I did about 2.5 hours of work this morning--that's enough for one day. Time to 'blog.
Merida is a wonderful town; I could live there, in fact. There are tourists, but it's not too 'touristy.' There are free guitar and singing concerts and performances nightly, the streets have that indescribable energy I enjoy so much, and have found in few cities (Manila is one)--cities where cultures actually mix and produce new exciting art and food. One second you can haggle with an Indian over the purchase of a Zapatista doll, the next with a Mexican over silver rings. The local beers are excellent, the food is scrumptious and various (man, what seafood!), and Ed Bridges was correct in his assessment of Mexican Coke. There are several wonderful plazas with great outdoor cafes and singing birds and fountains. Our hotel, the Mision Merida, was nice. Guidebooks list it as 2.5 stars, but I'd give it 3. Our room was huge with a new bathroom and they have a nice pool and helpful staff.
Watch out, however, for the hustle and bustle, because the 'hustle' part is problematic in Merida--often locals pretending to be helpful are actually employed by stores and restaurants to scam you, and will employ any line to get you inside: "This is my favorite store, and they're closed the rest of the week, so if you like anything buy it today." If you don't shop around you can pay 2, 3, or 5 times the price for a shirt than what you'll pay up the block--remember that what seem to be good prices compared to home are not necessarily good prices locally.
Driving was a snap--and Merida is a great base from which to launch tours. We visited Chichen Itza , Dzitnup, Balankanche, and Ik-kil all on Tuesday, which was perhaps one of our greatest travel days evah. We hit Celestun for the flamingo tour on Wednesday (note--take the tour bayside, immediately across the bridge into town. We got fucked by taking a tour from the beach which costs ten times as much), then caught Oxkintok on the way back. It's a lovely Puuc city barely excavated and almost un-discovered (no tour bus can get there, trust me!). Thursday we did the Ruta Puuc, hitting Uxmal (my favorite city--lots of iguanas and I got to climb the pyramid, and even snuck inside when the guards weren't looking!), Kabah, and Sayil before closing the day in the magnificent caves at Loltun with paintings from 15,000 years ago and fun musical stalagmites. I nearly choked to death driving back to Merida from Loltun (perhaps I displeased Cha'ac Mol) somehow? Cha had some chicherones and I tried one, drank some water, and started coughing, then coughed violently and couldn't stop. A styrofoam-y chunk started to swell in my throat, and quickly I was in a crisis, and an awful sound came out of my throat as I tried to get air. I attempted to drink more water but it simply spilled out of my mouth, so I pulled over, found I couldn't breathe through my nose either, and thought "well, it's a good day to die." Calming myself, I climbed out of the driver seat and nearly was run down by a white pickup truck which honked at me (everything was moving very slowly at this point--I could see every flower and each butterfly and all the glinting bits of quartz in the gravel by the roadside). Cha was trying to hit me on the back and I kept trying to stop her; I knew intuitively that if I panicked I was done for, and that the bit of chip in my throat needed to dissolve before I could move it. Sure enough, after nearly a minute of no oxygen I was able to swallow and then I could get air through. It took ten minutes before I could speak normally and laugh about the entire situation. Friday we drove to Progresso, lounged on the beach for a few hours, had a great seafood lunch and coco frio, then visited Dzibilchaltun on the way back, swimming for an hour in that magnificent cenote
which its strange drop-off from 5 feet deep to 150, and its mysterious curious fish. Saturday we spent shopping for silver and clothing in Merida, and visited the Archeological Museum.
We've been visiting Europe and Asia and ignoring Mexico all this time--what a great place. We'll be back soon.