On paper, it sounded like a foolproof plan. Pop over to nearby Tixkokob, find someone who makes hammocks, snap a few pictures, head home. In and out, 60 minutes max. But it turns out that despite Tixkokob's status as Mérida's "Hammock Central," it's not all that easy to find someone making them.
During the Yucatán's henequen boom, there were close to a thousand haciendas (plantations) in operation across the state. Today, they're nearly all in ruins. And in the area surrounding Mérida, only one still manufactures henequen: Sotuta de Peon. We joined a tour of the hacienda which led us through a mansion, the factory, a Maya house in the agave fields, a cenote, and ended at a restaurant serving up Yucatecan specialties.
Okay, so the ancient Maya site of Oxkintok is not "forgotten" in any true sense of the word. It appears on maps and in guidebooks, and there are people waiting at the entrance to collect your fee. But once you're inside, wandering about ruins half-reclaimed by the jungle, so distant from the next town, Oxkintok feels forgotten. And you're allowed to feel like the intrepid adventurer who discovered it.
Though they're beginning to blend together, Mérida is still largely defined by its neighborhoods, each with its own personality and history. Neighborhood life is almost always centered around a central plaza, where friends and family gather to meet, eat, chat, and just hang out. Here are five of our favorites.
Jürgen and I aren't the types to spend much time thinking about jewelry. Neither of us owns a single piece, not a ring nor a bracelet, and I very rarely notice the jewelry worn by others. But when the piece in question is a living beetle, it's a little hard to ignore.
On the way home to Mérida from Izamal, we swung by the small village and archaeological site of Aké. Requiring a long drive off the main highway, it's a town which feels forgotten by the march of time.
The tiny community of Las Coloradas certainly picked an appropriate name for itself. Found at the end of a bumpy road about 30 kilometers east of Río Lagartos, it is a town defined by its colors.
A small town on the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, Río Lagartos is most well-known for the abundant bird life of its lagoon, a protected natural reserve which is named, somewhat confusingly, Ría Lagartos. But unpleasant weather during our visit spoiled any bird-watching plans we might have had. (Which was fine, since we didn't really have any).
Just twenty minutes north of Valladolid are the ruins of Ek Balam, a fantastic archaeological site which boasts some of the peninsula's best-preserved Maya sculptures.
The Calle de los Frailes, or the Street of the Friars, cuts diagonally across Valladolid, completely ignoring the otherwise strict grid-plan. A little fresh, but we'll allow it. This is one of the Valladolid's most historic streets, home to specialty shops and popular restaurants, and it ends at the steps of the San Bernadino Convent.