Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Happy Cinco de Mayo from Chichén Itzá

Last May Nick and I traveled to Cancun, Mexico for the nuptials of our pals Linda and JJ.  We had the opportunity to take a bus trip to Chichén Itzá, one of the Wonders of the World.  When we were in Guatemala in November 2009, while climbing Volcan Pacaya we met a couple who was in the process of taking a two-year trip around the world.  They had just come from Mexico through Central America.  They told us that Chichén Itzá wasn't that great and that Tikal, which we were going to visit at the end of our trip, was a much better experience.  At the time we thought they were crazy.  How could a Wonder of the World be anything less than, well, a wonder? 

Now we understand.  The great thing about Tikal is that when it was excavated, most of the jungle around it was left undisturbed.  That is not the case for Chichén Itzá, where everything is mowed down for acres around the buildings.  There are millions of tourists and because of the lack of trees it was very hot and dusty.  Even worse, they let local merchants in, so each of the pathways is lined with people harassing you to buy their crap.  And I do mean crap: we didn't see one authentic or worthwhile item at any of the tables.

We don't regret going, because it made us appreciate our awesome experience in Tikal even more.  So why am I including this for Pretty Things Thursday if the experience was terrible?  Because El Castillo is amazing, no matter how bad the surrounding area is.

How incredible is it that the Mayans built these by hand?  The awesome thing about El Castillo is that during the Spring and Fall equinoxes, the sun hits the pyramid perfectly so the shadow looks like a serpent slithering down the side.  They did all of this without modern technology.  Insanity! 

Chichén Itzá is worth visiting if you happen to be in the Yucatan.  If you're looking for an awesome Mayan ruins adventure, I suggest going to Guatemala to visit Tikal or El Mirador, which they're still in the process of excavating.  I would love to go there one day!  Right now the only way to get there is to rent a helicopter or a week long hike or mule ride.  No thanks to both!


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