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Old 12-30-2012   #1 (permalink)
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Iberostar Paraiso Maya: The End of The World


I write to you from the other side.

A few short days ago we enjoyed the warmth of the Mexican sunshine, let the sand trickle between our toes, and felt relaxation slowly slip into our bodies, pushing all tension aside.

Now it’s all gone. The end of the world came. I’m kicking myself for paying for a return flight, but that’s of no consequence now. Could be worse – we could have had a trip lined up for March 2013. Ha! When I think of those suckers who do, or rather, “did” . . .

How did it all come about? Was it the Mayan prophesy come true? The towel game down at the beach? The lack of face cloths in the room? Who’s to say?
But what the heck - while I’m in purgatory awaiting judgement I’ll tell you about how it all came to an end.

Insert your own wavy graphic and harp-plucking sound track here as we look back on the week that was.

Day 1 – Arrival

Woo hoo! 6 or 7 planes landing at Cancun airport at the same time! Was that a hint of the impending apocalypse or what? The sheer number of people overwhelmed the roped off lines in customs. So the stupid among us dutifully continued the line, an extended queue of our own. As you do. Except that the horde kept growing, to such an extent that our neat line was rendered invisible, and it seemed that everywhere we had been became a place of “every man for himself.”

That second line trying to butt in on the original line? We were lined up there about 15 minutes ago. That place where floods of people are now ducking under the ropes? We were there also about 15 minutes ago.

Well after about an hour and 15 minutes we got through and made it on the bus. The last ones I hasten to add. And then it was off to paradise.



After arrival my wife Helen lost the ability to speak normal English and reverted to just three sentences:

“Wow!”
“You picked a great hotel!”
“I’m going to get used to going to this type of place!”







There is without doubt a lot of Mayan eye candy in the hotel. Everywhere you look there’s some interesting little or large decoration – it just can’t be seen in one visit. Plus they had the Christmas decorations out in force.



We dumped our gear in our room



and headed to the beach for an afternoon stroll. After that we did a quick tour of the sister resort Iberostar Paraiso Lindo and were doubly impressed.

So we booked dinner in El Museo, the Lindo’s gourmet restaurant. The room and service is over the top impressive – chargers under the plates, orders delivered domed with accompanying reveal, etc.



After dinner I stupidly ordered a “Mexican coffee.” To my mind this means one of those regular coffees with cinnamon in it. The waiter had other ideas - he brought what I would normally think of as a Spanish coffee, except it had – gag! – mango ice cream instead of whipped cream. So there I am with this fancy tall glass of coffee with a big solid blob of mango ice cream preventing me from getting at it.

And so, having obviously been asleep in Science class when Archimedes Principle or some such was discussed, I pushed down on the mango ice cream. Big mistake! Splat! The coffee goes all over the table.

I quickly cover it with a napkin, leave a heavy tip, and we beat a hasty retreat out of there. ¡Hasta la vista, baby!

Trip video: Iberostar Paraiso Maya



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Youtube: Dreams Puerto Vallarta 2011
Youtube: Catalonia Playa Maroma 2010
Youtube: Ek Balam 2010
Youtube: Royal Decameron Panama 2009
Youtube: Catalonia Royal Tulum 2008
Youtube: Bahia Principe Akumal 2005
Youtube: Reef Coco Beach 2005
Youtube: RIU Palace Mexico 2002 & 2004
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Old 12-30-2012   #2 (permalink)
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Great photos!
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Old 12-30-2012   #3 (permalink)
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Great story telling. Love it.
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Old 12-31-2012   #4 (permalink)
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Day 2 – Waiter, there’s a shrimp in the rafters

Our first full day was primarily a beach day. There are five hotels in Iberostar’s Playa Paraiso complex, so the beach can be quite full of people. Thankfully there are many palapas.



Since our orientation meeting was at 9:30 am, we slept in and had a later than normal start to the day. We ambled down to the pool-side buffet restaurant and I ate a plate of runny eggs, bacon, and formed hash browns.

