There’s No Internet in the El Panchan Jungle, But There Are 12 Hour Techno Parties

by Ekua on August 31, 2011 in etcetera,Mexico

When you go to Palenque, many people recommend that you find a bed in a place called El Panchan. It’s a little village tucked away in a reforested patch of jungle somewhere between the modern Palenque town and the ruins of Palenque.

I arrive in Palenque town early in the morning and find a cab driver to take me there. As he turns onto a dusty road and we enter tropical forest, I can see its appeal. When you stay in El Panchan, your stop in Palenque is as much about the jungle as it is about the ruins that are the area’s main attraction.

It’s a little after 7am when I knock on the door of the reception office at Ed and Margarita’s Cabañas in El Panchan. A sign on the door says it should be open by now, but it’s locked and empty. A little girl sees me looking around and goes to find a receptionist. A few minutes later, a man in a colorful and neatly pressed polo shirt and pair of plaid shorts appears.

His clothing colors are of the jungle, but his style and demeanor are not. But he seems comfortable there, like he might be living some sort of jungle-preppy-chic lifestyle.

“Is there internet here?” I ask him as we make my room arrangements. The words feel ridiculous as I say them. I remember that Ed and Margarita’s Cabañas has no website, no booking agency, not even a working email address. It’s just show up and hope for the best. It is the jungle, after all. I know it’s a dumb question, but I am unable to stop myself from asking it.

He looks at me incredulously. “This is the jungle! There’s no internet here!”

I refrain from asking anymore questions about connecting to outside world and he shows me my room. It’s basic and lovely. It’s not air-conditioned, but it has windowless windows covered with mosquito netting (though surprisingly, I never saw a mosquito there) that will let the air flow through and allow me to listen to the soundtrack of the jungle—the bugs, the howler monkeys I’ve already heard croaking, and the birds in the morning—or so I think.

I settle in and rest and then head out to Palenque town. I walk back up the dirt road to the main road. Just as I get there, a colectivo comes barreling down the road.

“Palenque?!” a man shouts at me from the large white van.

“Si!” I hop in. I like the atmosphere in the van. There’s a charming camaraderie between the people who fill it; a lot of joking and laughing. There are all these people who likely see each other in a colectivo daily, and then there is me. A random stranger. But aside from the heat, I feel very at ease on my brief ride, as if I’ve been in town for a few months rather than just a few hours.

In Palenque town, I accomplish my main goal of finding a pair of sunglasses to replace the ones I lost just a few days into my trip. And then I can’t resist stopping by the internet cafe for one last bit of connectivity and to let people know I’ve arrived. When I’m done, I feel that  just one measly hour of interweb time in a 48 hour span means I still have some ability to disconnect.

Beyond the chance to stay in the jungle, part of the reason why people recommend El Panchan is because Palenque town has an reputation for being lackluster. But as I have a coffee and watch life go by in Palenque town, I actually kinda like it there. It’s calm and it has a realness about it that could’ve easily been lost because of the tourism scene. To me, it has a subtle pull, even if its not dressed up in the colonial architecture that many of the best loved cities in Mexico tend to have.

Later, I wander around town and think about sticking around for dinner, but I want to get back to the jungle before it gets dark. Back at El Panchan, I notice that the hippies have arisen from their slumber. There had hardly been anyone around in the late morning when I’d left. Now I see several gringos who all seem to be donning the cheesecloth shirt with potato sack pants uniform. Some look like they must have come months ago and just fell in love with the jungle, man.

I stop at Don Mucho’s for dinner. It’s the only restaurant in El Panchan. The menu is uninspired and lends itself to mediocrity with its gringo-oriented fare. I settle on Tex-Mex—a plate of decent-enough fajitas.

As I leave the restaurant, they are playing an expected soundtrack of Manu Chao and Bob Marley and such. I don’t mind it as I go back to my windowpane-less cabaña and sing along to some of the songs as I hand wash some clothes. It’ll stop eventually, right?

