Monday, December 16, 2013

Cancun and Merida


So if you've read my blog you know that I pretty much hated Cuba and the best part was getting on the plane back to Mexico. Seriously, no one was ever as excited as me to arrive in Mexico.

Anyway, I get to customs in Cancun and the guy is looking at my forms and goes "how many cigars do you have?". I reply none. He doesn't believe me. Then there's a button you have to hit which decides whether you are free to go or your bags are getting searched. Apparently it's random but it's so not. The guy is like "you have to hit the button now". I'm like "can you do it, my hands are full". He's like "no, you have to do it". So I hit the button and of course it's red cos who goes to Cuba and doesn't buy cigars, right? So some woman starts searching my bag for cigars, I tell her I don't have any cigars, she doesn't find any. I repack my bag and head off to the bus.

I get to the hostel and since I'd not had WiFi for three weeks, my laptop was shitting itself with warning messages that practically everything was out of date. This made me wonder, what do Cubans with computers do since there's no WiFi? Do they take their laptops to Mexico and update everything there? I'm intrigued since you basically can't have a computer without the internet these days. Hmm...

After basically living off fruit and avocado, tomato and cucumber salads for the past three weeks I was ready for something more interesting. Thankfully Cancan has a 100% vegan restaurant. I'd already decided before going to Cuba that this was the first place I was visiting when I got back.  

Raw tacos with macadamia cheese, a maca, cacao and coconut milk smoothie, then a vegan brownie with coconut ice cream. Yum!

After eating there a few times it definitely sets the bar for vegetarian restaurants in Mexico. Even though it is American prices the food was so good I didn't bother trying any of the other veggie places listed on Happycow. It also sells a bunch of raw foods you can take home (or back to the hostel), which I liked. I highly recommend their nut cheeses.

I really liked Cancun including this hostel, which is conveniently right near the bus station and has a hot tub which you don't really need to heat up since Cancun is already hot. Plus they let you sit in it and drink beers. I was there in the shoulder season so Cancun was not crowded. It also feels very westernised (which is probably why I like it). I stayed downtown, which was not dodgy at all despite some reports I'd heard from other backpackers. In fact, the whole area was nice and felt very safe walking around. 

The only real concern I had in Cancun was what the fuck are Mexican's doing to their feet?

Down at the beach, the whole area is lined with hotels and resorts and there are only a few public access points. The rest of the time you have to walk through the hotels to get between the beach and the main road. The beach is very clean (i.e., the water was clear and there was no rubbish washing up which is sadly all too common in Latin America), it felt safe leaving your bag on the beach, and no one tried to sell you shit. This last one in particular was a welcome change from Cuba!


There are even some Mayan ruins on the beach.

I was really surprised at how just how beautiful that whole strip of Mexican Caribbean beaches is. I would definitely recommend Mexico for a Caribbean holiday.

Plenty more gorgeous Mexican beaches in blogs to come!


After enjoying the benefits of consumerism (after Cuba) and some relaxing beach/ hot tub time I decided to head to Merida, the Yucatan capital. It is a couple of hours west of Cancun and is a nice colonial city with a lot to offer tourists.

The main square.

This is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. Apparently the Spaniards forced the Mayans to destroy their own religious temples and build a good old Catholic church using the stones from them to teach them a lesson in that the Catholic way is the only way.

It also has a black Jesus statue inside, which is apparently quite rare and probably controversial.

Another church around the corner that looks like a smaller version of the Cathedral. I'll assume the Mayans also had to build this from the ruins of their religious temples as well.

The Champs Elysees of Merida, Paseo Montejo.

Gorgeous buildings all the way along.

And it ends with this cool monument (and a Walmart).

I ended up staying in Merida longer than I expected because there is a lot to see there. Plus I liked this hostel, which offers free yoga, and free salsa and Mexican cooking lessons. It also has an awesome pool.

The food in Merida is pretty good. There is only one dedicated vegetarian restaurant in the city centre. It's cheap and good and does vegan options. I recommend it. There are also plenty of veg friendly restaurants, but they tend to be more expensive.

Throughout the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo (which has the Caribbean coastline), there are a lot of natural limestone sinkholes called cenotes. Most of them are filled with fresh water, which you can swim, dive or snorkel in. You could spend weeks visiting them all. I made friends with some Annas in my room (easy names to remember) and we did a tour of three of them near to Merida. This involved getting a colectivo, a mototaxi and then horse train (yes). I was not keen on this last bit because the horses looked really skinny. However, this was the only option to get to the centoes so I didn't really have a choice.

First one: Chelentun. It was not that interesting so we didn't go swimming here.

Second one: Chacsicniche. This one was really dark and small and you had to climb down a (slippery) ladder to get into the water. I liked it though.

Third one: Bolonchohol. The final one was beautiful and where we spent the most time.

I like cenotes. If you go to Mexico, you should definitely check some out.

Ruta Puuc

On Sundays there’s a bus that does the Ruta Puuc Mayan ruins. It’s basically a self guided tour. The bus takes you to each one, tells you how much time you have, you look around and then you get back on the bus. If you don't have a car this is the cheapest way to get to them all. So off English Anna and I went since Dutch Ana was leaving.

First one: Labna. I liked this one except there were heaps of bees in the grass. My foot got stung within the first five minutes then five mins later Anna's foot also got stung. I'm thinking (for me) this is a Merida thing. I've had two bee stings in the past 20 years and the other one was in Merida Venezuela. How weird is that?

Second one: Sayil. It was ok.

Third one: Xlapak. This was the least interesting but it was free.

Forth one: Labna. This one was quite good.

Fifth one: Uxmal. This is a World Heritage site and therefore one of the best ones in the Yukatan.

This is the main pyramid. If you stand back a bit from all the steps and clap, the acoustics are amazing. Look it up on YouTube if you're interested.

Me standing at the bottom. It's huge!

Areas are still being uncovered. Amazing!

The local residents.

Uxmal was definitely the best (and most expensive). While the bus tour is definitely a good way to cram a lot of Mayan ruins into one day, it's a lot. By the end I was feeling a bit  'ruined out'. However, that didn't stop me from visiting more.

Next stop: more Mayan ruins, more gorgeous beaches, more awesome vegan restaurants.