This was even more scenic to kayak than Bacalar because of the lush vegetation and an apparent influx of fresh water from underground. Xul-Ha is a cenote.The water flows from an underground limestone cavern and usually flows to the sea. We were actually able to dive down in one area and feel the current of the cooler water. The kayaking in this area is a little more difficult because of the current. You coast one way and paddle uphill so to speak on the way back. There is a lot more flora and fauna in this area. We saw herons, water lilies, mangroves, orchids, bromeliads, tillandsias and even a Basilisk lizard sunning himself on a mangrove branch.
The waters of Bacalar Lagoon are wonderful for water sports, especially kayaking. The calmness of the water and warm temperature make for an enjoying time. The water is crystal clear and a beautiful blue. There are almost no fish at all because of the high mineral content of the water
Just 10 to 12 km from downtown Chetumal is the Corozal Duty Free Zone. It is actually in Belize, and Mexicans can enter and leave the zone without paying any duties or taxes, so it primarily caters to Mexicans. That means that we could not find clothing that would fit our six foot frames, or big feet.
On the whole, goods seemed to be of questionable quality. We purchased plastic playing cards -- plastic is practically required in Mexico because of the humidity. When we opened them back in Progreso, they are unacceptably dark, and half the thickness of normal cards. We purchased a second frying pan for our condo (for only 35 pesos mind you), but the first time we used it, the stick-free coating came off using a wooden spoon. All sorts of goods are available there. We did buy a 10 carat gold ring imported from Italy. Hopefully it is of better quality.
However, there are many many shops - probably hundreds. We got dropped off by the taxi, started shopping and did not make it further than three blocks from where we started. When we left the duty-free zone, 2 or 3 hours after we arrived, we noticed that there were many streets of stores we never walked by.
Getting back to Chetumal was interesting as well. There does not seem to be a taxi that will bring you from the duty-free zone back to Chetumal. We had to take a motorcycle taxi to the border (which cost 10 pesos per person), then walk through the Mexican customs, then pick up a taxi on the Mexico side (which cost 80 pesos per taxi).
Chetumal's economy is influenced by its proximity to the Mexico-Belize border. That is the reason we visited -- It was billed as a "Road trip to Belize". Once we got there, we found out that Belize City was over three hours drive away.
But there is a tax-free zone close by (see my Free Zone tip). It is on the Belizean side of the border, although Chetumal itself is no slouch when it comes to shopping. We wandered the streets a few times and it seems to be non-stop retail. There are quite a few hotels and restaurants since Chetumal is a transit city - everyone travelling south to Belize and beyond.
Our hotel was also quite close to the Market (Mercado) - a busy spot.
The museum uses the image of the sacred Ceiba tree to help explain the relationship between Mayan life, the thirteen heavens (the upper floor), and Xibalba - the underword (the basement of the museum)
The upper floor describes the Mayan religion and some of their gods. Only the royalty and the medicine men where scholars. The museum describes the Maya calendar, their numbering system, their strength in astronomy. Mayans used a base 20 counting system which the museum teaches us.
I was hoping to get a better feel for the reasons that their great civilization disintegrated. But I did not feel any better informed after I went through the museum. However, we went near the end of a busy day. There is so much there, that you need to go first thing to still be fresh by the end of your museum visit.
The bottom floor is the underworld -- it describes what happens when royalty dies -- I remember they outfit the recently deceased with fine clothes, tools and goods that they can use in the transition to the underworld.
Perhaps you will be more astute than I was, but I wandered through the musuem, and totally missed the stairway to Xibalba. I had to go to the museum workers at the front to ask how do I get to the basement?
We visited the Mayan Museum for an afternoon. There is an outside area, and three floors of displays. Staff do not speak English, but the museum contents have plaques written in Spanish and English. Entry fee per person in 2006 is 50 pesos (about $4.50US).
We had considered going in the evening the day before, but through sign language and writing on hands, found out that the museum closed at 7pm each day. There are two gift shops - one that sells normal museum fare -- books, photos, museum T-shirts, etc. and the second one which sells locally-made art.
The outside display is interesting as it shows a typical Maya house. The house on display was able to resist hurricane winds, repel rain - allow the smoke of the fireplace exhaust, even keep the home cool in hot Mexican weather.
Also they showed what a typical family might have near their house - a small bit of garden, a pig sty, chicken coop, etc.
The large main floor includes information about the Mayan world -- describes the periods of the various Mayan people, shows the various city sites, has displays of what Mayan life is like, and has models of some of the Mayan ruins and structures. There is also a lot about what Mayans did for a living - crops, hunting, fishing etc. They traded a lot with other native nations.
The better part of the museum is in this middle earth (they have divided up the museum into middle earth, the heavens (upstairs), and the underworld (downstairs).
We enjoyed the main floor as we learned a bit about the relationship between the various ruin sites that we have seen in the Yucatan (so far we have seen Edzna, Uxmal and Dzibilchiltun - all which are mentioned in the museum).
My second picture is a plaque from the museum that describes the preferred Maya look. It says that Maya prefer a flat forehead, and in fact they would use splints on their children's heads to acheive that flat look. Maya also thought having crossed eyes was preferable (poor kids)
The Mayan Museum is highly touted. I kept reading that it is modern, interactive, has a variety of platforms -- videos, computer terminals, physical models, plaques, many replicas, etc.
I was actually somewhat disappointed. The museum did inform about Maya culture, but the facts presented were almost too simple: i.e. this is when the various cities flourished, this is what a Maya house looks like, or a Maya commoner did, etc.
I wanted to know more. For instance, how did the various tribes interact? Why does each community have totally different sized ball courts? If the ball courts are all aligned north/south, wouldn't they be all the same size? Why did Mayan cities peak, then die off? We were guessing that since only the priests and noblemen knew how to read, write and what the heavens were all about, and since when two Mayan kingdoms warred, the winner would sacrifice the losing royal family, perhaps they killed all the thinkers of the society. Who knows?
Outside the museum proper, there were a number of rooms displaying art. I do not think the displays we saw were permanent, but when you visit, leave some time to check out the temporary displays.
Don't you love the carving? It is called Se?or con tres Mujeres (Man with three Women). I never got to look at the face of the carving (Se?or) on the right that scared the three figures (mujeres or women) to death.
We enjoyed walking after sunset. During the day, it is quite hot in Chetumal. Hot enough that we usually had a siesta - or at least retreated from the sun from noon to 2pm. Because we had such a short time in Chetumal, we landed up walking the Malecon at night. The malecon is broad, paved (no beach), and a safe distance from the road. The Malecon is some eight blocks south of Mayan Museum, and we felt quite safe walking along the bay in the dark.
We came across this misty figure in the water, and tried to take its picture. It turned out to be El Pescador (The Fisherman). I apologize for the quality of the photo, but most Mexican fishermen go out to fish in the dark anyway, so perhaps it is apropos.
visit the sala de exposicion permanente of the Museo de la Cultura Maya with its three levels referring to the Mayan cosmology: the main floor, which is this world, the lower floor, which is the underworld and the upper floor, which is the heavens.
and for the shopping lovers, the attached shop hasn't only the typical souvernirs...
All kinds of cattle in different array of undress. Basically a meat portioning house I guess.This was a Monday morning as well may make a difference.
This was not there later in the day.