Saturday, December 28, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Final Thoughts

A few thoughts after coming back from Mexico.

Safety – I found all the three places we visited to be quite safe. I still would not walk by myself anywhere at night, but as a family, it was safe to walk in the early night. I am not sure about after 9 pm as we were not out that late any day. I think in Playa del Carmen on 5th Ave, one can be out late also. Other places were all safe in the day time without any issues. 

Money – If one is not staying at one of the all-inclusive places, then I would budget minimum 100 pesos per day per person. That would include only the food.  Any shopping would be separate. Food is not exactly cheap, but we found that paying in pesos was cheaper than paying in dollars. And a lot of restaurants would charge more with credit card, so better take cash.

Shopping – I wish I had known that I would find everything in Cancun's Mercado 28 so I could have skipped all the shopping everywhere else, especially Playa del Carmen was the most expensive of all places. Valladolid was really good for general shopping, clothes, shoes etc. But I would not have shopped at Chichen Itza either. It seems that you would not find these things elsewhere, but we found everything in Cancun and better prices.

Food – This was a little bit issue for us because we are vegetarian. But we did not really have problems anywhere. We were happy with pizza also. But even street food could be made vegetarian. So all good. I would say some of the food was really tasty, the sauces were very good and guacamole was just great! There were chips and sauce everywhere. Street food was actually quite tasty.

Transportation – It was not that difficult to get around in this part of Mexico. The Ado buses connect cities and are comfortable. Within the city there are plenty of taxis and one can bargain but can get good price. We were able to reserve taxis online also to and from airport. All transportation was on time and safe and clean.

Time – I always feel that I need one more day in these places I visit. I would have liked to spend one more day in Playa del Carmen and gone to visit Cozumel and Tulum. Xcaret was definitely a good visit but it was a controlled environment. I would have liked to see more of nature.  I would have also liked to stay one more day in Valladolid and maybe visit some cenotes – although that is debatable, because almost all cenotes charge 40 or more pesos per person to visit. So it probably would become and expensive day. But I do miss not going to even one.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 8 - Last Day

Today was a rainy day. No rush to get up early but still have to have breakfast in case they close up. It was simple breakfast, bread and butter with coffee. Kids had milk, which was not tasty. We sat until it kind of stopped raining.

We had only one place to go today – Mercado 28.  It took us a bit to get there. 
I think we kind of entered a side door because later I saw that the market was marked so well from another street. Oh well. The market is really big! And the prices here are the best. We found everything that we were buying everywhere else. There were so many more choices and of course bargaining. So we did any last minute shopping there.
We have to check out around 1 pm since our taxi will come and take us to the airport. The taxi was on time and the drive was about 20 mins. We got there in good time to check in and sit and finish our bread and snacks. Security took out the achaar and jam. No worries. In any case. That was it for Cancun. Nice trip!
At the Cancun airport

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 7

Today we have to go to Cancun. We have the morning. Bhaiya, Sarvesh and I decided to go see the Mercado, Viki and Bhabhi were too tired. Bhaiya was looking at Google maps and walked us about 1 km to the wrong direction. I advised him to take a taxi to the market. (20 Pesos). The market was not that great. There was a lot of meat stuff, some vegetables and some bags and clothes shops open. We did not buy anything and left shortly as we had a bus to catch at 11 am.
We walked back, as it was not really that far from the hotel. Checked out of the hotel and walked to the bus station. This one is smaller and more crowded. And yet again, the bus was on time and comfortable. A movie was playing again. It was about 2 hrs to Cancun. The drive was quite boring – not much to see outside. Cancun is a big city but only a couple big roads. The bus station is in the center and is a hug building. We walked to our hotel from there. It was a little convoluted but not far. On the way we passed a nice garden and some nice restaurants.
The hotel check in was ok. There was no power at that time since they were fixing some electrical thing. We left shortly for lunch to one the nice dhabha we saw on the way. We got some burritos. All good. little too cheesy, but tasty. The hot sauces were good.

From there we walked to the main street to figure out how to get to the hotel strip. When we asked a bus about it, they told us to take the big red or green bus for 7 pesos per person we could go as far as we wanted. We took it to about half the way. There was a huge grocery store there and a big office for the Xcaret park information.  We were right on the beach. It was really crowded and I was not in the mood for taking off my shoes and walking on the sand. 
We moved on from there and apparently what Bhabhi was saying is that we can walk into any hotel, like Vegas hotels. We did go into one, but I did not feel comfortable. 

