Merida


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North America » Mexico » Yucatán » Merida
February 2nd 2011
Published: February 2nd 2011
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Casa de Montejo
After a day of rest, I decided it was time to head off and go to Merida. Only I had decided to opt for the first class bus to ensure toilets availability as I wasn't back to functioning normally yet. So I got a colectivo for 5.5 pesos to the bus station (I could have walked to the 2nd class station but not to the 1st class) and got my ticket for the 10 am bus (152 pesos against 90 for 2nd class). The journey was about 3 and a half hours during which nothing spectacular happened (other than being submitted to Hannah Montana – the film on the bus). Once off the bus I asked where were the colectivos and the man said I could walk it, so I did. It was a fair distance as my hostel was a bit further than the centre, but still very doable. I hadn't pre-booked the hostel because I had seen conflicting info about the rates: 109 on the guidebook, 110 according to Connie who had recommended it, 119 on the official website and 122 on Hostelbookers. So I was quite surprised when the -unfriendly- man announced that it was 124. I explained that this was wrong because it said 119 on the website and he replied they had just put the prices up. I argued that they couldn't possibly charge more than the Hostelbookers price (as HB keep 10%, so some hostels put their prices up by 10% on HB, but never the other way around). He wasn't budging and kept pointing at the 125 pesos announced on the wall. So in the end, I said “fine but just one night then” and I paid by card (which nobody seems to like) and then I went and booked my 2nd night on HB, saving myself 3 pesos, but mainly meaning that he only got 109, which I thought he deserved for being an arse! Other than the staff, the hostel was nice, with a big courtyard, hammocks everywhere, a swimming pool (yes, that's right!) and the bottom bunks being nearly double beds (I got bottom). I dropped my stuff and skyped home for a while, before going out for a little tour of the big city. It was hot, so I went for shorts and no sleeves, hat, sun-tan lotion and mosquito repellent. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes had got me before I got
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Palacio del Gobierno
changed (they managed to get my ankle, which has been itching ever since, while I had trousers and socks on), they also got plenty more of a taste of me since... b@st*rds! They must think I'm delicious because they keep coming back for more... I'm not a big fan of the repellent (makes you really sticky) but I don't even want to imagine what it would be without...
Anyway... The city then...
I had walked past the cathedral and tourist information office on the way to the hostel, so I headed back this way. The main plaza was large, well shaded and very pleasant, with the main monuments of the town surrounding it. I had a little walk around it and entered la Casa de Montejo, a now a bank, but also a museum reproducing what the house would have looked like a few years ago. After that, I ventured to the Cathedral but it was shut (so was the tourist office but only for 30 minutes) so I headed to the government's palace (still around the square), which despite the armed guards, was really lovely. On the way out, the now open tourist office reassured me that the cathedral
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Palacio del Gobierno
reopened at 4pm and gave me a map of the centre, pointing me in the direction of the market and supermarket. It was Saturday afternoon so all the crowds were out shopping and enjoying the hot day. I eventually (after going through the cultural centre, the crafts market, spotting the entrance to the food market, going the wrong way a few times and nearly giving in to Burger King) got to the supermarket, which was well stocked and where I bought about 3 days' worth of food for 70 pesos (the price of a Burger King meal). After that, I slowly made my way back to the hostel, via a couple of stalls selling Mexico football shirts for not enough pesos for them to be genuine.
Back at Nomadas (the hostel), I started studying the program I'd picked up from the cultural centre. January was the month of the festival and there were all sorts of events happening. I opted for a traditional Mexican night a few blocks from my hostel and starting at 8pm. It was about 6 or 7 by then, so just enough time to cook some food, get changed and eat before going out.
I left
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Baloons at the peace concert
a bit late so hurried to where the spectacle was supposed to be. I wasn't 100% sure on which of 2 streets it was and there were a few people walking up the street I thought it was less likely to be, so I followed. As I got further and further along the road, I realised that I had walked too far to be going to the Mexican night, but as the crowd was growing on every street, I decided there must have been something significant and worthwhile happening somewhere over that way.
This was my lucky choice of the day, as significant, it certainly was. Massive is probably a better way to describe it... After a good walk, I eventually reached what I later discover was the Plaza de la Patria, where thousands of people were gathered and being handed white helium balloons saying “Merida – City of Peace”. It looked like a gig was going to happen, but as it was only 9pm, it hadn't started yet. So I waited eagerly, as did everybody else, only I didn't know what for. I tried to go as close to the stage as I possibly could. It just wasn't possible.
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That's how far I was from the stage at the gig
And I wondered what free event could gather so many people...
Then IT started. The gig I mean, along with the screams, the release of most of the balloons with the first few notes (it was well impressive) and the mass hysteria. The band was playing latin rock, something far too cheerful to work in the UK. I say the band, but it was clear that I was watching a solo artist rather than a band, pretty boy look and all. The crowd was a real mixture, men and women, from children to grandparents. The only thing they all had in common was that they knew all the words to all the songs – something I found very strange at a free gig. After a couple of songs I must admit I was getting into it and had a bit of a boogie with my gig neighbours. Then I asked this woman “who is this?” She looked at me as if I'd turned up to a U2 gig and didn't know who they were. Then, when she realised I wasn't messing about she said “He's called Juanes”. I checked it the next morning and he's only the king of Latin
