Sunday, November 22, 2009
Soon after Costa Rica, I headed to Mexico. Contrary to what you see and hear about Mexico from Lou Dobbs, there are places in Mexico which are just an absolute delight to explore. The Yucatan peninsula in particular is one such place. The secret to a great authentic Yucatan travel experience is to stay away from the "All Inclusive Package" crowds headed to Cancun. Once you manage to do that, you are guaranteed a rewarding experience.
Yucatan peninsula has miles and miles of beautiful white sandy shoreline. About 2 hours south of Cancun is the small town of Tulum. Here you will find several hotels and cabanas all claiming to be eco hippy. Most of the them off grid running solar panels and wind turbines. While every one claims to be eco, not every one is. Zahra, the place I stayed at was not particularly eco. Make sure you have a copy of Lonely Planet. They have great recommendations if you are looking for eco travel options.
What makes Yucatan special is the Mayan culture and their history. If you fancy archeology, history, meeting people, trying out different food, Yucatan is the place to visit.
Chichen Itza is the most famous Mayan site here and rightfully so. It is a fascinating place and you can't help wonder about the people who lived there, their ceremonies and belief systems and their day to day lives.
If you have seen Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, your view of the Mayans would be one of extreme violence. I was curious what the locals thought about the movie. Many thought it was realistic. Our guide at Chichen Itza Philipe had an interesting perspective though. The ruling elite he said had to control the population. They had to make sure people obeyed them and worked for them. The key to that was selective information. Rituals and sacrifices were designed to coincide with celestial events. The ordinary man, not aware of such things remained gullible. Citizens were expected to sacrifice and kill in the name of religion, beliefs and tribe. Philipe then asked me, "How is that different from today? Aren't politicians doing the very same thing to us? Aren't we killing in the name of religion and country?"
Overshadowed by Chichen Itza is the ruins of Ek Balam. Most tourists skip it. Ek Balam was the best part of my trip.
Since it was not very crowded, I could spend some quality time here, walking around and soaking it all in. The village of Ek Balam is situated a mile or two from the ruins. Here you will find every tree hugger's dream come true eco resort.....The Genesis Eco Retreat.
The structures here are made from recycled materials. The rooms are naturally cooled. An entire ecosystem of frogs, geckos and others keep mosquito levels down. The entire property is watered using rain water harvesting. The pool here is bio filtered, no chemicals used. The toilets all use a wet composting system.
The owner of the resort, Lee, works hard to ensure the local village benefits from the operation. She organizes an artisan tour through the village where you get to visit houses, meet people, make tortillas.
Now that is what I call eco paradise!!!
The rest of the pictures are here