Monday, January 13, 2014

the Mayan Riviera

The television in our hotel room has three music channels: mariachi, musica tropical, and new age. We like to have the mariachi music playing while we get ready for our day.  What a wonderful style to have as your musical tradition.  You just always feel like dancing. It seems like every pop song in Spanish contains the words mi corizon and caliente. The  constant recurrence of these words says a lot about Mexican culture.

The Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya

a lovely welcome from the hotel

On the other hand, the weather channel lies.  I am convinced that it’s a propaganda tool of the Mexican government to assure tourists that they have made the right decision in spending money to come here.  Every day it promises that today will be sunny and it won’t rain for another few days.  Or maybe it will say, strategically, sunny with cloudy periods with chances of rain. In reality it means about fifteen minutes of sun in between the storm clouds, and a lot of rain. They should really do something about the rain.  Apparently this stormy weather is freakish and unusual, and the staff apologizes to us.  The news tells me that this unusual weather spell was caused by the Arctic vortex, an influx of bad weather expelled from the Arctic.  I try to apologize to the Mexicans, but they don’t believe that I really live that far up north, that anyone does.

sun showers

The snorkeling at this beach is fantastic.  The coral and its accompanying wildlife are  just off the shore.  The schools of fish and even rays swim so close to you that you could probably touch them with your hands if you reach out.  It freaks me out a little to have the fish come up so close to my belly.  You can even see the fish just wading in the water, knee deep.

saw a fish THIS big

Our hotel is large and expansive, nestled into the jungle.  The staff shuttle hotel guests around on electric golf carts. I’m often tempted to steal one and go off on a joy ride.  But I don’t.  Instead I enjoy the chance to stroll down the paths through the trees and watch all the plants and scurrying animals.  There are little groundhog things with no tails called pacas that run through the grounds.  And there are these birds that are really loud and have really crazy eyes. They glare at you whenever you pass by them.  I wonder what we have done to make them so angry.

There was another elusive animal that I kept seeing glimpses of, darting behind a tree, running across the road, hiding in the dark, but I never got to see its face. I had no idea what it was. I could hear it, sense it, but I couldn't figure out what it was.  It was like that monster from Lost.  Rob's theory is that it was a coatimundi.  I will never know.

Grasshopper in ashtray

creepy crawlies on the rocks

world's tiniest lizard?

The Internet here is slow as rush hour traffic, slower than Nunavut, slower than Namibia, slower than the cottage.  After taking an hour to check my email, I decide to give up and just go the week offline. It’s a bit nerve-wracking at first, but then a glorious feeling of relaxation takes over.

Swim up bar

Lazy river

When we got dropped off at our hotel, our transfer guide warned us, Nothing here is free. If it is, they’re trying to sell you a time share

Sometimes I wonder if Mexicans must hate Canadians. The ones that invade their homeland and complain when everything is not exactly the same as back home, even though our “home” Is this insanely cold place that we are trying to escape from.  The ones that come to their country without speaking a word of the official language, while growing frustrated that the staff’s English isn’t perfect.  The ones that burn their fair skin under the sun until our faces are darker than our lips, and we have no idea how ridiculous we look. The ones that complain that the maids haven’t replenished the mini fridge to our liking.  Meanwhile, some of these maids only dream to have their own fridges at home so well-stocked. We have no idea what the rest of the country lives like, their standard of living, their culture beyond the lobby mariachi band.  The average wage of Mexicans here is five US dollars a day.  No wonder they put up with our whining, if it means we’ll tip them one dollar after they pour our drinks, drive us two hundred metres to our room, wash the dirty towels we’ve thrown on the ground. No wonder there are always folks out there trying to sell us something.

Mariachi band

Canadians being Canadians, playing makeshift hockey in the lobby

At night, the staff puts on evening shows for the hotel guests.  Sometimes they feel sort of like you’ve accidentally bitten into a pot brownie. You don’t know what you got yourself into, it’s kind of odd, even terrifying, but also pretty entertaining at the same time.  Fluorescent life-sized Loony Toons characters dancing on stage.  For some reason Tweety Bird is green, but boy, he can move.  A choreographed Blues Brothers lipsync performance – black guys impersonating whites guys impersonating black guys.  Traditional Mexican dancing, a beautiful flurry of brightly coloured dresses that the girls hold up in their hands, awesome hats that sit atop the male dancers while they stomp out a storm.  I am not a very good dancer, and when I watch these shows I wish I could speak that physical language.  Sometimes I make up back stories for some of the dancers.  That is the girl who since she was five has dreamed of being a dancer on the national stage; for now she plays Jesse the Cowgirl from Toy Story, dancing to Sarah McLaughlin, as children cheer.

Blues Brothers

My first time watching Mexican Grease

I take up gluttony as hobby for the trip. The papayas are so fresh, I feel as though it is my first time ever eating a real papaya.  It just tastes so…real. My meals are filled with mango smoothies, fajitas with plenty of guacamole and salsa, more papayas,  pasta with pasta salad on the side. And tequila. Sipping tequila and smoking Cuban cigars at the lobby bar. Drinking coronas by the pool. Ordering more pina coladas at the beach.  Why not? We’re all on vacation.  We spending the evening in the dining hall, watching little girls struggle to scrape themselves enormous piles of ice cream from ice cream bins that are almost bigger than themselves. Occasionally they lick the metal serving spoon when they think nobody is looking.

Mexican chocolate drink...with booze

Chocolate pyramid

The spa baths here are fantastic. As many readers know, I have this thing about fancy bathrooms - which is why I even have a photography series for bathroom self portraits. The spa at the Grand Sirenis has some pretty fancy baths.  Jet streams to massage your back, neck, shoulders, feet, legs, every part of you that might be sore from a hard day's work of hanging out at the beach.  The spa also featured Turkish baths, steam rooms, saunas, ice fountains, aromatherapeutic scented showers and even a cold bucket shower.  It was heavenly. I took about ten showers that day.

I also went kayaking in the Caribbean Sea. Navigating my way through the crashing waves was thrilling, and now I'm sad that I have to wait another seven months before I can hit the Arctic Ocean with my kayak.

going for a bike ride

You can view these photos on Flickr here