Mexico Update

View from my room in Cancun

December 18, 2010

The trip has been lovely so far and I imagine it shall remain so.

I drove through the snow to get to BWI on the 14th, and the coldest day here has been quite comfortable.  Even when the sky has been overcast, the clouds are lovely to watch, as well as their shadows on the water.


I can assure you that this will not be my last trip to Mexico.  One or two people suggested that I make my plane tickets changeable so I could come home early if I wanted to – another inquired what I would do for 23 days of vacation all alone.  I planned on and am accomplishing a gigantic amount of nothing.

I have walked on the beach, sat in the sun, and read two and a half books so far.  I only brought eight so I might have to slow down, though I did locate a fantastic bookstore to check out in Puerto Morelles before I left the US, and I will probably re-read a book I am editing, but I only have that digitally and I don’t care to take my laptop outside the room.  I have not used my phone (aside from some “I am safe” texts to the fam), watched tv, listened to music (that I brought with me I mean – the bands are good here), or had my headphones on since I left the plane.  That has been lovely for my ears as I usually have my headphones on constantly in America.  The internet was free at my hotel in Cancun, but it is 12 bucks a day on the Rivera Maya.  This is the first day I have turned it on and it is slow enough (and liberating to live without it – and to have no need for it) that I may only turn it on again one more time, the day before I leave for the next leg of my trip just to go over arrangements and maps and check back in with the family.

Since this is the first time I have even taken my computer out of the bag (3 days, my personal best in many years – I used to travel with my desktop tower system and at least a 15” crt back in the day), I have not done much writing.  I have made some notes to help me remember a few things, but my handwriting is so terrible and it gets worse all the time, that even I have trouble reading it.  This is my message to the kids – learn good penmanship when you are young, and develop an actual signature.  Somehow it was either never made clear to me, or it simply did not sink in that one’s signature is important.  I do think it is kind of unfair that we need to use (and are frequently judged by) something “vital” to self-identification and officialdom as adults that we come up with when we are wearing blankets as capes.

Before any more info about the trip, I am going to share with you one of the greatest things I have ever seen.  I have loved service workers in general and food service workers in particular for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it is the general default friendliness, maybe it is the relative sameness of the dining experience (not in the generic amercian bland food way, but in the mechanics of the experience) that provided unconscious comfort to a fellow who moved around a lot.  Whatever the cause, I love me some restaurant people.

I was finishing a meal in the buffet area on the 16th and I was watching the busboy do his thing and admiring the system the hotel set-up as well as this guy’s individual chops when he blew my mind.  He was changing a trash bag, something we all have done 5 million times.  He shook it out to fill it with air as the “particular” ones of us tend to do to try and ensure that the bag is actually open in the can, receptive to receiving items and flushed out into the corners.  Being a “particular” sort of fellow myself, I admired (though expected) that he did this.  Then it happened – and this busboy changed my world.

Visualize, if you will.  He shook the bag open semi-filling it with air, then he gave it a quick twist at the top!  Now he was able to very easily fit the bag into the can without having to put his hand down inside the trash-can.  It fit easily and opened all the way because it was full of air.  He quickly untwisted it and sealed it to the edges and was done.  Beautiful.  I almost clapped – but I was too stunned.  I have not seen any of the other guys do this move and I have been watching.  That, my friends, is innovation!

Some details: As I suspected, Cancun is not for me.  This is why I only have two days booked for Cancun total.  But, next time it will be only one, or maybe none.  My flight home is not until 2:30 in the afternoon, but I end my trip down in Tulum which is 2-4 hours from the airport, depending on your mode of transport.  So, the night before leaving, I do want to position myself much closer, but staying in Cancun the day I arrived was totally unnecessary.  I am not much into the discothèque side of life, and it does not seem to me that there is much else to do there in the Hotel Zone.  It was still pleasant to be on the adventure, to have my very own room to sleep in, and to walk on the beach.  Things are just really expensive and kinda fake there.  All the local people I dealt with and talked to were nice.  Most of them are trying a little too hard to get you to buy stuff, but that is to be expected and not really to be held against them.  I am sure it is different in Centro – downtown, and what I saw of Centro confirmed this.  But getting to know a city designed for locals and not tourists tends to take longer than a day.  I like cities, and it may be worthwhile to explore Centro, but I did not want to dedicate the time on this trip to learn the non-touristy sections of Cancun.