Here I have to reveal a personality tic: I always feel badly for the person making eggs to order and can never bring myself to get in line with other guests; it’s like I’m ashamed of that the cook is going to think of us as gluttons. So instead I limit myself to the ready-made stuff. I know, weird. Here I am paying thousands for the trip and I’m worried about how it appears to the guy/gal making a few pesos.

After breakfast it was on to orientation, and there we booked a trip to Chichen Itza for the following day. It had been 10 years since we had been there, at a time when you could still climb El Castillo.

As we walked away it dawned on us that between our absence from the hotel and the rep’s limited availability, it would be difficult to book other tours on subsequent days. So we did an about face and that’s when it started to get out of hand.

First off we decided on the Xcaret spectacular for the next day. That one was easy as we’ve been before and absolutely loved it.

Then out of left field Helen suggested Xel Ha for the day following that. Which was really weird because she’s not really comfortable in the water.

So our schedule for the next four days was Chichen Itza, Xcaret for the nighttime show, Xel Ha, and then a previously-arranged private tour to Coba on D-Day, December 21, 2012, which also was Helen’s birthday and really the whole reason for the trip.

We made our way down to the beach and by that time most of the good palapas were taken, and we ended up in the area by the Del Mar and Beach hotels, which was great. We stretched out and enjoyed the drink service provided by the waitresses.

There is a boardwalk across the top of the beach and a couple of palapas reserved for disabled guests. I thought that was pretty cool. One gent with just one leg was snorkelling up a storm while another in a wheel chair sunned himself on a platform on the ridge of the beach while surveying the scene.



Playa Paraiso is a good beach although not quite as good as Xpu Ha or Maroma; tough comparison, that. There are some rocks in the water, but they can be avoided provided the water is calm. That task becomes more difficult when the water is rougher.



There are massage huts on the beach and one of the caballeros offered first me and then Helen an introductory 5 minute massage. Helen told him that I’m the only guy who touches her, after which I jokingly – jokingly! – suggested he be her “new” husband, for qualification purposes only.

Well upon hearing that he completely missed the joke and went into full Mexican Gigolo mode, telling her how good his “hands” were. In the end we managed to shoo him off.



The days are short in December and so we went back to the room and it was then that I was hit with stomach problems. Here I am in the Mayan Riviera and I’m visited by the Aztec king Montezuma. What gives?

So I go for the Pepto and find that there are only three puny little tablets in the bottle. I found no comfort in that, thinking about our full day trip the next day, so I chew down two tablets and hope for the best.

We booked in at the Japanese restaurant, La Geisha, where they do teppanyaki style cooking.





Our guy was apparently a complete newbie, which in a weird way turned out to be just as entertaining. The first indication of his apprentice status came when, while flipping his spatula and fork, he flipped the spatula right into the cleavage of the lady sitting next to me!

It occurs to me now that I should have offered to go in and retrieve it, but you never think of these things as they happen. Dang.

Next he had great difficulty with the flaming onion, although admittedly the onions were sliced by someone else and in fact were cut on an angle, making it difficult to keep the stack intact – his co-workers must have been punking him. We ended up getting a catastrophic event rather that a straight volcano: imagine Santorini or Krakatoa in place of Mount Etna.

After that the show was pretty mundane: oh sure he formed the rice into the shape of a heart, but he didn’t do a lot of the tricks that the other cooks do.

But what he did do was flip food from his spatula into or near the mouths of willing participants. His aim was true on his first attempt. Not so much on the second attempt. On the third attempt the shrimp that he flipped slowly arced through the air and . . . never came down. You see, he put it too high and it ended up in the rafters above the cooking area. Where perhaps it still resides to this day.



Entertainment over, we went back to the room and my stomach problems reoccurred. This is where the sheer genius of being a slob comes in: I rooted around in my knapsack and found some Immodium that I never cleaned out from the last trip. So as my head hit the pillow I chewed on my second slightly expired Immodium and hoped for the best the next day.

