Billy and I just spent a glorious twelve days traveling through Mexico. This was my first time out of the good ol’ USA, and this was Billy’s first international trip that wasn’t with a tour group. Besides the fact that every stereotypical thing that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong, I have a hard time thinking of a better twelve days of my life.
For reference, here is a map of all the places we went.
We packed our two backpacks and landed in Cancun. And here is where we made one of the few decisions I regret about Mexico.
After we waltzed out of the airport we were immediately bombarded by hundreds of people asking if we wanted a ride. We realized we didn’t have a peso to our name, and after that realization we found out we couldn’t go in the doors we’d just exited. We were excited and freaked out to be in a foreign country with no accessible money. When a persistent guy came up and offered us a private ride to our destination with a stop to an ATM. We followed him and got into his van. He then proceeded to inform us that this ride was going to cost $50 USD. I dragged Billy out and after a whole mess of other things, we settled for getting swindled for a $30 car ride that could’ve cost $5. I was shocked and annoyed afterwards at finding out how much they lie to you. He brought us away from the bus that we wanted and lied about where they pick up and their prices to make his ridiculous cost seem worth it.
It was a steep learning curve, but eventually we learned how to not give away all our money.
When we got to our Airbnb (where people can rent out their rooms or apartments kind of like a hotel) it was a little underwhelming. But for $12 we couldn’t complain. The name of the apartment online was “the true local experience,” and we found that to be pretty accurate. We didn’t see any of the touristy hotel zones or the beaches. Instead our host told us about a fiesta going on near the center of town, so we ambled over there. We ate panucho and salbute (kind of like an open, fried taco – very delicious) as per our host’s advice. I loved every minute we walked around. We’d been waiting for what felt like forever to get here and we’d finally made it! Everywhere I looked everything was so new and foreign (of course), but it was all so exciting!
The fiesta going on had all sorts of delicious food stands. We had some marquesitas (basically paper-thin, crispy crepes rolled up with caramel or chocolate or nutella and cheese inside). This was our lesson on counting our change they gave back in front of them, because they tried (and succeeded) at sneaking away with our money that way.
We watched all the dancing and all the snacking. All the young people were making out with each other (generally there is a lot of PDA in Mexico). We got stared at a lot.
After a while of walking around we found a cute park to sit in. We were still having a hard time realizing we were in Mexico. I leaned over to Billy and let him know that this was my favorite day in Mexico.
Eventually we made it back to our room. Our host, Belinda, had just gotten a cat (from off the street, we think) and it had the worst case of diarrhea (a forecast of our future) I’d ever seen and the bathroom smelt pretty horrible, but what can you do? At least the cat was cute to look at.
The next morning we got up and walked around the little neighborhoods.
We’d learned that colectivos (big vans that cram as many people in as possible) are the best way to get a far distance cheaply and quickly in Quintana Roo, so we made our way over to one. It was as simple as handing over a few pesos, hopping in, and we were off to Playa del Carmen!
We arrived and headed straight to the beach. I quickly found that I could see nothing due to the sun being so bright, so we wandered around all the overpriced tourist stands until I found some fake Ray-Bans for under five bucks. We bought those and headed back to the beautiful ocean.
We couldn’t believe how perfect it was! The water was a little chilly, but you got used to it quickly. The temperature was perfect to walk around in. There were a lot of people around, but this is what we came here for, and we loved it.
When the time came we walked to our hostel. We were a little nervous about this one because we’d only made one reservation. I checked in and Billy just came along with me. They didn’t say anything about it, so we figured it was okay. We put our things in a locker, and that made everything even nicer. We walked around the area and wandered further and further into the town center, which is not the touristy area. I loved wandering around and seeing the grittier side of Playa del Carmen.
We happened upon one of our church buildings right as they were letting out. We started walking and talking with a member and she recommended a little restaurant to us. I have never had such good chicken molé before. I couldn’t stop eating it! I wish I had a picture, but unfortunately Billy’s phone was stolen at a later date, so random chunks of our time in Mexico are undocumented.
After our lunch we got some ice cream, which became a very common habit for us during our stay. We walked back to the beach and took in more beauty and sun. At one point we were both just sitting in the shade of palm trees, watching the waves with our legs buried in the sand. I told Billy that this was my favorite day in Mexico.
When the sun started to go down we started to head out. We went back to our hostel to shower and clean up from the sand. We figured we’d go out again for a quick walk. Our plans changed when we found out that there was another fiesta going on a few streets over. It seemed like the whole city had come! It was crazy. There was only one entrance; the rest of the celebration was fenced off. Our bags had to be thoroughly checked. I had no idea they were so strict on security.
It was definitely worth it, though. The first area was a ton of stands selling food. We bought the most amazing churros from our entire trip here for so cheap. They put a lot of them in the bag, and we had the option of dumping caramel and chocolate on them, which of course we did. We wish we weren’t full from dinner earlier (a delicious taco stand on the street) because all the food smelled amazing.
We wandered by everything a few times and then realized there was another half. We had to walk around a giant building, but everyone was gathering there for a concert that was starting soon. We sat on the curb and were surprised that we were some of the only white people there. There were tons at the beach earlier, but nowhere to be found here.
As soon as the concert started we made a run for it. It was so loud. It hurt. At first I thought it was a mistake. After the first few seconds they started turning it down. But then it went right back up to full volume. We had to cover our ears and it was still incredibly loud. We figured we’d leave the square and head back to the touristy area a few streets away (and found where all the white people were – eating Italian food). It was so fun, because earlier we’d walked up and down these streets and they were full of touristy shops. But at night most of those close and all the restaurants and night life things open up and there are tons more people. It felt like a completely different place! We were pretty pooped from the day, so after wandering for a bit we sat on a bench and people watched for a long time. Then we meandered through a pretty cool art gallery. As we started making our way back to the beach, we suddenly found a marching band and dancers parading past us, followed by floats with kids pushing electric wires from the road away with sticks.
I love all beaches. Sandy, rocky, brown and warm, crystal and cold, bright and sunny, romantic and moonlit – they’re all perfect. As we stood, hugging each other along the waterline, a guitarist walked up and started serenading us. It was really cute. Up until we had to shoo him away because we didn’t want to pay for it.
After an exhausting day we finally settled into our hostel. We both settled into our twin bed and hoped no one called us out for not paying for an additional spot. It was really hot in our room, but we were okay with it since we didn’t get in trouble. The next morning we woke up and headed to our next (and one of our favorite) destinations – Akumal Bay.