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chicois8

Sep 23, 2009, 5:05 PM

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Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Hola all, Next month I am planning to drive from Villahermosa on MX 195 to Puerto Cate then to Simojovel, after a day or two there I plan to continue to Chamula and ending in San Cristobal de las Casas...Anyone know of any driving problems in this area? Thanks in advance, Rick



Hound Dog

Sep 24, 2009, 6:18 AM

Post #2 of 39 (12753 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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We are no experts but the road is famous for assaults and robberies. At one time the buses going through there had armed guards.
One of the architects I know who is living in San Cristobal and had a project commuted this road at night and was never attacked but you have to know that you take your chances.
La Selva Negra is the most iffy area
You will be driving mostly in Indian territory and will fall under their laws if you have problems. It is common for indians to pop in front of the car inebriated and collapse on the road so do not drive fast and be on the alert. You would hate to run over anybody in one of the villages. You will be under their laws and not the laws of Mexico´s Chiapas.

Many villages are Zapatista therefore autonomous and not that friendly. They do not like tourists unless they get money from them, hate ecotourism and are very distrustful of strangers (I am speaking of white faces foreign to indigenous from other villages).

Simojovel has ambar mines . The country is beautiful many people do not speak Spanish much less English but a local Maya language which contributes to the mistrust.

It can be done just be careful and do not have things in the car you do not want to lose. A car is a prize and can easily sold in Guatemala.

Do not drive the road after dark. If you want to go there drive to San Cristobal on a safer road and take colectivos to the area as they are safer than cars.

You also get road blocks where you are asked to pay a fee before you can cross esspecially in Zapatista areas.
Kids will also have ropes across the road to stop you to sell you something or ask for (demand) money. The colectivos beep their horns and go through them.
without slowing down. A good idea.

You also can happen on a violent disputes between two villages or two separate religious, political and other groups and as the road is not large you can get stuck in the middle of men carrying machetes and in an unpleasant mood.

This said you may go through the area without any problems and will think that people who say the place is not safe are crazy.

Whatever: you do keep your eyes open and always plan a route of escapen just in case.

Have a nice trip and be careful.

Brigitte


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 24, 2009, 8:44 AM)


Hound Dog

Sep 24, 2009, 6:35 AM

Post #3 of 39 (12746 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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One point I forgot to emphasize DO NOT TAKE PICTURES AND DO NOT SHOW A CAMERA in these villages. People should not be photographed without their specific permission and they will take your camera or destroy it if they think you took a picture without their permission even if you did not.

It happened to one of my friends in Chamula which is a big tourist place and where many people speak Spanish. Do not be cute about it, it does not work.

When I go to remote indigenous villages where I do not know anyone, I go by public transportation, take very little money and no important papers and I never take a camera as it increases the distrust.

Churches are public places but in remote villages I ask permission to walk in from the encargado . If you are lucky you will happen on some interesting ceremonies and sometimes very wonderful music. They will almost certainly say yes but there will be a kid or an adult who will watch you the whole time to make sure you do not take pictures or act disrespectfully so do not try to sneak a picture or disrespect the ceremony you are observing as a guest. They may ask for a tip so settle the amount before you go in. If a kid or a grown up offers to show you the church for a fee hire him. It´s a good investment if the tip is reasonable.

Stay away from drunks and keep in mind that many people, both men and women, get drunk in church to be able to speak in tongues and ask questions from their favorite saints.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 24, 2009, 8:50 AM)


Carron

Sep 24, 2009, 8:24 AM

Post #4 of 39 (12728 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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I lived for three years in a Zoque village in Chiapas and visited San Juan Chamula several times. It is the scariest place I have ever been in my life! Attractive to curious tourists, but the people are nasty to visitors, especially those who do not give them money. Special permission must be obtained to enter the church. You will be made to feel terribly out of place.

I have never visited Simojovel but had friends who did. If you are going there to buy ambar, the good stuff has already been shipped off to the government-run arts and crafts stores in major cities all over Mexico. My friends (one of them a Mexican) were experienced travelers in Mexico and probably didn't stay more than several hours. Don't know if there is a place to stay for 2-3 days or indeed even a reason to.

