Overseas Dear American Airlines, México is actually a different country and flights to it are international flights. Love, Dan & Assana.
pH 2.2 On our way to our beachy honeymoon in Riviera Maya we spend a few days for xmas with George & family in Naples. We do the usual activities - biking, boat ride, dinners out, terrible coffee, etc. As always, George is incredibly sweet and welcoming, and Lohren continues to impress us with her poise and maturity. She is definitely developing into an independent-thinking young lady, one who is not necessarily swayed by silly grownups' ideas.
Talking of grownups, Lohra is now pregrant! She is also trying out some Alkaline diet that she learned about in a week-long seminar in CA. Turns out we are all gonna die from acid in our blood, but somehow citrus fruit with a pH of 2.2 is ok! Assana tries to be as polite as possible when rejecting her offer of poking a needle into her finger in order to tell her what diseases she is currently carrying. It is xmas after all! She did stop smoking, which is great since by the next time we'll see her she will have bigger fish to fry taking care of her baby-daddy's baby!
Mr. & Mrs. Fard We are staying at Maroma Resort, a beautiful understated teeny hotel - 60 rooms vs 6000 - with white washed walls that match the pristine starched white uniforms of the employees. Their tasteful entrance gate and 3' long sign is completely lost among the rest of the ridiculous and gaudy resort entrances in Riviera Maya. Everyone knows our name and knows we are on our honeymoon and they sure spoil us: the spa has a beautiful "Happy Honeymoon" message for us written in sand, the housekeeping makes us a bubble bath with rose petals, etc.
We have the typical pampering at mealtimes, on the beach, etc, but the most fascinating is the beach raking crew: a group of 4-5 guys seem to constantly rake and discard the seaweed, and then sweep the beach so there are no footprints. And repeat… all day long! Though there is good attention to detail, good food, albeit sucky drinks and nose-bleed prices, still it is no Four Seasons, Punta Mita!
Car-less Unlike all our other trips to México, we have not rented a car this time. Our excursions out to the archeological sites are all planned with 4-World Expeditions. They do a great job: their guilds are all certified with government credentials, their cars are nice and clean, and they show up on-time. We happen to really like our first guide, Mario, and end up arranging to have him for all our tours. Having the same guide makes such a difference in terms of maximizing the experience: it is like being in a week long cultural class!
Sacred Wheels First up is Chichén Itzá. Once we turn off the main highway towards the site, every minute of the drive is the practically the same: straight road, perfect pavement, and 20-feet tall jungle on either side. Repeat for 2 hours! Chichén Itzá is a smaller (and Mayan) version of Teotihuacán: temples, houses, markets, etc. We get there early enough that we don't wait a million years for ticket, or deal with the crowds. Mario, the super-factmo guide, does a great job explaining the history and the significance of all the structures (not that we remember now!). Did you know that the Mayans knew of wheels, but didn't use them in their day-to-day lives because they were sacred and reserved for the Gods. We can't help but wonder what their civilization would have been like had they picked a different shape, say a square, as their sacred shape and put the wheel to use!
12-21-2012 A couple of days later we go Cobá, which was not originally on our agenda. Mario recommends it, and we are glad we listened. Located in a very wooded area, the site is just being discovered and restored. The easiest way to tour the site is on bicycle. The paths are flat and easy to ride, even for Assana who doesn't really know how to bike! At 52 meters tall, the main temple at Cobá is the tallest temple in Yucatán and the one that one can climb (in 2002 some spring breakers etched their stupid names inside one of the temples in Chichén Itzá, so both Tulum and Chechen Itza have banned climbing the temples.) Incidentally, the inscription for end-of-the-world is unceremoniously on the side of stela 5 in the middle of the woods of Cobá!
1% Tulum is unlike the other two. Its setting is spectacular: perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, with a beautiful beach at its feet. And like modern seaside communities, it was for the rich! This is where Chichén Itzá's 1% lived in big houses and temples. There is no ball court: the rich didn't play ball; they had "people" for that!
Swiss Cheese Yucatán Peninsula is like Swiss Cheese: full of interconnected holes filled with water that create underground caves and lakes. They are called cenotes. Our visit to one of these cenotes is by far the most interesting and unique highlight of our trip. We enter via a ladders into a narrow hole. The site immediately following the decent is something neither one of us expected or have ever experienced: a beautiful underwater lake, with amazingly clear and blue water. The roof of the cave is covered by stalactites. We snorkel in the lake and go thru a few different chambers. It turns out one can dive thru caves between the lakes. Sound super scary to us! We are glad to be with Mario who knows where we are going and how to get out. Our friend Randy would have hated it, but we love it.
Monarchs Every time we come back from México we claim it is our last trip, yet we keep coming back. So this time we're making not such claim. Next México trip: Morelia to see the migrating monarch butterflies.