Day 6 and 7: The Road to Merida and Strange Characters

DAY 6

We decided to go to a biosphere reserve south of Tulum called Sian Ka’an. “Biosphere” sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?The word made me think of the pterodactyl cage in Jurassic Park 3, even though I knew the place we would be visiting would be more like the Florida Everglades. I would have to say, either one of those are much cooler than Sian Ka’an.

Although, the blossoming of a bromance is always beautiful to watch.
Although, the blossoming of a bromance is always beautiful to watch.

That’s not to say that it was a bad place. It was certainly pretty.

Even with Chans big head in the way.
Even with Chan’s big head in the way.

And we definitely had our fun.

Just because were wearing life jackets like giant diapers, doesnt mean were playing around.
We’re manly, mature men. The fact that we’re wearing our life jackets like diapers doesn’t mean shit. (Get it?)

Chan asked for a smaller life jacket to put between his legs because he has a small, uh, leg. S.

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My X-Large life jacket keeping me afloat between the mangrove trees.

Clearly, we had a good time and it’s nice to simply float along with the current of the canal. But we also paid 600 pesos, or around $30 for the hour-and-a-half experience. There were not enough animals or anything interesting to make it worth 30 bucks.

Especially the walk back to boat after our float down the canal.
Especially when we had to walk back to boat after our float down the canal.

I did hear that other parts of the reserve make for better viewing, with crocodiles and manatees and such. But for that, we would have to go to the southern side of the reserve to a place called Punta Allen, which would have been a four-hour drive. Not to mention it’s even more expensive for the tour. So if you plan on visiting this part of the Yucatan Peninsula, be ready to invest a lot of time or money, neither of which we had.

But we didn’t feel too disappointed about it. Instead we headed straight towards yet another cenote.

I dont know what it is about sinkholes that make them so fun to go to. Probably because it reminds me of the pit in my soul.
I don’t know what it is about sinkholes that make them so fun to go to. Probably because it reminds me of the pit in my soul.

The first cenote of the day had a large hole at the top, which shone a brilliant ray of light into one patch of the water. Of course, the basic tourists that we are, we had to take those classic pictures that we convince ourselves is cool, but realize how tacky they are as soon as we get home. Good thing I’m not home yet.

Look at those abs. Like a Greek god that is Cambodian.
“I should’ve tied the string on my swim shorts.”

 

David is pointing towards a section of the stone wall that is pretty much exactly like every other part of the wall.
David is pointing towards a section of the stone wall that is pretty much exactly like every other part of the wall.

 

I have almost the exact same image tattooed on my back, except its a mermaid instead of a skinny Asian guy.
I have the almost exact same image tattooed on my back, except it’s of a mermaid instead of a skinny Asian guy.

And then we visited a second cenote because why not?

This one had bats flying around in them, which made me recite a Joker monologue from "The Dark Knight." Because Im cool like that.
This one had bats flying around, which made me recite a Joker monologue from “The Dark Knight.” Because I’m cool like that.
This cenote also had the fish that eat the dead skin on your feet.
This cenote also had the fish that eat the dead skin on your feet.

I feel kind of bad for the cousins of these fish that are in little tanks along the side any touristy coastal boardwalk. What if the tourist has a bad case of athlete’s foot? Do they have to eat around the fungi? If they go through even 10 pairs of feet per day, at least one of them is bound to taste terrible, no?

Anyways.

After the cenotes, we kept driving until we hit Merida.

In case I was unclear about where we went.
In case I was unclear about where we went.

We ate dinner that was amazing per usual and decided to walk around for a little while.

The Grand Plaza in the middle of the city is not only pretty; it also has free Wi-Fi and outlets everywhere. Step it up, America.
In the center of the city is Plaza de la Independencia. Not only pretty, it also has free Wi-Fi and outlets everywhere. Step it up, America.

After wandering around for a little while and getting some delicious ice cream at a nearby gelato shop called Hola Pola!, we stumbled across an exhibition of modern art, a large Christmas tree, and a international chess tournament.

