Trip to Playa Del Carmen Area - January 15-22nd 2011

Well this is a little overdue!...

One last trip pre-kids was called for and we answered the call. We looked up our trip options and decided that we would like to visit the Mayan Riviera, so we checked out the options on line and spotted a good deal to stay at the Barcelo Maya Beach Resort for $1100 a piece taxes in. Sounded good, so we booked and less than one week later we were on the airplane.

The airplane trip was pretty uneventful, except that the plane was delayed and as a consequence we ended up arriving in Cancun at 4am. ai ya ai. Luckily, the package included transportation to hotel and after a quick van ride we were at the hotel and sleeping. We roused ourselves in time for lunch and had our first taste of Barcelo buffet. Which as it turned out through the course of the trip was quite good. The food I think like many buffets was all preprepped and as a consequence any items that were better fresh from the over/fryer/cooker were a tasting a bit... well... not quite at their best. We killed off the day in recovery from the trip by spending the afternoon exploring the grounds a bit and lounging on the beach as well as going for a swim. That killed off Sunday. One day gone already, sniff.

Monday, we headed for Playa Del Carmen to explore around there. We stopped in at the SunWing orientation and got ourselves set up for a Trip to Coba. Then headed up for the colectivo and made it into town with little trouble. We spent the afternoon on the beach enjoying the breeze and the sun. Then made a little shopping trip up to Walmart of all places to get a few items. I love going to grocery stores and the like in others countries, so even though it was Walmart I still enjoyed it quite a bit. In Walmart we met some folks offering us a very cheap deal to go to Xel-Ha if we went and checked out their hotel. I'll leave that bit for future telling but after quite a bit of deliberation we ended up taking them up on it. We had some AWESOME fish tacos and hung out in the public square for a bit just enjoying the evening and watching the people go by. We then headed home on the colectivo without issue and hit up the dessert buffet. Yum.

Tuesday we had a date to go and check out the hotel in order to get the cheap tickets to Xel-ha and so we were picked up by Nelson and his wife, who we had a nice talk with as we drove into town. We then, were taken for a tour of the hotel and breakfast by Ghil, so showed us just how fancy the hotel wa and explained how awesome the program was. Finally, they took us to the deal-making room where a bunch of sweaty and nervous looking tourists were being propositioned by all the sales reps. We sat through the speel and after a little humming and hawing declined. Eventually we caved as the deal improved. I'm hoping to keep track of how we use it and see if we do indeed get our money's worth out of the deal. Interestingly at the end of this all the "gift" that they gave us turned out to be $1500 pesos aka the money owing for the trip to Xel-ha (we had already paid 650 pesos). It was just funny that after everything the gift turned out to be money, but hey it's Mexico, go with it.

Also on Tuesday we had arranged to meet Tracey, Johnny and Emilie who were staying in Playa Del Carmen too! Which was an awesome surprise. They had a similar story, last minute planning serendipitously put us there at the same time. So we did a bunch of walking the 5th Avenue strip. I bought some shoes, that I feel are quite cool, even if cushioning is somewhat thin, I think that's the style, I'll do anything for fashion (apparently). Then we headed down to the beach and met up with Tracey, Johnnie and Emilie (who was very shy at first). We chit chatted for a bit and then went to dinner at the Fusion Bar, which had some great live music and some pretty good food at tourist prices. Then we caught the colectivo back to the hotel and hit the dessert buffet (starting to notice a trend yet?).

