I was ready to get the hell out of the jungle and into an actual city. Mike’s plan was to go to Merida on Friday night. Nelly and I were on the fence about what to do. That’s the problem when you can do anything, you tend to be very indecisive. After changing cities twice in less than a week we decided it’d be nice to set up camp somewhere for a week or so. We had heard great things about Merida and without Mike we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves, so we decided to join him. The band wasn’t going to break up just yet!
We decided to take a night bus from Palenque to Merida. This would not only make sure we didn’t waste a day in travel time but we would also be able to save on accommodations. The bus ride from Palenque to Merida cost around $400 MXN (about $20 USD). When we arrived at the ADO bus terminal in Palenque our friend José from Chile was there and waiting to take the same bus! He hadn’t booked a place to stay in Merida yet so we suggested he stay at the same hostel as us.
We boarded the night bus hoping to catch some sleep but none of us could sleep except for Mike, who had taken a few sleeping pills. When we arrived in Merida, Nelly, José and I were like zombies. Mike was refreshed and ready to take on the day. We grabbed a taxi to the hostel and Mike was already making plans for our day. How we were going to rent a car, go to this place, go to that place. The three of us looked at each other in the back seat and rolled our eyes while he just kept talking. No one but Mike had energy to do anything.
Driving to the hostel I immediately fell in love with Merida. The old Spanish style architecture and brightly colored buildings reminded me of Havana. Merida is a city of money so they have been able to restore and keep the old buildings in pristine condition. Part of Havana’s charm to me is how beautiful their buildings look even in their dilapidated state – however it was amazing to see what this style of architecture looks like fully restored.
When we got to the hostel we were able to nap in their hammocks until check in. If you’re in Merida, I highly recommend staying at Nómadas. They have a beautiful pool and free cooking and salsa classes most nights. I stayed in a four person female dorm next to the kitchen and my room even had WiFi! This is rare at hostels- normally the WiFi only works in the common areas. I was able to watch Netflix in my bed every night, which is a luxury.
After check in at around 1pm, Nelly and I decided to get some groceries. The hostel had made a map for the guests of points of interest and where to get groceries.
Following their suggestion, we headed to a “fruit market”. Surpringly, it was almost completely void of any produce. We then headed to the grocery store sure they would have a large selection of fruits and vegetables to choose from. TheY literally had zero fruits or vegetables. We kept asking people on the street where we could buy fruits and vegetables and no one seemed to know. Seriously Merida? Seriously Mexico? I was starting to think vegetables and any kind of fruit free from insane amounts of sugar were a distant memory.
Finally, after about an hour, we found a market and there were loads of produce everywhere! We would have been in heaven except for the fact that it was a Saturday and the market was extremely packed. It was way too overwhelming for how little sleep we had gotten. We purchased all the vegetables our hearts could desire and headed back to the hostel.
When we got back to the hostel Mike told us we were going to rent a car and go to a light show at the Uxmal ruins that evening.
Mike picked up the car and the four of us, plus a friend Mike had met in Puerto Escondido from Australia, piled in. It was so fun to be in a car we had control over! Mexico road trip! It’s extremely easy to rent a car in Mexico and definitely worth it if you have three or more people. By splitting the cost of a rental car to visit places of interest in Merida, such as the ruins or cenotes, you can save money by only having to pay entrance fees and not having to pay for a tour.
Mike had met a guy earlier in the day that told him 6pm was the best time to get to the pyramids. When we got there it was closed and the light show didn’t start until 8pm… What was going on with all these suggestions?
We decided to kill time by getting dinner in a pueblita (a little town) we had passed on the way. We drove about 10 minutes back from the way we had come to the strangest, emptiest, little town.
We found an outdoor food court of sorts that appeared as though they had just opened up just for us. Each of us ordered different things from different food vendors and sat down together at a table for dinner. Poor Nelly is vegan and usually haS a hard time finding things to eat in small towns like this one. Tonight her meal would be salad with tortillas on the side.
On the plus side, we were in the state of Yucatán now which meant new foods to try! Each state in Mexico has their own unique dishes and I was excited to see what the Yucatán had to offer. I tried a Panucho which is two tortillas with beans in the middle that is then deep fried and topped with your choice of shredded meat and pickled red onions.
After dinner we headed back to the pyramids a little early and upon arriving found out that the light show had started at 7pm. Was everyone in Mexico out to trick us? It was actually a good thing that we showed up a little late because we were able to watch the show for free. Normally the cost is $300 MXN (about $15 USD) and in my opinion totally not worth it. The light show wasn’t necessarily a light show at all but rather a story-telling of how the ruins were built here by the Mayans. Different pyramids would light up as if they were characters talking. The entire show was in Spanish and even José, a native Spanish speaker, could barley understand it because of all the traditional Mayan words used.
After the light show, on our way back to Merida, we passed a police checkpoint. The police asked us to pull over and get out of the car. I kept thinking, “If those police think I’m going to give them money they’ve got another thing coming!” They searched our car, our backpacks and purses then said we were free to go.
Before we headed off, the officer told us that the state of Yucatán is the safest state in Mexico. They keep it that way by not allowing drugs or guns past these checkpoints. He told us that other states like Michoacán and Zacatecas are very dangerous but that we could feel safe here. I thought to myself, “Well I was never pulled over and searched by the police in Michoacán..”