Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tulum ruins and our little panda bear tour guide

The ruins in Tulum are said to be the second most visited Mayan ruin and the next best to Chichen Itza in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo regions, while I have seen fotos of the Coba ruins nearby and I know some people swear on Coba as a must place to visit, Tulum is by far enticing and bigger but not nearly half the size of Chichen Itza. On a national scale, Tulum is the third most visited ruin after Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan (in the Valley of Mexico). OK, some facts: Earliest inscription found in the site is said to be around 564 A.D.

What make Tulum special are not only its well preserved Pre-Columbian ruins, although quite remarkable --- it is its location! The once gated Mayan community is set adequately on top of vast rock cliffs, 12-meter high facing the inviting Caribbean Sea, and the white sandy beach coves lurking below its precipice gives Tulum that ultimate X factor that every tourist would have a weakness for.

On the highway going south to Tulum which is not far from the Guatemala-Belize border. An interesting road concept I saw in Mexico is the Retorno. Their U-turns are in the middle of the highway, its like driving in the UK and slowing down on the left lane to exit but this one you do a U-turn instead. 

Finally we have arrived in Tulum. Want a tractor to bring you to the ruins? 

Our cute 80-year old little panda bear tour guide! I am so taller than him =).  For reference how cute our tour guide is, I took a picture of him with someone.

This is the entrance to the Tulum ruins with a primitive stone arch architectural construction similar to the arch and vault construction of the Etruscans in Italy.... and a Banyan Tree (rubber tree), Balete in Philippine and Spanish lingo. Its branches and swags when they touch the ground can on its own metamorphose into another interdependent tree.

Little panda bear tour guide told us that the Mayans bury their dead under their houses which could pose hygiene problems. Above picture is the "Castillo".

Moi standing at the back part of the "Castillo" facing the Caribbean Sea.

Iguana hiding from us!

This is the "Temple of the Frescoes", also known as the Fertility Temple and little panda bear tour guide caught us by surprise when he told us that the flower detail sculpture on the cornice has a penis and testicles hanging from it, lol.

Can you find the controversial flower detail with the male organ hanging from it? Hint -- Its on the cornice, in the middle. 

I went there with a group of colleagues from work during our free time in the afternoon. We hired a van from our resort hotel and our driver was very talkative—a lot of Mexicans are magpies I noticed. While he was multi-tasking, driving and delivering his Mexican history discourse to the group, I could not help but slowly dose off. Worse, I probably did the stunt with my mouth open, lol. What a shame really =(

We finally arrived in Tulum and our Mexican driver introduced us to this 80-year old little man—I forgot his name because he had one of those impossible to memorize and pronounce names, but he himself was an unforgettable figure. I christened him as our "little panda bear tour guide" because he simply looks like one. CUTE. But, don’t be misled by his feeble appearance, this little fellow is as fierce as a tiger.

We were in for a surprise when he reprimanded us for not waiting on him, not listening and really for just being an impatient lot. I honestly don’t know if I should laugh when he did that. He was too cute to be taken seriously and I wanted to hug him and squeeze his cheeks!

The famous white sandy beach cove of Tulum tuck under the rocky cliffs. It is very pretty here.

Moi having another souvenir shot, this time with the beach view. 

A ground panorama of the pre-Columbian ruins and people walking on the paths, they are about to leave the place. Tulum ruins close at 5PM sharp and the Mexican guards shoo everyone away with a whistle, hehe. I was wondering what the whistle fuss was all about then I learned it was to inform people its time to scurry off.

A translation of three languages: Spanish, Maya, English. 

When we came by the “Temple of the Frescoes” which is the Fertility Temple, he explained the history behind the building and the meaning of the sculptures and frescoes still visible from its façade. He said that the flower on the cornice symbolizes fertility and asked us what we think the object hanging from the flower is. All of us didn’t even get near to the right answer which is: penis and testicles. All of a sudden everyone was awakened from a deep Tour of the Tulum Ruins slumber. Haha!

We bid our ‘adios’ to little panda bear tour guide and he came up to me and asked if I am Spanish, from Spain. When I told him I am originally from the Philippines his face lit up—“Ah! Pilipina! My son is married to a Pilipina; he was traveling around the world because he works in a big boat.” he proudly said.

I didn’t get to chat with him further and I was a bit curious about his seafaring son but my colleagues were speedily moving towards the cliffs, eager to check out the white sandy beaches and perhaps swim in it which we were not able to do, helaas, but, one thing cool about this is... it’s always nice to meet strangers from another culture and have something—even a very little thing, in common with them, something that you can both identify together and say, AHH! It makes traveling in strange new places easier.

Travel Period: January 2010
Destination: Tulum (Quintana Roo), Mexico

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