----------------------------------------------- Google Site Map ----------------------------------------------- Cindy in ...: 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

Mexico: A Wander or Two Around San Cristobal

One of my favorite things to do in San Cristobal was to pick a direction and go for a wander.  Sometimes I'd have a destination, like a church or a museum, but sometimes I'd just head up a hill to see what was there.  It only took a turn onto a side street to put me in a different city, without hotels or restaurants with menus in English.

If it rained, as it often did, I would duck into a nearby cafe or pastry shop, order hot chocolate and wait it out.  I found some nice places to eat that way.

Sundays, however, were a different story.  On Sundays, most places are closed.  Getting caught in the rain without an umbrella on a Sunday afternoon can leave one cold, and drenched to the skin both from the rain and the occaisional splash by a passing car.

I know this.  My innate sense of direction is barely good enough to get me across a room, let alone tell me that I am not three blocks from the hotel, but nearly twenty.  Notice the clouds in the picture below.  I took it just before I headed back to my hotel, starting with a ten- block excursion in the opposite direction.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mexico: How Expensive Is It?

Mexico can be as expensive as you want it to be, of course.  Five star hotels and elegant dining are readily available.  As a budget traveler I'm more interested in Mexico's cheaper side.  I want cheap meals, hostel beds, and low tour and admission prices.  Mexico delivers.

Meals first.  Most restaurants have a lunchtime fixed price meal, the menu del dia.   In Merida, my favorite restaurant served a bowl of soup, a juice drink, and one of three or four main courses for 37 pesos, or less than three dollars.

I paid $9-$11 per night for a place to sleep.  In Cancun, and Merida, this got me a dorm bed.  In San Cristobal I got a private room with a shared bath.  Lest this sound like an onerous burden, it isn't.  OK, sometimes it's a problem and annoying, but I'm pretty well suited to sleeping in a big room with lots of people coming and going.

I come from a family of very sound sleepers, so the comings and goings of others doesn't bother me.  I don't care whether lights are on or off.  If people are reasonably considerate, and they usually are, I'm fine.  My other advantage is that I don't actually spend time in my room when I have one.  If I'm in a motel in the US, with TV, and a refrigerator, and a microwave, maybe.  But usually I'm out.  If I want to read a book, I don't sit in a room, I sit in a restaurant or a park.  So the room thing isn't important.

Transportation is good.  Even second class on most routes is comfortable, with air-conditioning and assigned seats, basically just older first class buses.  Buses are big, clean, modern, air-conditioned, and keep fairly well to schedules.  First class seems to cost, on average, about $4-5 per hour.

Sites and events are the real bargain. Free concerts, free art exhibits, and when there is a charge, it is usually nominal. Only really big name attractions cost as much as $10 or $15, and even some of those are only $3-$6. This is in stark contrast to Costa Rica, where admission to some parks is a much as $35 per day.

Mexico is more expensive than Nicaragua or Guatemala. I think it is less expensive than Costa Rica, and perhaps Panama

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mexico: Chamula and the Church

Photography is not allowed in the church in Chamula, one of the towns near San Cristobal.  While I could wander around, and watch people worship, I couldn't take any pictures.  So it's descriptions only for the interior experience.

The Catholic Church and the traditional religions of the area have merged in ways that often seem more traditonal than Catholic.  As Christianity spread throughout the world, missionaries would try hard to tie local beliefs and rituals to Catholic beliefs in rituals. Christmas is in December because it coincided with the birthdate of a Persian god.  Christmas trees come from German traditions.  In the New World, priests li ked local gods to Catholic saints, and churches developed their own, distinct, Catholic rituals.

In Chamula, the walls and altar of the church look like any other, with the stations of the cross and statues of Mary.  The center is different.  The space usually occupied by pews is empty, and the floor is covered by straw.  Small altars, votive lights, and offerings are spotted around the area, tended by the worshipers who set up temporary places of worship.

Walking around among them is a bit eerie, and feels intrusive.  I could feel the intensity of their worship.  Unlike going into a normal service, I was very aware of not actually belonging, not being part of anything taking place.  While I'm not Catholic, I usually don't feel rejected by the church.  Here I did.  My visit was short.

In fact it was so short I had to wait quite a while for my guide to come back.  I tried to talk to some of the men who were sitting outside the church. My minimal Spanish was a real handicap.  The men did manage to tell me it was OK to take pictures of the outside.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mexico: Burning Judas Effigies in San Cristobal

I found a place to stand in the crowd, behind a bush that I could see over but locals found a little challenging. I'm not that tall, but the city was crowded with indigenous Maya, and they are quite short.