Trust me, the state of Chiapas, especially up in the indigenous highlands, is not the Mexico most of us know and love. Even many criollos in Tuxtla Gutierrez feel this way about parts of their home state. That said, the scenery is probably some of the most breath-taking anywhere in the world. The bus trip from Villahermosa to Tuxtla is like the most stomach-lurching roller coaster ride you have ever experienced with the addition of spectacular views. Even more exciting during the rainy season when big chunks of the outer lane of the narrow 2-lane highway have dropped off into the valley thousands of feet below!!

I would personally never try to drive that route. Not even in the daylight during dry season. As in all of Mexico, buses are a superior means of transport. For more personalized touring, taxis are also very affordable and will take you wherever you want to go in the back country for only a modesdt tarriff.


Hound Dog

Sep 24, 2009, 8:59 AM

Post #5 of 39 (12712 views)

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Re: [Carron] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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The above posts under the name of Hound Dog were actually written by his darlin wife Brigiite for whom he holds the deepest love and respect but, Jesus H. Gawd, Dawg has enough detractors already without her controversial input although I must admit her remarks are cogent and should be respected by those planning to drive the back roads of Chiapas which ain´t as dangerous as driving through Atlanta but an endeavor that requires concentration on them there back roads or when visiting anxious communities where visitors may generate distrust.


chicois8

Sep 24, 2009, 12:24 PM

Post #6 of 39 (12686 views)

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Re: [Carron] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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When you talk about photography do you mean taking photos of people, towns or mountain/ valley scenery? I would like to take mountain/valley scenes... I am painter of landscapes so would it be improper pulling off road and snapping a few photos of the local terrain? Thanks for your answers so far, I can bypass Chamula if it is that bad, Rick


Hound Dog

Sep 24, 2009, 2:24 PM

Post #7 of 39 (12671 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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When you talk about photography do you mean taking photos of people, towns or mountain/ valley scenery? I would like to take mountain/valley scenes... I am painter of landscapes so would it be improper pulling off road and snapping a few photos of the local terrain? Thanks for your answers so far, I can bypass Chamula if it is that bad, Rick

Rick:

Brigitte was speaking of taking photos of people or institutions such as churches, not scenery, but keep in mind that if you pull out a camera in order to take pictures of surrounding scenery in certain indigenous villages you may be confronted and held accountable if you are thought by local citizens to be planning to take photos of locals or churches without permission.

As for Chamula, it is heavily visited by tourists from San Cristóbal which is only about ten miles distant and the town has an edge but is heavily dependent on tourism so you will be treated with respect as long as you treat local people with equal respect. Please remember that the local culture has been seriously disrespected by marauding conquistadors and today´s tourists who for all practical purposes invade their town and disturb their traditional church services which are quite colorful and certainly worthy of observing and they have been treated like monkeys in a zoo. All you have to remember in towns such as Chamula is that they are sensitive human beings who are not putting on a pageant for your benefit.

If you go to Chamula, which I highly recommend you do at least once, simply go to the local municipal office and buy a ticket to enter the church during services and never - ever - take pictures of colorfully dressed locals without specific permission which permission will almost certainly cost you a few pesos but so what? If you enter the church during services, respect their traditions as you would expect your own to be respected. Who wants to see their religious traditions disrespected by foreigners strolling about and taking pictures as if the congregants were morons to be fodder for their two-bit family slide show back in Dubuque?

More later but for now just keep in mind that Chamula and other indigenous towns in Chiapas some of which are sympathetic to the Zapatista movement, are only asking for simple dignity. When you are in the absolutely beautiful countryside in the stunning Chiapas feel free to take all the photos you wish to take of landscapes and urban vistas but always remain respectful of locals and ther traditions. More good stories later.

This is a great subject for me. I love this state and would be living there full time for the rest of the time I have been granted if I could sell my Lake Chapala digs.



(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 24, 2009, 2:28 PM)


Hound Dog

Sep 24, 2009, 7:11 PM

Post #8 of 39 (12640 views)

