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Mexico

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetHaving known in advance that i would be spending quite long time in Cuba, I thought why not fly somewhere else around for a weekend? First I wanted to go to Colombia, but the flights were only to Bogota and my Colombian friends told me it’s not fun at all by itself, but I wouldn’t have enough time to get to the icean coast. And, well, honestly, once you have Cuban beaches around – you don’t really crave for more. So, I gave it another thought and booked a flight to Cancun, Mexico.

After my third week in Havana I got to the familiar José Martí airport expecting hell on customs again. Well, it wasn’t worse than any control in Russia. Next I was surprised by how comfortable the low-coaster flight around Latin America is! In Europe low-coasters mean the shittiest ever possibility to travel, sometimes I’d honestly chose a donkey. But my cheap flight Havana – Cancun was so nice! Very comfortable seats and alcohol offered! Bravo, Interjet!

Entering Mexico is one hell of a challenge, too. I needed a visa that I had to order in advance. I was so happy I had done all the bookings before arriving to Cuba. Those going there, keep in mind that it’s impossible to purchase any tickets and book any hotels from Cuba, only with tourist agencies (a friend of mine who I met in Havana wanted to join and tried to book something) that have very limited and very expensive range of routes available.

Apart from the visa thing, they give you two papers as you arrive. Both are only in Spanish. Ok, I know enough basics to fill in the migration card. But the customs one was really tricky for me as there are things like «how many dead animals samples and guns are you carrying across the boarder» in Spanish. Leaving the aircraft and getting inside the airport was tricky, too, as the doors were simply locked and we were all standing there until some smart guy just pressed the emergency door and we all calmly walked away as the sirens were going off. Lovely! Welcome to Mexico!

After having passed passport control being asked tons of questions (who the f*ck would want to escape to your country that you are that strict at the boarder?!) the next thing I noticed was how kind and helpful the taxi drivers were. Even after I had already told them I don’t need one (love saving two bucks), they still helped me to find a bus, and when I realized there was no money exchange outside the airport, they kindly walked me back in through the back door using their passes. Awww! After a bit pushy and sometimes annoying cuban guys I didn’t expect somebody to be so nice to me.
Another advice for those who want to save 2$ – there IS a bus to the Cancun center! Nobody knows how to find it and would tell you it doesn’t exist – it DOES. Fight the system, climb the fence as you go right leaving the terminal – it IS somewhere there! I promise! The company is called ADO and there would be a small window in front of the bus stop where you can purchase a ticket. They are extremely cheap and the buses are comfortable and fast. Taxi would cost approx. 250 pesos which is cheap, too.
The way itself was very emotional for me. We were passing by some stadiums which looked exactly like the one my American high school had. I got so sentimental! It was the first time in South America for me since I left the US after high school. I knew Mexico must look something like the US suburbs, but never expected it would give me so many feelings. I miss the US school times. Miss out stadium where I was throwing shit at P.E. teacher because didn’t want to run; miss playing in a tennis tram, leaving classes to go to the tournament with the mates; singing and eating donuts on the way back from another match we had won. Being in that kind of high school made me feel like being a part of something great, being in a team which always had my back. I am very happy for the Mexican kids because they seemed to have the same as I was observing them on that stadium.
Anyways, back from the nostalgic vibes. It took me about half an hour to get to the city. Then I struggled for 2 more hours to find my hotel, watch out with addresses in Cancun. Finally, some american guy came up to me and spent half an hour of his evening to search with me. How lovely is that! The people in Mexico are really nice from what I have seen.
The receptionist spoke no English; I guess even the visiting Americans speak Spanish here. Luckily, after 3 weeks in Cuba, mine was just enough to manage checking in and asking simple stuff.
I went for a walk down to the ocean. As I was staying in the center, not on the beach, everything looked quite industrial. But the streets are still very bright and colorful; there is music playing from every other door; people are dressed up enjoying summer night heat. It was quite crowded outside, and even when I walk away somewhere in the middle of nowhere to see the lighthouse, I didn’t feel unsafe. I guess the tourist zones of Mexico are perfectly fine with that. img_8148
My next pleasant discovery was a shop at the gas station. Seriously. I was thirsty as the heat was tremendous so I stopped to buy some water. And omg! There were yogurts there! Cheese!!! American chocolates! Beer! I swear, I started crying as I was holding some sweets, pack of cheese and wine at the cashier. It excited me so much that I decided my night was already complete, went back to the hotel, observed a horrible car crash on the way, turned on the TV – and OMG! There were Avengers! That was really a moment of appreciating the American culture. I felt so complete just watching TV, eating my chocolates and falling asleep with no lizards in bed. Cuban experience really teaches to appreciate simple things in life so much more. We must be thankful to live in the first world. img_8152
Good morning! It’s 5.15 a.m. and I am already on track! I was so excited to see as much as possible during my short stay in Mexico that the sleep wasn’t in my schedule.
I walked out of the hotel as it was still dark and started walking to the giant chain hotels area being sure that this is where the best view must be. I even managed to understand how the public transportation system can help me in getting there. Taxis are extremely cheap in Mexico, but sitting next to the locals on their way to start a working day is just very interesting for me. They didn’t have unhappy faces on the way to work at 6 a.m. which surprised me a lot. But as the bus made a turn – I realized why. With THAT view I would wake up before sunrise every day.

