So my last full day in Cancun. Wow -- time really goes by fast, huh?
Well, today, I allowed myself to "sleep in" until 7 am, at which point, I got up and finished uploading photos and videos to my Chichen Itza / Cenote posting and then published that one. Following this, I went and grabbed some breakfast at neighborhood favorite Tacos Rigo.
I stayed at Tacos Rigo for about 2 hours, maybe a bit longer, and speed-wrote 15 solid pages in my journal. In fact, I actually finished that particular journal book, which provided a nice sense of accomplishment while I drank cup after cup of free refill black coffee with a tiny bit of sugar and non-dairy creamer to make it interesting.
It is nice that here in Cancun City, there is the same concern for restaurant hygiene that we have in the US -- at least in theory:
From here, I went off in search of an ATM, as my cash reserves had dwindled and I wanted to not feel pressured for funds on my last 2 days in Cancun. Due to a misreading of the ATM fee (it was unclear whether the fee was in American dollars or Mexican pesos), I decided to challenge myself to make due with $16 USD and a credit card for the remainder of my time.
Even at 10 am, the sun was really beating down on me, so I headed back to my room and typed, then uploaded pics and videos for my Tulum / Coba posting starting around 10:30 or 11 am. This took a couple of hours due to me needing first to type the posting and then to upload all of the pics and videos (which I'd had the foresight to upload to Youtube the night before -- yay for advance planning!)...
Here is a video and a pic of my neighborhood from my perspective on the morning of my last full day in Cancun:
Here is a scan of the map that Walter gave me the first evening that I arrived, which I've used to navigate the downtown area of Cancun City the entire time I've been here.
Around 1 or 1:30 pm, I had a nice conversation with my AirBnB host Walter, who works from home as an independent hotel industry consultant. Following this, I braved the R2 (bus for local residents) from Avenida Kabah /Rodrigo Gomez (the main drag near my room) to the Hotel Zone in the resort area of Cancun. I was going to El Museo Maya, bitches!
As one progresses in a vehicle from Cancun City towards and then through the Hotel Zone, the buildings noticeably begin to change, to grow in size and in scope, eventually becoming the size of football stadiums, many of which include their own music and entertainment venues where major US acts go to perform. In fact, Jon Bon Jovi and his new group are performing at one of the hotels sometime in the next month -- very cool stuff!
Here are a bunch of very short 30 second videos in chronological order that they were shot from my seat on the R2 bus, showing the evolution of the Hotel Zone from the region closest to downtown Cancun (where I was staying) on up through the major resort hotels, each literally the size of Madison Square Garden:
At this point, a blind singer got onto the bus and started busking, along with his young teenage daughter, who was collecting money in a clear plastic cup:
My Spanish was really getting good -- or at least very functional and comfortable at this point in time, so I was joking with the driver a bit as I asked him to please let me know when to get off for El Museo Maya -- Cancun's own Mayan history and archaeology museum. As luck would have it, the bus stopped right across the street from the Museum:
Upon entering and paying the $5.90 USD entrance fee, I was asked to check my bag in a secure locker (for free, no less), and I was given a key to carry with me for the rest of my time there, so I could be confident that the contents of my backpack would be safe, and so that the museum staff would be equally as confident that I would not steal anything from the outdoor portion of the museum, which I will get to in a moment.
Here is a pic of the welcome area for the museum, through the turnstile after I paid for my ticket:
And here, dear readers, is a near complete walking tour in videos and pics of San Miguelito, "Little San Miguel," the Museum's own complete, if tiny, late Mayan settlement -- which included quite a few houses; a very large municipal building with columns and other architectural similarities to the other cities I had visited on this trip; and a really well-preserved, if tiny, pyramid of 6 levels (if I counted right), which means that the settlement was vacated before the end of the last 52-year temple-building cycle, one level short of the standard 7-level pyramid, according to my Coba tour guide from the day before (see yesterday's blog entry for more on this).
[Literally] A walking tour of San Miguelito:
Here are the remains of a fresco on the stucco wall inside the foundation of this house. It is very hard to make out in the photo, and indeed in person, but it is, nevertheless, very faintly there -- cool for having been buried in the jungle for 600-700 years!
Note how thick the plaster is in certain spots on the walls of these buildings. For the most part, the plaster has all but disappeared from the buildings at other sites such as Chichen Itza, where you will remember that the insides and outsides of major buildings only show their stone construction -- with occasional bits of plaster remaining here and there...
Near the first pit was an emormous mound of soil that had been cleared aside, which it turns out, contained the remains of a midden. Now I can understand why they had me check my bag; within minutes of me looking at the ground, my trained eye spotted Mayan pottery fragments; a piece of a specific kind of mollusk shell, which I later found out in the museum that the Mayans used as a form of currency while trading with other villages and cities; and a fragment of bone that had obviously been carved with some sort of Mayan design or another -- all just sitting on top of the ground next to this pile of soil, waiting for archaeologists to continue their work as time might allow.
More than time spent at the other sites, the 5 minutes I spent inspecting this midden and looking closely at the ground in front of it and to the side of the gravel pathway that I walked on while shooting these videos allowed me a glimpse into the real, everyday lives of the Maya circa 1300 or 1400 AD, right before the Spanish arrival, and it was just as if I had wandered into one of their bathrooms and was able to inspect their toothbrush and to see what brand of toothpaste and shampoo they were using. I felt very lucky for this brief, but intimate glimpse into everyday Mayan life as it existed between 600 and 700 years ago.
Really VERY cool stuff.
After returning along the loop of San Miguelito's shaded path, past the ruins for a second time and past some really cool mangrove trees...
