Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Palenque / El Panchan Mexico

Caught the 11pm bus out of Veracruz to Villahermosa at a cost of $418 pesos and a 6 hour ride. I provided some entertainment for the folks at the ADO ticket counter. When I went up to get my ticket I couldn't hear what she was saying, she is behind glass with the speaker. There were sirens going by and the speaker was not the greatest; and as it turns out I have no idea how to say Villahermosa, you would think it would be easy but not so.... I finally just wrote it down and passed a note to her which resulted in much laughter from her and me. Having done this a few time now I know she is going to ask for my name which will result in much confusion so I write it down and pass another note through before she asks, resulting in more laughter. Now there are 4 clerks standing around smiling at me and waiting to see what happens.. Next up seat selection, luckily I know a few numbers so that went okay. Long story short by the end of the purchase I had 4 clerks laughing their asses off and a long line up of people waiting to buy tickets who were not laughing so much. When I went to go catch my bus outside all of the clerks came out to say goodbye. So glad I could entertain the locals LOL

Got to Villahermosa at about 5:30 just in time for the 5:45 bus to Palenque at a cost of $106 pesos and about a 2 hour ride. Met up with a couple of people on that bus, a couple who were in the same hotel as me in Veracruz and a guy with a Canadian flag on his backpack who it turns out was in disguise and was really from California. Seemed like a nice enough guy but really you shouldn't be able to buy Canadian flags unless you can show proof of citizenship, as much as I sympathize with the plight of the travelers from the south don't be screwing it up for us. Anyway it ended up we were all going to El Panchan (Mayan for "heaven on earth") which is just outside of Palenque on the way to the ruins so we shared a cab $50.00 pesos for all of us and our packs. El Panchan is basically a plot of land that one of the archaeologists who worked on the site bought. Now he has divided it amongst his children who run a bunch of different businesses including places that rent out cabanas and other accommodations and a couple of restaurants. There is an Internet place but in 2 days it has never opened so I have had to go into town to check the Lost Trekkers site and approve ads. Not a big deal the vans (Collectivo's) go back and forth between town and the ruins very regularly usually it is only a 5 minute wait to flag one down. The trip into town is 10 pesos and another 10 pesos to get back. The town is nice enough but very hot, there is not much to do there a few pubs and some shopping. El Panchan is a lot cooler than town due to the heavy jungle foliage there are spots of sun but most of the paths have tree coverage so it's a lot more bearable.

I found a cabana down by the river at the Jungle Place. Very basic a bed a table and a fan, it does have electricity and a small porch on the back over the river (stream), there are shared bathrooms the cost is $100 pesos a night.

After dumping my stuff in my new home and on very little sleep I hoped a collectivo to the ruins. The park gate is just outside the driveway into El Panchan so I walked through, there is a $20 pesos charge to enter the park, then I flagged down a collectivo for $10 pesos.

The fee to get into the Palenque ruins is $51 pesos which includes entry into the museum as well. If you go give yourself at least 6 hours to get through the whole park, it is huge and there are many stairs involved if you want to go into the buildings, make sure you have lots of water as well. They charge $10 pesos if you need to buy it while you are there and you have to go outside the ruins to get it. Not a big deal, your ticket is good for the day so you can go in and out as much as you want. There are also food stands which are pretty cheap and some expensive restaurants. There are a ton of people selling souvenirs as well as guides offering their services. I didn't opt for a guide all of the signs for the buildings have English translations but you would probably get more of the history and more of a jungle walk with a guide, they were promising to show me howler monkeys.

The ruins are incredible most of them are dated from 600 BC to 800 BC, Palenque itself started as an agricultural village in the 4th century. The ruins are in pretty good shape considering they were buried under jungle for a very long time. It does get really hot in the main area as there is little shade so I broke it up and did some ruins that were in the jungle then a building in the main part then back to the jungle. The ruins cover a very large area so wear comfy shoes. There were a lot of people there when I went but it was still possible to be the only one on some of the trails in the jungle and be the only one in and around some of the ruins in the jungle area. I did have some issues with the whole height thing, I am not a fan of high places so going up the big buildings was okay but down was another matter. It's kind of scary when you are looking down, those stairs look very little and there is the added challenge of getting down while lots of people are coming up. Luckily my fear of looking like a sissy girl is stronger than my fear of heights, by the 2nd building it wasn't so bad but I was very careful and developed a side step maneuver to get down rather than the head on route.

El Panchan is a great mix of people from all over the place, at anytime you can hear 3 or 4 different languages being spoken and the atmosphere is very relaxed. The restaurants at night have candlelight dining and the one I have been going to Don Muchos has live music that starts at about 8ish. They also have good food and the prices are great, there is very little on the menu over $100 pesos for the amount that I eat they have a whole range of choices in the $30 - $50 peso range, beers are about $17 pesos depending on what you drink. Having been into town a few times, I am very happy with the decision to stay outside of town the whole jungle thing is much better for me than the town thing.

Met some great folks here, Kiwi guy, Holland girl, Montreal chick, Italian dude, Hungarian guy, some Brits and more. El Panchan attracts a wide variety of folks from all over the world.

Next stop Flores Guatemala, got here after an 8 hour van, boat and bus extravaganza.. Details to come but I'm taking the day off tomorrow to do some swimming and lazing, next day Tikal ruins.

My cabana in the jungle and trail leading to it

Shots Of The Ruins

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