Has it happen to you before, when you are casually pondering over traveling to a new place and the next thing you know, you are busy exploring and taking pictures there?? The best made travel plans are impromptu, and with a great group of friends! Let’s find out about one such travel escapade in Cancun, Mexico with Sandy and his gang. In Sandy’s own words:
In January 2017, during a casual tête-à-tête with my roommate and friends, I told them about the Mayans and their great pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico. One thing led to another and a week later, the seven of us had boarded our flights to Mexico (Yoohoo!) For those of you having a valid status in the US, all you need is a stamp of admittance at the airport. It really is that easy. Our flight was at 6:00 a.m. from Dallas-Fortworth, Texas and had a layover at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The wait was short, and we landed in Mexico soon after that. Once we breezed through immigration and had our passports stamped (I wish there was a proper visa stamping!), we had to clear a tobacco shipping checkpoint where we were challenged with our first two major tasks:
- Transportation plans
- Currency exchange
The exchange rate at the airport was much lesser than we expected so we didn’t exchange all our money at once (Traveler Tip). As per our itinerary, we were to visit Mayan sites on Saturday and the whole of Sunday was to be spent on a cruise. Hence, we were all a bit reluctant to book a rental vehicle for all 4 days. However, after checking the sky-high fares for cabs (ushered by over-enthusiastic drivers), we decided to go for rental car. Soon after, we were on our way to our hostel, Mundo Joven.
At Mundo Joven, our room was furnished with one bathroom and six bunker beds. The last time I saw these beds was 10 years ago, in my undergraduate college hostels. Seeing them, flooded me with nostalgia and I was already beginning to like this place! After a quick refreshment at the hostel, our jolly group headed over to a nearby restaurant where we had a tough time deciding what to eat. The option of a buffet further complicated our decision until I found out I had little to no vegetarian options. Dang! But, on the bright side we all got a complimentary drink each, thanks to the hostel’s reference! Pina Coladas and lime juice arrived along with stuffed jalapeno poppers, and the main course followed. More than an hour later, we left the place with our stomachs full; coupled with the satisfaction of not having our ‘pockets pinched’.
After the hearty meal, we drove over to the Zona Hotelara, along the Cancun area in Mexico. This place boasted of beautifully crafted hotels and was true to its words. While the rest of the group haggled over the price for an entry ticket to a local nightclub, I had no interest in splurging money on an over-crowded and noisy place, especially on a weekend. So, non-club goers headed over to a Flea Market nearby, hoping to find something affordable. Somehow, even though a lot of things were attractive, and I was tempted to buy them, the price tags kept discouraging me. The layout of the market reminded me of Chennai (my hometown), although the crowd was much, much lesser.
So, as we were walking along the endless rows of shops, a shopkeeper signaled me inside his store to show off a color-changing-tee-shirt. He assumed that I was on my honeymoon and wanted me to buy that T-shirt (weird)! Without even trying to bargain with him, I heard the guy reducing his price by more than “75%” from 1500 to 300 pesos in a matter of 2 minutes and that’s when Sheena (my supposed wife) called me to inform that our friends were leaving with or without me. As I turned to leave, the man started packing the T-shirt saying, “Ok! I know what you want! 250! And a shot glass!” and I had to repeatedly promise him that I would be back in town to buy those lovely items (I obviously, did not).
From there on, our cars split and headed in different directions. My party went to see the Cancun beach, stark opposite of Chennai’s Marina Beach. There were barely a few souls
around, and it felt so peaceful compared to the hustle bustle we had grown accustomed to in our mundane city life. I retired for the evening, while the others headed over to the Coco Bongo Club (yes, it’s inspired by The Mask) where they were treated to a variety of karaoke performances. I fell asleep that night listening to a friend lecture me about the need to stop acting like an old man and go out clubbing. And that is how Day 1 came to an end.
Day 2 saw us visit the temple complex built in honor of the wind God, Kulkulcan in Tulum, largest community in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It was built on top of a small hill that overlooked the sea and was truly a beautiful sight to behold. We had the option to go snorkeling with turtles and visit the beach or chase the natural cavern pools called Cenotes nearby. We chose the former. We had no idea how deep the pool was until each of us tried to snorkel. Sebastian, my roommate and I did not know how to swim and had to borrow a life jacket to stay afloat. But it was well worth the experience, feeling your heart skip a beat, every time
your eyes saw with fear, how deep the bottomless pool was! After spotting turtles, we headed back to the city and found a restaurant called Zenzi that was literally on the beach. We concluded Day 2 with a lovely dinner under a star lit sky, as the waves serenaded us.
For Day 3, we had a yacht ride in store for us to take us to the Island of Women (Isla de Mujeres). We had 2 options for activities:
- Was to sit on a para sail which would then be lifted up in the air and the person would have to jump into the sea. The prerequisite, of course, was to know how to swim.
My roommate asked the captain if it would be advisable for someone who doesn’t know how to swim to try ‘Option 1’ and the response was a Big Blunt “No!” But, upon bugging and begging him several times if we can ‘try it and see’, the response was a reluctant “Yes.” For future travelers’ reference and safety, please do not ‘try it and see’ (Traveler Tip).
In the first five minutes, all seemed well with my progress, until I accidentally kicked my right flipper off with my left flipper. From then on, it was an uphill task to stay afloat whilst navigating the waves, which got choppier by the minute! That is when I started praying silently for my safe return. After somehow making it to land, we made our way back to the dock only to find the boat chugging away and leaving! Thankfully, we managed to find another one and reached the easternmost point of Mexico. I have never been to the tip of an island in India and the sight of being engulfed by water on all three sides was surreal.
We made our way to one of the new wonders of the modern world – the pyramid at Chichen Itza (finally!). For someone who has spent a lot of time during his childhood playing Age of Empires, seeing an actual pyramid up close was nothing short of exhilarating. There were a lot of visitors that day and we later found out it was the Spring Equinox (March 23), the special day when the shadow of a serpent carved on the stairway of the pyramid appears to descend the stairs at sunset. Our guide told us tales of the Viking conqueror who traveled through the continent and invaded the Mayan land, with other ethnic groups who had
come to acknowledge his Godly presence. He was known as Kulkulcan and the pyramid was built to honor and appease him. The pyramid had its own acoustic secret too. If you clapped thrice, the pyramid would echo the sounds “kul”, “kul”, “can” in that same, exact order. How the sound was formed or how the third clap could make a different sound, I still do not know. The sunset was slow but, but we bore witness to this event, since we may not get to watch it again.
It was our last day in the Mayan land, post dinner at an Indian restaurant (Yes, I was craving Indian food), that stood over a lagoon, we finished our lovely vacation in Cancun. There are a lot of activities to do in and around Cancun and my advise to all future travelers is to filter out the places based on your interests and to plan in advance unlike us (Traveler Tip).
About The Author
Santosh Vijaykumar from Dallas, is a corporate professional by the day and an upcoming actor/ theater artist by night. He enjoys traveling and capturing moments through his lens, especially the abstract and candid ones. He also choreographs and likes to razzmatazz with his troupe from UT Dallas in his leisure time.