Believe it or not, the first thing I did before we unpacked anything was to give the room the once-over for bed bugs. I can hear your collective eye-rolls from here. Shut it. You can laugh, but ever since Nessa brought them home from a 5-star hotel last month, I've been doing some research, and I've come to the conclusion that it's not paranoia. If there's one thing you don't want to bring home to your house, it's these little bastards. They are very much like quarter-inch-long vampires. And I'm talking about the old-school scary-assed vampires, not the new sparkly emo ones with the fucked-up hair and the feelings.
Getting rid of a bedbug infestation will more than likely cost you thousands of dollars and a little bit of your soul, neither of which I can spare.
I don't want to get off on too much of a tangent here, but the parallels are obvious: They are immune to most everything, they only come out at night, they feed almost exclusively on the blood of humans, and they can live for 6-8 months without a meal. Also, the most efficient way to kill them is by exposing them to temperatures over 120 degrees. I imagine a tiny stake to the thorax would work too, but it would be very time-consuming. Anyway, the room looked amazingly clean.
After the settling in, the first order of business was to find the ocean, and the second order of business was to figure out the booze situation. We walked out to the beach and took a quick look, and then since we figured the ocean would probably be there for a bit, we turned our attention to the important stuff. We had two bottles of rum from the airport, which was a good start, but since we aren't hardcore enough to drink Bacardi straight from the bottle, we wanted to take a trip to Walmart for some fruit juices and miscellaneous munchies. We also wanted to pick up a cooler since the place we were staying didn't have refrigerators in the rooms.
We walked out to the lobby and grabbed a cab to Walmart. Our cab driver was great and very friendly. When we got there, we asked him if we could pay him to stay put while we ran in to pick up a few things, since we had no idea where we were and we weren't sure if cabs regularly hung out at Walmart or not. I gave him 50 pesos for the ride out, and he said he'd wait. I figured we'd be in and out in five to ten minutes, but that was before we walked into the place. Or "glided in," I should say.
I'm not exactly sure why, but to get into this store, you had to sort of walk under it, and then get on an upward-slanted moving walkway that takes you to the store level. It was like an escalator only without all the pesky stairs. I assume that's so you could take your shopping carts on it.
We have a Walmart about 20 minutes from our house, and although I don't make a habit of going there, I can assure you it's nothing like this one.
They certainly did know their turistas here though, because the first thing we saw when we walked in was a ten-foot-tall stack of styrofoam coolers. The place was a madhouse. And by that I don't mean it was crammed full of people, even though it was. I mean it looked like it had been organized by an actual inmate of an actual insane asylum. There were so many displays that you didn't know where to look first. People handing out samples of food and drinks, kids running around -- It was a little like a street bazaar inside a building. I half expected to see a clown walking down the aisle on his hands.
Like any busy retail establishment with too many customers and not enough help, there was shit all over the place, but I kind of got the feeling that it was probably always like that. Kid's toys, bathing suits, and discarded packages of meat sitting on top of tables filled with bottles of Absolute vodka; Soft drinks and chips left with the lawn chairs and tires. Rum, Tequila and power tools sitting next to a display of fresh mangoes. It was totally surreal. We ran up and down the aisles until we found the juices -- we grabbed some orange, cranberry and pineapple, then went looking for some tonic water and a bag of pretzels or chips.
It was actually harder than it sounds, because everything looks kind of familiar, yet it's just different enough so half the time you're not exactly sure what you're looking at. You feel like you're in one of those movies where you go back in time and step on a bug and when you get back to your present time, everything is just a little....off. I found myself looking at the pictures on the packages, and scanning the shelves for familiar logos -- just trying to find something I recognized. (Hooray for Zucaritas, featuring Antonio El Tigre.)
Wandering around looking at pictures on stuff reminded me of something funny that happened when I worked for a small supermarket chain. An Asian guy who barely spoke English brought back a gallon can of Crisco, and he kept pointing at the outside of the can, and saying "MONEY BACK! MONEY BACK!" It took me a while to understand what he was getting at, but it turns out he was bringing it back because when he had opened it, he had been surprised to find it contained greasy white paste instead of the succulent fried chicken pictured on the outside of the can. I felt a little like that guy.
Because I am pretty sure it's required by Mexican law, I also grabbed a bottle of vodka and some limes from the massive alcohol display in the front of the store. As we were deciding which line would be the fastest, I realized that there was one extremely long line with about 50 people in it, and a half-dozen short lines. Then I realized the long line was long for a very good reason: It was the only one in which you could purchase cigarettes and booze. As my dad used to tell me, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
At this point I figured we already owed our cabbie about 500 pesos, assuming he was still actually waiting for us. I half-suspected that he'd probably just packed it in and left us there because we were taking so long, but I really didn't want to leave the vodka behind. We had bonded a little, this bottle of vodka and I, since vodka in Spanish is still spelled "vodka" and I could get behind that.
When we finally glided out of the store like we were descending from heaven, we saw our cab driver waiting for us at the bottom of the escalator. I think he was getting a little worried that he might have missed us. I was glad he waited, but was concerned that I might not have enough money to actually pay the guy.
He brought us back to the hotel, and when I asked him how much, he laughed and said, "50 pesos." I said no, and gave him a hundred, and even that was a bargain, considering how long we had made him wait outside. (His name was Eliel, and he was awesome. His English was very good, and if you're ever in Playa Del Carmen, his phone number is 9841330594, taxi 1307.)
We dumped everything in our room, and then I went to the hotel bar and grabbed a bag of ice for 35 pesos, and life was good. We headed back to the bar for 2-for-1 happy hour, and then went to dinner at the hotel's restaurant. The dinner was included, and the first night was the only night it wasn't buffet-style. They offered a choice of steak or fish. I ordered my steak medium well, and my wife ordered the fish. My steak was closer to beef tartare than to medium well, but I ate it anyway because I was hungry. Long story short, I've named my tapeworm Timmy. After dinner, we went back to our room to make few drinks from our new stash.
We wanted some Vodka tonics, but discovered that the only thing we didn't remember to buy was a knife to cut the limes. I felt funny about going to the bar and asking him to cut up my limes for me, so I started looking around the room for something I could use. The only sharp thing I could find was the top to the rum bottle, so I did this:
I twisted the top into the lime until a little lime plug popped out.
Yes, I am the Mcguyver of mixed drinks. I don't know what the housekeeper made of all the swiss cheese limes laying about, but I'm sure she's seen stranger things.
Our first day of vacation was officially over, and we were beat, so we decided to turn in since it was closing in on midnight. Our room was on the top floor, and so had the official "palapa roof." Here's a shot of it:
We both like to read a bit before going to sleep, so we were just lying there with the reading lamps on, enjoying the ocean breeze and the peace and quiet.
The next thing I know, some kind of weird looking, big-assed beetle dropped onto my face and latched on. I immediately flipped out, and jumped up out of bed and started slapping at my head while my wife stared at me like I'd completely lost my mind. Normally, I'm fine with big bugs, and I think they're kind of cool, however I've discovered that I don't like it when they grab my face.
So much for the pre-sleep relaxation. I quickly turned off my light because I figured that was probably what had attracted the beetle in the first place, and if there were any more waiting to drop in for a visit I didn't want to encourage them.
It was OK though, because the next day was our first beach day, and I wanted to sleep in a little. That wasn't going to happen, but I didn't know it at the time.
continue to part 3