By Bus to Merida, Chichen-Itza, Uxmal and “The Yellow City”
Here in Antigua, Guatemala, the buses have names; Esmeralda, Carolina, Johanna, Camelia, Dulce. They are the old, reliable Blue Bird school buses given a second, and this time glamorous, life. Painted by fanciful artists, arrayed with chrome, pampered and shined these queens are… the Chicken Buses: the crowded but cheap system for local travel. There are other ways to get around (rental cars, taxis and private shuttles) but, for our money, the chicken buses win hands down as some of the most entertaining transportation.
In Mexico, the bus system, while not as colorful, is reliable, convenient and very affordable and ranges from luxury and 1st class buses to the more local 2nd class buses and collectivos or combi-vans. The 1st class buses have assigned seats, restrooms at the back and televisions which tend to play movies at full volume. The 2nd class buses lack restrooms and seats aren’t assigned but they are clean and very orderly. However, if the people are there, the drivers just keep filling the bus long after all the seats are gone so that to get on or off a rider kind of “surfs” their way through the crowd, fitting themselves (very politely) around the various bodies. We’ve been using a combination of combi-vans, (12-15 person vans), buses (1st and 2nd class) and a few times taxis. Everywhere else we walk.
We arrived in Merida, in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, on December 30th, after a 4 hour bus trip from Playa del Carmen. This was our first time staying at a B & B and it was such a great experience that we’ll continue to use other B & B’s and hostels as we travel.
Originally we had thought that we’d be sacrificing some of our treasured privacy but instead we met many new people, made several friends, and exchanged stories and travel information. Far from feeling isolated and disconnected from home, we’ve felt our world expand as we meet and make new friends.
Merida, Mexico is a beautiful colonial city that was founded in the 1540’s and has an historic central area filled with museums, art exhibits and markets.
There are numerous plazas for people-watching and an enormous mercado that assaults you with smells, noise, the frantic hustle and pushing of crowds of people plus restaurants with awesome, traditional Yucatecan food. One of our favorite things about Merida was the glimpse behind plain, unassuming facades into the colonial homes. Some interiors are original but many houses have been bought and renovated by expats into one of-a-kind gems. After a tour of several of these homes we were even entertaining the idea of making one of these our own (this after a year of getting rid of all our stuff!).
We could have kept ourselves entertained for months in Merida but the area around Merida is also filled with fascinating ruins including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Uxmal and Chichen-Itza.
Also near Merida is the colonial city of Izamal, called “the Yellow City”. Izamal, which dates from the mid-1500’s, has the distinction of having its main plazas surrounded by buildings painted a cheerful, bright yellow and was designated by Mexico in 2002, a “Pueblo Magico” because of its great charm.
And last, but not least, there is the fast-growing “Progresso coast”, an ex-pat haven radiating from the port city of Progresso thirty miles north of Merida on the Gulf of Mexico.
By Richard and Anita, May, 2013