Monday, April 7, 2008
I didn't expect much -- and got a lot
We booked a few days in Cancun, Mexico, without any prior research about what to expect. It was a vacation deal alright, something millions of tourists from the USA and all over the world do every year. Well, it was MY first vacation deal of this nature. Having been the backpack tourist traveling on cheap bus tours, night trains to European cities like Rome, Paris, Barcelona and spending our honeymoon in a motor home, Rocky Mountain camping & fishing...
My challenge was to do absolutely NOTHING productive for a few days. The beach and tropical climate made it possible.
We participated in one of those guided tours to Chichen Itza to visit the Maya ruins. I was amazed at how well preserved the pyramid and ancient buildings were...I had imagined we would find some weathered rocks piled on one another, but the site was impressing. Almost too much too grasp on one hot afternoon.
You just had to deal with the whole commercialized way of traveling and accept it as part of "doing the tourist package". But we are happy that we packed a bit of history and culture into our trip.
I tried to avoid having all the Maya-Yucatan vendors on my pictures who offered their wares right at the foot of the ruins, but thinking about it, why shouldn't they take advantage of their heritage and make a living off vending to the tourists? There are not many other ways to make a living besides the tourism, as the jungle and lime stone soil don't allow farming or much agricultural activities.
Sadly I never had a chance to see the actual artisans crafting their beautiful leather and jewelry wares. I don't even want to imagine how little they probably received for their handmade crafts. As for the repeatedly offered merchandise I suspected that there was a lot of factory made stuff. But, I found a beautiful leather back pack, woven blanket, some silver earrings, necklace, bracelet that most likely were handcrafted. Nevertheless, for us they are lasting useful souvenirs. Since the exchange rate for the USD dropped almost every day it was not easy to just go out and spend, so, we thought carefully what to take home.
I felt bad about my lack of Spanish, after all I had had quite a few years of Spanish lessons in my life.
When we took a bus ride to down town Cancun, just Sid and I, we managed to leave the some of tourist ambiente behind and mingled with locals in a bustling hectic little city with crazy car traffic.
Since Sid and I have refrained from consuming any alcoholic beverages and anything mind-altering in general for many years, the free cerveza and margerita thing around us made us feel a bit alienated at times. A stay at the all-inclusive hotel was very convenient, but not really what makes us tick.
We have decided to go back, maybe go to a less frequented location and spend more time.
As for the European gal that I still (feel) I am, I strangely felt pretty much at home with the metric system, the NOT air-conditioned rooms, the balcony doors that actually opened and allowed fresh air into our room, the walking and a lot more.