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Last Stop – Isla Holbox

I feel like everyone has merely been tolerating my posts so far on this trip because I keep getting e-mails or messages from people wanting to know what I thought of Isla Holbox.  So here it is, and I have to give a warning…this is a very long post with almost 100 photos.  I thought of dividing the post into several parts, but since I was basically on the island for only a day and a half, I just decided to do it all at once.

I had done a little bit of research before I went on my trip to see what the best way would be to get from Valladolid to Chequila, where I would catch the ferry to the island.  I did find out that there is a bus from Merida that stops at Valladolid at 2:30 in the morning and gets to Chequila at 5:00 a.m.  I may have considered that at one point, but my cold was at its worst on Tuesday and Wednesday, so there was no way I could handle that.  So my plan on Wednesday morning was to take the bus to Cancun and then another one to Chequila.  On my way to the bus station, I passed the taxis and collectivos where I got one to Ek Balam, and on a whim, I asked a taxi driver if he would take me to Chequila for 500 pesos.  He didn’t seem at all interested, but then another driver came up while we were talking and said he’d do it for 800 pesos.  I only had to think for a moment because I was not looking forward to two long bus rides which would have taken up much of the day paired with the fun of sniffling and sneezing along the way.  By the way, 800 pesos is equivalent to about $45 US dollars, which seemed really reasonable to me since I’ve heard that taxi fares to Chequlia from Cancun are over $120 US dollars.  So off we went.

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The ride was about two hours and we got there five minutes before the ferry was about to leave.  It cost 120 pesos and takes 20-30 minutes.  I didn’t have time to take pictures in Chequila, but here’s the inside of the ferry.  It’s definitely smaller than the ones that go to Isla Mujeres.

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Unfortunately, it was raining that day.

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Here’s what the outside looks like as we arrive at Isla Holbox.

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And the pier…

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Pier towards the island…

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They use golf carts for taxis here…

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My hotel (Casa Barbara) was pretty close to the ferry.  It sits kind of in the middle of the island.  (This is actually a picture I got from the internet because I forgot to take a picture of it myself. They’ve painted it since then as you can see in the picture that I did take below in which the courtyard shows it as being pink and blue now.)

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They have a nice little pool…

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And the grounds are very lush and green.  It was a very peaceful and quiet setting.

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Since my legs were virtually non-usable after climbing the ruins at Ek Balam, I was thinking to myself, “Please, please please let my room be on the first floor!!” when I checked in to the hotel.  No such luck…second floor for me.  I was just thankful it wasn’t the third floor.  Here’s my room…

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It was a nice room and a nice hotel, but after being in rooms that had big doors that opened up the room to the outside, I kind of missed that in this one.

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I don’t know if that is meant to be a seat in the shower??  There was another area for toiletries, so if it IS a seat, only a 3-year-old child would be comfortable sitting there.

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Cool ceiling…

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So it’s time to do some exploring.  Just to give you an idea, here is the map of Isla Holbox.  As you can see, most of the island is uninhabited and most of the restaurants are located in the downtown area.

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I wanted to rent a golf cart to explore the island, but the rain put a damper on that.  When I went downstairs to leave the hotel, I looked into the neighbor’s yard.  That’s a little bit of water there.

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And here’s a picture of a side street.  It was still raining when I went out, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.  Water was everywhere.  The streets are very hard sand that has been pounded down with the traffic.  But when it rains, all that water puddles and the sand turns to silt and it’s very slippery…and such a mess!  People are traipsing around in this stuff and tracking it into shops and restaurants.  I have to hand it to these people for dealing with this every time it rains.

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So I headed downtown and saw this on the way.  It’s my favorite picture of the whole trip.

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And here’s the beach.  I was a little surprised to see that the water wasn’t a clear blue like it is along the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula.

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I stopped for some lunch at this place which sat on the beach.

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Nice view from my table…

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The fresh fish was very good…

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This pregnant little missy (or Mrs.) kept me company.  She looked like she was ready to pop!  [Update:  After posting this, a reader informed me that the cat is not pregnant…she is just fat.  Hahaha…my bad!]

