Chichen Itza Pyramid

Mexico Travel Journal Week 8: Mayan Ruins and Under-dressed Tourists


Mexico Travel MapThis week we went to Chichen Itza, and as expected, the ancient Mayan ruins lived up to the hype. One unexpected thing: the people watching was nearly as good as the monument watching.

We arrived to Chichen Itza shortly after it opened and spent two hours visiting the site before the tourists arrived en masse. Once we were satfisyed that we’d seen it all, we plopped down on a bench in the shade next to the main pyramid. This is where the real fun started – we noticed that many of the tourists were half naked. Case in point:

Naked tourist

In the Yucatan, we have seen girl tourists with half their ass hanging out of their shorts and dudes walking around shirtless. Forget the old saying of “suns out, guns out.” Here it is “suns out, buns out.” The Yucatan has some of the most conservatively dressed locals we’ve encountered in Mexico. I have always thought that tourists ought to dress more or less like the locals to avoid offending people. I am not sure if these tourists are unaware, or just don’t care.

Let’s take this time to rank the stereotypical travelers from around the world that we’ve seen in Mexico, from best dressed to worst, by nationality. This will only hurt a little for some of you.

Hierarchy of Tourist Fashion

  1. Asians – The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Malaysians, etc, usually wear pretty much what they’d wear at home, which means they are quite stylish and dress conservatively. Women often wear dresses, even when touring national parks, and carry umbrellas or wear giant sun hats to keep their skin shielded from the sun – they can’t have a suntan!
  2. Northern Europeans – Next, the French, Dutch, Germans, and Scandinavians are almost always dapper and dress respectfully. I usually envy their clothes.
  3. Mexican Tourists – In general, Mexicans dress pretty nice, with men wearing collared shirts and women wearing indigenous clothes or the latest styles. You do see some tank tops and shorts, but for the most part, they get high grades.
  4. The Americans – This is where things go downhill. Americans are all over the spectrum, with some people wearing nice, tasteful clothes, and some guys wearing LeBron jerseys and cut off shorts and some girls wearing pajamas or leggings for pants. By the way, when did tight black leggings become pants? Maybe I am old-fashioned.
  5. The Australians – Okay, so you knew this was coming. Aussie guys are the first to pop off their shirt when the sun is out. Several Aussie ladies at Chichen Itza took off their tops to reveal a bikini underneath. Something tells me that back home, businesspeople wear tear-away suits over their swimming costume just in case they need to spontaneously jump in the ocean to go surfing. You’ve gotta love the Aussies.
  6. Russians – Maybe the sanctions placed on the country after the Crimean invasion have made it impossible for women to buy a complete pair of shorts. Many of them wear shorts that only cover half their ass. It must be humiliating for them. Case in point:
Naked Mexican Tourist

That seems like an appropriate thing to wear in a conservative part of Mexico.

Now that I’ve lost my Russian readership, lets take a look back at our week in the Yucatan with a photo of the day.

Day 49, Campeche

Campeche Volkswagon

Campeche is a beautiful colonial city, but also very strange. The city center is surrounded by a wall which was built 200 years ago to keep out the pirates. Today, the wall seems to divide the pristine, colonial center from the more raucous, modern Mexican part. The wall seems to work to keep tourists in and the locals out.

I selected the above photo as the photo of the day because I am now obsessed with taking pics of VW bugs, which are as common as tequila here. I have enough for a coffee table book. On a related note, does anyone know how this Kickstarter thingy works?

Day 50, Uxmal

UxmalUxmal, a stunning Mayan ruin about halfway between Campeche and Merida, is nearly as impressive as Chichen Itza, but without the crowds. On the drive to Uxmal, we passed random pyramids and Mayan sites on the side of the road. This area is so full of ancient sites that some are mere afterthoughts.

Day 51, Merida

Merida Mural

Merida was in may ways the opposite of Campeche. Whereas Campeche felt a bit like a museum, Merida was well worn and lived in. The largest city in the Yucatan, it was busy, a bit gritty, and much more lively. Having said that, it still had some huge churches and grand colonial buildings, like the Government Palace in the above photo.

Day 52, Merida

Merida Palacio Municipal

The Palacio Municipal from the central park.

Day 53, Merida

Merida Guayabera

A lot of men in the Yucatan wear guayaberas – shirts with four pockets on the front that button down and are worn untucked. Full disclose: I used to own a guayabera but gave it away because I was a bit too chubby (and a bit too gringo) to wear it.

Day 54, Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Pyramid

Pronounced “Chicken Pizza,” it lives up to the hype as one of the wonders of the world.

Day 55, Valladolid


Halfway between Merida and Cancun, Valladolid is a pretty colonial city. We are staying about a mile from the center in a very local neighborhood which is friendly and cheap. The city center fills up with tour buses each evening as day-trippers from Cancun to Chichen Itza stop for 20 minutes and rush around the center so they can say they’ve been to a real Mexican town.


So, that concludes our 8th week in Mexico. Although I’ve made fun of people on this blog who only go to Mexico for the beaches, I am really looking forward to getting over to the Caribbean and relaxing before we head back to the cold and gloom of the USA.