I could see the straw figures that had been dragged into place, waiting to be ignited. But first there were speeched and introductions, all in Spanish, of course. I couldn't follow much of it, but these things are really all the same, everywhere in the world. Part of the program was the introduction of all the women who had ridden by on floats the day before, each the queen of something. One of the things I like about the parades had been that the queen of the whole festival was not a young beauty, but an older woman.

Earlier I had been a little worried about the fires and how close we were allowed, but when the fire and rescue truck pulled up, I relaxed. Then I unrelaxed. The firefighters who brought the truck regarded it as an opportunity to give their friends and families a good seat for the burning. People were perched all over the truck, and it was effectively out of commission.

When the burning began, with one effigy at a time lit following a short speech labeling the type of devil that would be purged when the straw figure, called a Judas, burned. I have since read that this traditional ritual is frequently, and mistakenly, regarded as anti-Semitic. There was no mistaking it here. An American woman standing next to me translated the cursing of Jews and Israel. I was pretty horrified that this is considered OK, and normal, to say the least. I know that for most of its history the Catholic Church has blamed the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ, but this wasn't any old leftover teaching, but a verbal attack on modern Juadaism.

I din't last much after that. Not only was the whole thing tainted, but large flakes of burning paper and straw were raining down on everyone. I got a stinging, very mild burn on my arm. I left.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mexico: '67 Lime Gold Mustang

At first I just got a glimpse out of the corner of my eye, a flash of an unusual color near the cathedral plaza in San Cristobal, one known to me as lime gold.  It was the color of my first car, a 1967 Mustang.  I turned and there it was.  I walked over, and stared.  Wow.  It wasn't mine, of course.  This one was an automatic.and had special speakers on the rear window deck.  But it was the same year, and the same color.OK, it had been repainted, of course, and the color was a bit off, but still...my first car.

Driving with my roommates down to the Cape for the weekend.  Trotting across the beach at Falmouth to feed the parking meter, digging it out of snow.  The morning my fance and I woke up and realized the parking space that we had shoveled out the week before was empty, the car had been stolen. Picking it up ten days later down near Providence, with no appreciable damage done.

I loved that car. I called her Matilda.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mexico: Semana Santa, or Easter Week, in San Cristobal

After spending Carnival in Merida (Ooops, forgot to write about that, maybe later...), I was looking forward to Easter in San Cristobal.  I expected lots of processions, and a crowded town.  I was disappointed on both counts.  I think there were more out in the villages, but I didn't know about them.  Besides, I spent Semana Santa  in Antigua, Guatemala a few years ago, and I doubt anything will ever top that.

Because this was at the height of the flu epidemic, the Mexican tourists that shop owners were expecting didn't really materialize.  Although the numbers were not too far off from the normal season, the tourists didn't fly in from Mexico City or Monterrey, but drove up from nearby places like Villa Hermosa. The flu risk in San Cristobal was minimal.  It doesn't have an airport of its own, and is way off the normal long-distnace bus routes.

The most peculiar thing to me was how little publicity there was.  The cathedral put out a schedule of services, but there were no posters or other advertising that I could see.  I sort of found thigs by happenstance or rumor.  The search for the procession, the mock crucifiction, the burning of the effigies - all these things involved running around, asking questions, and trying to ascertaing times.  The police who were stationed everywhere didn't seem to know much about what they were going to protect when.

Even the chuch services weren't taken very seriously.  I wanted to go into the cathedral to see how it was decorated and what was happening duing Easter mass.  Since I'm not Catholic, and not local, I was hesitant to intrude.  Then I noticed that a lot of Mexicans were going in clutching their cameras, then coming out fairly quickly.  When I saw a nun enter in the middle of the mass and emerge five minutes later, I decided that maybe it wouldn't be too offensive if I went in for a look.  I joined the crowd, stayed for a few minutes, and left, along with many others.

