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Villahermosa, Mexico

S & S Tours

The Maya Route by Rail

January 26-February 4, 2004

Cities Visited in Mexico:  Villahermosa--Palenque--Campeche/Edzna--Merida--Chichen-Itza

8 or 11 days, 7 or 10 nights

This is a learning adventure tour that travels along the Maya Route by rail through the states of Yucatan, Campeche, Chiapas, and Tabasco.  Enjoy being pampered with four-course means on the new luxury Maya Express train, re-live ancient history at the classic period Mayan centers of Chichen-Itza and Uxmal, relax in the historical seaprot of Campeche, retreat to your own little bungalow surrounded by the Chiapas jungle at Palenque, and soak up the mysterious history of La Venta Park in Mexico's "Garden of Eden," Villahermosa.
--Sue Stilwell of S & S Tours

After experiencing this trip at this time of year, I encourage you to take this trip at this time of year when the weather in the United States is the coldest it will be all year, and the temperature on this trip will average 70 degrees, with little variation in the evenings!  The hotel lobbys and restaurants in the jungles of  Palenque have no walls, as is true for Hawaii, as you know, so this area is always warm or hot.  Beware of traveling here in the summer months...very hot at the Palenque Mayan ruins, but the jungle bungalows are air-conditioned for great sleeping, and the train is air-conditioned for great travel.  Rest assured, however, if you take an S & S Tour to any destination, Sue only schedules her trips in the best weather for the region.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Yucatan peninsula lived its own "gold fever" with the industry of the henequen (sisal) fiber ('binder twine' to an old farmboy like me).  Hundreds of kilometers of rails were built among the lush vegitation of the Mayan jungle to link the wealthy sisal haciendas with their plantations and with the prosperous cities of Merida and Campeche.

Without the draw of the Mayan ruins, however, this train could not make ends meet.  However, with both the draw of this luxury train and the sites that can be seen within a short walk or bus ride from the train, the owner is encouraged by its ridership.  Add to this economical equation the fact that the Mexican cities at both ends of this train's route are served by international airlines.  Finally, add in the fact that there is no passenger service on this route, and very little freight travel, it makes for a unique and pleasureable journey for the train traveler.

Day 1-Travel by air to Villahermosa and the Hotel Cencali.  For specifics on my air travel, see How I Got There above. On the flight to Mexico City, I filled out two cards for entering Mexico.  (1) Customs Declaration, and (2) Migratory form for Foreign Tourists.  It requires your passport number.   One portion of one which needs to kept with your passport and brought back through US Customs.  

This United flight had the best airplane food I've had in years with a choice of pasta or chicken for lunch.  

I read a copy of "Budget Travel" on the plane and noticed that a new feature of the magazine will be "Reader Report."  To introduce this future column, Editor Erik Torkells says, "One of the most fulfilling parts of travel is telling people about what you found," and inviting readers to report their great finds in hotels, restaurants, or quirky shops, or a photograph with 500 words.  You may want to send in a report, as I plan to do, to, or click "Get your story in BT magazine" at

The United flight to Mexico was uneventful, thankfully, with the movie, "Under the Tuscan Sun."  I had a 2-hour layover and the flight to Villahermosa was to leave at 7:30 pm, so it was dark when I entered the Mexicana A319-3.  I was struck by how much brighter this plane was than the same plane under United ownership.  It had white ceiling and sides and was well lighted.  Karen (stewardess) said it was a new plane.  Blue and green decor with white "Mexicana" head cloths.  

I had been the only guy in the entire Mexico City airport with a Hawaiian shirt. There were many suits and dark colors and plain colored shirts.  I surmised that the other fellow with Bermuda shorts and two straw hats was from the states as well.  (It turned out he was a great guy on our tour.).  All seat packet materials were in Spanish (of course), but I found a listing of hotels with pictures and was pleased to see a pool picture takes at dusk of the Cencali hotel where I would stay in Villahermosa.  The material at least had page numbers in English ;), as well as the hotel room numbers later on the trip.

I had an asile seat and NO ONE between me and the window...two free seats!  Twenty-five degrees C. in Villahermosa/74 degrees F. at 8:45 p.m.

Another credit point is given to United for having headset plugs so I could hear the movie and music.  Mexicana had no such plugs.

Mexicana Airlines had "meals" on the ticket, but it turned out to be no more than soft drinks (with ice if you requested it) and JAPANESE peanuts.  They tasted much the same as Jimmy Carter's version, but had smooth edible shells.  .7 oz. of peanuts isn't much of a supper!

After passing through Mexico City, I read that the airport was a 'Free Internet hotspot!'  (I tried it on the way back home, and could get no signal in the airport as advertised)  You can check for free hotspots (if you have a wireless card in your laptop) by going to or for International locations.

A van driver met me and two others on this tour, and took us to the hotel.  There we met Sue Stilwell, got our room assignments, and met for dinner in the hotel restaurant.

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