Palenque / El Panchan Mexico
Took the night bus from Veracruz to Villahermosa the cost was $418 pesos it is a 6 hour trip.
Arrived in Villahermosa at 5:30 am just in time for the 5:45 bus to Palenque which cost $106 pesos it is a 2 hour trip. I met a couple of people on the bus, a couple who stayed in the same hotel as me in Veracruz and a guy with a Canadian flag on his backpack, turns out was in disguise and he was really from California. It ended up we were all going to El Panchan (Mayan for "heaven on earth") it is located just outside of Palenque on the way to the ruins by the park gate so we all shared a cab $50.00 pesos for all of us and our packs. El Panchan is basically a piece of land that one of the archaeologists who worked on the ruin site purchased. Now he has divided it among his children who run different businesses including places that rent out cabanas and other accommodations and a couple of restaurants. There is an Internet place but in the 3 days I was there it was never opened so I have had to go into town to check my people search web site for new ads so I could approve them. Not a big deal the vans aka Collectivo's go back and forth between Planenque town and the ruins on a regular basis, it is only a 5 minute wait to flag one down. The trip into town is 10 pesos and another 10 pesos to get back. The town is nice enough but very hot, there is not much to do there a few pubs and some shopping. El Panchan is a lot cooler than town due to the heavy jungle foliage there are spots of sun but most of the paths have tree coverage.
I ended up renting a cabana by the river at the Jungle Place. Very basic accomodations; a bed a table and a fan, it does have electricity and a small porch on the back over the river, there are shared bathrooms it cost $100 pesos a night.
After unpacking I caught a collectivo to the ruins. The park gate is just outside the driveway into El Panchan so I walked through, the charge to enter the park is $20 pesos, then I flagged down a collectivo for $10 pesos.
The cost to enter the Palenque ruins is $51 pesos, it includes entry into the museum as well. Give yourself at least 6 hours to get through the park, it is a huge place and there are lots of stairs involved if you want to go into the buildings, make sure you take lots of water as well. The vendors charge $10 pesos if you need to buy it while you are there and you have to go outside the ruins to get it. Not a problem, the entry ticket is good for the day so you can go in and out as much as you want. They also have food stands that are pretty cheap and some expensive restaurants by the site. There are lots of people selling souvenirs as well as guides offering their services. I didn't opt for a guide all of the signs for the buildings have English translations but you would probably get more of the history and more of a jungle walk with a guide, in hindsight it would have been a good idea
The ruins are incredible most of the majority of them are dated from 600 BC to 800 BC, Palenque started as an agricultural village in the 4th century. The ruins are in very good condition considering they were buried under the jungle for a very long time. It does get really hot in the main area as there is little shade so I broke it up and did some ruins that were in the jungle then a building in the main part then back to the jungle. The ruins cover a very large area so wear comfortable footwear. There were a lot of people there when I went but there were still times when I was the only one on some of the trails and around some of the ruins in the jungle area. I do have issues with heights, I really don't like high places so going up the big buildings was okay but down bad. It's scary when you look down, the stairs look very little and there is the challenge of getting down people are coming up.Seems my fear of looking like a wimpy girl is stronger than my fear of heights, by the time I got to the 2nd building it wasn't so bad but I was very careful and developed a side step to get down the stairs rather than the head on route.
El Panchan is a great mix of international people, at anytime you can hear 4 or 5 different languages being spoken. The atmosphere is very layed back. The restaurants at night have candlelight dining and Don Muchos has live music that starts at about 8. The restaurants have good food and the prices are resonable. There isn't much on the menus over $100 pesos. They have a whole range of options for smaller meals in the $30 - $50 peso range. Beers are around $17 pesos depending on what kind you drink. Having been into town a few times, I was very happy with the choice to stay outside of town the staying in the jungle is much better for me than the town option.
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