December 24, 2010 (for now – it will pass midnight here while I write – Feliz Navidad!)
Back to the story near where I left off…December 15th.
I was excited to leave Cancun, go to my resort, and to try out the Collectivo. I had done enough research before leaving the US to know that one of the main North/South Collectivo stops is across the street from the ADO bus station in Centro, which is right by the drop off for the local R1 bus.
I was a little fussed that the HSBC sign I saw near my hotel was for an ATM and not a bank as I needed to change some more money and wanted the best possible rates. For Cancun, generally, it is said that the worst rates are inside the airport, then your hotel, then the moneychangers on the street, and the best are at the banks. I did 60 dollars at the airport for around 10.9 pesos to the dollar. Not great, but my plans required an indeterminate amount of cash. I shopped around Cancun at the moneychangers on the street and did some more (maybe $40) at 11.8. But I wanted the best rate for a larger transfer.
Knowing there were plenty of banks in Centro, I headed to the nearest stop for the R1 and was, of course, approached by a few taxi guys. I liked one of them, Jesus, and remembered the utility of a taxi driver’s local knowledge if you find a nice one with decent English as had just happened. We haggled a minute and I got a ride to Playa Del Carmen for 400 pesos (it is probably about 120-200 on the Collectivo). Once in the car, after we had a little get-to-know-you chitchat, I asked him where to get the best rate and he took me to a bank where I got 11.9 and I changed the rest of my cash on hand.
Once I told him the name of my resort, he told me that was perhaps 20 minutes past Playa Del Carmen, but he would take me anyway for the same price. I was not trying to take advantage of him – I just did not know the difference between Playa Del Carmen and my resort. It is hard to tell from the maps.
We talked about Mexico and travel a good deal – focused on safety and best practices – through a healthy mix of Spanish and English. He told me that he thought that Chichen Itza was not worth the cost anymore because of the number of tourists and the general state of things there. He said that you cannot even climb the temple stairs anymore and they had to do this because the tourists took rocks and wrote graffiti. He said the site at Tulum was much nicer. He said that Cozumel has the second best diving in the world after The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and he said that he and his family never dive – or snorkel in the Centoes, but they do go to swim with the dolphins sometimes.
I asked him about Wal-Mart – how long had it been there in Cancun and what the prices were like. He said about 10 years and that the prices were probably similar to Wal-Mart in the US – so, cheap, but not as good as Mexico’s Wal-Mart, Chedraui.
He pointed to a bottle of water I bought at Oxxo in Cancun and said it would be half the price or less at Chedraui, and that Oxxo and Wal-Mart had about the same prices. He pointed out a few Chedrauis along the way.
As he asked me some questions about travel and I told him about living in India, it came out that his girlfriend, before he met his wife, was from India.
We got to the hotel and it took us two tries to find the correct lobby (there are 3 lobbies and many, many buildings at the Barcelo Maya!).
I gave him 500 pesos because he did an excellent job, gave me great intel, took me to the bank, and went much further than we had agreed originally. He gave me his card and I would call him in a second if I needed a guy, but I have the Collectivo system down now and that should suffice.
I may largely skip my time at Barcelo Maya in the chronicles for now. With a few standout exceptions – each day was the same beautiful paradise, and creature of habit that I am, I did the same stuff almost every day.
Breakfast was my favorite meal. The scrambled eggs at the buffet were good and it seemed that there was little chance or reason for any of the guests to mix meat utensils there the way it was set up. They did have omelet stations – but you never know how good a bet those pans are (for meat purity). I slapped some fantasic, though simple, salsa on top. The salsa was fresh cut veggies with a little oil and lime juice (not a tomato paste/sauce based style)– mucho caliente! I got a roll, some fresh cheese cubes of two varieties, some honeydew and cantaloupe, and a light yogurt. That’s it. I did that for 9 mornings and it was awesome. I took 2 bananas with me when I left the buffet and I ate those for lunch.
I think that’s about it for now. I have left Barcelo Maya! I am safe in my new location. The interwebs here is dependable and free. I am about a mile from “downtown” and about half a mile from the beach – so I expect to be in my room a little more and will finish writing and posting updates a bit more regularly.
Have a great day with the families and the un-wrapping of gifts.
Leave the Old Testament alone today (and as often as you can – at least avoid Leviticus and Deuteronomy!) Think less about what the church built and more about what Jesus said and did. Taking a moment to recall that Jesus was not a Christian does not hurt either.
Read a few passages from another religion’s sacred books. Check out the Eight-fold path, read about the Tao, the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita are all filled with great stories and insight. The Bill of Rights is always worth another look… (We have to live on this ball in space together.) Them’s my thoughts for now.