3/21/10

You're going to Mexico? Are you nuts?

I heard that sentence at least a half-dozen times before we left. I think the media is slashing the tires of Mexican tourism, and it's kind of a bummer. This was our first trip there, so we had no idea what to expect, but I had heard great things about the Riviera Maya, and the price was right.

Here's my take on it: Mexico is a pretty big place, so saying you're afraid to go to Playa Del Carmen because of the violence in Ciudad Juarez is like saying you're afraid to visit Washington, DC because you've heard there's been a lot of drug-related gang violence in Dallas, Texas. Seriously, they are that far from each other. Also, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, and Akumal are all on the Yucatan peninsula, and don't share a border with the US. No border = no easy smuggling route. I know Cancun has it's problems, but so does NYC. Anyway, enough of my ranting. Has it been established that I hate the media? Good.

That said, here's the first installment of our Mexican adventures.

The flight out was non-eventful. That fact alone should have scared us. Me flying somewhere is usually a complete disaster, and because this time it wasn't, some deep alarm bells should have been going off inside my brain. I should have been on guard. I should have known that payback would be coming.

We landed in Cancun, and the lines were crazy. The first thing I noticed was that the entire airport looked like Abercrombie and Fitch drank too much and threw up. The place was crawling with college students on spring break. The duty-free liquor store in the airport was doing its best to keep them all on their best behavior by giving away free samples of rum and tequila, so we stopped in and bought a couple of bottles.

Once we were through customs, we ran the gauntlet of taxi drivers asking us where we were going and if we needed a ride, and we found the guy holding a placard with our last name on it. He said, "Hi, my name is Juan. Follow me to my car. Do you want to stop on the way for a drink?" I was relieved that he spoke English. We declined the drink offer, and jumped into his van.

The month before we left, I started listening to "How to speak Spanish" recordings in my car on the way to and from work. I knew that almost everyone in the touristy areas would speak some English, but I wanted to be a little prepared. At the very least, I wanted to be able to recognize and respond to few phrases. How are you, I am fine, Please, thank you, where's the bathroom, how much for your women, please don't kill me, that sort of thing.

About ten minutes out from the airport, I realized I forgot to hit an ATM machine to get some pesos. So I asked, "Is there an ATM on the way?" Unfortunately, Juan had pretty much exhausted his English with his initial speech, and since I didn't need a bathroom, I had exhausted my Spanish. I mimed putting a card in a slot and said "Dollares to Pesos?" and he said, "Ahhhh....7-11?" and Juan and I were bonding. At the 7-11, I headed right for the ATM machine. The place was full of local working men, and I could tell that I was the whitest thing that had been in there in a really long time. I mean, there's regular old "white people white," and then there's "IT guy white." It's not a pretty sight. I got some pesos from the ATM, picked up some pretzels and a red bull, and then did the stupid tourist thing of not giving the clerk enough money the first time.

The ride to the hotel wasn't too bad, but it was our first experience with this particular sign:



Topes are the devil's own speed bumps and you do not glide lightly over them. Most of them consist of a gully on either side of a platform, or staggered metal lumps the size of half-coconuts. These things are ridiculous, and they seemed to just pop up in random places. Picture driving along at about fifty on a 4-lane highway, and suddenly there's a freaking speed bump from hell that causes everyone to suddenly slam on their brakes and drive like a bunch of 90-year-old Asian women with bad eyesight. And you have to slow down for these things, because if you didn't, and hit one at anything over 10 miles per hour, you would immediately shit your own kidneys. They are that bad.

Along the way to our hotel, my wife was asking me about some of the phrases I had learned from the audio lessons. I told her how to say "How are you?" and "good morning" and "good afternoon" and "thank you" and a few other phrases I had memorized. The last minute lessons worked out well for her. Her first conversation in Spanish went something like this:

Hotel Clerk: ¡Hola! ¿Cómo está?

My wife: (flustered) Gracias?

After I told her she had responded to the question "Hi, how are you?" with "Thank you," she decided that she was going to say "Gracias" as a response to everything from then on. Her theory was that you can never go wrong with "thank you," even when it's completely out of context. It seemed to work.

Luckily, almost everyone there did speak at least some English, and it was enough for us to get by. We did finally get used to saying Thank you, please, and hello in Spanish, so at least everyone knew we were trying.

After we checked in, the bellman took us to our room, which was in the cheap section, but still only about a 2 minute walk to the beach. After he unlocked our door and put our bags inside, he took two hammocks out of the closet and hung them on our porch for us. They were glorious.

After he left, we decided that we wanted our very first picture together in Mexico to be sitting on our porch in one of our very own personal hammocks. I sat in the hammock and my wife set up the camera for the picture. The timer on her camera gave her about eight seconds to push the button, and then run around the table and join me in the hammock. The resulting picture is one of our favorites from the trip, so I wanted to share it with you all:



Yes, we're very photogenic.

Stayed tuned for parts 2-6. Things get better.


57 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about the press; my in-laws offered to take us on a cruise to Mexico last May. Then H1N1 happened, and all hell broke loose. I'm sure 80% of it was media hype.

