Hostel Review: Jungle Palace

After years of backpacking and hostel after hostel all of the places I’ve stayed in tend to become a blur. Not many places I’ve stayed in are memorable or they are memorable for the wrong reasons. The Jungle Palace in El Panchan near the Mayan ruins of Palenque would be a glaring exception to that rule. You really are IN THE JUNGLE. You live with the plants, bugs, and animals. In fact when you first arrive you begin to wonder if you live with monsters too, as in the mysterious “monster” from LOST. You hear this horrific noise in the distance that surely has to be otherworldly or from another time. If you watched the video clip above you can hear what I am talking about for yourself. As it turns out the noise is actually from the howler monkeys that are your neighbors here in El Panchan.

I stayed in El Panchan for 3 nights and if you can live without wi-fi I recommend that you do so as well. I didn’t stay in Palenque town, but I imagine if I did I would have already forgotten what it was like. If you really are suffering withdrawals from the Internet you can take a 10 minute ride into town if you need to connect back to the outside world. Or better yet, this may be your only vacation from the “internets” in a long time. Although you do not have Internet, the Jungle Palace does have electricity and clean bathrooms with hot water showers. The beds in my room were comfortable and hanging around in my room listening to the sounds of the jungle was relaxing, at least when the howler monkeys were not around. Another important feature is the free use of metal lockers for valuables as many of the rooms feature screen windows that could be easily broken into. The Jungle Palace can also arrange your transportation or tours to nearby places and attractions. In fact I booked my 8 hour trip to Flores, Guatemala with the receptionist.

Another fun thing to do at the Jungle Palace is to strap on some thermal vision glasses borrowed from Arnold and pretend you are in “Predator“. Make sure you turn up the volume to eleven. Check it out-

bridge over the stream

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Palenque

Palenque is a Mayan city state dating from 100 BC to 800 AD. The peak of its power and grandeur was achieved in the 7th Century. It was abandoned around 800 AD and gradually absorbed into the jungle. Today about 1 square mile of the site has been excavated and restored. This area is estimated to cover less than 10% of the total area that the city once covered. It is believed that there are still thousands of structures yet to be excavated and restored. Much of the ruins that we now see are largely attributed to K’inich Janaab’ Pakal or Pacal The Great. Pacal The Great ruled Palenque from 615 to 683 AD. He is best known for the Temple Of The Inscriptions which contain his tomb.

Temple Of The Inscriptions

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Mitla

Shortly after my visit to the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban I visited what was the religious center of the Zapotecs, the archaelogical site of Mitla.  While Monte Alban is placed in a dramatic setting, Mitla is comparatively understated.  It was built more for the comfort of the residents than for grandeur.  The site is on the valley floor.  It was built as a gateway between the land of the living and the land of the dead.  The Zapotec word for the site means “place of rest.”

Columns Group

What makes Mitla different from all other ruins in the area are the grecas or intricate mosaic fretworks. The grecas are made from thousands of cut and polished stones. The stones are held in place by the weight of the other stones. The precise placement of the stones result in the repeated geometric designs seen throughout the site. Continue reading

Monte Alban

panoramic view of Monte Alban ruins from North Platform

view from the North Platform

another view from the North Platform

Monte Alban is an archaelogical site founded by the Zapotecs around 500 B.C.  The ruins are on an artificially leveled mountain ridge located just 6 miles outside of Oaxaca, Mexico.  Although the ruins are impressive, the location of the site is also quite dramatic.  Looking around it is easy to see why the site was chosen to build the city from just a military or defensive standpoint.

 

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The Heart Of Mexico City – The Zocalo

If you only had one day to spend in Mexico City then a great place to spend it would be in the Zocalo, or main plaza. The Zocalo is at the heart of Mexico City. It would be easy to spend an entire day with just the sights on offer here, but I would allow at least a half day at the minimum.

View of National Palace & the Zocalo from above

The three main sights to take in here are the National Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and the Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor. Depending on your pace and inclination each of these sites can be visited in one half hour to 2.5 hours for the detail-oriented visit. I personally spent a half-hour at the Cathedral, one hour at the Palace and about 2 hours at the Aztec ruins. Continue reading