travel

Christmas Travels: Chiapas 

The next stop on our grand tour of the south is the state of Chiapas, or more precisely, San Cristóbal de las Casas, a really cute little colonial town full of bustling markets and travellers.

A Little Geography

Day 1 in Chiapas 

The night bus was quite the experience, luckily this one had a toilet! The journey took about 11 hours, and we met a cool American girl on the way, Lauren. The coach played a Hollywood remake of Till Schweiger’s “barfuss”  dubbed into Spanish #confusing, and then the driver played light banda throughout the night. Yay..

We got to our hostel (el rincón de los camellos) at about 9am, and luckily they let us check in straight away. This hostel is a lot more rustic than the last, with very traditional decorations and style. We are sharing a dorm with a French girl, Camille, who will be here for Xmas too, and a quite old man who we still haven’t spoken to..

We checked out the kitchen, where some cool Argentinian travellers were making breakfast and invited us to join, which was so nice! They made eggs, beans and coffee, standard.  But unfortunately they leave today!

We spent today walking the streets and again spending far too much money on crafts and clothes at the market. We also did some light Christmas shopping for each other so we’d have some presents to open on Xmas day (we’re too cute). Something to note is that souvenirs are so much cheaper in Chiapas than in oaxaca, we wish we’d saved our money for here instead as it goes twice as far. A $180 blouse in oaxaca is only $100 here!

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On the way home we accidentally found room’s heaven: an amazingly abundant vintage clothing shop. We both spent far too much money…
After grabbing some groceries at the supermarket, we headed back to the hostel for lunch and a siesta.

In the evening we went to the cinema to watch a documentary about the Zapatista rebellion, which started in Chiapas in 1994, and is the indigenous community’s right for their rights. It was a really interesting film, and it put some of the souvenirs I’d seen at the market into context (you could buy rebel dolls and masks).

Day 2

The next day, Christmas eve, we went on a tour to the cañón del sumidero, a large canyon about an hour away. We went with nichim tours, and paid $350 each, though I’ve seen others for about 300. They picked us up from our hostel at 9:30 am, then we headed off to the canyon.

At the canyon, we got into a lancha (boat) which would take us up the river. Along this trip we saw plenty of wildlife, like crocodiles, iguanas, spider monkeys, Turkey vultures and plenty of other birds which I can’t name!

The canyon was really impressive, at its highest it was 1km high, in a sheer cliff towering above us! We also saw the árbol de navidad, a natural waterfall formation which looks a bit like a Christmas tree 🎄.

After the canyon we carried on to the nearby town of Chiapa de Corzo, the first colonial town in Chiapas. It was nothing special to be honest, and we struggled to entertain ourself for the two hours we had there. So we had some quesadillas and walked the streets. We saw an interesting mural in the town hall, then finally looked at the famous brick fountain in the main plaza.

So the day was going well until that point, but then we discovered an old woman on our tour had been sick all over the back of the bus.. Victor, our guide, didn’t really seem to care, and told us just to wait a little while for the smell to go away. Great. Luckily the woman had a lot of family with her who were really good about the whole situation, the poor things bought numerous 10 litre bottles of water, kitchen paper, and various other cleaning supplies and got to work on the bus. They actually did a really good job, we couldn’t smell anything once they were done!

When we got back to San Cristobal, we bumped into lauren again, and this time we exchanged contact details so we could meet up sometime. Then we headed back to our hostel, where the owner told us that they were doing a communal meal that night, so we decided to join in, but not before trying to find the museo de bichos, a bug museum in the town. Eventually we found it, but it was closed until February as they’re displaying the bugs in Leon over Xmas 😔 so we went to the amber museum instead, and learnt a lot about the natural gem which this region is famous for.

Then we rushed back and started cooking:rom’s carrot ribbons and I invested some oaty banana biscuits, which turned out pretty good!
The kitchen was really busy and it was such a community atmosphere, we all got to know each other really well. There were people from Chile, Mexico, France, Brasil, Argentina and Spain, so plenty of accents and languages going around!

The meal was really cute, a great way to spend Xmas eve! We also built a small fire, as San Cristóbal gets really cold at night. As the night went on, we played what was apparently a Mexican drinking game, which is played as such:

  1. Tell a truth from the bottom of your heart.
  2. Everyone drinks
  3. Next person’s truth.

Simple, and effective!

Day 3 (Christmas!) 

On Christmas day, we decided to keep it chill. I woke up at 9,skyped the family at 10ish, which was really nice. It doesn’t really feel like Xmas here at all, life is just going on as normal.

I made eggs, fruit and yoghurt,  and coffee for me and Rom, and we spent the morning lazing around the hostel. I decided to try to wash some clothes in a bucket of rainwater and my travel detergent, to wash the smoke out of my jumpers from last night. Unfortunately the sun went in after that, so they still haven’t dried yet (it’s now the evening).

Then in the afternoon, rom and I went for a walk to the artesanal market and bought more souvenirs #treatyoself. I bought a necklace and some jade earrings. Feeling peckish, I bought a tamal de bola which was yummy as per, #lovetamales, then we went home to make some porridge for lunch, such cheapskates! Not your typical Xmas lunch haha!

The rest of Xmas day was spent napping, embroidering, and chilling at the hostel. For dinner camille offered us some of her veggie soup which we poured over leftover lentils from the day before, quite different to a normal Christmas dinner!

Day 4

On boxing day we had a bit of a lie in, then wandered over to the casa Na Bolom, a museum created by a Dutch/Swiss Explorer couple who studied the local indigenous communities in the 30s.

We got lunch in a snazzy café which has had swings for chairs (so edgy), and they had some funky masks to try on too, because why not?

Then we tried to find the mayan medicine museum, but it was a bit far away and Rom didn’t want to walk through that area, so we turned back and headed back to the hostel for coffee and biscuits.

Well rested, we decided to explore one more time. We went up to the nearby Iglesia de Guadalupe which gave us some stunning views of the city, although the kids throwing fireworks around was a little worrying. Then we headed back through the centre to the bigger amber museum in the ex convent (we are now amber experts), then finally back to the hostel again to cook some soup for everyone (we so kind) and to pack our bags.

If you’re travelling in hostels I definitely recommend offering to cook for others, it’s a great way to get people out of their dorms and into the communal areas! After others even offered to wash up and camille made a delicious flan for dessert!

But tomorrow we have to get up at 5am to go to palenque, our next destination, so we should probably get some sleep now!

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