We all headed straight for the vendors.  Tent stalls had been erected on the plaza in front of the church, and blankets were spread on the ground to display handicrafts, toys, and other goods. One corner was set up for bands to perform. It was, above all, a festival.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mexico: San Cristobal de Las Casas, Cool Weather At Last

What a difference altitude can make. In Palenque, every move I made left me drenched in sweat. In San Cristobal I slept under two heavy, thick wool blankets. At nearly 7000 feet (2200 meters), the nights are cool even in the hottest months of the year. During the day, I felt a bit cold in the shade, and a bit warm in the sun. Sun was in short supply, so I wore long sleeves over short sleeved tops, and stuck my collapsible umbrella in my bag for the duration.

San Cristobal wasn't what I expected at all. It's in Chiapas, and the city and the villages around it were the center of of Zapatista rebellion. Now the Zapatistas run a restaurant in town, and sell Zapatista dolls, postcards, and keychains!

The center is geared around tourism, in a much more modern and upscale way than Merida. The two intersecting pedestrian-only streets and sidewalks are paved with flagstone. The sidewalks are wide and open, without the shop overflow that makes walking in some Mexican cities so hazardous. Even outside the tourist area, I was rarely forced to step into the street in order to get by.

All this talk about temperature might seem excessive, but in San Cristobal the problem was the opposite of that in Paleque and Merida. Again, all the restaurants were totally open across the front, and there was no attempt to change the inside temperature. In the evening they were just as cold as the outdoors. There are few coats hanging on the backs of chairs, because taking off your coat really isn't comfortable.

Restaurants were more sophisticated, too. One of my favorites was a Lebanese restaurant across the street from my hotel and another was the Italian restaurant right in my hotel.  I had a favorite table, near the pizza oven, because it was warm.

Yes, I said hotel. I needed a break from hostels and got a private room with share bath for about what I paid for a hostel bed on Isla Mujeres. Because of a low demand for the cheap rooms, I usually had the bathroom to myself.

Add a good English-language used book store, lots of activity in the parks and in the square in front of the cathedral, interesting indigeous villages to visit, and a sprinkling of museums, and I had a great town to pass a few weeks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mexico: Palenque Ruins

In all the heat, I trudged out to the main road and I tried to get the bus out to the ruins.  I was in the right place, but no mini-buses appeared.  I lasted five minutes in the sun.  Taxi!  There is no point in arriving alreay wrung out from the heat, I told myself.  The ruins, higher and more open, would not be quite so hot.  Or so I'd been told.

The Palenque ruins are not a place for people who can't climb.  You need to be a little bit fit, so you can climb and worse, descend, those high pyramid steps.  You need to be able to climb old, high, and uneven steps up into to the jungle if you want to see all of the site.  Between my arthritis and my weight, I can do neither.  So I didn't see the buildings inside the walled enclosures that top the large flat-topped structures.  I missed the homes in the jungle.  I stuck to the flat stuff.

The flat stuff was enough, as it turned out.  The site is not very large, yet it is still easy to find an area that very few of the visitors bother with, to sit and think about what life must have been like, to try and imagine buildings under construction, people shopping, messengers running back and forth, and craftsmen making tools.

I got there fairly early, and by noon I was ready to leave.  While I had been wandering, vendors had arrived, along with the tour buses, and suddenly the area in front of the Palacio was not an open park but a store.  I wasn't too wiped out, so I left for the shops outside the entrance.  Some corn-on-a-stick and even more Gatorade refreshed me, and I looked for the mini-bus.  It was much easier to find at this end.

The bus took me down the hill to the museum, where the finer artifacts are housed (in blessed air-conditioning).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mexico: Palenque Heat

Palenque is a place of Mayan ruins and incredible heat.  Even with my conditioning from being in Merida and rarely having air-conditioning, Palenque was hard to take.  I had a bed in an air-conditioned dormitory, and still the main thing I remember is the heat.  I actually take heat pretty well. One guidebook describes Granada, Nicaragua in May as hell on earth, and I handled it.  But this was smothering, heat to take my breath away.  High humidity, high temperatures, and absolutely no air movement of any kind combined to make me feel I was being steamed alive, a lobster person.

Typically for Mexico, I couldn't find an air-conditioned restaurant in any reasonable proximity to my hostel.  I entered one, in a hotel, and aked it they had air-condtioning in the restaurant.  I walked in and sat down, then instantly realized that having air-conditioning and running air-conditioning are two different things.  The doors were open to the patio.  The customary ceiling fans were missing, because after all, why would one need ceiling fans for a restaurant in a western chain hotel that has air-conditioning?

