Saturday, January 30, 2010

El Pueblo de Cancun: Mercado 23 y 28

Two markets I’ve wanted to visit in El Pueblo de Cancun also known as El Centro Cancun and Downtown Cancun are Markets 23 and 28.

Mercado 23

Market 23 is mainly a food market and is a bit rundown yet authentically Mexican. It has its own scruffy charm and very local too which is a major plus as I am always on the lookout for local places. Located across the main bus terminal of Cancun and just a stone’s throw away from my hotel—I’m glad I booked into this hotel as I am quite central to everything, I just couldn’t miss it. It was a pity Market 23 is small and there were not many vendors when I was there.

The chicken stalls look so pretty with the bright paint colours. Next foto is another shop selling wicker baskets.

Two boys selling food along the pedestrian walk. Hammocks for sale in the middle foto. Foto on the right are herbs and some variations.

A little restaurant inside the mercado and foto on the right are corn tortillas said the vendor that I chatted with rather briefly.

Large chicharron (pork cracklings) for sale and dried prawns.

Mercado 28

Market 28 on the other hand is bigger, cleaner and very touristy, it’s more of a bazaar really. I didn’t even bother asking for the price of the items on sale there as I am pretty sure they are tourist-overpriced-prices.

I think I have totally lost my edge for shopping. I like to look around especially when I am traveling in another country, take pictures, sometimes I get curious and jump into a discussion with the vendor but I rarely buy. Sounds very Dutch right? Kijken, kijken en niet kopen, lol. But I guess the difference here is I don’t really have the intention to shop unless I see something that I really like.

Mercado 28 could be a tourist trap but its much better than shopping last minute in the airport.

The mercado is like a mall actually and here on the left foto you can see some locals selling their wares. Middle foto are cute mexican puppet dolls and foto on the right are porcelain crosses. Majority of Mexicans are Catholics.

Here is a closer foto of the local women selling their wares. Next foto are the famous colourful Mexican ponchos.

I just like the set up, the bright colours of the subjects on foto on the left. You can see two musicians serenading a group having lunch in a restaurant. Foto on the right, menu for the day, well everyday.

These days I find myself not really having the urge to go out and shop. Shopping can easily become a chore. It’s a good feeling though to know that I don’t go shopping because I can’t but because I just don’t want to.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Booze and Touristy stuff at Tulum

While waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive at our meeting point, I did a quick survey of the little square in Tulum. You never know I might see something worth buying.

Well, what did I see? You cannot get as touristy as this...

Indian tribes for you for a few pesoses...

And of course Mexico is proud of its booze... Tequila and beer. I have to admit that I love tequila. Give me a few shots please!

My souvenir shot with Mr. Corona =)

Now, Corona beer is usually served chilled and with a slice of lemon in it. I am not a beer gal, I prefer real alcholic drinks like wine and tequila... or whisky.

And this is our Mexican driver leaning on the bar waiting patiently for the rest of the group to turn up. I think he wants a Corona...

I could not make up my mind so I did not buy anything. Might be a good thing.

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

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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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Monday, January 25, 2010

A winter walk in Austerlitz

It’s snowed again last weekend and its going to be -9C tonight in Utrecht (-12C up north). Early this month the Netherlands and Europe was plague with a snowstorm, one after the other, snow was 30 centimeters deep and I heard—while I was in Mexico, that Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was shut down because of very bad weather. I hope that’s not going to happen again although I’ll be a hypocrite if I say I don’t love snow.

It is lovely to go out when the grounds are covered with snow (and not snowing anymore), so Dutchman and I had a nice walk yesterday in Austerlitz in Utrechtse Heuvelrug forest. The Utrechtse Heuvelrug is H-U-G-E, this wooded area stretches from Zeist all the way down to Rhenen near Wageningen snaking along the path of the River Lek bordering Utrecht and Gelderland provinces. Austerlitz is located near Driebergen, Zeist and Maarn, a place where I would love to relocate if we find the right house there.

A sign board from the forest management -- Welkom in Austerlitz! We saw die hard joggers and there were a few couples out for a walk on that crisp Sunday.

Lovely horses on the snow field, nice contrast from the black and white background. Next foto is a junction in the forest with a bench and a bikers monument fountain (it has a nice bronze plaque around it with embossed figures of people on their bikes).

The wooden statue shows the direction to an old camp in the forest. On the middle foto is a map of Austerlitz and surroundings. Foto on the right is a row of trees and a fietspad (a bike path).

We probably walked six to seven kilometers, maybe more until it was dark. We noticed a lot of bike routes in the area too, which is another great outdoor weekend activity, well for the sporty types, cycle from one village and forest to another.

A few weeks ago before I went to Mexico, we also did a nature walk in Lage Vuursche, actually another winter in wonderland walk and I will post a separate entry and fotos of this after I’m done with my Mexican series—there’s three more entries to go!

A few more fotos here: Austerlitz, Utrecht - The Netherlands

A lonely snow covered path in the forest which looks bald now because its winter time. Next foto is the evidence that I have, one way or another, gotten lost between the bushes, and had to comb myself out of it.

I’m a sucker for charming cafes and restaurants to stop by after a long walk in the forest, so in a way we got lucky that we picked Austerlitz—thank you google, because the parking area of one of the entrances to the forest is across a theater café called the Beauforthuis, with its high arched glass windows, bell tower and lofty ceilings you’d mistake the restaurant for a mid-size church, which technically previously was.

Arriving in the theater café—it badly needs a face-and-interior lift and they are accepting donations by the way, a piano concert by a pianist Dutchman recognized from TV is just about to commence. It was past 6PM. We ordered our drinks and sat in the café while the concert began in the adjoining theater and this sour looking guy stood guarding the door making sure those with no tickets—like us, don’t find ourselves pretending to be lost inside, hehe.

I’ve checked out the list of artists scheduled on their weekend program and thought perhaps in another week or two, maybe three, we come back in the area, do a different walking route this time, somewhere nearby, then afterwards treat ourselves with some hapas (Dutch tapas) and watch a concert of our choice in the theater café.

Visit Period: January 2010
Destination: Austerlitz (Zeist - Utrecht), The Netherlands

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