Me-hi-co was our second trip out of US and one of great anticipation. Mexico has visa on arrival for Americans and is extended to travelers of various nations. People holding Indian Passport with any valid US Visa can also avail of the visa on arrival facility in Mexico. There are many flights that originate from various parts of US. It would be very useful to research prices with multiple sites like Kayak, flights.google.com,Priceline and Cheapcaribbean.com for best ticket prices. When entering Mexico, you will fill out a Forma Migratoria Múltiple FMM card. You need to keep other half part of the FMM with your passport at all the times and you will need to produce this when you leave Mexico.
We flew into one of the most touristy destinations, Cancun, from NYC, a 4 hour flight, and got a ride from airport to our hotel , Cancun Caribe, in the Hotel Zone(or hotelera) . Hotelera or Hotel zone is a 26 km stretch called Kukulcan blvd with the Cancun beach on one side and a Lagoon on the other side with two small rivers cutting across the stretch at both ends making it an island. Since it was not check in time yet, we deposited our luggage at the front office and decided to walk around the hotel zone. It was blazing hot yet the blue waters and white sands beckoned us to walk by the shore. After a while we checked in and went up to our room. After refreshing ourselves we decided to walk around the hotel zone, it was an interesting afternoon. We then went out for dinner in a restaurant just opposite to our hotel, this was something that we did not indulge in. We often find small roadside shops or little mom and pop eateries to have food but since it had been a long day we decided to go eat at the nearest restaurant, Lorenzillo’s on the lagoon side of the Cancun hotelera. This turned out to be an expensive affair . Once done, we called it a day.
The next day we walked at the beach and then decided to explore the city. We took a bus out of hotel zone and shopped a bit in the downtown Cancun. One can get a bus from Hotel Zone to the downtown Cancun for around 8 pesos. My better half got a wonderful massage for $30 while I got to look around the shops in Mercado 28. Mercado 28 is the best place to buy souvenirs as the prices are much lower than the Hotel zone. To give a comparison, a bandana in Mercado 28 will cost ⅓ compared to the shops in Hotel zone. After this we went to small shop with al-fresco seating to have lunch which cost us less than 5 USD including couple of beers and nice authentic tacos. This was a fun experience. We then went to Wal-mart and bought water , magnets. postcards and then took the city bus back to the hotel. On our way we stopped by the Avis car rental and booked a car for Chichen Itza trip next day. We walked back to the hotel and sat by the pool for some relaxation. While we were relaxing. we got invited for a free dinner at a Asian restaurant, the only caveat was a formal dress and in the end leave honest opinion for the restaurant that was yet to open to public. Well who can refuse free dinner? So we did go and it was an interesting Asian fusion food. We relaxed for a while after our dinner and went to bed early so that we can be ready refreshed for our trip to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza as many are aware is one of the 7 wonders of the world and an UNESCO heritage site.
Next day we walked to the nearby restaurant, about a mile away from the hotel near the Avis car rental and proceeded to get our car after the breakfast. It costed us around $30 per day for a Volkswagen Jetta automatic but we made it a point to get a full insurance as it is always better to be safe while driving in a foreign country where the car rental practices are still in the nascent stages. There are 2 routes to Chichen Itza. Cuota, which is a toll road where the toll is around 10 USD but an expressway comparable or even better than the most highways in US. The other one is the local road where the maximum speed you can go is around 50-60 km/hr. We took the expressway (Cuoto) and not the “libre” route, which turned out to be one of the best decision ever as the roads were clear and had no traffic at all and were able to drive at around 70 miles per hour. We reached Chichen Itza in about 2 hours. We bought the ticket and a small booklet to help us navigate through the Mayan ruins.
Chichen Itza means “at the mouth of the well of Itza “. It is one of the seven wonders of the world.
We first saw the Kukulcan Pyramid a step like pyramid structure, the highlight of Chichen-Itza, called the castle “El Castillo”
We then proceeded to see the great ball court, where some very bloody ball games were played, it has some amazing acoustics, till date people have not been able to decipher the magic behind this kind of acoustics.
We then saw the Zompantli ( The Wall of Skulls),the Temple of the Tables, then the platform of the Eagles & the Jaguars, the steam bath, the market ( EL Mercado). We also got to see the Thousand columns a place for large meetings.
Finally we reached the Cenote Sagrado or the Sacred Cenote is till date one of the holiest places for pilgrimage for the Mayans.
Tip – Cuoto or toll roads are easy to navigate and has little to no traffic. If you love an adventure and have time you can take the Libre route which will take you through villages and bylanes.
Tip – Always ask for full insurance for your rental. it is always better. Often times they will invent scratches that were never there or worse still if you really happen to scratch the car you will end up paying a lot more than what actual repairs cost. Full insurance is cheaper.
Tip – Carry a can of Deet (a anti mosquito-anti-tick spray) from US (or wherever you are visiting from), if not buy it from the local Wal-mart in Cancun beforehand. You will be able to buy Deet at Chichen – Itza but the prices are at least 4 times the original prices. Do note even a short shower will bring the mosquitoes out.
Tip – Carry a poncho with you at all times to protect yourself from unforeseen showers.
Tip – Always bargain for your souvenirs and when you talk prices negotiate prices in Mexican dollars often they will seal the deal as 100 dollars and once it is packed they will say it was Mayan dollars they were talking about and that actually would cost more about 125 in Mexican dollars, which is a clever way of extracting money. So make sure when you seal the deal it is in Mexican dollars.
We returned in the evening, so we went straight to the rental agency and returned the car and rebooked for another day immediately as wanted to drive to Tulum. Another city full of history! We had a quick dinner and decided to call it a day.
The next morning we went to our regular breakfast joint to have food. We walked around a bit after our breakfast and went back to the hotel. We then decided to go beyond the hotel zone again. We took a bus ride out of hotel zone. My hubby got himself another massage and I got my hair braided for $3. We then proceeded to go to a seafood buffet place, La Parilla, in downtown Cancun. It had an awesome spread. I would highly recommend visiting this place if you are in Cancun. After lunch we got water etc from Wal-mart , had fresh coconut water and took the bus ride back to hotel zone. We got off at plaza Caracoal and went for some light weight shopping. We also could compare some prices with Wal-mart and Mercado 28 and this made our bargaining easier. Whenever we travel to a place, we like to buy articles from local artisans and they usually are quite willing and happy to bargain with customers. We got our magnet, post cards, handmade pottery for ourselves and our friends. We walked by the seaside to the hotel. We refreshed ourselves and went out for dinner once again to plaza Caracoal. After dinner we strolled to the car rental agency and got the rental car for Tulum expedition the next day. We got a Volkswagon Jetta again, drove to the hotel and got ready to go on another adventure.
Next – Part 2 – Tulum