I was missing the sun as Spring in Berlin was taking her sweet time to arrive. So I began thinking about Mexico, the Caribbean sun and the beaches, and the lovely time I had there in 2017. I didn’t have much time to see everything that the amazing Yucatan Peninsula has to offer, but I started flying into Cancún and going down the coast via Puerto Morales, to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and then across the peninsula to Mérida, Valladolid and seeing some pyramids along the way. Well, to be precise: seeing one of the new seven wonders of the modern world! Yes, Chichén Itzá really is pretty awesome. Despite it being a gazillion degrees, and there being a gazillion other tourists competing for selfie space, yes, it is truly amazing and worth the visit.
Safety in Mexico
Don’t be too alarmed by the bad news that often makes its way out of Mexico, aimed especially at US tourists. There is certainly plenty of shady dealings happening in Mexico, but my experience as a white female traveler there was one of being very privileged, safe and secure. I can highly recommend travel in Mexico, while taking the usual precautions mentioned in many great travel blog guides. There were a lot of tourist and municipal police patrolling the tourist areas, although someone told me that they are often not very well-armed and are there more often than not to deal with drunken tourists, rather than locals being any type of threat to said tourists.
I didn’t rent a car while there either, which—as in every country—increases your chances of having encounters with law enforcement and corruption. I took the ubiquitous taxis around the city, and hired a driver to take me to visit some nice cenotes, and then hired the same driver to take me to my next city. He was lovely and friendly, and brought his wife and child along for the last leg, as they were going shopping afterwards. There seemed to be way more drivers than customers, so everyone and their brother was giving their card and trying to hustle for the next gig, so keep that in mind, and as usual, always ask about the fare beforehand.
Playa del Carmen
I stayed in Playa del Carmen (Playa for short) for five nights, at a humble little Airbnb in the northern end of the city, in the high 80s street number-wise. I was able to walk to the beach and head northwards, finding a beautiful fresh-water cenote that flowed into the sea. Walking ‘to town’ for dinner didn’t take long, and although I found the main drag la Quinta (5th Avenue) to be a rather dreaded mix of drunken-tourist-trap cum hipster-hippie-commercialism, I kept finding myself drawn there, walking the length of the Quinta several times.
La QuintaYou can buy anything, and I mean anything, with no prescription in the pharmacies that line La Quinta—they seem to specialise in the viagra—and all the stores, bars, restaurants compete for your attention with different types of music blasting out onto the street, competing with the wandering mariachi troubadours. At some point I had had enough, and looked at the map in search of a church, and its promised quiet and respite from the La Quinta scene.
Capilla de Nuestra Señora del Carmen
I found a little chapel listed on the far southern side of town where I had not yet been, and hailed a cab. My limited Spanish allowed a conversation with the driver who knew where the chapel was, I found out that he was a Mormon himself, and had converted from catholicism after meeting Mormon missionaries.
The chapel was well-maintained and freshly painted, and upon entering….full of music pumped in by loudspeaker! I guess they also had to compete for ambience. The altar area was backed by a window looking out onto Los Fundadores Park and the iconic Portal Maya, a 50 ft. high, arched beachside sculpture depicting men and women in a swirl of water and wind right on the beach.
“Currently considered as a symbol of identity and foundation of Playa del Carmen, Nuestra Señora del Carmen Chapel was built around 1960s by founding families of Playa del Carmen stones of Maya ruins, sand and sea water were used for its construction.” Sign dated 14 November 2015
The setting is striking and beautiful, and the chapel does represent the best of the area. The chapel walls inside had very interesting shell-lamps too, which I thought might look good on my dream-villa that I will build someday. Right next to the chapel is a park which leads to the beach and pier. There was an art fair happening, and I found some lovely local products for gifts, and came across some nuns, selling handmade cosmetics. Totally my thing! I’m all about nuns having fun.
In fact, I can’t wait to return to Mexico. I could eat tacos every day. In fact, I did while I was there! My record was eating three meals in one day that involved corn tortillas. There is so much more to explore in Mexico, and I am working on some posts about the rest of my trip, especially the highlight – La Ruta Conventa!