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

50 thoughts on “Mexico Travel Journal Week 8: Mayan Ruins and Under-dressed Tourists”

  1. Adventures in Kevin's World says:

    Damnit, you are making me want to explore more of Mexico with these posts!

    I think the Russian girl whose ass you photographed not only doesn’t care whether her clothes are appropriate, but she also obviously has no idea how unflattering the shorts are! She has a great butt, but those shorts? Ugh.

    Shirtless with a backpack? Never a good look.

    Now that I’ve gotten a bit of snarkiness out… I’m glad you had a great trip. I’m pleased to say that in 48 hours I will be on a plane to Taipei, for 23 days in Taiwan and the Philippines!

    • I am jealous about you going to the Philippines, so the feeling is mutual. That should be a great trip.
      Is it a work or pleasure trip, or both.

      Mexico is pretty great. It has exceeded my expectations by far. You’d love it here.

      • Adventures in Kevin's World says:

        The trip is 2 days of work followed by vacation (YAY for having vacation flights paid by work!). I will only be in the Philippines for 6 days, but that’s better than nothing. I will be snorkeling, hiking to waterfalls, and hopefully loving life.

      • The Philippines is very high on my list of places to visit. Where are you going there? Yes, getting work to pa for the flight covers a huge part of the expense. Will you blog about it? We have missed your posts.

      • Adventures in Kevin's World says:

        I thought you had already been to the Philippines. But I’m old and forgetful.

        Will spend a night in Manila on arrival, then go to Puerto Galera, on Mindoro island. The focus there is diving. I plan to start my blog up again, now that I have something fun to post.

  2. You ought to be coming out with a post titled….What the well-dressed tourist is wearing on which continent!
    Great post on a faraway land.

  3. Man…I didn’t realize how much I miss travel in Mexico. But you may be wrong about the Russians. They have been coming to the Middle East in droves for years now. I mean no disrespect, nor do I intend anything pejorative, and I have a couple of good friends who are from Moscow, but here, where even Australians toe a thin line in the sand and wear decent clothes, the Russians never have. Nothing to do with no embargo nor a shortage of cotton and spandex. Perhaps, anyone who believes fish eggs are a delicacy (and can talk others into paying a fortune for them)…may harbor a different concept of decorum is what I’m thinking.

    • I saw Russian girls half naked in Dubai and Egypt. It is pretty wild. I have a photo of two mostly naked girls in Dubai buying a ferry ticket from a local women covered head to toe in black 🙂 Classic.

      • They actually have laws against that in Dubai…but maybe not enforced because they like tourists coming. But people sometimes get flogged and booted out for balling on the beach. But they deserve that. Did you post that photo…I’d like to see it!

  4. I wonder why there are so many Bugs in Mexico? The pyramids look amazing. Can you go inside any of them? Love that the buildings are so brightly painted. I’ll bet no one gets lost when looking for the Palacio Municipal with it’s bright pink facade. I think it is sad when people/tourists think it is ok to go out half dressed. That beach wear is appropriate for visiting places other than the beach. We saw it in Rome. The dress code is posted in obvious places and we still saw more of some tourists than was necessary.

    • Bugs were made in Mexico until recently and were a cheap, fuel efficient car. On every block, we see two or three. Sometimes two are parked next to each other. It is hard to get lost in any city center since every town has a main square with big churches and bright buildings. It is great for direction challenged people like my wife! I remember seeing that in Rome too. People entering churches and violating the dress code. I guess they just don’t think about it.

  5. “By the way, when did tight black leggings become pants? Maybe I am old-fashioned.” — been wondering this as the temp drops and more and more college kids of both sexes started trading jeans for leggings. (Guys do the shorts over leggings thing and try really hard not to cackle because they look like men in tights.) Glad to know this phenomenon is not localized to my corner of the US and that other denizens of the world are shaking their heads at it too. Great post, I enjoyed your wit, your pictures and your storytelling. Looking forward to more!

  6. I’m Malaysian and am definitely the exception to no. 1! I don’t carry an umbrella (unless it’s raining) or wear a hat when the sun is hot. I don’t really care about sun tan however I use sun block to avoid the burn. It’s true about no. 2, I do envy what they wear. Don’t worry, you haven’t lost me, I’m still your follower because your blog is awesome! 😉

    • I think it is more the Japanese and Chinese that take the umbrellas, and I think they are on to something! The sun is intense here. We have met a couple Malaysians on this trip and they were dressed very well 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. Jeff I think you may need to start a fashion blog! What do you think?
    Dave painstakingly photo shopped the people out of an image of our son standing in front of Chitzen Itza. Who says you have to get up early. 🙂

    • Photoshopping people out of the image may have been easier. It was a bit hard to wake up early!

      Maybe I will start a new fashion blog. I have been thinking about hiring a seamstress to make me some travel pants with hidden, zip-able pockets inside for money. Jeffwear (TM), or Travel Wear by Jeff (TM).

