the Yucatan & Casa Hamaca
Reading Glasses Distribution on Three Small Mayan Villages 
The women of Christ Lutheran Church, Woodcliff Lake, NJ, USA, donated a large number of new reading glasses to give away in the Yucatan of Mexico. Some of the staff of Casa Hamaca Guesthouse (www.CasaHamaca.com) and I gave out over 120 pair of reading glasses on April 23, 2010 in three small villages in the Yucatan: Dzitox, Chan X-cail and San Pedro. We spent about two hours in each of the villages letting the people try on varying-strength reading glasses and attempt to read the paper. Many of the people also needed distance lenses but for distance we only had some used (donated) glasses without any idea of what strengths they were. However, some worked and the recipients went away very happy. Especially happy were the young kids who were having trouble learning to read because they needed corrective lens to help them. They went away with very big smiles. If you are interested in philanthropic, volunteer or cultural opportunities in the Yucatan, please contact www.casahamaca.com or denis@casahamaca.com. See a video at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce3zL2zYgzA

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the Apocalypse or just another day in Paradise? 

Deal of Your Lifetime
End of the World at the Center of the World
€10,000 per night per person for December 21, 2012

the Apocalypse or just another day in Paradise?


Where will you and your loved ones be on December 21, 2012?
Will it be the end of the world as we know it?
A time of transition from one World Age into another.
A shift in consciousness?
Or simply the end of one cycle of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of another?
A time of rebirth? or a time of destruction?


Why Here?
Valladolid is near the "bellybutton" of the universe according to ancient Mayan tradition, so it might be the rebirth. Valladolid is near the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and of Ek Balam, both of which are regarded as cosmic energy centers, so it might be a time of transition or a shift of consciousness. But Valladolid is also near the site where the great meteror of about 65,000,000 years ago slammed into Earth at Chichilub, Yucatan, and wiped out the dinosaurs, so it could be the end of the world as we know it.
Casa Hamaca Guesthouse is rated #1 Bed and Breakfast in Valladolid as reviewed by guests on Trip Advisor. And, reading between the lines, it is the best lodging of any kind for 100 miles around, in any direction. So, if you have to be somewhere for the end of the world, it might as well be here... at the epicenter of events... or just another day in paradise.


End of the World at the Center of the World Special:
€10,000 per night per person for December 21, 2012, perhaps the last Winter Solstice of our lifetime.

Reservations now being accepted for the End of the World. This date is the end of a 25,000 year cycle of the Mayan calendar. And according to the film 2012, it also might be the end of the world as we know it.

Cost per person per night from Dec.15 to Dec. 20, 2012: €100. Full breakfast included.

Cost per person for the night of Dec. 21, 2012: €10,000. A special Last Supper included.
Cost per person for the night of Dec. 22, 2012: no charge for survivors who were paid guests on Dec. 21, 2012. Gala Brunch included on the 22nd. Full breakfast included on the morning of the 23rd.

Cost per person per night from Dec. 23, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2012: €100. Full breakfast included

All king suites and twin suites: two person minimum
Triple suite: three person minimum
Queen double suites: four person minimum
Dormitory accommodations in hammocks: Take 15% off above rates. Maximum 15 persons.

All reservations must be prepaid IN FULL (just in case).
No refunds.
Email Denis for details: denis@casahamaca.com or denislarsen@yahoo.com http:www.casahamaca.com/Pages/12.12.html

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Ten Top Things to See in the Valladolid, Yucatan, Area.  
Note: As opposed to some lists, I make no pretense of being able to prioritize these ten attractions. All are worth seeing. Some will have greater interest to various individuals than will others.

10. The Museo San Roque. Located one block from the Palacio Municipal in a de-consecrated church. Contains a wide variety of Proto-Mayan, Mayan and Colonial artifacts and exhibits. A bit dusty and in need of some up-grades, it is, nevertheless, worth seeing when you are al centro.

9. The Cenote Zaci. Located just a few short blocks from the main square (parque principal or zocalo) of Valladolid.
A Palapa-style restaurant (with the only wheelchair access to a restaurant in Valladolid of which I am aware. Unfortunately, the bathrooms in the restaurant as not easily accessible by wheelchair. Casa Hamaca is the only hotel or lodging in the area with wheelchair access). The restaurant serves good Yucatec-style food... but the real reason to go there is to eat or drink, in the shade, while overlooking the beautiful cenote. Plus, if you have a beverage or food at the restaurant, you will be invited to enter the centore from their private entrance at no cost. If you enter the public entrance, you must pay somewhere in the neighborhood of USD$2. The cenote is partially covered and partially open to the sky with a walk-way with both ramps and steps going all the way around. Th walkway decends to water level at one point to allow access to the water. A "No Swimming" sign is sometimes posted, but there seem to be people in the water at all times of day.

