Cancun, Janurary 2004

Pre-vacation stuff:

Al and I decided we wanted to go some place warm in January, to get away from the cold Midwest. We did not know where tho. I have a friend who works for Apple vacations (a travel agency type of thing) and he could get discounts on certain locations. So when we decided on the week we wanted to go, he sent us discounts to some places. We choose Cancun b/c we can be at the beaches and also go on daytrips to the Mayan ruins which we wanted. The only problem is that our flight was 5am on Sunday morning, so we had to get to the airport by 3am. So we decided that we will wake up early Saturday (5 am) and goto bed early Saturday night (9pm) and wake up super early (2am) to catch our flight. So we did that. We had a limo service to pick us up and away we went to the airport. We checked in and loaded on a charter (large) plane. There were many people but the seats were really close together (more so than other planes) so it was a bit uncomfortable. We slept most of the flight there and they fed us breakfast. Around 8am, we arrived in Cancun.

Day 1: Sunday

Cancun -- Yeah, it's Warm!

So we arrived in Cancun, it was a humid, partly cloudy day and it was nice to feel hot in the middle of winter. We left in the teens and in Cancun was at least in the mid 70's. So it was a great feeling. We went thro customs and I got passed to be searched but Al did not and his luggage was search. Apple Vacations representative was there waiting for us and they took around 7 of us in each van and took us to our hotel. We arrived at our hotel, Camino Real around 10 (I think) and we tried to check in early (check in time was 3:30) and they told us to come back in 1/2 hr so that we can get checked in early. So we took the time to walk around the hotel, it was surrounded by 3 side of ocean and one side of the lagoon. We saw a large iguana (I think?) and a small lizard in the lobby. It was really neat to see this creatures anywhere. Then we stopped by our apple Vacations representative to see about day trips out of Cancun. Then we were able to check into our room. The room had a great view. It was facing east, with the ocean crashing into the rocks. It was a lovely view. We rested for awhile and then we went to get lunch. We went to the restaurant attached to our hotel. It wasn't the best food, but it was okay. Then we decided to goto the beach and we hang out the beach and swam in the beautiful clear, blue water for awhile. Then we decided to meat our apple vacation representative again and got more info re daytrips and restaurants. Then afterwards, we went walking along the main strip of Cancun island. Saw tons of hotels and tons of restaurant. We decided to stop at the Plantation for dinner and had some seafood (still not very good), we were trying to figure out where to meet our bus for our daytrip to chichen Itza on Monday. After dinner we kept walking and found the place to meet on Monday, but we were too tired to do any more sightseeing and took the bus back to our hotel and went too sleep early. It was a long day.

Day 2

Chichen Itza -- Cool, Ruins!

Next morning, we woke up at 6am to get to our bus pickup to goto the old Mayan city of Chichen Itza (sp?), west of Cancun, in the interior of the Yucatan peninsula. We took the bus down to the restaurant and had breakfast. Then we loaded up the nice, air conditioned bus and off to Chichen Itza we went. They fed us with lots of soda and bottle water. 2 1/2 hrs later, we got to the city. At first, we followed our tour guy, but then Al and I got bored and we split off and decided to visit the city by ourselves. Chichen Itza was the capital of the Mayan Empire at one point. It had large stadiums and tons of religious ruins. The most famous one was the great pyramid. Most of the pyramid had been restored. First we climbed the inside of it. It was a nice climb but anti-climatic since there was nothing to see up there. Then we climbed the outside. It had a little over 90 steep steps up. Now, I am afraid of heights and I knew that I will freak out once I am up there b/c it is a steep view, but regardless, I had to climb it b/c if I didn't I will regret it. So I climbed it really fast and not look down b/c if I did, I will freak out. Then I got to the top and finally looked down and my heart skipped a beat as it looked very frightening and thought to myself, "how in the hell am I going to go down", b/c it was really steep and scary. While I clung to the wall on top of the pyramid, Al, who wasn't a chicken like me, went all around the pyramid taking pictures. We were a lot higher than the trees and you can see far distances, it was really a pretty sight. Finally after 15 minutes, it was time to walk down. Yikes!!! So I knew I had to go down on my butt. The first butt step was really scary and I thought how am I going to go down. But after a few butt steps, I realize the stairs were big enough to hold all of my butt and that I was safely secured to the pyramid. After that, I felt better and less scared b/c I know I wasn’t going to fall off. But still using my butt to climb down, was a slow process, Al meanwhile, climbed down the normal way, with his feet. He got down a lot faster than I. Eventually I got down, and the last 10 steps, I walked down with my feet. In my defense, I wasn't the only one coming down on my butt (a lot of people climbed down the way I had).

