We did the last bit of travelling of the tour today, going to Playa del Carmen via Chichen Itza. I’m not being little Englander and stubbornly refusing to use grammatical accents on words such as Chichen Itza. It’s more of a case of them being difficult to locate on the keyboard and there’s only so many hours in the day! Steve Jobs’ spell check facility wants to change it to Chicken Itza so hopefully I’ve spotted and changed all of those. Thinking about it, Chicken Itza could be an ideal name for my potential Mexican poultry outlet!
Anyways, we arrive in Chichen Itza at about 10am and it’s already hot. Felipe is the tour guide and he’s a pro, having being doing this gig since before I was a twinkle in my parents’ eye. At the previous ruins we were constantly told that an advantage they have is that you are allowed to climb over them, something you can no longer do at Chichen Itza. I presumed that this was to protect the buildings from the throngs of visitors here. Not according to Felipe though. This rule was introduced about ten years ago when a lady unfortunately fell off the main pyramid and died. I wish we’d have been informed about that before we were running up and down the uneven stairs at the other places. Felipe told us all sorts of interesting stuff. Building the city used theories of mathematics, physics, architecture, astronomy and engineering way ahead of their time, which is all pretty amazing. However it was just too flipping hot for me. Being the gent he is, Felipe was even apolgising for the weather conditions. Chichen Itza is probably the most famous of the archaeological sites in Mexico. I’m not sure if that is due to its proximity to the main tourist area of Mexico or whether it is actually the best. It was certainly teeming with tourists, all doing that clapping thing to demonstrate the acoustics from the buildings. Granted the pyramid is iconic and often makes the covers of guide books but in my option I perhaps preferred the jungle setting of the Palenque ruins.
En route to Playa del Carmen we stopped for some food at a fairy standard all-you-can-eat buffet place. The reason why I am mentioning this though was due to the fact that the live entertainment consisted of a performance of dancers, wearing native dress and balancing beer bottle on their heads!
Upon arrival in Playa del Carmen, after over two weeks in Mexico, we’d finally made it to the beach. I’m not entirely sure what to make of Playa del Carmen. I’ll declare an interest of not being a huge fan of beaches. I’m too pasty to get a tan and won’t go near the sea through the fear of getting attacked by something. When I go to the beach I usually sit underneath a towel, trying to read a book, while attempting not to get sand everywhere. That said the beach here dos look nice, albeit it’s a bit narrower than would perhaps be expected. This means that the bit near the town centre is absolutely packed with some reasonably rowdy clientele.
Playa del Carmen is also incredibly commercialised with a heavy concentration of swish shops, restaurants, and hotels. It’s almost like being in another country compared to where we’ve been recently. Mark said the place is almost unrecognisable from the small fishing village it was not that long ago. Inevitably this results in plenty of scumbags here. You can’t (or at least I couldn’t) walk more than about ten yards without having someone pestering you to sell their Cuban cigars, regular massages, sexy massages, ladies, as well as enough drugs to sink a ship with. I haven’t been offered this many narcotics since I was in Cream Nightclub in Liverpool in 1999!
Playa del Carmen tends to be relatively more expensive than elsewhere in the country. My £4 wrestling mask from Puebla is now about £10. A £1 beer is closer to £2. Almost every menu is in English and you can pay in US Dollars. It’s great having the tour guide with us as Mark knows the cheap places to go. A couple of streets away from the main section is a place selling fantastic burritos for about £3.50 and we also went in a bar where a litre of beer is £2.50 or a litre of mojito costs £3 and they’re not as weak as perhaps would be expected. Two litres of mojito and you’ll be rocking!
While browsing one of the shops in Playa del Carmen I came across the biggest idiot British tourist so far on my travels. It may sound a bit snobby to make fun of him but this bloke was a complete plank. He picked up a hoody from the rail of a clothes shop and proceeded to walk across to the door and ask the security guard, “Excuse me how much is this in pounds.” The security guard clearly didn’t speak English and even if he did I doubt that he’s memorised today’s exchange rates from xe.com. After looking at the customer as though he had two heads, the question was repeated to the security guard in a slightly slower tone. Being the helpful person that I sometimes can be, I informed him that it was approximately £32. I’d guess that he was from either Essex or Kent, not that that has any relevance.
Depending on your point of view, the Coco Bongo Nightclub will either provide you with the best night out in town or it’s the biggest tourist trap around. The truth is that it’s probably a bit of both. It’s not cheap at $70 (US) for entrance and unlimited drinks. You start off by waiting in a big queue. I haven’t queued for more longer than five minutes to get into a nightclub in at least the 2010s. However I’m far from the oldest swinger in town here, with people from all ages represented. This wait was at least half an hour. Inside it’s not that big with steep levels around the sides, a big stage at the end and a raised platform in the middle of the floor where seemingly attractive ladies are invited to dance. The show then starts. It’s kind of a cabaret act with all sorts of performers of the big stage emiming to the obvious party tunes from across the years. The professional entertainment on display ranges from quite good to a bit naff. At one point there were people dressed as Beetlejuice dancing to Hey Baby. I’ve no idea why! Then some dancers of short stature, also dressed as Beetlejuice appeared and began performing to a Gary Glitter song. I’m hardly the most politically correct person but found this to be somewhere between inappropriate and disturbing. There were some great acrobatics and plenty of visual effects on the big screen, along with a liberal use of balloons and confetti. The most thankless job of the night belonged to the man who attempted to brush up the confetti. He’d struggle to move around the packed dance floor and when he managed to get some of it up, a load more would be discharged. I had a good effort at attempting to get value for money from the unlimited drinks deal. We found that if you (cough) tip a waiter 100 pesos (about £4) he’ll bring you drinks all night, whether you ask for them or not. All in all it was a good night. I’d categorise it as one of those things that I’m quite glad I did but wouldn’t be bothered about going again. Dutch Mike had left a bit earlier and in Mexico it’s customary to only get one room key. For some reason the Tequila Sunrise’s meant that he couldn’t hear me knocking at the door so we had to get the security guard to open up to a slightly dazed and confused looking Mike! There’s a video of the whole incident that served as Friday’s entertainment.