...I climbed a series of very avant garde ramps from ground level to several stories above, where I entered the museum portion of the Museum.
Here is a slide show that I have prepared of the Mayan history and archaeology / art portion of my museum visit. It shows up pretty small on your screen (especially on a smartphone), BUT you can click on any photo that is sliding past you on the mini screen and a new window will open to the Picasa album that contains all of the full-sized photos I took from the Mayan history and archaeology museum exhibit. You can then manually scroll left or right from beginning to end and take as long as you like to view any one photo. (Of particular interest might be the collection of little "tooth people" near the end of the album. Right out of a 1970s US "Mr. Yuckmouth" public service announcement TV commercial!):
After visiting 2 rooms of Mayan and Yucatan Peninsula archaeological finds, I proceeded to a special exhibit pertaining to some of the Yucatan's earliest inhabitants, including Ice Age skeletons dating back 12,000 or more years. The exhibit was called "El Hombre Temprano en Mexico," and though I was not allowed to take pics, here are 2 official publicity photos from the Museum's official Facebook page:
If you visit the page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Museo-Maya-de-Cancun/405638132838520 and scroll down to their August 9 entry, you will find their welcome message to tourists (in Spanish) advertising this new and very special exhibit.
Highlights of the exhibit were actual Ice Age human skeletons, including a near complete man from 12,000 years ago who stood 5'7" tall and whose bones appeared to be much more robust than my own, including extraordinarily wide shoulders and large hands and feet! We tend to think of people from hundreds of years ago, let alone thousands of years ago, as shorter and smaller than the people of today. Not so with these individuals who occupied the Yucatan Peninsula during the last Ice Age! Really cool stuff, and a bit of a revelation for me regarding how I pictured these folks from so long ago. I believe that most, if not all, of the skulls and skeletons in this special exhibit were discovered during various construction projects in and around Quintana Roo, Yucatan, and other states making up the entirety of the Yucatan Peninsula.
From the museum, I made my way to the nearest the bus stop heading back towards Cancun City, which happened to be 1/2 of a block away. Super convenient stuff, getting around by bus in the Hotel Zone. And the R2 only costs about 90 cents flat rate each trip, regardless of whether you go 1/4 mile or the maximum number of stops!
I made small talk with the driver, asking about various public beaches that I might get off and explore. Alas, by this time, it was already 6 pm on my last full day in Cancun, so I had officially missed my chance to get sun on the beach during my Cancun vacation. I must be the only human being EVER to have come to Cancun on vacation and never soaked up sun and waves on the beaches of Cancun!!!
I had intended to visit a beach called Playa Delfines, close to El Museo, but the guard at the museum from whom I asked directions had no idea where that particular beach was (in spite of it being like 4 blocks away, come to find out], so she sent me in the wrong direction. Once I was on a bus and realized my error, and given the limited amount of time I had left in Cancun to actually go to a beach and enjoy myself for a few moments, I decided instead to get off at Playa Chac Mool, close to the "hook" of the Cancun Hotel Zone.
Here are some pics and video of Playa Chac Mool:
From Playa Chac Mool, after enjoying a mere 20 minutes or less in the very warm ocean, I dried off and walked further down the road to a restaurant district including the famous Coco Bongo club and associated free public beach.
Here is a video of this area of the Hotel Zone, as well as of Coco Bongo public beach:
I was really hungry at this point, but as I mentioned in my last blog entry, I was having no luck with ATMs in either Cancun City or Cancun Hotel Zone, so I made do with my remaining $14 USD and purchased a $1.40 USD hot dog. It was horrible, but I was hungry, and the spicy tomato-based relish as well as the jalapenos that I loaded onto my dog made it at least palatable.
From here, I caught an R2 bus back to Cancun City -- and in fact, to within 4 blocks of my room where I was staying!
On the way back, I passed something that I had seen 2 previous times, on an island in the middle of the road that connects downtown Cancun to the Hotel Zone:
It is really hard to make out, but underneath the trees in this spot is a complete outdoor "all weather" version of a machine-weight lifting facility, with the same stations you would see at any gym in the US -- and which, in fact, I see at my own gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn everyday. I just thought this was SO cool, and it appeared to be completely free for the use of any locals or tourists who might happen upon it and recognize it for its exercise potential!
Upon arriving back at my room, I dropped off my stuff and knocked on my host Walter's door, to check in with him one last time before leaving the following morning.
Here is a picture of me with Walter, taken as a selfie on my Android phone right outside the door to my room on his patio walkway:
And here, as an update to my blog, is the photo that Walter took at the same time on his phone:
From here, I walked to Tacos Rigo for one last meal, knowing that I could use my credit card to pay for my $10 USD dinner in lieu of using up my remaining cash. While eating at Tacos Rigo, I had a great, long phone conversation with my good friend Twyla about a guy she started dating. It was really nice to catch up with her from so far away -- made me feel a bit more grounded and connected to home while away.
After Tacos Rigo, I headed back to my room to organize my "stuff" accumulated during my trip and to take my still damp clothes from the clothesline in Walter's garden, where I had hung them the day before after a cursory rinse of everything while I took my shower the day before -- thus ensuring that I would not be packing mildewed clothes in my checked luggage for my flights home. Alas, my plan was not completely successful; my clothes no longer reeked of sweat and jungle air but were, nevertheless, still very damp when I finally packed my suitcase the morning of 8/20 before leaving Walter's home and walking to the bus station.
I am getting ahead of myself, slightly.
I spent most of the rest of the evening today having a very important conversation with a very important person from New York. It was not an easy conversation, but it was necessary for my personal growth.
After hanging up from my friend, I breathed deeply, stretched a bit, and went to sleep.