After going into one hotel, I did not feel comfortable walking into any other hotel. Besides, it would be a long walk to get to the hotels. We walked back to the big supermarket where we had gotten dropped off. We had a coke! Of course. Cannot miss that opportunity.

We then took the bus the Xcaret tower. Our Xcaret band will give us two free rides on the tower. We took our first ride up during the daylight. Nice 15 min ride up and down. It was pretty view. Then it was time to walk around a bit so that we could go about an hour later for the night ride up. There was a nice hotel there with plenty of christmas decoration. We just took pictures from outside and then crossed the road to get to the lagoon side. The lagoon was very clean with clear water. The scenery was just beautiful. We walked back to the tower.  The mosquitoes had decided to come out now!
The night ride up the tower was quite nice. I can take night photos only with my phone. It was a nice ride. Then it was time to take the bus ride back to center. But Bhabhi said there was another park that we could stop at. We were all tired but since that was our last night, we went. The park was full of shops and people. It seemed like there was a night market/fun time going on. There were plenty of shops (thelas) and a number of eating places.  We had our marquesitas there again. We all love that stuff! By now poor Viki has bad throat and is super tired.
We got some quesedillas there – but their quesedillas were actually fried and not made on a pan. It was not that great. But it was nice to see so many people eating out and having fun. I wish we had eaten something else instead of the quesedillas.

Then it was time to walk back, and we came across the prettiest Christmas tree! I have never seen anything so beautiful. We admired it and then walked back. 
I am not happy walking back through these empty roads but luckily we are five of us and there is strength in numbers.

That was it! That was our last night in Cancun.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 6

Christmas day! I got ready and around 7:15 went to check if our driver was there – he was – thank God! But there were no other taxis there, so good I had talked to him yesterday. I told him we would be ready in about 20 minutes which turned out to be 30. We quickly ate our breakfast and were on our way to see one of the wonders of the world.

It took us about 40 minutes to get there.  The drive was pretty boring, nothing scenic. 

The line for the tickets was not very long; and they take credit card so at least we save some money. They charge two different tickets, one for federal and one for state. I think one was cash. We still have to get a guide so we have to pay cash there to save 100 pesos so we can use cash. It was advised that we take the guide and I'm glad we did. Rosalba our guide was for 1 and 1/2 hours. It was really nice inside because we had come so early there were hardly any people there. The pyramid was right in front once we got past the visitor’s center and the little path that has a boundary to the temple (that’s what the pyramid is).

It was great, we got some nice shots of the pyramid. It was a large pyramid but of course not as big as Egypt but good. And yes the pyramid had all stairs on the four sides; very symmetrical. The pyramid was made according to astronomy. One interesting thing about the pyramid was the acoustics. From side of the pyramid if we clap then we can hear the clapping sound come back as the sound of a bird from the pyramid. From other sides it would just be the echo of the clap. Really cool!
We walked around with the guide. She was okay, but I’m sure she gets tired with people just taking pictures and not paying attention to what she was saying. And I understand that there was no crowd there, so it was good to take photos then, but we had the guide only for 1.5 hrs. So a tough decision! It seems to me that the Mayan culture was a little violent. They believed in human sacrifice and would also kill any visitors (which is fine!). Their pyramids are covered with skulls and sacrificial symbols. I wonder why they would rule by fear.

We saw the huge field where the competitors would play hockey with a fire ball. And then also when they would play ball like a basketball but with hips and shoulders but not legs or hands. The rings for the basket were really high! Amazing! The field was as big as a soccer field. There was a place for the spectators and also for the priests. (We has seen the game played out in Xcaret at the night show, and I was not even sure that was real – but I guess it was!).
Our guide at this point told us a few more points to visit and then she left us. We took a little break, I went to the restroom – all the way out to the entrance – bad idea, it was too crowded and I was lucky to get in and out fast. There is a restroom in there but Bhabhi had sacred me into saying that the reviews said it was dirty. (But it was not).

We had some snacks and then walked to see the cenote where the American explorer found many artifacts. Apparently, he bought this whole area for $17 and then cleaned the cenote and eventually found all these artifacts in them, which he took for himself.  Mayans are not too happy about it – but they also did nothing to clean this area up.
The walk to the cenote was lined with vendors. We were stopping and shopping and walking. We then came to the middle at the main pyramid. Had our lunch of bread and then walked the other side to see the observatory. It was a little bit of a walk, but we got there. it was okay, there was a lot of damage to the structure, but one could still see that it was the observatory.  By now I was exhausted. We walked back and I called the taxi driver to take us back. It would take him 40 mins to get there, so we sat around the pyramid enjoying the sight.