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Re: [Carron] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Carron you are right the Chamula Indians are no piece of cake. You are safe as long as you stay where other people are.
The inhabitants of the Chamula municipality (which has a very large population are not friendly as a rule. The village appears to be small but most people live out in the country near their milpa in small communities.
They are the merchants of all the tribes. They make some nice pottery that you will not find in the town of Chamula some ceremonial huipiles and good faja as well as cheapos they sell at the tourists posts. The good fajas are found at the municiapal market in San Cristobal and are not cheap. The cheap ones for tourists are found around Santo Domingo convent.
As Carron says the village is not friendly but tolerates tourists. You should see the church and get out of there. A lot of the stuff they sell is from Guatemala and you will not find good huipiles there. The best ones are made by women´s coop and are sold in San Cristobal.
A friendlier but not as interesting village is Zinacantan. The municipalty is full of greenhouses where a huge amount of flowers are grown. The costumes of the women there is all in the blues and mauve and are very attractive. People there are also friendlier than in Chamula.The childen are better educated more open to strangers and way cleaner than in Chamula. The Chamulas think that the people of Zinacantan are like peacocks , very vain. The people from Zinacantan think that the Chamulas are dirty and nasty. There are only a few kms from each other and could not be more different. Same here ask before taking pictures but you will often be told yes.

My advice to you if yo want to see an attractive countryside is to go to Palenque stay the night in the jungle at one of the cheap cabins or at a fancy hotel depending on your budget. Take the time to go into the jungle around the Palenque ruins from there you can go to San Cristobal via Ocosingo. A most beautiful ride from low land to the clouds and above the clouds. The tonina ruins near Ocosingo are worth seeing. Agua Azul is beautiful but go early. as there has been attacks after 5pm.
The road is about 5 hours , probably 2 or 3 hours to Ocosingo. and a little less to San Cristobal. The countryside is stunning and I do not think you will have any problems there taking pictures of the countryside.
From Palenque you can also take the long drive (900km) all the way to Comitan via the jungle and Marques de Comillas. There are problems sometimes in that area between groups but as a rule the people are way nicer than in the highlands near San Cristobal. If you go that way go to Bonampak and stay in one of the Lancandon cabins. The Lancandon are also friendlier and will let you take pictures if you ask. The Bonampak murals in the tombs are beautiful.
Do not miss going to Yaxilan either via the river. Afer that make sure you get gas where ever you see it. as there are two gas stations . I think there is gas in Frontera Corazol and then in Benitos las Americas, a favorite spot for the narcs to land their small planes on the road. After that the next gas station is in Comitan. Some people sell gas in the villages but make sure you fill up at the two gas stations.
Keep going and go to the Guacamayas Lodge, Half of the area is in the Marques de Comillas area where you would think you are somewhere in the Pyrenees , not a tree left. The other part is heavy jungle. The lodge that is on the river is great and you can take excursions from there, it is also the way to take a short cut and not to take the Fronteriza road all the way. You get stopped by the army on a regular basis but as a rule they are friendly, so are the other agencies like customs and Drug enforcement agent. You show your passport and visa and if you hear "revision" you all get out of the car and wait while they do their search for drugs and weapons.
After the lodge the next stop would be the lakes of Montebello that are an artist dream, before you get there you will go through a misty cloud forest, also something to experience. You can visit 5 lakes, each lake has a different color and are in a pine forest covered with bromeliads. On the way out of the lakes you have a nice small ruins called Chincultic that comes along with its cenote and a view of the lakes. Unless you stay in cabins do not hang around late in the area. It is on the border and the nights there are not safe.
On the way to Comitan you will pass el Parador Santa Maria, a beautiful hacienda where you can stay or have breakfast or lunch.
You can also stay on the plaza in Comitan for much less money, From there you can also visit the waterfall park called el Chifflon (there are cabins)and loop toward Aquacatenango and Amatenango. The first village is Zapatista, friendly. You cannot take pictures of the church inside but it is ok from the outside.
The church is wonderful in its simpicity and is closed from 12 to 2pm. If you do not feel comfortable ask for Don Carlos(Perez) he makes rugs and his wife sell blouses. He probably will have nothing to sell but seeing him work is something else. He knows us well and visit in San Cristobal for breakfast or lunch . If you speak Spanish he is quite entertaining. If you do not find him, it does not matter, the fact that you ask for a familiar name will give you a pass in the streets.

The next village is Amatenango wher the main occupation beside agriculture is pottery. All the villages are Tzeltal villages and are friendlier than the Tsotsil villages. In Amatenango the women will tolerate that you take pictures especially if you buy something. I know the 3 top potter women in the village and if you are interested I can give you directions into the village.
after that you can have lunch on the plaza in the mestizo town of Teopisca. Try their meats, sausages and do not miss the tostadas. They are pure lard and the beat I ever had. They at them with fresh cream on top and with the sausages. They also serve heart of palms salad. Before the meal do not forget to take a lipitor pill!Then onto San Cristobal.

