The fake honeymoon in the land of the open bar
Trip Start Dec 26, 2009
137Trip End Nov 08, 2010
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There's a feeling some people get when everything is going far more smoothly and easily than it is supposed to. This feeling is made up of mostly gratitude mixed with a healthy dose of suspicion. Since I am a very suspicious person and a worrier by nature, when things are going right I am always convinced something will soon ruin it. Ben always patiently listens and inserts appropriate comments into my ramblings about what we could have left behind or how late we are running or how much something cost. Usually I'm being overly suspicious. Sometimes I'm right.
We absolutely breezed through Miami airport. We even got into the lounge, where we weren't supposed to be, after throwing a minor tantrum (I still think those rules are stupid. One country further south and there would have been no problem)
Chapter 1: Not really Mexico
Make no mistake, Cancun is not really Mexico. It is a beach holiday resort for AMericans. The aptly-named 'Hotel Zone' takes up all the prime land - the gorgeous strip of beaches between the lagoon and the ocean. It is full of shops, tour agencies, clubs, American chain stores and hotels, and is completely separate from the rest of Cancun. An American lady in our colectivo from the airport went on about the drug problems and danger downtown - we didn't burst her narrow mided bubble by telling her that's where we were staying! The lovely hotel zone has a lovely matching price tag, so all the hostels are downtown
The hawkers here are worse than anywhere else we have been. They all want you to eat at their restaurant, buy their goods or take their tour. Walking down the street is a hassle in some places. And everyone speaks English, so you can't use the "no hablo espanol" excuse here.
Our first night, we had dinner at a little Mexican place and ordered beef nachos. We received plain tortilla chips with 3 salsas on the side. Remembering the 'nachos' of Aguas Calientes, I was about to flame to waiter when the real nachos arrived. I nearly roasted some poor waiter over complimentary chips! The owner of our restaurant and the owner of the one next door got into a fistfight over customer stealing, so that was the night's entertainment. It may not be real Mexico, but Cancun is interesting all the same. Some travellers avoid it like the plague because of it's commercialised aspects but we wanted to see what it was like.
Chapter 2: Almost free!
It is possible to get very cheap tours in Cancun, but never go on them or you will at some point end up in a hard-sell timeshare presentation. We grudgingly shelled out enough to ensure a proper tour - it is almost American prices here! - and passed a very pleasant day that did not include any timeshare stop-offs.
We swam in a cenote, which is a freshwater sinkhole hundreds of metres deep. The cenote was amazing - just a large round hole with 20m or so of rocks, moss and plants, then then cool water with tree roots dangling in and fish darting away. There is a staircase cut through the ground to access the bottom,, a rock shelf to jump in from, and a log ladder to climb out - because otherwise yoiu'd be stuck! The water was cool and lovely, and the depth meant there was little direct sunlight to burn pale skin. So I got to wear my new bikini and boardshorts for the first time! Ben was very proud.
The difference with swimming in a cenote is that you can't stop swimming. There's no bottom for hundreds of metres, the rock sides are quite smooth and the rock shelf is well out of reach. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy is was to stay afloat, but Ben found it tiring.
Wed continued on to Chichen Itza, a Mayan ruin of an ancient sacred place. Unlike Machu Picchu, it was found mostly ruined and painstakingly rebuilt to its original form, but it is still very, very impressive. We did a tour of the large central temple, the ball courts, the human sacrifice stone, the wall of sacrificed heads, the marketplace and the observatory. An interesting combination of buiodings: Chichen Itza was used for astronomy, shopping, rituals, assorted bloodthirsty and violent practices and as a calender.
The ball court was the most interesting, although it looked the plainest. Instead of fighting wars, the Mayans sent a team to the ball courts, where the aim was to put a 3-kilo rubber ball through a small hoop 5m up a wall using only your hips and elbows. The first team to score won. The whole losing team and the captain of the winning team were then sacrificed, unless it was not a war, and then only the captains were sacrificed. There are quite detailed carvings on the wall showing the decapitation.
