How NOT to buy a souvenir: 8 tips on avoiding that piece of useless junk.

souvenir stand
It was the first day of our travels in Mexico. It was hot, we were jet-lagged and we were awed by the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula - one of the new seven wonders of the world. There was a long line of eager souvenir sellers, all with wide grins, and near-identical trinkets. I was on a quest for something to remember our trip by. David was on a quest to do anything to make me happy. I had recently been ill, very ill, and he was being even more caring and generous than usual. All this amounted to a  perfect recipe to get taken advantage of, mercilessly, - and the Mexican souvenir sellers were happy to oblige.

Watch out for topes! And other life saving tips for driving in Mexico.

Driving in Mexico is stressful - I just want to get that out of the way to start with. The traffic is awful, the other drivers operate in a different universe of road rules (who am I kidding - what road rules), the road signs are someone's idea of a bad joke (when they exist at all), the frequent potholes are yawning caverns with 'journey to the centre of the earth' like proportions and don't get me started on the speed bumps.

The Mayan Ruins of Coba: Pyramids in Mexico

Nohoch Mul Coba
We are in Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, and it is HOT! What is it about the most interesting places in the world - they are either unbearably hot or freezing cold. Well into our second week of exploring the pyramids and ruins left on the Yucatan Peninsula by Mexico's Mayan Civilisation I am over the heat - which is partly why I nominate Coba as my favourite Mayan ruin. Coba is in the jungle (more of a forest really), nestled unpretentiously amongst a cool umbrella of trees with its pyramids and temples connected along timeworn shaded pathways.

Mayapan Archaeological Zone: Chichen Itza without the crowds!

Mayapan Archaeological Zone in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico has everything which Chichen Itza has - except on a smaller scale and without the bus tours and crowds. If you like Chichen Itza but wish you could wander through the ruins quietly with the place to yourself then you will love Mayapan.

Mayapan was the last great Mayan capital before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. Founded in AD 1000 it dominated northern Yucatan politically and culturally until the mid-15th Century. One of the only Mayan capitals to be surrounded by walls, Mayapan had 12,000 inhabitants within a city centre of 6.5 square kilometres (4 square miles) and a further 5,000 outside the walls.

The flamingos of Celestun, Mexico: Everything you need to know before you go.

Have you ever seen a flamingo in flight? They take to the air in great clouds of pink, their long, elegant necks stretched out in front trailing a wing span tipped with a broad slash of inky black feathers. Am I the only one who didn't know flamingos have black feathers on their wings? When you see them in captivity their wings are always tucked neatly away with the beautiful ebony feathers hidden from sight.

Next to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza seeing flamingos in the wild was at the top of my wish list for our trip to Mexico.  Surprisingly, when I went in search of information about how, when and where to see them I came up with mostly blanks and conflicting information.  Hence this blog post. I have tried to include everything you need to know so you don't end up just blundering into town as we did hoping for the best.

Chichen Itza: Everything you need to know before you visit.

El Castillo Chichen Itza
Have you ever read a travel story in a newspaper or magazine (these days it is more likely to be a blog) and thought to yourself 'that is a place I just have to go'. Chichen Itza was like that for me. Way back in the early 2000s, I opened the Sunday paper to a story on a group of ancient Mayan temples I had never heard of. It was Chichen Itza. One glance at the photo of El Castillo, the massive step pyramid at the centre of the complex, and I was hooked. For once David took very little convincing, Mexico was already on his bucket list, but as it turned out it would take us ten years to get there. When we finally did, Chichen Itza was every bit as breathtaking as I imagined.