You can also get to Tuxtla and Chiapa de Corzo where the cañon de Sumidero is and go to San Cristobal via the new road. It goes from 500 meters to 3000 meters, It is spectacular. The old road is even more beautiful but scary as hell and much longer.
Chiapa de Corzo has a lot of lacquer makers.. The lacquer there is made with the lac insect also known as cochinilla.. The insects are harvested in Venustiano Carranza and a paste is made with them which is used to make the lacquer in Chiapa de Corzo. There is a nice ex convent and a nice lacquer museum.
There are lots of wonderful road to take if you do not go via Simojovel. The good ambar is already in Tuxtla or San Cristobal.

I would go from Palenque to Comitan via the jungle any time rather than via Simojovel .

Unless you are used to visit indigenous villages in the Highlands you will feel pretty out of place. You are tolerated at best.

Villages to visit because of the church (no tourists) and of the beautiful weavings, San Andres Larrainzar (Tzotzil pro Zapatista).
Other beautiful weavings are done in Tenejapa(Tzeltal). Any of these villages careful with the camera. Good bakery in the village.

Another beautiful drive is the drive to Chenalho and beyond, Ask the office of tourism on the plaza if it is ok to go. The municipality there is separated in Zapatistas, Abejas and regular villages. If you want to visit Acteal the Abejas village where a massacre took place you must get a permit in San Cristobal.
The country is coffee growing country shaded by almandras trees and is beautiful as well. If you go to Pentelho go to a store to buy a jar and ask where you can buy honey. The honey is wonderful and it is an ice breaker. They also have a coffee coop and a decent restaurant on the plaza. Watch out for drunks passes out on the road in time of Fiesta.

There is lots to do on the regular roads without getting to the small backroads. The main roads are good and beautiful no point going back on the dirt roads and very isolated roads.
Chiapas is a treat to the eyes so enjoy!
Brigitte


There is a new road that opened in 2006 from Villahermosa to Tuxtla. It is a good road going along tropical villages at first and then with a view of mountains that are also spectacular because of their shape.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 24, 2009, 7:21 PM)


Hound Dog

Sep 24, 2009, 8:11 PM

Post #9 of 39 (12620 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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If you are going to be in Chiapas for the Day of the Dead go and check the Chamula cemetary called Romero or Romarito( I believe) it is on the road to Tenejapa. Take a cab as parking is problematic and getting out of there is not easy with your own car.. Go there late morning do not go there at night.
I do not know about photos but since they are Chamulas it probably will be don´t take any.


chicois8

Sep 24, 2009, 9:54 PM

Post #10 of 39 (12616 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Hola, No I will be in SMA Nov.1&2 then work my way down the gulf coast to Villahermosa, Teapa, Simo and then San Cristobal, I would like to find a hotel in SC with secure parking, it does not have to be downtown,on the outskirts is OK. Rick


Hound Dog

Sep 25, 2009, 10:51 AM

Post #11 of 39 (12583 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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On the outskirts
I cannot remember the name of the hotel but it was remodelled in 2006 and the prices are reasonable
Take the boulevard leaving town in the direction of Merposur and Comitan . At the corner of Eje 1 and the boulevard is a business hotel where I believe they have secure parking. The color is pinkish, the entrance is on the right on Eje 1.

In the same area follow Eje one (direction Tuxtla)and turn left(I believe it is the first street to the left) it will take you past the wholesale produce market, keep following that road and on the left you will see Hotel Don Juan San Cristobal. There is parking inside.

Farther but very nice is Hotel Molino de La Alborada

On the north side of town in a neighborhood you will find San Juan de Dios Posada a very nice and fancier hotel with a good restaurant.

Except for The business hotel and Hacienda Don Juan these hotels are on the high side.

The fun of San Cristobal is to be able to walk to restaurants and hang out in the center without having to take a cab. The cab were 18 pesos anywhere in town last year.

