Leaving from the adorable Valladolid it was not easy to feel at home in Merida. It’s a city of about a million people and what feels like a million cars too. Streets are packed with people with either meandering or (more often) rushing and pushing. The weather was hotter and the hostel, even though very nice, was not as good comparing to the warm-heartedness of Valladolid. But as before, I’ve been meeting really nice people from around the world and enjoying my time with them - Emilia from Sydney, Patricia from Monterrey, Allison & Pat from the UK, Yuxing from China.
There’s really not a lot to see in Merida. Some churches and museums yes but nothing unusual. There is a big Mercado to buy food, clothes, shoes, toys.. anything.. like in every town. On Sundays there’s a big market in the main square and on some weekend evenings one of the main streets is partially closed and restaurants have tables outside – you can hear all kinds of live bands. We went to see that Friday and Saturday night and saw a few people dancing on the streets too.
Dancing in Merida
On the first night there was a salsa class at my hostel by a local dance teacher Nestor. The class was on Puertorican style (salsa en linea like the LA style) and my first salsa class actually. There was about 20 people taking part in the class which we finished with a rueda! We did about 4 different moves, with more or less success.
I heard there was salsa going on at a restaurant called Cumban Chero but it was actually mostly old couples – no dance partners for me as the ladies were sure to hold on to their men! So if you’re into salsa, in Merida you should look up Cumban Chero at Paseo de Montejo / Calle 39. There is also a salsa club which might be still open: Mambo Café at Plaza las Americas, but that’s outside the city center. You may hear an occasional bachata and merengue as well.
As a “revenge” for doing salsa here I’m torturing everybody about telling them about zouk. I got even to a point where I got as far as showing some zouk videos on youtube. I feel sorry for everybody who has to put up with my zouk deprivation but at least the girls here seemed to think it looked cool!
Close to Merida are some lovely small town, cenotes and – again – ruins. Went to see the one in Dzibilchaltun (I’m still not comfortable with the pronunciation). Smaller pyramids but you can climb up all of them. There is a cenote (come early if you want to private dip). I find it interesting that there is a big avenue in between two temples and you can just imagine how the Mayas were walking in the large promenade. There’s also some ruins of the village residents by the “promenade”. The site is about 20 minutes bus ride outside the city (entrance 107 pesos – Chichen Itza and Uxmal are 166 pesos by the way).
Somehow I decided I would spend Christmas on the mountains in San Cristobal de Las Casas, instead of the beach. On the way to San Cristobal and Palenque (where my next stop was) from Merida is a lovely town of Campeche. I had heard it was pretty and that it was… are all the Mexican little town this cute?? (so far, yes!). Colorful one or two story-houses line the old town streets and only a rare turist in sight. When I was having lunch - exchausted and half asleep - a local 40-something guy came to ask me with an American accent "are you ok man?" :D The people are lovely :)
The compact old town surrounded by walls and forts that were built in the 1600-1800. I went around to sightsee and ended up doing some shopping since I was desperately out of clean clothes and nothing seemed to dry if I washed them. Figured I was allowed to spend a few pesos since I didn’t get a flight to Cuba (long story).
People here love to listen to music, it’s blaring everywhere. Salsa, reggaeton, chart hits… I heard bachata everywhere when I was walking around during the day. Like I do everywhere in Mexico actually! Was hanging out and sleeping on the sofa of the Monkey Hostel in the evening and listening to a fiesta & shows they had on the square in front of us – pre-Christmas concerts and celebrations are happening everywhere. And that was all for Campeche. At midnight (or actually 00.30 – the bus was half an hour late), me and Yuxing, my Chinese friend, hopped on the bus to Palenque.