Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tulum Ruins

Tulum and the Caribbean 
On the last day we went to the State of Quintana Roo and visited the Maya ruins of Tulum and Coba. It is an extra popular ruin to see because its very beautiful. It's on the Maya Rivera and easy to get to from Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Pueblo Tulum itself. Even with the crowds its fun to see.

El Castillo
Historically, Tulum was an important Mesoamerican center that showed both Classical Maya and Post Classical Toltec influence. It was a major trading and religious center between 500 and the 1500s CE. Dramatically near the Caribbean Sea it is one of the most beautiful ancient sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. It was settled around 500 CE and prospered in trading and bartering. 

Temple of the Wind
Tulum's name is actually a colonial Spanish name which means wall, referring to the fortification walls that surrounded the city on three sides. The original Maya name was probably "Zama" that means "dawn" regarding to the cities position facing east across the Caribbean.

Temple of the Frescos

House of Halach Uinik – The Great Lord of Tulum

Canoe Landing Area
The Tulum archaeological site is relatively small compared with other maya cities and is one of the best preserved coastal sites. Daily tour buses bring streams of tourists and the nearby modern area has many modern stores and restaurants that make it sort of like Disneyland in Mexico. The Tulum ruins are the third most visited ancient site in Mexico after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza. Over-crowded but still beautiful and interesting.
Tulum is highly recommended! 

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Coba Ruins


La Iglesia

On our journey back to Hacienda Chichen we took a route that brought us to the Maya Ruins of Coba. As far as excavations go its the opposite of Ek' Balam. Coba is a gigantic site that's so big you either have to rent a bike or hire one of the guys that peddle you around on a tricycle Taxi. You can walk but its quite long and hot.

Ruins in the Jungle
Historically, Coba evidence shows it was first settled between 50 BCE and 100 CE. In those early times the buildings were wood on flat platforms. There's nothing left, archaeologists have only found bits of pottery. After 100 CE the city started to grow and eventually became one of the largest and most powerful city states in northern Yucatan. They controlled large farmlands, trade routes and crucially water supplies.

Coba Sacbe
Coba is a large site and is known for its Sacbes (limestone roads). The Sacbe (plural is Sacbeob) is a road like a long low platform. Its sides were walls of rough stone that enclosed a roadbed that was filled with boulders, leveled with gravel and was paved with sascab which is powdered limestone, a natural cement that hardens. The Sacbeob makes very practical and high quality roads through the jungle for hundreds of miles in all directions.

Temple Nohoch Mul
Coba had close contacts with the large city states of Guatemala and Tikal and must have had military alliances and arranged marriages among the elite. Interestingly, Coba buildings have traces of Teotihuacan architecture that shows contact with central Mexico cultures in the Classic era. Also Stelae uncovered at Coba seem show that Coba had many female rulers.

Coba Ball Court
Only a small portion of Coba has been cleared from the jungle and restored. Since we got there in the late afternoon we were only able to explore the Coba Group, close to the entrance. Made it to the Iglesia and one of the two ball courts. We were also able to see the Nohoch Mul Pyramid which is 42 meters tall (137 feet). It is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan and the name Nohoch Mul means large hill. Its very popular to climb and from the top you can see a remarkable view of the Yucatan and non public areas of the Coba site. You can also see the Macanxoc lagoon in the East and the Coba lagoon to the Southwest. 

Famed Coba Tricycle Taxi
Walking through these ruins in the jungle, if you're lucky you can see parrots, butterflies and even the occasional spider monkey. Large ceiba trees grow over the ancient stonework and the sound of the jungle is wonderful. With its beautiful jungle setting, Coba is a pleasure to explore.

On our next trip to the Yucatan we will definitely return to Coba for more exploration.

Highly recommended!
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ek' Balam Maya Ruins

Ek' Balam Acropolis
One great thing about staying at Hacienda Chichen is that it is located in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula which makes it a good base for exploring the maya ruins. We left the Hacienda and got to Ek' Balam early and there weren't too many people there yet. It was like we were discovering the ruins. 
Four way Entrance to Ruins
Ek Balam is a Maya name that means the "black Jaguar". It's near the colonial city of Valladolid so its kind of easy to get there but Siri and the iPhone maps helps a lot. Ek' Balam's most important era was the Late Classic (700 to 1000 CE). The Maya buried the site to protect the Pyramids and main tomb and wasn't really mapped until the 1800s. Then in the 1980, the site began to be excavated and research continued into the 1990s. 

Ek Balam from the Acropolis 
The City of Ek' Balam functioned as a city for over 1000 years and was begun in the Pre-Classic (100 BCE to 300 CE) and continued well into the Late Classic. Some have said that the city may have even been inhabited until the Spanish invasion occurred in the 16th century.