In town many hotel have places where guests can park.
La Casa Vieja in the center has parking facilities.
A lot of hotels have secure parking but I cannot tell you for sure which ones past those listed above.
Get a room somewhere for a day or so and check ou the town to see if you want to stay in town or out of town. The prices can be very low in the Posadas but most of them do not have parking although there are some secure parking in town and the hotels can tell you were they are.
the Hotels that charge 600 pesos or more usually have some secure place to park. Do not park on the street anywhere with valuables.
At that time of the year the town is really quiet so you will have no problems finding a reasonable hotel with parking.
The nights can be very cold and most rooms have no heat. If you can get a room with heat or a fireplace grab it.
Good luck
Brigitte


Hound Dog

Sep 25, 2009, 12:32 PM

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chicois8

Sep 25, 2009, 4:10 PM

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Re: [Hound Dog] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Hola,
Thank you Brigitte for all you detailed answers about driving in Chiapas and hotels in San Cristobal, every little bit helps...I have driven from my home in San Francisco to Guatemala 4 times through out the years, always taken the coastal route Highway 200.I know indigenous peoples do not like photos or outsiders sometimes, even if I paint a market or street scene I never paint faces on figures, usually they are painted walking away...again, thank you

Hound Dog,
Where to start, I do not understand what your last post means...I did not ask about banking in Oakland, Japan,
sake or France...All I can guess is your last post was meant to be part of another thread you had posted on this site...Thank you for you answers to my questions...


Hound Dog

Sep 25, 2009, 7:02 PM

Post #14 of 39 (12527 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Do not try to undestand my husband ´s post, at times he makes absolutely no sense. Just ignore him, it is his worst fear.

Brigitte


Hound Dog

Sep 26, 2009, 5:30 AM

Post #15 of 39 (12499 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Sorry about the confusion, chicois8. I was writing about the difficulty of adjusting to another culture since I married into the French cultrure and my Oakland attorney friend married into the Japanese culture. As you cerftainly must know, these issues are important in Mexico but I guess I misplaced my comment.


Peter


Sep 26, 2009, 7:50 AM

Post #16 of 39 (12484 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Thank you. Very interesting thread. I have been wanting to visit some destinations south, particularly Chiapas. Great tour and travel tips.


TIO GREENGLEE


Sep 27, 2009, 5:37 PM

Post #17 of 39 (12418 views)

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Re: [chicois8] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Wow, I have lived and driven in Chiapas for over the last five years and never had any problems. San Juan Chamula is a tourist trap; you will need to give the car parkers 5 to 10 peso and pay for a ticket to enter the church. Although the indigenous do not like their picture taken (do not take pictures in the church in San Juan Chamula or they will take your camera), taking a picture of the scenery is no problem. Do not drive off the main highway after dark in the Zapatista areas near Ocosingo (locations listed in the US State Department travel warnings). Give the people blocking the road 5 pesos to pass and say "no trago mas monedas" (I don't have any more coins). It they insist, find five more pesos (it's 75 cents for Christ's sake) It's generally safe on the main highways to Agua Azul, Misol_Ha and Pelenque. I have never had any problems in San Cristobal (I go there often to escape from Tuxtla Gutierrez which is a hot and dirty hell hole whose only attractions are a great zoo, WallMart, Sam's Club, Dominoes and Home Depot). If you have a car in San Cristobal, park it in the municipal garage overnight 8 PM - 8AM. Use common sense and you can really enjoy Chiapas. It's beauty rivals Costa Rica's in many places and the urban legends about the zapatistas being a problem everywhere in Chiapas are way overstated.


chicois8

Sep 27, 2009, 7:34 PM

Post #18 of 39 (12403 views)

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Re: [TIO GREENGLEE] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Thanks all, some of you guys may have misread my original post, The only reason I mentioned Chamula was to show the route I would be driving, I never had plans of stopping there or visiting any churches...I would rather park in San Cristobal at the hotel I am staying at instead of some muni parking lot...
Greenglee, my rate of exchange is different than yours, 5 pesos = 0.37 cents @ 13.58 X $1.00...I will come and visit you and I will bring mucho 5 peso coins and you give me .75 cents each, OK....
Has anyone been to the village of Chalchihuitan, I understand they may have some wonderful textiles there? Thanks


tashby


Sep 27, 2009, 7:35 PM

Post #19 of 39 (12403 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Fantastic info. Thank you. Is there a "best" time of year to visit the area? Winter in the highlands I imagine will be pretty darn cold, but on the upside, maybe less busy with travelers? What's it like in April/May?

