We chose to stay in the small Mayan village of Santa Elena due to its close proximately to Uxmal, which we wanted to see in the morning before the tourist busses arrived. Upon arriving in the village we came across the same dusty roads and frenzied scene we had seen in the other villages. But here we got an added bonus. Music was blasting, firecrackers were being lit, and all the men were drinking large Sol beers in the streets. A hand-hoisted chariot was sitting on a platform decked out in dozens of balloons waiting to carry some people. We figured it perhaps was someone’s birthday. We later discovered it was their village’s annual celebration of the patron saint of their village and this was a celebration that goes back for centuries of generations. Later the beautiful women of the village would adorn in their traditional Mayan dresses and the men would carry them from one house to another across town. The men were drinking beer to give them strength and courage. I really wish we had stayed or come back to watch this rare sight but we didn’t want to be looky-loos gawking at their unique customs.
After driving though Santa Elena we came across an oasis in the middle of nowhere when stumbling across the Pickled Onion. It was truly a unique lodging experience. We stayed in a Mayan-styled adobe set amongst the ground’s beautiful gardens. Mayans prefer to sleep in hammocks, so the adobes here come complete with hammocks to stretch out inside the adobe. Wanting to get that true local experience, I gave it a try but lasted only a few minutes before transferring to the comfy bed. Although traditional in style, these adobes still had some nice modern amenities (beds, fridge, coffee maker), which were all welcomed.
We could hear the loud music and partying continuing all night down in the village. It was close enough that we could hear the music well but soft enough to still fall asleep to. The occasional firecracker didn’t really wake us after our long day. We later found out that there was also a wedding occurring that night but it must have been a more modern wedding because they stopped early. Early for them was 12:30. The owner of the Pickled Onion had explained this to me. So when I asked when they usually carry-on to, she explained it was usually until four or five in the morning. Well all right, Mayans of Santa Elena are my kind of people! We really should have tried to go party with them. Oh well, it gives a good excuse to perhaps one day go back.
We made it to Uxmal the next day refreshed and ready to roam around the ruins. We quite enjoyed Uxmal, more so than Chitzen Itza, in which we had visited about a week prior. We found significantly less tourists at Uxmal. Not a single annoying tout was to be found there (compared to the hundred who set up shop in Chitzen Itza). The ruins themselves were arguably more impressive. And perhaps best of all, you can actually climb on many of the ruins which is always fun.
We later went on to see the Kabah ruins and the Ruta Puuc, which were nice but somewhat underwhelming after having just visited the amazing Uxmal site. Kabah’s highlight was the wall of masks. From the Kabah ruins, it was onward to the beautiful walled city of Campeche.