Bhabhi wanted to stop at the cenote in the middle, but just the entry would have been some money, even just to take a photo, so there was not point in going. Also the driver did not want to wait while we took photos. So we just drove back. Meanwhile, Bhabhi looked through Google and found another church to visit, so we had the driver leave us there. It turns out the church was closed (it was 25th – so why??). We walked back from there to our hotel and rested.
Bhaiya found a good restaurant, Yakuna Cucina Mexicana, to eat for that night. It was near the church. We left around 6ish to go to the central square, near the church, and just sit. I saw this thela for a snack – marquesitas so Sarvesh and I got in line to try it out. It took about 30 mins for us to get ours. It was very tasty! They were personalizing it for everyone, that is why it was taking long. But it was worth the wait. As usual we were sharing, so I did not get the full taste but still it was good.
We then walked to the restaurant, which had only this one waiter. The guest coming out of the restaurant was an American and he highly recommended it (he was also a vegetarian).  And yes, the food was good. bhaiya eats very little, so we shared a bit with him. 
We walked back and went to sleep.  It had been a tiring day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 5

Time to move to the next city Valladolid we have time in the morning so we had some breakfast in this interesting looking Mexican place breakfast is okay small portions and than USA, and taste was okay. The restaurant had amazing d├ęcor.  It was a museum by itself.
We then walked around shopping and looking. It as a beautiful day, no rain. We got some money exchanged. We should have gotten more money exchanged here. We saw the city center with the nice park and church right on the beach.
Came back, checked out, and walked about a mile to the Ado bus station. We got some snack while waiting the bus.  The bus departed at 1 p.m. promptly. It was a small minivan, very comfortable. There was a movie playing doing the journey. We were all sleeping! Two and half hours later we were in Valladolid after the bus made one stop near Tulum. Good service.
Valladolid is a small town it was crowded when we came, may because of Christmas shopping; it was Christmas Eve. We walked about two blocks to our hotel, Maria Guadelupe. It’s small one maybe 8 to 10 rooms. Big issue was that they take only cash, no dollars, no credit card. We thought it was all paid for when Bhabhi made the reservation.  We had very little cash so we checked in and went to the bank to get some pesos. There was a long line but we got in line and it was moving fast. Bhaiya and Viki went to see if other banks would also change but they did not, so as I was at the counter, they came back and we exchanged all the money we wanted to. While we were there Bhabhi found out that we can buy tickets at Chichen Itza only with cash (which turned out to be wrong - they also take credit card).

We then walked to the hotel and gave the money.  We came out and saw a cab driver; we asked him to come in the morning to take us to Chichen Itza. He would take peso 50 per person, good deal. He also said there would be many taxis here but that turned out to be wrong – maybe because it was 25th Dec the next day.

Viki found an ice cream place that he wanted to go to. The gelato was expensive and the taste was all right. There were some unique flavors. We then walked to the cental park and the church. There were a couple guys playing some drums. Gave a nice feeling of being in a different country.  Sat around for a bit. Later we went to Domino's Pizza to get pizza for the night as there was not many vegetarian places around. There were some nice potatoes and cinnamon bites with the pizza.  
Nice day! Walked back and went to sleep as we have to get up early so we are ready by 7:15 am for breakfast.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 4

All got ready by 7 a.m. and had quick breakfast of the bread and pizza. We were out looking for a taxi for Xcaret. We bargained one down to 350 Pesos.  We had to also get a taxi/van that could seat 5 people. There were plenty that could seat four passengers.  In any case, it took him about 20 minutes to get there. Just like Disney, it is kind of off road, one will have walk about 1 mile to get to the enterance of the park from the main highway. 

We exchanged our tickets for bracelets and then it was time to go in. We were right on time at 8:30 am. There are many paths marked on the map and in the park as well. It is very well made, all the location are marked on the map and in the park so there is no confusion. There are several spots where you can scan your bracelet and let the Xcaret park take a photo. You can buy all these photos at the end of the day.  Good money making scheme!
Viki was our guide and he took the white path to the aviary first. The park has an aviary, aquarium, butterfly garden, some aquatic wildlife, some animals, some ancient ruins, a cemetery, a church, a 10-minute boat ride, a one-mile underground and ground river for people to swim adult hour to see, a nice museum, many shows during the day, an orchid garden, a Beach area for activities, a few restaurants, and finally a grand show at night. The park was neat and clean, plenty of restrooms, plenty of water etc. The only thing I thought was amiss was affordable food. Simple nachos and cheese were $6. Lunch buffet was $35 per person. That’s just too much. But the places were full!!

