San Cristobal Palenque Tulum Playa del Carmen

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2006

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Friday, August 11, 2006

San Cristobal las Casas was a charming town. Churches are everywhere. Vendors intercepted us at every corner and cafe to sell us bracelets, belts, candies, ets. A young boy washed Andres' running shoes while we ate at a cafe in the zocalo while watching a jazz band play an open-air concert. Many of the souvenier sellers on the streets seem to be Mayan women who wear a very specific costume that looks very warm for the hot climate. We heard languages that we assume to be Mayan as well.

From San Cristobal we took a tour to Palenque. We used the Sol tour company, which I highly recommend. Our guide was excellent. We were a total of 12 tourists in the van, which picked us up at our hotel door. We drove through some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever experienced. I'm glad that I took a full dose of Meclixine HCl, because the winding mountain roads were adequate to cause motion sickness. Vendors approached our van as we passed the small villages along the roads. They tried to sell us the corn that was growing where the rain forest was cleared. Looking out at the hillsides, we could see that about 60% of the forest had been cleared for corn fields.

We stopped at two waterfalls where we got out to swim and take pictures. This was a highlight, as swimming in a tropical rainforest waterfall is quite a beautiful experience. Agua Azul was first, it is a series of small falls surrounded by lush vegitation. We found an out-of-the-way spot where we were alone with a nice Mexican family who was kind enough to take pictures of us. Misal Ha was second, it is one large fall. There is a path behind the Misal Ha waterfall that leads to a water-filled cave with bats and a waterfall of its own.

On to Palenque we explored the most ornate Mayan ruins. Here we were able to walk through the stone hallways that provided welcome shelter from the sun. The ruins at Palenque are surrounded by forest, but the areas between the ruins are developed for tourists with groomed pathways and planted lawns.

In the city of Palenque we said goodbye to our tourmates and caught our overnight bus to Tulum. The bus was about 2 hours late. Even after planning for the excessive air conditioning I found myself too cold to sleep. We arrived in Tulum at about 8:00 a.m. and took a taxi to our hotel on the beach where we met our friends Aimee and Karrie who are on their honeymoon. The hotel/resort in Tulum was astoundingly idealic. Simple huts with palm frond thatch roofs and no electricity. We had running water in the huts, but it was salty. Our 180 degrees of windows looked out at the ocean and beach. The water here is turqoise, just like you see in postcards from the Carribean. The sand is pale. Our resort had a private beach with swinging beds under thatch shades. The restaurant had live entertainment at night with simple music and a young girl doing a circus-style act on a long cloth hanging from the ceiling.

From Tulum we took two daytrips. The first took us to more Mayan ruins where we did some hiking and climbing in the sweltering heat and then drove to the Grand Cenote where we swam and cooled off. The next day we drove to more ruins just a few kilometers from our resort. These made for the best pictures, as they looked out on the turquoise ocean.

Yesterday we took a bus with Aimee and Karrie to Playa del Carmen, which is a huge tourist city close to Cancun. Here a huge prominade full of tourists is the main attraction aside from the resort-lined beach. Snorkeling, scuba, parasailing, waverunning, etc. are available in abundance, but prices are high. Aimee and Karrie came here to be closer to Cancun for their flight today, but Andres and I wished we had stayed in Tulum. We found some pleasant time here though. We ate and drank at a beach resort until we were asked to leave, as the facilities are exclusive for hotel guests. The beach here is even (not rocky like the beach in Tulum), and the water is calm. Our hotel is air conditioned, which is very nice after the hot huts in Tulum. But it does lack the charm of beach huts and the serenity of a simpler town. Tonight we will borrow our hotel's bycicles to tour the town. Tomorrow, more beach. And then we are off to Cancun to catch our flight back to Los Angeles.
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