Mexico to Belize – Playa Del Carmen, Chetumal, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, 16 September 2010

Twas a long travel day, from Playa Del Carmen to Chemtumal to San Pedro, finally ending in Caye Caulker.

I started out on a bus from Playa Del Carmen, at the bus station near 5th Ave North, thinking I had the bus timetable down pat. But it turns out that I got it confused with the other bus station that was a little further up. It was a little too late for me to walk to the other bus station, so I just waited around, and took a second class bus from this bus station to Chetumal.

After a five hour bus journey, I arrived in Chetumal. I guess in the future, I really should do more research. I bought my boat tickets from Chetumal to Caye Caulker from the bus station, but when I got to the water taxi jetty, I realized I paid a few bucks too much for the San Pedro water taxi. It was quite a sight, as the shops looked more like make-shift shanties (think it was closer to 20 usd if you got one at the little shack itself). Oh well…

Little shack that sells tickets

With an hour before the water taxi departs, I decided to walk around Chetumal. There were remnants of the Grito celebrations in Chetumal. Somewhat hungry, and peso-poor, thankfully, I did manage to have a delicious oregano and cheese pizza at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

Chetumal Governor Palace

The boat ride was a little surprising. I was expecting it to be fancier, but thankfully, it was not too choppy, and I avoided a land border crossing.

Arriving at San Pedro, I had another classic visa encounter. When I was in Iran last year, the customs don’t deal with Singaporean passports very often, so they actually had to flip a booklet to try and figure out what to do with my passport. At the tiny counter at San Pedro Town, Belize that was “immigration”, the lady at the counter had to call some other authority to figure out if I was allowed into Belize (yes! Singapore passports don’t need visas!).

“Immigration” in Belize

More waiting in San Pedro Town for the next water taxi, there were some serendipitous encounters. Right outside the water taxi jetty, I saw many little kids throwing baseball with each other. And the TV was showing Sleepless in Seattle. This is the first time I am watching this, since I moved to Seattle. Someday I might watch the whole film.

Kids playing baseball in San Pedro Town, Belize

I arrived at Caye Caulker after dark. It really reminds me of Havelock Island, India, though it is much smaller. It has a laidback charm, and there are many seafood bbq joints along the road. There are also no proper roads on the island, just beach paths, and one of the more common modes of transportation are golf carts. The buildings on the island are also mainly made of wood, remind me of kampong houses, but are painted in beautiful pastel colours.

My chicken on the BBQ!

One downside? Accommodation was pretty pricey. I stayed at Blue Wave Guest House, in a private room for 60 USD. It had a nice little balcony that looked out to the sea.

View from Blue Wave Guesthouse


Mexico – Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, 15 September 2010

After a lazy day at the beach, today I decided to do a day trip from Playa Del Carmen to another Mayan archaeological site, Tulum, that was about 1hr away by bus.

Tulum is  the only Mayan site by the coast. It was used as a port of exchange, and Mayans used to load their canoes from here, and hug the coastline with their canoes to conduct trade. It looked a little more ‘lived-in’ than Chichen Itza, and had places like houses for elites, and temples. In other words, it looked a whole lot more functional.

Life can sometimes thwart our best planning, and today is definitely one of those days that I feel that Murphy is on my case. Day after day, I have been hunting for waves, only to be answered with the calmest of waters. But today, just when I stopped looking, there were some serious waves crashing against the cliffs. Well, my rant against this cosmic joke aside, it is really amazing to think that Mayans used to go out in canoes on these crazy waves – some of them were definitely capable of breaking a canoe into half!

As it did not take me too long to go through the site, I was left with nothing to do by the bus station. The journey times were designed in a manner whereby the earliest bus leaving from Tulum was around 1 pm, giving day trippers at least 3 hours of waiting time. What did I do? I ended up reading in the bus station by the highway.

While the waves weren’t cooperation, I did get a break – with some luck, my last night in Mexico coincided with Grito (Mexico’s Independence Day), and this year marks 200 years of Mexican independence from the Spanish! One of the interesting things about Grito is that it is celebrated in the late evening. Crowds starting to slowly stream into the square in front of the Presidential Palace starting from around 9 pm, and the inflow of people was relentless, even up to 11 pm, since the celebration is at midnight. Tired little kids with sleepy eyes and facepaint were carried by parents, who wanted to be part of the festive celebrations. This was of course, accompanied with street vendors, who had brisk business that night. At the stroke of midnight, the mayor of Playa Del Carmen gave a speech, and there was a good 20 minutes of fireworks! It was a tonne of fun!

Elite Housing

Tulum by the Coast

They used to go out in their canoes from here

Some serious waves

She was dressed in Mexican colours

He wore it on his head

Viva Mexico!

Viva Mexico!

Mexico – Playa Del Carmen, 14 September 2010

After staying in Cancun for three nights, I moved on to another (quieter) beach town – Playa Del Carmen in search of waves. Unfortunately, once again, it was not to be. Nevertheless, I really enjoy this town a lot more than Cancun. There was a higher level of integration between the beach town and Mexico itself – unlike Cancun, which was walled off from the rest of town.

There were also fewer people sharing the miles of white sand and clear blue waters. After strolling down the beach, I simply picked a spot, sat down, and read. Much reading was done today.

Had a huge taco for lunch – I couldn’t finish it

Nice, lazy day, and all was right with the world

Nice, lazy day, and all was right with the world

Upcoming: Mexico-Belize-Guatemala, 11-25 September 2010

Tentative Itinerary:

11 September 2010: Cancun

12 September 2010: Cancun – Chichen Itza – Cancun (bus)

13 September 2010: Cancun

14 September 2010: Cancun – Playa Del Carmen (bus)

15 September 2010: Playa Del Carmen – Tulum – Playa Del Carmen (bus)

16 September 2010: Playa Del Carmen – Chetzumal – San Pedro Town (bus, ferry)

17 September 2010: San Pedro Town – Caye Caulker (ferry)

18 September 2010: Caye Caulker – Belize City – Flores (ferry, bus)

19 September 2010: Fores – Tikal – Flores (bus)

20 September 2010: Flores – Guatemala City  – Antigua (bus)

21 September 2010: Antigua

22 September 2010: Antigua

23 September 2010: Antigua – Guatemala City (shuttle)

24 September: Guatemala City

25 September: Guatemala City – Houston (plane)