Electricity in Mexico is really expensive, about three times the rates I used to pay in Florida.  But surely restaurants would get more customers if they actually used the air-conditioning?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mexico: Art in Merida

This is a food court in a small shopping arcade off the main square. walk in from the street, and there they are, surprise murals. Art is everywhere in Merida.

Earlier I mentioned the arts festival that is held every February in Merida. For three weeks there are multiple free concerts every night. There are plays and dance performances. Ethnic dance groups from other parts of Mexico and other countries perform in the streets in addition to the standard Yucatecan dances.

The rest of the winter was rich in art, too. While I was there I saw an exhibit of Picasso drawings, a display of Faberge eggs and other artifacts from the time of the Russian czars, and several local art exhibits. The Russian exhibit was staged in the Governor's Palace, in rooms dedicated to murals by the Yucatecan artist Fernando Castro Pacheco. There's art on the street, too, along the Paseo de Montero.

The cost of all this was - zero. You can pay a few dollars, too, to visit the anthropology museum or the cultural museum. Even the hostel contributed by providing a local musician in the common areas four nights a week, after the free salsa lessons.

There are lots of reasons to love Merida, and art is one of them.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mexico: Izamal, the Yellow City of the Yucatan

In the center of Izamal, all the buildings are painted yellow.  I'm not sure how this started, but the result is charming.  I'm not sure why this is so.  Having all the buildings in a town painted the same color should be boring and dull, but it isn't.  Even the Convent of San Antonio de Padua is the same dark yellow.

The convent is the main tourist attraction in Izamal.  The front side of the arched porticos that surround the outer courtyard form one side of the main square, or zocolo.  I enjoyed prowling the interior, climbing to rooftop terraces, and trying to imagine life there in 1549, the year it was founded.  From this convent Frey Diego de la Landa ordered the complete destruction of all Mayan artifacts and writings, in spite of his interest in Mayan culture.  Later, stricken by remorse at what he had destroyed, he recorded everything he had learned of the Maya, maybe as a sort of penance for what he had done.

There are three Mayan ruins in town.  I walked to two of them, which were unremarkable hills to an amateur eye.  I was more interested in the street that was being paved.   I had to negotiate a rather twisted path through the roadworks.  The final layer was being put down, a reddish topcoat that was stamped with a stonework pattern so it looked more like old brickwork than a new road.

I finished my day with tortas from a street stand, spicy ground pork on baguettes, freshly cooked, cheap, and delicious, then a quick walk to the bus station to catch the last bus back to Merida.

Note:  I'm writing this after returning to the US, and I am not currently in Merida.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

USA: The Proportions of Money

The proportions of money, or rather the things it buys, get all out of sync when you are living or traveling in another country.

Normally, accommodation is the biggest daily expense, whether we pay on a mortgage, rent an apartment, or stay in a hotel or motel. In Thailand, my food and snacks are by far my biggest expense. So, if I have really cheap street food, and pay 20 baht for pad thai, and 10 baht for a bottle of water, I have spent one-fifth of a night's accommodation costs. If I have pasta (100 baht) and a Diet Coke (20 baht), I have spent nearly four/fifths of the cost of a room for the night. A beer or a glass of wine instead of the Diet Coke, and now I've eaten a night's expenses.

I've had to adjust. I try to measure things in terms of food, rather than in terms or room costs. Looked at this way, my room in Chiang Mai cost me five street-food meals or one pasta meal with wine. A tuktuk ride cost 50 baht, or three store-bought Diet Cokes and a really cheap ice cream bar.

Working put another spin on it. I get paid 400 baht for two hours in the classroom. Subtract the 100 baht I spent round-trip, and I made 150 baht an hour. Now, suddenly, I'm working an hour to pay for my room, and worse, I'm working an hour to pay for a pasta dish and a glass of wine.

Travel on to another country, and the proportions change again.  In Mexico, long distance bus fares are more of a factor.  While the buses are great, they are so relatively expensive that for really long trips it can be cheaper to fly.  The bus fare for a five hour ride costs as much as two nights in a dorm on Isla Mujeres.  The bus fare for a five hour ride in Ecuador costs less than one night in a dorm in Quito. 

As a child, I measured money in popsicles. A comic book cost two popsicles.  A paperback book cost fiive.  Even those proportions have changed.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Nicaragua: Reflections on Nicaragua and the Cuisine That Isn't

Someone at the next table said, "There are forty restaurants on Omotepe, and they all have the same menu."
Worse, that menu isn't much different from a tipica menu in the rest of Nicaragua, or in Costa Rica, or in Panama. Honduras and Guatemala?

