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Chichen Itza

Also often referred to by tour guides as Chicken Pizza.

Chichen Itza was a city of the Mayan civilization, which we visited on Thursday (just this time last week!) It was a 2.5hour drive from Cancun, and on our way, we stopped for a short break by a souvenir shop, which I really liked for all the colourfulness within.

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Jumbo-size sombreros!

The sun was hot as we wandered the site, with our guide explaining the historical purposes each building served.
(Our Mayan tour guide, Paco Rosas, was fantastic. Knowledgeable and funny, he filled me with a sense of respect and appreciation for his people, who I previously knew literally nothing about.)

This building was an observatory

This building served as an observatory

The Mayans were great mathematicians and astronomers, ‘observers of the sky’ as Paco put. They wrote down all their observations and findings but these were later burned in the 16th century by the Spanish Inquisition.

We really got to see the difference between Mayan architecture and structure and that of the Aztecs. In the first picture below, the extent of detail on the Mayan building is clearly visible.

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Typically Mayan

Just opposite this Mayan building stands the building (what’s left of it) in the picture below: the structural difference is apparent immediately, with the pillars.

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Aztec structure

The main attraction of Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulkan, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Visitors to the site used to be able to climb up it, but this has now been closed off.

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Is it just me or does the sky look strangely unreal in this picture? I promise it’s real!

There are 91 steps on each side of the temple, making a total of 364 steps. At the very top of the temple, there is one final step, totalling 365. It is no coincidence that this is the number of days in a year. Did I mention the Mayans were great astronomers?

Finally, if you stand in front of the steps on any side, about 5 meters or so away, and clap your hands (it’s much easier to hear with more than one person clapping), you’ll hear a sound from the top of the temple, which is apparently the sound that the quetzal bird makes. I wouldn’t know how accurate this was, having never heard a quetzal bird myself, but the echo was indeed an odd sound. My siblings and I were fascinated by it. That’s not to say we stood there, eyes fixed on the top of the temple, grinning and clapping like mesmerised imbeciles or anything… Of course not.

Moving swiftly on…
There was a ball court, where visitors to the city would have to play a ‘courtesy game’. This involved having to hit a ball with your hip into a relatively high hoop on the wall on the side of the court. “This game, you definitely wouldn’t want to lose”, said Paco, as he explained that the head of the losing team’s captain would be presented as a sacrifice. This game takes extreme sports to a whole new level…

P.S. Apologies for the slip of the ting earlier.

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About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

One response »

  1. Pingback: A tour with Paco | ibby

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