Black Friday

Campeche, México
November 2016

For a while it looked as if I’d be stranded at the Edzná ruins. I waited more than an hour at the dusty crossroads before the combi finally arrived heading back to Campeche. That’s the problem with combis — they come when they come.

Combis leave when they leave, as well. I waited nearly an hour for the outbound combi to depart this morning.

The Edzná ruins are a fine display of Mayan architecture. Atop a long staircase, the Edificio de los Cinco Pisos (Five-story building) towers over a spacious acropolis. In the grassy field below, the grand plaza has another tall pyramid, a ball court, and a long stepped building that looks like stadium bleachers but was once a government building for the Maya. It’s nice, too, that the ruins are not as well-traveled as Chichen Itzá, Palenque, and Uxmal. But then, that explains the transportation problem.

Continue reading →


Day Tour Etiquette for Solo Travelers

Yaxchilan and Bonampak, México
November 2016

The tall young man ambles onto the tour van and plops down on a long double seat, draping his backpack on the open space beside him. At the breakfast stop, he is missing when it is time to depart, and everyone has to wait several minutes while the driver goes searching for him. He turns out to be standing by the road in front of the restaurant.

At the Yaxchilan ruins, he is quick to ask me to take his picture in front of the first building. He offers to take my photo, as is customary. A couple minutes later, he asks me to take another one. And as we get separated, he soon approaches others who came with us in the van.

Continue reading →

A Bus Schedule Update

Between San Cristóbal de las Casas and Palenque, México
November 2016

I’ve got a bone to pick with Lonely Planet about the bus information in its Mexico guide. Most of the 15 five-hour bus trips it lists as traveling from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque actually take closer to eight hours. The route goes via Tuxtla Gutierrez and Villahermosa. Oddly, the bus I took never stopped in Villahermosa.

It was a grueling ride on a road strewn with potholes. At one point in a suburb of Villahermosa, the bus went several blocks out of its way to avoid a broad sinkhole that stretched across the main highway.

On the upside, I finally did see Rocky Balboa — Sylvester Stallone is a much better actor when dubbed in Spanish — and a Hungarian movie, Fehér Isten (White God), about a girl and her missing dog, which turns out terribly bloody.

Welcome to Cairo

November 2008

“Welcome to Cairo, my friend. Where are you from?”

Everyone wants to be my friend: the cheerful taxi driver Geemy Cartur, Omar the noble university student from Aswan, people on the street. “Welcome to Cairo,” a toothless old man asks me downtown. “Where are you from?” He walks with me down the Talaat Harb, dapper in a gray suit. “May there be peace and friendship between Egypt and the USA,” he says, taking my arm. “May I show you my shop? Yes?”

Continue reading →