World Trip, Part Quince - Mexico
Trip Start Jul 30, 2008
21Trip End May 02, 2009
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Well, this great world adventure is soon coming to a close, but it really wouldn't be complete, in my opinion, without a visit to my favorite (#1) country in the whole wide pink world. Yes, you think it might be some far off, exotic land, but it's really in my own backyard.
Welcome to Mexico!
Altho it's something I would not normally do (visit over-the-top touristy places), but I thought I would remain flexible and objective and give it a whirl. Flight #34 took me from Dallas to the island of Cozumel. Cozumel is a diver's paradise, but if you don't dive, as I found out, there isn't really much to do.
I checked into the only hostel on Cozumel, which was quite cool with heaps of very cool people. The first day I just relaxed and strolled down tourist alley, which is on the rocky west coast of the island.
On day two, I rented a bicycle and tried to circle the island. Locals told me that the 65 km loop around the island was easy. Yeah...not! Just as I left the town and started the haul across the Transversal Hwy to the other side, a mother wind blasted me. By the time I reached the entrance to Mayan ruins (half-way point to the other side), I was a ball of sweat. I hitchhiked into the ruins (another 6 km north), visited, and hitchhiked back to the entrance.And then I rode another 6 km until finally reaching the east coast.
Upon arrival, the two guys that gave me a ride to the ruins insisted I throw my bike in back of the rental and go bar hopping with them along the east and south coasts (where the aweome non swimmable beaches are) for the rest of the afternoon. Um, no need to twist my rubber arm! :)
After much thought, I decided not to go diving. The water at Cozumel was actually quite cold (some call it refreshing!), so I hopped the ferry to Playa del Carmen, and then hopped a bus for Tulum.
Tulum is awesome: The ruins, the beach, life. Oh woe is me. My hostel just minutes from the beach included free bikes, Wi-Fi, breakfast, sheets, towels., you name it. The chill beach is quite nice and the water here was warmer than Cozumel. The ruins at Tulum were more impressive than I thought. I also cycled to Gran Cenote for an afternoon snorkeling and swimming in a massive cavern that contains stalactites and stalagmites. Very cool!
After Tulum, I headed with the two spaztic Canadian girls to Chitzen Itza - the Mayan Ruins in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula. The ruins are impressive and truly a world wonder. Unlike Tikal, Copan, (Uxmal) and other sites I have visited, the local merchants, unfortunately, are allowed onto the grounds of the ruins. So, instead of soaking up the full energy, bewilderment, amazement and solitude this place should offer, I was asked no less than 2,145 times if I wanted to buy a wooden mask, a Mexican blanket, or some other touristy gizmo. Chitzen Itza is still worth it, and I recommend it to anyone. Better get there now...or before 2012!
After a refreshing Corona, I decided to accompany the crazy ladies to Merida, which I have heard is fantastic. No lie. It is wonderful. We all checked into a great hostel with lots of fun people. A emergency situation in Dallas almost made cancel the rest of my trip, but thankfully it got cleared up. So, on advice from the locals, the next day I followed the city walking tour, starting with main promenade. This wide thoroughfare contains all the huge mansions of Merida, and ends at the Flag Monument. Spectacular. I spent the rest of the day walking the streets, visiting cathedrals, eating like a piggie, visiting the main square, government buildings,incredible archways, and taking in the Picasso exhibit at their municipal museum,. Fan-flippin-tastic.
THe next day, a two-hour bus ride south of Merida brought me to the awesome Mayan ruins at Uxmal. No merchants and vendors here, and practically no people. This site surpasses Chitzen Itza (aka: it's better!) and definitely rivals Tikal (the most impressive I have ever seen). It took me some 4 1/2 hours to tour the grounds. Unbelievable!
From Merida, I lingered and then headed to Cancun. Cancun is divided into two areas: the Hotel Zone for people with money, and the downtown area for the backpakcers. A German in Tulum told me that Cancun (downtown) is so ugly, you just have to see it because it's unbelievable. I didn't think it was that bad at all. Obviously, this guy hasn't seen some truly disgusting cities in the world, like moi! The downtown has a nice market and is very Mexican. I headed to a beach in the Hotel Zone for the afternoon, but the sea was so rough, and it was so windy, and there was more rocks than beach, it was nearly impossible (not to mention dangerous) to get into the water. Mexicans I met on the bus told me that before Hurricane Wilma, there were 50 metres of sand from the hotels to the ocean. Now, there is only 1 metre of sand, and lots of rocks. :(
After a night a of clubbing in Cancun, it was off to Puerto Juarez to catch the dinky ferry to Isla Mujeres - my last stop on this leg. And, what a perfect stop it was. The hostel was right on the beach and filled with awesome and fun backpackers from all over. The hostel had its own restaurant, bar, free beach volleyball, free yoga, and after 11pm, a beach bar - complete with outdoor dance floor. Awesome!
Many people on Isla Mujeres and most tourists tour the island on golf carts. So, the next day, 9 of us in two golf carts had a hilarious morning touring the small island, climbing the little lighthouse, and endulging in some authentic Mexican food. The rest of my time on this fantastic island was spent chilling and swimming, and more chilling and swimming. I also ate some great food and caught some spectacular sunsets.
How oh how can you go wrong with Mexican food?! It's simply the best! From tacos, to tostadas, to flautas, to salchichas to fattening tamales (my fave), to the best rice and beans around - all with those incredible hot sauces.....YUM!
People make all the difference. And, if you want to experience the best people in the world, in my opinion, you should definitely visit Mexico. These people, without a doubt, rule Planet Pink with their warm smiles, kindness, generosity, hospitality, genuine and helpful attitude, and laid-back, nothing-bothers-me behavior. I think it's impossible to get a Mexican stirred up and angry. And, if some Mexican somehow gets YOU upset, with a smile and a laugh, they are very, very easy people to forgive.
In Mexico, one can appreciate that no means no, and Mexicans dont bother you more than that if you aren't interested in their wares.
In Merida, I was the only foreigner in the local marketplace at this one hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and everyone (in English!) made recommendations on super local food and helped me order. Fantastic! In Cancun, the three locals I met in the bus who worked at the Marriott offered me a beer, and we all laughed and chatted and drank on the bus. Otherwise, I have tons of examples where Mexicans freely offered information and help about their local areas, including what to see and do and best spots, etc.
Rhetorical Questions/Comments for Mexicans:
* You can't add or count. But, sometimes that works out for me. :)
* If you think I ain't gonna count my change, you're c-r-a-z-y! :)
* You're still the best people on the planet, so I don't mind if you keep makin babies and flood the Earth.
* The older I get, the more I can appreciate your relaxed "manana" attitude.
* You are also a giant (free) Wi-Fi zone. Bus terminals, hostels, airports. Love it!
* You drink entirely too much soda! But, I guess you can't just get a glass of tap water!
Photos: On blog.
Next Stop: Last stop. Final stop.....well, supposed to be. Ah, paradise. (Oops, I am already there!)