So we walked around the pyramid which was the most renovated ruin in the Yucatan. We continued to walked around the city. The city that has been excavated is very open. Not much trees between all the ruins. You can see all the ruins very clearly. Then we met up with our guide and we went back to the bus and went to a restaurant to have a late lunch. It was okay and we chit chatedt with others in our group. Afterwards, near the restaurant, there was a underground pool (Cenote) and Al and I went down there to swim. It was a first very cold, but you got used to it. It was really neat to swim underground. We wanted to stay longer, but we had to catch our bus back to Cancun. We took another couple of hours to get home. Afterwards, we went to restaurant near our hotel, thinking it was a Paella place, but we were wrong so we got tex mex food and I had shrimp fajita. And it was pretty good, I finally found my appetite. At this time, my legs started to hurt from climbing up the stairs. Afterwards, we went for a short walk and went to bed b/c we were tired and b/c we had to wake up early to go to our next day trip.

Day 3

Coba -- Day of the Drunks and we do scary stuff

Again, we woke up early to catch our transportation to Coba, another old Mayan city. We took our bus down and met up with our van who was going to be our guide for the day. We met up with 2 other couples and 4 hungover guys from the east coast. Now there were nice enough guys, but they were also the "typical" drunk, inconsiderate Americans that foreigners love about us. It is good to remember, that these guys were out drinking all of the previous night. Anyway, one of the guys was next to the window, then I sat in the middle and Al sat next to the door. So we are off and we stopped at 7-eleven to go to the restroom and to get some "breakfast". When we returned, our guide could not find his key so we spent 20-30 minutes looking for his key to the van. We looked everywhere, finally he realize (I can't remember his name) he had it in his inside pocket. So finally we were off to our destination. We took some back roads. One road was very rocky and we went really slow. Other times we went on a normal road and sometime we went to a "one way" road where it is very straight and you can drive really fast and then you see another car going the opposite direction and you pull over the side to pass each other. So it was an eventful. Then, in the middle of the trip. The guy next to me ask the driver to pull over so he can throw up. The driver stopped, and Al quickly try to get out of the car, so did I, but Al wasn't fast enough, he got out but I did not and I felt the guy throwing up on my back. Eeewww!!! Grosse!!!! It was really disgusting. I had my bikini on underneath my shirt b/c we were to go swimming later in the day, so I took off my grosse t-shirt and I threw it away. And borrowed Al's extra shirt. He also threw up on my daytrip backpack so we had to clean it up and clean up part of the van. Finally, we got back in. We took his friend towel and sat on it in the van. So he felt better and did not throw up anymore. Finally after a few hours, we got to a present day Mayan Village.

So this tour we took, we were told there was a lot of activities to do before we get to Coba. First, we went to this village and we went Zip Lining. Al went before I did. We got strapped in the harness and we were attached to this rope that went across the ravine near the village. The Drunks went first and all went well, Al went and then I went. I did not want to do this b/c again, I am afraid of heights, but I paid for it, so I went. At first I was freaked out when I first started to walk off the cliff, but then my butt felt comfy and I zipped across the ravine and it was not so scary. But when it was time to break, it was really painful b/c to break, it squished your groins, so it was painful. Then, we went back and we did repelling. Again, I was afraid but I paid for it, so I did it. I was again afraid, but once I felt secure with my butt in harness and I released myself slowly, it wasn’t so scary. I repelled about 20 feet. Afterwards, we went canoeing along this small river (or creek). It was very marshy. Then we got out of our canoes and went hiking through the woods and the guide talked about some of the flora of the Mayan areas. Then we went to this opening in the ground and we went spelunking and climbed into the ground. Once we got to the bottom there was a underground lake (Cenote). We went swimming (cold at first but you got use to it). We got out of the Cenote and we had a Mayan Shaman bless us for swimming in the Cenote. Then we went back to the Mayan village and they served us "real" Mayan food. One was a chicken dish. It was absolute delicious. I love it, I think it may be my favorite meal while we were in Mexico. Al said he taste like Chicken Tika Masala, but I don’t' think so, anyway, a very good meal. After lunch, we finally went of to Coba

