where I am situated, Chiburna de Hidalgo. The church of Itzimna is simple, but beautiful. The houses around the park are old neo classical style mansions.
After our drive, we park the car in a designated parking area, close to downtown and first walk to the Museum of the City of Merida, which is in the vicinity of the Plaza Grande and in the former post office; a beautiful colourful building, with downstairs an exhibition of the past of Merida and upstairs a changing exhibition of a specific artist. A very helpful staff and free entree. After the cool air of the museum, we decided to visit the indoor market of Merida. I haven’t visited the market yet and it is a daily happening, divided over different buildings and just enormous! A variety of things for sale, from vegetables and fruits, to dogfood and animals, meat and chickens and shoes…..There is even a guy singing right in the middle of the stalls.
Somewhere in a corner we meet this cheerful lady, who makes little baby shoes. It takes her 4 hours to make a pair and she asks 50 pesos for one pair (around 3US$). I can’t resist to buy two pairs; one for Liz and one for myself. As a souvenir……I enjoy the smiles of the people and all those different faces. I definitely will go back! Remarkable is the lack of tourists or foreigners. Just nobody!
After our visit, we need to eat and drink something. The heat is hitting hard. There are little eateries set up for the Sunday, outside the market, close to Casa de Montejo on the Plaza Grande. Here we drink a Horchata (rice milk) and Jamaica (juice from the Hibiscus flower). We have some sopes, this time with pavo (turkey) and picadillo (minced meat).
A family puts their very small children down at a table. The parents are dressed as clowns and have to try to get some money with making funny balloons and just asking the people to help out. Later they all have a meal together. The mother was nearly fainting from the heat.
Everybody tries to earn some money here. Old guys are packing groceries at the supermarkets for the clients, who will give them 5 pesos a bag (or more). People have to, as often there is no pension. Also the people, who collect the garbage, get at least 10 pesos a bag. The only problem is that you never know when and if they will show up. Sometimes they come very late in the evening on a totally different date.
Liz and I decide to go to an exhibition in the Cultural Centre Olimpo. It turned out it is closed. Musea are closed on Sundays or Mondays or Tuesdays, so you better check on forehand, although you can’t always trust what is mentioned on the internet.
We decide just to stroll around and slowly make our way to the car again. I feel my legs and feet, as this heat is having an impact on the body. The thought of a dip in the swimmingpool makes us decide to “call it a day”.
It is hot here in Merida in the summer. I like to take the bus end of the day into town and enjoy all the festivities, organized to keep the locals, as well as the tourists happy. Every evening, there are performances. They change from park to park, but all on walking distance from the historical centre. Tonight, the “Serenata Yucateca” takes place in Parque Santa Lucia. I am early, as first I just want to stroll around the Plaza Grande, where so many people are gathering at this time of the evening. It has wi-fi, so many are sitting on the benches, focussing on their phones. Children are feeding the doves and many vendors are trying to sell something, not only to foreigners from abroad, but also to Mexicans from other cities, who are here on holiday. I am walking with my camera, ready to snap a shot, as so much is going on here in the Plaza. Later, I sit down for a drink, but get attacked by the sales people. Next time, I will not sit on a terrace at the Plaza Grande at this time a day! I go with the flow to the park and it is packed with people. On the other side of the street, there is the St. Lucia church and at the side of the church people are enjoying a barbecue meal. I wonder if everybody can join that meal, after paying.
Most came early to get a seat at the front, but I am standing at the back on an elevation, to try to take at least one picture of the orchestra. A Mexican starts a conversation with me. I am alert. Finally, the music starts, but after the first tunes, they change it into poetry. By that time, the Mexican man wants to know if I have children and how many and tells me he never married and he doesn’t have children. That’s the moment I realize I didn’t eat yet and I swiftly disappear into the crowd. The poetry is still going on and I decide to hop in the first eatery, before I will faint. The restaurant is great, as there are only Mexicans, which means it has a local menu. These weeks, I want to try as much as possible, from the Mexican / Yucatan menu. My waiter is very helpful and patient. I ask him about the local beer and he also helps me to choose from the menu, as everything is a ? for me. He kindly warns me that the two separate bowls with sauces are quite “picante”…..well, I am used to the Indonesian Sambal, but these sauces are HOT! I enjoy my meal with chicken and my SOL beer and the price is not even US$7. By the time I leave the restaurant, it is already 10.30 p.m. and the last bus goes around 11.00. This time I catch a minibus; it is the same price, but you can get seasick! Everybody is squeezed together and they go fast and it is a pretty bumpy ride! I had to watch where to get out, as everybody seemed to be going way up north. I was the only one, who had to call “STOP”!!!
