Mexico Day 3: Chichen Itza and Valladolid
After finally enjoying breakfast at the Doralba Inn, we left for Chichen Itza. This took us back on the tool road for a short distance, and we arrived an hour after opening. It was already packed. Having experienced Uxmal, the atmosphere here was disappointing. Vendors lined every shaded spot, starting outside the welcome center.
This would become an ongoing theme for the extensive and spread out site. Itâ€™s understandable why the site is so popular; if you are going to visit one site it would be this â€“ a UNESCO site and much closer t o the touristy cities of Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen. Several tour trips are offered for a full day excursion, where Uxmal we had to plan two days in another hotel.
The grounds also have a wide array of building types, although nearly everything is roped off. The pyramid is a marvel in that it is built as a calendar, 91 steps on each of the four sides and the final platform on top totaling 365 steps. The ball court is huge with two temples attached. We took a dirt path laden with vendors to a sacrificial cenote (full of bodies and jewels), and ended up buying a turtle shaped flute with four notes. Herr would later succumb to the vendor onslaught to buy a drum (which after a couple weeks we found was infected with termitesâ€¦), and JJ followed suit buying a couple obsidian â€œstonesâ€.
My favorite was the column plaza, and something that was unique to this site of all the places we visited. Other ruins included several temples, a â€œskull pitâ€ for decapitated heads, an observatory for astrological observations, royal houses, and many more. The whole Mayan experience in one location, if one can ignore the vendors. Good luckâ€¦
The entry fee came to 242 pesos (several larger locations had a local and national fee, paying two different amounts for one visit), so a tour guide was out of the question (often ranging between 700-800 pesos a person). Once we were exhausted, we returned to the welcome center and ate at one of the sit down restaurants rather than trek to a place I found half an hour on the road back (after the previous restaurant gaff, I was happy to spend a little more for the convenience). I ordered what turned out to be a hill of avocado with chips, followed by flan. Flan! So much guacamole, I had to share it with the others and still didnâ€™t finish.
As we drove through Kuau, the town I had selected the restaurant in, we drove right past it and saw the price of Herrâ€™s dish was only 70 rather than the 165 pesos at the ruins. Welp. Now we know how much tourist markup pricing is like.
That was on our way to the twin cenotes, Samula and Xâ€™keken, just south of Valladolid. We picked up tickets to both of them for a slightly discounted price of 140 pesos (instead of 160) from a fellow promoting them at Chichen Itza. JJ and I were both skeptical about actually going in the water. That changed when we got there. Xâ€™keken is an underground cenote with stalactites dripping nearly to the water. The fish freaked me out, but they avoided us. The water was clear and cool, rather refreshing after two hours walking around Chichen Itza.
Herr joined us in his boxers. No one judged. Neither Herr nor JJ were particular interested in leaving, but I was curious to see the other cenote. Samula likewise did not disappoint. It was much more cavernous, but the way the light reflected through the two holes in the ceiling was beautiful. Cenotes are a great way to cool off after some rather eventful couple of days.
From the cenotes, the hotel wasnâ€™t much farther (it just took a drive around the block to find it). The grounds were lovely and serene (though the next morning we learned the neighbor had at least one rooster) with a small court full of flora and a pool surrounded by rooms on three sides (the reception, front entrance, and neighborâ€™s yard wall make up the remaining sides).
Herr and I took a king that had a balcony overlooking the pool from the second level. This hotel was much cleaner than the first, but the fauna generates a lot of noise. Herr opted for a massage after so much driving. While he waited for that appointment, we walked a block to Yerbabuena, a restaurant that had some great drinks (they serve breakfast and lunch so close at 5 p.m., and we arrived a little after 4 p.m.). The drinks were good; I enjoyed a strawberry milk shake extra cold, JJ got his mango iced drink, and Herr a strawberry iced drink. The waitress brought us complimentary chips and salsa that was delish. A recommended place to eat.
We then dropped Herr off back at the hotel and walked to the main plaza where a carnival was happeningâ€¦ except it had just ended, so we stopped at a few shops on the way back. Herrâ€™s massage went late so I was locked out of the room for a while until I caved and asked for another key at the front desk. They were quite friendly. I watched Captain America in Spanish before calling it a night.