Google+ Followers

Monday, 21 April 2014

Mexico- Cancún

19/10/2008:
Last night when we returned to the hotel, the extra mattress promised by the hotel people was not in the room. When I tried to switch on the table lamp, I found that the light bulb was broken, neither the radio nor the T.V. were working.  So Alex went down and asked them to please bring the mattress and replace the light bulb and fix the radio and the T.V. After some delay the student/worker came up with a rubber mattress, a bed sheet and a pillow and put it down on the floor. He told us that they did not have a spare light bulb to replace the broken one, and every thing will be fixed on the morrow,  as it was late and no electrician would come that far from the city. When I asked him, he confessed that he was not a university student but working as an all job man, also sleeping on the floor until the place was refurbished.

The night some how passed, when I awoke early in the morning, the sun light was streaming in through the window, the curtains were thin and transparent and soon the room was hot.
                                                  The View from the window
We got up and got ready. From the kitchen below they brought us a tray of fresh fruit and orange juice, toast & marmalade and coffee and as you can see from the photos, it was a nice breakfast, which refreshed us.
                                                                 A breakfast for two


                                             The Sun over troubled water
                                               
Cancún is divided in two parts, La Ciudad Cancún and La Zona Hotelera. We had found this to be in Tulum too, zona hotelera exclusively for the tourists. Although by Mexican law, as it is in Spain also, all people have the right of access to the beach, to walk and swim. However we had seen the day before that this will not be possible, all the resorts in this area were patrolled by security guards, who would not even permit us to go near and talk to them. There was no access to the beach. So we decided to go to the city (La Ciudad Cancún), have a look at the local fruit and vegetable markets and afterwards, take a bus and visit the various beaches which lie on that side.

So we took the bus which dropped us at the main bus station where we had arrived. From there we walked downtown (El Centro), the Avenida Tulum which is a wide street, full of shops, restaurants and banks. Alex changed some Euros for Mexican Pesos and we had a cup of coffee at 7/11, the American chain of mini stores and we window shopped but there was really nothing of interest to buy. Same brands of clothes and shoes, thanks to globalisation, have invaded all the countries and I personally get sick to see Starbucks, McDonald and KFC infesting even South East Asian countries. It is alright that these companies operate in the north and south American markets, but super malls and hyper markets owned and run mostly by U.S.A companies is intolerable. That is my view. 

After walking more than a kilometre, we reached the municipal market 28. Outside the market were vendors with carts, selling fresh orange and coconut juice and and cold "Chaya" flavoured water.I was told that was a nutritious plant which is used in preparing many other recipes. Alex had a glass of fresh coconut juice and I had Chaya flavoured water. To tell the truth, it tasted like ginseng.

Although it was noon, the place was full with diners at various restaurants there. I looked at the menu of three restaurants, at the plates of food on the tables of diners, to see what the favourite dish was. The traditional dish of Pescado a la Tikin-Xic, fish marinated with annatto(a common yellow food colouring, which is a substitute for saffron and gives a rich colour to the food), sour oranges, peppers, tomatoes, red onions, and spices, seemed to be the popular dish.  This fish is grilled over charcoal, wrapped in banana leaf, and soaked in beer and olive oil. And served with a side dish of vegetables.The price was 120 pesos.
 
 On the menus were also the typical cuisine from Yucatan, "Relleno negro( a dark mole paste made from many spices, to prepare chicken, pork or turkey) and "Cochinita Pibil" , a recipe consisting of pork prepared with annatto and sour orange, sliced and accompanied by red onions and black beans, eaten with corn tortilla or tacos.

We chose a small family run restaurant , which was full of locals, and had to wait about fifteen minutes for a table to be free. Alex ordered Pescado a la Tikin-Xic, and I chose a bowl of Sopa de Lima, a very tasty and light chicken broth, served with shredded chicken, deep fried tortilla chips, and Mexican lime juice and a plate of grilled shrimps with yellow rice, vegetables and onion salad. I tasted a little of the fish and found it quite heavy, as if it had been cooked with butter. But it was fresh, firm and looked very good sitting on the plate. Alex enjoyed it.


