cancun’ing it up!

I feel kind of silly posting this almost three weeks after my trip, but what the hell…better late than never!

As I mentioned approximately half a million times, I recently took a trip to Mexico. It was my first time being out of the country since I was a kid and went with my family to the Bahamas, and I was so young then that it basically doesn’t count. I had to get my own passport and everything. As with most forms of photo identification, the picture is so bad that I can’t even bear to show it to you.

At any rate. The flights to get there were not too bad. As per usual, I parked myself in a window seat and slept for most of the time. On the way down there, we stopped over in Dallas which is not my favorite airport, but not the worst either I guess. The downside was that we had only 40 minutes between the first flight landing and the second flight departing, and we barely made the second plane. I think we were the last people to board.

Once I got on the plane, though, I slept until we were crossing the Gulf of Mexico, which unsurprisingly, was not very interesting until we came in sight of land. Then I got some pretty cool pics from the plane:

Once we landed in Cancún, it was immediately apparent that a) we were completely and obviously naive tourists and there to be taken advantage of by the multitudes of guys just waiting to pounce as we exited customs and b) my traveling outfit was waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy too hot. And I brought too much carryon stuff – I felt loaded like a pack mule.

As we exited customs, there were a number of people trying to sell timeshares. For just an afternoon of listening to a pitch, we were promised a number of discounts, freebies, and many other things I forget about now. Unfortunately, we initially mistook these helpful employees for the employees of our shuttle bus company, and had to listen to a fifteen minute spiel about where we should go and what we should do that eventually led around to the whole spending-an-afternoon-listening-to-a-sales-pitch part.

Eventually I lost patience and asked if I could just leave to go outside and use my vaporizer for the first time in what seemed like forever. I did, however, get to practice my Spanish a little bit which was cool. First tip if you’re going to Cancún for the first time: Politely ignore everyone until you get out of the airport. You can use these most valuable words: No gracias.

Once outside the airport, we found the real employees of our shuttle van and we were on the way to the hotel pretty fast.

If you haven’t seen a map of Cancún before (and I hadn’t), the zona hotelera surrounds a lagoon with downtown Cancún in the northwest corner and the hotels along the east and south edges.

We were fortunate enough to stay in the beautiful Beachscape Kin Ha Villas and Suites hotel which is located on the north end of the lagoon, facing the ocean, just to the west of that curve in the northeastern corner.

It. Was. Beautiful.

Upon arriving, we checked in (where I got to practice yet more of my Spanish) and a bellboy took all our bags to our room for us.

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Our room had a beautiful covered porch/patio thing of which for some reason I did not take any pictures. Suffice to say it overlooked the pool and had two comfy chairs and an ottoman, and was gently shaded by some palm trees.

Now, the beds were not the most comfortable I’d ever slept in, and the pillows were kind of small and lumpy, but it didn’t matter, I slept great.

One thing  I will say is that the bathroom had a tiny area for the toilet and a very big walk-in shower. But it stunk. Like, some days it smelled like straight up sewage.

First thing we did after tipping the bellboy (second tip: carry lots of extra change (coins) for tips. Tip everyone to be safe, but you don’t have to tip a fortune. I spent way too much money the first couple of days tipping $20 or $50 pesos – that’s way more than you need to tip. There’s a great site on managing money and tipping here) was to go explore the beach and grounds, followed by some fabulous drinks in the restaurant right on the beach.

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After drinks, we wandered east down the spit until we found a restaurant called Mocambo, which was right on the beach and had great service, food, and pretty reasonable prices. I know you will be disappointed to find that my first meal in Mexico was a big, hearty…steak. New York steak, to be precise. Anyways.

On the way back from Mocambo, we found something that just made my evening.

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The next morning we slept in, then made our way down to the Starbucks (naturally) where I got a Cancún mug, my coffee, and a kick out of the receipt which made everything look SO EXPENSIVE! Incidentally, the exchange rate while we were there (or at least, the one we got most often) was around $13 pesos per $1 USD.

