Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Combi takes me to the Daffodil City

Izamal, Mexico, February 17th to 22nd 2018

Google had told me that Izamal is called The Yellow City and I added it to my itinerary immediately. As usual, I didn't quite believe the Internet and expected to find a few worn out ex yellowish buildings around the center, but since I kind of like yellow, that was enough. 

Oh my Gooseberry, was I happily surprised on arrival!

I took a combi, a van packed with fifteenish people, from Mérida after arriving there from Progreso by bus. I bought a blue 30 pesos chip from a man in front of the Similares pharmacy in the corner of Calles 65 and 54, pushed my suitcase to the back of the van he pointed me to and squeezed myself in the car. The van became filled with people quite soon, the chips were collected and off we went. The combis don't have timetables, they leave whenever they're full.

As the combi majestically glided in Izamal, I saw a town supersaturated in my favourite hues of yellow: egg yolk, yellow cab, sunflower, daffodil and banana ice cream from the days of my youth, working in a ice cream parlor! And not just a few buildings, but all of them in the centre. Well, with some white houses amongst them, but merely for ornamental function I guess. Like the white parts in daisies, only there to highlight the yellow.

The yellowest of them all is the Convento de San Antonio, a church/monastery in the middle of the town. It was built on top of a Mayan pyramid, which kind of gives a sour colonialist hue to the beauty of the building, and the city at large. The huge atrium seemed to be in good use of the locals, there was some kind of dinner party organized on the lawn, as I visited the monastery.

Pope John Paul visited in 1993, a statue was erected and
the city was painted yellow.
I very much liked the overall colour coordination,
enclosing even the trash bins.
I was quite colour coordinated, too
I'm afraid the deep and painful regret pictured here
was not originated from destroying ancient Mayan temples
Seen from the rear, the monastery looks a little like a theatre
decor, meant to be seen from the front only

The Izamal central area is conveniently rich with Mayan ruins, and there is at least one Mayan pyramid left, with nothing built on it. On top of Kinich Kak Mo, a temple designated to Sun god of the same name, there's a good view to the town and surrounding areas, in addition to historical value. Climbing to the middle level is quite enough, I tell you.

On the middle level.
From Kinich Kak Mo temple,
you can see the suburbian, rougher side of Izamal,
comprising of approximately four houses

After all the climbing I was super hungry, but wanted a change in the menu, so I picked a Japanese restaurant on Calle 31, called Ikigai. Based on the miniature prices of the dishes, I induced them to be miniature sized, so I took three portions. Lo and behold, three full size meals were brought in front of me. Luckily, the food was not just affordable, but also very good, especially the Teriyaki.

The street plan of Izamal is a little more complex than in most of other, strictly grid planned cities in Yucatan, mostly because of the two instead just one central square and the monastery. In the picture above the smaller square, Parque 5 de Mayo. The larger one, Parque Itzamna, has most of the nice cafés, comfortably shadowed by the arched vaults, but in the corner of 5 de Mayo there is the Centro Cultural Y Artesanal, which inhabits most interesting specimens of folk art and design. I'm usually not that much into folksy things, but works here have pretty cheeky artistic touch in them and are not afraid to break out of traditionality.

Angélico Jiménez: Nahual (2006)
Angel Santos Juarez: Leon Coronado (2006)
Mauricio Hernández Colmenero: Calaca panadera con novia (2006)

I haven't paid too much attention to my lodgings in this blog, but my hotel in Izamal deserves an exception. Macan Ché consists of separate houses of different shapes and sizes, arranged in a big, lush garden, with pond like swimming pool and lots of hammocks. And a great breakfast. Every house and room is different so I guess there are murkier options, but I was super happy with my India room. First floor, windows on three sides it was almost like outside, in a good way. 

Of course, there was a hotel cat. Still al little shy here,
but sleeping on my laptop the next day already.

Corner of the India room

The hotel was far enough from the centre not to be totally yellow

Izamal was a perfect ending for my Yucatan trip. I still had five and a half hours bus trip to Cancun ahead of me – highly recommended, see a lot of small villages, just do not drink too much, no toilet in the bus – and then a night in Cancun where my flight to New York was to depart. But Cancun doesn't really even count. Except for realizing that I'm too old to sleep in a hostel, even in a single room. 

Way too old.

Pieces on information
• Izamal in Wikitravel
• Other people exploring Izamal: To Travel Too, Earth Trippers,  Mexico Cassie

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