Of course, we had to sit down and play a game. Just between us noobs though; we wouldve been crushed by anyone competing in the tournament.
Of course, we had to sit down and play a game. Just between us noobs though; we would’ve been crushed by anyone competing in the tournament.

After feeding my nerdy side (which is most of me), we headed back to our AirBnb to rest for the next day.

 

DAY 7

Merida is the capital city of the Yucatan state and the largest city in the entire peninsula. It also has less tourists than Cancun or Playa del Carmen, which made us feel smug about ourselves. Road less traveled and all that. Even though it’s still pretty well-traveled.

A different angle of the Grand Plaza in the daytime.
The central Plaza is always packed.

But still, Merida definitely felt more lived-in by the locals. It also helped that our AirBnb was in a place where other tourists rarely venture to. Just walking along the streets was a enjoyable experience.

Reminded me a little bit of Ecuador streets. Which isnt too surprising, I suppose
Reminded me a little bit of Ecuador streets. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, I suppose, considering the influence of the Spanish conquering and destroying everything to rebuild cities in their own image.
A used-book sale, which had me grinning ear to ear, flipping through random books even though I dont know any Spanish. It made me happy.
A used-book sale, which had me grinning ear to ear, flipping through random books even though I don’t know any Spanish. I like books.
We then visited the public market, which was pretty much like every other public market Ive been to: loud, cramped, and filled with the best food.
We then visited the public market, which was pretty much like every other public market I’ve been to: loud, cramped, and filled with the best-tasting food that will give you diarrhea. 
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Surprisingly, my bowels were fine after this spicy mango and a street-vendor sandwich. Maybe I’m finally adjusting.

After all that, we went to the Merida Cathedral.

It would take a couple of days for me to recite all my sins.
It would take a couple of days for me to recite all my sins.

While wandering around the Cathedral (respectful wandering, of course), a short, pudgy man came up to me and asked, “Do you know anything about trees?”

‘What a strange pick-up line,’ I thought, and answered that I, in fact, knew almost nothing about trees. He went on to explain to me in a slightly disdainful manner, that the wooden Jesus that I had been staring at was actually the largest wooden Jesus in the Americas and had been made from birch wood imported from Minnesota. I replied that that was pretty cool.

We made a little more small talk, lingering on the subject of trees only for a while longer, until my friends caught up with me. The little man said that he was a historian and if we knew anything about the Cathedral. Since we obviously didn’t, The Historian said that he would teach us a few things in a slightly derisive, but also welcoming tone. It was strange, but we weren’t going to say no to a free tour. So we just went along as he explained about how the base of each pillar was made from the stones of the original Mayan pyramids that the conquistadors had torn down, or about the smaller wooden Jesus on a side wing that was the only item that had survived a church fire. It was very informative, if a little off-putting, as he would often speak condescendingly.

The Historian eventually led us outside to show us something and that’s when we found out that he owned a shop right next to the Cathedral. After showing us whatever he had to show us, he tried to sell us items. When we refused politely, he even tried to sell us some, ahem, herbs of a medicinal nature.

All in all, it was a very surreal experience. It was impressive how The Historian was willing to become our temporary tour guide for the chance to sell us a bamboo stash box. Impressive, but also, isn’t trying to attract customers from within a cathedral somewhat…blasphemous? Maybe it’s just me.

Anyways, thanks Historian, for a good time.

After that strange encounter, we stuck around the plaza to watch a round of a traditional Mayan ball game called pitz.

They're only allowed to use their hips and torso, which made the game ridiculously hard.
They’re only allowed to use their hips and torsos to get the ball through the hoop in the middle, which made the game ridiculously difficult. My hip-eye coordination is terrible. 
Every goal was met with loud cheering and whooping from the crowd. So, twice. Its a difficult game.
Every goal was met with loud cheering and whooping from the crowd. So, twice. I told you, it’s a difficult game.

After the ball game, we decided to go home and sleep early. Because the next day would be the highlight of the trip: Chichen Itza.

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