We live at Lake Chapala, and reccently took a Mexicana (Link) flight non-stop GDL to Oaxaca City, which I noticed then bumped on to Tuxtla. We got a screaming cheap fare last month......I think right at 2000 pesos roundtrip, all taxes/fees included. Any idea what would consititute a decent fare between GDL and Tuxtla Gutierrez? I want to have a baseline in my head for the average airfare so I know when to pull the trigger on a deal

Thanks.


(This post was edited by tashby on Sep 27, 2009, 7:36 PM)


Hound Dog

Sep 28, 2009, 7:36 AM

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Re: [tashby] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Rains can start in May and usually do. There is a reason it is so beautiful and green, lots of rain. April can get smoky from the burning and is usually nice temperature March is nice too. No matter what time of the year you go nights and morning can be cold. In February, March and April you can have spectacular days, cold nights with glorious sun , very hot, hot in the sun almost cold in the shade. The weather there changes quickly within the same day. You may have a crisp cold night in January or February and wake up to frost with a beautiful sun and then get fog that lifts later on during the day like 11 or 12 them turns into a beautiful day or stays cold and foggy if you do not like the weather stick around it will change...
I like the winter months there because I do not like rain and do not mind crisp and cold weather. A nice fire in the fireplace and the whole house turns nice and warm.
I am speaking of the weather in San Cristobal.
If you want to get warm drive to Chiapa de Corzo or Tuxtla and within one hour you will wish for cold weather.
Going towards Ocosingo the weather willl be nice and warm in Ocosingo (2 hours)
Towards Comitan by the time you reach Amatenango it will be warmer (1 hour) and Ajijic like in Comitan (2 hours )
You can pick the weather you like according to the altitude you go at.
San Cristobal also known as Jovel is in a valley so you will go up before you go back down. On the way to Tuxtla you will have to go through the clouds and may find yourself in a beautiful sunny zone until you go through fog going down and then some very humid heat. The place is magical.
If you go there for Easter or Carnaval there are a lot of things going on at that time but also a lot of tourists from all over Mexico.
Do visit, it is a beautiful place.

The fares vary from 2000 (rarely) to 4000 pesos for return tickets. When I do not like the price , I make it a bus trip , take a bus to DF which cost 250 to 300 pesos on ETN if you are over 60 stay in DF for a day or two and then take the 8 oclock bus from TAPPO to San Cristobal. It is anovernight trip and the 8 oclock bus is the more comfortable of the 3 lines UNO, ADO. GL , and Cristobal Colon. You can buy the tickets on the internetand get the 50% discount as well. I think the trip is about 700 pesos with discount. The beauty is that you arrive in San Cristobal
If you arrive at the Tuxtla airport you can take a 500 peso cab ride or take a van to the bus or van terminals ( I do not remember the price)and then take another van to San Cristobal for about 35 pesos.
For overnight I only take the buses that have the foot rest that supports the hole leg rather than just the foot. I can sleep on those.
I also do mixture of buses and plane depending on the prices I get.

If you go to Oaxaca you can take an overnight bus to San Cristobal but it is on CC not my favorite line. You can also go during the day from Oaxaca to Tehuantepec or Juchitan and then take a Tuxtla San Cristobal bus. Tehuantepec and Juchitan are part of the Ithmus and the population is a mixture of Zapotecs and other tribes, there the women are in charge so do not fool with them as they will whip your butt. They are very friendly, dressed beautifully and it is a fun place to spend the night. If you happen on one of their festival they will invite you in the procession and will share mescal and food with you. A fun place, too bad it is so hot and miserable. The ride to the Isthmus or to Tuxtla going that way is spectacular as well.

Whether you go to Oaxaca State or Chiapas you will not be disappointed. They are both wonderful States.
Brigitte


Hound Dog

Sep 28, 2009, 11:48 AM

Post #21 of 39 (12346 views)

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Re: [TIO GREENGLEE] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Although the indigenous do not like their picture taken (do not take pictures in the church in San Juan Chamula or they will take your camera), taking a picture of the scenery is no problem.

In my opinion, this is misleading to say the least. Just ask a friend of ours who took a camera out in Chamula with the intent of taking pictures of the surrounding scenery only to be accosted by irate villagers who confiscated her chip and threatened her with incarceration. It was unpleasant and nasty. We don´t even take cameras to Chamula anymore. Tio is right about one thing, however, Chamula is a tourist trap but so is Paris and the reason places such as that are tourist traps is because tourists love them and, in the case of Chamula, the village is easily accessable from San Cristóbal. The church services are quite fascinating so go to Chamula on Sundays for an interesting take on services that reflect the catholic and pagan roots of these institutions.

