¡Hola de Mexico!

Trip Start Apr 30, 2008
Trip End Apr 17, 2009

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Flag of Mexico  , Yucatan Peninsula,
Saturday, May 10, 2008

ˇHola de Mexico!

The first stop on our journey around the world was Cancun (to relax a bit after mucho preparacion). We decided to stay in the city rather than a beach resort to help us acclimate to backpacking. Our first night we stayed in a beautiful palapa (an open air hut with a thatch roof) overlooking the gardens and pool.   
We thought it was very romantic.  Well, while the mosquito net cascading over and around the bed was kind of romantic, next time we may think of it as a warning. Around 2 AM, Ray (now Raymundo) went down to enjoy the pool when he woke up to bug bites because we must have somehow untucked the bug net away from our Mayan-sized bed during the night. In the light of day, we found at least 20 mosquito-like bugs trapped inside the net. We moved to a less romantic, air conditioned, traditional room the next day!!!  

We went to the beach in the Zona Hotela (Hotel Zone) our first full day! It was May Day, which was a huge deal in Cancun. The May Day (similar to Labor Day) parade shut down the streets for 3 hours in front of our hotel. Thousands of marchers and dozens of marching bands passed us during the brief time we watched.  

The next day we took a four hour bus across the Yucatan to Merida. The bus was very nice (and a lot different than when Candy and her family did this 15 years ago). About half-way across the Yucatan we crossed state lines. The military/police stopped the bus to search for drugs (primarily with a dog). The police also have a check point outside of Merida. We passed through it several times without being stopped. Still, it´s strange to see police with machine guns. And, the fact that they wear full camoflauge (but with blaze orange safety vests) seems an interesting contrast.
Merida is definitely the most Mexican city either of us have been to - but with some American influences. Internet access, like almost everywhere in the world now, is not hard to find. We´ve tried to avoid constantly checking in.
Merida has been a base for many day trips. We visited the beach with Betty and Michel (Candy´s relatives here in Merida).  We visited Uxmal (a less visited Mayan ruin), including a wonderful light show in the evening. Side note: Curt -- good thing you and Candy did some climbing before, because it´s not possible anymore after a hurricane.  
Ray took a day trip to Chichen Itza (a more visited Mayan ruin that is 2+ hours from Cancun that Candy had been to before with her family). The ball court was amazing. However, Ray, and most people who we spoken to who have seen both, strongly preferred the intimacy at Uxmal. We were amazed to see the civilization that the Mayans were able to develop in this area dominated by limestone soils and no rivers or lakes for fresh surface water.
We both took a 2 hour bus to Celestun, a beach town on the Gulf of Mexico. This was a "real" Mexican bus. At one point, a guy got on the bus with a four foot long machete (in a sheath) and sat next to Candy! If our Spanish were better, we might have been brave enough to ask for a photo. In Celestun, we took a boat ride through an estuary to visit a bird sanctuary.  
We´ve made a day trip every other day. There´s also been much to see and learn in Merida (including Spanish). Merida´s Maya temples were torn down for material to build many buildings near the town square, including the central cathedral. This, and other buildings completed by the Spanish conquistadors were completed before Jamestown was even settled. Each city in Mexico, even very small villages, will have amazingly large churches. Around the churches there is usually a block-wide park surrounded by administrative buildings. In a large city like Merida, churches and squares seem to exist every few blocks.

These town squares are perfect for the daily festivals Merida is famous for.  We´ve found the festivals are most lively Saturday and Sundays.  The main streets around the squares are blocked off and dozens of restaurants set up tables and chairs for dinners or drinks.  Bands are playing on almost every block - sometimes drowning each other out.  We had drinks between a church and theatre on a cobblestone street.  It was very romantic.  
Candy´s Spanish is coming back (and getting better) pretty fast. Ray is picking up a lot. If we both listen, we can usually follow things and be understood. Ray almost had a severe misunderstanding. In the Yucatan, fresh water was stored in sisterns or sink holes called cenotes. Some places, these cenotes, including amazing stalagtites are open to the public for swimming. Our tour guide was explaining that we should swim in a cenote. The guide was telling this to Ray in English. However, for the word "swimming", he inserted the Spanish word for swimming-"piscine". So, adjust the following sentence and say it out loud to get to Ray´s near catastrophic misunderstanding. "You can "swim" in any Cenote you want while you are here in the Yucatan." 
At this point in the journey, we are hesitant to add weight to our packs by purchasing some of the amazing products and crafts from this area. We don´t think we stand out as Americans too much here, but Ray´s height and some of our clothing give us away. Ray tried to blend in by growing his first mustache ever. Yesterday, one of the vendors yelled to him, "Hey, Pancho Villa, you wanna buy a hammock?" Ray and Candy differ on whether this was a sign that the mustache has helped him blend in or not...
It´s been amazingly hot in Merida. We both believe it´s the hottest place we´ve ever visited. That said, we´ve been told that people don´t start to go to the beach for another month or so-- when it gets really hot. We learned to take it easy during the middle of the day (and now understand the desire for siestas a bit more).
This area of the Yucatan grew tremendously during the 1900s when ropes and other fibers were made from the native Sisal or Hennequen plant. Even though sisal no longer dominates the economy today due to synthetic fibers, there appears to be a vibrant, diversified economy here that is raising standards of living. It´s been an honor to see how Candy´s relatives helped influence and form Merida through the sisal period and beyond.

Before we close, let us tell you a bit about some blog pages we plan to create/update that aren´t specific entries to a place we´ve been. One page will describe brilliant ideas we´ve seen around the world. For example, in Mexico, the S-chairs in parks and the sitting hammock (amazing that we picked places to sit in the shade during our first two weeks with heavy backpacks and the hottest temps we´ve ever been in, eh?)
Another page will describe interesting consumer products we´ve discovered around the world. 
Ray also plans to post some pages devoted to specific topics, including a "99 bottles of beer on the wall" page to list and describe beverages we´ve tried (if not always enjoyed) on our trip.
We also plan to set up a page for each country we plan to visit so that those of you that have visited a country can post ideas and suggestions before we get there. It seems we know someone who has been almost everywhere we plan to go. We really want your suggestions!

We think it´s helpful to have some time to process and more fully appreciate what we´ve had the opportunity to experience and learn before we post...so our current thoughts are to update the blog a week or so after we visit a country.
We just arrived in Mexico City today and are looking forward to new adventures (in the much reduced temperature)!
Thanks for keeping in touch with us via our blog.
Candy and Ray
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
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candyandray on

Check it out!
You can kind of see it in the picture with Betty and her friend at his silver shop.

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