Posts from the ‘Mexico’ category

Swimming with Dolphins

Today’s Itinerary

Luxury, you say? I’ll see your luxury and I’ll raise you -…

In the world of hotels, there’s luxury that’s, you know, pretty good, and then there’s luxury that is a step above. The line is hard to describe but easy to see – like good art.

At the Dreams Resort in Cancun, we’ve experienced heavenly comfort after a bus ride that’s best forgotten, and after following that up with a wild night out in Cancun. We’ve had our pick of restaurants ( from freshly-caught freshly-cooked seafood to Japanese and authentic Mexican), massaged out some of the kinks, relaxed on the beach.

We’ve even had unlimited WiFi, which doesn’t seem like much until you look around a bit and see how much hotels gouge people for Internet access.

So this counts as pretty good luxury. But then they stepped up to the plate, and knocked this baby right out of the park.

Gird your loins people.

Swimming with a dolphin is one of the greatest things you will ever do

It’s still kinda hard to believe this. Right outside our room, there’s a pool that contains dolphins. Actual dolphins. Real, live, actual dolphins.

And we get to go swimming with them.

As Australians, dolphins have this almost mythical place in our collective folklore. You never know when you’re going to spot them, and even when you do you can never be sure how long they’ll hang around. But sometimes, just sometimes, when the surf is pounding and the sun is on it’s way up or heading back down, you may be fortunate enough to spend a magical half an hour watching them seemingly enjoy catching the waves. They’ll ride the bow, flip up out of the surf, sometimes even come close enough to get a really good look at them – and then they’re gone.

Most of the time you’re lucky if the view you get is even this close.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson, Licensed under CC.

Every time you’re in the ocean you hope to see and experience that natural beauty.

So today is a very, very special day. We not only get to swim with dolphins, we get to play with them, get a kiss from a dolphin, and even get pushed around by them (in a good way).

Photo by Steve Jurvetson, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson, Licensed under CC.

Dreams Resort in Cancun, partnered with Delphinus World, offer these incredible experiences. There’s several types of swimming with dolphins experiences, including large groups (~10 people), small groups (~4 people), couples, and even one on one sessions lasting one hour.

Imagine being able to spend that much time with an animal reputed to be amongst the most intelligent in the animal kingdom, capable of swimming through  the water at up to 40 miles per hour (so fast that it hurts) and that can send thoughts to one another using sonar.

Photo by Patrik Jones, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Patrik Jones, Licensed under CC.

Travel Tip:

Book your dolphin swim experience online and receive a 15% discount. Awesome!

Two hard to beat experiences in the same day

Swimming with dolphins is by far the most incredible thing we could accomplish today. No one would begrudge us if we went back to our luxury hotel and just lay on the pool deck, smiling all afternoon.

That’s an option, sure. But then we’d miss out on figuring out what these Cenote things are – everyone’s talking about them. How do they work?

So we’re headed out of Cancun, down towards a place called Tulum, on the recommendation of one of our Twitter followers (do you

It’s about a two hour drive, so that gives us plenty of time to mull over just how great it is to actually, finally, really swim with a dolphin. Gosh – they even pushed us through the water!

A Cenote is the best kind of hole in the ground

“Cenotes are surface connections to subterranean water bodies”. Thanks, Wikipedia!

In addition, Cenotes are pretty amazing places to jump in for a swim. Natural sinkholes full of filtered water, they’re dotted along the countryside, and Tulum happens to feature some of the nicest ones.

Photo by Adam Baker, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Adam Baker, Licensed under CC.

So – swimmers on (again). Time for a quick dip!

Photo by Mike Milley, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Mike Milley, Licensed under CC.

Overnight in Tulum

Photo by dMap Travel Guide, Licensed under CC.

Photo by dMap Travel Guide, Licensed under CC.

