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Tulum, Mexico

Author: StanK
Date of Trip: March 2007

Tulum, Mexico –

Arrived about 3PM at Cancun Airport with mi Chica. Pick up the rental car, heeding the advice of rental car lady not to use ATM at airport because of bad rates and head south on 307. No pesos, almost no gas, but not to worry-will use credit card at gas station – Lesson #1,no way. Ok, rental car lady said to use the ATM at the 7-ll next to the gas station. Only there isn’t any. Stopping at various ATM looking locations along the way, I learn that my VW Pointer gets great gas mileage and finally find an ATM in Playa del Carmen and fill up. Now, to find bottled water and we will be set. A previous posting mentioned a Soriana shopping center just south of Playa. I learn about local lanes as I sail past the Soriana center. Not to worry, just down the road is a returno and I returno and then returno again to the local lane and pull up at Soriana. This is a great place! Load up with water in various sizes, mi Chica finds other items of importance and we notice multiple ATMs. Thought I would get some more pesos just because they were there, but fought off the temptation.

Back to the car. It is almost dark now and we still have a way to go. I am confident in the directions given on another travel talk site, so no doubt will find our hotel Los Lirios in the dark. Moving right along, we get to Tulum, and where we turn left at the Corba road, I notice the San Francisco supermarket on my right – good place to keep in mind. We follow our directions and arrive at Los Lirios – no problems.

Los Lirios seems to be one neat place, our room, an upper Ocean View (only it is too dark to view the Ocean. but we can hear it) is far bigger than expected, a nice balcony with hammock and two comfy chairs and all is right with the world. It’s getting kind of late, so we opt for the hotel restaurant. These guys really have a way of plating the dishes. Mi Chica opts for only soup and I have a grilled meat dish, very attractively served, but average in taste. We booked Los Lirios through an agency, Price-Travel, and paid about $100/night including breakfast. Tulum itself is off Mexico’s electric grid so every hotel must be self sufficient both for electricity and water. Los Lirios is one of the very few hotels there that has 24/7 electricity and air-conditioning. Beware though, if staying at Los Lirios, ask for a room away from and upwind of the water treatment plant.

We are up before the sun and find that our Ocean View room (room E3 -the upper rooms at Los Lirios are best) indeed has an Ocean View and a spectacular one at that. We watch the sunrise and are down the stairs, past our coconut palm, along a white powder sand path and out for our first of hour long sunrise walks on the beach. Now, I don’t like beaches – too gritty, but mi Chica does and she earned the trip caring for my 92 year old mom for several months. I have changed my mind. I don’t know what paradise is supposed to look like, but this will do. Maybe it is trite, but the Tulum beaches really do have powdery white sand that is not gritty at all.

Back to our room with 20 foot ceiling and thatched roof, into some day clothing and off to breakfast. On another web site there were some complaints about the breakfast. I don’t know why – just whiners I guess. There were omelets made to order, juices, granola, fresh fruits, various meats, yoghurt, etc. and a fine beach view, what more would one want? After breakfast, into town to check it out. Too much breakfast, so skipped lunch. Back onto the beach for an afternoon swim and another hour walk.

Hey, I say to my lady. Look down the beach where all of those guys are standing around, that girl is wearing silver high heeled shoes on the beach. Who ever heard of such a thing? Yes says mi Chica, and that girl is topless too. I hadn’t noticed! Now, when the man notices the shoes and the lady notices, the…well, there is some true role reversal. I am worried about me. It turns out they were doing an advertising shoot. Didn’t see the cameras with all of the guys standing around. As I soon found out, swimsuit tops are optional for all.

Back to room for some hammock time, shower and off to dinner at Zama’s. It is a very nice place on the beach. We both opted for the whole fish (about 180 pesos). After an hour or so it came and during that time we became closely acquainted with Sol cervesa. We were told the fish was “like a snapper.” It was sort of snapper shaped, but had big sharp teeth, and unlike a snapper in its natural state, was covered in a very nice vegetable sauce.

Day 2 First, let us dispense with the weather report for the entire trip. Month, March -Days, breezy in the upper 80s to 90. Just enough clouds to enhance sunrise and sunset. Evenings in the 70s. That’s it-every day.

Up for the now obligatory sunrise walk on the beach followed by breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast is as constant as the weather with just minor daily changes, but good variety. We drive down to the Tulum Mayan archeological site that was a new experience for us. This is the only Mayan site in Mexico with a beach as far as I know so one might want to bring a swim suit when visiting. A most interesting morning with much to see. We wandered around following our guidebook and I played with my new camera, trying different settings for each scene much to the joy of mi Chica. We spot an Iguana! A big one! Our first! He is posing just for me and I obligingly use my zoom throughout its considerable range on auto, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, and most of its presets just to see the difference. The iguana doesn’t know it, but he is a star. Or maybe he does and obligingly puffs up and goes through his paces.