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The market
rock, famed throughout the world, multi-million records selling artists. He is also apparently quite involved in “trying to make the world a better place” and referred to as the Colombian Bono (hence the U2 choice of example earlier).
I stayed for about an hour before heading back (nice music but just not the kind I would listen to for more than an hour at a time), fighting my way through the crowd. This was the “concert for peace” it turned out... Pretty lucky to stumble across it...
The next morning, I was woken up at 7am by the sound of various animals, quickly followed by a toilet emergency (although my stomach was slowly getting better). So I got out of bed and went for breakfast (via the necessary stop), followed by a nice hot from start to finish shower (a rarity). I was happy to be up early as if Saturday was anything to go by, I didn't want to be out in the sun around midday so was planning a few hour's rest in the shade by the pool later. My only plans for the morning were to go to the cathedral, have a look at the market and
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Smelly dirty market
buy a Mexico shirt. On the way up to the Zocalo, I stopped at the travel agent as I had decided the day before to go on a guided tour of Chichen Itza on the Monday. The agreed package was pick-up at 9am from the hostel, air conditioned bus to the site (an hour and a half away), bilingual guide, then a visit of a cenote, and drop off in Piste (near Chichen Itza). Some agencies didn't agree to the drop-off as this was supposed to be a day trip, others would force you to have lunch included (I was happy with a sandwich), but luckily, the cheapest I'd found was happy to accommodate my needs for the small sum of 230 pesos, which was very reasonable considering the fact it would probably have cost me about 130 pesos to get on Chichen on public transport and meant I had to stay in Piste for the night (or visit the ruins with my rucksack-never happening). So I went and bought my ticket before taking the direction of the market. The guy at the tourist office had told me that this was impressive and the biggest market in town, but when
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In the arts museum... Is this what we teach our children? lol!
got there, it clearly was a bit early as only half the stands had opened. But what I noticed mainly was the dirt and the smell. I was all too happy to have bought my supplies from the supermarket after all... After that I headed back to the cathedral. As it was Sunday, around the plaza was closed to cars, with improvised cafés set up on the road and street sellers having taken over the square. I found a little old man selling hats and asked him if I could take a picture of his beautiful hats. This turned into a 10 minutes conversation, resulting in the picture of me with said beautiful hat. Thank you lovely old man (just to clarify, I didn't buy the hat). Some more strolling around followed, along with the visit of the cathedral and the art museum (which I really enjoyed despite not really being into either art or museums), before buying the Mexico shirt for an even further discounted price. Then I noticed the crowd was gathering on one side of the plaza and went for an investigate. It turned out to be a kids' show, but I still sat down and watched
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Central square
it for half an hour before going back to the hostel for lunch and rest, only to discover when I got there that someone had stolen my avocado from the hostel fridge (so my cucumber and avocado salad became a cucumber salad).
I went back out at about 4 pm. I wanted to go back to where the previous day's gig had occurred, as I had spotted that there were a lot of colonial buildings along the way. So I did just that, snapping away at all the beautiful architecture and having a long conversation with a retired American (having just moved to Merida permanently) about how unbelievable some of these buildings were and how sad it was that some of them were falling into disrepair. My property developing brain was going crazy, I tell you!
Time was moving on and it was time to return towards more familiar surroundings, but not before stopping at the University for some “get to know China” event, where I drank some tea (although it tasted like hot water) and watched a little show (tai-chi or similar followed by a slightly more active martial art and then some girls dancing with paper fans). Only
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The hat "incident"
a stone's throw away from the zocalo, I decided to go and have one more look at the Sunday fair and stumbled across another concert, of more traditional Mexican music this time and that had led the crowd to take over the streets dancing. I walked back to the hostel with a big grin on my face, ready to chill for the evening.

So 2 nights in Merida and I really loved the city. It's pretty, although probably not the prettiest, but the atmosphere and the buzz of activities happening throughout the week end, gave it that vibe which I love, as if you would never get bored if you lived there. Shame about the heat (31 degrees according to google on the Sunday) but the old American assured me that the summer is bearable because you always get a bit of a breeze.






Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


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colours
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Anthropology Museum (I think)
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Monumento de la patria
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The derelict building leading to the chat with the old yank
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Chinese festival
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The cathedral
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Dancing in the streets


3rd February 2011

il y a des beaux batiments, il semble que la ville soit riche. tu me donnes envie avec ton soleil... boooooo bises
14th March 2011

awesome!
wow you went to a Juanes concert! he is very very popular in the spainsh speaking world, and he has great music. trust me you are lucky you got to see him perform.

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