Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Chicken Pizza Tour

Tuesday marked our much anticipated trip to the major tour sight here in Mexico. There are actually two major sites near our hotel - Tulum and Chichen itza. While the former is closer to our resort, the latter is bigger and more well-known. So we signed up for a one-day trip to make the 4 hour trek there. Tickets costs $110 per person, which includes a buffet lunch and a toured guide to the Chichen Itza, a dip in a cenote and a trip to a traditional city.
Chichen Itza
We started the day with room service, since breakfast doesn't start until 7am. Hubby got the guacamole chicken quesadilla while I ordered a passion fruit cheesecake. But the room service didn't come until 7, so we had to gulp down our breakfast in literally 5 min, especially because they'd called us at 7 to let us know that the bus that was supposed to arrive at 7.30 would come earlier at 7.15 to pick us up.

Thankfully I'd packed everything beforehand. We hurried out the door and got into the taxi which took us to the resort next door to shuffle us onto a large bus with more tourists. We stopped by a couple of other stops to pick up more people before heading off.

Our tour guide was a friendly and rather large Mayan man who talked to us about the history behind the Mayans and "Chicken pizza". He talked about how some tourists didn't like him talking so much (lol), but he just wanted to share his knowledge. I actually don't blame the tourists because I'm sure no one got enough sleep the night before.

Most of the talk was about maths and how the ancient Mayans came up with their advanced calendar. But it turned out he just wanted to sell everyone a Mayan calendar (which btw cost a hefty $25 for something you can easily compute at home).

Thankfully I brought with us some snacks since both of us didn't eat enough for breakfast. As hubby flipped through our food stash he realized I didn't bring our Nikon. Though upset, he settled down after munching on his favorite japanese-style crunchy peanuts.
Three hours into the trip, we stopped at a gas station with a bunch of souvenir shops. It's an uber touristy site, but because the tour guide encouraged us to buy stuff to support the local economy, I got three souvenirs for $18.

By the time we got there, everyone was eager to see the ruins. As we got off the bus, scorching heat greeted us. We were led through the Mayaland hotel, a run-down hotel with a 1900s charm reminiscent of films with the first archeologists and colonial settlers on this strange new land.

Walking through the resort, I memorized by the large jungle huts that provided shade and shelter. There were groves of large mango trees, which one of the tourists picked up for a snack.

We were led to the planetarium, where we watched an impressive video of the history of the Mayan skies projected onto the dome ceiling. The movie was pretty good, showing how the sun and the moon came about from an ancient Mayan legend of two brothers playing their traditional ball game. But haven woken up at 6, hubby fell asleep through most of it.

By the time we were done the movie, we were both starving. Unfortunately lunch was not until after the tour, so we marched on.

The tour guide took us around the ruins, and in broken English he explained to us the lives of the Mayans. The city was a historical site for the ancient Mayans, one where only privileged upper-class citizens could live in. I was fascinated by their mathematical and astronomical advances, so I asked a bunch of questions like how did they position their pyramids so it's exactly 27.6 degrees in the direction of Venus, while the tourists in our group were busy snapping selfies (I couldn't believe how many ppl carried those selfie sticks!)

We did meet some very friendly ppl at the tour, most were staying at the other Bluebay resort. I asked them about their experience there, and they said the food is okay with a pretty good buffet. I was surprised that it was just okay because ours was deserving of Michelin stars. But the couple were Chinese and said they weren't used to eating Mexican/Western style food.

I felt sorry for the tour guide who was trying to explain to us how the Mayans built their city, because no one was listening to him. He had to get people's attention back many times by saying, "I know you guys don't want to listen, but..."

