First of all, a word about the trees. The grounds have many fine, large trees for your viewing pleasure. The parking area is lined with flame trees (Delonix regia) that would knock your socks off if you visited during their bloom time. They were taking a rest while I was there so I have no pics of them ablaze with red flowers. It would be a sight worth seeing when it’s going on.
The tree in the first pic is a kapok, called “ceiba” in Spanish (Ceiba pentandra). The kapok can grow to enormous size and its canopy is enormous. The one in the pic is at the entrance to the hotel’s parking lot. The trunk arrested my attention when I drove past it and after getting settled in my room I went out for a howdy-do. I’d never seen a tree like it before and had no idea what it was. The trunk reminded me of the shape and texture of a baobab (Adansonia digitata) but I knew it wasn’t a baobab. When I found out the name and did some research I discovered there was good reason the baobab had come to mind — the kapok used to be classified in the baobab family, Bombacaceae. Phylogenetics has subsequently established it in the mallow family, Malvaceae — an astonishing turn of events, to my mind, but genetics is genetics and I’ll take the botanists’ word for it (webpage here):
Recent phylogenetic research has shown that Bombacaceae as traditionally circumscribed (including tribe Durioneae) is not a monophyletic group. Bombacaceae is no longer recognized by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group I 1998, II 2003 and Kubitzki system 2003 at the rank of family, the bulk of the taxa in question being treated as subfamilies Bombacoideae and Helicteroideae within family Malvaceae sensu lato. A close relationship between Bombacaceae and Malvaceae has long been recognized but until recently the families have been kept separate in most classification systems, and continue to be separated in many references, including the reference work in classification of flowering plants: Heywood et al. 2007  and Takhtajan 2009, but have been lumped together in Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.
Well, no matter what confusion exists in our minds about the kapok, it is squarely itself and a lovely presence wherever it happens to grow. I had never seen branching of the sort the kapok finds amusing — some of the branches are thick enough to be trunks in their own right, as this pic shows:
Kapoks can grow to over 200 feet in height and the resulting canopy is HUGE. No wonder the kapok was sacred to the Mayas, for whom it represented the World Tree, just as Yggdrasil in Norse mythology connected the nine worlds. In Mayan mythology the kapok served exactly the same function, as this text from MexiGo Tours explains (webpage here):
Desde el período preclásico, los Mayas concibieron al Cosmos como una estructura dividida en tres niveles sobrepuestos: El Mundo Superior compuesto de 13 cielos. El Nivel Medio, representado por Witz, la Montaña Sagrada, o el nivel mundano en donde vivimos, que es la fuente de sustento de la vida y en donde el maíz sagrado fue cultivado como alimento. Y, el Nivel Inferior, generalmente relacionado con el mundo acuático, con sus 9 niveles del Inframundo. Este es a dónde van los muertos cuando se terminan sus vidas.
La Ceiba era un árbol sagrado para los Mayas. La altura de este árbol hizo creer a los Mayas que sus ramas soportaban a los cielos, mientras que sus profundas raíces eran los medios de comunicación entre el mundo de los vivos y el Inframundo.
[From the Preclassic Period the Mayans conceived of the Cosmos as a series of three superimposed levels: The Upper World composed of 13 heavens, the Middle World composed of the Sacred Mountain, i.e. the level in which we live, where life is sustained by the cultivation of the sacred corn plant, and finally, the Underworld, usually associated with an aquatic environment, which has 9 levels, which is where people go when they die.
The kapok tree was sacred to the Mayans. The height of the tree led them to believe that its branches supported the heavens, while its deep roots enable communication between the regions of the living and the Underworld.]
As a tourist you’re under the same constraints that apply to family gatherings when the house is divided: no talk about either politics or religion. So I limited my conversations with the kapoks I met to compliments about their personal appearance. We got on quite well and I made several new friends. The kapok at the hotel became a buddy, in fact, and I think of it fondly when I remember my time there.
Pic number 5 is a poor image of something I found magical: fog in the mornings. Fog was the last thing I expected in the tropics, but in the rainy season the humidity builds in the atmosphere during the cooler temperatures of the night to form fog as thick as any you could hope to find in London. It usually burns off by 9 AM, but when I was out and about in the early morning it was like being lost in Fairy Land. The dew on the grass sits in huge droplets that will soak your shoes in a heartbeat (and yes, that’s the voice of experience talking). There are plenty of handsome wildflowers around the periphery of the hotel, one example of which you see in Pic Number 7. The last pic is the view from the balcony of my room. Can’t ask for a better panorama than that.
There are resort facilities like the Mayan mud bath available (check out the hotel website for details), but I was perfectly content just wandering around and taking in the sights. The restaurant on the ground level is quite good, so you have everything you need right there. Other restaurants offering Yucatecan cuisine are nearby, as well, so you have lots of options for filling your tummy.
If you plan a trip to Uxmal the Uxmal Resort Maya makes the perfect home-away-from-home during your stay. The staff are wonderful and the people at Reception speak good English if your Spanish isn’t up to the job. I thoroughly enjoyed both my stays there and would recommend it to anyone planning a stay in the area.
Most people go to Uxmal for the archeological site and I was no exception. In Part 2 of this post I’ll go into full detail about the site and what I found there. Stay tuned …