Coba has not been as restored a Chichen Itza and it's pyramid looks more run down than Chichen Itza, but it is a lot higher. Coba used to be the capital or the commercial capital of the Mayans. It is, I believe the largest Mayan city during their empire days. The Coba ruins are all in the forest so ruins just stick out from the forest. And what we found fascinating is how trees just grow from the actual ruin. Like a tree stick out from a building or step, it's quite neat. We heard a boring guide but finally we were allowed to get our bikes and we rode to couple of ruin sites. The terrain of the path was very rocky so when you ride the very old bikes, it is very difficult and my hand was hurting a lot from all the shaking from biking on rocks. We were able to bike to the large pyramid that looked more like a slender triangle. It was over 100 steps and we climbed it. I did not look down again until I got to the top. It was more "ruinous" than Chichen. The view was absolutely gorgeous, we were so above the tree line. Then, we went down. Al walked down again. And again, I butted down again. And again, it was scary at first (but I was now a more experience pyramid climber), but the steps had room for my butt so took a long time to come down, but I wasn't freaking out. So we saw another smaller ruin in Coba and then we met up with our van for our trip back to Cancun. We had to wait for a couple of the formerly drunk, obnoxious Americans to show up b/c they were late. Finally, we went off and went home without incident. A couple of hours with the drunks on the ride home and never saw them again.

We got back to Cancun and headed out for dinner at a restaurant with Paella,….mmmm..yum. But by this time, my legs was sooo sore from the stair climbing in the last two days. Everytime I use a step, it was so painful. We went for a short walk. We tried to message our legs, but everytime you touch it, it was sooo painful. Al was in the same position. At the end, the massage was too painful and we gave up. We were really out of shape. We tried to stay up b/c we didn't have to wake early on Wednesday, but we were too tired and fell asleep again very early.

So to recap the day. Went on Bus, Went on Van, Search for Key, go on Rough Roads and got thrown up on and a t-shirt was thrown away. Went Zip-Lining, repelling, canoeing, hiking, spelunking, swimming, eating, touring, biking, climbing, biking, back on the van. Eating and then sleeping.

Day 4

Cancun -- Day of Rest

So we woke up late finally on our vacation. We went to the beach for a short while. I got a Strawberry Daiquiri and Al got another mixed drink. We got it in a Styrofoam cup. I was bummed, I always imagine drinking a tropical drink in cute glasses on the beach. Anyway hanged out there for a couple of hours. Then we decided to go shopping at a small mall on the island and get lunch. We went to this mall and I got my only purchased or the trip. A wrap for my swimsuit. She offer 120 pesos, I offered 100 pesos and she agreed. I think I could have gotten it cheaper, but I don't like bargaining. We ate tex-mex food at the mall and then we returned to the hotel. We went back to the beach and hanged out for a few hours and went swimming and laying out. We also practice our snorkeling in the lagoon that our hotel surrounds since we were going to snorkeling the next day. Then by late afternoon, the sun start to set and we had to go in. We then waited for the a rental car people to pick us up so we can get the rental car for our day trip out on Thursday. We use this rental car agency b/c our Apple Vacation people recommended them. We got the car and the car was a Nissan but it was very junky. It kind of smelled like a lot of drunks have used the car. Regardless we got our car and drove back to our hotel. Then we had dinner at Maria Bonita (b/c we used Apple vacation), they have buy one, get one free, so we decided to go there. I got 4 pepper steak and Al got seafood in pepper. The meal was really good. Then we went walking. Our legs were still hurting from the climbing of the pyramids and so we did not walk long. Afterwards, we were still tired and we had to wake up early, so we went to bed early….again.

Day 5

Riviera Maya -- We are on our own!

So we woke early to go on a daytrip that was not part of a package. We were going to drive along the Yucatan peninsula east coast, called Riviera Maya. We were up early enough to see the sunrise from our hotel balcony. We wanted to get to Tulum before the tourist get there at 9:30 but we ran late. Anyway, we drove about 2 hours to Tulum in our smelly car and got there just as other major tourist people came, a old walled Mayan city. It is the only Mayan city that had a wall surrounding the city. It is also sits next to the ocean so it was really beautiful. There was nothing to climb but lots of ruins that used to part of the city. The main "temple" was next to the cliff so it was really beautiful. And it was HOT. We were there for about 1 1/2. It was not a large city. Then we tried to get out of the parking lot of Tulum but we did not how to reverse in the car. It had Reverse on the far top left of the stick shift and not on the far right bottom of a US stick shift. So I had to get out and push to "reverse" the car, while it was in Neutral.

