Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Day 1 (Sunday):
Landed in Cancun around 2:30pm, took looooong bus ride to hotel, unpacked, changed, hit the streets, dinner, bed.
(Side note: Our hotel was a block from Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), which is kind of the heart of Playa del Carmen. It pretty much stretches all the way across the city & is filled with restaurants, shops, street vendors, etc. It was really nice being that close to all the restaurants & shops. It was fun just walking up & down 5th Ave every night before & after dinner.)
Day 2 (Monday):
Day of post-wedding relaxation. Laid around all day, alternating between the beach & the hotel pool.
Day 3 (Tuesday):
Woke up early to catch the ADO bus to Coba, a large ruined city of Pre-Columbian Maya civilization (thanks, Wikipedia). It was about a 2 hour bus ride. Fortunately, the bus played movies en route. Unfortunately, the movies were The Ex & Bambi II, both in Spanish.
Unbeknownst to us, the bus doesn't take you all the way to Coba. It dropped us off at a roadside hotel/restaurant & then we had to walk the rest of the way. It was only about a 15 minute walk, but it was hot & we had to walk past crocodiles. Seriously. We made friends with a couple from LA who also got off the bus. Luckily she spoke Spanish, which was very helpful as we had no idea where to go once the bus dropped us off. She got directions from a local & found a place for us to buy water & bug spray.
We get to Coba & decided to tackle the jungle together (I wasn't eager to let my new Spanish-speaking friend go). Coba is in the middle of the jungle. We didn't see anything out of the ordinary, but we could hear spider monkeys all around us.
The highlight of Coba is a 12-story Mayan pyramid called Nohoch Mul. I wasn't so sure I would climb it as (a) I'm afraid of heights & (b) I'm notoriously bad at climbing down stairs due to my complete lack of depth perception. But I did it. It actually wasn't so bad going up as long as you didn't look down, but coming down was a different story. I thought I was going to die. I slipped once about half-way down, but John grabbed my arm before I fell.
(Side note: Looking for a good leg workout? Climb a 12-story pyramid. My legs have never been so sore. It took 2 days before I could walk normally again.)
We met a weird Canadian waiting for the bus back to Playa who told us to make sure we ate at a restaurant in Playa called La Cueva del Chango, aka Cave of the Monkey. We went straight there from the bus station. It was definitely one of the best meals we had in Playa. I wish I had taken pictures of all our meals. Next time....
Day 4 (Wednesday):
Tired & unable to properly use our legs from the day before, we head to the beach. We lounged beach side until about noon, then got restless, so John decides we should walk to the ferry & go over to Cozumel for the afternoon. Sure, why not? While waiting for said ferry, we get suckered into buying a "FunQuest" snorkeling trip. I'm not really a water person, so I wasn't so sure about this, but it was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip. Who knew I liked snorkeling? We bought one of those ridiculous underwater cameras & took a shit-ton of pictures. I haven't gotten them developed yet, but I have a feeling it will be 27 pictures of John's legs & blurry underwater images.
It was dark by the time we got back to Playa. We went to the hotel, changed & then grabbed dinner.
Day 5 (Thursday):
John had heard there was a Wal-Mart nearby, so he wanted to look for that & also check out the part of Playa that we hadn't really seen yet (the "real" part). It was incredibly hot, so we didn't make it too far, but we did find Wal-Mart. First of all, all the cars in the parking lot had cardboard boxes on their windshields & the motorcycles & scooters had them strapped to their seats. Some sort of crafty attempt at a sun shield I'm guessing. Once in Wal-Mart, it was pretty much like any other Wal-Mart, except they sold sombreros. Seriously. I tried to take a picture, but John wouldn't let me. We wandered around for awhile, disappointed in the similarity between this Wal-Mart & the one down the street from us back home, then left.
Also worth mentioning is this bizarre super store literally next door to Wal-Mart called (we think) Mega Pelican. We went in there & it's the exact same as Wal-Mart. Very weird.