It was late afternoon when we finished and walked back to the bus station. Since we could not decide whether to head for the beaches or finish visiting the shopping centre in Zona Hotelera, we decided on the latter and took another bus to go there. As we had suspected, the whole area was nothing but hotels, shopping malls, fast food and big name business. During the two days we had seen nothing of any tourists anywhere and it was the same in this vast area dedicated to shoppers. Almost all the places were empty, low season or the threat of violence in the north, which at that time had the whole country in the grip of fear, had done much harm to the economy of Mexico and we could feel it in Cancún too.
 In the evening when we returned to the hotel, the light bulb had been changed in the room but the T.V. set had not been fixed. I did not fancy the idea of another night sleeping on the floor either.We decided to go to the Isla Mujeres next day.



 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Mexico- The Road to Cancun

We left Tulum in the morning, buses and colectivos which stop at any place you are waiting, run to Puerto Carmen and Cancun. The bus travel in Mexico is easy and comfortable, buses are air-conditioned, you receive a half litre bottle of mineral water on entering the bus, and without the noisy loud music which is played inside the bus, it Will be a perfect way of travelling. But this nuisance exists not only in Mexico, we have found that it exists in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India too.



The bus journey to Playa Carmen took less than one hour, when the bus stopped near the harbour, I saw from the window of the bus the boats and many people strolling about, and I told Alex that we should get down there. I was not so keen on going to Cancun, a city noted not for any historical or architectural monuments, but to the mass tourism. We have seen the beautiful cities around the world destroyed by this phenomena and in Spain itself, the islands like the Canaries, Balearic and even the South coast of Spain turned into shopping malls, cement buildings, gaudy bars, alcoholic dens infested by binge drinkers.



However, before we could decide whether to get down there, the bus restarted and we reached Cancun. On this journey we had not stayed at many hostels frequented by backpackers as Alex knew I preferred individual accommodation. So he had missed out on meeting the young crowd, but now I was not feeling good and we decided to find a quiet place to stay.

 In front of the bus station was a billboard announcing a comfortable hotel, so we crossed the road and enquire at the reception desk if there was a double bedroom available. Yes there was and we could see it too. The available room on the third floor, after traversing a long corridor was shabby and looked down at the bus station and at the city sprawled on the right. We said sorry, we wanted a quiet room at the back. We came out of the hotel and asked at the bus station if there was any tourist information office nearby. A man standing nearby, who turned out to be a hotel agent told us about a new hotel in the Zona Hotelera, which was not so expensive. He wrote down  the address and the bus number which would take us to that place on Boulevard Kukulcan. He told us that he was an student and was working as a hotel representative to make some money. Which later turned out to be untrue.


                                                          A partial view of the pool

We took the bus and asked the driver to drop us at the hotel, but he told us that he did not know it, and we should keep a look- out from the window. Looking out we saw large tourist complexes "resorts" behind 12 meter walls, guarded by security personnel, there were no street numbers and the bus took us to the last stop, near Hotel Melia. Disappointed, we started walking back, asking a security guard or a passerby, but nobody could tell us about this hotel. After walking quite some distance, we at last found a building, a makeshift sign posted outside, gave away the secret that it was a hotel.
We entered the building, hot from the long walk and saw that it was a beautiful building, a young couple were spreading bedsheets on the floor. There was a strong smell of paint and their clothes were spattered with it.  We said hi! and shook hands. The girl was about 30 years old, the man little younger and they told us that they had rented the whole building and were planning to turn it into a hotel. That we were the third party which had come to stay. We wished them all the luck and showed our interest in having a look at the room. They told us that the rooms at the ground and first floor were as yet not ready, but a large room on the second floor was. So we left our things on the ground floor and walked up to the second floor.

As you can see from the photos, it was a pleasant room, there was one big bed in the centre of the room, a T.V. set and a radio on a corner table. The bathroom was clean. We said we liked the room and how much was the rent. The rent we were told was 500 pesos, but could have it for 480 pesos since we had been sent by their representative. I told them that we were looking for cheaper accommodation and made a move to go out. At that minute a very young girl and the representative, who had given us the address, entered the room, we talked a little more and he told us that we could have it for 450 pesos. I told him that one bed was not big enough for two and he told us that he will bring up a spare mattress and one of us could sleep on the floor. We said OK! The reason we took the room was the beautiful view of the sea from our room and from the small balcony.