I got off near Playa Tortugas and took couple hours to walk along beaches in both directions. That was incredibly beautiful. The sunrise, bright purple sky reflected in warm water, white sand and the first surfers already on the horizon. Dreamlife.

I got back to the hotel right on time for breakfast. They made me take off my shoes as I was entering the restaurant zone and sprayed me with mosquito repellent. The food was good (and very diverse after Cuban rice and platanos), too.
The sun was up, temperature was rising – the time for me to board an air-conditioned bus on my way to Chichen-Itza! One can get there from the ADO bus terminal (intersection of Tulum and Uxmal). Take the 1st class – almost same price, but takes much less time.
On the way to Chichen-Itza I was not smart enough to just make it so I got off at the wrong station and this is how I visited Valladolid – a small village in the middle of Yucatan. A very bright and positive place. The locals were just selling fruits and dreamcatchers literally everywhere. Even though there were no tourists and I was the only blond non-Spanish speaking person, no one stared or pointed at me. So I guess they are either very polite or they still manage to see a lot of foreigners around. I walked around for couple hours to find out how I can now get to the pyramids, take pictures and grab some local food. Everyone I ran across seemed to enjoy posing for me shooting.
I finally made it! The archeological site of Chichen-Itza!Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
There wasn’t a long queue to get in; i’d recommend arriving there either very early in the morning or couple hours before closing. I’d say 1,5hrs is enough to see the whole territory. But save some time for lunch and souvenirs there, too! I never buy souvenirs since trip to Cairo in 2005 I think. But there I couldn’t resist. They really ARE beautiful. From stone plates and skulls with maya or inca ornaments to handmade silver and gold jewelry unlike any you can see in stores. Bargain! It works very well there. For me it was even more exciting as the first Spanish speaking experience outside classroom. I spent quite a lot of time looking at all the stuff, and there is a lot, and eventually got a very good deal on a scull, plate with maya calendar for my parents and a silver ring. Another thing that surprised me that the sellers were not annoying at all unlike any souvenir market you can imagine. They are very friendly, even gave me some presents, but they don’t yell at you or try to persuade you to buy something from them. So, you can smile at them not being afraid to spend too much time in front of one tent.
Back to the maya ruins. The place is very relaxing and surprisingly quiet. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so the nature around is indeed beautiful. There are tourists, yes, but the territory is so huge that you don’t even hear any voices. I enjoyed just sitting on the grass there and watching the main pyramid for some time. Until I realized I was sitting on an ant hill. Try walking deeper in the forest behind the ruins of columns, too. It’s an incredible feeling of uniting with the nature that had stayed untouched for thousands of years, only the Mayas managed to get there. I actually have no idea how they walked through the jungles there. They don’t seem to be passable at all. I had noticed from the plane already that there are just few roads across Yucatan. But from the bus it became even more clear that forests around are simply impossible to even walk through. Scary stuff for somebody like me who had barely seen jungle only on the way to volcanos in Hawaii.

