Excavated in 2005, Chacchoben (pronounced cha-cho-ben) is an ancient city that was a contemporary of Kohunlich and the most important trading partner with Guatemala north of the Bacalar Lagoon area. Several newly unearthed buildings are still in good condition. The lofty Templo Uno, the site's main temple, was dedicated to the Mayan sun god Itzamná, and once held a royal tomb. (When archaeologists found it, though, it had already been looted.) Most of the site was built around AD 200, in the Petén style of the early classic period, although the city could have been inhabited as early as 200 BC. It's thought that inhabitants made their living growing cotton and extracting chewing gum and copal resin from the trees.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, 77200, Mexico
Nov 14, 2008
August 21, 2007 - Hurricane Dean pulverized the small tourist destination of Costa Maya and the adjoining village of Majahaul. He made landfall as a powerful category 5, with wind gusts of 200 mph reported. The town of Majahaul – population of about 200 – was completely destroyed. November 7, 2008 – I step out, from Carnival’s Legend, onto a brand new port in Costa Maya. The very first ships to return to the brand-new and totally rebuilt
port stopped on 10/31/08, so I feel it is safe to claim my rights as one of the very first cruisers to return! As the ship approaches from the South, evidence of Deans fury remains. Building remnants and dead vegetation leave the grim reminder of the uncontrollable power of Mother Nature. We watch Holland’s Veendham close in behind as we prepare to venture out into the miraculous return of a popular and favorite destination. The vivid and bright colors along with a brand new dock draw a festive and ecstatic crowd! The party starts as the long awaited arrival of tourists brings an almost desperate anticipation of returning to life as they knew it, prior to Dean. Armed guards are a prominent feature here. It is difficult not to take notice and wonder what purpose they serve, however, one must realize there must be a safety factor there. They are providing us, the tourists, protection. As we enter the Plaza, the dancers and singers are abundant! Indeed, it is a glorious event for the people here. There are all of the typical “cruise approved duty free” shops, and there are several others with the highly colored and less expensive “Mexican” wares. We have booked a tour to the Chaccoben Ruins, so we are unable to explore right away. We are accounted for, and shuffled onto an air conditioned bus for the hour-long drive to the site. As the bus leaves the fortress of the new port area, we pass through a security check point. As we progress from there, more devastation and ruins are brought to our attention. As our tour guide gives us a briefing on the ruins, I ask – did Dean cause any damage inland at the site area? He pauses, and replies in a very emotional voice – not as bad as his village. He talks briefly of how most of his people and family gathered up what they could and migrated to the North to find food and shelter. Many have not returned. It is apparent that the scars Dean left are not only the visible physical damage to the area, but a very deep-seeded emotional one as well. He regroups, and continues on with our history lesson in Mayan ruins. The tour is amazing – as we arrive, there are a few buildings with bathrooms, a snack bar, a cantina and a little shopping. The ruins are not far, and the walk is a slow paced and very level one. If you stay close to your guide, you will learn more than any book you could ever read. The time spent among 3 temples, a central living area and other miscellaneous structures is educational and thought provoking. A light box-lunch and drinks welcome us back to the air-conditioned bus (at which time we were VERY THANKFUL FOR) and the hour ride back to port offers many a great opportunity for a snooze. We choose, upon completion of our tour, to grab a cab and venture into Majahaul. I had read so much about the area prior to Dean, and although had never been here before myself, was anxious to see the progress. The cab ride to town is 4 bucks a person and is about a 5-7 minute ride. Again, out through the security gates. Again, out into the desolate unknown. We see the framework of steel beams and concrete springing to life. We see new growth of vegetation and trees among the shells of cinderblock and dead forests. We arrive into town and are dropped off between buildings that present their recent history. But we are greeted by bright colors, festive music and an excited people that appear happy to have their city back. There is a beautiful sidewalk laden with tile that runs parallel to the beach. The first thing I notice is how beautiful the water is! The colors of blue and turquoise are astounding! The beach is clean with white sand. The restaurants along the sidewalk have tables, cabanas and hammocks all along the beach. What a wonderful place to sit and have some fresh seafood, guacamole and a margarita while the kids play in the warm Gulf waters. This is not an option for us as we just had a turkey sandwich, some chips and a semi-cold beer. On the land side of the sidewalk are the shops and vendors. Now, realizing that these people have had little to no income for over a year had my expectations at one of two levels. ONE. They will be gracious, and accommodating – happy to be back in business. TWO. They will be pushy, fake and expensive assuming that we will not know any better. I am sorry to report that TWO was what I encountered. There were some that were gracious and genuine – a simple no thank you was sufficient. However, that was extremely rare. I was even insulted when I declined an invitation into a store that had similar merchandise everyone else had. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to visit every single shop, and they somehow took offence to that. Many approached us on the sidewalk, encroached our “space” and would not take no for an answer. We found ourselves in a hurry to find a cab back to a safe haven. And we were unable to find anything authentic or “made” there – most of the “made in the Philippines or China” stickers were removed, but basically everyone had the same stuff. I spoke with others who enjoyed a leisurely lunch and played in the surf that were not treated as we were. But we left in a hurry – uncomfortable, and disappointed. Back at the port, we enter a store with the “exact same items” we purchased in Majahaul for nearly half the price. The disappointment grows. The cab ride back to port is only 3 bucks a person…? The port walls are surrounded by shops of all kinds – along the coastal area are restaurants, again with cabanas, umbrellas and hammocks. Tons of sand had been trucked in to create a faux beach – down by the water’s edge was very rocky – no gentle sloped beach here. BUT – they have one of the most magnificent pools I have seen! Swim up bar – shallow kids’ area – and very clean. The restaurants have very appealing menus and quite reasonable prices. I pose the question – unless a “tour” or “excursion” is booked, why would any one want to leave the port? I guess that’s the impression that the big Cruise Line companies were trying to achieve when they invested millions of dollars to bring back Costa Maya. If so, I’m a believer. We board the ship early – the buffet is open, and the sports bar has ESPN. I’m sorry to report that aside from the amazing trip to Chaccoben, Costa Maya was a bust. I will not return anytime soon. There are many other places to visit and people to meet. Here’s hoping that Majahaul gets a clue and reverts back to the sleepy little laid back village they once were.