Cancun - February 2004

     Who could pass up a free stay in Cancun? Not I, Ryan says. Yeah it's touristy and everyone has been there, but hey it's a nice beach in the winter. By the way, everyone says that Cancun is very fab. So I grab my free 3-day reservation to Omni Cancun Hotel and laugh maniacally as if I just got away with bringing life to a corpse... Hmm.. Anyway.

     I'm getting the hang of this new security protocol at the airports. A little planning and application of KY helps lubricate the process past the Gestapo. We flew all night and then crashed on Hotel Omni's beach. Omni is a terrific hotel. Our room was on the inland side (free, remember?) but was very clean and comfortable. The Omni's Pina Colada restaurant on the beach was awesome.. I only wish it was open longer than 12-5p. The other hotel restaurant was not as fun or economical. We didn't try the "dress code" Italian restaurant.

Omni Hotel's beach.

One of Omni Hotel's 3 pools.

     A cenote is a well where the ground has caved in to the groundwater below. The Mayans used these fresh water sources to survive. Some cenotes are up to 90 meters deep! This one is a bit touristized.. they pipe water up to cascade above you and there is a diving platform too! It was a very beautiful place and I wished I had my swim suit with me!
A Cenote.

     The next day we grabbed a guided tour of Chichen Itza which is one of the Yucatan Peninsula's largest and most restored ruin sites. Our tour guide (Martin) was awesome! Funny guy and really knowledgable. He didn't make stuff up and didn't pretend to know everything. This was a huge relief after my guide in the Amazon last year. (BTW it's a 2 hr bus ride to and from the site, so prepare to spend most of a day doing this tour) After a great buffet-style lunch, Martin showed us around the Chichen Itza site. It was really interesting! Most of the main ruins are magnificently restored.

The Great Ballcourt at Chichen Itza.

Foreground: unrestored Venus Platform, Background: Restored El Castillo.

     The Great Ballcourt is longer than a football field. When someone stands on one end and talks loudly, you can hear them all the way on the other end. El Castillo (tallest structure) is very steep to climb, but at the top you get a great view of the whole site. The pyramids are actually built on top of smaller pyramids. We weren't allowed on the Temple of Warriors above the market, but I had my binoculars and it has some great carvings at the top. All of the columns of the market once held a roof. There are still many unrestored less-known-about buildings like the Caracol (observeratory) and nunnery. One could spend a lot of time here wandering around.

A less-restored side of El Castillo.

The market and Temple of Warriors.
     Miscellaneous facts: The Mayans built these buildings with stone and concrete because they had access to limestone. El Castillo has a great special effect built into it. On the equinox days, the sun's shadow on the serpent tail going up the steps to the top creates an animated effect that looks like a serpent is slithering down the pyramid. Serpents are a very important symbol of power and prowess in the Mayan culture. The site is built between two cenotes (one was used as a sacrificial well)
Temple of Warriors from top of El Castillo.

The Caracol (Observeratory).

     The next day we took a ferry over to Isla Mujeres which is just to the North East of Cancun. This island is really charming. It is less touristy and has a really cute downtown area in addition to great snorkeling. We rented a golf cart and drove through the whole island.
The dock near downtown Isla Mujeres.

     We took a quick snorkeling trip and saw a huge array of fish. We saw barracuda, sardines, schools of bright yellow and blue fish, and a school of squid! I know there are others that I'm forgetting already.
Shadow in a shallow bay.
A beautiful bay.

     We just happened to be in Mexico the week before Carnival. On Isla Mujeres, there were lots of amateur floats and dancers running around the island getting psyched up for the event. It was all so very colorful.
Carnival float.

Sunset over Cancun.

Sunset over Cancun.

     Monday we had a little time to go to downtown Cancun. It was just a bunch of the same markets you see everywhere else, so I don't really recommend it, but you must find this pastry shop at the corner of Avenida Tulum and Avenida Coba. Everything there was fantastico!
Pastry heaven.
Tux Berries.