We decide to take a Jungle horseback tour and have to pass through a Mexican Army check point.  An armed man comes aboard our bus, walking up and down the aisle and then leaves.  It is a little scary because we don’t know what he is looking for or why we were stopped.  We are told later that they are usually looking for drugs and weapons.  We enjoy horseback riding, eating at the Mexican ranchero and Frank enjoys holding their pet snakes.

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Frank is sitting halfway up the steps of Chichen Itza. 
This was taken from the bottom of the pyramid.

Cancun – Fun in the Yucatan

By Meeta Gajjar Parker

Photography by Francis X. and Meeta G. Parker 

We are young and in Cancun for two whole weeks with more time than money. Everywhere we turn, hustling sales sharks are trying to usher us in for timeshare tours, so we take them, lots of them, and we get meals, discount excursions and souvenirs. 

Flying into the Cancun airport on the Yucatan Peninsula, we look out of the airplane window, astonished to see more shades of blue than we know exist. This must be the most exquisite part of the Caribbean Sea.  We are warned about Montezuma’s revenge (Traveler’s Diarrhea) and that tourists die every year swimming in Cancun due to the strong riptides. Reading about the colored flag system used on the beaches to indicate when it is safe to swim, we take note that the white and green flags mean excellent and safe conditions for swimming. The yellow flag mean swim with caution and the black and red flags indicate unsafe conditions. We even knew someone indirectly who didn’t come home because he ignored the flags.  Unaware of what to expect, we immerse ourselves in the beautiful turquoise blue water. The inviting water is rough even when it is safe to swim. Finally coming across some calmer beaches, we feel safe swimming in the warm Mexican waters. 

A bus ride to anywhere in the city costs fifty cents. Hastily, young vagrant musicians hop onto the bus just beating the closing door. Relentlessly they serenade us, playing their guitars and singing for tips.  We do a lot of walking to get around the city. Brushing up on our bargaining skills becomes necessary to acquire a Mariachi hat to decorate our wall at home. 

“Excuse me waiter, we’d like two Pina Coladas!” They come served in giant glasses but we can’t taste the alcohol.  We called the waiter back. “We ordered Pina Coladas with alcohol and these don’t have any in them.”  He begs to differ, then comes back and pours us what is supposed to be alcohol, Cancun style. An endless amount of rum appears to be pouring out into our glasses. He pulls the bottle up and down and alcohol seems to keep coming out. When he walks away and we taste our Pina coladas with alcohol, we look at each other and know it is time to switch to wine. 

On our first dinner out, we discover that no one gets Montezuma’s revenge in Cancun, but only outside of this heavenly place. Cancun is built as a tourist city and has completely safe drinking water throughout.  We feel free to eat and drink whatever we like. We no longer worry and can stop kicking anything raw, such as salads to the curb as a dangerous potential health risk. This is music to our ears.

Frank and Meeta dressed as Mexicans at the Pericos Restaurant - Cantina

We find ourselves dancing on tables in restaurants, standing up on chairs and dressing up like Mexican Army militants and Mariachi’s for photo amusement. Everywhere we go, we are entertained with endless props such as bullet straps and guns. We even come home with a bottle of beer with both of us appearing as the two Mexicans on the label.

The travel desk at the hotel helped us arrange a wonderful day trip to Cozumel. We arrive by ferry and rent a beat up jeep for four hours of fun. Somehow, we don’t get very far. Using the guidance of an Island map, we find our way to the Botanical Garden to go snorkeling. We discover that due to the incredibly high salt content of the water, it is extremely difficult to dive down. Frank is able to go under after several attempts and find what appears to be ancient Mayan statues and a statue of Jesus holding his arms out, resting on the bottom of the ocean.

Mother Nature, in the form of Hurricane Dolly, confines us to our resort for a few days. Hurricanes, being a part of life in Cancun, have caused the tourist industry to naturally adapt by having impromptu hurricane parties. So here we are, being hit by a hurricane and partying like there is no tomorrow with the other guests at our hotel.