We noticed Don Cafeta’s Restaurant on the way to the ruins and after leaving the site, stopped for lunch. This is Don Cafeta’s on the beach, not the one in town. After having a great mole dish we are back to the hotel, quick shower and off to town. Now the Pueblo of Tulum is truly dedicated to tourists with shop after shop selling mostly the same stuff. After taking care of some small gifts for the kids we come upon Jesus Alcala Aguilar’s Plateria Tulum – a jewelry shop with craftsmanship several levels above the others. It is a family run place and they make most of the jewelry themselves including some really nice carvings in amber and jasper. Mi Chica has found her soul. I head off in search of an ATM because I know that I will need it. Actually we spotted an extra ordinary amber carving done by Jesus that just spoke to the both of us. Although Jesus does take credit cards, cash speaks much louder when negotiating a price. What is my daily withdrawal limit? I know that I am going to reach it. Leaving Jesus we are carrying the carving and a bunch of other stuff including a lovely silver necklace to give to lovely music major daughter for her upcoming senior recital – ever hear “Flight of the Bumblebee” played on a bassoon? It is worth a silver necklace. We head back to Los Lirios. We meet Maria on the beach, recruiting guests for Los Lirios’ free Yoga lessons. We agree to give it a try. Now, I am built similar to Peter Lorre, or maybe just a lorry, thus my limbs rebelled at the positions they were asked to assume. However, I excelled at he deep breathing and relaxation. Mi Chica on the other hand did quite well assuming positions I had no idea she was capable of. Afterwards we changed and regrouped for dinner that turned out to be back in the Pueblo at Charlie’s. They have a darned good Flamenco show – a swell surprise, followed by a belly dancer of considerable talent – a sweller surprise. All together, one heck of a fine day.

Day 3 Our last full day in Tulum began with the usual hour beach walk at sunrise, passing on the yoga lesson with Maria. After breakfast we are off to the biosphere. This is a place we have been wanting to see and even though there weren’t any monkeys, or even many birds to be seen, the small fraction of the reserve that we saw in a morning was awesome. If you are down in that area, be sure to put aside some time for a visit. Judging by the very few people we saw there, not too many do. We went up to the top of the observation tower for fabulous views of the jungle roof and lagoon and then hiked some trails. A short drive down the road took us to a fishing camp and a gorgeous stretch of beach. Bring insect repellant. Lots of it. The experience was well worth a few bites.

Driving back to Los Lirios, we passed a cenote and stopped by – a pleasant diversion. Lunch again was at Don Cafeto on the beach to try some other items on the menu and because of the great lunch experience the day before (mole pablamos). We see an item on the menu called “Pepitos.” Sounds interesting. Asked the waiter what it is and he answers “a meat torte.” Torte – that is kind of like a pie, right. Wrong. So what is or are Pepitos? Turns out to be something like a Mexican version of a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, sub roll and all. Not quite the same. The meat was shredded, the cheese certainly wasn’t melted cheez-whiz and the spices were different. Not what we expected, but pretty good.

One last swim and afternoon walk on the beach and we are off again to our silver mine in the Pueblo followed by dinner again at Charlie’s. When we like a place we tend to stick with it. No flamenco this time but a knockout filet of fish Veracruz.

Monday dawns. Our day to leave Tulum and it is hard. One last walk on the beach, extra long this time, breakfast, and we are off to 3 days in Cancun. We stop at the San Francisco super market. It is a pretty good size and is a good bet for stocking up. Next stop is Xel- Ha – not the tourist attraction, but the ruins across the road. This place is empty, there is only one other car in the parking area. No tour busses here! These ruins are older and very different from those of Tulum. They are in less of a state of preservation and occupy a much more compact site in a jungle setting. Also unlike Tulum’s ruins, these are very accessible and you can walk right up some very interesting frescos. The morning light was both wonderful and a challenge for picture taking. Found a large beautifully colored iguana here as well who kindly posed.

From Xel-Ha it is on to Cancun and the Ambiance Villas Ken Ha. Price, about $125/night – great for a nice hotel in Cancun. For some reason not revealed to us, we were upgraded to a suite that was about twice as big as our first apartment. The beach at Ambiance Villas is the nicest at the top part of the 7 shaped Cancun Island and it is an altogether pleasing property. Our beach and the flanking beaches connected with the Intercontinental El Presidente and Olas Residences and Spa seemed to be the only ones in that area that were wide and intact. Once you walked past Olas, the beach narrows down to next to nothing courtesy of Hurricane Wilma we are told. We are completely spoiled by Tulum when it comes to beaches. Welcome was a small nearby supermarket and launder mat. Other than that I don’t have much to say about the hotel zone of Cancun so I won’t. Market 28 downtown (not the hotel zone) however was fun and is worth a trip if even for the very colorful photo opportunities.

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