_____________________________
Youtube: Iberostar Paraiso Maya 2012
Youtube: Punta Cana Princess 2012
Youtube: Dreams Puerto Vallarta 2011
Youtube: Catalonia Playa Maroma 2010
Youtube: Ek Balam 2010
Youtube: Royal Decameron Panama 2009
Youtube: Catalonia Royal Tulum 2008
Youtube: Bahia Principe Akumal 2005
Youtube: Reef Coco Beach 2005
Youtube: RIU Palace Mexico 2002 & 2004
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Old 01-01-2013   #5 (permalink)
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Day 3 – ¡Fleece Navidad!

Note to readers: for the purpose of sparing the feelings of your correspondent, be so ever kind as to refrain from issuing a “well, D’uh!” or blow a raspberry or utter the great Bugs Bunny’s famous “what a maroon!” line until the end of today’s story.

So today is the day of our tour of Chichen Itza, and I woke up feeling well. But just to be on the safe side I restricted my breakfast to bread and juice.
We finished breakfast and made a quick dash to lobby to wait for our pickup.

And waited.

And waited.

The tour rep had told us that 20 minutes late is just Mexico time; worry when it gets to 30 minutes.

Well it got to 30 minutes and then some. The front desk staff wandered over and started asking us questions, and thankfully started making some phone calls on our behalf to the tour operator. I spoke to several people and it turned out that there were mechanical problems with the bus and they were sending a mini van to pick us up, after which we would rendezvous with a replacement bus.

All in all the pickup was 1 hour 15 minutes later than scheduled.

So we settled in on the replacement bus and watched the toll road wiz by. Our guide for the day was Gina, accompanied by sidekick Manuel and driver Freddie. Gina said all the usual things in English, Spanish, and French.

Our first stop was Valladolid. This would be our third time there. Some day I would like to go to the city and enjoy it on my own, but quite frankly I’m sick of pulling up to the same spot opposite the square and getting 15 minutes to relieve oneself and then stand around. Even Gina didn’t trying to sell it with the usual “you can take pictures of the church and of the square.”

So after a 15 minute stop the bus pulled out of Valladolid and crept – and I mean crept – along the road to Hubiku cenote (“Hubiku.” Sounds Japanese, doesn’t it?). And that’s when the hawking started.

Gina pulls out some pricelists and describes how we can purchase a necklace with our names or initials on it in Mayan letters. The prices seemed unreasonably high, and in any event we weren’t interested, so we amused ourselves by speculating that “Steve” and “Donna” would get their names spelled out exactly the same in Mayan, and who would be able to validate the correctness of what they received in that foreign script?

Most people weren’t interested and folded up the sheet to throw away. Gina got mad at them because she re-uses them for all the tours.

Finally – finally! – we got to the cenote, which also has a buffet restaurant that can seat hundreds of cattle, an alleged tequila factory, and the requisite gift shop. Before dismounting Gina informed us that there would be “paparazzi” and that we should let them take our pictures. As if.

So we got of and right away went into a sales pitch for Mayan calendars. I don’t think anyone bit on those. Then we were led into the gift shop. The whole thing was all set up Ikea-style: you couldn’t get straight to where you wanted to go, but we breezed through anyway because we weren’t interested.

Once outside we encountered the “paparazzi” and breezed right by them too before they could snap a photo of us. In fact I could sense that we were pushing Gina faster along the route than she normally likes to go. Not rudely, mind you, it's just that while she had her agenda, we had ours, which consisted of eating, swimming, and getting to Chichen Itza before the sun went down.

The cost of the meal was included in the trip fee but we had to pay for our own drinks. Upon being served a beer and a soft drink, we were told the bill came to 60 pesos.

What?

