Mexico Day 7: Valladolid to Playa del Carmen

I woke up before Marie and Caitlin (as I normally do) and tried to slip out as quietly as I could (I mostly succeeded this morning until I sat on the bed and then I woke the elder she-beast but she went back to sleep eventually so I lived to write this tale…) I went in search of a place to write the blog and people watch and settled on the food court type place fronting the main square… There was a little coffee shop (I don’t remember its name) so I grabbed a cup of Café Americano con leche (coffee with milk) and settled in at one of the tables in the centre of the food court… It was still early-ish so it was interesting to watch the stores gradually open, tour groups form up, families come together to grab breakfast, etc. The coffee was very good and although there was no wifi I was able to do up the next blog post and organize some pictures while enjoying the sights and sounds… Eventually I figured that without wifi, Caitlin and Marie would have no idea where I was and could not let me know if they were up and ready so I figured I should hoof it back to the hotel to see where everyone was at… We timed it perfectly as I ran into them about after about 1 minute of walking…

We settled on Cafe Pitigoras – the vegan place we’d grabbed snacks and drinks at on our first day… They spoke very little English and there was no English at all on their menu but we muddled through as best we could and ordered coffees for Caitlin and I and lemonade for Marie… For breakfast Marie ordered scrambled eggs with moringa (or something like that) – their wifi wasn’t working so we couldn’t translate… when we eventually were able to translate we discovered that the moringa must have been the herb (the green stuff) mixed in with the eggs and that the onions were just part of scrambled eggs… Marie hates onions so I ended up eating her scrambled eggs while she ate my absolutely delicious Bulgarian yogurt with granola and honey… Caitlin just had yogurt… We were all still a bit hungry so we ordered one of their cinnamon buns… that’s not what they were but they looked like cinnamon buns so that’s what we called them… they were essentially a brown bread bun dusted with powdered sugar and baked with dried fruits in the folds… it was delicious… and definitely filled us up…

It was after 11am by this point so we boogied back to the hotel to finish packing (me – Caitlin and Marie had packed before heading out) and cleared out of the room precisely at noon… We had tickets on the 1:05pm bus to Playa so we sort of ambled that way checking out a few shops along the way… We ended up at the bus depot about 20 minutes before our departure so staked out some seats and kind of chilled… We briefly joined by an older American couple from North Carolina who explained that the wife had fallen the day before and broken her elbow (hence the sling) and they were heading to Merida for further treatment… It was the start of their 6 week vacation… They seemed surprisingly upbeat about the whole thing… I suspect she was heavily medicated… Tramadol is basically an over the counter item here in Mexico (we discovered that when we set out to buy some Nitrofurantoina (an antibiotic) earlier in the trip… One pharmacy said they didn’t have any. One said that it could only be sold with a prescription. The third happily sold it to us at a fraction of the cost back home… In all three pharmacies, there were big signs advertising Tramadol, Viagra and other prescription drugs as being readily available… So I’m guessing she was loaded up on Tramadol… or she was the chillest human being ever… or rich…

We’d bought our bus tickets a couple days early – and it was good that we did because most of the buses were almost sold out and we save 60 pesos per ticket over the cost of buying them on the day of travel… Even buying early we ended up with seats right in front of and beside the washroom right at the very back of the bus… Marie swears you can’t overdose on the ginger Gravol tablets so downed four of them… They seemed to work as she was able to handle being at the back of the bus for just over two hours of travel… This was a first class bus so they showed a movie (Daddy’s Home 2… you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Will Farrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson and John Lithgow dubbed into Spanish…) The trip took a little over two hours with a short stop in Tulum and deposited us at the main bus depot in Playa…

We got off the bus, grabbed our bags from the luggage hold (I tried but just couldn’t fit my backpack into the overhead rack and there was no chance of Caitlin’s carry-on suitcase fitting… Marie just shoved her backpack behind a seat at the back of the bus and called it done…) and made the short trek (about 900 metres) from the bus depot to our hotel (Posada Sian Kaan)… most of our walk was down 5th avenue… The main tourist street in Playa… This is most definitely not the Playa that Marie and I remember from more than 20 years ago… We were prepared for the big resorts and many more tourists and a lot more development… we were not prepared for Victoria’s Secret and H&M and Starbucks and shopping malls on 5th avenue… When we were here last, 5th avenue was still sand… The beach was still a topless beach and most shops and restaurants on 5th avenue had signs reminding people to put shirts on… The Blue Parrot was about the only restaurant on the beach proper and it was all kind of a Bohemian hippy paradise…

This is every pub street and tourist Mecca we’ve ever been to rolled into one street… I was offered weed within 5 minutes and when I told the guy I was from BC where I could possess up to 1kg in my house, he promptly offered me coke instead… Thus far I have been offered coke at least twenty (make that 21… just went out to buy bus tickets and some water and was offered weed and coke again) times (I really like the stealthy ones who just make eye contact with me and tap the side of their nose)… My travel outfit consists of a pair of tan travel shorts (they’re the upper part of a pair of zip-off travel pants) and a Champion quickdry nylon shirt with a pair of Merrel low-top hiking shoes… I am the the very picture of a tourist (I gave up a long time ago trying to look like anything but and have the art of packing down to the bare minimum and really don’t care much about fashion at the best of times… much to Marie and Caitlin’s chagrin)… I am quite possibly the very antithesis of a dude who looks like he snorts coke… but you have to give them full marks for trying…

We found our hotel with no trouble… We think this is the place we stayed 20+ years ago but it looks nothing at all like we remember and seems to be at the opposite end of town so we’ll have to check our photo album when we get back… Whether we’ve been here before or not, we have a nice room on the ground level looking over the pool and despite being no more than 50′ from 5th avenue and all its many attractions, it’s quiet and peaceful… The room is a bit dated and the beds are hard but it’s spotlessly clean, perfectly located and the staff are friendly… It’s costing us almost $200CDN a night (which is wayyyyy more that we usually pay for hotels when we travel but that’s pretty reasonable for Playa at this time of year and includes breakfast each day so there is that…)

We dumped our bags, changed our clothes and headed out to do what everyone else in Playa seemed to be doing – strolling down 5th avenue… It was packed… We basically spent the rest of the evening doing our own version of a pub crawl stopping at various places to grab a beer, eat some tortillas and salsa… we sampled some tequila (including a fantastic one aged for 9 years in an ex-bourbon barrel… it was $200USD so sampling was a close as we would be coming to that one). We checked out the incredibly massive tacky tourist shops all selling basically the same stuff for wildly different prices… We stopped for a bite to eat (and some drinks) at Karen’s (a place I remember from our last trip here and that hasn’t changed much – although everything around it is different… and I think it had a sand floor the last time we were here)… Eventually we made our way to a little hole in the wall dive bar beside our hotel… we were the only tourists but the locals were very friendly… One of the guys who looked a lot like a regular even bought Marie roses… He wasn’t much over 70 and still had most of his teeth… The guy next to her – he couldn’t have been a day over 60 – offered to buy her a beer… They didn’t seem at all concerned that Caitlin and I were clearly with her… Caitlin nearly died laughing from the whole episode… The bar had swings at the bar instead of stools and beers were only 30 pesos (they’re 50-60 pesos on 5th avenue unless you find a special) and they were ice cold… It’s amazing what being 100 feet off the main strip does… We finished off our beers and Marie gently let her new suitors down easy and we headed back to our room and called it a night…

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