Mexico City / Chilangolandia Part 2

Please enjoy this blog post from one of my favorite blogs about Mexico. The Adventures of a Sober Señorita recently visited Mexico City and the ruins of Teotihuacan.!! Since I have never been to Teotihuacan – I thought I would let her take you there on a short trip. I will be back Thursday to discuss my brief visit to Mexico City in 2010.! Enjoy 🙂

The Adventures of a Sober Señorita

The last two days of our trip in Mexico City were dedicated to the pyramids of Teotihuacan, celebrating two special anniversaries, and trying to fit in anything else we forgot.

Sunday we left early in the morning and took the metro to a large bus station that has buses that go to and from Teotihuacan all day.  Coming from Cancun where it is completely flat, seeing mountains and pyramids in Mexico City was just amazing.

Exploring one of the oldest and most mysterious civilizations in the world was awesome and I definitely recommend if you are traveling to Mexico City.

Teotihuacan ruins

Archaeological site Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan archaeological Ruins

Teotihuacan excavation site Mexico

Teotihuacan ruins Mexico City

Teotihuacan archaeological site Mexico

Teotihuacan Mexico pyramid of the moon

Pyramid of the sun Teotihuacan Excited to climb the Pyramid of the Sun

pyramids Teotihuacan Mexico

Teotihuacan historical site

Teotihuacan pyramids Mexico City
Teotihuacan archaeological site Mexico

Teotihuacan pyramids Mexico City

Pyramid of the sun Teotihuacan Mexico City View from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

Columns Teotihuacan Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan

Columns palace Teotihuacan Mexico City Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan

Pyramid of the moon, Teotihuacan Literally on top of the world with my best friend. (Pyramid of the moon)

Mex City Part 2 20

After a lot of walking and climbing we…

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I, myself, have never been to the ruins at Uxmal.!! It’s still on my list. But, Mexico: Live it, Love It has and they have a lovely post about it.! Enjoy.!!

MĂ©xico: Live it, Love it

OK, I just have to give a shout out for Uxmal as it is overseen many times by tourists by the “golden child” of the Maya ruin family, Chichén Itzá.  I’m not knocking Uxmal’s cousin that lies to the east, but I am tired of Chichén Itzá getting placed on a pedestal when there are many impressive sites out there in the Yucatan Peninsula and outside of Mexico. Granted, I am easily impressed by the Maya history and even a small pile of Maya stones will impress me. The Yucatan Peninsula is dotted with ruin sites that are worthy of visits. However, our “golden child” is always at the top of the list and sometimes the only ruin on the list for tourists. Yes, Chichen is impressive. Yes, it’s a “wonder of the world”.  Yes, it is worthy of a visit.   However, Uxmal has stolen my heart and has become my favorite…

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fungus and mushrooms – it’s whats for breakfast

coffee at "el hongo"

coffee at “el hongo”

One of the most memorable meals I had in Chiapas, Mexico was in Ocosingo, Chiapas. After my study abroad class, a few of us ventured on to Agua Azul waterfalls and the ruins at Palenque. Last week, I shared those photos and stories with you.! On our way, we stopped for breakfast at this wonderful roadside diner or comedor.

Ocosingo comedor "el hongo"

Ocosingo comedor “el hongo”

It was literally just on the side of the road in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere to me..!! The name of the comedor was El Hongo or the mushroom. Hahaha.. What a great name.! Though I have also heard it translated as fungus which is even funnier.! Usually, naming your restaurant after a mushroom or fungus is not considered inviting or appetizing.!

breakfast at "el hongo"

breakfast at “el hongo”

And I have to admit I was initally skeptical. But, I followed everyone else’s lead when ordering and was more than pleasantly surprised when my food arrived. The coffee was brought to me in an adorable mug. The fragrance itself woke me up and got me excited about the day. When the meal arrived, I couldn’t wait to dig in. I had ordered quesadillas with melted cheese and, of course, mushrooms..!! There was avocado on the side and fresh orange juice. There was also a slice of melon, but I ate it before I thought to take the photo above 🙂 It was one of the best meals I have had far from ‘civilization’.

garden at Ocosingo "el hongo"

garden at Ocosingo “el hongo”

After the delicious meal, I naturally had to go to the restroom. Trepidatiously, I made my way to the back where the restroom was located. Once again, I was surprised to find this lovely garden on the way to el baño. And the bathroom turned out to be just fine too (though I don’t have a photo to show you)..!! After so many strange and scary restrooms at rest stops in the States, I was grateful to find such well kept facilities. Eventually, we had to get our belongings together and be on our way to the waterfalls and ruins which turned out to be breathtaking.! But this little slice of breakfast on a road in Chiapas was no less spectacular.!