Yes, 60 pesos. And as the mesero wrote out the bill the beer was 30 pesos and the soft drink 25, giving us a magic 5 peso discount on the spot. It still seemed steep to me but I forked out the dough. Shortly thereafter and to her credit Gina appeared and said that the tour company would eat the cost of drinks as a way of apologizing for being so late in picking everyone up from their hotels. Muy amable.

After lunch I got changed for a swim in the cenote. Hubiku cenote is like no other that I’ve seen in that it has concrete steps and landings leading down to the water. It’s probably beneficial to those with mobility problems but it takes something away from the atmosphere of the whole thing.





And then being 2 o’clock or so we got on the way to Chichen Itza, and during the trip we encountered a severe rain storm. So perhaps it was good we were delayed. Then Manuel came along giving everyone a flask of some type of liquor, the label of which was personalized with the photo taken by the “paparazzi.“ Sneaky! Everyone but us got one and they were extremely happy. Happy, that is, until Manuel informed them that they’d have to fork over $20. Then they weren’t so happy. Bottles started being passed back to Manuel, but I’d say that about a third of our fellow travelers paid the money.

It was still raining pretty hard when we pulled up to the site, and the vendors were hawking cheap plastic ponchos, 50 pesos for two. I had a rain jacket with me but Helen had nothing, so I gave it to her and we went inside, hoping the rain would stop.

Well it didn’t so I went outside when it was raining hardest, ‘natch, and was immediately set upon by a vendor

[vendor] 2 ponchos for 50 pesos.
[rube aka me] but I only need one.
[vendor] 2 ponchos for 50 pesos.
[rube aka me] (after pulling out 50 pesos) How much is just one?
[vendor] It’s 50 peso’s for one (internal smile)

At this point I’m getting a pretty good soaking so I pay and take the poncho.

Helen puts on the lovely green poncho and I take back my jacket, and our guide Juan leads us out on the plain. And there sits El Castillo. Magnificent.



The rain lets up, naturally, and Juan for some reason leads us over to a vendor’s stall under a tree near the Tzompantli and starts telling us about human sacrifice practiced by the Mayans, using props handed to him by the vendor. I don’t know about you, but the fact that the Mayans practiced human sacrifice is no surprise to me, and in fact I would wager that out of all facts about the Mayans, this is one of the better known ones. But Juan soldiered on – droned on, really - and I started to drift away taking pictures, aware that time was running out.







He took the gang over to the ball court and by then I was completely detached from the group. Then Juan apparently said the Spanish equivalent of “show’s over, you’re on your own.”

Unbelieveable.

So we made a mad dash to the Temple of the Warriors, took a few pics, blew past the columns in a mad scramble to see the Observatory before the site closed.



And then it was all over. The delay due to the bus breaking down, the slow ride from Valladolid to Hubiku, the various sales pitches along the way, etc. cheated us out of sufficient time at Chichen Itza.

This is where you insert your “well D’uh!”

We will go back to Chichen Itza again someday, but on a private tour.

Outside the vendors were hawking their wares and one held up a t-shirt for 50 pesos. We went over, inquired about another one, and were informed that the cost would be 150 pesos. Huh? Well it turns out that coloured t-shirts are more expensive than white ones, dontcha know. I offered him 100 pesos and didn’t budge; he came down to my price, which I’m sure was still too much but at least in a small way provided a salve to my pride.

Speaking of vendors, Chichen Itza is supposedly one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world, and Mexico is cheapening it by letting so many vendors inside the site. I don’t recall a single vendor within the site 10 years ago, but now they line the paths making all kinds of pitches and noises, ruining the experience. I know a man has got to provide for his family, but there should be a reduction in the numbers allowed in.

