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23rd Dec 2011 - Ek Balam and arrival in Playa del Carmen

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Dr Manaan Kar Ray
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:55 pm    Post subject: 23rd Dec 2011 - Ek Balam and arrival in Playa del Carmen Reply with quote

This was primarily a driving day. I had to get from Uxmal to Playa del Carmen. There were really 2 routes that one could take, either go south through 184 and then go north via Tulum or go north up to Merida and then west via 180. I decided to add a mid day stop to it so that the whole day did not feel like a waste. We coul have stopped at Tulum on the way if we took the southern route or divert of to Ek Balam if we took the northern route. I opted on the northern route via Merida as I was unsure regarding the roads heading south.

So it was going to be over 470 kms of driving. We left reasonably early. On hitting the ring road of Merida, I fuelled up as I was unsure about when the next petrol station will be. There are quite a few around Merida but after that when one hits the toll road there weren't any for quite a while. On reaching Ek Balam we got a bit lost. The signage is not very clear and it points to the village rather than to the ruins. So we were lost for a little while. We had to back track our way through the village and fortunately found some tourists who guided us. There were lots of places in the village were locals were seen to be making quite beautiful multicoloured hammocks. We debated whether to buy one, but we were not sure where and what we will hang it from, so that idea was parked.

Ek Balam Photo Gallery

By the time we arrived at Ek Balam it was about 11:30 am, there was cloud cover and it did feel quite hot and humid. It is a decent sized site, maybe not as big as Chichen Itza or Uxmal, but larger than the Ruta Puuc sites. This site dates to the Late Classic period, which ran from roughly 600 to 800 AD. During this period, Mayan civilization flourished and reached its greatest heights.

Notable featuresThe largest structure, known as The Acropolis, has a 5m tall jaguar's mouth featuring winged Mayan warriors, as well as inscriptions in the Maya script. From the top of this structure can be seen the pre-Columbian sites of Coba and Chichen Itza. The views are panoramic but this might be a bit of an overstatement, maybe on a crystal clear day with powerful bionauculars. The Acropolis is on the North side of the site is the largest structure at Ek' Balam and contains the tomb of Ukit Kan Le'k Tok'. It measures 146 meters across, 55 meters wide and 29 meters tall. Below is the view from the top, although I climbed it Mond decided to opto out.

The twin pyramids and the oval palace are other notable structures at Ek Balam. Unfortunately the heat and the humidity had started to get to the kids and we bailed out without actually seeing the stucco sculpture that people come here to see. We did go atop the oval palace and then retreated back.

After this we made our way back to Ek Balam village, we had read in the rough guide about a Canadian owner who ran a place called Genesis Retreat. It is an eco lodge and has a bio-filtered pool, apparently she runs a 'meet the neighbours' trip around the village. We did not have time to do that but did have a nice lunch at the resturant. Our orders did take an hour to get ready, but I guess for good things one has to wait. The fish preparations we ordered was excellent. Worth the wait. This did mean though that my plan to go via Valladolid and see cenote Dzitnup now needed to be parked.

We started our journey towards Playa del Carmen, and the skies opened up with torrential rain. It lasted only 30 minutes but boy did it rain, just like Indian monsoons. After that though the skies cleared up again. I did make a mental note though that I have to see a cenote before the end of our trip. Around 5 O clock we checked in to Holiday Inn Express in Playa del Carmen. I was actually quite impressed with the hotel, keeping in mind the price and the 2 minutes drive down to the centre of town and the beach. The only thing that the hotel did not have was a resturant. Breakfast was included but for all other meals people had to go into town. The long drive had worn me out and if I had the option we would have just chosen to call it a day, but now we had to go out.

Mahi too had her heart set on seeing the ocean and playing on the beach so after a little rest we drove into town. Parking was available quite close to the shopping area and we wandered down the street to the beach. The sun had already set, but it was quite nice to feel the fresh sea breeze and the white powdery sand beneath our feet. The kids ran around for a little while and then we had some Chinese food at a resturant on the beach.

We also browsed through the many touristy souveneir shops, I think Mon did buy some T-shirts. We then retreated back to the hotel. Overall this particular day was not a highlight of the trip, but I kenw that all along, it was a driving day and we still managed to see a decent site, Ek Balam. However the more pleasing bit was how excited Mahi and Mayank were about the beach. I did not have the heart to break this excitement though as on my list we had Tulum and Coba tomorrow....... after that perhaps the beach.

Playa del Carmen at Night
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