Even though getting to Chichen-Itza takes some time and effort, I still highly recommend saving a day for that once you are in Yucatan. It’s worth it! Absolutely astonishing place. And you get to see some real Mexico around, too, unlike bays where only tourists stay. I remember that I called the Chichen-Itza site a very kind place when was still under impression.

Back to Cancun. I was so satisfied with my long productive day once I got back that wanted to just relax, have good dinner and walk around a bit more. So, the last night and the day after I spent just trying different tacos, walking around the town and going down to beaches. Playa del Carmen is an amazing place. It’s a bit further away but definitely worth going. The main hotels have beautiful terraces and rooftop bars, simply explore! If you want to get away from the hotels area and try the downtown – I liked a lot the area around Avenue Yaxchilán. Nice restaurants and bars, cool music from every door, life performances and people dancing. I even ran into a huge bikers’ party there, that was very impressive as well! My US experience memories striking again. img_8150
A weekend in Mexico was very informative and on the other hand relaxing after all the Cuban energy and bustle. Definitely a place to come back to!

But even after such nice and civilized time I was very excited to go back to Cuba, that much it got my heart. More stories from there are coming.


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Mexico; photopost

It’s time for Mexico!

The story about my trip there will follow soon, now I’d like to start with a gallery, like I always do with big important posts not to upload way too much content at once. Enjoy the views of Cancun, Chichen-Itza and small Mexican villages where you meet no tourists.

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welcome to Yucatán! I was so excited that woke up at 5 a.m. my first morning there to run to the beach and watch the sun rising. It was so much worth a sleepless night!

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On my way to the Maya pyramids I stopped at Valladolid village to see some real Mexican routine life, not just the fabulous hotels on the ocean coast

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People are so nice there! They all smiled at me when saw a camera and nodded as I was asking if I could take a pic. The kids were just getting shy so were there moms, and older people all waved. I spoke almost no Spanish at that time and I got lost, no one speaks a single word in English, but some ladies so desperately tried to help me! Adorable.

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Here we go! I finally made it to the archeological site of Chichen-Itza

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UPD: back on track

Hey, guys! I am alive and I am back to Europe. tulqqdt4vrcExactly a month has it been. I still have no way to write a complete story about my summer trips that has to also be followed by a lot of thoughts. And there are a lot of thoughts. What I saw and experienced this summer changed me a lot. I started appreciating such things as drinking water, to begin with. Living in a Cuban society interacting with people being stuck in such an unusual for the modern world situation literally blows your mind! I am inspired (I never ever use this stupid phrase!) by Cuba, I will talk about Cuba, I will always remember what Cuba taught me. And I miss Cuba.

I was also lucky to visit Mexico this summer. Was a short trip but I managed to see/eat/drink a lot of amazing things. And this I can’t wait to share as well!

As I returned to Europe, my friends flew to Paris to meet me there and spend some time in the city with less English and white people to overcome my cultural shock a little bit. It was a very useful buffer before coming back to Vienna. And Paris was just so sweet this time!

I am praying now that with my extremely tough upcoming semester I will have time and inspiration to write about my summer experience. Would be such a shame to just let the impressions slip away! I still can’t forgive myself for writing absolutely nothing when used to live in the US. Won’t let it happen again! Posts are arriving soon!

Meanwhile, happy beginning of the school year for everyone! It’s the first day of fall for us, but luckily we caught the last sunbeams and made a trip to the lake yesterday.

Hope you are all safely returning from the vacations that were just amazing and warmed you up enough to meet the autumn.