Tour video: Chichen Itza & Hubiku cenote


__________________________
Youtube: Iberostar Paraiso Maya 2012
Youtube: Punta Cana Princess 2012
Youtube: Dreams Puerto Vallarta 2011
Youtube: Catalonia Playa Maroma 2010
Youtube: Ek Balam 2010
Youtube: Royal Decameron Panama 2009
Youtube: Catalonia Royal Tulum 2008
Youtube: Bahia Principe Akumal 2005
Youtube: Reef Coco Beach 2005
Youtube: RIU Palace Mexico 2002 & 2004
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Old 01-02-2013   #6 (permalink)
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I love this Iberostar...love the report and pics !
Keep em coming !
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Old 01-02-2013   #7 (permalink)
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We are trying to decide if we should "cheat" on our beloved Iberostar Maya for our next trip. These beautiful pictures are tugging at my heartstrings and I find myself leaning more towards the stay with what you know mindset.
Paradise!
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Old 01-02-2013   #8 (permalink)
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Day 4 – In which I upchuck on the beach and later go to Xcaret

I hate it when people blurt “Do you know the definition of insanity?” [Answer: doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result.]

Aside from being a vastly overused cliché, it just shows a complete lack of imagination and determination to be master of one’s own free will.

That’s my excuse for going back to the runny eggs, the greasy bacon, and the formed hash browns for breakfast. After having thoroughly cemented my system with two Peptos and two Immodiums, after making it through a day on the road to Chichen Itza without incident, I felt “King of the World!-ish” in a vaguely Leonardo DiCaprio way. I wanted to establish my victory over mere gastrointestinal problems. No more Montezuma’s for me!

And so having wolfed down the above “plate o’ doom” - Ha ha! I laugh in your general direction, “plate o’ doom!” - we went to the beach.

First up: a walk to Maroma. I remember seeing Playa Paraiso when staying at the Catalonia Playa Maroma two years earlier, but I didn’t know what the buildings were. Now I do.



We took a leisurely 35 minutes to get to the CPM, bare feet on sand all the way, and I have to confess that Maroma wasn’t looking quite as spectacular as I remember it, but I’m putting it all down to the Sun being its lowest in the December sky and unable to light up the water to its full extent with all those aquamarine colours.

I lay down under the palapa upon returning from Maroma, and shortly thereafter I wasn’t feeling too good. Nausea. I don’t get nauseous too often; in fact I pride myself on having an iron constitution. In those rare times that I do get nauseous I generally can convince my stomach to hold on to whatever’s in it provided I lie still.

This time was a little different: I had three waves when the norm is one. When the second popped up I started thinking about the possibility of upchucking. Just in case. Plan ahead. I quickly came to the conclusion that there was no way I could reach a baño before having a problem, so I decided that if I had to do it – and at this point I was still fully confident that I could talk my stomach and esophagus out of their desires to eject that which was in me – I would do it in the sand where I lay.

To the left was not a good idea; people too close. To the right was better but not optimal. Too many people around but what to do?

So as I lay there enduring the third bout of nausea, I felt the need to shift from lying on my left side to lying on my right. That’s all it took. All of a sudden my stomach contracted as it had never contracted before, and I knew we were off to the races. Fortunately I had a hat on so I think some of the view was blocked. I do remember one of the ladies behind us saying “that guy is being sick” and to them I apologize profusely. But what can you do?

Helen was actually just back from the baño herself, regular use for her, to catch me in the act. And really there wasn’t that much to it, but as you know the sound is quite revolting. She asked me how I was and I gave the usual answer: “I feel much better now.”

And not just because I did the same thing a second time but got a different result, thanks to the Pepto and Immodium that made the same result well nigh impossible.

But in truth I only felt better to a certain extent. We stayed on the beach for about another hour, me totally drenched in sweat from the ordeal, before we had to do the “walk of shame” back to our room to get ready to go to Xcaret.



We’d been to Xcaret four years earlier, had done the whole day thing, and had really enjoyed it. Thankfully this time we only opted for the night show. I was still feeling woozy as we headed to the pickup point in another lobby, but the AC in the van was a big help.

We had some time before the big show so we went to see all the fish in the aquarium, as well as some turtles and rays outdoors.



