In my early days of international travel (prior to a wife and kids!), I was lucky enough to have a couple of Mexican experiences while visiting the USA for a conference.
Visiting My Sister
After a couple of weeks on a tour of the USA west coast, I flew from San Francisco to Cancun in Mexico, to visit my sister who was living there with her boyfriend. It quickly became apparent why they have spent so long bumming around this place. Cancun is a popular holiday destination for partying US students, but these guys got to live here permanently. It was my first trip to a non-English speaking country, and considering they were living outside of the tourist hub, I would have been lost without their Spanish speaking skills.
The Island of Women
We caught a local ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres (which translates as the Island of Women), an island just of the coast. The beaches around here are just wonderful, just like you see on postcards – turquoise blue water and white sandy beaches. To go with the tropical island theme I took the option of sleeping the night in a hammock. While to does sound romantic, I discovered that it is not as comfortable as it seems when you have to spend the whole night in it. It was definitely the cooler option though.
Exploring the Island
The next morning we hired mopeds and cruised around the island. We were caught in a big tropical downpour. Growing up in Melbourne, rain is always associated with the cold, so it was a new experience to get soaked and not be bothered with it at all. I also had another new experience, swimming with a shark. It was not actually dangerous (so they said!), they were harmless catsharks in a penned in beach area.
Back on the mainland, my sister took me on a day out to some ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum, a short bus ride down the coast. I was blown away by the amazing ruins, contrasting with the white sand beach and blue sky. These are the only Mayan ruins located on the coast, and it makes a spectacular sight.
Crossing the Border
Several days later and I am back in Mexico, but it could have been a totally different world. I had flown back to San Diego via Miami. That evening, I caught a tram to the Mexican border and then walked across to TJ, which is what the locals call the Mexican border town of Tijuana. After sending a week in Cancun, this part of Mexico was an eye-opener. It was not at all the same, and not very impressive either. It was full of sleazy bars with young Americans who have crossed the border for a big night out, and the beer was not even that cheap. I’m glad I was able to see a bit more of the real Mexico rather than this being my only experience.