Friday, December 21, 2012

Flashback Friday: Mayan Territory

By far one of the worst redemption of miles is using them to go to Mexico, especially when the tickets only cost a few hundred dollars, but hey, free is free, we wanted to go, and so we did in December 2010.

 Chichen Itza
I normally don't like traveling during the holidays, but when the alternative was sticking around this suburban strip-mall shopping hell/wonderland we call home while freezing to death, it didn't take too much convincing to get me on a plane to somewhere warm. My husband and I had always talked about going to Mexico together, the Mayan pyramids were a bucket list item, and Cancun was the only place we could get a last-minute Economy Saver award on United, so that's where we went.

El Castillo
We spent 4 days there, visiting Chichen Itza, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and more than a few famous drinking establishments around Cancun. It was my first time back in Mexico since Spring Break Puerto Vallarta 1996 was cut short due to a hit being put out on our family (that's a story!), and aside from being convinced our Hertz rental car had been stolen at one point, this trip went remarkably better than the last. We had a lot of fun. The Yucatan has some gorgeous beaches, the ruins were worth the effort we made to go see them, and in the end none of us got sick.

2010 was still back in our pre-hotel points collecting days, so we spend about $100 a night to stay at the ME by Melia. You may recognize the property from just about every crappy reality tv show filmed in Mexico including the Real World Cancun, but we found it to be actually quite nice and surprisingly quiet. The service wasn't stellar, but it's a well maintained property, with a stunning infinity pool, and I would probably stay there again.

ME by Melia, Cancun
We rented a car for the first few days, which is by far the best way to get around that part of Mexico. The roads are good, it's safe, and unless you want to be stuck on a tour bus with a bunch of other a-holes, it's the way to go. It is a bit pricey, especially if you don't read your card member agreement and opt for every single item of additional coverage the rental car company sells you (lesson learned- most credit cards already cover most of that stuff), but it's worth it if you are on a tight schedule and want to get stuff done. So I know you're probably wondering about the aforementioned suspected rental car theft incident. After we finished our sightseeing, we decided to return the car a day or two early, and just use the bus to get around Cancun. We dropped the car at their satellite office in Cancun near all the hotels. A nice man in a yellow shirt met us outside the building, took the car and drove off in it, while we went in the office to settle the paperwork. So all of Hertz's computers were down across Mexico, or so we were told, and there was no way we could get a receipt or any other proof that we had in fact returned the car. The "manager" seemed offended that we even asked, and in the meantime, for all we knew, his friend was out joyriding in our Dodge Charger that wasn't due back for another day and a half. There wasn't much else we could do, so we got his name, he agreed to scribble a signature on our rental agreement, and with a little good faith, we parted ways. It's not so much that I didn't trust him, I don't trust anybody. Who knows what happened after that, but there were no additional charges for it. 

The only other thing I could have done without was Coco Bongo. Don't go there! It sucks. I thought it was like a nightclub, so in an attempt to be young and hip, and after hearing all the hype, we decided to check it out one night. It turned out to be a really-bad-cheesy-90's-cover-band-dance-theater-type-thing with watered down drinks and midget strippers. We left. I think next time I'll stick to my 10pm bedtime and do my binge drinking by the pool, during daylight hours.

You've been warned!
"Culture" aside, the highlight of our trip to Cancun were definitely the ruins and beaches. The Yucatan is a place of amazing natural beauty and the water really is that color. I only hope these pictures can do it some justice. Finally, I just wanted to say one more thing- life is short. The world didn't end today, like many say the Mayans predicted. We're all still here, but for all we know, it could end tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. Consider this a warning and a second chance. If you really want to go somewhere, do it! That's why we collect miles and points, and they do us absolutely no good just sitting there in our accounts. Whether it's a cheap coach ticket to Mexico or a very expensive First Class redemption somewhere overseas, just get out there and enjoy your journey!

Ruins at Chichen Itza
Everyone loves an infinity pool

Trip Tab: 35,000 miles each and around $800 on hotels, (not-stolen) rental cars, rum, tequila, beer, eats, bus fare, and airport Duty Free (CUN is one of the best!).

Must Do: Chichen Itza and the beach at Tulum (get there early to avoid the crowds).

Other Fond Memories: Trying to have a serious dinner conversation with a balloon animal stuck on your head at Senor Frogs.

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