BACK ARROW Back to Main Page   To Trip 5 Prior Trip Next Trip To Trip 7


June, 1989

This was a freebie, or at least a partial one. With all those frequent flier miles racked up on the trip to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, my sister and I had over 25,000 points each, good for another United round trip anywhere in North America. Taking Spanish for 4 years in high school has a tendency to stick with you, including all of that cultural "stuff," so Mexico it would be. But where? After checking out tour brochures we settled on the Yucatan region, including Merida, Chichen Itza and Cancun.

Getting there was an adventure in itself. At the time, United only flew to Cancun, and the starting point for us was Merida. So we first landed in Cancun, caught a six seater plane to the island of Cozumel where we then took a 30 minute Mexicana Airlines flight reaching our final destination.

Merida is the capital of the region, with a history going back centuries. The open air markets had merchants selling everything from live poultry to freshly made potato chips made while you wait. A young boy attached himself to us and lead us along to his uncle's shop. Bartering is the way of life there, and prices for everything are negotiable. While we didn't buy anything, we learned the rules of the game there.

One of the reasons for choosing this tour was the fact that it included an overnight at the Mayan ruins of Chichin Itza. In school we learned much about the history of the Mayan people. Chichen Itza was its major city and center of commerce, much like Merida is today. The ruins include two famous pyramids (used for ritual ceremonies unlike their Egyptian counterparts), an astronomical observatory "El Caracol" (the snail), and a ball court for a game like basketball but with a vertical hoop instead. In the evening, two light shows take place, one in English and the other in Spanish. Attendance was small, but we all appreciated the performance under the stars. We had a wonderful dinner here of fresh turkey which was riediculously inexpensive.

There are several small villages on the one major road between Merida, Chichen Itza and Cancun. The poverty of the area was striking. Often we would see simple shack homes with two or three hammocks and little else. The children were always playing soccer in the streets. Coca Cola signs seemed to be everywhere and bottles were in most people's hands. Little else Americana seemed to reach this area except for the tourists.

Conditions very much improved as we came closer to Cancun. This area reminds me of Miami Beach with most of the hotels on a small strip off the mainland. We arrived too early, as our hotel was hosting the Miss Universe pageant just two weeks later. This whole area was selected by the Mexican government a decade earlier as the best place in the country to develop as a major tourist resort site. Construction was bustling when we were there. It lacks all of the history seen elsewhere, except for the nightly hotel shows, and perhaps reminded me of five miles of continuous sterile shopping malls.

But I'm not knocking it. The glitz added a balance to the trip. Water is the attraction to the place. You have the choice of the docile lagoon side or the more choppy gulf side. One fun excursion was on an hour long glass bottom boat ride. I decided to pass on the jet skis and hang gliding, but they're available if interested. Yes, for those shoppers out there the city's marketplace is filled with every conceivable tee-shirt and trinket. With a very favorable exchange rate to the Mexican peso, bargains were everywhere.

By now, I'd assume that Cancun has nearly maxed out as far as development is concerned. It's a great place to get away from it all and enjoy the sun. Consider it as the Las Vegas of the South, without the gambling. I'd enjoy going back to the Yucatan and seeing how or if things have changed in the past decade.