There’s plenty to do in and around Tulum after our quick swim, including exploring ancient ruins and relaxing on a very chilled beach scene. We organise our accommodation early on (best not to get stuck with some of the shady-looking places).

When the tourist buses head out of town by the late afternoon, we make sure you get on up to the ruins at Tulum Ruinas.

We enjoy a perfectly relaxing end to a record-setting day, watching the sun setting and the waves lapping the shore, wondering if there are dolphins frolicking just out of sight.

Travel Tip for Tulum

Make sure you check inside before confirming your place and paying – some of the facilities are a lot less salubrious on the inside. And watch your credit card – better yet, make sure you’ve got cash.

Photo by Manuel Canela, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Manuel Canela, Licensed under CC.

Underwater Art Gallery Cancun

Bleary-eyed, shattered, and mostly numb, we stumble off the overnight bus we took to get from Belize to Cancun, Mexico. It was a long, cold, dull, sleep-deprivation-chamber-on-wheels, and we’re just done. First priority – sleep.

Cancun, we love your beautiful beaches, we want to explore your crystal clear cenotes, and we definitely want to party.

After we nap.

Today’s Itinerary

  • Catch up on some sleep at out luxury Cancun resort
  • Scuba dive an underwater art museum
  • Dive into Cancun’s nightlife

O blessed sleep, where art thou?

We arrive in Playa de Carmen somewhere around five in the morning. Fortunately, we’ve arranged for a local car to pick us up, because after crossing the border into Mexico at 11 PM and another unscheduled stop at midnight, coupled with bumpy roads and overly friendly passengers, we’re experiencing a coma of sorts.

Just picking up our luggage from underneath the bus takes a herculean effort, and where does this strap go? Do all these buckles have to be done up? Why am I sitting on the ground?

Helpfully, not all of us are completely catatonic and, although it’s a small miracle, soon we’re bundled into the car and pulling up into our resort.

In this state, it all seems like a bit of a dream. Everything is dark and quiet, and without paying too much attention we’re in a warm bed and fast asleep.

At midday, we awake to this.

White Sand Beach Cancun

White Sand Beach Cancun. Photo by adpowers, CC License

We must be dreaming

Several weeks ago, when it became clear just how painful the bus ride from Belize to Cancun was going to be, we elected to spend a couple of days in a resort recuperating (yes, it’s a hard life).

That decision has paid many dividends.

We decided to stay at the the Dreams Resort in Cancun, midway between Cancun and Playa de Carmen. Reluctantly opening the curtains, eyes shielded from the midday sun, we are greeted by vistas like this.

Beautiful white sand beaches stretch along the coast. There’s a pleasant ocean breeze coming in off the Gulf, and the lick of white racing up and down the line of the sand shows us where we should be – in the water.

And we’ve got something special planned.

There’s time for a quick brunch and then we’re in a taxi into Cancun, to arrive at the Scuba Cancun Dive Centre ( Blvd Kukulcan Km 5, Zona Hotelera, 77500, Cancún).

We’re going to get us some culture and visit an underwater art gallery.

An underwater art gallery, you say?

There are words in the English language that go together. ‘Bacon’ and ‘eggs’, ‘sea’ and ‘sand’, ‘endless’ and ‘vacation’ (well, those two should). Some words that don’t really belong together are ‘underwater’ and ‘art gallery’. Yet here we are.

This is an incredibly ambitious project with an interesting goal at heart – to drive people away from visiting coral reefs. With around 750,000 tourists visiting local coral reefs, as the artist explained in this National Geographic interview;

That puts a lot of pressure on the existing reefs…So part of this project is to actually discharge those people away from the natural reefs and bring them to an area of artificial reefs.

The project, which features statues made by Mexican artist Jason deCaires Taylor, began in 2009 and will ultimately ‘exhibit’ 400 sculptures.

Watching this video (embedded below), we can only feel how eerie this must have felt. Those statues, clean and solid, don’t belong there under the water.