We went down, picked up our backpacks, went up again and sprawled on the bed. We were tired. It was late afternoon and from the window we could see the sea and in the distance the outline of Isla Las Mujeres, which is just a fifteen minute hop by ferry.

                                                  A view from the terrace

Adjacent to our hotel was a large mansion with a private landing place and in the evening we saw a boat berthed out in the sea. The whole beach are is private, belonging to the resorts which look out to the sea but from the street are totally private and enclosed by tall walls. We later went down to eat something nearby, as the city centre was far and the only way was to take a bus. We saw that the beach was not safe for bathing, the shore was full of dirt and algae and quite windy.

The restaurant about three hundred meters from the hotel was empty, only three tables were full, each occupied by a couple. We sat on the terrace facing the sea, but the wind was so strong that we moved inside the covered area. It is my rule never to ask a hotel clerk or receptionist to recommend a restaurant, although I have broken this rule a few times, as I did now. The restaurant was expensive, menu very limited and when we asked the waiter as to what could we eat, he suggested Paella and Squid. When we asked why the restaurant was empty, we were told that it was off season and there were not many tourists. We gathered that the prices were high because it was in the area of the resorts.

We had cold beers each, ordered Paella and Squid in garlic sauce as suggested by the waiter, an elderly stout man of over fifty. After a delay of nearly forty minutes, by which time we had another beer and eaten a plate of green salad,  the waiter brought a tray of Paella, rice floating in liquid,  a few shrimps and a few shell fish, three slices of red pepper and some pieces of chicken. And it was cold. I knew that the paella had come out of tin and shrimps and other ingredients had been added to make it look fresh.



                                                 The restaurant where we had cold paella
                                The sunset over Carribean Sea. In the distance Isla Mujeres


                                                The swimming pool at our hotel

I called the waiter and told him point blank what I thought of his paella and he confessed that since it was off season and there were no customers, the cook had opened a tin. So I told him to cancel the order of Squid in garlic sauce. We had hoped that he would apologise or offer us a free drink, may not charge for the beer or the salad which was nothing but limpid cucumber, cabbage, tomato and onions. But he did nothing of the sort and we paid 72 pesos for paella, salad and beer apart. I know that paella looks good in the photo but in reality was uncooked rice and unappetising.
And at night it rained.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

MEXICO- TULUM AND ITS RUINS

15/10/2008:
Last night it was very hot, mosquitos were going full blast, the noise of their wings in my ears was most annoying and shuffling from one side to another, trying to swat them with my hands, did not ditter them from their attacks. There was no mosquito net over the bed, I think it was because of its large size, and I wished I were a zebra with my own unique stripes to confound the buzzing brutes. Although I was suffering from a cold and fever, we got ready to go and visit the ruins.

We went out and had a breakfast of oranges and fresh juice, I had a coffee to perk me up and then walked up to the main road and caught a taxi. The fare was 40 pesos and it left us at some distance from the ticket booth. It was early, but there already was a line of tourists before the ticket window,  mostly Americans in their loud clothes and with their loud voices, complaining about the delay in opening the ticket window as it was past 8 a.m. The entrance fee was 45 pesos, at Chichen-Itza we had paid 48 pesos.



At the entrance were the kiosks selling mineral water and sweets and potato, souvenirs and jewelry etc, and walking inside towards the ruins, we saw the map of Tulum, as the strategic and important trade route to the Caribbean sea and the ruins of the castle and the wall surrounding it, like a fortress, which were the only things of interest to see. From the perched up on the hill, you could look down at the turquoise sea and the beach and palm trees, but it was nothing to write home about. We had already seen the ruins in Mexico city and Merida and were not so very keen on visiting any more ruins, ancient or modern. The whole area was full with iguanas, huge animals, sitting under scanty shade or sunning themselves. Like the Mexican people, they were totally unconcerned and uninterested in the tourists. And not scared at all.



                                     The Castle and the wall surrounding it

The heat was intense and although Alex lingered some time, I came back to the entrance and sat down, my head was throbbing and I desperately needed shade and rest. After half an hour or so, we decided to take the path which goes down to the beach, through the Hotelera Zone. The distance was about one kilometre. That part of the beach where the villas are, we could see the well appointed bungalows and cabins, surrounded by tall hedges and wooden fences, some had large verandas with swimming pools. The zona hotelera are self contained villas and apartments, where the tourists pass most of their time, eat lunch and dinner and have drinks, they do not venture out and visit the village and do not help the local economy.



