The King of Cancun

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March 10th 2017
Published: March 11th 2017
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Today was a weird day. I took my first domestic Mexican flight from Villahermosa to Cancun. It was very efficient, but no frills. I was fine with that. I only paid $40 for the flight, but it included a checked bag (which is something unheard of in the USA for domestic, or for budget airlines in Europe) and apparently premium seating. They had me in the exit row across the wing, but it had more leg room, so I was fine with that. It was a smooth flight that landed about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. The airport at Villahermosa was small, but it had all the things you'd expect: friendly ticket counters, a few fast food places, the usual convenience stores, and even a boutique once you get through security. And security was so efficient. I wish flying was always so easy.

In Cancun, things were pretty smooth, too. I got my bag at the baggage claim and immediately saw a counter offering taxi and shuttle services. So I got a collectivo (basically a taxi van that leaves when it fills up) for 170 pesos, or about $8.50. It took longer than I expected - waiting for it to fill up, and then to get to my hotel. We probably waited about 25 minutes, but it was certainly full. And I was the last person to be dropped off, since my hotel is not in the Zone Hotelera, where all the resorts are. It's in the Centro, which all of the people handling my booking commented. It's so odd to get someone going to the Centro that the collectivo driver even had to make sure where it was after taking me to the wrong place first! It probably took 50 or so minutes to get from the airport to my hotel. Sheesh.

By this point, it was about 1:30, so I needed some food. Luckily, I had brought a jar of peanut butter with me on this trip that was still unopened. Spread that on some Ritz crackers and instant hunger satisfaction. My hotel is the Cancun International Suites, and while it isn't in the resort area, it's pretty nice. Not resort-nice, but it has character, which I don't say disparagingly. Spacious, clean, nice size private bathroom, two balconies (it extends from one side of the building to the next), and a fridge stocked with drinks and snacks. There are only two real "issues" with it: my room is on the 3rd floor, and there's no elevator; and it's a good distance from anything touristy to do in Cancun.

After I took some time to relax, get my bags sorted, and finish up my blog post about Palenque yesterday, I had a decision to make: I really wanted to see the Maya ruins at El Rey here in Cancun, but it was getting late in the day to do that. They close at 4:30 (you can stay until 5, but no one can come in after 4:30), and it was about 3:15 here. So I threw inhibition to the wind and went downstairs, asking for a taxi to get me there. Before my taxi arrived, I always wondered why most taxi drivers were middle-aged overweight men. Never women. Imagine my surprise when this super sassy chica of a certain age pulled up.

She talked on her phone through the bluetooth speakers in her car for most of the trip, but at least she was entertaining. And I'm not really a talkative person, especially in awkward social situations. Like solo taxi rides. Anyway, we got to the ruins just after 4PM, so I felt fortunate. I gave her the 260 pesos ($13), and she asked if I wanted her to wait, for free. I said okay - how could I pass that up? The ruins closed in less than an hour, and she said she was going to get some food nearby but would be back in 40 minutes. I set my watch. Not.

The ruins of El Rey are right in the Zona Hotelera, or perhaps just south of it. Anyway, lots of people stop by because they can get "culture" while getting their party on. They only cost 50 pesos ($2.50) to enter, so it's really a shame if you're nearby and don't do it. For me, it cost a little more, but when you factor in the cost of a night at a local resort, I think I saved some money. There are no official guides here, only a badly faded map on a sign just as you enter. And it's not particularly informative. The whole site is laid out like a bowling lane or something - you walk down what is basically the main "path" and there are ruins on either side of it. At the center, which takes about 2 minutes to walk to, there is a complex of a couple of buildings that requires you go to the right or left, but then the path takes the center for the remainder of the site. Really, if you're just walking and not stopping, you could get from one end to the other in five minutes.

The iguanas are probably the most remarkable thing here. They're not tame at all; in fact, the smaller ones will scurry away into their holes in the sides of the ruins if you eve begin to approach them. The larger ones are a little less afraid, and there was one that I was basically almost on top of before it started to move. Of course, there are signs on every ruin that say two things: no climbing, and no feeding the iguanas. Maybe that's why the big ones aren't so afraid - they're hopeful.

As far as the ruins themselves go, there's not really much to tell. They are ruins. Not much work has been done to restore or really protect them except to put up those signs I mentioned already. I did find a golf ball from the gold course next door while I was walking around. There were some French tourists walking around, and an older Mexican lady. Not really much to describe. If you're in the area, and it's within walking distance, I recommend it. Otherwise, it's probably not going to change your life.

My taxi lady was a few minutes later than expected, but she did show back up. She apologized for the tardiness, but she said the food place was packed. So we began the journey back to my hotel. About a minute into the drive, she asked if I knew the beach, and if I'd like to stop and see the Playa Delphines, so I said sure. It was free, and my guess was that she probably wanted to eat her food that was sitting in the passenger seat. So I got out, looked around, and came back after about 5 or 6 minutes. It was pretty nice, but loads of people had stopped. Apparently they parking is such an issue that they have guards with red flags to wave people in and out, and to stop traffic if someone is backing out, since it's rather close to the road, and small. She pointed out a couple more places on the way back, but we made no more stops. She also got a couple more phone calls along the way, so I was amused. When we got back, I gave her a big tip because she came back for me, she showed me a nice beach, and she got me home earlier than I thought she would.

I'll be heading out on a tour of Chichen Itza tomorrow, and the tour company said to expect them at 5AM at the lobby of my hotel. So, I won't be partying too late tonight at all. There's a concert (looks like mainly for teenagers) across the plaza from my hotel, so I'm getting some entertainment for free, whether I like it or now. I went down to the minimart next door to my hotel in the middle of it, to get some food and some snacks for the early trip tomorrow, and while I was waiting in line, I almost got into a fight with a teenage boy. Apparently he thought I cut him in line, but he wasn't moving and the cashier looked to me and waved me over. So when I put my stuff on the counter, the kid came over and gave me a "WTF" kind of look and comment, so I just responded "Como?" The cashier didn't want to take sides, so he just kinda waved his hands around, and then the kid went to the next cashier over to pick up a few packs of cigarettes. Gotta love juvenile delinquency.

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