No, it just gets worse. I still don’t mind it when they play “Natural Mystic” the second time or even the third time. But when the drum circle begins, I start to worry. And then comes the techno.

I’ve booked a Palenque and waterfall day tour that starts at 8am the following morning. I want a good night’s rest. But with a hut as the only barrier between me and relatively close loudspeakers pumping techno, I am screwed. Earplugs are futile at this decibel. Earplugs are useless when your whole bed is shaking.

So I toss and turn all night, thinking that the music will have to stop at some point. But it doesn’t, not until 12 hours after it starts—at 7am.

It’s not my lack of sleep that gets to me the most, what really bothers me is the lack of respect for the setting. The rainforest has its own set of intriguing sounds. But these people who were likely drawn to the jungle for its natural bounty have decided they have something better for the jungle than the jungle.

And as I travel on through Chiapas, I realize that this occurrence is just a microcosm of a larger situation. Over and over again, I would see a certain kind of foreigner imposing their own aesthetic on the already culturally and naturally rich place that Chiapas is.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi September 1, 2011 at 1:55 am

This post definitely gives a perspective I haven’t heard before…and something to think about. Keep it up, girl!! 🙂

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Ekua September 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Thanks, Naomi… I might do a follow up post and go further into the topic of the hippie scene in Chiapas!

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Candice September 1, 2011 at 11:53 am

People still listen to techno?! Aye. I feel your pain.

But still, that place sounds lovely.

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Ekua September 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Techno has a lot of offshoots, and they are alive and well. There’s this whole techno-hippie travel culture in places like Latin America and S.E. Asia. I don’t mind some electronic music, but there’s a time and place for everything 😉

It was beautiful, but there are places just as lovely without such a scene… I would actually stay in Palenque town if I were to go back to that area again and then take the time to go out of the way and explore a more remote jungle.

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Herbster September 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm

have been out of good internet for the summer and am catching up on your travels. as usual all very good, photos and post.

normally Mexico does not appeal but you are changing me.

thanks.

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Ekua September 5, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Thanks, Herb. Mexico is one of my absolute favorites (even with the kind of intrusive tourists that I discussed in this post) and I’m a tough crowd 😉 You should definitely give it a chance!

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Sunee September 21, 2011 at 5:13 am

Ouch, I feel your pain. There are few things I hate more than people being noisy when I’m trying to sleep. It makes it ten times worse that their noise intrudes upon the natural sounds of the jungle, the whole reason for being there!

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Ekua September 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Yeah, I’m a light sleeper (but I’m getting a little better about that, I think) so I always bring earplugs when I travel. This music however was literally shaking the jungle. To me, it seemed kinda pointless to be there if you’re just going to override a good chunk of what makes it appealing!

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Sunanda November 14, 2012 at 12:52 pm

This is an interesting viewpoint on this place. I am planning a trip there and was on the lookout for something in the jungle, but I will be terribly pissed if all I got was techno music next door. Any other recommendations to stay at Palenque? I would really love being in the jungle, but at a place where I can enjoy its peace and hopefully have some reservations. Greatly appreciate your help.

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Ekua November 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm

I don’t think there’s a party in El Panchan every night, but I can’t verify that! El Panchan is basically cabins or camping so if there’s a party, you’ll definitely hear it. Maybe you can look into staying in the town of Palenque. I heard bad things about it before I arrived, but I actually liked it. It’s not as picturesque as the colonial Mexican towns, but I thought the people who lived there gave it a lot of vibrancy and warmth. Depending on your budget you can also look into hotels along the road between Palenque town and the Palenque ruins. I saw a few hotels tucked into the jungle here and there, but they seemed to be on the pricier end and I was on a budget!

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Alex December 22, 2014 at 1:32 pm

I’m currently looking for a place to stay in the Palenque area and was considering checking out El Panchan. But now that I’ve read about your experience it sounds like something I’d hate. Also I love the way you describe the collectivo ride.

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