The 31st of July, 2015
At time of my arrival in Merida, I met a friend of the family, Liz. We immediately got along fine. Liz asks me, if i would like to go with her to one of the many Flea Markets in the city. I never say NO to a flea market. I LOVE markets in general. We drive in the morning to a total different part of the city, to Plaza Esperanza. Wow, it is huge…..mainly clothing, handbags, some shoes, toys and no, no antiques. You really have to start searching, as you can find some brand name clothing for a bargain. I just like to see how popular these markets are and how much fun it is, although the heat is intense under the covers, with so many overheated people…….Finally, we buy a fresh juice from a vendor, we sit down at an eatery right on the market and order sopes (type of tortilla) with filling of cactus (nopales) and chicken. So yummy! Price not even US$1 for one. After the market, we have a stop at the supermarket, as now with the car I can stock up a bit more. Walking in the heat with your shopping is no fun!
The 1st of August, 2015
Today, I worked the whole day on the computer and around the house. It is very hot and it looks like it will rain soon. Around 6.00 p.m. I take the bus into town and it starts pouring. Immediately the streets are changing into swimming pools! Once downtown, everybody is squeezed under roofs and store entrances. I was prepared and brought an umbrella! First, I go shoe shopping. Somewhere, behind the Cathedral, are many shoe stores. I find sandals and nice walking shoes. It is cheap. The sandals are leather and more expensive; US$22…..the other ones are cheaper, but very comfortable; US$9.
Now I am heading for Parque Santa Ana and it’s church with the same name. It is all on walking distance, as long as you are able to stroll a 20 minutes in the heat. I pass a few antique stores and a cozy Italian restaurant. It is a little bit dark in the streets here, but I don’t feel uncomfortable. Once in the park, there is a huge artisan market and at the beginning of the Paseo de Montejo, the Mexican night is held. Lots of different costumes and dances and an enthusiastic Mexican crowd. I buy from an older man two masks, which he made himself. He also made rocking chairs for children and a little school desk. He is so happy that I bought something and I am just happy to see the smile on his face. There is a lot of competition here for the vendors, but I noticed that the Mexican tourists do buy quite some souvenirs.
Later, I go to have a look at the Santa Ana church and see inviting little eateries with terraces in front of them and realize I haven’t eaten yet. This time I get an enormous glass of green lemonade (cactus juice?) and some sopes with different fillings for around US$4. Once back in the historical centre, it is packed with people! Everywhere musicians are playing; I hear Cuban music (Son) and Mariachi and Cumbia and many other styles. People are all eating and drinking and the ambiente is great! Then I meet Liz by coincidence……we decide to go to Panchos, on calle 59. It looks from the outside as there is nobody, but at the back there is a patio garden and it is wonderful to have some quiet time, after the hectic “outside world”. The last buses have gone, when we finally head home, so we take a taxi, which cost us around US$ 5 in total.
What a great night this was! So many impressions again!
