Another amazing hostel, right on the centre square, that let us check in early and enjoy all the delights they offered for breakfast. And they had peanut butter! Mexico can be very backpacker-friendly at times. Eat, shower, bed, and we were done until lunchtime.
Merida was built up by travel guides as the greatest place to ever exist on earth. I'm not sure we agreed. Meandering around town led us through several plain plazas, past crumbling buildings, an average palace with some nice murals and a run-of-the-mill cathedral. There were hardly any street vendors but plenty of touts telling us about all the wonderful sights in town, especially the Mayan handicrafts market. If I was trying to convince someone that my city was fabulous, I wouldn't be talking about a handicrafts market.
No photos of the handicrafts market.
The afternoon heat was getting to us, so we did what any logical person would do: we went in search of a beer garden. Unfortunately the one we wanted to visit was only open at night, so we settled for the strangely empty German beer hall followed by several far-too-expensive touristy bars. Our best find was on the bottom level of a disused shopping mall, with the only other section open being a tiny pop-up art gallery on the second floor. Wine was cheap and corn chips with salsa was free. Atmosphere was average. Not sure if it was better or worse than what we ended up doing - buying drinks and microwave popcorn at 7-Eleven and enjoying the feast in our room.
For dinner we caved in to the tout pressure and ate at a Mayan restaurant, stuffing ourselves on tacos, tamales and crepes. Danny also tried a local delicacy called the Michelada, a drink made of beer, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and salt. As beer is possibly the most disgusting drink on the planet, I was going nowhere near it. I don't think Danny was in a hurry to order another one either.
Night life in Merida: not much going down.
The Yucatan and Quintana Roo areas of Mexico are famous for their cenotes, something we had never heard of before but were keen to check out. The only definition of cenote we could find was "sinkhole". That was enough information for us to know it was probably really cool. So early the next morning we caught a collectivo out to Cuzama, followed by the slowest mototaxi in the world, and lastly a horse and cart out through the countryside. (Side note: if there was a way to get there without the horse and cart, I would have done it).
Summary: cenotes are freaking AWESOME!
Detail: the first cenote saw us climbing down a steep ladder to a pool at the bottom, inside a dark, underground cave. It wasn't overly big, but it was extremely deep and the water was an incredible colour. The chilly water was such a relief from the hot temperatures on the surface. The second cenote wasn't as great, with a lot of natural light and less rock formations. The third was much bigger, about 50 metres across. Most of it was underground, with a large opening on one side to the skies above. Sunlight lit up the start of the cenote but it was almost pitch black on the far side. I can't begin to describe the visual effects on display - it was almost as though the water was being illuminated from below. I wished we could have stayed all day. We were eager to see more of these freaks of nature in our travels.
How cool are cenotes?