Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good weather returned

Yesterday morning I decided to take a chance and goto to Villahermosa and checkout its Olmec display at Parque National La Venta. It was still pretty cloudy in the morning, but not the dark heavy cloud of the previous day. There was no collectivo, so I decided to take the earliest bus, which is more expensive one. As with so many bus journey in my trip the 2.5 hour trip turned into 3 hours because of accident in the road. Anyway the sky turned into sunshine the closer we got to Villahermosa. The book said the park is near the bus station, but rather not take the chance and got a taxi.

The park itself is right in the city and around a lake. The original ruin was located in La Venta, 120 km west of Villahermosa. It was moved here in the 1950s due to discovery of oil and the threat it post to the ruins. The main ruin is the huge head weights 20 tons. There is also a zoo that features Tabasco state jungle animals: alligators, monkeys, jaguar, as well as other non-native ones.

Just when I was ready to leave the park, I saw Jorge from Belize walked in. I have tried to contact him in Palenque since he said he will be there about the same time as me, but after the initial confirmation. I got no respond back. So we both were surprised to see each other in Villahermosa. He had a flight to catch from Villahermosa at night and was just want to kill some time at the park. Anyway we caught on what's happening since Belize. Lots interesting story about Jenifer and him in Guatemala, and more tourists got robbed or scammed. We chatted more over lunch as well as my wait for my bus back to Palenque. Jorge skipped couple of classes, but will have get up early on Wednesday for his all day classes.

This morning I woke up to clear sky, just perfect for my delay visit to Palenque ruin. I got there at 8, its opening time, there were very few tourists, but the many vendors already setting up their wares, like that of Chichen Itza. I wish the Mexican government would control it a bit and move the vendors away from the ruins. It is a little like Tikal where the site is surround by jungle with monkeys.

The Maya name of Palenque means Palisade in Spanish. It was first occupied around 100BC and its peak was around 7th century AD with a population of around 8000. It lost war with its neighbor Tonina and was abandoned around 900. It was not discovered until 1773. In 1952 the secret tomb of the King Pakal was discovered, one of the biggest finds in Maya world. The carving on the sarcophagus was extremely fine. I spend may be 3 hours at the site - it was not that big and Maya ruin fatigue is hitting me.

After return from the ruin I got a quick lunch and my bag and I decide to take the collectivos from Palenque to San Cristobal de Las Casas instead of waiting for the 1:30. My journey turn out not much fast I think, waiting enough people to get on, and people get off in the middle, change at the town of Ocosingo, more wait. But I got to SCDLC before dark, and I checked into a hostel, and wonder around the town a little. There were only one other person in the 6 bed dorm, the lightest dorm I have stayed so far.

Unlike Palenque which existed pure because of the ruin and tourism - nothing to see in town, San Cristobal de Las Casas is delightful beautiful city in the heart of Chiapas. High in the mountains (7000 or more feet), it is a bit chilly at night, may be around low 40s. Yes there is tourism here, but most the original culture remains in the surrounding Mayan villages as well in parts of the city itself. I wish I have more time than the 2 full days here. Yes I have decided to take the 12 bus ride from here to Oaxaca, another beautiful city so many people told me, and have 1 day tour of the city, and catch next day bus to Mexico City on Sunday morning.

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