We ate lunch at this place across the street from Mega Pelican. Don't remember what it was called but it was sooooo good. The menu was completely in Spanish, so we weren't too sure what to order. Our waiter spoke enough English to explain what some things were & to suggest what to order. We started with shrimp tacos, then had another shrimp dish with mushrooms, truffles & rice. It was one of the best meals we had all week. And one of the cheapest.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel, changed into our bathing suits & hit the beach. For dinner we decided to try a restaurant recommended by Fodor's. We're not really the kind of people who go by what travel books recommend, but this was different. This restaurant was in a cave. Alux Cave Restaurant & Lounge, to be exact. The dinner was good, not great, but the atmosphere was definitely worth it. We got a little tipsy from a surprisingly good bottle of house red & hung out in the cave lounge for awhile before heading back to the hotel.
Day 6 (Friday):
Our last day. All week, John had been trying to figure out how to get to one of the hundreds of cenotes located all around Playa. A cenote is an underwater cave that you can swim in. They were literally everywhere, but you kind of had to have a car to get to any of them. Well, we finally found one that a bus went to. It was called Aktun Chen. We get there & it's more of a guided tour type thing that actually turned out to be really fun. We had to wear hard hats & everything. We had a guide who took us all through this enormous cave filled with cenotes. You couldn't swim in these, but that was fine as I wasn't really excited about swimming in a cave in the first place (read: snakes).
After the cave tour, there was this weird animal sanctuary kind of thing that you walked through to get back to the entrance. There were deer, parrots, toucans, wild pigs & monkeys. Monkeys, of course, being John's favorite part. He really "connected" with the monkeys. He got one to shake his hand. What's funny is while the one monkey was shaking John's hand, another one simultaneously grabbed John's pompadour. It was hilarious. I tried to snap a picture, but missed it by seconds.
Back at the entrance, there was this lone greeter monkey. For whatever reason, this little guy really took to John. He climbed on John's arm & wouldn't let go. Seriously, he wouldn't let go. Our bus was leaving, so I tried to pry the little guy off, but he bared his teeth & made this scary monkey sound. I've seen Outbreak, I wasn't going to get bitten. We didn't know what to do. Luckily one of the guides came over with a banana & the little guy jumped down & ran to the banana.
So we get on the bus, not really sure where it will take us as we took a taxi into Aktun Chen. Well, the bus didn't go far. It dropped us off on the highway outside of Aktun Chen. We were told a bus to Playa comes by every 15 minutes. What kind of bus? We didn't know. How do you get said bus to stop & pick you up? We didn't know. How much did it cost? We didn't know. So John stands out on the highway looking for a bus with some tell-tale sign of going towards Playa. Sure enough, about 5 minutes go by & a bus pulls up that says "Playa del Carmen" on the side, so we hop on & ride back to Playa. So bizarre.
For our last night in Playa, we weren't really sure what to do or where to eat as we had eaten so well all week. We knew we wanted Mexican food, but didn't want to end up at one of the cheesy tourist spots. We got lucky. We found the perfect place. It was sooo good. A perfect last vacation meal. We had to get up early to catch our flight, so we ate & then headed back to the hotel.
(Side note: All week we watched this hilarious channel called American Network. It was really telling of what Americans must love to watch. All it ran was Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Montel, Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown & then random half hours of CBS news. Luckily I found another channel that ran continuous episodes of Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, The OC & Gilmore Girls. I was in TV heaven. And they ran Spanish subtitles through all the shows, so I got a pretty good week long lesson in Spanish.)
Day 7 (Saturday):
The only thing worth noting here is that on our flight from Cancun to Houston, Rosalind Kurita was 2 rows ahead of me on the flight. You kind of have to know the inner-workings of my job to know why this was so weird, but trust me, it was incredibly bizarre & highly uncomfortable.
All in all, it was an incredible honeymoon. We both loved Mexico & would definitely go back. However, we are thinking about going to the Pacific side next time, which I hear is completely different & a little better. Viva la Mexico!