"I Grew My Boobs in China" and " Backpacks and Bra Straps"
26 year old Canadian, Dutch resident travelling to every country in the world (111 so far) to become the first Canadian female to visit them all. Bestselling travel AUTHOR and founder of popular #TRLT Twitter chat.
As a quick stopover between other destinations in the Yucatan, Campeche feels like a quiet, safe provincial city but as a unesco site destination, Campeche is relatively uninspiring, especially compared to what we had been seeing recently. Campeche`s claim to fame and reason for being was as a major port stop for the Spanish treasure fleet on the northern route that brought back treasure from the mines past Mexico City, down to Veracruz where it was loaded onto ships that stopped in Campeche on route to Havana and then Spain. It’s just another piece of the colonial history that we had been following for most of our trip away.
A half a day is enough though we made it a stopover for the night and a nice little airbnb a short walk away from the centre. The historic centre is cute but very small and unfortunately has too much car traffic to be as pleasant as I’d prefer. For a small tip to a gate keeper you can walk on a section of the walls. They have been haphazardly preserved and restored along with much of the rest of the colonial core inside the walls. Looking down you realize that many of the painted buildings are still hollow facades with nothing but ruins behind them and a tree poking out the top. There were 2 defensive forts built along with the fortified town but unfortunately Fort San Miguel (the main one) was closed for renovations so we didn’t even get to see the part I had been most looking forward to.
The land gate to old town Campeche
All prettied up and colourful
Is that a lighthouse for belltower?
The central plaza is very relaxing
A repurposed bastion from the old walls
The following day we moved on to Merida, another provincial capital a few hours farther north. It is much bigger and busier both in general and as a tourist hub. It was also built by the Spanish and boasts a nice colonial heritage with a fairly typical central plaza, though this one was quite busy and at night there was even a demonstration of the ancient Mayan ball game in front of the cathedral. Yes, it is that kind of town. The Mayan ball game was central to Mayan ceremonial culture and the ball courts are usually one of the most identifiable and prominent ruins at any given site. Now I know what was going on at least.
We enjoyed Merida though, especially when we found a restaurant packed with locals serving what was probably our favourite meal of the entire trip, nachos al pastor. I`m not the type to go on and on about food but this was heaven on a plate and became our only meal for the last few days of our trip.
The central plaza of Merida
Old colonial building now a bank
Another colonial building, now part of a university
Best food ever.
But Merida wasn`t our real destination, it was simply used as our base for taking a day trip to our final site, the Mayan ruins of Uxmal. Having come from the southern Mayan sites of Palenque and Calakmul it is hard to believe this is still the same culture because the style and decor are so different. It is much more similar to Chichen Itza and attracts many of the same visitors as they really aren’t too far apart. Uxmal is well restored and there was a good photo display in the tiny museum showing before and after pictures of a lot of the site. Very interesting. They continue to work on it, especially around the Governor’s Palace, judging by the most recent photos taken in 2012. It’s not really as large a site as it looks but we spent a couple hours to see it all. Unfortunately the overpowering stench of guano prevented us from getting too close or inside many of the structures and at 413 pesos foreigner entry fee now (compared to 197 and 111 pesos for Calakmul and Palenque respectively) it is overpriced and feels like a money grab.
We also ran into a German guy at Uxmal that we had met in Xpujil and had taken the bus to Campeche together with as well. We ended up visiting the site together, the first time in ages we’d actually done anything with another random traveler. We had been traveling opposite to so many people for so long I’d stopped expecting such things to happen anymore.
Faces of the rain god Chaac
A courtyard in Uxmal
The so-called Magician’s Pyramid
The “Governor’s Palace”
With Uxmal done it was time to finally head home. Our flight was out of Cancun and luckily enough we were able to catch a very early morning bus directly to the airport from Merida in time to catch our flight. Mexico is still very much on my radar for a return someday. Let’s just hope they can get their troubles under control between now and then…