Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chichen Itza!

Another magnificent pile of rocks! When in Cancun, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see these legendary Mayan ruins.  They tell you about this really cool chamber inside, with a throne and panther and prized jewels, but of course you can't enter.  And for a few years now, you're not even able to climb the steps.  Trying to navigate small steps and steep grade is the fun part!  If I'd have known those rules I never would have gone. 
Here's the postcard

Tourists watch as we make fools of ourselves.

This is where they played that game like soccer, except the losing team all got (literally) slaughtered.

Chichen Itza Mayans were particularly entranced with skeletons.  And Pumas.

One day, I'm gonna write a site (that actually makes money!) giving travel tips, so here's a preview: Don't bother with Chichen Itza!  I've been to most all the ruins in the Americas and here's my list of which pile of rocks are actually worth it:

Xan-Xan (Trujillo, Peru)
Huaca de la Luna (Trujillo, Peru)
Nasca Lines (Peru)
Ciudad Perdida (Colombia)
Sacsayhuaman (Cuzco, Peru)
Teotihuacan (near Mexico City, Mexico)
Tikal (Guatemala)
Machu Picchu (Peru)

Yeah, so it's all about Peru.  Tikal is truly awesome, if you can get there.  A close second, IMHO, to Machu Picchu...mainly because I know for a fact you can bribe the guards to let you sleep on top one of the temples and awake alone to the sound of howler monkeys and sunrise over the jungle canopy. could hit Chichen Itza and all its souvenir stands.  As you walk to each different section of the ruins, you're surrounded on all sides by vendors selling little wooden pumas, ceramic recreations of the temple, skeleton heads, and as you pass they solicit, "Amigo!" "Good Price!" and my favorite, "Almost Free!" We called this experience "Running the Gauntlet". 

Chad, Bam, and Scott run the gauntlet

I remarked to my friend Scott how bizarre it was that people here were selling replicated remnants of a deceased civilization.  That's what's left of the Mayans.  Imagine if we all were wiped out and all that was left was a bunch of crap sold by those people profiteering from our demise.  Scott said, "Have you been to Ground Zero lately?" 

I forgot about that.


AJ said...

Hi Jesse,

I can remember when the ruins of the world were not overshadowed by the vendors nor with so many restrictions. You could once walk freely about. Mexico has surely changed, but so have Greece, Egypt, Iran, etc., etc. I guess this is the result of too many tourists!

At least you are getting to see the world's treasures. Protected and commercialized though they might be. Here's hoping you get to see a lot more of them!!

Anonymous said...

Jesse, Thanks for removing that pesky road block. About 10 years ago, we were on the Yucatan. I was so fortunate as I climbed the Chichen Itza pyramid and looked down on my signif. far below. Exhilarating! No way was he going to "climb that thing". Marked acrophobia! Then, we encountered another phobia. We were allowed to enter a narrow passageway that led into the interior of the temple. As we proceeded into a black, musty smelling and warmly humid 'tunnel', both of us became more and more claustrophobic. Finally, that serpentine passage really got to us. We both did an about face to forcefully squeeze past all the in-coming tourists behind us who were not too pleased by our rude, insensitive cowardice. At last, we broke free out into the blue sky, sunshine and CLEAR AIR. Hearts pounding! (I usually am not such a chicken, but....). As we departed our novice comedian tour guide announced "we are now leaving the land of Chicken and Pizza". A little prophetic perhaps?

Anonymous said...

If one has not read AZTEC by Gary Jennings, it is incredible. The author lived in the lands of the Mayan,Aztec and earlier civilizations for 12 years researching material this book. It is a monumental, 1,200 pages, almost obsessively thorough. If you are adverse to a little blood, I would not recommend it (actually a LOT of blood).