Sunday, May 07, 2006

Pyramid Ponzi

So on our return to Mexico we were well prepared for the timeshare ponzi scheme guy when we exited, we again asked about our bus, we played along because we knew the come-on. We were soon being offered a Lobster dinner, we laughed told the guy we knew the game and took off for our airport transfer. He was still begging us as we took off. With an entire day to kill in Mexico we weren't going to get suckered into another hotel "tour" so we decided that we'd take the day to visit the amazing archeological site Chichen Itza. The ruins are one of the 7 wonders of the world and really something to see. The tour was to last from 7am returning us back to our hotel at around 7pm. Another things about Cancun is the apparent hounding and desperation at which every tour official tries to sell you tours, from the moment you walk into the hotel lobby the approach you like barracuda showing this tour and that. We promptly informed our "tour official" that we'd taken care of our Chichen Itza tour with the dubious guy in charge of arranging our "special" hotel condo rooms.

7 am Sunday morning we're picked up by our bus for what we thought was the standard pick up to be off to Chichen Itza, we were excited and hoped to get started for this 3 hour drive to the site. Little did we know we'd be strategically dropped off at a souvenir shop to group with all the other tourists to be portioned off to our various tours. This was the first stop in what would be a long day of sell sell sell to the tourist. We're soon on our way around 8:15, the guide is informative, schools us about the Mayan people, their culture and about skillfully buying more souvenirs. The ride commences and we're on our way but wait, oh no - we pass thru a "Mayan village" with some authentic "souvenirs" We're dropped off at a rest stop to stretch our legs and have a bathroom visit, conveniently the pitt stop is yet another souvenir shopping experience. By this time a few of our fellow tourists were becoming a hip to the shill game that was going on. On our way the bus is boarded by the Mayan alphabet guy. Get your name or initials in 18 or 14k gold, ummm umm good, also get a date done in Mayan language and on and on with the trinkets. We arrived at the site in the intense 12pm sunshine and heat again we are breezed by another souvenir shop, the hotel and we are grouped for the "don't-get-lost" sermon and our picture is taken to record who exactly is on the tour.

Finally 4hrs later we are off to the ruins and not too soon. From the time we hit the entrance gate we are set upon by the local people hawking masks and their various Mayan regalos and wares. My husband and I decided that we had enough and we set off leaving the group to get up close to the ruins. Everywhere we wander kids, adults and a smattering of all locals run up with their items. The park had to have put these folks there we thought, otherwise they would've been tossed out. By the time we got to the Mayan ball court arena we were all but beat down by the sun and thankfully it was time for lunch.

The strategically placed hawkers.

Lunch, yes glorious shade and lunch. As another tourist smartly realized "ah ha we've to pass thru another souvenir shop to get to the eating area" Indeed we did have to saunter thru more wares to eat. And after eating we were set upon by a gaggle of ethnic dancers who twirled and balanced bottles and then at the end planted themselves at the exit door complete with tip hat, to which we gladly passed without acknowledging. We were able to get back to the ruins and salvage what time we had left snapping up the photos for the reason why we really came. Thankfully we were able to do that. The final sell or insult whatever you want to call it was when we entered the bus to return home we were presented with a bottle of Tequila complete with our photo on it, the same said photo that was supposed to be used to find us if we got lost and of course this could be our special gift - for a price.
A completely awe inspiring tour practically ruined by the sharks that run this area called Cancun. Even the map that we were given was not too attentative to the ruins or even helping to identify the area, it was all about the sell, visit the boutique, check out the silver, get your name in Mayan letters! Enough. What should have been the highlight only became the backdrop. The pyramids at Chichen Itza were nothing but the light with which to draw the tourist moths into the trap of souvenir buying, it almost seemed as if we didn't take it upon ourselves to go off we would've hardly seen anything, they even sold the hotel stay as an option. All in all it was tasteless and disappointing that the people didn't even value their awesome and rich heritage and only viewed it as a way to fleece unsuspecting tourists. Needless to say that upon my return to Mexico - Cancun in particular, I will be renting my own car, driving myself to Tulum & Xcaret and enjoying the beautiful pyramids there in serene peace, far from the annoying sales pitches and shill games.


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