Friday, March 27, 2015

Inca Empire Cruise - Day 8 Puerto Chiapas, Chiapas, Mexico

This morning we sailed into harbor of Puerto Chiapas and docked around 8:00 AM.  Puerto Chiapas is in the state of Chiapas and at the very southern end of Mexico, only a few miles from the border of Guatemala.  There is not much at all around Puerto Chiapas, no real towns and it is an agricultural area.  It is very flat with no mountains in view for as far as you can see.

Today our plan was to take a shuttle into the nearby city of Tapachula and explore the city center.  Since it was Sunday morning, we decided to wait until mid-morning to catch the shuttle so we had a leisurely breakfast on ship before going ashore.  The weather was quite warm with temperatures in the mid-eighties and high humidity.  The only thing actually at the pier is a welcoming center with shops and entertainment.  There was also another pavilion that had a pool for swimming as there were no accessible beaches nearby.  All this was built for the use of cruise ships docking here.

The visitor's center is about the only thing at the cruise ship port.

The Statendam
Val at the entrance to the welcome center.
We bought our shuttle tickets and were on our way to Tapachula a little after 10:00.  It is about a 30 minute drive from the cruise dock into town so we got to see a bit of the country side.  We saw many orchards of mango and banana trees, which we were told are the main crops in the area.  Tapachula is fairly large with a population of around 140,000 so as we neared the city, traffic got pretty heavy.

Our shuttle passes a carefully loaded truck full of corn headed for market.
We were dropped off just before 11:00 in the center of town, which was teeming with people.  This was not really a tourist area so we were able to see the local people going about their lives as they normally would.  Being Sunday morning there were a number of people attending mass at the Catholic Church and many others at the numerous open air restaurants and food stands.  It looked like a lot of people were just enjoying sitting in the plaza watching the world go by.  There was also a produce and meat market which was very busy with many people buying fresh fruit and vegetable and numerous stalls of whole chickens for sale.

The Catholic Church in the central plaza of Tapachula.

The downtown market was busy on a Sunday morning.

 As we strolled around we enjoyed listening to a marimba band playing on the street. It’s the first time we had seen one marimba played by three or four people at the same time. It seemed a very interesting way to play the marimba, which we saw repeated several times. After walking around for a while and exploring the area, we decided to stop at one of the open air restaurants and have something cold to drink as it was quite warm.  It was very pleasant to sit in the shade, sip our drinks and watch the people go by.  A cooling breeze had come up and it was really quite pleasant.  There was also a marimba band playing there so that added to our enjoyment.

A marimba band was playing.

Our stop for a cool drink.

There were lots of shoeshine stands around the plaza.
We finally decided it was time to catch the shuttle back to the ship and reluctantly left our cool spot in the shade to make our way back to the shuttle stop.  After another half hour drive back to the port we were back at the welcome center and decided to look at the shops.  There was also a marimba band playing there so we were treated to more music as we made our way from shop to shop.  Just as we were finishing with our tour of the shops, a local group of folkloric dancers came in and performed local dances.  They were very good and we very much enjoyed the show. The dance troupe was made up of very pretty young ladies and very handsome young men.  Their costumes were quite colorful, and with each dance they performed they changed into a different costume. I don’t know how they did it as it was pretty warm and with the humidity they must have been very hot.  We stayed and watched the whole show before returning to the cool air conditioning of the ship.

One of many mango orchards we saw from the shuttle as we returned to the ship.
Colorful items for sale in the visitor's center.

We were entertained by local folk dancers in the visitor's center.

It was getting late in the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten lunch so we grabbed a bite to eat and then relaxed in our room until it was time for the sail-away party on the sea view deck.  The sail-away was fun as the local dancers we had seen earlier came out and performed on the dock as we sailed away. As the ship pushed away from the dock the dancers waved good-bye and all the people on the ship waved to the dancers.  As usual, the ship blew it’s very loud three blasts of horn as we moved away from the dock, except this time it added a few extra toots to acknowledge the generosity and friendliness of the dancers. There were also people standing on the small docks around the bay waving as we left. 

Our military escort into and out of the port.
The dancers perform as we sail away.

A final wave good-bye.

People along the bay wave as we depart.

The sun sets on another great day.
One thing we have noticed at all of our stops in Mexico is the friendliness of the people.  They are quick to greet you and smile, and I’m not just talking about the people trying to get our tourist dollars, but just people on the streets going about their business.  We noticed this particularly in Tapachula where we almost felt like we were intruding on their Sunday morning activities, but they were very friendly and we felt welcome.  Mexico gets a pretty bad rap in the media because of all the violence, which of course is prevalent, but the average person is friendly, respectful and very proud of their country and culture.

After the sail-away we did our usual evening (MIX Lounge, dinner and casino) and called it a night.  Tomorrow is a welcome sea day, but we will be losing another hour of sleep due to another time change.

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