I had 9 nights to spend in Mexico before Maureen would arrive to join me for another 8 and I wanted to save money. Experience has taught me that the closer that you are to the coast and to the beaches and the diving the more that you will spend. So I decided to take only a small carry on backpack and my laptop and a few items that would be most important and head for Chiapas. Chiapas is Mexico's southern most state and by some accounts its' poorest. It is very different from the flat coastal jungle of the Yucatan. Chiapas has mountains and it has jungle and it has numerous areas to offer adventure.
Mexico has bus transportation that is better than anything we knew when busses were at their peak in the United States. It is dependable and affordable. I flew into Cancun and took an ADO Bus to Palenque that same evening. No need to wonder where to stay for night number one. Cancun to Palenque is 13 hours. I arrived in the town of Santo Domingo de Palenque (usually referred to as just Palenque) early in the morning, took a look around then got a ride on a collectivo to El Panchan Panchan is a collection of budget accommodations in the jungle just outside the entrance to Palenque ruins. I took a place from Margarita of Margarita and Ed's.  I would rank these cabanas as about the best choice available. I paid less than $20USD per night and had a clean place with a bed, a toilet and a hot shower. I stayed 4 nights while I did some typical tourist things. First I walked both ways to the Palenque Ruins. The next day I was off on a tour to Bonampak and Yaxchilan. To get to the latter we took a boat up the Usumacinta River to a spot in the jungle where the river makes an omega sign and almost  creates an island. Almost...but the land where Yaxchilan Ruins are found is still connected to Mexico. Across the river is Guatemala. The next day I went to the waterfalls at Misol Ha and Agua Azul. The latter is pretty commercialized.  The waterfall  that is pictured below is not part of Agua Azul. It is along one of the foot paths on the way up to Palenque Ruins.
Panchan was great. I shall return and have no reservations about bringing Maureen to the same place that I stayed. The howler monkeys sound like a jet engine warming up and in the middle of it all is Don Muchos, an eatery with great meals, excellent pizza and cold beer. And Don Muchos has live entertainment every night. People from the town of Palenque come to Don Muchos in the jungle.
I should mention that in the 5 days that I was in Chiapas I saw only two other people from the United States. One did not speak any Spanish and I can not imagine what skills are needed to operate where there are very few English speaking natives. Dollars can be changed at the bank but will not be welcomed  everywhere. This was a bit refreshing. People from the US think the dollar is like a god that is worshiped around the planet and a reminder that we are not in "Kansas" can be good for us.The people were nice and I always enjoy being treated a bit less like a tourist. When I am near the coast I am pestered by "hey mister whiskers" usually pronounced more like "meeester weeeskers". I have grown to loath that phrase perhaps because I appreciate the way that I am treated in places like Merida and now Chiapas. I like being  treated the same as the natives and other foreign tourists and tend to avoid any resemblance to the English only gringos that have become commonplace. The reader shouldn't think that my  Spanish is fluent. It is not! My Spanish is on the high end of "get by" and the less English there is being used the harder I try and the better I do in Spanish. I am to the point where I can travel in the Latin Speaking World without hesitation.  My Maya ( Yucatec Maya ) was of little use in Chiapas as there they speak a dialect that they refer to as Lacandonia or Lacandon Maya. Some words; water and sun , for example, are the same but most others are different. The other good news about Mexico once you put some distance between yourself and the major tourist areas is the cost of things. The same beer that costs 17 pesos in a place in Chiapas , for example, will be 30 - 35 pesos or more in Playa del Carmen, Cancun or Cozumel unless you walk a few blocks away from the water and order in Spanish. Y entonces.......... quizas!
john noftall

palenque_cascada panchan_sign usumacinta_boats

We returned to Chiapas in 2013. This time Maureen and I  basically repeated most of the same things that I had done during my 2009 visit. Once again it became apparent that having, at least, a minimal command of Spanish is necessary. You don't need to be fluent but  more than just "se habla poquito" is needed. Once again we met no other tourists from the United States.

Maureen in Chiapas
Mo of the Jungle
Top of the Stairs
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