We reached the far end of the beach where we had been the day before and spread our towels on the powdery white sand. The sea was rough, a brisk wind was blowing, a few swimmers were splashing in the water near the shore. No surfer, no boat or yatch in sight. The heat was intense and since swimming was out of the question, we also splashed in the sea and picked up our towels and walked to the restaurant where we each had a cold beer. And took a taxi which left us in the avenida Tulum.
Alex did not want to have any Mexican food, he bought a bread roll with some fillings at the Subway outlet and I had a portion of fried chicken with guacamole and onion salad at a nearby small restaurant, where the locals were eating. Every where they give you cold cooked rice, frijoles, cabbage, guacamole and onion salad. But I said "no gracias señora" to the lady who served me.

Afterwards we went to one of the restaurants and had mojitos. All drinks, be it beer, rum with coke, mojito, cost 50 pesos, which I found expensive. But Mexico is not cheap when it comes to eating in a restaurant.
It was past five in the evening when we went back to the apartment and were soon asleep. There were few mosquitoes buzzing around and had to take advantage of the situation. In the evening the fever returned and I could not get up for next two days. On 18th October, we left for Cancun. Alex had missed his appointment there. I was so sorry.




Sunday, 13 April 2014

MEXICO- TULUM (QUINTANA ROO)

The apartment had been cleaned and fresh bed sheet and pillow cases put on the bed, two thin towels were laid on a chair in the corner. The small cooking area  was not altogether so clean as we had expected, so I took a dish cloth and wash up liquid and thoroughly washed the long stone slab on which the cups and saucers, plates and glasses stood, and properly washed & cleaned them.

                                                        Iguanas every where

We shaved and showered and lay down on the big bed and soon were asleep. When we awoke, it was afternoon and after freshening up, went out to see the town. There were fruit and vegetable stalls in the street in which was the apartment, and two kiosks selling bottled water, soft drinks and sweets and sundry snacks. So it was easy for us to buy water etc, on our return. As we turned the corner to enter the main street, Avenida Tulum, Alex saw a Subway outlet, the fast food company shop. We had missed seeing it when we went to have a look at the apartment. So he knew where to have vegetarian snacks.

Tulum was a small place, with just one main street, shops and small eating places and hotels and hostels on both sides of the road. It reminded me of those windblown hick towns you see in spaghetti western movies, where a gun totting gringo would suddenly appear to be downed by the sheriff. We walked on and passed the bus station where we had alighted earlier and enquired if there was any market or supermarket. We were told that there was a super at the walking distance of about ten minutes, which turned out to be nearly one kilo meter and was called Super Mar Carib. A small place where we bought some beer, a small bottle of rum and soft drinks. A sign in the window informed us that sale of alcoholic drinks was open from 8-22hrs, monday to friday, from 8-14hrs. on saturdays and no alcohol was sold on sundays. Mexican authorities control the sale so that the consumption is restricted. In bars and restaurants there was no such restriction.

On our way back, we stopped at El Mariachi restaurant where we had grilled fish with cold beer and Mexican coffee. I was not feeling so good, so we decided to call it a day and on our way back, we bought two bottles of mineral water and went to the apartment.

In the evening I was feeling better so we decided to go to the beach and have look around. We took a taxi to the beach, where the wooden cabins were and were surprised at the dissolute dark cabins sitting in the heat on stilted thin poles. Not a tree was around them. On enquiring we found out that many were without toilets and rent varied between 550-700 pesos per night. That there were some self contained bungalow types, which were near the ruins, in the Hotelera Zone, but the rent was from 1500 pesos and upwards per night.