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So that’s about all I had the energy for my first day.  My cold was at its worst, so I just went back to the hotel room to rest so that I would be in better shape the next day.  I ventured out to get a pizza from  here later in the evening…

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But I forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it…very tasty.

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The rest of the evening was spent watching old Mexican movies and cuddling with my box of kleenex.

I did feel better the next day and the sun was shining, so that was good!  I took a lot of pictures because I knew I had to leave before dawn the next morning.  So here we go.  I’m not going to comment on every photo…I was just taking pictures of anything.

The streets were still a mess and you really had to be careful walking through the puddles because it was so slippery.

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Something new being built on the main street.

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Here was a place that was selling plants.  If I lived there, I would be buying from this guy all the time.

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No, the dog wasn’t dead…he just chose the middle of the street to take a little siesta.  I saw quite a few Dachshunds on the  island

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The water looked a little clearer this morning.

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Toes in Holbox sand…

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Another favorite photo.  This handsome guy was standing in this boat like he was the captain.

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I saw him again later…I think he thought these guys had some food.

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The seaweed was pretty bad here, too…just like it apparently is everywhere else.  These boys were putting it in crates to haul away.

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And these guys were piling it together to take it away.

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What a job that would be…and it’s never-ending! It’s not like they’ll get rid of the seaweed one day and then it will never come back!

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There were a bunch of these scattered around in the seaweed.  They look alien-like.

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And pretty ugly…

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I don’t know what this structure used to be a part of, but it’s probably a landmark.

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I stopped for breakfast at a little place…I forgot to get the name of it, but it was right next to Holbox Dream hotel.  Huevos Mexicanos…muy bien.

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The beach here has lots of little shells in some places.

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This little cutie was having fun.

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I walked out on a long pier to take these pictures.

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And here’s a 180 degree view…


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And now let’s head into town.  There are lots of murals on the buildings.

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There are a lot of dogs on the island, but they’re all very well behaved.  Most of them seem to stay right where they live.

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A rather strange one…

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They had lots of things for kids in the zocalo…

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The local church…

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A beautiful door…

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I could see myself living here…

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I went back to the hotel to change clothes and found this.  How sweet.

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You don’t find that at the Red Roof Inn in the United States, that’s for sure.  And they charge more!

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I went back to the Amaite Hotel where I got the fish to get a shrimp cocktail because it’s a nice place to sit and watch the water and the activity.

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While I was sitting there, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a single beach vendor.  Then this little guy walked by.  There were a couple other women selling purses and jewelry, but that’s it.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon reading an relaxing on the beach, but came back later in the evening for dinner at the place across the street from the Amaite Hotel, but it was too dark to get a picture.

The Amaite Hotel puts tables out on the piers at night with torches.  How romantic!

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Just some shots walking back to the hotel.  As you can see, it wasn’t very crowded at all…especially still being the high season.

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And the streets are finally all dry.

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Merry Christmas and  a prosperous new year!

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My flight back to San Antonio was at 4:00 the next day, but between the ferry and bus schedules, I had to take the first ferry out at 7:00 a.m. to get to the airport in enough time. It was pitch black when everyone showed up at the ferry, but things went pretty smoothly.  When we got to Chequila, the ADO bus was waiting.  The girl at the hotel told me that the bus would cost 150 pesos, but when I gave the driver exactly 150 pesos, I got change back, so I don’t know how much it actually ended up being.  Unfortunately, I was one of the last people to get on and I had to stand.  UGH!!  I stood for an hour and 45 minutes before two young girls got up and offered their seats to me and another woman standing.  It was a three hour ride back to Cancun…then I had to catch another bus to the airport.

So that was my trip to Holbox.  It was WAY too short and I wish I hadn’t had the cold.  I’ve been traveling to Mexico for the last 10 years and I’ve never gotten sick once, so I guess I should consider myself lucky that this was the first time.

Holbox is very unspoiled, quiet and peaceful.  It is not as expensive as other towns and cities along the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula.  I wish I could have explored the island, but I really didn’t have enough time to do that, especially considering the rain.  Next time, I would spend at least a week there to try out more restaurants and a different hotel, although I really did enjoy Casa Barbara.