    The cruise ended up leaving LA as scheduled...and going north to San Francisco, Seattle, and Victoria BC. To make matters worse, we're from Vancouver, so had flown for a few hours and taken a boat for a week, only to end up 20 miles from home.

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  2. I'm with you. The H1N1 kept us from going to Cabo San Lucas last May. We ended up changing our plans last minute. Not because we were afraid of the illness (we recognize an issue blown out of proportion when we see one) but we were afraid of getting stuck somewhere if they halted air traffic into or out of Mexico. So we are trying again this year. We're supposed to go to Cabo on May 15. Everyone we tell is all, "Aren't you scared to go to Mexico?????"

    Fucking dumbasses.

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  3. Wow, you're making me homesick for vacation. The picture on my profile was taken on the porch of the cabana we rented in Tulum. The only Spanish I remember learning on the trip is, "La cuenta, por favor." Oh, and I love those topes. Looking forward to the next installment.

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  4. KMarie7:41 PM

    That picture is classic!

    Looking forward to installments 2-64. I've never been to Mexico.

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  5. That picture is awesome - had me laughing out loud.

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  6. I've been to Mexico and had a blast. I just thought it was weird that all the public restrooms charged a couple of pesos for toilet paper...

    Looking forward to the further installments. I was getting brain-hongray for a new 15 min lunch post.

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  7. Still laughing. Still. Still.......... still laughing. STILL laughing. Still . still. still.


    ;-D

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  8. and you DIDN'T stop for a drink????

    that is the PERFECT vacation photo...spring break in mexico...LOL

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  9. classic photo! can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip... i've never been to mexico, mostly because every time my sister goes, she brings me back something with the word "muerte" on it...

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  10. Oh, hell, I just peed my pants. That photo! Next time, put a Depends warning at the beginning of your post, wouldya?

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  11. I have to say I laughed out loud at the photo - too funny!

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  12. Anonymous9:28 AM

    HAHAHAHAHA!! That picture of you two "on" the hammock is the best!!!

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  13. Ha! I was thrilled to see you had come to Mexico, and I can't wait to hear what you have to say about it. But please, stay out of the hammock. You're going to hurt yourselves.

    I live in Mexico, and yes, it's all media hype. The gangstas in Cincinnati were much scarier than anyone I've ever come across here.

    The thing about topes is, they are very practical. They work to slow down traffic, and they use no electricity. No one speeds over a tope, at least more than once, whereas you can run a stop sign or speed through a 25MPH zone.

    Mexico is a beautiful, amazing place. I hope you enjoy yourselves here, and that you will come back and explore other areas. I know, I sound like a travelog, but really, for a quirky guy like you - this is the place!

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  14. That is the BEST vacation pic ever! Hahahahahahaha! I snorted my coffee when I saw that.

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  15. Andrea11:24 AM

    Best vacation photo ever!

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  16. That picture is priceless!!! I love Mexico and I hate that the media is scaring people away. You are right, alot of the tourist areas are a million miles away from all that border activity.

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  17. "IT guy white" should definitely be a new Crayola color.

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  18. Richard S2:51 PM

    No one is pointing out the obvious? Topes is obviously missing two letters - it should be "Topless" and then the picture makes sense. It is indicating a nearby beach.

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  19. Great picture of you two! LOL! You sure you did't just want to get "romantic" and plan it that way? Thanks for the laugh! Looking forward to hearing more!

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  20. redraven4:10 PM

    Johnny, that truly is an awesome vacation photo!! And like the rest of the gang here, I can't wait to read the next installments.

    Did you realize it was spring break when you booked your holiday? Or was it just a happy coincidence?

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  21. I am so jealous, I need a vacation. So glad you had a good time. I can't wait to read the rest.

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  22. That pic is so perfect. It certainly should be framed and hung on the wall.

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  23. Awesome picture... can't wait to hear the rest of the story. :)

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  24. that picture is ridiculous. I hope on every subsequent vacation you try to recreate it.

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  25. OMG - That is freaking hilarious!!!

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  26. I love me some Mexico, was there last April and came home to everyone thinking I had smuggled swine flu back, but only smuggled some tequila.

    If you're the "not inclusive resort" type next time try about 45 minutes north of Puerta Vallarta, San Poncho/Sayulita area. Not touristy and pretty unspoiled as far as Mexican coasts go.

    Wishing myself there now....

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  27. Let your wife know that always saying "Gracias" can be more dangerous than she imagines. When my wife spent a month in Italy for a college class, she was staying with classmates in a town that spoke little to no English, and she spoke no Italian. At one point this little old Italian man asked where they were staying, knowing they were Americans, and they told him. He then started mentioning lira over and over. The girls said they didn't have any money to give him, and they finally understood he was offering it to them instead. Good thing they didn't say thank you and take it. Turns out the hotel they were staying at, five years prior, had been a brothel!

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  28. Don't you love when media blows things out of proportion? The US does not have a monopoly on this. A while back a couple of lost tourist from Germany tried to get to Miami International when they ended up where they shouldn't have and ended up dead. So for a while the tourist agencies in Europe put the kabash on tourism down here. Then to add insult to injury some idiots on a local radio station put a band together and called it "Dead German Tourists" -- yeah that went well.