 There was only one restaurant at quite some distance on the beach and walking there on the powdery white hot sand, was not very pleasant. As we walked on, the wind stirred up and suddenly it started raining. There was no shelter so we started running, wet and full of sand, to the taxi stand, took a taxi and went back to the apartment.
                                 A view of the beach at Tulum from the Zona Hotelera


Friday, 11 April 2014

MEXICO- TULUM THE CITY OF DAWN

14/10/2008:
It was our plan, after visiting the ruins of Chichen-Itza, to stay in Merida for a day or two and enjoy its cosmopolitan ambience, then visit Tulum, Playa de Carmen and the island of Cozumel and then reach Cancun. The evening was cooler, the park was full of people, families with children, young couples sitting or strolling, a musical bandplaying. There were many bars and restaurants with terraces and we enjoyed a carefree evening, drinking tall cool drinks. However, we also had to be in Cancun by 16th October, so it was decided that we should first go to Tulum and see what to do next.
-
DSC05622.jpg
DSC05623.jpg
In the evening it rained and strolling the streets of Merida, we got very wet and at night I got a chill. In the morning we took a taxi to the bus station and bought our tickets for Tulum. The bus journey lasted more than four hours, the airconditioning in the bus gave me the chills and by the time we reached Tulum, I was running a fever. It was afternoon when we reached Tulum and walking down the main street, to find a suitable hotel/hostel, we came across two young ladies and a local man, walking towards us. Alex said Hi guys, can you please suggest a place to stay? The ladies who were American teachers on holiday, told us that the man who was with them, had just rented them a cabin at the beach and if we wished, we could stay with them. We declined and the man told us that he had another apartment nearby where he himslef was staying and which he could vacate and give to us for our stay of a day or two. But they would like to eat first, and then the man would take us to have a look at the apartment.
The ladies, in their early forties, one slim and the other stout, knew Mexico and the slim one had often visited Mexico in her holidays. She said that she liked the country and its food. The local man was swarthy, with a pot belly and sweating in his half sleeved white shirt and crumpled white trousers, which needed a wash. He was over fifty, with matted hair which also needed washing, and looked like a cross between El Zorba but not the Greek and a Mexican Peón. After they had some food and Alex and me had a beer each, we left the ladies at the restaurant and accompanied the man to have a look at his apartment.
DSC05634.jpg
The apartment was at a distance of ten minutes walk from the main street, Avenida Tulum, it was one large room with a huge double bed, with a kitchen in one corner and attached bathroom, all filthy. Food lying in dirty plates and soiled bedsheets and towels. The man told us that if we liked the place, it will take him half and hour to clean it and change the sheets and towels. The rent was 350 pesos per day. I was not feeling very well, so we decided to take it and while the man remained in his apartment, we left our backpacks there and went back to the restaurant and had a drink with the American ladies until the man came back and gave us the key. So we said goodbye to the two ladies and promised to visit them at their cabin on the beach the next day and again walked back to the apartment. We were tired, it had stopped raining and we wanted to shower and rest first, before venturing out again and see the town and find some place to eat.
-DSC05635.jpg

