Posts Tagged With: Palenque

Day 203: Palenque – Mexico – Jan 6th

Waking up in the dark at 5:30am, we got ready and were waiting for a shuttle to take us out to the ruins Yaxchitlan. The tours seem to be extremely popular, but one strange thing is everybody seems to be on the same tour bus/route/schedule regardless of who you booked with. The tours were very smoothly ruin, despite us not really knowing what’s going on or where we’re going next, just trust where people point you to and eventually you’ll arrive at the destination. Actually, it’s pretty scary if you think about it!

Yaxchitlan is actually in the middle of the jungle, and no roads have been paved to get there. The only way is to enter the national park area, and take a boat into the ruins! Sounds pretty adventurous doesn’t it? The national park area is pretty neat as it has resort-style lodgings outside for visitors who want to stay over night. Seems like a lot of local Mexicans prefer to travel this way! For us, we just endured the 40min boat ride and landed into the ruins of Yaxchitlan. Walking about 5mins through a jungle trail with thick vegetation on both sides, you get damp and wet without breaking a sweat.

Then, rising out of nowhere is the sight of a moss covered building, and you can’t help but imagine what it was like to have stumbled across these ruins a hundred years ago. Walking into the pitch dark ruin (it was the only way through), we were lucky to have brought a headlamp. Looking around inside were the typical Mayan arches, stone walls, and bats. Yes, bats. First time seeing bats in a ‘natural’ habitat, we were somewhat creeped out. It didn’t help that, as we were trying to make a turn into the next room, a bat comes out of nowhere and flies through the doorway, giving us a bit of a scare! Ha ha, creepy gross.

We won’t give too much details about the ruins, but it was well worth the visit. Being the first time in a jungle, we also got to see and hear some monkeys. The monkey species most prevalent here is the howler monkey, capable of making some REALLY awesome howls. It’s somewhat scary though, as you’re wandering around the ruins, and out of nowhere 10m away from you, this deafening howl comes and gives you a scare…haha. There were also many massive trees that dot the main plaza, with their canopies sheltering us from the rain, it was rather surreal as we’re not used to seeing trees about 5 stories tall!!

After lunch at the lodge, we were shuttled over to another site known as Bonampak. Much smaller in size, it had plenty of intricate stone carvings. The coolest part though was the murals inside a stone building, which dates back to 6th century AD. While we were there though, we saw a group of American tourists with a name tag stating “Yale Education Travel”. The tour looked professionally run, and the tour guide gave extremely knowledgeable speeches regarding all the pieces within the ruins. We tagged along and listened a bit and was really interesting. Later on, we found out that the tour guide was actually a world-leading expert in Mayan art, author of renowned Mayan books, and the Dean of Yale College…. Cool.

A tiring day, and getting back to town it was too late for us to shop for groceries and cook. So we grabbed an awesome meal….at Burger King! Good, exciting day!

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Day 202: Palenque – Mexico – Jan 5th

Arriving after a 14hr bus ride, we finally arrived into the city of Palenque in the province of Chiapas. Our backs were stiff and feeling definitely dazed from the whole ride. This town definitely has less of the charm of the few cities we’ve seen in Mexico, and feels more like a ‘local’ city and very few tourists. We were fooled by appearances though, as once we saw numerous hotels throughout town, and our hostel is probably one of the best run we’ve seen so far… except somehow all the water coming from the pipes tastes like rust?!?!? It’s gross. Other than that, this place looks extremely awesome!

A much needed shower in the rusty smelling water, we were all ready and headed out to see the synonymous ruins of Palenque. Before taking the local van, we found a grungy-looking taco stand next to a construction site and a store selling “Brangus Beef”. It was either cheap tacos in the parking lot, or sit down for something similar for thrice the price? Surprisingly, the taco stand guy spoke fluent English and had EXTREMELY good manners too! After we finished our tacos, we saw him fixing some massive pot at another stove, and I ventured over for a gander. He told me it was barbacoa, a type of Mexican pork dish, and then he proceeded to say “May I provide you with a sample of this?”. Wow, who says that! The pork was definitely awesome, and so was the taco stand guy!

The ruins of Palenque are close to the city, but unlike any other ruins we’ve seen, it is situated inside the jungle!! With the thick, humid air wafting in your face and thick moss smothered over aged stone, this matched our mental image of what a Mayan ruin actually should be! We’ll let the pictures do the talking, as we’re no expert on this, except we both know that this is all very, very cool.

The best part about the hostel though, is the fact that there is a kitchen, and a supermarket is only a 10min walk away!!! We managed to FINALLY eat some veggies (Note to everyone: There aren’t many places to eat veggies in Mexican cuisine), and some “home cooked” dishes to go with… instant noodles. Ha ha. Washing it down with a cold beer, and we were two happy travelers.

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