8. Murals in the Palacio Municipal. Located at the southeast corner of the zocalo on the second floor. Enter the building next door to the tourist office and go up one floor to the murals that depict the history of the Mayans and colonials of the Valladolid area beginning with pre-hispanic images through the revolution of the early 1900's. Powerful images!

7. The entire town of Izamal. Located less than one hour distance form Valladolid, Izamal is caught in a time warp. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around town to get a feel for for the historic district and then go off on foot to explore the pyramids, the convent and the shops.

6. The Mayan Ruins of Cobá. Located less than one hour drive from Valladolid on a usually good road, the ruins of Cobá are different than most of the ruins of the Yucatan. The form of the main pyramid is more like that of Tikal in Guatemala than it is of of others in the north. As of this writing, you can still climb most of the structures, including the main pyramid. The site is very large and includes some lakes (lagunas) with crocs drozing in the sun. You have the options of walking the ruins, renting a bicycle or hiring a tricycle powered by a guide. The last option is worth considering since you can cover a lot of ground and have some idea of what you are seeing. Make any agreements before your leave the rental area including time of your tour as well as what parts of the ruins are included. If you want more time or extensive viewing, make your deal before you start. These ruins are almost Indiana Jones-like as you walk/ride through the jungle, turn a corner and suddenly are confronted with a pyramid that had been hidden from view until you turned the corner. Lots of fun for all ages.

5. The cenotes of Dzitnup... there are two of more or less the same form... an underground dome with a hole in the ceiling to the world outside with swim-able water. One is the most photographed cenote in the Yucatan (the one on the left as you approach the town of Dzitnup from the Merida-Valladolid free road); the other (on the right) is much less visited, but equally beautiful. Both are worth visiting. If you are really into cenotes, there are lots of options in any direction from Valladolid. All are swim-able, some have more amenities than others

4. Casa de los Venados, a private home just off the main square of Valladolid. The owners, John and Dorianne Venator, have completed a ten year renovation and expansion of one of the early historic building of Valladolid. More importantly, they have over 3,500 pieces of Mexican folk art on display. The house is a living museum. However, since it is a private home, you need specific permission of John or Dorianne to view the house and contents.

3. The Mayan ruins of Ek Balam are located an easy 25 minute drive north of Valladolid. The site is compact and easily visited in two hours. The main pyramid is higher than the main pyramid at Chichen Itza and, by volume, is one of the largest in the Yucatan. At this writing, you can still climb almost all of the structures. Be sure to check out the tomb entrance slightly over halfway up the main pyramid. If you have the time, walk all the way around the main pyramid to get a feeling of just how big the structure is. The front and one side is more or less completely restored, but the rest is as the archaeologists found it. Currently, there is active restoration work going on. Lots of fun to watch if possible.

2. The cave of Balankanche about five kilometers from the ruins of Chichen Itza. In the late 1960's a guide from Chichen, who was a spelunker, was exploring a local cave when he found a hidden passageway that lead to a secret Mayan ceremonial site that had been know and used by the local people for hundreds of years. After much negotiation, the cave and ceremonial site opened as a national park. The cave is well lighted and easy walking. You are not allowed into the cave without a guide. Tours, in various, languages leave frequently from the visitor center.

1. Chichen Itza... one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Show up at the site early in the morning (gates open as early as 8:00 AM) so you can park in the shade... arrival before 9:30 usually will still get your car a good spot. Early arrival also means it will be less hot with fewer tourists. At about 11:00 AM, the big tour busses start arriving from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. On a busy day there will be over 100 of the big busses, dozens of big tour van and uncounted private cars. Most of them will arrive after 10:30 or so. Since you are no longer allowed to climb or enter any of the structures at Chichen, get there early before the crowds, take your photos and go to El Balam to climb something. Or linger at Chichen Itza if shopping is your thing. There are hundreds of vendors both in and outside the grounds.