We started at the aviary and made our way to the cemetery and to the butterfly garden and aquarium. There was a lot of walking involved and plenty to see on the way. We had brought our snacks so that worked out well. The tower ride was short and sweet and so was the boat ride. Everything had its own character and so I am glad we did not miss anything. The only thing was that walking everywhere was taking up too much time and of course one has to take a little break once in a while.
It was 5 pm before we realized we needed to swim the underground river or we will be late for the 7:30 pm night show which is not to be missed. We had been seeing the river and people swimming in it all day and it was not something we wanted to miss.  Four of us were ready for the swim except Bhabhi who would have to change into the swim suit when all of us were already wearing ours.  Oh well, she would have to miss this. We could not burden her with all our bags so were used their wonderful system where you take all the belongings, put them in a duffle bag, give you’re the key, scan your bracelet; and they give it to you at the end of the river. Very efficient and very secure.  Sarvesh and I came out at the next exit in the river.  It was a bit much for me since I am not a very good swimmer so I got tired; also there were no ropes to hold on to. The other thing that helps me is if I can keep my feet on the ground, but the river was about 6ft deep so that also was bothering me. Viki wanted to go all the way so Bhaiya decided to go with him.  Sarvesh and I walked to the next exit and waited but they did not come there. After a while we went to the end of the river and waited. They came swimming and happy! What an achievement for them floating and swimming for a mile on the river.

We got our bags and got changed.  Bhabhi was to meet at as number 35 for dinner but everything was closing at 5:30 and when we were there just 10 minutes before so we rushed there.  She managed to get us two sandwiches with fries.  We sat by the beach and ate.  
We walk back to see the spectacular show. It was on completely the other side of the park.  It was getting so crowded and we also got into the crowd. Ultimately we were standing in line for 40 minutes and eventually we realized we could have gotten a seat easily even if we had come at 7:15 for the 7:30 show because the theater was very large. The theater was open and huge with seating on all four sides. The bottom one third was for people also ordered dinner so had special seats. We were higher up and would have been even if we had come at 7:15pm.  I went to the restroom and then got me a couple Xcaret plastic drinking glasses as mementos.

The show was spectacular! All the dances, music, actions were amazing. They showed the old Mayan cultural ceremonies with the playing of the ball with the fireball with sticks (like hockey); and then the Spaniards came and ruined their culture and then make them all Christians; then there was a lot of slavery. There were a number of dances and displays from different parts of Mexico. All was just grand and colorful. We left about 10 minutes early to beat the crowd so we don’t have to fight for a taxi. It was 500 pesos to get back to hotel - standard price, no bargaining.
We walked over 11 miles today really tired. But still Viki and I went out to get pizza for dinner. Still great pizza.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Xmas in Mexico - Day 3

Next morning had breakfast, it was similar kind as yesterday. We had to check out at 12 p.m. so we went to the beach for about an hour. The water was great. I went to the pool also; the water was cooler than the ocean but still enjoyable.  By 12 we were all checked out, but we're told that we could stay till 4 p.m., so we went for lunch at the usual place but buffet was closed there.  We played air hockey and billiards for a while and then went to the pool.  It turns out that is where the buffet was today.  It was good food again.  I just could not eat much because I was so full from breakfast, but still had some soup salad and little bit pasta.
Slept around the pool till 2:30 p.m. then left to check in to the other hotel, Kimbe. The hotel was on the street next to 5th avenue, which is a big shopping street. The hotel was okay, the price was okay according to the location, but no breakfast.  And I found out later that the bed was lousy. The toilet was also leaking, I think the room needs a little maintenance.

We went to walk around the hotel.  We knew it was going to rain so no use going to Tulum or Cozumel. We walked around on the 10th avenue and then turned around to come to the 5th avenue and then it started raining and it did not stop until into the night.  We all got a little wet but we kept stopping and shopping our way back.  We got some fresh churros for about 40 pesos. Very tasty!! 
Came back and rested a bit and then went to Bhaiya’s room to chitchat and eat snacks.  Watched football and then the kids and Bhabhi went to get pizza.  They came back with three large pizza, really tasty thin crust pizza. I had one slice, three slices were left for the morning.

Tomorrow we have to get up early and go to Xcaret. We had also gotten some bread and jam from a 7 eleven for breakfast tomorrow.