The only real reason we backpacked so far east into Mexico was because Laurent is a princess (*coughprivilegedwhiteboycough*) and needed to see the last of the seven world wonder to complete his list, collects gaudy miniatures of famous landmarks, and Emily likes UNESCO sites. Chichén Itzá fit both of our desires (although Laurent much more), and as we arrived, apparently half of the travelling population of the world as well.
We left the hostel at 4:30am in order to get to Chichén Itzá before busloads of tourists destroyed Emily’s flawless Instagram feed. We took the first bus from Merida to Piste (1km out of the main site), at 5:00am, since the first bus to Chichén Itzá did not leave until 6:00am. It took us a couple hours, arriving at 8:00am, and we were half asleep on the sub-zero bus when the bus driver announced that it was time for us to get off. We walked towards Chichén Itzá from there, and discovered an incredible roadside cochinita stand which we snacked on for breakfast. As we walked towards the entrance, we saw many vendors setting up shop in anticipation for the tourists. We joined the ticket line with tens of many others already lined up 30 minutes after opening, and were overwhelmed by the herds of guided tour groups at the entrance. We quickly sprinted past them towards the main temple, El Castillo, before the other tourists would pollute our photos with electrifying tourist group hats.
El Castillo is an incredibly impressive structure. The pyramid was completely excavated and restored to imagined greatness, and we had no problems imagining a Mayan king yelling orders to execute his subjects from above. This was definitely the “cleanest” Mayan temple we had seen on the trip. Even though we were definitely “temple-tired” after seeing Copan, Tikal and Mirador, we made our obligatory round around the park and was quite impressed by all the restored sites. With 1.4 million visitors each year paying anywhere between MXN 50 pesos and MXN 240 pesos for foreigners, the archaeological site had no shortage of funds to invest in park maintenance. There were little stands everywhere catering to every niche, including Laurent’s collection, and he eventually picked up a little statuette to add to his collection.
Once we left the park 3 hours later, we estimated that there were probably around 3,000 other tourists, 200 vendors, and 60 tour buses. Of course there is a reason all these people come here: It is simply very impressive. However, for Laurent (Emily disagrees here) it would probably have been better to visit Chichén Itzá first instead of making it our final Mayan temple.
Finding a bus back to Mérida from the gates was no problem, so just after lunch time we were back. What could be a better way to celebrate our visit to CHIchen itZA than eating a CHIZZA. For the less well cultured: a Chizza is a bastardization of both American and Italian food culture found in your local KFC in Mexico. It combines Chicken and Pizza into one rather disappointing meal. well, we gave it a try.