So, you say you don’t want to go to Chichen Itzá…?
Well, visiting Chichen Itzá can apparantly be slightly controversial – for some… Every so often you run into people while travelling; other travellers, who – IMO – have a very weird take on life and the world. I’m talking about those people who’re always searching for the “authentic” – nothing else is important. They who believe everything with the smallest touch of tourism must be despised!
Don’t get me wrong here, of course I love experiencing a country’s authentic culture. I don’t travel to see the same places where they sell the exact same stuff and where you’re eating fast food from the exact same big chains. I of course want to experience that which is truly indigenous, too. BUT at the same time I also enjoy arriving at a place like Fisherman’s Village on Koh Samui, or Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
I’ve been to villages in Thailand, where I’ve been the only “farang” (=foreigner) and I’ve experienced real Thai culture, and sure, that’s also quite enjoyable – that’s the whole point of travelling now isn’t it! But I do appreciate to slip into a place and get myself a cheap massage; sit down in a cozy restaurant by the beach where they are serving freshly squeezed juices or smoothies. Because these type of drinks are NOT really part of the “real” Thai culture out in the bush – I can guarantee you that! And well, yes, I might be a tad lame for enjoying this, but I do want to have the option of some everyday luxury if I feel the need. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what is unique for Thailand (in this case). It just means I might be a tad spoiled…
I want a perfect mix of them both.
One of my favourite movies is a Swedish movie called “Once upon a time in Phuket”. It is so corny and yet nails it in such a great way as for Thailand and a lot of those people who go there. I immediately recognized the stereotypes – the people you’ve met – who claim they are only after the real experiences, the “real” Thailand (or India, or whatever country you’re in), all the while lounging around with other travellers, speaking English with one another and doing drugs all day long.
That is just SO real, right!
It’s also theese type of people who’re screaming out loud they don’t want to see anything touristic, not experience anything “anyone else” has experienced. They’d rather invent the wheel all over again, see and experience the heart of the country – hang out with the indigenous people etc etc.
“La Iglesia” (=the church) – Chichen Itzá
In Mexico there are 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – and Chichen Itzá is one of them. For me, it’s compulsory to see Chichen Itzá while here (writing this I’m actually in Mexico). Well, I might sound a bit judgmental (you don’t say!), but I have to admit I was intensly stunned to hear that someone actually did not want to experience Chichen Itzá because “it is too touristic”.
Chichen Itzá… a tourist trap?
“El Osario” (=The Tomb of the High Priest) – Chichen Itzá
This is obviously not the general opinion, there were quite a lot of people visiting the wonder while I was there. However, apparantly some simply refuse going because “it’s too touristic”. Even writing these words feels absurd for me. Yes, of course it’s touristic, because it was one of the largest Mayan cities. It’s one of the wonders of the world, for crying out loud! Should you skip this now just because it turned out to be “too touristic”?
Well, it’s a decision one has to make for oneself, of course, and in hindsight I can attest it was touristic. There were loads of salesmen by Chichen Itzá, but in all honesty – these salesmen appeared like little lambs compared to the ones I met while visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Those children ran after me, pulling my shirt and telling me I “really needed to buy this or that for one dollar”. And then they stared at me with those huge brown sad eyes to really break my heart – it’s a conspiracy, right? The salesmen at Chichen Itzá were relaxed, shouted “hola”and“1 dollar” every now and then, but not more than that.
If I thought it ruined the experience? Absolutely not.
“El Caracol” (=the Observatory) – Chichen Itzá – before and after the rain – and a bird spreading his wings…
Have you ever been to the Great Wall of China? I’ve visited Mutianyu 2 times – with 23 years apart, and nowadays it’s quite the tourist show, I must admit – compared to 1994. Moreover, if you look at pictures from Badaling, where most Chinese go when they want to experience this wonder, it simply looks insane! So full of tourists and salesmen I highly doubt there is space for even the tiniest little soul up there on the wall. On the other hand I know from experience there is always room for one Chinese more…
But I don’t care! I want to experience the ancient culture, the wonders, all the other stuff I simply shut out.
I arrived at Chichen Itzá shortly after it opened in the morning. There were already a few buses on the parking lot. Buses from Cancún and other vacation spots in Quintana Roo. I’m an introvert (well, ain’t that the shocker!), so I hate group travel and other silliness where you’re bunched together, forced to be social and nice. I’d rather walk around by my lonesome, so I don’t have to talk to anyone (!). Therefore I’d chosen to stay a few nights/days in Valladolid, and used that village as my base. This also made it possible to arrive before the busloads did, which appealed to me.
“El Castillo” (The Temple of the feathered serpent Kukulkan)
The first thing I bumped into when I entered the area was “El Castillo – temple of Kukulkan”, which is the largest building in Chichen Itzá. It was more or less deserted, so I had time to get some nice shots, and at the same time breathe in the atmosphere. When too many people flocked around the pyramid, clapping their hands (it’s one of those things you have to do!), I just walked around to the other side – not a soul around. Perfect!
The pyramid isn’t fully restored on all sides, and because I love ruins I kind of prefer when it’s not completely restored to its glory days shine.
So, this is Chichen Itzá when it’s “too touristy” – people everywhere, I mean it’s just awful, isn’t it? Soo crowded…
A couple of hours later the people started pouring in and when I left Chichen Itzá there were people just about everywhere. I eaves dropped on 3 Danish young guys taking photos of each other in front of “El Castillo”. They were debating whether or not they should continue to look at the rest of the city, but decided unanimously
”No, this is quite enough, we’ve already got the photo!”.
So, that’s one way to see it if you’re just interested in checking off wonders or chasing likes on Instagram…
Of course, I too, took a selfie in front of “El Castillo” when I arrived. A girl must have her memory! 😉
Back to the task at hand, the shock that inspired me to write this post: even if there were plenty, loads of, crowding people everywhere I don’t understand at all how you can deselect Chichen Itzá from your itinerary, and instead go to see other less famous ruins, like Ek Balam. Why not exaggerate like me – see them all!?
“Las mil columnas” (=the 1000 Columns) – Chichen Itzá
“El Templo de los Guerreros” (=the Temple of the Warriors, i.e. MY temple ^.^) – Chichen Itzá
I visited Ek Balam the day after Chichen Itzá. Ek Balam is however quite small compared to Chichen Itzá, so 25 people makes it feel pretty crowded, whilte 250 people on the giant area of Chichen Itzá are hardly even noticeable. So if one is to be fussy about it, so size wise isn’t Ek Balam then more touristy than Chichen Itzá…?
In the end – I don’t understand the concept of skipping such a place because “it’s too touristic”. At least not when it comes to the Wonders of the world – the Heritage Sites. Would you really skip it?
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