A brief (work-related) escape to Cancun


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North America » Mexico » Quintana Roo » Cancun
May 25th 2010
Published: June 3rd 2010
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Islas Mujeres
Lara: The Travel Gods have not been smiling on us recently. After our newly purchased road-trip car was written-off and our Icelandic trip cancelled due to volcanic ash I didn't really have much hope of actually making it to Mexico for a conference. Plus, it was a conference…not half as much fun as I had in Quintana Roo last time around.

Two and a half years ago Al and I were backpacking around Central America (see And the real holiday begins...) spending time in Tulum cenote diving and visiting ruins before heading west to Palenque. I was reluctant to return to a much-loved part of the world for such a brief amount of time and to be staying in Cancun, package holiday heaven (or hell), in an all-inclusive resort, the kind of place I would normally avoid.

It was, however, a break of sorts, and the chance to return to Central America and practice my extremely rusty Spanish. It was strange to be in Mexico without my usual travel partner who would have enjoyed the frigates and the Bimbo bread!

I took a few days before the conference to do some further exploring in the region, starting my trip on Islas Mujeres (Island of Women) which although touristy, is a much more relaxed and low-key destination only 13 kilometres off the coast from it’s overbearing big brother. I didn’t do very much though; swam in the ocean, enjoyed the sunshine and visited the turtle farm aimed at protecting the nesting areas and looking after injured turtles.

My hotel was a low-key and friendly place above a pizzeria, the staff made me extremely welcome and aside from noticing that there seemed to be a rather large alcohol problem on Islas Mujeres I thoroughly enjoyed wondering around and watching the sunsets.

After two days it was time to head for the Hotel Zone in Cancun where my colleagues and I were staying in an all inclusive resort generally catering for beach-obsessed Americans rather than conference goers. It was an all new experience for me - with all restaurants, room service, mini-bar, drinks included in the price. You did have to pay to swim with the dolphins in the swimming pool though!

I would however, like to mention the hypocrisy I felt being in a place like Cancun. The beautifully manicured gardens and free cocktails were only made possible because of the cheap labour provided by Mexican people. People who were bussed in and out to serve a bunch of people who hadn’t learnt a word of Spanish and didn’t care less what their names were. It made me angry, and yet despite this, the Mexican people were extremely friendly - especially when you tried to speak to them in Spanish, regardless of how poorly!

After checking in and making sure we were prepared for the conference, my colleague Tom and I hired a jeep (Tom’s idea, despite the fact he can’t drive). The deal being that if I drove him to Tulum (my third visit), we would also head to the lesser visited Coba, somewhere I hadn’t been before.

It was my first time driving on the right-hand side of the road but despite a shaky start it was incident free. We headed the long way to Coba. The long way being through Valladolid, as once you get on the autopista you apparently can’t get off again - something we learnt the hard way.

On arriving at the site of the Mayan ruins in Coba we hired bikes to get us around the site, which is set over
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70 square kilometres. We road our bikes through the forest with fluorescent butterflies flittering around us, stopping to look at ball-courts and buildings, until we reached the largest pyramid in the Nohoch Mul group which is 42 metres tall and allows for a magnificent view over the tree-tops. It was a feat in itself to convince Tom to climb the pyramid and he made it very close to the top, his fear of heights causing him to go down on his bottom.

From Coba we headed to the spectacularly located Tulum for my third visit. Set on a rocky out-crop overlooking the aqua waters of the Caribbean, the site never fails to impress. I do always think of my first visit as a 14 year old when my Dad said that in the 1970’s my mum and he had had lunch sitting on top of the largest pyramid and had the site completely to themselves which differs dramatically from the bus-loads of tourists Tulum receives daily - but them you can’t blame anyone from wanting to see such a location.

The rest of the trip was spent inside the Cancun Conference Centre and a little lying on the
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beach and sipping free cocktails. It did make me really wish to have the opportunity to throw on my backpack and head off again.



Additional photos below
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