Meanwhile, our legs did not hurt as much

Then we drove another 1/2 hr on the coast to goto a "small" Mayan city called Muyil. It has about 4 ruins site. It was a really small site. If is just off the road and you did not have to pay. There were only a few people there. We saw couple of small site and we were following this path that we thought will take us to another ruin site, but it went on forever and we realize we were not in the "park" path, so we retraced our steps and went back to the Main site and saw a small "castle" like pyramid and I climbed it, it was only 20 steps or so. So we were there for less than an hour and when we left the parking lot, we did not have to reverse. So we started to head north, in the direction of Cancun/Tulum to find lunch. Couldn't find a place to each that interest us, so we decided to eat at the tourist 'water park" we were going to visit next. Xel-Ha.

Xel-Ha is a conservation water park. They have this large lagoon(?) filled with animal life that you can snorkel, scuba dive, swim, raft and play with dolphins. We went snorkling there. We first had lunch at this buffet place, it wasn't very good. Then we got a locker and put our stuff away and went snorkling at some of the area. We saw a lot of fishes underwater (big fishes) and saw a lot of rock caverns. We did this for a couple of hours before we got cold. So we came out of the water and dried off on some hammock. This was a very nice park.

Then we left the parking lot, we figured out how to use the "reverse", we had to lift the stick shift to get into Reverse mode, so I did not have to push the car out. Then we drove up the cost back to Cancun. We got to Cancun island and before we return the car, we stopped at a public beach. It was pretty, but very sandy and hilly. We saw the sunset. Then, we went to return the car. I thought it was farther west, Al thought it was closer, so we overshot the rental car place and Al turned left instead of making a U-Turn on the street and subsequently we got lost. Eventually after many turns, map looking, we found our way back and were able to drop off the car. We then took the bus back to our hotel. We went to Lorenzillos, a restaurant that our tour book recommended. I had the lobster, it was okay. We wanted to stay up but what else is new, we were too tired an fell asleep early.

Day 6

Cancun and Isla de Mujeres -- Busy, also relaxing day.

We woke up a decent hour, not too early or too late. We decided to goto the island nearby called Isla De Mujeres. We went to the boat site that was near our hotel. The departure time from Cancun was 9am but, the return trip was either at 12 or 5pm. We left a 9am. We got there a little before 10 with our snorkel gear, thinking we would go snorkeling on a reef off the island. But we did not want to stay on a 7km island for a whole day so we decided to leave at noon. So we rented a golf cart from this obnoxious golf car owner. The first one we got, wouldn't start so we got another one. So soon we (actually me) driving this golf cart around the island, sharing the road with other golf carts and cars. Everytime a car was behind me, I veer the cart to the right and let it pass me. We got a slow cart, a lot of golf cart passed us :-( and I was putting the gas pedal to the floor. It was a very nice island. Cute and quaint. B/c we got a slow cart and we did not want to rush, we decided not go snorkeling in the reef and just explore the island. We saw lighthouses, garbage dump, ruins, nice homes, beaches, and a very busy tourist area. We soon return our cart and took the ferry back to Cancun. We then went to the 'gauntlet", the place we always have to pass by and there is restaurants and stores that try to get us to go into their business, for lunch. It was a very good lunch.

We went back to the hotel and hanged out on the pool area and got more frozen drinks for a couple of hours. Then it cool down and sunset. We watch some TV, before we went to La Joya, another restaurant recommended by our tour book. There they had Mexican dancers and Mexican music as well as we got good food. I got a seafood dish. We came back and changed so we can go "clubbing" in Cancun.

We took the bus to a dance club someone recommended us, but it sucked and looked cheesy, so we did not go there and went back to the bus and went to a dance club near our hotel. We went there, dance for couple of hours. By midnight, it was Al's 30th Birthday, so I told the waiter and Al got a free shot. We danced some more. I say we danced about 2/3 of the songs….but then they played Latin music and we don't like latin music, (anyway, we were tired), and left. We went to bed around 2am. Wow, that is late for us. We actually stayed up past 10 once on this vacation.