Palenque – the bone place

Temple of Inscriptions

El Templo de las Inscripciones or The Temple of Inscriptions

After my study abroad trip to Chiapas, a few of us continued on to Agua Azul waterfalls and Palenque. On Monday, I had posted a photo of my legs dangling over the rushing Agua Azul water.! Today, I want to show you Palenque.! Palenque is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It is a little over 400 miles or 7 1/2 hours from the Riviera Maya. From the Spanish colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas, it is about a 5 hour drive.

entrance to Palenque

entrance to Palenque

Palenque is the Spanish word for arena, palisade and fortification. It was so named because the ruins are laid out in an amphitheatre style with a central pyramid. However, the Tzeltal Mayan name for Palenque is Baak which translates to bone or boney. Hence, the reason it has sometimes been called the bone place. The bone reference may be due to possible ties to death, burials, spiritual rituals and sacrificial tombs.

Temple of the Skull

El Templo de la Calavera or The Temple of the Skull

The Mayan ruins of Palenque are considerably smaller than the sites at Tikal or Copan. However, in terms of some of the best architecture, sculpture, and bas relief carvings produced by the Mayans (and the fact that you can still climb the pyramids..!!), it holds its own against those two sites plus Chichen Itza and Uxmal.! Palenque was initially inhabitated around the first century BC. Under it’s ruler Pakal in the seventh century AD, it became a prominent city. The people began to abandon the city in the ninth century and several decades later it became a ghost town. For hundreds of years, it was hidden in the mist shrouded jungles of Mexico.! Finally to be discovered in the 19th century.!

The Temple of Inscriptions long view

El Templo de las Inscripciones or The Temple of Inscriptions long view

I loved Palenque..!! Just as the Caribbean Sea location of Tulum made it truly magical, the jungle location of Palenque is what made Palenque breathtaking. There were still many buildings that had not been resurrected from the jungle. Tour guides provided a hospitable pathway through the jungle to see some of these still “sleeping” ruins; as well as, useful historical anecdotes. Walking through the jungle was singularly one of the best experiences of my life. And possibly also one of the scariest as there still are real, live, wild animals walking in the jungle as well..!! But I enjoyed it immensely because if you closed your eyes for a moment and remained very quiet, you could almost see and hear the ancient Mayans bringing the city to life.!

El Palacio or The Palace

El Palacio or The Palace

The main buiding at Palenque is The Temple of Inscriptions or El Templo de las Inscripciones. It is the largest stepped pyramid at Palenque. The pyramid also houses the tomb of Pakal who had the building of the pyramid sanctioned after his death. The Temple of Inscriptions also contains much of the city’s recorded history. It is one of the pyramids I climbed while I was there. Though I have to admit I came down the pyramid sitting on my butt.! Just a little scared of heights and narrow stairs on the way down. But well worth the climb for the view at the top.!! The photo below was taken on the steppes with my study abroad group.!

DePaul study abroad group

DePaul study abroad group on the steppes of The Temple of Inscriptions

The other major building at Palenque is The Palace or El Palacio. It is a single storey building built in the shape of an irregular quadrilateral. The throne room is located inside The Palace. There are also three subterraneous ‘apartments’ inside. These ‘apartments’ house some of the many mysteries of Palenque, such as the three great stone tables (or alters). Also, originally the signature tower on The Palace did not have a roof. Ancient Mayans exhibited sophisticated astronomical knowledge and used the roofless platform for star gazing. However, early archaeologists who reconstructed the site were unaware of this morsel of Mayan history and put a roof of their own design on the tower.

me in a straw hat

me in a straw hat on top of The Temple of Inscriptions with The Palace’s tower in the background

