Amazingly enough, my travel diary is all but up to date ... 10 pages now. One of the advantages of travelling alone is that you actually get time for recording your experiences. I'll extract some 'highlights' for you - until my hands get tired, or my credit at the cafe runs out !
I am now in Merida (same place as the previous post). I arrived here on Friday morning after an overnight bus trip from Palenque. This the bus trip with the worst reputation in Mexico, and i was hoping to share it with two Danish friends I'd met on my previous bus trip, for safety in numbers. It wasn't to be, so I waited for a couple of hours until they turned up on the later bus.
My first impressions of Merida were very negative ... Lonely Planet's charming colonial town was a dirty noisy crowded crumbling dump with very narrow and crowded footpaths, speeding busses and very aggressive street vendors who can spot a tourist from a hundred miles (and let's face it, two Danes and i weren't going to fool anyone, even without our backpacks).
So we did brekky, had a wander and went into the only shop that didn't physically try and manhandle us in, as the girls wanted to buy some of the hammocks that this town is famous for. This was the scene of my negotiating skills, after the guy gave us his final, already given you a big deal blah blah blah offer of 1800 pesos for the package', i offered 850 (the girls were willing to pay 1500) and wouldn't budge - bingo !
Merida is a few hours from the beach resorts (notably Cancun) and used to get many Americans, who have stopped coming since September 11, hence the over aggressiveness of the vendors. My opinion of the town has improved drastically today (Sunday) - the streets were closed to traffic, there are people everywhere in the main square, free concerts and even the vendors seem to have taken the day off (as i have, from travelling - two nights in the same bed for the first time in more than a week !). So come here on a Sunday if you plan to at all !
My favourite town remains Oaxaca, from where I last wrote. The pictures below might give you an idea of the feel of the town:
I've posted some more photos here for your enjoyment.
That night I visited the museum, then saw a free concert of traditional Indian musicians from the various tribes of the area, dressed traditionally. The next day I took a tour to visit three places: El Tule, famous for its big tree (!), Tlacalula, famous for Sunday markets, and Mitla (main destination for me) for its ruins of a Zapotec temple and mausoleum.
I'm not a big fan of organised tours but this was the only way to see all three places in a single day. Our guide was useless, and tried to divert the tour to another market town that sold carpets, and then rushed us through the ruins with a very basic guide that covered half of what Lonely Planet had to say ! Still, good ruins, and I got to meet Philippe and Cyriana, a Belgian couple with whom i ended up travelling for the next few days.
Next stop was San Cristobal, a colonial town, also a student town and the capital of Chiapas state that was briefly occupied by the Zapatistas 8 years ago. We arrived at 7 in the morning after my first overnight bus trip and found a place to stay, but the rooms weren't ready until after lunch so we had a nice morning wandering around in smelly travelled-in day old clothes, until we could finally shower and we took the opportunity to have a siesta.
That night we went out for dinner and found a great bar 'El Revolucion' with live music and a driendly vibe. Cyriana eventually went home (she's expecting in 4 months) and Philippe and I stayed out for a few more bevvies and songs.
That was our mistake ...