Sometimes when you reach a destination I think it’s a good thing not having booked a room. Without it you find yourself much more alone and lost and quickly understand that you really have to just speak to people. Often – especially in countries like Mexico – this means you’ll quickly make new friends.
Like I did yesterday when I arrived to Tulum.
I won’t brag about being wild and crazy with no idea about the destination or at least the street I’m walking in. After the birth of the smartphone those things are sorted with a finger click as long as its battery is charged.
Still, I find it very exciting to just arrive in a place and take it from there.
After I had talked to a couple of locals and a lovely French couple on the street about what area of the main road was the best, I walked towards the side they meant was the most central. Walking down the main street I realised Tulum is a little bit like what we refer to as Syden in Norwegian. And Syden to us, predominantly means Spanish or Greek holiday destinations to where Norwegians flock each year for some beach and sun.
On the main street of Tulum – like on the main streets in Syden – you find shops, bars, restaurants, more shops and more bars as far as the eye can see. Though I must say that here many of the places look a lot more stylish than what I’d expect from a main street in Syden. In Tulum plenty of bars and shops already got my attention due to the mix of gorgeous textile products from the most popular Mexican regions like Chiapas and Oaxaca.
As I’ve just spend a week in Chiapas many of the products aren’t that new to me, besides they are pricier here than in for example San Cristobal. However a couple of new products stand out in Tulum though and that’s the coconut lamps. And the hammocks.
While I had my bit of hammocking in Bacalar the last 24 hours, I certainly can’t wait to drink and eat from the many coconuts around. But last night my priority was first to find some green food before sorting out my accommodation situation.
After walking down the main road I picked a tempting Mexican place because I find them to normally be quite good at offering green varieties although they might not have specific veggie plates for you. To my positive surprise the Tripadvisor reviews of the place were very good and so I sat down with a girl at my age that had a table to herself on the sidewalk.
We started chatting and one hour later we had each others’ numbers and an arranged meeting on the beach the following day. My new friend’s name is Daniela, she is originally Mexican, utterly beautiful and smiles a lot and I liked her style at once. She just moved to Tulum from Los Angeles were she has lived almost her whole life and recently married an American. Most of her family lives in DF, and now due to some residency issues in the US she had taken the tough decision to come here to work while her husband is “back home” in LA while they get some permits sorted. She spoke about him with such a beautiful tone that almost I fell in love with him too.
Que bonito el amor..
After dinner I decided to go for the nearest hostel to the restaurant and ended up in a vibrant little street that cuts of the main road called Calle Centauro Sur that holds lots of cool bars and restaurants and a chill local/international vibe. My hostel is called La Cigana and I first paid for only one night as I planned to go and find a place by the beach later, but today when back after biking around I decided today to likely stay here the week. They have bikes to rent and a really nice and chilled staff that helps you out with anything.
Ah, and the below bar chairs are another thing typical for Tulum as far as I’ve understood.
Hammock bar chairs. Amen.
Yesterday I told about one of my first encounters with Mexico, – the Mezcal, and that was pretty twisted. Something even more twisted however, happened before that encounter, already on the way from the airport to the two friends that house me in Mexico DF.
Picture a humid, dark night. There are no stars on the sky, it is slightly foggy and there is no fresh breeze in the wind what so ever.
Picture a blond, 1,83 meter tall girl arrive, hungry and tired after a long journey and with a way too heavy backpack on her shoulders. She has no phone that works, but an address of a friend of a friend living in the city. She takes the strict message of the friend of a friend to order an authorized taxi seriously, pays for it and realises she really needs to pee. But the taxi personnel is already calling for her and before she knows it has thrown her bag in the trunk of a white, old car that looks just like any other white, old car.
She gets in to the taxi and off they go into the dark night.
That was how I arrived yesterday.
Shortly after I find myself in the taxi of a young man, that at first glimpse didn’t seem as friendly as I imagined Mexicans would be at all. I try to initiate a conversation with stupid comments about the weather, the hectic traffic and that I’m stunned over being in a city this size. The driver answers in an extremely little interested tone and I start wondering why the hell I didn’t pee on my way out of the airplane instead.