The reason Chamulas and other indigenous people don´t like having their pictures taken is that they have been exploited and been treated like monkeys in a zoo for a very long time. One day they figured out that these visitors taking their photographs were often making money in the process and they, not being even remotely stupid, wanted their cut. Just remember whether you are in Chamula or one of countless other indigenous municipalities, that you are their guest and treat local people with the respect they deserve and as you would expect them to act when visiting your home. After all, taking people´s pictures without their permission is considered rude in many places. I was in van full of tourists in an open air market in Nairobi in 1969 when we were all nearly lynched when one woman took one picture of the local crowd without permision. I have visited cathedrals and other religious structures all over the world and was appalled both at Notre Dame in Paris and the Chamula church by the rude and disrespectul attitudes of tourists overwhelming services with their churlish behavior.

... the urban legends about the zapatistas being a problem everywhere in Chiapas are way overstated.

What one cannot know until one lives in the Chiapas Highlands around San Cristóbal is that most news is still delivered on morning radio programs as in the old town cryer days. Much really negative news is either ignored or lightly covered. We don´t really know much about the area Tio lives in so do not presume to discuss that area at this time. I am not suggesting that the reader be fearful in the part of Chiapas with which we are familiar but the visitor should always exercise caution. Of course, we were so fearful of the area that we completely remodeled a home in the El Cerrillo Barrio near the massive indigenous market and the Santo Domingo Convent from the ground up and would probably live there all year round if the real estate market at Lake Chapala were not in the doldrums.

I can tell you this, machismo and violence are commonplace in that part of Chiapas in which we live much of it involving internecine warfare often involving land issues among indigenous groups, violence of locals against illegal immigrants from Central America, intra- family violence very often related to drunkeness and assaults against spouses and children and then, of course the drug wars which are constant. If you are not from the area you may never know this violence is going on unless you are unfortunate enough to stmble upon it. I remember when we were at the weekly open air market one day while visiting the town of Palenque when a shootout started between the army and rival narcs. Now, that was scary but that hasn´t stopped us from repeatedly driving from San Cristóbal to Palenque both through Ocosingo and though the Lacandon Forest via the beautiful Lagos de Montebello National Park astride the border with Guatamela. This Chiapas is a fabulous place worthy of visiting and it is a very large and varied landscape. We´ve lived in Mexico since early 2001 and bought our home in San Cristóbal in 2005 after exploring and rejecting such places as Merida and Oaxaca City for a couple of years and we still have seen on a fraction of this beautiful state which is a challenge to cover. Next we are off to Tapachula and the Soconusco and we can´t wait.

in San Cristobal (I go there often to escape from Tuxtla Gutierrez which is a hot and dirty hell hole whose only attractions are a great zoo, WallMart, Sam's Club, Dominoes and Home Depot

Once again, a misleading statement in my judgment. Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state´s capital, can be a beautifully scenic place with great tropical ambience and has a number of very good restaurants and nightclubs for the visitor. The city is large and relatively prosperous and on its outskirts lie the wide and attractive Grijalva River, the striking Sumidero Canyon and the charming small city of Chiapa de Corzo which should be a must see for anyone visiting the region. As for the attractions touted by Tio, I don´t particularly like the concept of zoos even when they are relatively humane in the treatment of their captive animals and I must also admit I do not care for WalMart, Sam´s Club, Dominoes (for God´s sake) or Home Depot so the reader will need to make his or her own decision as to whether or not these are the primary attractions in any city. The city does have some great shopping opportunities in beautiful malls and neighborhood shopping areas and one can find just about anything one needs without ever entering a WalMart.