    BTW love the picture. Now THAT's IT White LOL

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  29. First things first. I want to say that I am ridiculously impressed that you managed to list three places I've either lived or vacationed at the top. I used to live in El Paso, across the border from Juarex. I currently live in Dallas. And two years ago when I went to Mexico? I went to Playa del Carmen. (I've also visited DC, but only for about 24 hours.)

    Speaking of my trip to Mexico...I normally wouldn't do this, but you should maybe read my vacation write up. I say this because the only thing I managed to write about were the speed bumps.

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  30. LMAO! That picture was brillant.

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  31. Awesomely funny first installment. What do you mean you didn't stop for some Cervesas??? Geez, you could have picked up a 6 pack of Sol when you were at the 7-11!.

    Great - balcony looks like the ABR balconies!

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  32. "How are you, I am fine, Please, thank you, where's the bathroom, how much for your women, please don't kill me, that sort of thing."

    roflmao

    Dude, you are seriously funny, thanks. I knew you'd be ok. Looking forward to the rest of your Mexico trip posts.

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  33. Anonymous2:36 PM

    "IT guy white" -- I call it my "nerd pallor" and I'm darned proud of it.

    BeckyTech

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  34. Anonymous9:50 PM

    Best Vay-kay photo! Awesome!

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  35. That picture is effin' awesome!!!

    And ::::ducking the sticky rice sure to come my way::: Asians don't have to be old or have bad eyesight to drive like shit.

    Just sayin'...especially since very close encounter I have ever had involved someone of Asian persuasion...

    Maybe for unintentional bad rhymes...

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  36. Awesome picture! Mexico is the best, que?!

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  37. You want to do something REALLY fun when you are in Playa del Carmen? Go to the Wal-Mart. We had to go there for some emergency travel supplies and it was way more entertaining than the beach. Definitely skip most of the restaurants anywhere near the main drag of Playa - I had the most tasteless, bland Mexican food I've ever had in my life there. Five or six blocks away though, well outside the touristy area, you can find some really good stuff. And perhaps you should stick to chairs, instead of hammocks...

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  38. Anonymous12:57 PM

    Oh my god! You are talking about Mahekal or formerly Shangri La Caribe resort. That is my favorite happy place in the whole world. Love it and I hope you and your wife did too.

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  39. Anonymous9:19 PM

    JV - it is past time for another installment - do we have to beg???
    Luv u!!

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  40. Soon! I had the pager this week, so haven't had much time to write. This weekend, I promise!

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  41. Congrats on being blog of note :)

    i think there has to be a reason people like going there. i have no interest in it but not because of anything the media might be pushing...

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  42. What's a blog of note?

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  43. I love Mexico it's such a great place and the people there are so sweet, it's really not at crazy as people make it out to be. Glad you had a great time there!

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  44. ROFLMAO, great photo of the pair of you. Not been to Mexico, always wanted to go. Bet you had a blast overall looking forward to reading the next instalment. Hope the kidneys are still functioning properly!

    Congrats on being a Blog of Note! Kinda thought they'd have put you on there a LONG time ago!

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  45. We are heading to Cancun in a little over a week. We have been told the same thing, Are you nuts? I guess we are. Can't wait to hear what you enjoyed there. This will be our second visit. We're looking at excursions.

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  46. Hello! This is one of my first posts... I just wanted to say that so far of what I've read and seen from the pictures, that you and your wife are having an awesome time, especially from the hammock picture, lord that was funny!!! That's definately a priceless moment!!! Have a great time and I look forward to hearing and seeing more of your trip!!

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  47. Asian grandmother10:45 AM

    Watch out, or I'll run over you with my Camry

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  48. Haha, I somehow read the "topes" sign as "toples" at first... Even the bumps pictured cuuld equally mean 'topless'. It made me laugh, however, to realize I was wrong like that :)

    And well, I guess I'm with your wife on that one, one can never go wrong with a thank you ;-)

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  49. I loved this story so much, it's witty and super realistic because I have actually witnessed incidents like this when I was living in Mexico.

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  50. I live in Puerto Penasco, Mexico on the Arizona border. I have been living here for the past 4 years and have felt safer here than in Tucson, Arizona, where our other home is located. We have not had any problems in this area. Most of the violence is located in Nogales (which also borders Arizona) where the drug lords are fighting with the Mexican police and military.

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  51. That is the BEST vacation photo, ever!

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  52. LOVE THE HAMMOCK PIC!!!! HYSTERICAL!

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  53. just passing through and that really made me chuckle...that's what memories are made of...

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  54. Thank you for that amazing, glorious, teary eyed, laugh! Gracias!

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  55. Seriously...tears. I am crying with laughter over this picture! Crying!!

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  56. wow what a funny picture!!!!!!! H1N1 is like hell
    well i'm
    Korean......... kimchi

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  57. I have a dual feeling about Mexico, I'm half American and half Mexican, but somehow I can't say that I like all that latino stuff and all that gangs that you can meet in some neighborhoods, that's why I try to avoid as much as I can going to Mexico.

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