All in all, my trip to Mexico this time was good, but a little different.  On previous trips, I mostly ran into tourists from the US and Canada.  This time, I heard more languages spoken than I’ve ever heard before.  People were traveling from all over the world and I think the United States was the least represented.  That’s not a bad thing…it was just different for me.

I’ll end with this shot from the ferry as we headed for Chequila.  Adios, Mexico.

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Valladolid – Day Two – Ek Balam

So I could feel myself coming down with a cold when I got to Valladolid. It wasn’t bad yet and I wasn’t going to let it come between me and Ek Balam. When I checked into the hotel, I asked the desk clerk where I could go to rent a car. He said that they didn’t rent cars in Valladolid. What?!?! What city doesn’t rent cars?! I guess that would be Valladolid. So I asked him how I’d see Ek Balam, and he told me to walk about a block down the street and there would be taxis and collectivos that could take me there. So that’s what I did. Since I was the only one so far, the driver had me wait in a vacant building until some other tourists came along who wanted to go.

Typical Valladolid street…

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Bougainvillea grows everywhere down here…

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Here’s the vacant building I had to wait in. I wonder when this place was built. I started picturing where I would put the kitchen and courtyard pool when I bought it and renovated it…haha! It sure had some history.

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Quite a ceiling…

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I’m not sure how this pattern is put on the walls…maybe stenciled?? I would like to have seen it when it was new.  Who knows how long ago that was.

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Okay, the driver rounded up three other people, so we’re on our way!

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Here we are winding our way through town…

It took maybe a little over a half hour to get to the ruins and we passed through a couple of little towns, one of which was Temozon. I thought it was kind of strange to see these pretty white horses tied up to these pavilion-like buildings. But when I took the bus from Chequila to Cancun, I actually saw quite a few horses just tied up to trees or buildings along the way, so I guess it’s not that uncommon.

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An old church in Temozon…

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Gift shop along the way…

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As well as these bikers. These guys would ride through Valladolid with sirens blaring so loudly that you’d think ambulances and emergency vehicles were going through town. I don’t know who or what they were.

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Well, here we are at Ek Balam. There is no fanfare for these ruins. It’s a very low-key entrance, as opposed to Chichen Itza where there are restaurants, a huge parking lot for buses, as well as about a million vendors selling their wares. Not so in Ek Balam.

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And they just have a few vendors at the entrance to the grounds.

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Here are some of the structures…

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There weren’t many people here at all, which made it so much more pleasant than Chichen Itza.  I knew that you could still climb the main tower, but when I got there, I said, “Do I really want to??”

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Because of my cold, I wasn’t feeling my best, but convinced myself that after coming all this way, what choice did I really have? Ugh. They have platforms off to the side on different levels with various “rooms.”

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So after resting a couple times on the way up, I finally reached the top…yay! Thank the Lord Baby Jesus, there was a nice breeze up there, which certainly helped since it was pretty hot that day. There were some nice views. The forest seems to go on forever.

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There were approximately 20 people at the top with me, most of whom were about half my age. As far as I could tell, I was the only American and the only one speaking English. I had to ask someone to take my picture because there was no way I wasn’t going to document this.

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Oh, no…now I have to go down. Ugh, again. After breaking a wrist after a fall a couple of years ago, the thought of tumbling down this ruin did not appeal to me, so I embarrassingly went back down step by step on my butt the whole way. Oh, well, I’ll never see these people again, and at least I didn’t fall, so that’s a good thing.

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Ruin guard dog?

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Here is some info on some of the buildings if you’re interested.

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I can’t believe I didn’t move the leaf on this one.

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I’m thinking this might be the ceremonial area? Just a wild guess.

