The Chichen or the Egg?
Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
217Trip End Ongoing
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Stop over from Merida to Cancun
What I did
The musings of Karl Pilkington in the TV series "Idiot Abroad" had us rolling on the floor. If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth getting your hands on. This Ricky Gervais production sees a typical bloke jetted around the globe to film his reactions to the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Unwittingly he was onto something... Where is the wonder, indeed, we wondered as we entered Chichen Itza. What makes a site a wonder? Its rarity? Its age? Its intricacy or complexity of design? The cynical, jaded traveller in me proposes that it is down to the site's proximity to an international airport. Think about it...
To become a "wonder" millions have to vote for it and therefore millions need to have seen it, either in person or in photos. Millions come to see Xichen Itza every year with an easy two hour tourist bus ride from the connection hub of Cancun. Xichen Itza also contains the most photographed Mayan structure, El Castillo (The Castle), also referred to as the Pyramid of Kukulkan.
So I ask you with tears in my eyes, what came first? The Chichen or the egg? The "wonder" status or proximity to an international airport?
Perhaps we'd be more accepting of Xichen Itza as a wonder had we not previously visited and interacted with the more impressive ruins at:
Tikal (Guatemala) - http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/thelees/1/1318526202/tpod.html and
Palenque (Mexico) - http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/thelees/1/1317167712/tpod.html
Compare those to Xichen Itza - hotels are just beyond the site; tens of busloads arrive from Cancun and Merida each day; pathways are lined with market stalls selling allsorts (including Hard Rock Chichen Itza t-shirts and annoying jaguar noise-makers); and every structure is cordoned off with rope (after a few tourists fell). Even the spelling of the name was adapted from "Xichen" to "Chichen" to make it easier for foreigners to pronounce! Plus the Sacred Cenote was relatively unimpressive. What would have been intriguing to see is what lies at the bottom as it was once used for human sacrifices.
We kept ourselves entertained with reminiscences a la Karl Pilkington, kept ourselves fed with beer and oranges, and congratulated the monkeys on their wedding ("die apies trou" - an Afrikaans expression when there is simultaneous rain and shine). We collected our backpacks from the free baggage store (yay for that!) and waited for our second class bus to Cancun.