However, in Nicaragua it's more of a problem for me, because there is very little else. In other places you might find an Italian restaurant or two, maybe a Greek place. But in Nicaragua, it's tipica. It's actually bland tipica, with fewer spices, a limited variety of vegetables, and little variation in preparation.

When you consider the discovery of a hot dog place a major event, you are in trouble gastronomically. When you are served gallo pinto (rice and beans) with pancakes, you are doomed.

So one of the things I enjoyed most about Panama City is the variety of food available. OK, there are tipica restaurants, and they have the standard menu. But on my first day, I saw a lunch place offering bratwurst, then an Italian restaurant, followed by a Chinese place, and a Greek taverna.

Variety isn't necessarily extremely expensive, either. There's a Sushi Express at the food court in the mall. The bratwurst was being served at a small coffee shop.
No wonder I hung out there for months.

Note:  I found this post floating around my documents file, along with a couple of others.  I'm not currently in Nicaragua.

Monday, August 31, 2009

USA: Fear of Rice

One day a couple of years ago, just before returning from a year in Asia, I was walking along a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I looked into a Chinese restaurant and quickly turned away.  I couldn't go in. For over four years, I had spent a huge amount of time in countries where rice is a part of every meal. I'd had rice nearly every day, and for the past year, I often had it twice a day.

Now, suddenly, the idea of sitting down to a Chinese or Indian or even Mexican meal that included rice filled me with a feeling that can only be described as, well, fear. I'd developed a fear of rice!

Kentucky Fried Chicken and the A&W became my favorite restaurants. No rice.

When I arrived back in the US, even hearing or seeing the word made me cringe. I had to ask some of my friends to shift from our usual meeting place, an Indonesian restaurant, to someplace with a different cuisine, like Italian. Raoul, who loves rice, figured my fear was a good reason to eat out a lot, when usually he likes to cook. He had a cupboard full of noodles, so I didn't quite understand his reasoning. Maybe he just was hunting for an excuse, and I provided it.  But I didn't have to face rice.

My next trip would be to Central America, where gallo pinto (rice and beans) comes with everything.  The idea was a little unnerving. After I'd been away from rice for nearly three months, I was able to face my fears and have the Cajun rice at Popeyes.

After a couple of months, the fear returned.  Once I arrived in Panama, it was easy to avoid.  I could get everything here that I can get at home. On a typical day, I'd use the free wi-fi at a place called New York Bagel. I could have a bratwurst for lunch. And on my first night, I ordered a pizza from Domino's.

Now I'm considering a return to Asia. What will happen to me then?Will the fear return? Will I develop a fear of noodles?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mexico: Something to Aim For

I've been thinking back on my Mexico trip, reminiscing a bit.

The woman in the bed next to mine went home at the end of January, winding up a month-long break from the Michigan winter. She won't be home for long though, because at the beginning of March she will leave again. This time she would spend three months traveling with a friend through Argentina and Chile, with a brief stop in Brazil to visit Iguazu Falls. She backpacks, staying in hostels and guesthouses, cooking her meals and doing her laundry by hand, roughing it more than I do.

And in between the two departures, she will celebrate her 77th birthday.

Now, just in case you think she might be overly ambitious with her travel plans, in the past few years she and her friend traveled through Eastern Europe for three months, and spent three months seeing Australia and New Zealand. She mentioned other trips, one to Kruger National Park in South Africa, two trips to China, and many previous trips here. She talked about how much she likes Norway, and there was something about ferries in Scotland.

She does't like to plan too far ahead, but she does have a couple of trips in mind. She wants to visit western China (she takes tours there, because of the language difficulties), and maybe do a road trip in the US, to visit all the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. But, she told me, she's saving that for when she's old.

Note:  I wrote this a while ago and recently came across it in an orphaned folder.  I am not currently in Mexico.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mexico: Racing Through the Ruins - Ruta Puuc

The ruins of the early Mayan Puuc are concentrated around Uxmal, a major site an hour or so south of Merida. Strictly on impulse one day, I decided to take a special bus that would deliver me for a brief stay at four of these ruins in the morning, then deposit me at Uxmal with a couple of hours to explore. I'd been to Uxmal before, so this seemed reasonable.