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So I walk back to the parking lot thinking I would just hop on a collectivo back to Valladolid. Well, there were collectivos there, but they were all pre-arranged transportation and they told me that collectivos don’t come to pick up people there. What?!?! How the heck am I supposed to get back to Valladolid? So I go back to the area where you get your tickets to wait for the other people that were in my collectivo on the way to the ruin. (One was a woman who was born in Mexico but was currently living in France, and the other two were a couple from Italy.) They finally show up and I ask them how they’re getting back. Turns out they’re not going back to Valladolid but are getting a bus in the other direction. I must have looked kind of panicked because they started asking some of the staff how I’d get back. The woman from France spoke fluent Spanish and she talked to a taxi driver who agreed to take the three of them to where they’d catch the bus, and me and two other guys back to Valladolid for 50 pesos each. Mind you, these taxis are the size of a Kia Rio and they have a sign on the side that says the maximum capacity is four people. This picture isn’t the best for showing how crowded it was in that car, but there were four of us in the back and two passengers and the driver in the front. Crazy.

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Fortunately, the three taking the bus only had a drive of about five miles, so it wasn’t too bad. The passenger in the front turned out to be an Indian guy from California who decided to come to Mexico by himself for two weeks. It was his first time there and he was so excited about his trip and adventures he had, and was telling me all about them. He arrived in Mexico City and traveled by bus up to the Yucatan and was flying out of Cancun. We shared stories about how people think you’re crazy to go to Mexico alone and how silly we thought they were. He mentioned that he had met a lot of other people traveling on their own, but that I was the only American one. Crazy woman that I am.

Back to Valladolid. Since I would be leaving the next morning, I set out to see Cenote Zaci, which was right in the middle of the city, only two blocks from my hotel.

Just like the “Hollywood” sign.

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After climbing the ruins a few hours ago, my legs felt pretty much like Jello, so when I saw these steps down to the cenote, my only thought was, “Oh, Lord…I’m going to have to climb back up those.”

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But I was there, so I felt I had no choice. *sigh*

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These things are pretty cool. I’ve seen three so far, but I’ve never gone swimming in one. The water is always really dark, so it makes you wonder how deep they are.

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This little girl took forever to talk herself into jumping, but she finally did it…then thought it was pretty neat.

This picture looks kind of upside-down, but it’s the stalactites on the ceiling.

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A refreshing snack at the restaurant that sits at the top of the cenote. (The walk up the steps was very slow, by the way.)

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And a final picture of the doorway on the opposite side of the courtyard from my room at the hotel…I think it’s a pretty picture. Adios, Valladolid.

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Next stop? Isla Holbox!


Valladolid – Day One

I’ve been to Valladolid before, so I’m going to just do a quick post on the city.  I’ve never stayed at the Meson del Marques before, however, and I’m glad I did.  It’s a wonderful hotel right on the main square, so it’s convenient to everything.  You can’t tell much from the front entrance, but that’s how these old Mexican cities are.  The building facades are very plain, but there’s a lot going on behind them.

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I loved my room with the tile floor and the big door that opened up. There wasn’t a porch there, but it made the room seem so much more open and light.

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Looking the other way…

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Here’s the bathroom.  Even though I don’t use them, a bathtub is a real luxury in basic rooms in Mexico.

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Here’s the pool…

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And this is the view from my balcony…it overlooks the restaurant in the lobby.  They had a female singer/flamenco dancer the first night I was there.  It was nice to have that in the background while I was working on the blog.

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When I looked to the left, I could see the main church in the square…

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And here’s what it looked like at night.  I could have definitely stayed here for awhile.

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I love the architecture of these old Mexican cities…especially the vivid colors and the huge old doors.

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Here’s the main cathedral…

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And the altar inside…

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I was lucky enough to arrive on a Sunday afternoon, so I was able to check out the local fare on the main square.

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I have no ideas what these are…

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I decided to have try dinner at this place…

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And I had to try to cochinita pibil…the local specialty.  It was very good!

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The next morning, I went downstairs for breakfast to find these guys rearranging the gates in the garden area.  They were having a hard time figuring out how to put them back so that they all fit in the right places…but they worked it out.

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Here’s the view of my room doorway from my seat at the restaurant.  I figured it was okay to keep the doors open while I was downstairs.

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The hotel provides a complimentary breakfast to guests.  I had the Huevos Mexicanos, which was very good…in addition to the excellent coffee.

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My trip to Ek Balam is next!


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