Day 7

Cancun -- Al's 30th B-day :-) and our Last Full Day :-(

We woke up late (yeah!) and we decided to goto a nearby mall to find postcards. So we did that. We tried to find early lunch place, but we could not figure out where to eat. So we went to the Mexican dinner near the convention center and I ordered a think steak. It was really grosse and I did not touch it after 2 bites. I ate some of Al's spaghetti. We went back to our hotel and hanged out at the beach for the last time and order frozen drinks for the last time and swam in the ocean for the last time :-( We were there for most of the afternoon and it was very relaxing. Afterwards, we went back to Maria Bonita b/c we liked the food there and b/c we get one meal free. Al got the steak and I got shrimp. Then I surprise Al with the band there, they played for Al and then they sang "happy birthday" to Al. We went for our last walk along the beach and we wanted to go clubbing.

So we were going back to the club that we went to the previous day, but the music change from 80s and 90s to hip hop/variety and we did not want to take the chance that we hated the music and won't dance to it when we have to spend 25 dollars to get in. So we decided not to go dancing and went to bed, earlier then we expected. Anyway, we had to wake up early to depart for the airport.

Day 8

Cancun/Chicago -- The day we return to the cold

So we woke around 6am to catch our 6:30 ride to the airport for our 10am flight. So we looked at our ocean view one last time and left our hotel for good. We did not actually leave until 7:00am and got to the airport a little before 8:00. When we got there, there were tons of people in line and it stretched forever. We got in line and we got through. They searched our bags as we entered the terminal. Then our flight was delayed b/c some whether problems where the plane originated from. So we got some breakfast at TGIF (our only non Mexican restaurant we went to in Mexico). And then we waited and waited. Finally, we were allowed to board, and they took my boarding pass and I was able to board, but Al got caught again and had to be searched again, Finally we left around 11:00am. Another 3 hours on the plane. Another 1hr to go through immigration, baggage claim and customs. We met Kris, who took us home and we arrive back to cold Chicago. The warmth, sunny, humid air was gone, in place was cold, dry, snowy and cloudy place.

Thoughts, observations and other miscellanoues things

  1. We took the bus along the Cancun island because it was really cheap, six pesos (50 cents), so it was really convenient.
  2. We were told to drink only bottle water b/c if we drink water from the tap, we may get the Montezuma revenge or what Mexicans call "The visitor sickness". Also that we should avoid fresh vegetable and fruit. We did so, it was mostly successful, but there was still a bit of trouble.
  3. Everynight, we would goto our balcony and look at the stars (it was a new moon), and we faced the ocean so we saw a lot of stars. And every morning, we would open our balcony doors and hear the ocean waves crashing into the rocks….it was very peaceful
  4. We we were there, it was windy and in the mid 70's, a lot warmer than Chicago (about 70 degree difference), but still it was colder than I would like for hanging on the beach. We swam and laid on the beach, but everytime we went into the water, it was cold at the beginning but got warmed up. Or everytime a cloud came, it cooled us off on the beach. So since it was partly cloudy the whole time, we were chilled sometime on the beach, but still it was nice.
  5. The beaches where we hanged out had very fine sand, and the ocean was very blue, so very pretty.
  6. We were on Cancun island where all the tourist stayed, so there is a lot of Mexicans there try to sell vacations excursions, products, jewelry, taxi, restaurants, clubs and hair braiding. So they were really aggressive and always bugging us to buy things and we keep saying no, but they keep insisting and we keep insisting no. It was very mentally wearing to keep being harassed and trying to stay nice.
  7. Almost all the Mexican spoke English fluently. We used some Spanish (or actually Al did), but it wasn't really necessary but we did so anyway, trying to be polite.
  8. We wanted to stay up later and enjoy the night life in Cancun, almost every night, but we were always so tired and went to bed early except for one night. Yes, we were lame.
  9. Almost every restaurant, they gave us bread/butter or/and salsa. Many times, The butter they used were garlic or cilantro…mmm delicious. All the salsa was homemade and spicy and hot. It was soo delicious. I really missed those tasty salsa which I cannot find in the U.S. :-(
  10. What I will missed most about our trip to Cancun is the wonderful ocean view we saw every morning and everynight and I miss listening to the waves :-(
  11. As you drive along the road in Cancun or on the island or the Yucatan peninsula, you will see various Mayan ruin on the side of the street, including a ruin right outside our hotel room, on the hotel site….neat!
  12. We would love to go back to the area, but next time, we probably want to stay away from Cancun resort area and stay at one of the places along the Riviera Maya, where it is less busy and less people trying to sell you something and can explore more of the ruins.
  13. We liked the fact that there were no doors at entrances to restaurants, hotels and stores. You just walked right in. I like the "open" feel.