Then comes the big show. It really hasn’t changed that much in four years but I’m OK with that. I don’t know about you, but I love everything about it. I’m not even Mexican but I get chills when various patriotic songs about Mexico are sung, when they announce songs from the various states and the Mexicans in the audience from those states go nuts.



We like the Old Men Dance of Jarácuaro the best. I don’t know if it’s tradition but at Xcaret they have actual viejos perform it.



And I have to say there’s one dance from Veracruz that always makes me think it’s the Mexican Gay Pride Parade (insert “not that there’s anything wrong with it” here).



I can just imagine the conversation between two friends as the dancers come out:

[Mexicano] Hey, you’re from Veracruz aren’t you?
[Veracruzano] Um, no…
[Mexicano] I’m sure you told me you’re from Veracruz.
[Veracruzano] Look man, I told you I’m not from there now leave it!

Show over, we get on the bus and head up Highway 307 to the Iberostar, but the trip is excruciatingly slow because there is a lot of traffic exacerbated by the many police road blocks. We finally approach the Iberostar, the driver reduces his speed, has a good long look at it . . . and then blows right by. A guest gets up and tells him that he missed the entrance. So the driver stops the bus.

And, ignoring the fact that there are retornos every mile or so, the driver puts the bus into reverse. Because that’s what you do on a very busy highway at night in a vehicle with severely restricted visibility. I heard someone call out “dos cientos metros.” So we did the 200 metre crawl back to the entrance and somehow managed to do it without fatalities.

I’m the king of the world!

[Note of fairness: I really have no idea what caused me to be sick – it could have been anything. But the runny eggs made for a good story.]

Tour video: Xcaret



____________________
Youtube: Iberostar Paraiso Maya 2012
Youtube: Punta Cana Princess 2012
Youtube: Dreams Puerto Vallarta 2011
Youtube: Catalonia Playa Maroma 2010
Youtube: Ek Balam 2010
Youtube: Royal Decameron Panama 2009
Youtube: Catalonia Royal Tulum 2008
Youtube: Bahia Principe Akumal 2005
Youtube: Reef Coco Beach 2005
Youtube: RIU Palace Mexico 2002 & 2004
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Old 01-03-2013   #9 (permalink)
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Really enjoying your report!
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Old 01-03-2013   #10 (permalink)
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Day 5 – Xel Ha

Oddly enough, in the ten years that we’ve been going to the Playa area we’d never been to Xel Ha. Actually, not so odd since Helen isn’t much of a swimmer. But this trip she lost her senses and picked out Xel Ha; must have been all the twinkly lights emitted from the little hologram on my credit card, melting from over use.

And everything went . . . swimmingly!

I’m really glad we went. There’s a lot to do there, the food was good for what it was, and now I have fond memories of the place.





We started off with the lazy river, floating down on an inner tube for two. Except that to me it felt like lying on one’s back all the while being forced to keep one’s head held off the ground, all the while paddling, steering, plus grabbing mangrove branches. I soon had enough of that and jumped into the water, effectively swimming a combination of sidestroke and modified treading of water the whole way while pulling Helen and the inner tube. One day this will grow into a “10 foot waves uphill both ways” story, but for now I’ll leave it at “a bloody long distance with no fins.”



Hauling ourselves out of the water we ambled over to do some proper snorkeling. We crossed a bridge and there below were a multitude of fish lazing about in the sun. And no wonder – at the far end of the bridge was fish food for visitors to throw into the water.

So as we sat down to put our fins on and enter the water, this all seemed like Fishing 101: structure, cover, and food. The bottom of much of Xel Ha is pure white sand; no coloured fish is going to hang around above it. And right over there under the bridge were tons of fish. It felt like cheating but that’s where I slowly drifted and got some excellent video.



But then, what the heck, we did swim out into the main inlet and investigated the few areas of structure there, which did hold a few fish, but not nearly as many hanging out under the bridge in the warm water by the food. But it was nice to go for a proper snorkel.