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Valladolid... Renewed, Restored and Refurbished 
The makeover of Valladolid is just about completed.
A major effort by the local government has transformed Valladolid with
new streets, new parks, new lighting and new colors.

All of the old colonial buildings in the town center have been repainted with colonial colors and all of the tacky signs are gone. New, period street lighting has been installed along side the newly paved streets. In short, all of the center of Valladolid has been transformed. The government is completing similar restoration in Izamal. Parts of the historic districts of both Valladolid and Izamal will have the look and feel of the colonial city of Antigua in Guatemala... with a Yucatan twist.

One small drawback with the signs being taken down is that is difficult to find anything. Businesses have not only lost their signs, but have often had the color of their building changed as well. It sometime a bit of a challenge to find a particular shop or store, but at the same time it makes the search more interesting and more of an exploration. This will change as the new signage rules are worked out.

Ready for tourists and travelers alike.
Every afternoon the tour busses on their way back to Cancun and Playa, drop off Chichen Itza-tourists for an hour or two to shop, see some local sights and take a few photos and then get back on the bus thinking that they have experienced some local culture.

But the renovated downtown area is just perfect for a stroll around town especially for a traveler. Someone who is not afraid to meet local people, taste local food or walk a block or two away from the tourist center. There's a lot to encounter and experience in Valladolid.

There's a new high-end restaurant, Taverna de los Frailes, near the convento de Sisal...about a five block stroll through old Valladolid from Casa Hamaca.

Just up Calle 40, one of the main North-South streets in Valladolid, from Casa Hamaca is Casa de los Venados. Here John and Dorianne Venator have created a home for their collection of over 3,500 pieces of Mexican folk art. The renovated colonial house has recently won first prize in an national architectural contest and has also been featured on Yucatan Living.

A new movie theater has just opened one block away from Casa Hamaca. It's currently the only one in town. In fact, the only one for miles around.

In short, Valladolid is waking up from the sleepy town it was and is poised to become, once again, the Sultaness of the East. No longer is Valladolid just a place to pass through on your way to or from Chichen Itza, it is a destination in its own right.

And a wonderful, central location from which to see and experience all that the Yucatan has to offer. A great base to visit Maya ruins, historic colonial cities, dozens of magnificent colonial churches and hundreds of cenotes. Bird watching and other natural history locations such as bio-preserves are to be found in almost any direction from Valladolid. The Caribbean coast is just over one hour away to the east and the Gulf fishing villages just over one hour to the north. Both Cancun and Merida, with their international airports, are less than two hours from Valladolid.

Casa Hamaca Guesthouse remains, as reviewed by guests at Trip Advisor, the most interesting, authentic and friendly accommodations of any kind in the Valladolid/Chichen Itza area. However, we are not for "tourists", we are for travelers who wish to experience something out of the ordinary.

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Lunch on Isla Mujeres 
This was originally written as an email to a friend on Saturday, December 08, 2001 7:28 AM Subject: Lunch in Isla Mujeres Good morning from Isla Mujeres, Yesterday morning I went to church. I went to see the confirmation of the young son (Freddy) of a friend of mine. The church was standing room only...over 100 children (and some adults) were confirmed. Then, along with the boy's Godfather, I as invited to lunch at the parents home. The house was made of cardboard, nailed over wooden poles. I could see daylight through the roof and walls in many places. The furnishings were rejects from the Salvation Army shops. Nothing ever got thrown out, I think, because they had so little...so there was clutter everywhere. There was an old refrigerator and an old gas stove...but no sink or running water in the combination kitchen, living room and store room. Our meal was a simple soup (caldo de pollo) made from a chicken and two onions...I think that was all that was in the soup. A side dish of cold elbow macaroni, mayo, corn and tiny pieces of ham was served along with a small bowl of sliced and pickled Jalapeño chilies and tortillas to complete our meal. Coke or beer for beverage. A simple and humble meal and probably they best that they could afford for this festive meal. I have been in houses like this before, but never before as a guest. And the experience was a humbling one. The thing that really got to me was this. When the woman of the house brought out the small can of pickled chilies, the husband opened the can with a scissors. He used scissors similar to shop scissors to cut off the entire rim of the can, all the way around...and all I could think of was they did not own a can opener! Likewise, when the husband opened a beer, he used a spoon handle and his other hand as a fulcrum to pry off the cap. How can people not own a can opener or a bottle opener? Today, I'm going to give the wife my can opener. Caio, Denis

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