After that we wandered around shopping for a while, then headed back to the beach. I had NACHOS this time for dinner. We ate at the restaurant on the beach, where I made friends with the bartender (Marco) and practiced yet more of my Spanish. I learned from Marco that the name of our hotel (Kin Ha) meant sun and sea in Mayan.

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I also got some awesome pictures of the sunset.

Also: I got a hat. Do I look like the perfect tourist or what???

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Afterwards we hit up Señor Frogs, and my new favorite Mexican Bar, Monkey Business. We did in fact sing karaoke there. Not great karaoke, but we did sing.

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Señor Frogs

 

The next day was Wednesday, and was the day of the big tour of Chichén Itzá, Mayan ruins located about 3 hours out of Cancún in northern Yucatán. Quite literally, this was the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

On the way to the ruins, we stopped at a cénote, which is a sort of sinkhole in the ground caused by a collapse of limestone that frequently fills up with water from underground rivers or springs. This one had a stairway that led from the surface down to the pool, where there were folks jumping off the platforms nearby and swimming in the water. Looking up from below, you can see the vines and roots dangling down from the surface down to the water, and there are birds flying in and out of the vines. It was breathtaking.

They had a small market set up here, where we got some keepsakes, and then it was off to a group restaurant area where we had a buffet-style lunch and lazed around in hammocks until it was time to leave for the actual ruins.

The ruins themselves were utterly amazing. Our tour guide led us around the complex, which was composed of the temple itself plus a number of outbuildings, including an area where human sacrifices were made several times a year in order to ensure rain for the crops, and a stadium where a game involving a ball, a bat, and two hoops was played, and the losing team was sacrificed.

This site has a lot of info that will tell you much more than I can…I wish I could repeat everything the guide told us but there was so much information and so much to see that it would be better to experience it yourself. I definitely recommend it.

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Embarrassingly, I had to miss part of the tour. The heat just got to be too much for me and I hadn’t brought my fabulous hat, nor did I use enough sunscreen, and, well, I’m just fat and sweaty so I had to go sit down. Maybe I had a touch of the heat stroke…I’m not sure. All I know is, it was killing-me hot, in an open plain under the blazing sun, and I pretty much felt like I was going to die. I still felt like it was the absolute highlight of the trip, though. I will never forget it.

I slept the entire way back to the hotel from the ruins, interrupted only by the lady behind me who had already gotten under my skin on the way to the ruins by complaining when I put my seat back a little. She complained about anything, everything, and had an opinion on most everything under the sun, which she did not hesitate to share at every opportunity.

Anyway. That night we went to Hooters, of all places, which despite being, well, Hooters, was still pretty awesome. I had a fantastic blue beverage, which I don’t remember the name of. Also I had potato skins and chicken strips. Not very Mexican of me, I know.

The next day, we met up with my cousin and her beautiful family in Playa del Carmen. First we spent some time at their house, where they have a small pool right beside the front door. Yes, I plunked myself down right in it. Then we headed for what I guess would be considered the touristy area – it is just a really fun place, with markets and shops and even a couple of guys dressed up all scary-like. We found a beachside bar where we had a great dinner and awesome drinks, and the baby got to play in the sand to his heart’s content. I got to sit and stare at the beach and the waves and sip drinks to my heart’s content, so it was a win-win.

The next day was our last day in Cancún, and we went on a morning trip to downtown Cancún, by bus. I won’t say much about that part except to say that I complained a lot. It was hot, and my feet hurt, and it seemed slightly….well, scary. Like back-alleys in a town where we’re pretty much the only Americans as far as I can see kind of scary.

After that, though, we spent the rest of the day in blissful relaxation at the beach, then made our way to the Monkey Business where I practiced yet more of my Spanish with my new favorite bartender in Mexico, Francisco!

Yes, that guy is in fact balancing a full beer glass on his head.

I totally recommend this place if you find yourself in Cancún and want a good, relaxing time.

Anyway, the rest of the trip was a lot of flying, getting through customs, sleeping, more flying, and finally…arriving back home. I was glad to be back, but aw man…I had such a great time. I will definitely be back.

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