Friday, 4 April 2014

MEXICO- MERIDA & CHICHEN-ITZA (STATE OF YUCATAN).2

---
In 1517 El Conquistador Bernal Diaz de Castillo, who at that time was living in Santiago de Cuba,  started his journey in the quest of new lands and Diego Velasquez, the governor of Cuba furnished them three ships. The Captain chosen by them was Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, a rich merchant of Cuba. He and his party discovered the shores of Yucatan, they first landed at Punta de Cotoche (Campeachy) where, after skirmishes with the  natives, they captured two Indians and brought them to Havana (Cuba). There they were closely questioned by the governor Diego Velasquez as to whether there were any gold mines in their country. The Mexicans were shown the gold dust which was found in Cuba, and the Indians answered in the affirmative. But this proved to be untrue. (Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Diaz de Castillo-(written by himself) published in 1632. ---
The Spaniards had seen Maize fields in Cotoche, the two Indians who were christianised and named Melchor and Julian, were shown the plants of Cassava root, which was grown in Cuba and was called Yuca. Cuban made bread from the Cassava flour. The Indians nodded and assured the governor and the people assembled there that indeed such roots grew in their country too and was called TALE.The Spaniards who were assembled around the governor Velasquez, told him, in the confusion of the sign languages and pronunciation of the words, that the Indians called their country Yucatan. From these two words, Yuca+tale came the name Yucatan. And the name stuck(memoirs of Bernal Diaz). ---
It was Mayas who traversed Mexico and arrived in Yucatan and who started the construction of such beautiful temples and other monuments in Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas and Quintana Roo, which were parts of Yucatan. The Spaniards were so astonished at the civilised ways of the Mayans, their stone built houses, cities with wide avenues, markets full of abundant merchandise, their art of making cloth etc,  that they named the capital Merida, in memory of the city of the same name in Spain, which also is an archaeological wonder with ruins and remains of Roman architecture.  Chichen-Itza ( which means at the mouth of the water well Itza. ----
Itza was a large city in pre-Colombian days built by Mayans and it is one of the most visited sites of Mexico. In Yucatan much of the population still speak Mayan language but I could not find out what was the original Mayan name for the peninsula. The Mayans built their pyramids with stone and the most famous is the Kukulkan pyramid, renamed El Castillo by the Spaniards.The four sides of the Kukulkan pyramid contain 365 steps in total 91 steps per side and the final 365th step on top representing the solar year, 52 panels for each year in the Mayan century as well as each week in the solar year,  and 18 terraces (for the 18 months in the religious year). The height of the pyramid is more than 12 meters, and is a monumental representation of the Mayan calendar. --
Mayan structures in Chichen Itza were built for different purposes, there is the astronomical Observatory El Caracol, the imposing Temple of Warriors, the reclining statue of Chac Mool, a classic Maya sculpture, believed to have served as an altar for sacrifices, and the Nunnery,probably inhabitated by the nobility and the ruling class, with two patios and a Ball game court decorated with reliefs featuring players. There are the remains of El Templo de los Tableros, the name of the building comes from the reliefs carved on the walls of the Colonnade,depicting scenes of people, plants, animals (both real and imaginary) dominated by two warriors. ---
Then there is the Plataforma de las Tumbas(Platform of the Tombs) the funerary structure, which probably served as a storage for human bones, since bones were also unearthed from other tombs. Most noteworthy features of this structure are the colums that rise up out of the mother rock and sustain a roof and a serpentine frieze which adorns the upper part of the platform. There is a path which connects the Northern path with the observatory "El Caracol", which was built in three stages (Sacbeoob 5&15)which is connected with the Temple of Xtoloc, the main Diety of the Mayans. This temple which is the largest in the centre of Cichhen-Itza, decorated with bass reliefs of birds, animals and mythological scenesand a large container, where archeolgists had found human remains. The temple was used for religious ceremonies. --
La Plaza de las Mil Columnas (the Plaza of 1000 columns) with its steam bath building, with inner bathing chambers, waitng rooms with heating stones tell us about the social life of the Mayans, their knowledge, meaning and understanding of the worldly and celestial beings. There are numerous buildings to see at Chichen-Itza. -
The Yucatán Peninsula is a limestone plain, with no rivers or streams. The region is pockmarked with natural sinkholes, called cenotes, which expose the water table to the surface. One of the most impressive of these is the Cenote Sagrado, which is 60 metres (200 ft) in diameter,[54] and sheer cliffs that drop to the water table some 27 metres (89 ft) below.
The Cenote Sagrado was a place of pilgrimage for ancient Maya people who, according to ethnohistoric sources, would conduct sacrifices during times of drought.[54] Archaeological investigations support this as thousands of objects have been removed from the bottom of the cenote, including material such as gold, carved jade, copal, pottery, flint, obsidian, shell, wood, rubber, cloth, as well as skeletons of children and men. There are dense forests surrounding many sites and the whole area has a mystry about it. A local guide, who was explaining the history of Mayans to a group of french tourists told us that there were many undiscovered temples and pyraminds in that area which had not been discovered yet because of density of the forests. Many local people were sitting and carving wooden statues of their dieties and their workmanship was superb. The wooden statues were beautiful and we also bought one. The statue is of Aztec Diety Humming Bird "Huitzilopochtl", the  god of sun and patron of  war and fire.
 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