I do have to say that the snorkeling was far superior in the morning compared to the afternoon, when there were by far a lot more people onsite. In the afternoon the water was noticeably oily from what I guess was all the suntan lotion being washed off. Whether it was biodegradable or not I could not say, but it did seem that the authorities were more muted than expected about the mandatory use of biodegradable products.

We got out and had lunch at one of the buffet restaurants, one with a lot of Mexican dishes, and it was quite good. Afterward we found the hammocks and evidently loud noises were emitted from my mouth while I was asleep, but I never heard them.



More snorkeling followed, and then we climbed out for a final dry-off. At sunset the good folks at Xel Ha held a Mayan “End of the World” ceremony where they played some music, burned some copal or some type of incense



and lit candles within gourd-shaped plastic tubs. Guests were invited to launch the candles out into the inlet where the gourds made a pretty sight.







Then back to the bus. We had been warned under no uncertain terms that the bus would leave at 6:15 en punto! Well that was a nose-stretcher because the buses, which all leave at the same time, apparently do not leave Xel Ha until every last guest is accounted for, and so we must have left a half hour later than scheduled, due to guests continuing to slowly amble their way out of the site well after the appointed time.

Tour video: Xel Ha



_____________________________

Youtube: Iberostar Paraiso Maya 2012
Youtube: Punta Cana Princess 2012
Youtube: Dreams Puerto Vallarta 2011
Youtube: Catalonia Playa Maroma 2010
Youtube: Ek Balam 2010
Youtube: Royal Decameron Panama 2009
Youtube: Catalonia Royal Tulum 2008
Youtube: Bahia Principe Akumal 2005
Youtube: Reef Coco Beach 2005
Youtube: RIU Palace Mexico 2002 & 2004
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Old 01-04-2013   #11 (permalink)
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Great report! Keep it coming!

I had to laugh because I also feel weird ordering at the buffet made to order section, so I never do it. I wonder why?
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Old 01-04-2013   #12 (permalink)
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Plate O Doom - love it.

Great report !!!!!
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Old 01-04-2013   #13 (permalink)
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Day 6 – The End of the World



I’m not as stupid as I look. OK, I am. But on the rare occasion I get it right. This being both Helen’s birthday and the Mayan “End of the World” I pre-booked a private tour to Coba, a site we had never visited. The plan was to include a climb of Nohoch Mul as part of Helen’s birthday celebrations.

I have to give a plug here to Your Private Tour. They were excellent.

Unlike the cattle drive to Chichen Itza, YPT picked us up a few minutes early at our hotel and whisked us to Coba by 8:45 am. The parking lot was practically empty.



We got on one of the two-person tricycles for hire – I feel for the poor guy; I had been eating to make up for my earlier illness, but I tipped him after the fact – and were taken immediately to Nohoch Mul.





As you well know the pictures do not do justice to the magnificence and sheer incline of this rustic structure. Unlike El Castillo at Chichen Itza, which we climbed in 2002 (brag, brag), the steps of Nochoch Mul are all over the place, making the ascent and decent that much more interesting.

We were beaten to the top by another private tour, but no matter, for there was hardly anyone on the pyramid at the time, all the more helpful on this significant of days in the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012.



A small shrine had been started in the doorway of the temple at the top; someone had left something in Japanese script, as well as a few American dollars. An INAH guy came up and snatched it all, saying that there’d be none of that. And there was a screen across the doorway, preventing us from getting inside the temple; don’t know if that was there for the day or a now-permanent feature.

We descended, looked at the Xiabe, and then mounted the tricycle for a trip to one of the two ball courts. The weather was perfect: probably in the low 70s, perfect for being transported around the site. Not so perfect for the guy having to pedal my lard butt around the site, but I told you I tipped him.

I was really taken by La Iglesia, thinking at first that it was much taller than it actually is. The site is compact but there’s still a lot to see; you see it, but you don’t, and I realize that we’ll have to go back to see a lot of the detail that we missed.



