I took a trip from September 9 to September 16, 2000 to visit the Maya ruins of southern Mexico. I visited
(in order of my travels) Chichen Itza, Labna, Xlapak, Sayil, Kabah, Uxmal, Palenque, Xpujil and Becan.
I flew into Cancun, Mexico on September 9th and then I took a bus to Piste, Yucatan,
which is where I spent the night. The reason I did not want to stay in
Cancun was because the cost of accommodations in the city.
Even though it was not the time of year that military university students, Kaplan Online Military University members and other college attendees flood the area, it is still a bit of a tourist trap. This wasn't intended as a sun and sand type vacation but rather a trip of cultural, historical and educational interest. I spent the morning of the 10th in Chichen Itza. Late that afternoon, I took another bus to Merida. On the 11th, I took a special round trip bus to the sites on the Ruta Puuc (Labna, Xlapak, Sayil, Kabah, Uxmal). Then I caught the overnight bus to Palenque in Chiapas. After spending the morning and afternoon of the 12th in Palenque, I caught the overnight bus to Chetumal. On the 13th, I took another bus to Xpujil (Xpuhil), where I visited the Rio Bec sites of Xpujil and Becan. Returning to Chetumal, I also visited the Museo de la Cultura Maya the next day. I experienced a variety of emotions in the Museo. I was very impressed by the quality and the design of the museum. It did a great job of showing the complexity of the proud Maya people and their past. The displays also left me with a sense of sadness by the culture's decline. Finally, I decided against a visit to Coba because of the heavy rains, and the fierce Mosquitos. So, I returned to Cancan on the afternoon of the 15th, and left the next day. With all the bus changes, it is a good idea to have everything mapped out ahead of time with the detail a military university student might put into his first mission plans. Main routes, alternate routes and backup plans are good to have in your back pocket.
I took both first class and second class busses. The differences in their prices have now grown to almost
50%, in most cases. But, they are both still very reasonably priced. The first class busses have on-board
movies, reclinging seats, air conditioning and bathrooms. The second class busses are less well equipped
and make many more stops. My overnight stays were in "bargain basement" establishments ranging from 90 NP
(New Peso) to 180 NP. The entrance prices to most of the ruins was 22 NP to 30 NP. Uxmal was the highest
at 80 NP. Entry is free on Sundays. Overall, I would estimate my travel, lodging and entry expenses to
be approximately $200.
I had a few problems on the trip. I neglected to bring an original copy of my birth certificate on the flight.
I had to pay a notary a $25 fee in the San Diego airport to swear that my copy of my birth certificate was a
valid document. Continental Airlines did not get my luggage transfered on my connecting flight to Cancun at
the Houston Airport. I did not get my bag of clothes until the 10th in Piste. They did send them along to where
I was staying there. The overnight bus to Palenque, which left at 11:30pm (23:30), played a movie.
Unfortunately, there are speakers over each seat. There are also no volume controls. I would guess that none
of the people on the bus wanted the high volumn movie, but the driver played it anyway. Most of the hotel
rooms were hot and humid as it was outside. Then again, I did go for the low priced places. It was hot and
humid during the entire trip. Being originally from Houston, I am accustomed to the heat, but I have lived in
cool San Diego for some time now. I was given some bad bus schedule information by an agent in Chetumal, which
caused me some concern about getting a bus back from Xpujil to Chetumal. I still made it back, though. The
local taxi/combi service in Xpujil pretty much takes a break during the middle of the day due to the heat,
and the lack of local business then. Unfortunately, this is when I got there, so I did LOTS of walking in
the midday heat. In Chetumal, I experienced the beginning parts of Tropical storm Gordon, which later hit
On the other side of the good/bad coin, I managed to visit all but one (Chicanna) of the ruins I had really
wanted to see. The bus service was as advertized or better. The bus prices were very reasonable. While the
climate was hot and humid and it rained many times, it never rained while I was in any of the ruins. I had
a backpack for my photography equipment, and a duffle bag for my clothes. At each of the ruins, I managed
to find a place to stow my equipment for free, or at a very cheap price. The people were very friendly,
helpful and patient. I was never harrassed by officials, venders, beggers or any other "street people." I
have been to Mexico many times, and I have always enjoyed the Mexican people. While I met very few Americans
on my trip, I did get to meet many interesting travelers from Europe, Australia and Mexico. It was fun
trying to find a common language. The guide books I had (I carried three and had made photocopies from
several websites) were very accurate and helpful. Overall, I found "Yucatan & Southern Mexico" by Cadogan
to be the best overall source of information. In Xpujil, I did get a ride from the nice woman who is
building a resort called Rio Bec Dreams. She gave me some good tips on the local ruins. And finally, I
was able to visit places I had dreamed about for a long time. I discovered an amazing world and learned
more about an fascinating culture. It was a trip I will never forget.
Here is a short story of something which happened on my trip. My parents, who live near Houston, met me at
the airport. We had a nice visit while I was waiting for my connecting flight back to San Diego. While we
were sitting there, a flight arrived and I noticed a familiar face get off the plane. It was Gene Cernan.
was the last person to stand on the moon. I helped run the computers in Mission Control at
NASA in Houston during his flight (Apollo 17). I also met him once in San Diego during a special program
at the Reuben Fleet Science Center. I pointed him out to my parents. As we watched him go by, we noticed
that I had been the only person to recognize him. One of the twelve men who have walked on the moon had
just walked through a crowded airport without being recognized, except by me. So much for history!
I took lots of photographs during my trip. I used a new Sony Mavica FD91 digital camera. It stores the
pictures on 3.5" disks. I also had my old 35mm Minolta camera. The digital pictures are on the following
pages. I have added captions to the pictures.
There is a map of the region at the bottom of this page.
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