Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Mexico II: Puebla, Oaxaca, the Yucatan
I'll keep this brief, partly from lack of energy and partly because, I don't know, unless you are Paul Theroux descriptions of your peregrinations around Mexico should probably be kept brief. In summary:
We loved Puebla and Oaxaca. Great food (like chocolate mole sauce):
Buzz and arty things happening everywhere:
We wandered into a community centre where people of all ages were doing everything from playing chess to performing Swan Lake and doing a Tahitian dance routine.
Both towns also have a lovely mild sunny climate: the weather was in the twenties with a nice breeze. We checked out the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban, from which you got spectacular views down over the misty valleys of Oaxaca. It was all very lovely.
Then we went to the Yucatan.
Everyone I know who has been to Mexico went to the Yucatan, and everyone has loved it. I can see why: it's where all the Mayan ruins are, and it's got the beach and the bright lights of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It is probably a fantastic place to go in January. Don't go in June. Really, don't. To say that it was humid and sticky is to say that New York in January is a bit nippy. It was BOILING AND UNBEARABLE - especially Merida, the town where we landed, which also did not endear itself to us by the offical taxi company ripping us off when we arrived, and everyone relentlessly trying to sell us souvenirs, and the only cinemas (where we were trying to seek refuge in the air con) being shut down. I've been to many hot places, but the Yucatan was the most uncomfortable and steamy environment I've ever experienced - it was like being at Bikram yoga ALL THE TIME. We also found it very touristy compared to everywhere else we'd been. And it was the only place where we had bad meals. But having said that, you know, those Mayan ruins everywhere are quite cool:
We also saw loads of eagles (!) and iguanas (!!) and - most excitingly - spider monkeys (!!!) And there are lots of hammocks. I also bought a hammock in the Yucatan - from a very smooth-talking operator called Hector in Merida who charged me about twice the going rate. But it is very pretty, so what harm (below is not the actual hammock but another one, thoughtfully stuck in the middle of a botanical garden/park we were exploring).
Our final stop was the romantic beachside cabana in Tulum, where we planned to spend our last few days, swimming in the turquoise Caribbean waves and walking along the sugary-sandy beach. Instead ... the heavens open as Tulum got hit by a bit of a rainstorm (which we later found out was the fringe of Hurricane Arlene) and I succumbed to violent food poisoning. My abiding memory of this period is A sitting in the bathroom by himself reading, so as not to disturb my sick bed. That was a low point. However, I think we caught the Yucatan at a bad time. Or something. And we loved the rest of Mexico and will definitely go back. I found the people extremely lovely and charming, and their Spanish was delightfully easy to understand. And the food is terrific. Just don't order this:
I can't remember quite how this happened - I think the mystery drink I ordered was taking ages to be juiced and grinded from scratch, and they appeared to have no water so I ordered a lemonade - little knowing that this would take ages to be juiced and grinded from scratch also. Or that both drinks would be ENORMOUS and that I'd feel obliged to drink them both because the waitress was so nice and obliging. But hey. If two drinks is the worst that happens, that's not bad.