Warning: Weirdness and personal details contained within. Mostly weirdness. You've been warned.

Monday, January 08, 2007

I'm back

I am officially back from Mexico. It was a good time. I don't know if I'd do an all-inclusive again. It felt too touristy, too fake. It was convenient to not have to find our own food and drink, but we didn't really get to see much that was authentic. I don't think I'd go back to Cancun either, too expensive and too full of people who just want to drink and lounge on the beach. Not that I have a problem with that, but I'd also like to see some of the real Mexico, not just the resort areas.

We didn't end up doing a whole lot, partly because it took effort (effort in hot humid areas is more work than effort here), and partly because everything was hideously expensive. USD and pesos were the currency, and everything geared towards tourists was priced for them too. Most things in the hotel district were more expensive than at home. Things were more reasonable off the beaten path, but I wasn't terribly comfortable not knowing the language and being the only white person for blocks.

We did a day trip to Xcaret, a touristy animal/marine area. We saw deer, monkeys, a tapir (huge pig-thing - Jay made the comment that it looked like it was off Star Wars), parrots (they put them on my head and took a picture), sea turtles (I saw sea turtles), some "ruins", and a whack of fish. The snorkeling there was pretty cool, lots of fish, but got crowded as the morning progressed. I was glad our tour operator had recommended people do a different activity first, we had the snorkeling area pretty much to ourselves for the first hour.

After snorkelling and lunch, and a bit of wandering and trying to figure out where things were as the place was designed to confuse, Jay and I did the underground river swim. It ended up being about 1km long, with very little current, which meant we did a lot of swimming. Everyone else was using flippers and kept zipping past us. I was rather tired of swimming after that. The swim took up the remainder of our time before the night entertainment show, so we didn't see as much as I would have liked. But oh well, probably won't kill me. The only thing I regret not having seen was the butterfly area. The ones flying around free were neat as it was, I'm sure the caged ones would have been impressive.

The entertainment had some neat stuff. It was kind of a history of the local culture. They played a couple traditional ball games, one of which included sticks and a flaming ball, and was played like floor hockey. Every time the flames went out they got a new fiery ball. The wooden playing floor kept starting on fire, which for me was the best part. Besides the games there was a lot of dancing, most of which didn't interest me as it was post-European takeover.

It was a bit odd, instead of playing and singing, they had a pre-recorded soundtrack. They had a band and some traditional musicians, but the soundtrack was so loud that only the people immediately around those sections could actually hear the real music. Helpful if you know Spanish because the words were clear, but it must be a bit depressing to perform to something that's drowning you out. Just a leeetle too geared towards tourists.

We took a trip to downtown Cancun to go to Market 28 and Walmart. Market 28 was a maze of street sellers and small shops, all trying to sell tourist paraphernalia. Bargaining was the way to go. Jay's cousin, Leslie, was extremely good at it and got some amazing deals. She and Jay's sister Sheri got a lot of their souvenirs there. Jay and I cheaped out and mostly bought a few things for ourselves. Screw the rest of you. Almost all the stuff for sale was mass produced things like beach bags, sarongs, and t-shirts, all proclaiming CANCUN, MEXICO all over them. I wasn't impressed. I was hoping for more authentic hand-made stuff. So I got some brightly-coloured crap for my neice and nephews, a sarong that I absolutely love, a bright purple embroidered purse, and a couple cheap t-shirts. I wished later I had gotten a couple silver bracelets, but it won't kill me. There were also some neat carved chess sets, but they were extremely heavy and so I didn't get one.

Walmart was Walmart, but with produce. Everyday stuff was cheapish, which reassured me. Sort of. It was still Walmart.

The other day trip we did was to Isla Mujeres, an island that was a short ferry ride from downtown Cancun. We rented a golf cart and tootled around for the afternoon. Leslie and Sheri went swimming with dolphins - there are trained dolphins in an enclosure, with an official photographer who takes pictures of the dolphins doing specific things, and they sell them to you for exorbitant prices, etc. I'm glad I went in New Zealand with a pod of 300 wild dolphins with my own camera, rather than in a pen with 2 trained ones. I can see the plus to having a good photographer, and that it's cool to have a couple dolphins push you out of the water by your feet, but it looked too scripted for my taste, and for how much you pay there isn't a lot of interaction with the dolphins. I had dozens of dolphins swimming around me, for about an hour, with no agenda except their own. They were there because they wanted to be, not because they had to. I'm all about free will.

While the girls did that, Jay and I wandered around the island in the golf cart. We went by Garrafon, a park that was supposed to have snorkeling and zip lines. We saw the zip lines from the road, but the park itself was pretty small. We didn't end up doing that, although it might have been cool. I've been spoiled. The elementary school near my grandma's used to have a fairly decent (and free!) zip line type thing in the playground, been there done that, so I'm not very into spending money on it.

Jay and I also went snorkeling one morning, which was disappointing. We saw more fish at Xcaret than on the reef, and the area was very yellow-green, not colourful at all, and was rather murky. The Great Barrier reef in Australia was so much better. At least, in my memory it is. I'll have to pull out my pictures from back then, see if it really was. While we did that, the girls went parasailing. It's not that I think these things are a waste of time, they're just a waste of MY time. I'm not into that kind of stuff, bungee jumping and jet skiing aren't something I'm interested in doing, especially when there's better things to do.

I think that's my biggest beef with travelling, a lot of tourist areas cater to rich young hip tourists who want to go to bars and on thrill rides. I could do that shit at home. If I was into that, I mean. Why would I waste my time and money doing it in Mexico when I could be spending it seeing and doing things that can only be found there?

Which leads to another mild annoyance - I think most of the ruins we saw on the trip were recently made. On Isla Mujeres, we even saw some being built. Turns out those ancient Mayans believed in steel rebar. Ah well, at least I wasn't gullibled into thinking they were authentic and paying to see them. I still feel like I was cheated.

My honey has the camera with all the pictures, but I hope to get a flickr page soon to put them on.


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