A coveted time of the year for teachers: Spring Break! A chance to rest, rejuvenate, and hopefully have some well-deserved downtime. In my family, however, Spring Break usually means spending time on my own, as my husband is in the thick of tax season (he is an accountant) and rarely has time for R'n'R at the end of March. Rather than spend Spring Break alone in the spring of 2011, I decided to be brave and venture to sunny Cancun, Mexico on my own for a short but exciting holiday.
|The waters of Cancun, Mexico are so vibrant and colorful!|
I booked tickets with CheapTickets.com, which provided me with a pretty good price, and introduced me to Gray Line tours, which was an excellent side tour company. Through Gray Line, I booked transport to and from the airport, a dolphin swim at the Dreams Cancun resort, a trip out to Chichen Itza, and a catamaran/snorkeling cruise at Isla Mujeres. Considering I was only in Mexico for 3 full days, this was a busy trip! I would highly recommend utilizing Gray Line tours if visiting Cancun in the future!
This blog post will focus on one of the most exciting and interesting tours I participated in: the trip to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city, located in the Yucatan in the midst of the Mexican jungle. The city was somewhat abandoned after the Spanish invasion of the peninsula, but was 'rediscovered' in 1843 and quickly became a public fascination.
I happen to be one of those members of the public fascinated with the city, as well. Ever since junior high, I'd imagined myself exploring the ruins and climbing the majestic El Castillo, the largest pyramid in the ancient complex. (However, climbing is unfortunately no longer allowed after a tourist fell to her death down the stairs of El Castillo, which I can tell you, are extremely steep and painful-looking if you happen to be falling down them...)
|Standing outside El Castillo at Chichen Itza|
The bus ride from Cancun to Chichen Itza was about two hours, but we spent it watching a documentary on the Mayans, and listening to our knowledgeable tour guide, Carlos, tell us all he knew about the ruins. When we arrived, we had a chance to get refreshed at the beautiful Hotel Mayaland, the hotel complex located on the doorstep of Chichen Itza. I found all sorts of fun things to photograph (random roaming peacocks, and giant piich trees). When everyone was ready, we headed into Chichen Itza under the gaze of the glaring sun.
|Displaying how massive the giant piich tree really is.|
Buildings we explored included the Temple of the Iguanas, complete with real iguanas dripping off tree branches, the Temple of the Warriors, the Observatory (El Caracol), the Nunnery, El Castillo, the ball court, and much more. There were hardly words to describe how awestruck I felt wandering amongst these giants of ancient construction. Many carvings still remained, clear and mysterious and just waiting for my camera!
|Finding a moment of shade beside the Temple of Iguanas.|
Along the side streets, cheap trinkets, carvings, items of clothing, even hammocks, were being sold by boisterous vendors promising, "Cheap prices - almost free!" Most items were vocally advertised as one dollar (ten pesos) but upon arrival at the table, it was discovered this was the price for the tiny carvings only. Most items were priced at twenty dollars or more, but bartering was an expectation. I purchased a "sixty dollar" carved mask for ten dollars, and five clay El Castillo models for eight dollars.
|The crowded side streets of Chichen Itza - shopping anyone?|
I love bartering! My best advice for that is, offer to pay as low as you dare. They won't take you seriously anyway, but the lower you start, the better chance you have of getting a deal. You might sound cheap, but we all know the vendor is going to talk you up a bit anyway. Never pay more than half the original price. If they don't give you the price you want, tell them you'll keep looking for a better deal and WALK AWAY. Odds are, they will follow you with the price you originally asked for, or even lower. A young boy tried to sell me a stone jaguar for twenty-five dollars, and I had him bartered down to ten when I actually held the item. It was much too heavy for my suitcase, so I ended the sale. The boy followed me down the side street, and I could have bought the jaguar for three dollars had I stopped and completed the sale. Bartering does take practice, and you have to be willing to sound cheap, but in places like Mexico, it is a natural part of selling goods. Have fun with it! See how low you can go!
|My waitress at Hotel Mayaland, spinning and dancing!|
We left Chichen Itza after about four hours, and even though that might seem like a short amount of time, I was ready to go. It was scorching hot that day, and there is no cool, salty sea breeze in the middle of the jungle. I was almost ready to leap into the sacrificial cenote just to get some heat relief, if the suction of the cenote would not have drug me to a watery death. We dined in Hotel Mayaland, where Mexican dancers spun in dizzying circles with trays of tequila shots on their heads for our entertainment. We ate traditional Mayan corn tortillas with marinated pork and chicken, sweetened with green salsa. It was delicious! Then it was back onto the bus, back to Cancun, and back to the sweet relief of the cool ocean waves! The trip out to Chichen Itza was definitely worth it, though! I recommend it to anyone!