Trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico - March 2000

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Nikki is preparing for the tripOur more than 8000 km trip started on the 13th of March 2000. We bought the trip through a company called Apollo here in Norway. It was sort of a package deal where we got the flight and the hotel arranged. First we had to go to Oslo and then we had to go to Stockholm in Sweden to get the flight that went straight for Cancun in Mexico. The distance is as I already mentioned more than 8000 km and it took us about 12 hours and 30 minutes to get to Cancun. It has been a long time since I have been on a plane for such a long period and it got really really boring towards the The flag: An eagle with a snake in the beak sitting on a cactusend of the flight. The airline company that took us there was Novair. It was a pretty new Airbus plane. The only thing that annoyed me was that there were little TV screens in all the seats and we still all had to see the same movies even if there was potential for playing games and to change channels on the TV. And when going on chartered airlines it means that you have to buy all the drinks and even buy the earphones and I'm not used to that since I have travelled more with KLM and British Airways.

A view of Hotel ParadiseWe finally arrived in Cancun airport at about 11 pm and Apollo rented buses that took us to our destination Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is a small town located about 45 minutes (by bus) outside Cancun. We stayed at a hotel called Paradise. The hotel itself was OK. It was nice to jump into the pool when it got too hotWe had a room with some kitchen equipment in it so that we could at least make some breakfast there. There was a nice pool in the garden of the hotel that we used quite a lot. We did have trouble getting used to the noisy air condition (so we only used the fan) and the hard beds. The location wasn't too bad either. It was maybe 300-400 meters down to the beach and about the same to get to the main street in Playa del Carmen (called 5th avenue).

A bit exhaustedThe first thing when we did when we got to the hotel at 1 am was to go straight to bed of course. There is nothing like sleeping in a bed after you have spent lots of time on a plane (in a chair where it is almost impossible to get some sleep). The next day was spent walking around in Playa del Carmen to get to know the place and also to get used to the heat and the new time zone. Yes, it was pretty hot and it was so nice to go from the cold Norwegian spring to 30 degrees Celsius during the day and 20 degrees during the night. And even if it was quite windy the first few days it was still very nice and warm and clouds only covered the sun occasionally.

5th avenue in Playa del CarmenAs I mentioned there is a sort of Main Street in Playa del Carmen. This is filled with restaurants, bars and little shops. The shop owners was of course very interested in getting us into their stores and that can be annoying. At first it is charming but as the days go by it becomes more and more annoying. To start out with I was polite and said no thanks and looked at them but as the days progressed I ignored them more and more. What can I say? We got set-up :-)I'm not used to this tactics from here in Norway so I get a bit stressed up about it. We got suckered one day when we saw a big iguana on some rugs and we went over to touch it. The guy asked if we wanted to take a picture and I said "sure". He put us down in chairs and before we knew it he had put rugs and a sombrero on us and he put the iguana on our lap and then he said "I charge 100 pesos to take the picture"...and he was using my camera :-). So he got me there. The main products of the stores are silver, sombreros, tequila (of course), cigars and handcraft.

Local fruit juice (read Tequila drink) at TequileriaThe street (5th avenue) was filled with places were they had Internet cafes. They charged like 0,5 pesos a minute and that is not bad. But the connection wasn't great either but it was good enough for me to be able to check if I had enough money in my account to have fun :-) Talking about money: I'm still surprised how great it is to travel without money. On the first day I just had to find an ATM and I took out some cash and then I was ready to spend.

The beach in Playa Del Carmen was looong and it was very nice. The water has this green colour that just makes it look very attractive. There is a reef right outside the beach and people did snorkel on that. We stuck to just having fun in the waves.

The brave Voladores at a XcaretAfter a couple of days in Playa we decided that it was time to get around.The first place we went to was the park Xcaret. This park is a combination between a zoo, aquarium, a place where you can snorkel, it has information about the Maya culture and it has some archaeological sites. Hammock heaven for Nikki at XcaretIt was quite expensive to get into the park (about 750 pesos for two) and that is about 75 US dollars. But we had a great day there and we stayed all day. We did of course try the natural underground river that they have in this place. We put on life jackets and went into the stream and then we went with the current. It was pretty long actually (so long that it was great to get back in the sun to warm up :-). At night we saw a show with a Mexican theme. It included singing and dancing. We also got to see an "old" sport being performed. The Mayan used to play a ballgame (it is still played some places in Mexico) where they only use their hips. There are ball courts in many of the ruins around in Central America.

After a game of minigolf in CancunI'm normally a bit hyper but this time we were able to mix relaxation with activities. Every second day we went out and every second day we stayed in a relaxed by the pool.Apollo had many trips that they arranged but we decided to go by ourselves. The bus station in the middle of Playa del Carmen was great and it was easy to get around by taking the bus. The only problem when taking the bus is that they always have the air-condition running at max speed :-(. So you get on the bus in shorts and t-shirt and then you freeze and wait to get to your destination.

