After Costa Rica, I travelled to Panama
(see previous photos at Panama1
) and due to a late arrival at night and an early morning departure I had only one full day in Panama City and the morning was devoted to visiting a business contact. The afternoon came on to heavy rain so I was glad I had not made any plans to tour. However, my hotel room overlooked the Miraflores Locks
on the Panama Canal, so what a great way to watch the comings and goings of the canal whilst staying both warm and dry, and working on the computer at the same time!.
After Panama, I went on to Mexico City for another trade fair (the CIHAC
, reportedly the largest in Mexico and Central America). It was quite amazing to see all booths filled, when, due to the economic downturn, major trade shows in my line of work in the United States of America this year were barely half full. After visiting the Fair, I had no time to tour around, or in the outskirts of, Mexico City. I might have been able to fit in a tour on the Sunday at a pinch but I had a flight in the evening and time was tight, moreover, the prices I was quoted seemed rather steep, so I contented myself by filing reports on the trade show I had attended and then arguing about my laundry bill with the desk clerk. I was billed US$5.00 a piece to wash T-shirts (T-shirt washing cost more than to wash my blouses!!!) How utterly ridiculous when I could have bought a new T-shirt for that much. All I got were blank stares from the reception desk and no offer at all to reduce my bill to a more reasonable price. Had they not heard of the phrase “the customer is always right?” I did not at that time mention the ten small, dead flies I had found and removed painstakingly from my drink at their restaurant the evening before. Well nine of them were dead, one moved after I had removed it and placed it on my napkin so I squished it, but apparently not with enough force because it tried crawling away again. Third time lucky (for me). I had pointed out the napkin spotted with dead flies and red wine drips to the waiter at the time, but all he said was “No me digas!” equivalent to “You're kidding!” and again no offer to replace it. Something was rotten in this city I decided. Moreover, every time I had to fly through Mexico City's airport during the next seven days I was charged for overweight luggage. This did not happen when I flew directly from and to other cities in Mexico!
It was a pleasure to land in Guadalajara, my next stop. Happily, the Guadalajaran people I met in the business of looking after visitors were the direct opposite of those in Mexico City. Friendly, courteous, happy to make me happy. They had indeed heard of customer service, unlike their capital city counterparts. Furthermore, taxis, the hotel and restaurants were all very fair pricewise. Again I had a short time here so I was not even able to fit in a walk around the historic city where my hotel was located after visiting my business contact in the morning as I had more reports to write up and e-mails to send off. Instead, I treated myself to a lovely, leisurely dinner on a patio overlooking a main street and watched the tourists being ferried around in horse and buggy.
However, it was in Merida
, capital of Yucatan State in the South of Mexico that I had a day off to do some sightseeing again. My business contact took me to a lobster lunch at the port of Progreso
on my first full day. It's certainly worth a visit; it reportedly has the longest pier in the world and cruise ships stop here (Photos 1 to 4). Then on my day off, after doing my e-mails, I took off on foot for a 45-minute walk to the downtown core in the humid climate, first visiting the Monument to the Flag carved in pink limestone by Rómulo Rozo (photos 5 and 6).
I continued down the main artery of modern Merida to admire large houses and some colourful ones (photos 7 to 20). Finally, I arrived at the downtown core and ended up following a string of school children who were aged about 16, I would guess. They were walking rather slowly, slower anyway than my normal pace, and one boy noticed I was behind them and shouted ahead to his classmates, “Dejen mi amiga pasar” (let my friend pass). His friends all started ragging him about his having a “friend” so he said “OK, pues, mi tia” (aunt - much more respectful!). However this Meridan politeness unfortunately disappeared when I finally reached the main square, perspiring and exhausted, and decided to sit on a bench and have some juice that I had carried in my backpack. After a few minutes a Meridan man sat down on the same bench and, instead of leaving me alone in my restful tranquility, started harassing me - talking to me in Spanish about his town, asking if I spoke English, asking if I were a gringa, and using the “tu” form. I ignored him, of course, annoyed but surprised at the same time that he would choose to spend time talking to me, as unlike a young and beautiful non-Spanish speaking foreigner as you are likely to get (well not young anyway and I was dressed down with a huge floppy t-shirt, long pants, baseball cap, so no exposed arms, legs or mid-rift that might encourage some men who harass supposedly unsuspecting foreign women on their own.) I finally left my bench, disgusted, as he would not shut up, despite my non-response and therefore surely, I thought, implying my great lack of interest in him, and walked around the square. I was thinking, geez, they can't even let someone sit down for five minutes without harassing them. A few minutes later, on the other side of the square, I came to some kind of shop (I was looking into windows wondering what arts and crafts I could photograph), when suddenly another man noticed me and exclaimed 'Mama!” Did he think this would entice me into his shop? Anyway, no way could I be his mother - he must have been 10 to 15 years older than me. Did he think I would consider it a compliment? So as you can gather I was pretty disgusted with the behaviour of the men in downtown Merida except for the kind schoolboy. Moreover, I was asked about every 5 minutes if I would buy a hammock!
To add to my disappointment about the city of Merida, through my hotel, I had booked a late afternoon bus tour and this was one of the worst tours I had ever been on. First of all, there were only about 8 of us in the bus but no one could hear the microphone because the two (Canadian-German) children also on the bus were either crying or running up and down the aisle. Moreover, it was an open bus so the rush hour traffic only added to the noise level. Then, the only things that were pointed out to us on this tour were churches, houses and parks. They could have warned us beforehand that this was essentially an “architectural” tour so that people not particularly interested in architecture (myself included) could opt out. It was supposedly a two-hour tour, but for 25 minutes of it we were dropped off at a shopping centre in a 5-star American hotel (with inflated tourist prices). The photos of the textiles come from a shop called Casa de Curiosidades in this hotel (photos 22 to 29).
So no, I would not recommend this tour. To make up for my disappointment I tried to arrange a taxi ride back to Progreso 40 minutes away on the morning of my departure day as I had not had free time to photograph it properly on my first visit there with my business contact, but the “official” fee to drive there and back was so preposterous and no bargaining seemed to be possible. In comparison, it cost less to go to Chichenitzá for the whole day!