We are living at present at Lake Chapala where we spend our summers but when we return to Chiapas this winter, I will present a small critique of really interesting things to see and do in Metropolitan Tuxtla which will include some not-to-be-missed fine restaurants and great taco joints all featuring the cuisine of Chiapas which can be excellent, my favorite marimba park with free marimba orchestra concerts on weekends surrounded by beer joints, restaurants and ice cream parlors, the best truly upscale shopping mall in Tuxtla anchored by fine retail outlets and department stores without a WalMart or Sam´s Club in sight and other attractions and urban amenities of this fun tropical city which is much underrated by people who occasionally head for the hills to cool off. By the way, that shows that everything is perspective. We drive down to Tuxtla Gutierrez or, even better, Chiapa de Corzo and enjoy fine dining to warm up when San Cristóbal is too cold to suit us. The only reason I don´t provide my list now is that I am not a good note taker so need to revisit the city to refresh my memory regarding names and menu items.

Finally, I don´t want my comments to be considered a criticizm of Tio´s comments. I´m just giving my opinions of some areas he covered. After all, a forum should offer a meaningful discussion on topics often where there is disagreement. In fact, I admire him for moving to this state I love and would love to visit his part of the region as well. Thanks to Tio for his comments.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 28, 2009, 12:14 PM)


tashby


Sep 28, 2009, 11:58 AM

Post #22 of 39 (12341 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for the generous, info-rich reply! I've copied it into my "get your butt to Chiapas" file. Thanks also for the info on transport options.

You're comment about "women in charge" of Tehuantepec was interesting. (I've read a little bit about how different it is on the Isthmus.) When we were in Teotitlán del Valle earlier this month, that was certainly the case at the house of weaving family we visited. Happy, smiley, easy-going (passive?) dad met us at the door, but at the end of the visit there was absolutely no question who were the closers in the house. And they weren't wearing pants. Don't know if that's an example of the same thing, or just the heirarchy of that particlar household.

Sorry for the thread hijack, and thanks again.


Vichil

Sep 28, 2009, 1:49 PM

Post #23 of 39 (12326 views)

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Re: [tashby] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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We visit Teotitlan very often and have a house there any time we want to stay. The women rule the roost but like many women in the world they do not do so in public. If you have attended any fiesta, wedding etc.. the women work like maniacs for 18to 20 hours a day.
The men eat first served by the women, then the older women eat served by younger men then the women and children eat when they have the time during the fiesta the men are very busy making speeches and drinking beer and mescal but in Tehuantepec it is the opposite, the men are in a little corner and the women are out raising hell , drinking and passing around the mescal and beer.
In Teotitlan the men handle the money in Tehuantepec the women handle all business transactions and spend a lot of money on clothes and jewelry. When I ask a woman why they would pick black velvet for their dresses when it was so hot, she told me because it is expensive.
The women in the Isthmus are tall and large, the men are usually smaller. The properties are handled from mother to daughter. It is a type of matriarchal society when in Teotitlan the son get the properties as the women are supposed to enjoy their husband´s or son´s property. In a divorce the children goes to the father or his family if they choose to do so.
In the Isthmus homosexuality is totally accepted when it is not in Teotitlan.
In Teotitlan there are talks of changing the rules about homosexuals but I do not know if they have or not.
When a couple marries they have the right to ask the elders for a piece of land they can cultivate or where they can build a house. The land remains their property and can be passed on to their children unless it is not used and then it reverts to the village. It cannot be sold. They also have land that is owned privately and can be sold.
In return the couple is drafted to do service for the community. They usually have to work for a year to 3 years in different functions.
Since homosexuals do not get married they are not drafted which annoys some members of the village. Many homosexuals marry and have their own life on the side but things are changing and many will not get marries and leave the village.

It is not so in the Isthmus. The story goes that the majority of the men in the Ithmus were killed during the Revolution so the women imported men from another area, I do not know if it is true but there is no doubt on who is in charge down there.
Homosexuality down there is welcomed. Women are proud to have homosexual sons.

In Chiapa de Corzo , Chiapas you can see the Isthmus women who come for the fiesta of San Sebastian in January and are the ones who run most of the restaurants and bars in the fair. You take one look at them and there is no doubt that you do not want to fool around with them.


Vichil

Sep 28, 2009, 6:39 PM

Post #24 of 39 (12295 views)

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Re: [tashby] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Sorry I have had nothing but problem with my handle Brigitte Ordoquy, so I posted under Hound dog but do not want to be associated with him too closely so I reappeared under Vichil.


TIO GREENGLEE


Sep 29, 2009, 6:45 AM

Post #25 of 39 (12261 views)

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Re: [Vichil] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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OK, I yield the floor to the resident experts. In any case, enjoy Chiapas. It was nice chatting with you all.
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