Ok Mexico. It is official. Te amo, Mexico. I love you and I am in love with you. Mucho. The people, the food, the ruins, the landscape – everything. I feel so at home here, it reminds me so much of where I grew up – and the last 2 days have been nothing short of magical. 2 amazing ruins, another cenote and a beach out of your (well, my) dreams – I loved every second of it.
Where am I staying?
Hotel Reforma, in the centre of the old town. Beautiful entrance, stunning communal areas, and the room was lovely too. Big double beds, high high ceilings – simply decorated, beautifully done. Nice location, it was close to the cathedral, main square and Paseo Montejo, the Champs Elysee of Merida (or so I thought).
- Grubbiness factor = low. The room was clean, the bathroom a bit tired.
- Bed = 7/10. Decent enough bed, low marks for the fact that you can hear everything – not from other rooms but from reception and the communal spaces – where people were chatting until wee hours of the morning.
- Shower= 5/10, did the job but stank of moth balls. HATE that smell. Eugh
What did I eat?
We decided to leave PDC early to get to the ruins at Chichen Itza at a decent time, so we stopped for breakfast at a local service stop.
Basic, rustic and clean – but nothing for me to eat on the menu. There were lots of meaty and eggy options. However I always know I that I will find one thing on the menu – so I went for platanos Fritos and pan toastada. And then I remembered my jar of peanut butter that I had in my bag. Breakfast sorted.
To drink? Nescafé – lol. I want a decent cup of coffee! That gave me all the energy for Chichen Itza. By the time we got to Merida it was 3pm, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. We only had a few hours to explore the town (we had a whole day of activities tomorrow).
I stumbled across Pola – an ice cream shop with dairy free sorbets!! Whoop! I went for chocolate sorbet (dark, luscious, lush), and avocado sorbet (creamy, avocado-y, a bit too sweet), perfect power boost to keep me going until dinner. Please go here – amazing!!
We met at La Chaya Maya for dinner, a place serving proper Yucatan food.
Chaya if you remember is Mayan spinach – loved it in every form I’ve had it. I decided to try a Chaya margarita – what a wonderful drink! Spinach-y in a very good way, perfectly balanced, not too strong and thankfully not too sweet.
For mains I went for tortillas topped with veggies, more chaya, pickled onions and this stunning powder made from pumpkin seeds. I don’t know the local name, but this stuff is like food crack. SO BLOOMING TASTY – Earthy, warming, depth of flavour, checked all the boxes.
It might not look like much, but it was amazing amazing amazing. So tasty, soft, crunchy, oozing with so much flavour. Everyone’s meals were good, we were all ooh-ing and aah-ing over them. Go here if you are in Merida. Please. Next day was an early start, we got to Ek Balam – the ruins of the day – so early that no food vendors or local restaurants were open. So what did we do? Our guide found a hotel and we had breakfast there. Frijoles, tortillas and juicy ripe tomatoes for me.
Perfectly flavoured, beans not too mushy and those tomatoes were stunning. Lunch was on our way to the pink beach. We stopped at a restaurant on the Rio Lagartos – this was like a beach hut, or rather, river hut. This meal was GOOD, the views amazing.
The scenery, surroundings, weather – I think they all add to a meal experience, and I loved it even more for all those reasons.
Rice, frijoles – pulverised, like a soup – with a good chilli kick, salad and guacamole (I should clarify that the empty plate of guacamole in the background was a shared plate – not just mine! Haha).
I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat after this meal. We got to Merida at 10pm after our epic day, exhausted, super content and in no mood to eat. So no dinner. Forgot to mention another super snack I had. It was so hot after the cenote, we had fresh coconut water (ONLY 25 pesos each). I usually ask for it to be cut open so I can eat the ‘carne’ – as it is. But no. It was cut open, doused in chili pepper and lemon. You can only imagine my reaction. Superdelicioustastystunning. Amazing.
What did I do?
First set of ruins – Chichen Itza. So two things about this place. I saw pictures of it when I was 9 years old, and that kicked off my fascination with all things to do with the Maya. Secondly, and sadly, I was told it is so touristy that the experience of the ruins is lost. Well. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the latter, I went there with no expectations – and boy oh boy. I was blown away.
I just love the close relationship that was created between nature, scientifical calculation and practicality, never forgetting the whole time who is the head honcho – nature.
We had a super cool guide – William. He should have actually been a philosopher, he was so brilliant in his explanations and stories, I could have listened to him talk for hours. He was full of fascinating facts!
He seems to be the guide Godfather – all other guides would don their caps, salute or bow when he walked past – we definitely struck guide gold!! Thank you Chichen Itza, I love you and I will be back. Merida has stolen my heart. We power walked all over the town for three hours (as soon as we got there). Beautiful, colourful buildings, shops selling every piece of bling and kitsch imaginable, a market (one of the nicest I’ve been – food, clothes and anything else you want to buy) and super friendly people.
The cathedral stunning, the square beautiful, colour everywhere – loved this place. There weren’t many tourists but I felt completely safe and secure.
And, no, our day wasn’t over yet. Our guide told us that there is a community led bike ride around the streets of Merida every Wednesday – the day we were there! 9pm – 11pm, how could I say no!? (Pics to follow, they are on my other camera). It was so much fun. There must have been around 120-150 people, and we cycled around Merida to the sounds of music, laughter and singing. It was fabulous! A really well organised ride, nothing strenuous about it though!
The next day was even better. There is a pink beach (it is an an area dense with sea salt), and we wanted to see it. But since we wanted our cake, and to eat it, we also wanted out guide to throw in some ruins. Introducing Ek Balam, near the town of Valladolid, my most favourite ruins of the trip. I could post a hundred pictures and it still won’t do the place justice.
There was so much to see and take in, more to explore, and the energy of the place was phenomenal. I felt like I had plugged into an energy grid – and I probably had! Once again, our guide was very interesting, honest and funny and it was fascinating to listen to the history of building all these structures.
I will say one thing – for all these ruins, don’t scrimp on the guides. Don’t think they charge too much – they don’t. If you were to walk them yourselves without knowing about the ruins, you might as well stop. The gold nuggets of information were priceless. Ek Balam done, we hopped on bikes to cycle to our 2nd attraction – a cenote! This one thankfully not as restrictive as the first. Not knowing what to expect, I was so so happy when I saw this sight. Isn’t it just magical??
Swimming in it was even better. The water was the right temperature, the views everywhere I looked were PERFECT. I even donned my snorkel and followed a few black fishies around. However the water wasn’t that clear, other than the fish, there want much else to see. I wanted to stay in there for much longer, but there was a long drive to get to our main attraction.
So after our lovely lunch, we drove for another two hours to Las Colorades. Worth every second (and the four hour drive back). Look at this view – it was so beautiful, almost like being on another planet.
And it isn’t over yet – there are also flamingos in the area!!! Not in the same salt lake, but on the other side. Look!!!!! Obviously more than just two, will upload pics from my other camera. I loved watching them. We stayed there to see the sunset, and yes, cheesy, cliched, it was the perfect end to the perfect day.
Starting with Ek Balam, finishing with a super sunset, it was a really really wonderful day. I STRONGLY recommend this combination of attractions – you will not be disappointed. Merida has been the highlight of Mexico for me. It is the base for lots of ruins and cenote exploring. I am not ruined out, I am not cenote-d out, I feel I MUST return to check them out.. SOON!