Sunday, May 3, 2009

Final day in the land of the Maya

… but not the last. I’ll definitely be back here. Even though the trip didn’t go as planned, it was still quite fun and it exceeded my expectations.

I watched the sun rise on the beach in Tulum before packing up and heading over to Playa de Carmen. That’s where I spent most of my day. It’s a nice place, but it’s not my kind of place. Everything is fairly modern. There’s a ton of hotels, tourists, shops, beaches and clubs. It’s for the type of person that wants an easy and relaxing trip and can fork up a little extra cash. Compared to most places, the locals here are a lot more fluent in English and other languages.

After walking around for a bit, I gave my friend Courtney a call. She moved down here some three years ago and started up some businesses. We got together for a drink and brunch and she hooked me up with some good Aloe lotion for my badly sunburned back. She told me about places to visit when I come back here.

After saying goodbye to Courtney, I did a bit more walking around town then hoped in my car and drove to Cancun. I got a hotel near the airport, as my flight is pretty early tomorrow. I decided to just stick around here for the day as Cancun doesn’t seem like my kind of place. Now I’ll just get some rested and nurse my sunburn.

Sunrise in Tulum:

Walking around Playa de Carmen:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Day 5: So sunburned!

There were a couple of firsts for me today. I went snorkeling and I got the most sunburned I've ever been. I think this is where I need a woman with some common sense. Something I seem to be lacking in, as I went snorkeling without putting any sunscreen on, at least not until it was too late. My back and legs are so sunburned that I think I'll be sleeping on my stomach tonight. It didn't take very long, the sun is strong here!

Still, it was a day well spent. I dove near the beach and saw lots of fish. I think I saw a baraccuda, which kind of frightened me. I've heard they sometimes attack people. I also found a huge konk shell, but decided it was too big to take with me. Then I read a book on the beach.

Later in the afternoon I got on a boat that was taking people to the nearby reef. It anchored and everyone went snorkeling. Everybody was Mexican and didn't speak a word of English. My Spanish was equally bad. Though we shared in excitement every time we saw large schools of fish. I was wishing I had a waterproof camera case! I did bring the camera with me and I'm so glad I did because the boat got fairly close to the Maya ruins which are perched right on the ocean. It felt pretty cool to be swimming in the same place where this intriguing civilization once thrived. It was back to the hotel after, where I nursed my sunburns.

The downside about where I'm staying right now is that the restaurant closes when the sun goes down. I haven't had a good meal in a couple of days. Maybe I'll find a good restaurant tomorrow at Playa de Carmen. I'll be stopping there to say hi to a friend that I haven't seen since I was a teenager and also to scope out the area. I'm not sure if I'll stay the night there or in Cancun.

The beach I spent my day on:

Tulum ruins:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day 4: Back on the beach

I had planned to get up early and drive to Calakmul, a natural reserve with a Maya pyramid or two. It's about six hours from Campeche and I really didn't want to drive all that way only to find it's closed because of the flu, like the rest of tha Maya ruins, museums and other tourist attractions. I spent most of the morning in my room, reading about the flu, trying to figure out what to do and looking at rebooking my flight to come home earlier and save a vacation day or two. I was able to reschedule my flight at no charge for Monday, a day earlier than intended.

Finally I decided to head back to Tulum, taking a different road and stopping by some towns along the way. My first stop was Piste. The only reason I stopped there was to see if I could get a glimpse of Chichen Itza, the most popular Maya pyramid and one of the new seven wonders of the world. I didn't even make it to the gate. There were heavily armed guards turning people away. I drove on and noticed a sign for a hotel that was located near the site. I figured maybe I could bribe the hotel owner to let me on the roof and I could get some photos from the top. I didn't have to bribe them at all, they happily let me climb up to the highest point, and I was able to get some photos. They're not postcard material, but it's as close as I'll get. They were so close -- yet so far.

My second stop was Valladolid. It's a pretty little town with a little over fifty thousand inhabitants. I had trouble finding a place to park my rental car, until I saw a restaurant with secured parking for guests. This is where I had my late lunch before walking around the town to take some photos. Like all the other towns, a giant church loomed over the town square. I've seen so many churches on this trip, but I couldn't resist taking photos of one more, it was just too pretty.

I got to Tulum at about 5:00pm and I checked into a hotel right on the beach. It's a little pricey, but it's so nice! I did something I don't do often and probably wouldn't have done if the ruins weren't closed -- I left my camera at the hotel, put on my swimming shorts and swam until the sun went down. Wow, it was so much fun. I felt so refreshed, I went for a run along the beach. This is the one positive thing about the flu, the beach is fairly empty!

I enjoyed my evening so much that I checked in for another night. I'll relax on the beach tomorrow, maybe take some sunrise and sunset photos and then on Sunday make my way to Cancun.

Chichen Itza Pyramid:

Chichen Itza Observatory:

Chichen Itza Nunnery:


My hotel room: