There’s not a lot of countries that allow unfettered travel for Americans at this time of writing, but our dear neighbor down south, Mexico, has kept their puertos open for leisure travel as hassle free as possible throughout this entire pandemic. As a responsible traveler, I figured I had better chances staying COVID-free in a Mexican jungle than grocery shopping and restaurant hopping in Houston. It seemed like the perfect time to see the ancient ruins of Palenque, La Venta, and Bonampak. I wondered if I might just these places all to myself. I arrived to find that the government had shut down all museums and archeological sites until the end of September. All my ruin visiting plans were.. errr… ruined.
Tabasco and Chiapas are two very interesting Mexican states that don’t really get the hype of the on-the-grid tourist fare. This is the part of Mexico where chocolate originated and many coffee drinkers claim grows the best java. There’s the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Pacific on the other, plus rivers, jungles, lakes and fruits you’ve never heard of. My archaeology trip suddenly became a foodie trip. I decided to scour these two states for anything I could find outside of a normal eating experience. ……
I flew into Villahermosa from Cancun with a circular itinerary that would take me through the highlights of Chiapas with a few stops in Tabasco. Villahermosa is the best place to see a few of the original Olmec heads from the dozen or so that were found 90 minutes west of the city. It’s also one of the few cities where one can sample pejelegarto, or dinosaur fish. This odd reptilian looking fish is served with the head and tail so you may feel as if your meal came from an archaeological museum. It had a peculiar texture, but it made for an epic Instagram photo and an interesting lunch. It’s a meaty fish from the far family with a lot of bones. We washed it down with a michelada, a concoction made with beer, lime juice and Clamato.
Our next stop was Palenque, about a 2 hour drive from Villahermosa. This town is the home of some of the best ruins in Mexico and is full of interesting restaurants. Prehispanic food, as the name implies, is the native food that was consumed before the Spaniards arrived. This can be weird and challenging or simply delicious. The yucca was the best I’ve ever tasted. I had hoped I might have a positive experience with some of the more