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Dag 4: Trip to Palenque

Mexico - Tuesday 23 November 1999

We wake up early so we can have breakfast before leaving. Today, we're traveling to Palenque, which is at the western part of the area we're touring. That means we'll be flying.

We're picked up at 7 AM by two taxis that take us to the airport. Mérida's airport is small, with only a few domestic flights per day. Nonetheless, it's spacious, with wide corridors leading to the gates.

The flight is short, just three-quarters of an hour. Again, we're on an old plane. It seems customary here to keep the cockpit door open during the flight.

We land in Villahermosa, where we take a taxi to the bus station. What a hassle.

Interesting enough, bus stations here are often in poorer neighborhoods with many market stalls.

An officer wants to be in the photo.

The area around Villahermosa is flooded, remnants of the recent floods. Honestly, it looks quite beautiful with everything now a vibrant green.

A movie plays on the bus, about a family who keeps a group of monkeys and has all sorts of adventures, but I find the view outside more interesting. It keeps changing: from open fields with small villages, it gradually becomes more jungle with tall trees and limited views.

Palenque itself isn't a pretty town. Mostly poor neighborhoods. When we drive through there, for the first time, I feel like I'm in Latin America: lots of honking, dirty streets, taxis driving like crazy, and people everywhere trying to sell things.

Our hotel is a bit outside the city (again, another taxi). A beautiful, peaceful oasis in the jungle. There's a little restaurant, an old American bus, some people camping (no Dutch folks). Our rooms are in a separate building. This time, I'm sharing a room with Gert.

After getting a bit acclimated, we head to the Palenque ruins. Another taxi...

Our guide mentions that it's very crowded in the mornings. Many groups visit the ruins and then move on to other sites in the area. Right now, there are only around ten people.

The guide, Ernesto, shares fascinating information about life here, how the Maya leaders succeeded in convincing their people that they were gods, and how the Maya Empire fell around 800 AD.

The ruins are significantly damaged, but there's still so much beauty to see. Somehow, it leaves a much greater impression than Chichen Itza.

There are incredibly beautiful inscriptions here, still entirely intact.

We dine at the hotel's restaurant. Great local cuisine, but I chose a chicken dish that wasn't particularly outstanding. Next time, better.

It's quite funny how things work here: you order your food at a counter, then you have to hand your receipt to the kitchen. After a while, the kitchen calls out a number, and you can collect your food there. Luckily, Maria understands Spanish so well that she notices when something is called from the kitchen.

During dinner, Wolfgang hears for the first time that I work for RTL. "Woehaa," he laughs. "They only broadcast bullshit!" I try to explain that RTL-4 is very different from RTL Germany...

After dinner, we hang around. With some beer, we chat about all sorts of things. We play a game where you can ask 20 questions to figure out which famous person someone is thinking of. Then I introduce them to 'Chinese counting,' but no one figures out the solution.

Once everyone else has gone to bed, I chat a bit with Liz. I explain how Chinese counting works to her. She tells me the secret behind 'Black Magic,' which she plans to introduce us to soon.

Since we have to wake up early tomorrow, we go to bed around 11 PM.


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