They stand their, eyes closed, awaiting their fates? Contemplating the infinite? Praying for salvation?

Underwater Art Museum

Underwater Art Museum. Photo by Jason deCaires Taylor – visit www.jasondecairestaylor.com for more incredible pictures. Reproduced here with permission of the artist.

The contrast between the bright colours of the fish and natural coral formations oppose the grey, solid humanity that the statues convey. But over time, the power of nature to transform and adapt becomes apparent, as life, ever-growing, explores the surfaces made by man and makes them its own. The sculptures become a part of the reef, previously ravaged by storms, supporting life where previously there was none.

From Life to Art to Reef

Silent Evolution. Amazing photo series by Jason deCaires Taylor – visit www.jasondecairestaylor.com for more incredible pictures. Reproduced here with permission of the artist.

Around 30 feet underwater, we’re taken on a scuba tour of the underwater art gallery. Down on the ocean floor, amongst these people frozen in time, is a truly unforgettable experience.

Scuba Dive Tour of the Underwater Art Gallery

Caffeine up, people. It’s time to party.

The easiest thing to do right now would be fall asleep on the beach or to crawl back into the luxurious bed at our Cancun resort. We deserve it – that bus ride was pretty bad.

Photo by A. Strakey, Licensed under CC.

Photo by A. Strakey, Licensed under CC.

But buckle up people – grab your Red Bull, grab your double espresso, gulp down those No Doze – stay awake! For tonight – we party in Cancun.

Photo by cezzie901, Licensed under CC.

Coco Bongo – looks tame by day, but by night…Photo by cezzie901, Licensed under CC.

Frommer’s said “you have to experience it to believe it”

Coco Bongo Spiderman

Coco Bongo Spiderman. Photo by Abeeeer, CC License

As they said in ancient Rome – linea longa, bonum festum (don’t quote us on that).

With that principle in mind, Coco Bongo is the place to go if you want to experience the craziness and sheer audacity of the party scene in Cancun.

Frommer’s, in their review, said “you have to experience it to believe it”. A madcap remix of incoherent popular cliches like Austin Powers and Spiderman, combined with pyrotechnics, lightshows, smoke machines, and dancing everywhere possible – take their advice.

Photo by Vitor D'Agnoluzzo, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Vitor D’Agnoluzzo, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Vitor D'Agnoluzzo, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Vitor D’Agnoluzzo, Licensed under CC.

We’re still trying to wrap our head around it.

Coco Bongo Beetlejuice!

Coco Bongo Beetlejuice! Photo by Abeeeer, CC License

Love the unpredictable – a day in Mexico City

By Chris K

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Mexico City is a place where you could start the day without an itinerary, and by the end of the day you will have eaten wonderful food, found unique handmade goods in three or four markets, shared a quick drink (or two) with some locals, and then spent the evening dancing away to music played by some extraordinary musicians.

All you need is a love of the unpredictable.

We’re going to try valiantly (but fail regardless) to capture some of the variety that Mexico City has to offer, on our second day here. Catch up on what we did in just one day in Mexico City.

Photo by Carlos Alvarez, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Carlos Alvarez, Licensed under CC.

Today’s Itinerary

  • we get up early to catch the Cathedral Metropolitana in the early quiet of the morning
  • check out the architectural variety, old and new, of El Zócalo
  • visit the home of a Mexican art superstar
  • throw ourselves into the eclectic neighbourhood that is Coyoacán
  • dive into Mexico City’s nightlife, courtesy of recommendations from a local guide

That’s one way to make a statement

When you’ve conquered a people and devastated a culture, there’s nothing that makes a statement that says ‘we won’ like building a new place of worship right over the top of their old place of worship.

Hernan Cortes, not well-known as history’s most friendly chap, did just this after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán.

The resulting monument is the Catedral Metropolitana, situated in El Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución), and is where we start our day. The Cathedral imposes itself over the massive square, but the stunning detail of the many chapels inside the Cathedral are well worth exploring.

