Posted by: martinworster | May 26, 2008

114. CANCAN’T – THE MAYAN RIVIERA

One of the amazing things about Mexico is it’s diversity – of people, environments, coastlines – so I was happy to see another part of this beautiful country for a wedding I attended in Cancun on the Yucatan, Peninsular.

The Cancun marketing department have billed this stretch of coast the Mayan Riviera. I don’t know why, but I find that quite a cloying term. The Maya have been exploited since the Spanish decimated most of them in the 1600s with war, religion, illness and overall subjugation. Now a lot of them probably do low paid, menial jobs in the glitzy resorts whilst tourists – me included – trample over their ancient ruins, complicit in an exploitation of another kind. 

Cancun is massive. With its huge strip of hotels it reminded me of Las Vegas on sea (minus the gambling). A Benidorm full of Americans redeemed by the brilliant turquoise of the Carribean. For me the sea was the best bit. We were staying at the Hyatt and our room backed onto the beach; the Carribean makes a great back garden. The sand is so fine that the shoreline water has a creamy colour, turning turquoise and green as it gets a little bit deeper, turning into deep blue past the coral reefs.

The first day we went to Tulum. It was ridiculously hot. Tulum is the famous Mayan ruin right on the coast, overlooking a majestic white beach which stretches for miles. It’s breathaking and also home to one of the famous Yucatan postcard shots of the ruins with crystal sands and blue sea as a backdrop.

We also went to Chichen Itza, another popular Mayan ancient city, which is located about two hours inland from Cancun in the hot and sweaty interior. On the way there we stopped at Valladolid, a quaint town with a typical Mexican zocalo and some lovely colonial buildings, including a baroque Church which was unfortunately closed. Onto the ruins. We arrived at 5.30 to be told it was closed. We had to bribe – we are in Mexico of course – the door man to let us in. We only had an hour  but I walked around and took my photos and savoured the sights. It has the large pyramid centrepiece. I don’t know much about the intimate history of the Maya and we were too late for a guide. I tried to imagine what it would have been like as a functioning city thousands of years ago. All too often, images from Mel Gibson’s Apocolypto kept popping up in my mind. I imagined sacrificial heads bouncing down the steps of the pyramid as a drug crazed King communed with the gods.

Chichen Itza is a massive tourist stop off. To get to the site you have to walk down a boulevard lined with stalls selling tourist tat; ethnic fabrics, pottery, musical instruments, carved Mayan masks, stone carvings, t shirts etc. 

 

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