Chiapas... from San Cristobal to Palenque
Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
120Trip End Dec 13, 2006
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Where I stayed
Hotel Posada San Augustin
The day after I (Paul) had 'mexican belly' & had been ill all night but we had booked to go on a tour so I bravely (stupidly?) ignored my stomach cramps & queasiness to go with Mandy to get on the bus to head to see some Indian villages. Luckily they are not so far outside of town and less than an hour later we were at the first one.. San Juan Chamula. It wasn't at all what we expexted as a lot of the villagers have very modern houses but they still adhere strictly to their traditional dress and customs. Our guide explained some of these to us, including the local church (Temple de San Juan - pictured) which had been built to convert the local population to Catholiscism but which they used to worship their Mayan Gods instead - sacrificing chickens and Coca Cola! Apparently they used to drink a liquid made of sugar cane to enable them to 'burp' their appreciation to the Mayan Gods but then they discovered that Coca Cola was much better at producing the desired effect !!! Inside the church was filled with hundreds of lit candles and the floor was covered with pine needles.. it was an amazing sight but unfortunately you weren't allowed to take pictures; although there were so many locals praying it was probably as well that us tourists didnt disturb them any further
The next village we visited was called Zincantan and here the villagers clothing was even more brightly covered, many wearing pink or purple. We visited a local house which was built in a semi-traditional manner, having walls of mud and only one main room inside. The local women were weaving handicrafts to sell and also making tortilla's in the traditional manner.. nothing like the smell of food to make me feel a little better so I tried them. I didn't, however, feel up to trying the local Posch (firewater) but Mandy did and assured me it was very potent! After visiting that local house we went to the main square where the villagers were having a celebration of some sort. A band was playing very enthusiastically & noisily and some of the other locals were letting off fireworks which they were making by compacting gunpowder into metal tins and then holding them in their hands whilst letting them off! Luckily we didn't see anyone get hurt...
The following day (Sunday) we went to the local market which seemed to cover half the streets in the town. A range of colourful clothing & handicrafts and were being sold and we bought a few small things for souvenirs. We also saw the Temple and Ex-Convent of Santo Domingo which has weather to a dusky pinkcolour on the outside and is so detailed the way it has been intricately carved. The inside was just as impressive but, as with most Mexican churches, there always seems to be a service going on so not wanting to intrude we didn't manage to get a good look around. Found a tiny restaurant for lunch which was called El Caminero - it is right opposite the bus station - and had really tasty steak for a very small amount of peso's indeed! The staff were most amused to have tourists eating there instead of the usual hungry locals and the owner wanted Mandy to have all his biscuits to eat with her coffee!
After another day in which I recovered from my dodgy stomach and we realxed and explored the town a little further we left town on Tuesday morning. After breakfast at El Caminero (we're almost regulars!) we took a collectivo's (shared minibus) to Ocosingo (30peso's ech ) and another on to Palenque (40peso'seach). In Palenque we stayed at the Posada Kin (120peso's) where we had a room with private bathroom around a bright courtyard. We had a look around the town.. which didn't take long as there is nothing really much to see. In the evening it threw it down with rain which appears to be a daily occurrence here..it is one of the wettest parts of Mexico. We sheltered in a local cantina where the beer was cheap and the hard-drinking women were scary!!
The day after we headed out to see the ruins at Palenque, the reason we had come here. A collectivo to get there cost 7peso's and entrance is 38peso's. The ancient Mayan ruins are very well preserved and are on the edge of the jungle so as we arrived at around 8am we could here howler monkeys nearby (they sound like monsters!). One of the biggest temples was the Temple of the Inscriptions where Pacal (a mayan King) was buried - he had ruled for 70years after gaining the throne at the age of 12!! You can climb some of the temples for really good views and we also followed some of the nearby paths to see some lovely pools & waterfalls, although unfortunately swimming wasn't allowed. We also visited the museum here which has numerous recovered artefacts and tells the history of the site - it was mysteriously abandoned and the historians argue why although over-population and shortage of food may have been the reason.