We learned quite a lot about the Mayans, and I am fully planning to steal the genes that prevent their hair from ever greying or balding - although they can keep the ones that make them so short
Why were there so many Mayans at Chichen Itza? To sell things to tourists, of course! There were people at the cenote, outside the lunch room and all through Chichen Itza itself crying "Almost free!" "Best price for you, my friend!". It's seriously annjoying to have to convince all these people you don't want anything - "But it's almost free!" - and silence means you haven't said no. We were a bit shocked at such commercialism after Machu Picchu, where at least it is all restricted to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town. We did buy a lovely piece of art for our wall, one that was certainly not almost free. It was very detailed and the man selling them knew its worth, so no bargains for us, but a lovely painting!
Chapter 3: Cha Cha Y'll
We were very, very lazy the next day. We indulged in a nice private room with a bathroom and a TV for our stay, and all the channels were in English with Spanish subtitles. So we spent almost all day catching up on more than 6 weeks' worth of TV - mostly the Big Bang Theiry, Friends and other comedy shows
After such extreme laziness, we were nice and rested for partying that night. We caught a bus up to the hotel zone and went to Senor Frogs. Ben paid $45 for an open bar... and I paid $20. Being a girl is such win sometimes. As we were paying, the guy taking our money asked us to wait, and stared behind us happily. A hot girl in a short black dress was just walking in behind us. I had been forewarned about this and was wearing pants, but obviously a lot of people don't know - Senor Frogs have powerful air jets installed below the floor of the entrance. When pretty girls in short skirts or dresses walk in, they turn them on - with predictable results. The hot girl in the black dress screeched and pulled it down, but not before everyone saw her g-string. Don't think you could try that at home, but apparently anything goes in Mexico!
Senor Frogs worked hard to make sure we had a good time. They played the Cha Cha Y'll song and other similar ones to get everyone dancing. They did 'Conga Line Party Time', and everyone in the conga line got free tequila shots at various points - although most of it goes on your clothes as you conga by
We caught a taxi home, happy and tired. We had a pleasant sleep in the next day (SOME of us, who shall remain nameless but are very tall, needed to sleep off a slight hangover) and went back to the hotel zone to go to the famed Cancun beach. The beach was lovely. The sea was not. The waves are very, very strong there! Poor Ben had to tow me back across a few times... it is debatable as to whether I couldn't do it, or could do it but couldn't be bothered. We battled it out for quite a while but eventually got tired, and went to have a nice hot coffee at Starbucks. Ben put the towel out to dry, telling me not to let him forget it... but Starbucks are now in possesion of one green shammy-style towel. D'oh.
Chapter 4: Bad weather? Here?
We had a tour the next day to Isla Mujeres
We went home and changed and went back to the hotel zone for the night. We had dinner at Hooters... Ben was slightly disappointed because a) he thought it was a topless bar and b) I ended up with the seat where I could watch the girls skating around and playing jumping games, and he kept having to turn around. But otherwise it was entertaining, and very American. We were going to go to Coco Bongo, this fabulous club with another open bar and actual circus performers for entertainment, and the couple we made friends with that day were going to be there also. Unfortunately it had a fabulous cover charge/open bar fee, and you couldn't get it without paying it. So back to Senor Frogs for us! It was almost exactly the same as the other night, which was fun but I wouldn't go back again, I think it must always be the same
We left the next day, for cold, cold Chicago. We told the staff we hadn't handed in our exit cards, and the guy doing our passports couldn't care less. He was a complete ass, but at least there was no trouble. He told us it was completely our responsibility to hand them in, and I bit my tongue before telling him that if we knew where we were supposed to, or even that we had to do it ourselves, we would have. Every other country has asked for them, and in the country that is an absolute stickler for instructing you about tiny deatils of every little process - annoyingly so - it's a real departure for them to expect you to do something yourself without telling you.
Epilogue: The French honeymoon joke
Almost everyone we met assumed we were on our honeymoon. We were asked that very question several times, and if a hawker wanted to get our attention they would yell "Hey! Honeymooners!" It amused me greatly, and I told Ben we should refer to this as our fake honeymoon. He did not appreciate the humour in this as much as I did, sadly, and said no. Four hawkers at Chichen Itza, when trying to guess what language to harass me in, guessed French. Apparently to Mexican people, I look French. Or more French than English-speaking, at least.
Love, cocktails and beaches,
Amanda and Ben