Digressions of a Traveling Housewife.
Friday, October 17, 2003
Here's the quick word from Cancun.

Our Chichen Itza trip, the first exercise in seeing how our freebies panned out, panned out beautifully.

The trip was sponsored by a tour company attached to, but independent of, the Palace Resort people. As such, it was a regular tour on an airconditioned bus with a nice tour guide and two stops: shopping beforehand, a nice lunch after.

Chichen Itza is HOT, HUMID, and OLD. It's great, and I highly recommend it.

Today, we bummed around the beach.

More soon! This short note whets your appetite, and lets you know we're still kicking. Tomorrow, we'll be kicking around in flippers on Isla Mujeres.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
I'd forgotten how much fun a real beach resort can be. Cancun is, as Jon and I keep reminding ourselves, as much Mexico as Vegas is the States. Though not truly representative of the Mexican mindset or culture, at least not on the island strip, it is "real Mexico."

We arrived yesterday morning, and it feels as if we've spent a few days already. The knots in my shoulders are gone.

What can I tell you about Cancun that you won't read in a guidebook? Almost everything. All the books contradict each other, and not one mentions anything about very officious airport 'officials' who waylay you between luggage pickup and Customs. They have airport badges and ask if you have a hotel and a prearranged ride, which of course makes you think that they are concerned for your safety. Then they lead you to their station, a row of podia, and take out a map.
That our personal representative began showing us where our hotel was, and the major sites, and how long it should take to get there, made me think 'ah, and he's telling us the basics on how to get around.'

Ah, no.

He represented Mexico's travel industry all right, and quickly talked us into a visit to a 'new resort's celebration.' In exchange for a brief (90 minute) visit, we would receive two tickets to two sites of our choice (including the historic ruins at Chichen Itza and Tulum). Jon and I, naturally curious and inquisitive, pestered him with so many questions that we delayed him from getting another fish. I didn't realize at the time, but he was trying to rope us in, and our delaying questions resulted in extra offers to entice us: an extra pair of tickets to another destination (Isla Mujeres) and a free day at an all-inclusive resort, food included.

Of course, he said, we needed to give a small downpayment of $20. Per trip.

Now, normally Jon and I are too smart to be waylaid by this type of 'scam', and far too intelligent to fall prey to a time share presentation. The short of it is, I wasted so much time acting the deferential wife, and Jon kept waiting for a signal from me (being the Mexican) to tell him which way to go, that finally it began to sound like a good idea.

And you know, it was.

Seriously. We visited the Moon Palace resort at 8:30 this morning for a free breakfast, a facilities tour, and a two-hour hard sell. At the end, we had tickets to three sites including food and drink (two of which we were planning to visit anyway, and the third was very similar to our third choice), and a pass for two to a spa hotel for the day (which we were able to use at a hotel two doors down from ours). We spent today sipping free drinks and eating by their pool, readjusting the little green paper wristband and dissecting the whole Time Share industry.

For us, a really fun day.

And we figure between food and tours, we're saving about US$375. That'll show 'em to waylay *us*. We figure we 'worked' for three hours and got $375 value, at least. I remember reading once (I think in Budget Travel Mag.) that being willing to sit through a time share presentation was one way to get a darn cheap or free vacation. It's true. We've spent yesterday and today sunning ourselves at the beach and by the pools. Our hotel, Casa Magna, doesn't compare to the Moon Palace hotels we saw this morning, but is far finer than the Cancun Palace at which we spent today. We also discovered that we aren't really resort people. We enjoy planning every detail and exploring on our own to fall into the resort mentality. Our travel style is somewhere between youth hostel backpacker and resort member. Jon calls us 'independent travelers.'

So far, my favorite part of the trip has been the bus rides up and down the strip. for 50 cents US, you can ride all the way up the strip and to Downtown. Frequently, mariachi guitarists with fine voices get onboard to play for tips. Last night we heard one play our song: Stand by Me.

Jon's not so fond of these entrepreneurial 'sidewalk' songsters, but it reminded me how integral music is to Mexican daily life. It's the only country I know where, in any city, you can walk to a Zocalo (town square) and hire mariachi bands off the street. It's probably the framework for day laborer centers that are cropping up across the US, when you think about it.

Tomorrow: Chichen Itza and other abandoned houses.


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