Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mexico Is An Elephant

We've been on the road for a week now, blazing through the Yucatan, and once again I must say: Mexico is an elephant.

Remember that fable about the blind men and the elephant? Each person felt one part of the elephant and came to his own conclusion about what the animal was like. The one near its trunk concluded that "an elephant is like a snake," while the one near its leg concluded that "an elephant is like a tree." Or something like that.

Mexico is like that. Depending on which part you see, you get a completely different picture of Mexico.

Until now, I have only been on the Pacific Coast and central interior of Mexico but have had the audacity to write generalizations about Mexico based on that experience. I know better than to do that now.

The Yucatan area (the states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche) has a completely different vibe. There are a thousand times more tourists here for sure. It's been a tourist draw for much, much longer and tourism is very well developed. It also seems the sheer number of visitors changes how the locals respond. They are not quite as over-the-top welcoming as in other areas, prices are jacked up more, and sometimes there is a two-tier price system: one price for Mexican nationals and one for foreigners.

The topography is also very different from what we have seen in other parts of Mexico. The Yucatan, especially the northern part, is FLAT with a sort of shrubby landscape that stays pretty much the same for the whole area. Driving the highways, you feel like you are in a maze, with a dense wall of green that you cannot see beyond.

We're blazing through towns and villages. We get to places, thinking we might hang out for a few days and leave within minutes. We keep comparing them to other places we have been and so far, they just haven't been up to par.

I had hopes for Merida -- friends had raved about the place -- but the colonial architecture is not as well-restored, there's a hodge-podge of newer, uglier buildings interspersed and worst of all, you cannot buy a beer after a certain hour on Sundays.

"I can see why people stay here, though," I said to Big Dog. "It's got art, music, cultural events. And while there are better towns for all of that in Mexico, they're all a bit colder this time of year. I'd give it a 7 on our 10 point scale."
"Huhn. You're still trying to find the positive in this place," BD snuffed. "It's still a 5 for me."

We're now in Campeche where the colonial architecture is stunningly restored, at least within the walled part of the city. The city makes an effort to keep it that way, with frequent fresh coats of paint. It's prettier but much sleepier than Merida, with less going on.

And it's still hard to find a shop selling beer!

So close to the garishness of Cancun's Hotel Zone, we find a quiet Mexican scene.

Quiet street of Izamal

Merida's cute dancers

Pretty pastel colored colonial buildings of Campeche

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