The Palace was not only the residence of the king. It also was used as an administrative site and to celebrate large gatherings. On the east side of The Palace is a courtyard or patio called The Patio of the Captives or El Patio de los Cautivos. It was a perfect space for public events such as receiving other nobles and leaders. The enclosed walls are decorated with humiliated and captured slaves who were once free man to showcase the military prowess of the king.

patio of the captives

El Patio de los Cautivos or The Patio of the Captives

Other buidlings include The Temple of the Skull or El Templo de la Calavera. As you enter the temple, there is only one skull still intact. It appears to be part of a larger composition, but time, weather and the jungle have eroded the full stucco decoration. The Temples of the Cross group refer to the cross-like images which depict the tree of creation which is a central component of Mayan mythology. The grouping consists of The Temple of the Cross (El Templo de la Cruz), The Temple of the Sun (El Templo del Sol) and The Temple of the Foliated Cross (El Temple de la Cruz Foliada). It is said that if three people each stand on top of the three pyramids, they will be able to speak and hear each other without yelling. How cool..!!

bas relief at the patio of the captives

Bas relief at The Patio of the Captives

I highly recommend a visit to Palenque.! I know it is a little off the beaten path, but it is so worth the experience.! As a traveler, you can use San Cristobal de las Casas or the Riviera Maya as a home base. There are many tour operators who you can book a group tour with if you don’t want to drive yourself. Remember to bring plenty of sunscreen and wear a hat. It is not only particularly humid in the jungle, but being in the highlands (and so close to the equator) brings you nearer the sun.! Oh yeah, and let us not forget those pesky mosquitos.! It’s an adventure you will remember for a long time.! I know it’s one of my personal favorites 🙂

Ruins schmuins..!! Where’s the mall..?!

Temple of the Descending God and The Castle

Temple of the Descending God and The Castle

It is impossible to take a bad picture at the ruins in Tulum. It’s as if one becomes a National Geographic photographer the moment one steps into the ruins. In fact, all the photos used in this post are photos I personally took during my visit to Tulum in June 2010. And I am by no stretch of the imagination Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz..!!

The Castle or El Castillo

The Castle or El Castillo

Tulum is located about 80 miles or two hours south of Cancun. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans. It was occupied between 1200 – 1500 A.D. and was still a hustling and bustling town when the Spaniards arrived. The name Tulum means wall or fence which fits since it was one of the few Mayan cities protected by a wall. It was also the only Mayan city built on a coast. On the coast side, it was protected by steep cliffs facing the sea. On the other side, it was protected by a wall of about 12 feet in height.

God of Winds Temple or El Templo Dios del Viento

God of Winds Temple or El Templo Dios del Viento

Every Mayan city served a specific purpose, and Tulum was no exception. It functioned as a trading port and seaport for Coba, trading mainly in obsidian, turquoise and jade. The coastal setting also allowed the city to defend against invasions which is one of the theories regarding the wall. Another theory suggests only priests and nobility lived inside the city’s walls, while peasants resided outside. However, archaeologists still do not know why the wall was built. While the Mayans took their secrets with them when they abandoned Tulum.

Tulum seaside

Tulum seaside

But what the Mayans did leave behind is one of the most well preserved ruins in Mexico. Which is what sets Tulum apart from other ruins such as Chichen Itza or Coba. The Castle or El Castillo is the tallest building at the site. The structure probably served some navigational purpose such as helping the Mayans circumvent breaks in the reef. The Temple of the Frescoes is one of the better preserved buildings. As its name suggests, you can see several frescoes painted on the walls inside the building.

Tulum ruins

Tulum ruins

What also sets Tulum apart from the other ruins is it boasts its own, inviting beach. The beach at Tulum is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mexican Riviera. Many tourists take advantage of the turquoise waters to go swimming after touring the ruins. It’s a breathtaking way to refresh yourself after a hands on history lesson and tour! While Tulum may not have the largesse of Chichen Itza or the steep temple climb like Coba, it more than makes up for it through the fantastic cliffside view overlooking the gorgeous Caribbean Sea!!

Tulum cliffside view

Tulum cliffside view