15 APRIL (Tuesday)
After breakfast we took a taxi back near the airport, and were dropped off at the Avis rent-a-car compound. After wrangling with the usual paperwork and language problems, we went out to the line of a dozen motley cars and picked one that didn't look too bad. Then it was off on the 142 kilometer roadtrip to to Palenque (approx 2 hours).
We stopped along the way in a small town (that probably rarely ever saw tourists like us), where we bought most of the local market's supply of bottled water, as well as some animal crackers and fresh tortillas to snack on. We pressed on towards Palenque, arriving at our hotel, the Calinda Nututun, in the afternoon.
We asked at the front desk for information about touring the ruins of Bonampak and Yaxchilan the next day. We were referred to a small tour company (one guide and a minibus) that would do the full day tour of both sites, travelling by car and boat, for $300 for the two of us. It was expensive, but I wasn't about to come all this way, and spend all this money, to skimp out of something like this. So we agreed on the time and price, then drove to the site of Palenque, where we would explore the ruins until it closed at 5pm.
Palenque: the Temple of Inscriptions on the left, the palace on the right
Palenque is a wonderful site. It should not be missed by anyone who tours the Mayan sites under any circumstances. Despite its location in the dangerous state of Chiapas (Mexico), the area around the tourist destinations is fairly safe. (Just don't go off exploring too deep into the countryside on your own.) The site is surrounded by lush greenery, unlike the dry trees and grass at all of the previous sites. It has a special ambience all its own, and Sue said that of all the sites, she actually felt at home there.
The Palace at Palenque, as viewed from the top of the Temple of the Inscriptions.
The Temple of the Inscriptions is the most famous structure at Palenque, and once you make the climb to the top, you can take great pictures of the nearby Palace from its top level. Then, you can descend into the pyramid's interior by way of a bent series of stairs (not for the infirm). At the bottom you will find the tomb of Lord Pacal, with its famous sarcophogus lid. Its hard to get a good picture of it, though, as the angle through its protective iron bars makes it difficult to really appreciate its detail.
The Palace at Palenque (on the left), and the Temple of the Inscriptions (on the right).
When the site closed we went into the nearby town of Santo Domingo Palenque (it used to be called Palenque, but they renamed it to differentiate it from the archeological site) and had dinner in one of the many restaurants on its main street. Afterwards we spent a little time walking around exploring the numerous shops in the area, but found nothing that interested us.