Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tulum vacation

view from our room

we just spent a week in tulum, mexico. the trip came together quite quickly (booked just 2 weeks before departure) and we decided on that locale because 1) flights to cancun were relatively cheap 2) it came recommended by a few friends 3) we tend to enjoy places that are more "off the beaten path".  

(hotel's private beach)

day 1, tuesday the 8th:
our flight left at 6:15am & our awesome pal melinda drove us to the airport (at the crack of dawn-she rules).  layover in miami; arrived in cancun around 1:30pm. the line to get through customs was very disorganized and snaked around all the baggage claim areas and whatnot. in an effort to save some money, we decided to take the bus into tulum rather than arranging for a private transport. bus #1 to playa del carmen, bus #2 to tulum, taxi to hotel.  we were exhausted and hungry, so we immediately ate dinner at our hotel's restaurant. 

tulum is divided into 2 areas - the "downtown" city center and the hotel strip (but no mega-resorts - a majority of the hotels are small, boutique cabana-type places, and ours was no exception).  piedra escondida has 8 rooms, directly on the beach and a small restaurant on premise (that 1st dinner we had was a little disappointing so we only ate there once - although we did take advantage of the free breakfast every morning).  we conked out pretty early that night. 

(our room)

i was a little concerned that i wouldn't be able to deal with the lack of A/C in the room (there's no electrical grid for the beach hotels, but they use solar and wind power for "other" electricity).  since the cabanas are right on the beach (i counted 40 steps between our room and the beach chairs), the breeze was definitely strong enough to keep us cool at night. it was great falling asleep/waking up to the sound of the ocean. we were on the 2nd floor and had a thatched roof, and so we heard lots of birds at the crack of dawn too. they were kinda obnoxious but i got used to them. 

day 2, wednesday:
bad idea - applying SPF 50, then swimming in the ocean, then not re-applying for the rest of the day. i was ok, since i had a little sun exposure prior to the trip, but R was not so lucky & got really sunburned. 

that afternoon, we went into town that day to exchange dollars to pesos - ate lunch and got some gelato (i had key lime pie, it was awesome) - wandered around a bit.  that night we discovered a restaurant up the street from our hotel called Zamas. we ended up eating almost every subsequent lunch and dinner there. i had a pizza w/ gorgonzola, pine nuts, zucchini and R had a steak over gnocchi. this place was fantastic because 1) they changed up their menu w/ specials every night 2) they accepted US dollars 3) tons of vegetarian options 4) fresh ingredients 5) super friendly wait staff.  i was worried how the whole vegetarian thing would play out (worried i'd have to eat nothing but cheese quesadillas every day), so it was incredible to have so many choices at this place.  over the course of the trip, i had a grilled vegetable sandwich, veggie tacos, spaghetti, margarita pizza, jicama salad, asparagus salad, veggie enchiladas. R had a burger, braised short ribs/pasta and other meaty dishes that are escaping me right now.  one night we shared an order of churros w/ a spicy chocolate dipping sauce - SO GOOD!  everything was just top notch so we didn't even find it necessary to try any of the surrounding restaurants - especially since this place was no more expensive than the others. 

that night, we decided to play "pizza crab" and "cookie crab."  what is this game, you ask? PETA would definitely disapprove of our actions, but here's how you play: find a crab and offer it a keebler chocolate chip cookie. find a big crab and offer it leftover fancy pizza. shine flashlights and take pictures of crabs with the food. i was the designated photographer/crab spotter, while R was the flashlight operator/crab feeder. 


we also star-watched that night. i haven't had such awesome star visibility since my family's trip to Yosemite in the late 80s. 

day 3/4 = sunburn:
R had a bad sunburn, so we just chilled out under the umbrellas and read lots. we also played ms pac man on his PSP. 

day 5, saturday:
this day was the only overcast/rainy day, so we ventured up the street and climbed up some rocks. saw lots of locals fishing. 

R climbed down to this rocky thing and sat as the waves crashed into him. he had a blast. 

day 6, sunday:
took the bus to Coba to see some ruins. it has the tallest temple pyramid on the Yucatan peninsula and you get to climb it! 

we rented bikes when we got inside the grounds, and that was a lot of fun.

 the pictures don't do it justice - but that damn pyramid is super tall (138 ft) - getting up wasn't so scary, but the climb down was a little freaky. at the top you get a great view of the jungles. we were hoping to see monkeys (no luck) but we saw a ton of lizards. 

(that's me standing at the base of the steps, on the right)

day 7, monday:
more beach time. 

day 8, tuesday:
bus to playa del carmen - we walked around the shops a bit. i got some sandals and a wooly owl stuffed animal. bus to the cancun airport. what a nightmare that place is - with it's margaritaville restaurant and mall-like food court. seeing all that touristy crap made us so grateful to have stayed in tulum. made it back to nashville around 11pm. 

other tidbits/highlights:

  • the cleaning staff made towel animals

  • i read 2 books: man walks into a room by nicole krauss, and don't get too comfortable by david rakoff 
  • i managed to NOT check my email at the lobby computer - we used it only to check bus schedules and look up random things on wikipedia (such a stringrays - which rollum encountered when swimming at the neighboring beach area).
  • no clocks/watches/cell phones
  • after the coba trip we stopped in an air-conditioned convenience store. it was our first/only exposure to A/C the whole trip. R stocked up on random sodas and we tried dulce de leche reese's peanut butter cups (thumbs up!)
  • can't remember what they called it (cheladas?), but it was a salted-rimmed glass with (lots of) fresh-squeezed lime juice and you poured your beer into it. 
  • kinda felt like a schmuck not being able to speak the language better. i only knew how to ask for the check, look if the "tip" was included, and say please and thank you. 
  • i used to hate bananas, and thanks to this trip, i like them now. one of the breakfast options was a fruit plate (with bananas, papaya, cantaloupe and apples) covered in yogurt and granola, and i got way into the bananas. cantaloupe is still horriblel, though. 
  • i'm probably forgetting other stuff, so there may be a P.S to this post...