Photo by Francisco Diez, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Francisco Diez, Licensed under CC.

Back outside the Cathedral, we find ourselves in El Zócalo, an enormous public space and home to a snapshot of Mexican history through the architectural styles of the buildings that surround it. It has been used for concerts, public displays of art, and as the temporary canvas for the naked bodies of 18,000 brave Mexicans.

Photo by Eneas De Troya, Licensed under CC.

Expect to be surprised in Mexico City. Photo by Eneas De Troya, Licensed under CC.

Just doing your job – discover ancient ruins. Bonus time?

Before we leave the central square of Mexico City, we have to pay a visit to the Templo Mayor. Famously, it was found in dribs and drabs over decades, until finally;

On 25 February 1978, workers for the electric company were digging at a place in the city then popularly known as the “island of the dogs.” …[a]t just over two meters down they struck a pre-Hispanic monolith. This stone turned out to be a huge disk…weighing 8.5 metric tons. (source)

Imagine being able to tell that story down at the pub after work.

Visit the home of a Mexican art superstar

Photo by momo, Licensed under CC.

Photo by momo, Licensed under CC.

The Blue House, or more evocatively, the Casa Azul, was the home of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and is now a museum to celebrate her life and work.

It isn’t within walking distance (unless you feel like a long walk) so we take a Metro to a station close by (either Coyoacán‎ or General Anaya‎ will do).

A now internationally recognised artist, whose work is famous for its incredibly strong sense of identity as a Mexican and as a woman, Frida had a life of heartbreaking hardship and struggle, and not until after her death did her art achieve the fame that it deserved.

Her life reflects the turbulence of Mexico’s history in the 21st century and is in and of itself a fascinating story, and well worth our time.

Photo by Maria de Oro, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Maria de Oro, Licensed under CC.

Exploring Coyoacán

Whilst we’re in the neighbourhood, we might as well take a look around the area that Frida Kahlo called home.

Coyoacán is home to an eclectic mix of the past and present, with cafes, galleries, and museums. Wander around the tree-lined streets and see what grabs you.

Photo by Franco Folini, Licensed under CC.

This isn’t actually in Mexico City, but is a nice tribute to Frida and a range of other Mexican Artists, and the artistic style captures Coyoacan’s feel. Photo by Franco Folini, Licensed under CC.

Following on from yesterday’s theme – there’s also plenty of places to grab a taco on the run. The NYTimes recommends SUPER TACOS CHUPACABRAS (Avenida Río Churubusco, near Avenida Coyoacán) – which is hard to argue with. They’re super tacos.

Mexico City Night Life

Everyone is going to have their favourite bar, cantina, or nightclub, and we’re not going to argue with Mexico City’s 8 million local.

Instead, we’re pointing you to nightlife recommendations from a Mexico City local – you can argue with them!

Photo by Rodrigo Huerta, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Rodrigo Huerta, Licensed under CC.

Special Mention: Lucha Libre in Mexico City

We’d love to see one of the famous lucha libre fights in Arena Mexico (where is it? 189 Calle R. Lavista, Colonia Doctores, Mexico City), but these are a Friday night activity. We can still get in on the act, though – there are plenty of stores that sell the kitchy masks all around town – BBC Travel recommend El Hijo Del Santo.

If you’d like to take a closer look at lucha libre, you can watch this video.

What did you think of Mexico City? Tell us in the comments.

Where We Met the Gods

By Chris K

Today’s Itinerary

  • arrive bright and early into Mexico City
  • take a tour to see the pyramids of Teotihuacan
  • chill out in the beautiful Museo Soumaya
  • tuckered out? Not yet – there’s tacos to be eaten
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An overnight flight brings us all the way from the serene grace of Japan. Borrowing some of those zen meditation techniques we’re well rested and ready to dive into what Mexico City has to offer.