After three minutes the taxi driver that has seen me concentrating on my phone, asks if I’m watching a GPS.
Yes, I say.. Im trying to loc… “In case Ill kidnap you?” he interrupts me and giggles.
Our eyes meet in the mirror.
“Uhm, well yeah”.. I say with a false ironic tone.
Thoughts run trough my head, my need to pee becomes stronger, and calmly I try to finish my initial phrase: “I’m just trying to locate myself in this massive city”…
He laughs out loud, looks at me in the mirror and asks where I’m from. We chit chat a little about his take on Europe (expensive, safe and far away) and soon we’ve become a bit closer.
Fifteen minutes later (me all the time secretly keeping an eye on that GPS) he is answering to all kinds of questions I’ve asked him. He tells me things like where to go for a dance in my neighbourhood, what areas not to visit never ever in the city, how I had to be very careful in general being a woman on my own and more interestingly inside info about how the authorized taxi system works. He tells me that drivers get as little as 12% of the fixed prices set up by the company and that using their own cars!
We agree it isn’t a very good deal at all, and I suggest that maybe other taxi drivers hold the same opinion and that they could go together and demand a salary raise (I know, a very Jeanett-save-the-world-move of me).. He tells me he thinks it would be impossible and admits fearing to loose his job. “After all to be a taxi driver is a quite popular position, and unemployment is high here” he says, and continues: “But luckily, working with tourists brings extra tip money”.
I tell him I agree with that, while at the same time realising I hadn’t withdrew any national money yet. The ride was paid for with credit card at the airport and as it already was midnight and we were approaching my destination, the last thing I wanted right now was to find an ATM…
So I apologize to the driver for my inability to tip him today and smiles to him through the mirror. He replies with a slight exhalation, gives me a smile that looks much more like a grin and says: “I’ll have to kidnap you then,” before stepping on the gas pedal so we accelerate rapidly down the street.
A little disturbed, sudden pictures from the movie Taxi driver came to my mind so I yelled: Dios Mio, que loco eres!! pretending not to sound too worried after all. Shortly after he slows down the car, giggles a little and says: We are here, honey. We are here.
As Ive never been to this place, I look out the windows onto the dark street thinking to myself what the F. was the door number again, is it really true that we are here? but before I know it he has already opened my door. I recognize the street name on the lighting GPS on my phone’s screen and decide to trust him. He puts my backpack at the front door and tells me this is a good neighbourhood, and that he hopes I will enjoy Mexico city.
I intent to pretend like nothing of the craziness Id just lived through had happened and walk over to the doorbell to find the right number to call, not sure whether to expect a knife in my back or a warm hug from the driver. My friend’s friend answer and tells me she’s coming down, and so I turn over and take the driver’s hand, saying: Im sure I will enjoy it here, muchas gracias.
To visit this country has been a dream for long.
The country of the pre-colonial Toltec, Aztec and Mayan civilizations, of ancient ruins, shamans, high mountains, two immense coast lines, turquoise waters and deep jungles. The country of the tacos that got rewarded the first place on the UNESCO heritage list of cousines. The country of the avocado, the cactus & magic mushrooms, tequila and a diversity of interesting musical styles and instruments. The country of latin lovers, the Zapatistas, cowboys, chaotic drug wars and corruption, surf tourists and a vast variety of indigenous cultures.
Since I decided some months ago to do the US west coast trip (I just started) I thought why not wrapping it up with a visit to Mexico when I’m first on this side of the Atlantic ocean.
From September 25th Ill have at least 6 weeks to spend or as long as my money reach – and that all on my own – so the journey will be different in an exploratory and self developing way.
The below are my two planned routes, set up after taking friends’ and travel blogs’ advices of must-sees. I’m planning to have 3 weeks for each route though they are subjects of impulsive changes.
And then Ill hit the road to travel the other way around. More or less..