I had originally planned only to revisit Uxmal, but on the bus ride down I changed my mind. When we parked at Uxmal, instead of getting off the bus, I suddenly stood up and gave the driver the extra money needed for the full route. I still don't know why. I like to take my time when I visit ruins, to wander and sit and try to imagine life there. I don't like to feel rushed and tied to a schedule, but there I was.

At the first site, Labna, we were allowed thirty minutes. The site was small, but I spent two much time at the main building, and not enough exploring the more interesting arch. I just barely made it back to the bus in time. I vowed to do better at X'Lapak.

There, we had only twenty minutes, and that was fine. Or it would have been if I hadn't been the only one who made it back in time. I promised myself I wouldn't push too hard at Sayil. And I didn't, and ended up being one of the last to reach the bus.

Kabah was the last of the small sites on the tour, and should have been the most interesting of the four. It has a famous wall of masks. Or so I hear. The wall of masks is on an upper level, and you have to climb a steep st of fairly high steps to see them. I have arthritis, and I'm heavy, and since I broke my ankle I'm not wildly confident on steps. I really don't like those without railings. As I debated whether there was time for me to give it a shot, I watched a young man in his twenties sidestep down, very carefully. That settled it. It wasn't for me.

Later I heard it was easy to go up, despite the high steps and narrow treads, but the view from the top was very disorienting. The steps were wide, running the length of the plaza, steep, and visually unsettling because there were no sides. Turning sideways eliminated the feeling of being about to pitch forward over a cliff. That explained why everyone seemed to have developed instant arthritis.

The group didn't come back from this part of the trip on time either, so we arrived at Uxmal half an hour late. I was hungry, and I was tired, and I was hot. And I had seen it all before. Why, I thought, should I pay a fairly steep entrance fee to rush around the site. I may have been rushed at the other sites, but the price was right. Two had been free, and the others cost 35 pesos (about two dollars) each.

I declared the race through the ruins over, and had a nice leisurely lunch, a quick walk through the small museum, a look at the shops, and an ice cream. Sitting on one of the slab benches in the visitors center, I remembered that all of these sites had been connected by raised roads, and that they probably had been busy with traders and officials and messangers. Maybe racing through the ruins was the right approach. Maybe it was, in a distorted modern way, a view that the residents had, a quick look as they went about their busy lives.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mexico: Cool in the Yucatan

While it is hot during the day, I'm wearing long pants and long sleeves in the evenings. I even dug out a sweater. I'm planning on going to San Cristobal de las Casas, but was a little put off when someone from Finland told me "It was really, really cold" there. I certainly hope that they had been traveling in the tropics for a long time, and were thoroughly acclimated. Otherwise, I'm not going to enjoy it much.

The last few days it hasn't even been hot during the day. It's rainy and cool. I feel sorry for people who are here for only two weeks and came partly because they just wanted to get away from winter, be warm, and enjoy the sunshine.

St. Pete sometimes gets these winter storm systems, and as the days wear on, everyone gets noticably more irritable. Floridians expect to see the sun every day, for most of the day. Even the rainy season only means afternoon thunderstorms that rarely last more than fifteen to thirty minutes. A passing hurricane can mess things up for a few days, with the same grim effect on peoples' attitudes. We all go around apologizing if we happen to talk to a tourist, as if the spoiling of their break to the sun was our fault somehoe.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mexico: Merida

Merida is one of my favorite places in Mexico. It was hard to drag myself away from the beach, but I finally managed it. And now I'm having an equally hard time dragging myself away from Merida.

Why do I like it so much? The local people seem to enjoy the city a lot, coming out to dance and wander the old city. Most of the tourists are Mexican, which is nice. I don't feel as if I've been dropped into a gringo enclave.

The location is just about ideal. Besides its own attractions, Merida is a great center for day trips. Besides Chichen Itza, there are many other Mayan ruins within two hours of the city. One can go swimming and snorkeling in several different cenotes (sink holes), visit an old monastery in a town that is painted all in ochre, or go to the beach.

I'm more into wandering, though. I sit in the plazas and listen to music or read, or watch the children play, or pop into an art gallery or small museum for a quick look. It's pleasant and relaxing and suits me to a T right now.

However, Merida has been eliminated from my list of potential retirement homes. Why? In summer the temperatures reach 44 degrees Celsius. Since 40 degress is 104 Fahrenheit, that makes 44 about 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Add high humidity, a general lack of air-conditioning, and high electric rates, and another candidate bites the dust. Isla Mujeres has the same problems, combined with being a bit on small side.