  8. I don’t like when people wear leggins outside a gym or the living room.. just saying. I mean, people don’t wear slippers when shopping downtown, right? (strange comparison, I know)
    As far as the Russian ladies go, during my time in Russia (spring/summer) I have never encountered such poor dressing skills. Women would wear cute dresses and high heels (dangerously high!), but showing half an ass? Nah!
    Certain people act differently in other countries. I see the same with Turkish women. In Germany they insist on wearing headscarves out of religious beliefs, yet when I was in Istanbul a few days ago I hardly saw any with covered up hair. Strange, if you ask me…

  9. Pingback: Mexico Travel Journal Week 8: Mayan Ruins and Under-dressed Tourists | mapsworldwide blog

  10. The comments are as much fun as the post! Thanks everyone. Great post Jeff. I agree about the clothing range. Although I’m originally an Aussie, I left long ago for more ‘sophisticated’ (lol) Canada and changed my ways. I lie. I never was comfortable being half naked. Full naked in a private pool is grand, but half naked in public – that’s another thing. Perhaps I too am just old fashioned. I’ve been both astonished and appalled by the half-nakedness of tourists in more conservative countries. I think they are just completely unaware. It’s hot, why would I cover myself up? Eh. People do what they do. Another intriguing travel post that has me thinking (again) that the Yucatan is worth exploring. I love Mexico, and very much look forward to going back in January, if only for the weather.

    • The Yucatan has some great ruins and the denotes are truly incredible, and then there are the beaches too. We have enjoyed it. I probably liked the colonial cities around Mexico a little better, but that is splitting hairs – it is all great.

      I am glad to see that there is some agreement in my fashion sense!

  11. Great post and you always keep me laughing! Kickstarter is easy to do in theory but you need a kick ass video that people can relate to and watch. That is the main selling factor – if you really want more info on it (rather than it being a sarcastic comment which I was not sure if it was or not) I can email you!

  12. Jeff, this reminds me of some tourists I saw at a Buddhist temple in Laos. It was the hottest month of the year, but I do believe being respectful of local customs is not that hard to do. Some women opted to wear the shortest pants they had, though.

  13. Ed Junaidi says:

    70% of my 2 hours in Chichen Itza were in a heavy tropical thunders! Hahaha! My photos aren’t great like yours!!! Hate it!

  14. Phew!, glad you didn’t mention the British style of clothing which often encompases all the traits you talked about. Funnily enough, have tried two places in Mexico and didn’t like either – your blog has placed a different view, thanks.

    • Where did you go in Mexico? We have loved every place we’ve been.

      I have a crush of all British people, so maybe I am blind to any bad habits. Brits have a great dry sense of humor and are fun to be around, and if our govt. says “Hey, lets go invade Iraq!” you always come with us!

      • Hi Jeff

        A couple of years ago we had a day at Cozumel on a cruise and earlier this year we had another day at Cabo San Lucas. Preferred Cabo San Lucas but both were blighted by street vendors. Perhaps the interior is better?

      • The interior is better. We visited La Paz near Cabo. It isn’t a cruise town and it was great. I’ll be writing about it soon, but it is an ideal Mexican holiday location. Great beaches, very safe, no hassles and few gringos.

  15. Dear Jeff, You are so right on! (Hierarchy of Tourist Fashion) I’ve often wondered the same thing, “when did leggings become pants?” I feel like they forgot to put their skirt or dress on! Ha-ha! Anyway, when I get the chance I love reading your blog! Love your photo of the day, love the old VW’s myself! Great pictures!

  16. Hilarious, Jeff! I am so not surprised that Aussies and Russians are at the bottom of your tourist fashion ranking. There was one blog that mentioned Russians stripping off completely (on the beach at least) in conservative Lombok. And I’ll never forget the first time I landed in Bali. Aussies made up at least 80% of the crowd at immigration, and so many of them were already dressed in singlets and flip-flops.

    Good to know I’m not the only one who thought of “Chicken Pizza” the first time I heard of that spectacular Mayan site. I was totally jealous when my dad and his side of the family went there via a Caribbean cruise. Are you also heading to Tulum? The photos of those ancient ruins sitting right above the beach just blow my mind.

    • We are in Tulum now, but we haven’t made it to the ruins yet. This is our last stop and we are lazy.

      The Aussies and Russians in Bali and Goa are the best. It seemed like every model from Russia was in Goa and yeah, Bali is an Australian colony. But the Aussies are really fun people too.

  17. Great post, Jeff! I figured the woman in the shorts took her fashion cues from her job at Hooters. 🙂 Wonderful shots of the pyramids – we’re hoping to head there next month. I was wondering if you’re heading to Tulum? ~Terri

    • We are in Tulum right now (but haven’t made it to the ruins yet). Those do look like Hooters shorts 🙂

      We stayed at the Hotel Chichen Itza, about 2 miles from the ruins, and it had a pool and great restaurant. Valladolid is nice city about 40 miles away that is a good base too.

  18. Pingback: Mexico Travel Journal Week 8: Mayan Ruins and Under-dressed Tourists | sayedabdulghaffarbukhari

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  20. Pingback: My Favorite Places in Mexico – An Awards Show | Planet Bell

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