Tuesday, December 2, 1997

I was at the ruins when they opened, and it's a good thing. Palenque lies right at the point where the coastal plain meets the mountains. It is completely flat to the north, and the ruins are situated within a few feet of the mountains to the south. It was hot already, and extremely humid.

I was awestruck from my first glimpse of the structures; The Temple of the Inscriptions looks very similar to El Castillo at Chichen Itza, which is only 1 meter higher.

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Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque

From the top of the temple, there is an entrance to Pakal's tomb. A narrow stairwell leads you down to the tomb, which is actually 5 feet below ground level. The body has been removed, but the tomb's 5 ton lid is still down there, perfectly preserved from the elements. The lid sports a fantastically carved mural of young Pakal.

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The Palace

This group included steam baths, rooms for religious ceremonies, and dwellings for priests. There are many underground chambers here, and many of them contain murals that are well preserved because they have been protected from the weather. Somehow, Palenque seems to have lost less to looters than many other sites. There are several more impressive structures on the site, and most contain very detailed murals.

Also on the site are the Queens Baths; a series of beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes hidden in the jungle. I met up with a pair of Americans here, and the 3 of us had a heck of a time finding our way out. We followed the river down until we stumbled out into the daylight at the main road. A word of advice: don't bother looking for a shortcut out of here.

I spent the rest of the day drinking beer, wandering around town, and eating some superb Mexican food. I wandered into the neighborhoods around town, where probably few gringos had been before. All the local kids would say "Hello" and "Good bye" as I passed, as if to try to impress me with their English skills. I stopped to talk with one group, who showed off a wad of the old peso notes that were now worthless. I collect coins, and some bills, so I offered them 5 pesos for them. They finally settled for 10. The kids kept asking me how much everything cost in my country- my shoes, jeans, my backpack, how much would their bikes cost, etc. What have people been telling them?

I killed time until 10:30 when my bus left.

Continue to day 17.

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