Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Beaches for the Rich ... & the Rich Only - Cancun 雑感 II

Honestly speaking - I'm very glad that I didn't save Cancun for my honeymoon hot spot.

After an hour-long, delayed-baggage fiasco with United at the airport, I hopped on the GreenLine shuttle bounded for the "Hotel Zone" and "Downtown" and started my vacation with a pair of thick jeans, 2 layers of sweaters plus a heavy winter jacket.

The digital temperature template in the shuttle reads: 28 C.


When the shuttle pulled into the driveway of the first luxury hotel (either called "Playa Oasis," "Mayan Plaza," "Oasis Palm Spring" or some combination of any of these few key words), all the passengers in the car went in unanimity - "W-O-W ..."

A long stretch of pristine, turquoise water sandwiched between a body of fine, white sand and deep ocean blue in sight. Absolutely amazing. Postcard-like quality.

Then another few rounds of "wow's" and "woo's" and "oh my god ..." and "すーげー" (or other versions of such exclamations in other unidentified foreign languages) before all the passengers unloaded themselves from the car. Empty seats around me, all of a sudden I became the lone passenger in the car. The driver was singing along a well-blasted Mexican melody streaming from the radio.

I see ... So, I'm the only *poor* backpacker bound for budget hostels in downtown.

Matters not! "March along!" I thought to myself. One spends her day not in the hostel but by the beach, and beaches are not subject to standards of 1st-star, 2nd-star, or 5-star ranking system employed by big-name, international hotels.


Because here in Cancun, all beaches - though not having any golden plaques of "5-Star" quality rating attached to it (this somehow reminds of those wooden plaques hung near every front desk area in all the hotels in China) - all belong to the big-name, international hotels named after "Playa Oasis," "Mayan Plaza," "Oasis Palm Spring" or some variations of these key words.

Maybe this is why Cancun is esp. popular among cash-crashing honeymoon couples.

"In the 1970s, the Mexican President of the time saw the beauty of this coastline where you happily stayed out till 4 am last night, sipping your margaritas and swaying your butt along with the club music. More than beauty, he saw business opportunities," the Mexican tour guide for our daytrip to Chichen Itza days later told us during the 2-hour boring ride.

"Wanting to stock up his personal - not national, folks, personal - revenues, he went ahead and gathered all the major developers/investors of grand, international hotel corporations. And one by one, piece by piece, he sold every part of the coastline to these int'l corporations," he continued.

"And this is the reason why, today - on a beautiful Christmas day like today! - I may not bring my lovely daughters and wife to the beach for a nice morning stroll or a quick beach dive. Because as soon as I lay my feet on the beach, I will be turned away by the hotel security guards. Why, folks?" He asked.

A 30-sec pause. No response.

"Because I am a local!" He at last said.

The bus continued to move itself fast down that bumpy dirt road with half-dead tree branches flying by, legacy of the previous hurricane.

I'm not sure how many people on the bus heard the quiet anger and frustration in his voice.

"This is OUR beach, OUR land, OUR coastline," he said, finishing his little Cancun History 101 there. "However, it is first and foremost enjoyed by int'l travelers spending their vacations with their newly-wed wives or cute little daughters."

On the 2nd day of our trip, D and I walked for 10 minutes along the one and only dusty main road served as the main transportation line for the hotel zone. At last we found the entrance to the public beach tugged behind the parking lot of a newly constructed shopping mall. LV and Escada flashed expensive-looking seasonal merchandise in shinny display windows.

In fact, it wasn't even much of an entrance. Just a dirty little path, so small that we missed it twice.

On the beach, we saw no postcard-looking bungalows, no palm trees, no margarita bars that serve drinks with blue, pink, and orange little umbrellas as decorations. Just the white, sandy beach and the turquoise water that was too wavy to swim in that day. We saw a few white tourists (we being the only Asians) and quite a lot of Mexican families. Somehow, the water is blocked off from the sandy beach by an elevated dike. Lying on our colorful beach towels (where we were actually on the top of the dike), we could see the clear blue sky and the distant navy sea, but the view of the turquoise green was completely out of sight. And to get to the water, one needs to either *jump* off from the sandy dike by 10 feet (hopefully unscratched) or - in the case like me - ungainly *crawl* down the dike to have my little swim.

"Hmm ..." D and I looked at each other, speechless.

The beaches in Thailand were dearly missed.

The 3rd, the 4th, the 5th, and the 6th day, we took different day trips to neighboring cities/islands/Mayan sites in the area. The Cancun beaches were utterly dropped from our travel itinerary. I, at least, don't want to crawl through another 10-feet-tall sand dike in order just to have a little swim.

On the last day, we decided to give the Cancun beaches another try. "There's gotta be better beaches out there to make all these honeymoon lovers' money worthwhile, right?" I said.

So we ventured out to another public beach. This time, one that was located on the northern tip of the shoreline that, according to my guidebook, promises shallower water and milder waves.

After a 20-min bus ride, we reached our destination. A rainy morning with scatters of medium rain. D and I trekked through pools of dirt water by the roadside and found the little public beach promised to be shallower in depth and milder with waves.

Yet another empty beach with no postcard-quality bungalows, palm trees, or margarita bars. There was, however, an ugly fence that blocked off the beach from the big hotel next door.

"Well, we've given it a try," I said. D and I decided just to take a walk down the jogging path along the main road.

Somehow, wanting just to get a glimpse of some of the highly-raved, 5-star hotel scenes for one last time, though, D and I decided to camouflage ourselves as honeymoon love birds and 大搖大擺地 walk into a hotel lobby. Inter-Continental Hotel, Cancun, was picked to be our first target.

"I have no idea what he's talking about ... He was telling me that by booking this tour, we could get a 20% discount but this other travel agent told me that ..." I was in a very serious conversation with D about which tours to book for the next day when D and I walked past the security guards and ignored their greeting smiles.

That is the trick - to speak English and to look like a tourist (wait, but we were tourists) who is rich enough to afford a bed in Inter-Continental Hotel for at least a night (alright, so that disqualified us).

Or perhaps it was by the sheer fact that we look Asian - not Mexican - that we could walk past the security guards and 大搖大擺地 talk ourselves into the hotel.

One of the ugliest hotel lobbies I've ever seen. No floral centerpiece, no lobby cafe, and very few cozy-looking sofas for sleepy guests to lounge.

5 more minutes walking past the lobby and arriving at the poolside in the back, however - One of the most luxurious vacation resorts I've ever been

2 pools and rows of blue/white beach chairs; a by-the-beach spa/massage room and a classy-looking buffet restaurant under a thatched hut. Hotel guests were leisurely sipping their late-morning coffee and tea and reading their papers. Everything looked so lovely and dandy, like an 18th-century European beach party with classy ladies and courteous gentlemen demonstrating the book of social mannerisms on the lovely Christmas Day morning ...

No high dikes, only plentiful palm trees. Everything postcard-like quality.

"I guess a beach may be dressed up too, huh?" from the corner of my eyes, I could tell that D's mouth was dropped ajar.

We leisurely moved our bodies towards the blue/white beach chairs by the spa room and lounged. Both of us were very quiet. For a moment, only the distant waves and chattering of the neighboring families and honeymoon sweetie birds could be heard.

Like I said - I'm so very glad that I didn't save Cancun for my honeymoon destination.

梅ちゃん at 12:46:00 PM



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