Playa del Carmen

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February 18th 2009
Published: February 18th 2009
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Well, our Caravan bus tour of ruins in the Yucatan is already over. Hard to believe. We would recommend this tour to anyone. It was well planned, well run, and our tour guide, Pepe, was very knowledgeable. We are looking forward to relaxing on a white sand beach though, as we have been on the go for the past 8 days.

So, what can I say about Playa? It is packed full of drunks, wide-eyed tourists, rude people, loud music at each store and restaurant, all competing to out-blare the next. Vendors, hucksters, police, whooping and hollering, yelling, drums, get the idea. Oh yes, everyone seems to smoke - and lots of stinky cigars everywhere. You can't get away from it. Food smells, both good and bad. Everything is overpriced. No bargains to be had here, and the food is only passable. If they don't have what you order, they just bring you something else and think you won't notice. Yes, there are the picture postcard scenes, but only if you hold the camera just right, because just a bit to the right or left, there is garbage, crumbling concrete, and noisy crowds. The manners of the gringos here make me ashamed to be one of them. There are some good things.....the Mayan show at X-Caret for example. It is a show depicting the history of the Mayan people, from their beginnings, showing the arrival of the Spanish and the slaughter, what becomes of the Mayans as they are reduced to sell their wares to the ruling Spanish, then the dances of Spain with all their beautiful costumes. It is put on at a place that is like the Disneyland of Mexico. The park is expensive, and really touristy, but it is clean and well run. We snorkled in an underground river. We saw jaguars and monkeys and all kinds of parrots and other birds. We got lost. The signs are plentiful, but not accurate. The maps are pretty and cartoon-like. Also not helpful or to scale. We ran around trying to find places before they closed. But, in the end, the show made it all worth while. The weather has been perfect. Hot and sunny. Humid too. Once you get used to it, it is quite nice.

Unfortunately there is an unpleasant underbelly to this place too. Of course, it has the same crumbling and graffitti laden buildings we have seen in other places once you get away from the tourist areas. But there is more. We met a couple who had quite a story. He and his wife are staying for 3 months here. After 6 weeks of listing to dogs bark all night in a small home across the street, he went and rang the bell (in the middle of the night) to ask the owners to shut the dogs up. He rang and waited for 5 minutes but they didn't answer and didn't open the locked gate. Then the police showed up, and took him away. It seems the dog owners claimed he had trespassed and threatened him and his dogs. The dog owner spoke spanish, but he didn't. They said there would be a 'judge' that spoke english, and they would sort everything out. The judge either didn't speak english, or couldn't be bothered, and they threw him in jail. They made it clear that it would cost him as much money as he could pay to get out. He said the jail is as bad as they make it out in the movies. No benches to sit on, and concrete floors covered
Parasailing for two on the beachParasailing for two on the beachParasailing for two on the beach

And they want $125 US each!!
in bugs and filth. He stood hanging on to the bars for 24 hours, and finally told his wife to pay whatever they wanted - just get him out! The lawer was not helpful, and the consulate guy didn't bother to show up to help him. It cost him over 6,000 pesos (about $600) to get out, and he signed a bunch of papers, but never got anything in english that he could understand. When he went back a few days later with a real human rights representative, they claimed to have misplaced the paperwork. This is the underside of Mexico. It really happens. The police and the justice system are corrupt. The cop who drove his wife home after throwing him in jail suddenly could speak english and tried to hit on his wife. His story put a damper on my vacation for a while. It is scarey to see the police walking around in their fatigues and helmets, with their fingers on the triggers of their big machine guns (yes, really). However, after a couple more days, I learn to look around the bad stuff and just enjoy. The sun and the sand and surf really is nice.

Our hotel is OK - better than some, not as good as they make it sound on trip advisor. There is a small garden area to sit, and the trees make it a small oasis from the heat and noise and concrete out on the street. It has a bar that can get noisy, but thankfully it closes down at 11 pm. On the up side, they had a really good blues guitar player and singer the other night that we really enjoyed listening to. The bed is hard, which is not a surprise for Mexico. We just were lucky until now. Caravan booked good hotels - we realize that even more now. Anyway, all in all it is nice, and we are enjoying. One more day here - hoping to go across to Cozumel tomorrow - then on to Tulum. Hopefully it will be a quiet little town like it looks in the pictures....

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 25


Giant octopus danceGiant octopus dance
Giant octopus dance

I can only assume this is to celebrate the abundant ocean life and seafood here

18th February 2009

Ugh...playa...ugh too many tourists, but yes the water is beautiful and there are quite a few cool things to do
18th February 2009

mmmm Tequila
thanks for posying all the pics and you funny with a snorkle mask! All is well here...and cold. See you soon. Love Chrissy
11th December 2009

Crooked Police! Travelers Beware
After a great weekend in Akumal 8 of us departed in 2 cars for the Cancun airport. The first car left 45 minutes ahead of us. We were stopped by the police about 30 miles from the airport, they said we were speeding, which we weren't. We were told they were taking Marc's drivers license and we would have to go back to Playa del Carmen and pay a $150 fine unless we gave him $100 right then. We told him we didn't have any money, take us to jail...he said forget slow. When we got to the airport we found out that the same guy stopped our 1st car and had extorted 800 pesos from them...all the cash they had left! We have visited this area at least once a year since 1986 without incident. We are aware of the speed traps in Playa and are always careful to stay under the speed limits. These corrupt individuals are doing great harm to the hard working locals who are trying so hard to bring the tourist dollars to the area. Bottom line, we will probably find a new vacation spot until this corruption and highway robbery is stopped!
31st January 2010

re: Crooked Police
We have heard stories like this more than once, so we stick to public transit rather than renting a car. Most of the police are honest I think - too bad that some of the bad ones make visitors like us afraid.

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