There were a lot of local stands that were selling souvenirs for a fraction of the price at the tourist vendors we stopped at before. Hubby bought an obsidian knife for $30 after seeing one at the store for $70.
We ran out of money because hubby didn't think to bring so much. So we walked out of many bargains (including a handcrafted Mayan calendar).
Then we were given some self-exploration time, taking pictures with the ruins and endless selfies. It was cool to note that the pyramid was designed to be a microphone, so that when you made a sound at a certain spot the sound would reverberate. Really amazing how people way back then could figure out how to construct this amazing infrastructure.

By now we were (literally) dripping with sweat and starving. So we cut the visit short and headed to lunch at the hotel.

Turns out the buffet was a haphazard mishmash of Mexican, Chinese and fast food. There was however an authentic looking taco bar with women flipped fresh tortillas. Hubby got both the Mayan and BBQ, while I got a plate of random Mexican food.
The restaurant was pretty bad in drinks. Guess we were just too used to our resort food, because they bathed us $3 for a sprite.
The service was also pretty poor - one waiter tried to take away the plate I was working on three times in 5 minutes. Hubby didn't know why I got so upset, since it's a buffet and you could just get more food. He has a point, but it'll be just wasting food.

I didn't eat that much because of the heat, but I did have many bowls of sorbet, which was delightfully refreshing but not thirst-quenching. I guess the best part of the meal was watching the dancers with trays of alcohol on top of their heads as they cha-chaed to mariachi music.

After the meal, I was still hungry but afraid to get more of the Chinese-buffet quality food, so we got a frap at the hotel cafe. Surprisingly, it's not even sweet, because the chocolate drizzles is actually bitter chocolate, which was awesome.

Next stop was the cenote, about 2 hours away from the ancient ruins. I was pretty excited about this because I heard the cenote water was refreshing. Unfortunately hubby didn't bring a changes of clothes so he didn't take the dip. They offer life jackets, which I gladly took.

I should mention that on the way over they brought on a Mayan boy who tried selling everyone his own prepackaged tequilas with pictures of each couple that he took at the souvenir stop earlier. I have no idea what his relation was to the tour guide, but his sales pitch was heartfelt and funny, with broken English and cheesy jokes (like telling everyone to lick their cups, then thanking everyone for cleaning the cups for the next group). Most of the tourists tried the drink and brought the $20 spirit.

There's two places you can "jump" into - the regular entrance with stairs like a pool and another one like the jumping boards at the pool. I tried the smaller one before attempting the higher jump. The water was fresh and clean, with little tadpoles and fishes swimming around. The waterfall was also quite enchanting. Just imagine ages ago when the Mayans jumped into it like a dipping pool in their backyard. (Unfortunately other cenotes were used as sacrificial pools with the youngest and most prettiest women thrown in as live sacrifices.)

Everyone was pretty much spent by the time we reached a quaint little Mexican town, apparently the site of a brutal battle between the Spaniards and Mayans long ago. You can't see remnants of the battle - what's left is the brightly colored fresco walls surrounding the town square with cute dainty couple chairs. A group of school kids were waved at us, causing an onslaught of tourists to take pictures with them.

Then tour guide brought us to a little ice cream stand (probably his amigo), and everyone dashed to buy the ice cream. I got the corn flavor, while others got the coconut or chocolate. I really liked the corn flavor, because it had actual corn in there. By now it was around 5, and the square was getting busier with children getting off school and vendors setting up their tamale stands. I would have loved to buy some local street food, like fried cockroaches (no jokes).

That marked our last stop, as an exhausted bus load of people were driven back to their resorts. The tour guide reminded us again to give him good ratings, because it was good for him and his family. I understand that he needed it as a living, but even so, he didn't need to plead with everyone to give him a good rating.(Sorry for believing in the value of hard work.)

At the end of the day, I bid farewell to a couple of new buddies (and this cute little one who shook our hands). The tour company apparently gave top priority to the people at our resort (which apparently was just hubby and I), dropping us off first before the others. At the end of a long sojourn, I was just glad to be back in the comfort of our spacious hotel room, relaxing by our own cenote where (hopefully) no human sacrifices have been made.

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