The architecture and design makes the Acropolis one of the largest Maya structures in the Yucatan. Not only was the building a tomb but it was a palace too. It is 151 meters long, 60 meters wide and 30 meters high and the tomb contains some of the most beautifully decorated designs found in a Maya building. The decorations are not carved stone like those found at Uxmal and Chichen Itza. The builders and artists used a stucco and limestone mortar that could be modeled into beautiful forms and painted.
Path to Util-Lan Le'k Tok Tomb

Jaguar Mouth Tomb Entrance
Winged Figures
The Acropolis houses the tomb of Util-Kan Le'k Tok' who was the ruler during the city's most important era. The tomb has beautiful full figure statues decorating it that exhibit hair braids, loin cloth patterns and warrior's belts and much more that can be seen.The Acropolis facades have been restored and protected by palapa roofs that conserve the artistry.  

Hieroglyphic Stairs with Facing Snakes
Un-excavated Ruins
The other buildings there are not quite as elaborate as the Acropolis but there's structure 17 that is called "The Twins" that's there. The large platform is 40 meters in length and 6 meters high and holds two temples which can be seen from the Acropolis. Also interesting is the Oval Palace. The formal entrance to the city has four gates in one and can be seen as one arrives at the ruins that's interesting too.

Ek' Balam is definitely a ruin to see if you're is in the Yucatan!

Highly Recommended!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ruins of Chichen Itza

El Castillo — Temple of Kukulcan
Met Jaime at 8:00 at the Hacienda so we could see the ruins of Chichen Itza early, while it was fairly quiet. We walked the short private trail and soon we were in the ruins.

Private path to Chichén Itzá Ruins
Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city started by the Maya people in the Classic period. It is located at the northern end of the Yucatan Peninsula and was greatly influenced by the Toltec culture in the Post-Classic period. It flourished from 200 to 1200 CE. Chichen Itza is rich in buildings & sculptures.

The name Chichen Itza derives from the Sacred Cenote as the "mouth of the well of the Itza". The Itza were a powerful Maya group in the area. The city is divided into  two parts and periods. The earliest is in the South part of the city and is Classic Maya with buildings that display distinct "Puuc" architectural styles and is constructed on a north-south axis. 

The northern part of Chichen displays many hallmarks of the Toltec Culture dating 900 to 1200 CE. Its unknown if the Toltecs either conquered the city or there was cultural and trade sharing between the two cultures. There are still a lot of Mysteries concerning Chichen Itza and it's wonderful to explore.

El Osario

Corbeled Arch

El Akab Dzib
Coming from the south, the first Maya building we came to was El Akab Dzib in the Central Group east of The Caracol. Akab Dzib is a "Puuc" style building whose name means the House of Dark Writing, in the sense of Mysterious Writings. Royal family may have lived here.

Las Monjas, is a complex of buildings constructed in the "Puuc" style. The Spanish named the complex Las Monjas ( The Nunnery) but it was actually a government Palace. The Las Monjas Group is distinguished by a group of Hieroglyphic texts dating from the end of the Classic era. The texts mention a ruler named Kakupakal.

Iquana Welcome at Las Monjas
Casa de Las Monjas 

El Caracol
El Caracol (The Snail) is located northeast of Las Monjas. It is an Astronomically oriented round building on a large square platform. El Caracol, with its round building is thought to have been an observatory that has doors and windows aligned with astronomical events, particularly Venus.

Great Ballcourt
Archaeologists have identified thirteen Mesoamerican ballcourts for playing the sacred ballgame in Chichen Itza. The Great Ball Court is by far the most impressive as it is the largest and best preserved in all of Mesoamerica. 
Bench Panel – Captains Head is Left, Snakes of Blood is Right
At the base of the ball court the walls are 6 ft benches with sculpted panels. In one panel, the captain of one team has been decapitated; the wound emits streams of blood in the form wiggling snakes. 

In fact, in the sacred ball game there were 6 team members and the captain played on the bench alone. The captain  was the only one who could hit the hard rubber ball through the hoop. When the winning captain finally hit the ball through the hole, he was decapitated, as losing ones head was an honor in this sport. Some game!

Temple of Kulkucan
El Castillo is the Temple of Kukulcan who is a Maya feathered serpent god similar to Quetzalcoatl. The 98 stepped pyramid dominates the North Platform of Chichen Itza. On the spring and autumn equinoxes, in late afternoon, the shadow of the pyramid shows what seems to be a serpent wriggling down the staircase that is thought to be the Plumed Serpent god Kulkucan. There are over 25,000 people who come for the event. Climbing the pyramid stairs is now closed for who would like to do it. It has been closed since January 2006 following the death of a tourist. 

Small Ballcourt
Modern Maya
Going to see Chichen Itza is a fantastic thing to do but it has to be planned out in order to miss the Day-trippers from Cancun that crowd the site. That's the good thing about staying at Hacienda Chichen, you can go early and late to miss the crowds who are there from roughly 10am to 4pm.

Highly Recommended!

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Hacienda Chichen Hotel

 16th Century Casa Principal 
Arrived at Hacienda Chichen and happily checked in to our cottage suite. The location was fantastic, just 10 minutes to the ruins of Chichen Itza while surrounded by a beautiful jungle. The Hacienda has a very interesting history and has been used by many major archaeologists in studying the ruins of Chichen Itza. John Lloyd Stephens and artist Fredric Catherwood stayed here in the 1830s and brought the relativley unknown ancient Maya culture to public awareness.

