Enjoy life

It's a commercial (so forgive me), but I think the message makes it worth watching nevertheless.

Traveling vs vacation

Today me and Sarah realized the difference between traveling and going on a vacation. You don't bring your laptop to the latter one.

Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Balacar, Mahahual, Xcalac and San Pedro

These are the main places I've been to since leaving Cancun. Today is the 12th day of my trip.

Playa del Carmen is a party town - and that's what I did there. I stayed in a hostel called Marina Sabina where they organized a party each night and it was a lot of fun. I also met a Canadian guy Greg there who is more or less doing the same trip as me - and we've been travelling together since.

After Playa we went on to Tulum - a small town next to the Carribean that has some cool beaches and Mayan ruins. During our time there there was also the carnival which we took part of, but was nothing special.

Next destination - Bacalar. When I was in Cancun the owner of the hotel I stayed in said his dream is to retire next to the Bacalar lake. The lake of many colors, as its called. Its crystal clear, and has every shade of green and blue.. even some yellow in some parts. It was magical. We ended up staying there for 2 nights. Since it was a very small town (village even), it was cool to see the local life. We even went to the local bar in the night and had some beers with the local bums. Cool experience.

Next stop - Mahahual. Its a beach town that was pretty much destroyed by the hurricane 2 years ago and is now being built up. It has cruise ships coming it and the city wants to become the next tourist destination on Yucatan. But right now - it didn't have a whole lot.

In Mahahual they told us we can catch a boat to San Pedro, Belize from a nearby small town called Xcalac. As we missed the last bus of the day there, we took a cab (paid like $30 for a 1 hr drive). Upon our arrival to Xcalac we discovered that there is no ferry line to San Pedro. The only way to get there is to hire a local fisherman to take us. As the alternative would have been a huge trip to Chetumal (border town between Mexico and Belize), we decided to do that.

We haggled the prices and got a deal that was not cheap, but cheaper than the alternative + win in time. As the fisherman didn't wanna go the same day, we ended up spending the whole day and night in Xcalac. The fisherman had an extra house and rented us a room for the night. So we spent the day on the beach, just chilling out. In a restaurant we had lunch at they told us they are going to have a party the same night. So we came back at 7 and what do you know - the place filled up with like 40 retired Americans who had bought property over there. So that turned into a senior citizen party.

The next morning we jumped into a little fisherman boat - maybe 3 meters long - and were wondering if this boat is gonna make it to San Pedro or not. It did. After about 1.5 hrs on the boat, we arrived to San Pedro. No border guards, nothing. We take our bags and walk through the city (led by our friend the fisherman) to the customs office. Those guys quickly look at our passports, but don't wanna see our bags. The told us the immigration dude is not in yet, so we should come back later. After finding a hotel, we go back and see the customs guys having beer in a outside bar (its like 2pm) and they tell us the immigration guy is kind of lost and won't be in until Monday, so we can do the paperwork then.

This story sums up San Pedro: slow, relaxed, everybody's cool. No shoes, no shirt, no problem. People speak here all kinds of languages: English, Spanish, Creole, Jamaican-rastafari. It's a cool place. The big surprise was how expensive everything is. It's a big mystery everybody is wondering about - that how come Belize is just so expensive.

So far the main words to describe my trip: beach, sun, party, Mayan ruins.

The video below is me just walking the main street of San Pedro.

Go see the world as it is

I love traveling and I love getting to know places as they really are, try to look behind the curtain, the first impressions. People that visit other countries with organized tours often miss it all.

As some people prefer going with tours as its an easier choice for some, there is now good news for for those people. My good friends from AIESEC days just started an eco-tourism company and provide authentic experiences. Check them out: Reisid Vabadusse

Chitzen Itza and other updates

It's my 4th day in Mexico. Yesterday I went to see Chitzen Itza, once a powerful Mayan city of 50,000. It was impressive. I've put together a video of my experince there (its 18 min total, just to let you know):

While the glory of the Mayan civilization is in the past, its not like the Maya have disappeared. In fact, they are everywhere. A great deal of Mexicans are direct descentants of Mayas. Over 2 million people speak Mayan as their first language. In the Chitzen Itza site there were hundreds and hundreds of them selling handicraft - and I have to say their work is amazing, and extremely cheap. All the Mayas were giving me instantly better prices when I spoke Spanish. And they said if I would speak Mayan, they would give the stuff for free... Well, next time I'll go I'll pick up some Mayan and take them up on the offer.

Today is also my last day in Cancun, tomorrow I'm heading to Playa del Carmen. My time here has been enjoyable. My hostel in Cancun, Hostal Marpez, is a great place. I have a large room all by myself for a ridiculously low price. Lots of great and cheap restaurants nearby. Bus station 5 minutes walking.

I enjoy speaking Spanish, and all the bits that I lost in the last 9 months while being away from the Latin world, have come back. I feel comfortable here. I can't help but compare the life here to Panama, and there are so many similarities. Mexico does have a much better public transportation system though. And the customer service culture seems to be better on the average.

I also managed to get burned by the sun a bit, but thats okay. I am well equipped with all kinds of sunscreens and after-sun creams. Tomorrow I'll go to the beach again.

Cancun, Mexico

I started my month-long trip from Cancun, Mexico. Arrival went smoothly. The immigration lines were huge, the advertising on the airport walls had spelling errors. After I had bought my bus ticket to town, I noticed that it said "NiƱos" (children) and the ticket price mentioned was 2x less than what I paid. So that's how they're making some extra pocket money. The bus driver let me on board with it, so he was in on it too. I didn't mind. We're all in this together.

As I hardly have any agenda and deadlines, I am not in a hurry to do anything. So I decided to walk from the bus station to my hotel. Even though I had looked it up on the map before, I still managed to get lost and it took me 2 hours to get to the hotel. But again - as I am not in a hurry, it was a good way to get to know the city. I discovered that people are friendly and helpful, everyone I asked for the way responded kindly.

The city reminds me a lot of Panama City, the older parts (not historical, but older), so I felt right at home. I was anticipating to have at least some problems of integration, but none. Speaking Spanish sure helps.

Today I spent the day on the beach. The beach area, known as the hotel zone, is of a different league. It's kind of a mix between Dubai and LA - expensive, off-limits to poor people who actually live there, and very American (every American chain you can imagine is there). Of course, its full of Americans too. The two second largest groups that I noticed where Japanese (there was even a dedicated Japanse hotel with Japanse staff and all) and Russian.

While the law says the beaches are public and for everyone, the hotels don't think so. Every hotel on the beach has tried to make the access to the their beach impossible for non-guests. Since mine isn't on the beach (I wanted to stay near the bus station for easy travel), that was frustrating. The first one I tried to enter was all inclusive, so naturally they didn't want me on their beach (even though I tried to walk in like a guest).

Second hotel - no problemo. Being a blond white dude I just walked in and to the beach, picked my beach chair and enjoyed. Peace lasted until I ordered some drinks. They kept on insisting that I reveal my room number. While contemplating taking a shot, I chose a safer route and said I'm here with a friend, don't remember the room number, but the name is Cassidy Williams. That was sufficient. Got my drinks, paid in cash and all was good.

The weather is just perfect - not too hot, sunny. The Carribean is warm. I'll go again tomorrow.

I feel really happy in the tropics. The energy in the wind has something in it that makes you feel easy and happy. Add a 3-course dinner for 60 pesos (~$4 dollars) and its as good as it gets.