I have not jumped feet first into the cheapest local travel yet – the Collectivo, but that time is coming soon.  I had planned to take the ADO bus from the airport to Centro where you change to a local bus for the Hotel Zone.  I liked one of the last guys who talked to me about going in his car instead, and I took a kind of collectivo from the airport to downtown.   The ADO bus was not there yet and there was no sign of it, and we did not pass it leaving the airport either, so while that would have been cheaper, it would have been a longer wait.  He wanted to get me to pay more and let him take me to the Hotel Zone, but I was only willing to do half the compromise.  It was me and two Mexican ladies in the van to Centro, so I also felt good about that – both safety and not getting gouged for being a tourist.

At first I could not figure out the bus station.  I saw all the places to book passage to Rivera Maya and Tulum and elsewhere, but I cold not find what I needed, R1.  Less than an hour on Mexican soil and my brain was not fully into travel mode yet, much less Spanish mode.  I found a friendly looking lady and asked her, and she pointed out the corner to wait on and verified that I bought my ticket from the driver, which was what I was expecting.

I was the only person on the bus going to the Hotel Zone who did not work there, and somehow, it must have been near a shift change because it was totally full and I rode in the stairwell for the first 15 minutes.  If you recall, I set this trip up pretty fast and was largely relying on my traveling wits and a tiny bit of preparation to get around.  The Hotel Zone is a one-way loop, and I knew that my hotel was on the Ocean side and not the Lagoon side, and the trip starts on the lagoon side.  I was safe and fine on the bus, but a little uncomfortable (physically) and truthfully in the way for everyone else.  I remembered that my hotel was near the convention center so I just got off there and did not have to do the entire Hotel Zone loop standing in the way.  But, 8 pesos is a cheap ride.  I used my best guess from what I remembered of the not too highly detailed maps of the area and picked a direction and walked.  Two minutes later I could see the hotel.

The rest of Cancun was largely uneventful.  A little money changing, found a place to buy fruit and water, had a few cervezas, long walk on the beach, broke my brand new camera the exact same way I broke my last camera (there will not be as many pics on this trip as anyone – myself included – was expecting), and had an awesome sleep.  Since I got up at 4am, I think I was out by 9pm.  I enjoyed the wi-fi computing in bed the next morning, had a great walk and some more fruit and then the next part, the “real” vacation began.  But a few more notes on Cancun before that.

I guess everything is not actually super expensive in Cancun, but it is about the same price as things are in America.  At the bank in Cancun, you get 11.9 pesos for a buck.  Tecate and Sol (cheap Mexican beer) are 16 pesos a can at the store.  That is actually more than they cost in the US, though not by much.  An Applebee’s type restaurant (and they were all that type) was showing burgers for about 180-300 pesos depending on the specifics.  I have not bought a burger in a very long time, but I have sadly eaten at these types of places in the US and for a vegetarian, you are paying 15 bucks for not very good food, that probably has some meat contamination anyway.

I did not want to let breaking my camera ruin my trip, and I did not want to obsess about money either, but I am going into debt for 100% of this trip, I was in a bit of a poopy money related mood and I was not going to add to it by overpaying for food I did not even want in the first place – but I was desperately hungry.  Finding the bananas and apples was awesome.  They were probably cheaper than back home.  The bananas were fantastic.  The apples lacked charm or really character of any kind, but they were food.  And that broke the last cord of the foul mood, and the rest of the trip has been really fantastic.

That is it for now.  I will write and share some more after a break for some sun.

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