Hordes were coming in the gates as we were going out. Glad we missed being mixed up with that. We got back in the van and headed to Half Moon Bay for Lunch at La Buena Vida, another place we’ve never been to.



We just loved the setting and the view. Helen had a salad and fish tacos, I had sopa de lima and fish tacos. Terrific.



Then it was off to Yal Ku Lagoon, another place we’d never been (despite having once stayed down the road at the Bahia Principe). To my mind Yal Ku is superior to and yet admittedly different from Xel Ha: an obviously more compact site, solely about snorkeling, but with more fish.



Have you seen this fish?


So there I am minding my own business – I wasn’t doing nothing! – when this little nipper went and nipped me in the arm. Oh yeah, they’re all so tough when they’re hanging out with a school of buddies, but let’s just see you try to pull that stunt mano a . . . er, fin-o when they’re not around, punk! Just you try!

That little tête-à-tête over, our tour concluded. I had originally planned on taking Helen to La Casa del Agua in PDC for dinner, but she was more than happy to celebrate at one of the Iberostar’s restaurants, so we booked in to L’Etoile, the French restaurant. After both starting with glasses of champagne she had lamb while I had beef tenderloin; neither was outstanding but it was a very nice room and a terrific place to celebrate.



And the world didn't end, so I guess those bills will start rolling in any time now. Dang!

Tour video: December 21, 2012: Helen's birthday




Tour video: December 21, 2012 at Cobá

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Youtube: Iberostar Paraiso Maya 2012
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Youtube: Catalonia Playa Maroma 2010
Youtube: Ek Balam 2010
Youtube: Royal Decameron Panama 2009
Youtube: Catalonia Royal Tulum 2008
Youtube: Bahia Principe Akumal 2005
Youtube: Reef Coco Beach 2005
Youtube: RIU Palace Mexico 2002 & 2004
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Old 01-06-2013   #14 (permalink)
way into it
 
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Canada
Posts: 100
Days 7 & 8 – Triste despedida

Day 7 was a beach day. After all that running around earlier in the week we felt like a bit of relaxation before the flight home.





Again, the days in December are short and had it not been for Helen’s birthday my preference is to go somewhere around April. It never really got hot and the sun noticeably lost its strength around 3 pm each day.

So after the final day at the beach we went over to the Commercial Center and checked out the stores. There was a jewelry place with 40% off signs so we went in. The gent did the usual routine of weighing out the silver, telling us the gross price, then subtracted the 40% to arrive at the sale price. We picked up 2 necklaces and a pair of earrings and were happy with the prices. That’s the way we like to shop as we’re not good/interested in haggling. The prices we got seemed reasonable so both sides were happy.







And that brings this report to its end.

We picked the Iberostar Paraiso Maya because of all its eye candy. Earlier in the year we were in Punta Cana at the Punta Cana Princess to celebrate our anniversary, and while we had a good time I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the hotel itself. And I think this is due to our having crossed a threshold of sorts in our lives. I used to think that we were pretty low maintenance, that a bed and a beach is all that we needed, but now I’m finding I’m joining the type of people who want a higher-end style of stay. So while I’ve always wanted, for example, to stay at the Akumal Beach Resort, that now seems unlikely.

Some man in a red suit is poking me with a large fork; he tells me I’m going somewhere hotter than Mexico. I do hope they have soft ice cream . . .



____________________

Youtube: Iberostar Paraiso Maya 2012
Youtube: Punta Cana Princess 2012
Youtube: Dreams Puerto Vallarta 2011
Youtube: Catalonia Playa Maroma 2010
Youtube: Ek Balam 2010
Youtube: Royal Decameron Panama 2009
Youtube: Catalonia Royal Tulum 2008
Youtube: Bahia Principe Akumal 2005
Youtube: Reef Coco Beach 2005
Youtube: RIU Palace Mexico 2002 & 2004
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Old 01-06-2013   #15 (permalink)
life=playa
 
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Danville ca
Posts: 594
Loved your trip report. What kind of camera did you use for your video?
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