You can get lots of Tequila in MexicoAfter a few days we went into Cancun. According to what I have read this was just a little place with 100 people living there in 1970. Now it is a city with 400.000 people and they have a string of hotels in the hotel zone. We came to Cancun in the middle of spring break and that means that Cancun was filled with drunk, loud and sunburnt Americans. Playing in the poolI'm being a bit mean now but we sat on the bus and these college guys are bragging about how many times they threw up last night and how much beer they drank. I found Cancun very "artificial". When you get into stores all the prices are in US dollars and not in pesos. We went into some of the shopping malls and played some minigolf. The beaches in the hotel zone are great by the way. Miles and miles of white sand. Cancun is just 45 minutes north of Playa del Carmen and buses leave from the bus station every 15th minute and it only cost about 25 pesos per person.

Trying desperatly to get a tanTalking about being sunburnt. I did manage to avoid being sunburned but that is only thanks to plenty of sun cream :-). I think I used of most of a factor 10 the first week. I also used a bit of 6, 20 and 30. The sun was very strong indeed but it was nice to feel its warmth again. So I did actually manage to get some tan before I got back to Norway.

A manta ray ay CozumelWe went snorkelling one day at the island of Cozumel. This is located just outside Playa del Carmen and the ferry over takes about 30-40 minutes. The reef that goes from Mexico down to Belize is the second largest reef in the world and I was impressed when we started snorkelling. The depths varied from 1 to 15 meters but it was not a problem to see straight down to the bottom. We saw lots of fish, lobsters The guide also picked up a big star fishand we even spotted a couple of manta rays. We bought this "deal" on the pier in Playa and I think that we paid something like 500 pesos for two. We were taken out to three different locations in a glass bottom boat and the instructor that went into the water with us was great. He was constantly on the move and he pointed out were we could spot interesting stuff. And it was great to have a cold beer after snorkelling :-). The waves were pretty big when we went in the last time and he was pretty exhausting to keep up with the instructor. But this part is something that I will remember for a long time.

A visit to Chicén Itzá. Nikki in front of El CastilloOne day we got up early and we got on the bus to go to the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, which is located near Merida. The bus was once again a great way to travel even if the scenery was pretty boring. The toll road from Merida to Cancun is especially boring and there is noting to see on that route. Chichen Itza is one of the best places in the Yucatan to see ruins after the Mayans. At a sacred Cenote. This was used for human sacrifice.The area is quite big and some of the stuff is spectacular. It costs about 75 pesos to get in but it is worth that. I do regret that we didn't go for a guide when we were in there because they seemed to be giving out lots of interesting details about the buildings and the Mayan history to their groups. The main building in Chichen Itza is great pyramid "El Castillo" (The castle). I was hoping that we could go inside it or maybe climb it but it was off limits when we were there. It was very hot the day when we went to this place (probably 35 degrees) so it was hard walking around there all day.

The lagoon at Akumal South of Playa del Carmen there is another eco park called Xel-Ha. One day we decided to go there but to save some money we decided to rent snorkelling gear in Playa del Carmen instead of in Xel-Ha. When we rented the stuff the guy in the store recommended that we should go to a place called Akumal instead of going to Xel-Ha. Nikki in the water at AkumalThe places basically have the same but Xel-Ha is more commercial. So we got on the buss once again and we jumped of at Akumal. When we looked at the map it looked like it would be a short walk from the main beach to the lagoon but it turned out to be like 3 km :-). But we reached the inlet/lagoon in the end and it was great. The water wasn't that clear because people were splashing around. But there were fish everywhere. Rocks surrounded the lagoon so there wasn't really a nice place to camp down but we spent most of the time in the water anywhere.

At Parque NizucWe went back to Cancun later on in the vacation to go to a place called Parque Nizuc. This place is a sort of Wet 'n' Wild waterpark. It cost about 250 pesos pr person to get it and there were not that many rides inside. We even had to pay Nikki on one of the ridesextra to get a tiny locker inside and we had to put down like 200 pesos in a deposit to get this. This park is connected to other attractions (such as a place where you can swim with dolphins) but it costs extra to get into these places. But we did have fun in the park for several ours and we did try most of the slides 3-4 times. There is a wave pool in the middle of the park and the waves were great :-)

Having a drink at the hotelApart from this we just relaxed at nights. We went out to eat in the different restaurants in Playa and we had some drinks here and there. The drinks are very cheap compared to what I'm used to here in Norway :-). It was a great vacation but it would have been even better if we had had the time to travel around more in Mexico cause I think that Mexico has a lot more to offer than the Mayan Riviera.

Time to go home. Nikki at the airportIn the end it was time to go home. The trip home actually went a lot faster. I guess we had a strong tail wind because used like 9 or 10 hours to go to Sweden (compared to the 12 hours it took us to get to Mexico. Please get in touch with me on if you have any questions or comments about the trip.


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