Located high above sea level, some visitors to Mexico City are said to have trouble breathing. All of our research is telling us the same – so much to do there will hardly be time to catch our breath!

From the huge variety of it’s cuisine, to cultural history, to the sheer scale of the city (think New York with more chaotic traffic), Mexico City is pulsing with life and great things to do.

The Road to the Gods

But today we’re studiously ignoring all of the interesting and exciting things to do in Mexico City proper (or Ciudad de México) and going on a little half day trip.

Mexico City takes its cultural influences from many different cultures but the oldest influence that remains visible is from the Aztecs, and we’re going to visit an ancient city started in around 100 BC.

Teotihuacan is just 50 kilometres from Mexico City and is serviced by many tour operators – but it is just as easy to get a bus, and much cheaper too. As an added positive, we won’t have to spend most of our day visiting tequila shops, which leaves some time in the afternoon for a visit to an impressive attraction.

We head down to the bus terminal called Autobuses del Norte Station and head to Gate 8. Buses leave every fifteen minutes or so and it will take us roughly an hour to get to our destination – that’s plenty of time to think ahead to the destinations that are coming up on our calendar, or just watch the landscape slide by as we head well out of Mexico City.

Where the Gods were Born

Photo by LM TP, Licensed under CC.

Photo by LM TP, Licensed under CC.

When all that is left of a culture are the monuments they made with backbreaking labour, a visit is full of wonder and awe mixed with a sense of loss. We have the relics, art, and architectural creations of these ancients but sometimes you’re compelled to wonder, at what cost to the ordinary people building these monuments. It’s important to appreciate what the legacy they have been left behind.

Teotihuacan covers some 80 kiliometres square, and in addition to being named a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers one of the most accessible locations for exploring the Aztec history.

According to Visit Mexico, there are several entrances and choosing the right one depends on how long you want to spend wandering this vast space.

For those with a full day, they recommend the first entrance. Those with less time can use the second or third entrances.

The road running through the center of Teotihuacan, charmingly named the Avenue of the Dead, is set slightly off alignment from North to South – some theories suggesting it represents a model of the solar system, others that it is there to align with the setting sun on a particular day of the year.

Photo by Owen Prior, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Owen Prior, Licensed under CC.

By the far the most impressive structure, and the one requiring the most energy to take advantage of, is the Pyramid of the Sun. At almost 60 metres high, it is quite a climb, particularly if Mexico is turning on the sunshine. But the view from the top is definitely worth it, as you turn to see the whole of Teotihuacan laid out before you.

Photo by José Luis Ruiz, Licensed under CC.

Photo by José Luis Ruiz, Licensed under CC.

Modern Monuments and Mexico Culture

From an ancient monument to a modern one – we’re heading back into town to discover what billionaires spend their dimes on.

We also ask the question – just what does a billionaire do in their spare time? When they just need to relax and unwind and not have to worry about all of those piles of money sitting around waiting to be spent?

They collect coins. Which maybe explains the billionaire thing.

Carlos Slim’s contribution to Mexico City is the incredibly beautiful museum, the Museo Soumaya. Named after his late wife, the musuem contains the largest collection of Auguste Rodin casts outside of France, and also houses his impressive coin collection – the ones he collected in his spare time.

Museo Soumaya - Reflected Glory?

Museo Soumaya – Photograph by eclecctica, CC License

Taco Time

We. Love. Tacos.

And to eat them in the place where they were invented is the perfect way to finish our first day in Mexico. For Taco recommendations, we look to Conde Nast Traveler.

Mexico City Tip

Use the Metro! It carries around 1.2 billion passengers a year and at 2-3 pesos for a ride, it the smartest way to avoid the grinding traffic on the roads.

Photo by Esparta Palma, Licensed under CC.

Photo by Esparta Palma, Licensed under CC.

What else chould we do in Mexico City? What’s your favourite taco place?

Give us your tips in the comments.