Hacienda Chichen Original 16th Century Gate
Hacienda Chichen was among the first of Yucatan's Haciendas. This hacienda was built by the Spanish in the 16th Century around the 1540s. All colonial haciendas in the Yucatan were designed to operate within the Spanish feudal power structure and such was the case at Hacienda Chichen. 

The Main house (Casco) belonged to the hacienda Lord who was appointed by the Spanish Crown.  Hacienda Chichen structures were built by recycling Maya stones from the temple ruins; some can still be seen in the main house.
Recycled Maya Temple Stone in Main House

Alux – Maya Elf
In the 20th Century, Hacienda Chichen was bought by Edward Thompson, US Vice Consul. Through Mr. Thompson, the Carnegie Institute established its first Maya Archaeological Expedition Head Quarters at the hacienda in 1923. Rustic cottages were built to house the archaeologists and their research teams. Excavation and reconstruction began on Chichen Itza's Maya temples the same year. This group pioneered Maya Studies and Maya temple restoration in Mexico.

Dinner with Jaime Playing Music
The  Hacienda Chichen main house and cottages were later developed into a wonderful hotel. The 28 room eco-hotel has each of its rooms named after one of the archaeologists who stayed there. It has spacious terraces, a museum, jungle gardens, a conservation area of regional flora and fauna and a wonderful staff who makes staying here super fun.
Stephens Cottage 
We stayed four nights at the Hacienda Chichen in the Stephens Cottage. It was private and very nice. We had a informative guided bird tour with Bibiano which allowed us to see many jungle birds. We also had Bibiano's son, Jaime as our early morning guide to the ruins before the tour buses and the mob got there. The hacienda has a private path and gate into the ruins. Jaime is quite a person.

Colonial Hacienda Ruins
Hacienda Chichen is like a dream with a beautiful jungle setting and birds everywhere. The attentive staff is always there when you need them. There's also the beautiful covered al fresco dining room in the main house and the food is quite good. The front desk arranged the tickets to the ruins and Jaime as our guide. 

We had a wonderful time and shall return. 

Highly recommended!

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Restaurante Kinich – Izamal

Kinich – El Sabor de Izamal
The horse drawn carriage dropped us off at the wonderful Kinich Restaurant to have a true Yucatec Maya lunch. Luckily we were early so we beat the crowds that arrive little later.

Entrance to Kinich
The Kinich restaurant serves wonderful Yucatecan food. We were seated quickly in the beautifully open restaurant. It's definitely a tourist spot, but there's a reason for it because the food is so good.

Maya Ladies Making Tortillas
The tortillas are freshly made by two women who patiently sit and create the wonderful tortillas that the diners will soon eat. Before food is ordered they give you complimentary hard tortillas and very spicy frijole sauce to dip it in. Habanero chiles are big in the Yucatan so the Salsas they give you is usually muy picante!

Cochinita Pibil

Pollo Pibil
The food itself was Great. We had the classic Cochinita Pibil and Pollo Pibil. The Cochinita was an interesting pork dish with onions buried in banana leaves over night. Pollo Pibil is a chicken dish cooked the same way over night in banana leaves. It was so good. Had Maya beer to go with it and it was perfect.

Kinich Ahua
The name Kinich is a special name in Izamal  –  Kinich Ahua was the name of the Sun God for the ancient Maya in the Yucatan. In the Classic Period he was depicted as a middle aged man with an aquiline nose, large square eyes, cross-eyed with a filed incisor in the upper row of teeth. He was a very important god for Izamal. The Maya believed that Kinich Ahau would visit the city every day as a parrot at noon and take the offerings that the city gave him.

Restaurante Kinich is a wonderful place for lunch. Maya food is fantastic, and we had a great time in Izamal.

Highly recommended!

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Izamal – The Yellow City

San Antonio de Padua Monastery
On the way to Chichen Itza, we stopped in Izamal to see the city and have lunch at Kinich, the most famous Maya Restaurant in the area. Izamal is a Mexican Magical City.

Monastery with Horse Drawn Carriages Below 

Izamal was an important ancient Maya City. The Dimension of its buildings and network of roads (Sacbeob) constructed between 600 and 800 CE are evidence of the political and economic status that Izamal exerted over a vast territory.

After the conquest of the Yucatan by the Spanish in the 16th century, they destroyed the Great Maya City and built a Spanish City on the foundations of the remains. They decided to build the huge Franciscan Monastery, San Antonio de Padua, on top of the largest Temple, Pop Hol Choc, that had existed at the time.

Maya Ruins in town

Izamal Central Plaza
Izamal's colonial center is painted a sunny ocher yellow and its very impressive and beautiful. The entire city is yellow including San Antonio de Padua above the main square that is said to have the largest plaza in the Americas (only the Vatican is larger). It was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1993. 
Yellow Izamal from the Horse Carriage
No one really knows why the entire city of Izamal is painted Yellow although archaeologists have said that the color yellow is found in ruins over a 1000 years old in the ancient city.

Old Colonial House
We had a wonderful time when we took a horse drawn carriage ride all around Izamal to see the sights and the actual Maya ruins that were found here and there all around the down town.

Izamal is a really is a Magical City to see, 

Highly recommended!

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