Wednesday our excursions began. Today was our trip to Coba, which turned out to be really good. Good because our tour guide was good, he was a Mayan himself who had gotten into giving tours. He told us all about the Mayan culture and how Coba had been a really big deal in its day. All quite interesting. We did plenty of walking in the park and eventually reached the tall ruin and climbed the stairs to reach the top. Apparently, one can't climb Chitchen Itsa any longer so this was kind of a neat experience. I do have to say that at the time we climbed it the ruin was just swamped with other tourists and while I can't say I begrudge the other tourists being there (I'm one too) it did take a bit of the awe out of the experience. From there we went to a Mayan village and were introduced to a few of the people there. I enjoyed making a tortilla with the Mayan woman there and getting hit up for 1 dollar by one of the fellows who was following our group around. I can't help but wonder what these folks think of having so many people come to their village to be looky lous. Then to the cenote. And though we didn't realize it at the time the cenote that we went to was an awesome one. Too bad I don't know the name, but the whole of the water was underground and we walked down a spiral staircase to get into it. The cave was well lit and the water was cool and refreshing. You could jump from the staircase into the water so I did that as well as putting on the snorkel to check out the VERY clear water and few catfish that inhabit the cenote. Finally, we had "lunch" 4:30pm of grilled chicked at a little road side stop. It was also really good. All in all this tour was great. It was hosted by Mayan Treasures.

Thursday we had booked our trip to Xel-Ha our reward from the other hotel. So we got picked up at 8:30 and delivery to Xel-ha, the van driver said he would be back at 5pm to pick us up. Joanna and I were both a little concerned that we would want to leave earlier but as it turned out, it is very easy to spend a whole day at Xel-ha and not run out of things to do. What did we do? We started out with a bit of snorkelling. It turned out the snorkelling was alright, but not awesome. Seriously, it seems if you're going somewhere to snorkel and you have to pay. It is probably been more or less destroyed by the thousands of people how have been there before. We saw a number of parrot fish and other reef fish as well as a neat looking needlefish. After a little 11sies and a break in the sun, we walked up to the top of the Xel-ha river run, and while it is an exceedingly slow river it was fun. They have a few jumping areas and a couple zip lines as well a big rope walk that you can get off the inner tube and do, and we did. Joanna was definitely the only pregnant woman doing the rope walk and she made it no problem!! After the river run we had lunch (I had some habenero salsa that totally burned me out) and then set out to do a little more exploring. We hit the Mayan cave, which as it turned out had some very nice fish in it. And then walked through to another cenote, this one was just on the surface of the water and here we realized how nice the cenote that we had seen the previous day really was. A little lounging around and it was 5. The day just zipped by.

Friday was kind of a free day, and Tracey had sent us another email, so we arranged a rendevous at Akumel which is a beach known for having turtles. We took the colectivo down there and by some very good fortune connected with Tracey, Johnny and Emilie easily. While there wasn't any reef there. There was a lot of grass which I guess brought the turtles. As it turned out we were able to see a couple! ( I went out later and saw 3 at once!) We also saw a number of fish that feed on the sea floor grasses and also saw two rays. So, this snorkelling turned out to be very good! My first turtles. Hurray! We had lunch and then rode the colectivo into Playa to see about doing a bit more shopping. After talking with Tracey we had a better idea where to go for spices. (Walmart spice dept, was pretty weak. As it turns out it seems that if you want chili powder, just forget about it. Stop looking and just buy the whole chilis. That's all we could find). So we walked, had some freezies, and stayed cool by trying to stay in the shade. All in all, in spite of carrying a child with her Joanna really troopped along and we walked for probably 2kms. We took the colectivo home and then got packed up and ready to take the plane the next morning. Departure from the hotel 7:05am.

Saturday we did the early get up. It was a day of stop-go travel. Bus ride stopped for ages at one hotel for some unknown reason. Made it to the airport and through security only to find out the plane was delayed. Made it onto the plane only to find out that they had overfilled the fuel tank, which started to leak fuel, which we then had to wait for ages to have the authorities allow the plane to start, to burn some fuel so it would stop leaking. And finally we were in the air.

Books this trip

  • The light everlasting, Terry Prachet
  • Overclocked, a collection of short stories by Cory Doctorow
  • Catch-22, started but not finished.

Joanna has been steadily ploughing through Too Big Too Fail.

Pictures are going to have to wait a bit sadly as my pictures are spread across a few different computers as the moment.