MEXICO- MERIDA (STATE OF YUCATAN) 1

We arrived at Merida airport after ten 0'clock at night, it was raining and the night air was clean and warm. Alex took out the Lonely Planet Guide to see at which hostel we could find accommodation at that late hour.Alex phoned Nómadas Youth Hotel (tlf.924-52-23) and was told that we could come there. We took a taxi and by mistake gave the taxi driver the name of Hostel Zócalo ( mentioned erroneously in LP guide with the same tlf. number 924-52-23).The hostel (Tlf.930-95-62) was in the centre of the city and on arrival we saw a small band of musicians playing in the plaza. In the photo which I took immediately from the window of the hostel, you can see the plaza below.It had stopped raining. We rang the bell and nothing happened, we rang again a few more times, the door opened and a man in a singlet with a sleepy countenance opened the door and wanted to know what we wanted. We told him that we had phoned earlier and had made a reservation. The man said that no one had phoned him. So Alex showed him the LP guide and discovered the error. We had phoned one hostel and came to a different one

                                              The Cathedral at night

The hostel was one the first floor and as we went up, a troupe of cockroaches appeared from nowhere and scurried about. We went up and the receptionist showed us a room with two beds, with sharing toilet and bath outside. The room overlooked the plaza down, and the walls were full of graffiti. The beds were sagging, it was stuffy and hot and street noise was loud. The man told us that in the morning we could change the room. So after nine hours' journey we got a room where sleep was impossible.  In the photo I have posted, and which I took from our room,  you can see the plaza and the cathedral in the background.

Early in the morning we heard loud bangs and voices outside our room and opening the door, found many other travellers, preparing and eating breakfast. There was a long table in the middle of the hall, with a small kitchen in the corner, dirty cutlery, plates, cups and saucers piled up in the sink. which turned my stomach. I went to the W.C and found three cubicles with broken plastic doors. When I came back to our room, a young woman appeared at the door and told us that we could change the room later. She was the manageress/owner. I asked her as to how it was possible that the room was full of graffiti, shower and W.C door broken and the place so dirty? She arrogantly told me that it was the backpackers who had wrecked the doors. I told her that we would not stay and will look for another lodging. She told us that we could leave our backpacks in a room and collect them later.

                     The Plaza in front of Hostel Zocalo. The Cathedral is in the background.

We showered and without eating any breakfast went out to have a look at the city centre El Zócalo and to find another hotel or hostel. The Plaza Grande and its park, with benches to sit down under the shade of tall trees, was wonderful and we had our breakfast at an open air cafe. The streets were lined with shops. So we strolled down the streets and after giving a round, found a hostel, owners of which were Spanish. The place was neat and had an interior garden in the patio and rooms on the ground and first floor. So we took a room, went back to Hostel El Zocalo to collect our backpacks. The young woman told us that we will have to pay 60 pesos for the storage of our packs

                                 The garden in the patio interior of our new hostel.

We found Merida a very cosmopolitan city, streets were narrow but the plazas broad, el Plaza Grande, in the centre of busy streets and the hustle & bustle of the city, shaded by tall trees and benches to sit on.  Los Meridianos, like Madrileños take their paseos (strolls) there. In all cities constructed by the colonial Spaniards, the Plaza is its main centre, beautifully planted with trees and its promenade where people gather in the evenings to listen to municipal band playing the Serenata. Such practise still exists in many Spanish cities and towns.

When Spaniards first settled in the main cities of  the colonial America, the neighbourhoods of the elite, the ruling class, were in separate areas of the cities, so that those ill-smelling pulque saturated labour class peons or Indians could not rub shoulders with the noble class. Even in the plazas the gentry with the town officials sat on one side of the park whereas the ordinary people were gathered on the other side. This I personally know from living in Spain, although I have never seen any segregation of classes in Spanish society. You will find a gardener, a mason or a labourer rubbing shoulders with the mayor, the judge or a lawyer in the local bar, playing a game of cards or dominoes, in their leisure time, without any class distinction.

In the evenings you will find well dressed señoritas, chaperoned by their sisters or elderly women, promenading, with their endless chatter, followed by young boys, the young men doing their military service, trying to draw the attention of the girls who seem to be attracted to them, laughing, flirting and enjoying the life which only Spanish know how to do.
  
Mexicans are known for their love of  music and in Merida in the evening, when we came to sit in the park, a band was playing and some older couples were dancing. El Paseo de Montejo, the wide avenue full of shops and restaurants is the main throb of the city and at night some night clubs and one or two discos were open, their  garish neon lights attracting the passersby. We found it very pleasant city indeed.     


    

Blog Archive