Standing on the bluff adjacent to the ruins is where we get the most amazing vantage point
of the entire city and its surroundings.  It is truly an enchanting vision.

We spend a day in Tulum to see the only Mayan ruins built next to the ocean. The location is what draws people here. Tulum means wall in Spanish, and it was literally once a walled city. It is a very windy day, and our hair is flying everywhere while we try to take photographs of this special place. This is one of the last cities to be built and inhabited by the Mayans. On the way back, we stop at Xel-ha, which is a large lagoon for snorkeling.  It is the first time we see a barracuda in the water. I am frightened, but Frank holds my hand and seems confident that we are all right.

We search hard to find out where the local bus station is and ask several local Mexicans to help us understand the schedule that is written in Spanish. We finally get on the right bus and make our way over to Xcaret. It is an Eco-Archaeological Park that encompasses two underwater rivers. One is natural and one is man-made. We wear life vests to swim through the tunnels of rocks. It is dark and eerily unfamiliar territory for long periods of time. We wonder what might be lurking in the water with us during the long pitch black stretches of swimming. Light suddenly appears from openings between the rocks.  It seems to be some kind of sea cave and we are on a fascinating journey. The natural underwater river highly surpasses the man-made one. 

Amazing spray paint artistry takes place on the streets of Cancun. 

This master of spray paint art made his paintings right before our eyes.  His tools for his art are cups, a straight edge and spray paint. He heat seals his work by making a torch with a can of hair spray and a Bic lighter and creates ethereal looking paintings depicting Mexican ruins and outer space.  We pay $30 for the two that come home with us.

On another day, we decide to go back to Isla Mujeres, adventurously, by ourselves. On the advice of a local who works in the snorkel shop, we take the bus going out of the city to the very last stop.  Since we don’t really know where we are going, we are left with an element of being on the edge of our seat, adventuring into the unknown.  We drive out of the Hotel district and into the busy city where the local population live.  Here people are everywhere and the buildings begin to have a third world look.  There are shacks and stores with signs written in Spanish and since we really are in Mexico, the sound of English began to dissipate.  We get off the bus and walk until we find a cab to take us the rest of the way to the local ferry.  The ferry takes us over to Isla Mujeres and back at the end of the day.  It is great and costs half as much.  We have the time to explore dream beaches, some of which are topless, and find El Garrafon National Park, a nature reserve that offers us a great snorkeling opportunity. 

On Isla Mujeres, we opt for a second boat tour around the Island. Our last stop is to a sea nursery. Here Frank picks up two baby sea turtles that are the size of silver dollars. We totally fall in love with them, but taking them home with us was not an option. What captures me the most about this Island is the shallow, lime green water on the beaches that seem like you can walk out far into the ocean and still see your feet, crystal clear to the bottom.

Viewing Chichen Itza from a distance as it appears in front of the clouds.

Our trip would not be complete without going to Chichen Itza. It is a long bus ride to this uninhabited ancient city where we find lots of interesting ruins. This trip is highly anticipated as we are anxious to see the most impressive structure there, the Kukulcan Pyramid. t is the first pyramid we have ever laid eyes on. It rises over 21 meters /70 feet into the air, and every year on the Spring and Fall Equinox (March 21st and September 22nd), the play of light and shadow on the north staircase of the pyramid creates the illusion of a descending serpent. Thousands flock to witness the spectacle. Other structures here are the Sacred Well, where human sacrifices were made, The Ball Court and the Temple of the Warriors.

We can’t leave without climbing to the top of the Pyramid. The steep ascent is paved by a flight of huge steps with a long chain down the center to assist during the perilous climb.

Although Cancun is known for its singles scene, there are plenty of families enjoying the many things that there are to see and do in the city and surrounding areas, especially the wildlife and variety of entertainment. It is impossible to be bored in Cancun as there is so much history to be absorbed and fun to be had for all ages and budgets. The exchange rate is favorable, you don’t need a rental car, the people are friendly, the color of the ocean is incredible, the beaches are stunning and there are endless parties.

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