My first outing here in Merida, is just around the corner; the Sunday flea and vegetable market in Colonial Chuburna de Hidalgo, on walking distance, although still an effort in the heat with two heavy shopping bags! I walk through the neighbourhood, which is a mixture of simple houses and here and there a high wall, with a gorgeous house behind it. Some little stores, a banquet hall (of all places), a tortilleria and many churches. People here are religious, although they might not always follow the rules of the church. The flea market is mainly clothing and very cheap. Here and there you can find some nice brands and something, which is not synthetic. By now the heat is nearly unbearable, but still people are trying to fit shirts and dresses over their own clothing and only the thought of it makes me transpire! I just buy a few things without trying and it is so cheap, that even if it doesn’t fit, it is not the end of the world. A guy gets arrested and they literally drag him to the car, handcuffed. He screams. Later, I hear that people, who live here for years, never witnessed such a thing, so my presence might be to blame? Overall, the atmosphere is great. The church started it’s Sunday service and it is held outside, as of the heat. People are waving their “abanicos” to get some relief and the singing is uplifting, although the speakers with Mexican Reggaeton music from the market place, are interfering with the holy music. On the other side of the street, is inside a hall, the market. There you can get fruits and vegetables, honey and fish and lots of chicken in all sizes. It is way cheaper here than in the Supermercado. Outside are tables where you can eat and drink fresh juices and lemonades. Later in the week, I noticed that no event is held without the opportunity to eat and drink, but mainly juices and coca cola, no alcohol! I buy some fruits, veggies and a small bottle of honey and outside the market place is a stall with a fruit called Pitaya. I have never seen it. Immediately the young seller let me try; it is yummy! An older man explains that in Japan they pay 150$ for one! I paid around 1$ for three! You can eat it with the juice of a lime and some salt (the way you eat Avocado or Aguacate) or some people eat it with a boiled egg. Never use it in a blender, he tells me, as the aroma will disappear.
On my way home, I witness a service in a church, where people are singing and dancing, with the door wide open. That is the church I like! While watching, they invite me in and there I am, with two big shopping bags, moving on the music………After 10 minutes or so, I excuse myself, pointing on my shopping bags, but first I get kisses of all the ladies, with and without sweat. I tell them I will be back, but until now I haven’t kept my promise……..
27th of July
Today, I will go by bus to downtown Merida, to join a walking tour around the Plaza Grande. Taking the bus is easy and cheap, only around 0.45$ for a trip. I will use the bus many times in the coming days. I first visit the tourist information office and subscribe myself for the walking tour, which will start at 9.30. This event is free, like many other events the city organizes. We will only visit the buildings around the Plaza and our guide tells us so much about the history, that the one and half hour are gone in no time. After, I get a little bit familiar with the roads in the historical centre, treat myself on a fruit salad and coffee and take the bus home, when it is getting too hot. The bus drops me off at the Mega Supermarket and I walk home with two heavy bags of groceries, in the heat. Very happy that this house has a swimming pool!
28th of July
Today I visit the dentist office. Not that there are any issues, but I foresee that I can’t go to my regular check up, as I will be in another part of Canada in September. Also, if the dentist does find any repairs to do, I better have it fixed here, as the fees are quite different from the ones in Canada! This time I take a taxi and as the dental office is opposite the Star Medical Clinic, it is easy to find. I am impressed, as the office is new and clean and the staff is polite and friendly. They all seem very knowledgeable and I get a check up by the dentist and a thorough cleaning from the assistant and all for US$22.00! I ask a list with prices and an implant will cost around US$ 700.00, a porcelain crown around US$ 215.00 and a crown over an implant around US$ 280.00. Well, we are all getting older and better to be prepared!
The dental office is the neighbourhood of a shopping plaza and I decide to have a look at some stores and prices and enjoy at the same time the airconditioning, as by now the temperature has reached nearly 38 degrees. It is funny to see a C&A and Sears with clothing according to the Mexican way. A lot of blouses with decorations! It is all very affordable, cheaper than in Canada for sure, although a friend tells me later, that the better brands are way cheaper in the US.
I also visit the Star Medical Hospital, just to see if I could make an appointment with a specialist in case of……..No problem, there is a list with Dr’s for all the different specialisms and you can google them and call for an appointment or mail them. I think every specialism in the hospital has around 10 Dr’s, so there must be a lot of competition! They will be happy to see you………
The next two days I will have to be around the house, as the gardener, the pool guy and the cleaning lady are all coming.
My next visit to downtown will be on Thursday evening, for the music in one of the parcs.