Tuesday, October 11, 2016

[TULUM] Mayans of the Caribbean

Tulum stands out from other Mayan ruins thanks to its strategic location facing the Caribbean. Here, you can enjoy both beach and ancient archaeological wonders at the same time. There should be several other sites benefiting from the same coastal setting, but Tulum is the prohibitive favorite as a day trip option for many who are based in Cancún. The trip was long at two hours and a half, but ADO buses are really comfortable so I can’t really complain. Once you get off at the station, there are several food options across the street.

There are three Tulums: the pueblo; the beach; and the ruins. I am under the impression that the beach and the ruins are one and the same, or at least that’s what locals will tell you. Pueblo is the town proper where everyone resides. This is where you will be based if you opt to stay in Tulum overnight, which is a good option for many because most of these ruins have a light show in the evening. Tulum can also be used as a good base for exploring the southern part of the state.

Since I arrived after lunch and ate nothing before leaving, I stopped by Flor de Michoacan first and had a really late breakfast. They sell different flavors of shakes, which is just perfect for the humid weather. Once you are ready to head to the ruins, you can either take a taxi for who knows how much, or flag one of the minivans headed to Playa del Carmen. I suggest taking the latter, as it costs just MXN20 (~PHP50) and you will reach your destination in just around ten minutes.

You know me, I love walking. And walk, I did. It took me almost half an hour under the cruel heat of the sun. I don’t suggest walking here because there is nothing much to see once you get out of the town proper itself. Reserve the exercise excuse for the ruins, which requires a lot of walking too. What you will see from the highway is a sign for the entrance, which leads you to the parking lot. From there, you’ll see many souvenir shops and travel agencies for exploring the rest of Quintana Roo.

Go farther in and you will be greeted by more souvenir stalls, as well as a Starbucks branch. To tell you the truth, the place felt more like a theme park/water park. Are you familiar with Atlantis in the Bahamas or Dubai? It gives off that kind of vibe, except that the temples here are legit. There isn’t one notable pyramid worthy of attention, though. In most photos of the place, what’s always photographed is that small temple on the edge of a cliff, with gratuitous views of the Caribbean to the right.

What caught my attention was still the blue, blue beach. I landed in Cancún but I haven’t really explored the coast yet. The rumors are true about the Mexican Caribbean. The varying tones of blue, not just of the sea but of the sky as well, are hypnotizing, especially when you find a quiet spot away from all the tourists. You can stare at it for hours and never get bored. I guess that’s what I love about the ocean. It offers you serenity, and for a moment there, your soul is free from all the earthly bullshit.

Having said that, the ruins were more like side dishes for me. The beach remained to be the main course. You can’t even go near the temples anymore, what more, prance on their steps and see the walls up close. I think I enjoyed the iguana sightings more than the ruins themselves. There are iguanas here everywhere. I don’t even know if that’s the right term for this kind of lizard. They are not as big as those roaming Bangkok’s Lumphini Park, but way bigger than your average geckos.

There’s an abundance of flora and fauna, which might be of interest to those who are adept in botany or zoology. I don’t know what that animal is called, but it looked like a giant racoon. It took the bag of a busy mother taking selfies of her daughter on the viewing deck. Suffice it to say that the sandwiches they were reserving for snacks were not their property anymore. Giant racoons and iguanas aside, the most common animal here is the one walking on two feet, camera at hand, and ready to shoot.

Going back to Cancún is as easy as heading back to the bus station. Again, Tulum is strategically located at the center of Quintana Roo. You can ride a bus to Chetumal to cross the border to Belize. You can also go to Coba, Mayan ruins more inland. The bus ride is said to be just about an hour, but infrequent. You can also stop halfway to Cancún at Playa del Carmen, which looked like a very busy backpacker’s beach to me. Or you can always laze at the beach and swim, with ancient temples in the background. The choice is yours.

[TULUM] Mayans of the Caribbean

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