Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cancun and Chichen Itza

Exact opposites – Ixtapan de la Sal and Cancun! The first has a history that goes back for many centuries while the other city was created in 1974! In Ixtapan de la Sal hotels and guest accommodations nestle into the environment. In Cancun hotels vie to outdo each other in grandeur, ostentatiousness, and exclusivity. Downtown Cancun, where many of the people who work in the hotels live, is way outside the popular hotel zone. There you’ll find City Hall – a tribute to Benito Juarez (first Zapotec Indian to serve as President, 1858-1872), and the famous park memorializing the quest for land and freedom.

View of the beach from the Fiesta Americana Hotel

Benito Juarez Building - City Hall, Cancun

A wide, well-kept bike/walking trail connects several hotels in the hotel zone and extends toward downtown Cancun. Getting around is very easy on the well-marked, very inexpensive public buses. A one-way fare is 8.5 pesos compared to the minimum fare of 80.00 pesos for a taxi. Sometimes there are entertainers on the bus – seeking a tip. By the way, did you know that the most frequently heard words in Cancun are “the tip is not included?”

Entertainment on the R1 bus

Most popular sign in Cancun

The history of the Mayan peoples is older than the history of Mexico. Within two minutes of exiting the hotel, or, within minutes of gathering your bags at the airport you’ll be sure to be greeted, actually pounced upon, by several sales people offering all sorts of goodies in exchange for two hours of your time to listen to a presentation for a time share. I accepted the reduced price trip to see the largest of the Mayan pyramids on the Yucatan Peninsula – Chichen Itza! It’s a 2.5 hour drive along the toll road that has very few curves (almost as straight as an arrow), relatively little traffic, and goes right by the Tequila factory and store.

This pyramid at Chichen Itza is the largest among the pyramids of the Mayan religious structures

Home of Agave and Tequilla

Cenotes, or sink holes, created by meteoric action many years ago in the creation of the Peninsula are frequently seen on Mayan lands. Cenotes on Mayan lands are not usually open to the general public. On the way to Chichen Itza we stopped at a Cenote located on a privately owned ranch. Swimming is allowed in the cenote. The visit included a demonstration of the traditional way Mayan women made tamales, and an opportunity to see some farm animals.

Ducks, doing what ducks do best

Even the saddles remind you what country you are in

Mayan ceremony taking place 60 ft below the surface in a cenote.
Mayan Woman, in traditional dress, using the ancient processes when making tamales.

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