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Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Seashores of Old Mexico ♫

And the third choice country is...Mexico! Ole!

Choosing my third favourite place was ultimately about the vacation and not entirely about the country. It was too hard to choose between places like Germany, Spain and Switzerland.. so I went with a country where I had the most adventure!

Yes, it's a classic tourist destination and the obvious spot to go for a sun holiday. However, while the resorts and beaches may be similar to a lot of all inclusive resorts along the Gulf and throughout the Caribbean, Mexico has much to offer off of the resort grounds and thus is a perfect spot to visit for the holidayer who likes adventure!

I know there has been a lot of negative publicity about the safety for tourists in Mexico, but, if you do your research most of the crimes reported are within certain regions that you can avoid. 

My trip to Mexico was a classic seven day all inclusive at the beautiful Valentin Imperial Maya located in the Mayan Riviera. The Valentin Resort is a new resort to North America. The resort originates from Spain which gives it a very authentic Spanish feel in both the architecture and the decor around the resort grounds. 
Due to an amazingly lucky deal found online, a stay at this luxurious resort became a possibility! Of the resorts and hotels I have stayed at, the Valentin definitely tops the list for all categories - well maintained grounds, food, service, rooms, pools, and so forth. There is also some really interesting wildlife that wanders the grounds such as iguanas and coatis (a member of the raccoon family). I was also told by a worker that several weeks prior, a large alligator had wandered on to the resort and was found near a guest bungalow!

When I am on a sun holiday I love to spend my days tanning on the beach and snorkeling in the sea. But, my favourite part of a trip is to explore the country and see first hand how the locals live. 

While in Mexico I did three off resort day excursions. 

Excursion #1:
This included an early morning bus ride into the Mayan Jungle. On the way we passed through many small villages. As we drove deeper into the jungle we came across a small one room school house. The tour guide explained that this was a school for the local children. However, because it is in a fairly remote area with a very small population - there is no teacher for these children. Revenue from tourism in this area has allowed this remote school to purchase a type of Smart Board that can connect to a nearby city where there is live feed from another school. The children then watch the teacher teach through the board and follow along with their learning! 

When we finally reached our destination we walked through some bush and arrived at a cliff's edge. Here we geared up with helmets and climbing ropes and began our descent onto the jungle's floor! Being a little nervous with heights, I found the initial leaning over the cliff's edge pretty terrifying!! But, once you get going it's actually quite fun and not so scary!

After walking through some small caves we then hiked up a path back to the top of the cliff where we then zip-lined across an area of the jungle's canopy!! This was another activity that I feared, but again once you get going it's too much fun to be scared! 

From here we hiked further into the jungle and arrived at an area with mangroves. We all hopped in our kayaks and paddled through narrow water pathways until we reached a dock where we would then continue our jungle trek. (If you are ever thinking of doing an excursion like this one - be sure to wear water shoes! They are great to go from water to land as they dry quickly and are pretty comfortable too.) As we made our way through the jungle paths we eventually came to an area with a Traditional Mayan healer. He performed a spiritual ritual on us with scented oils and lit in-scents. He approached each one of us and said a prayer for our safety (I was thinking this may have been more appropriate to be done before dropping down a cliff and flying over a jungle canopy!)

Next we prepared to enter a cenote (cave system). To prepare you have to rinse yourself off with fresh water as not to contaminate the cave's water. We walked down some pretty steep slippery steps to get to the water (again water shoes came in so handy!) and once at the bottom we were free to dive in and explore. The cave is extremely dark and it is hard to see what is in front of you, yet the water is as clear as glass. There were fish swimming around and some formations of stalactites and stalagmites throughout the cave.

"A stalagmite s a type of speleothem that rises from the floor of a limestone cave due to the dripping of mineralized solutions. The corresponding formation on the ceiling of a cave is known as a stalactite."

Swimming in the cenote was my favourite part of the day! But, this specific cenote was fairly small so it was later recommended that if we were interested we should do another excursion to an area that has some of the largest cenotes in Mexico - which, we did!
After drying off we trekked deeper into the jungle and stopped for a delicious traditional Mayan lunch prepared by some wonderful Mayan ladies! Everything was very authentic and prepared with all local Mayan ingredients - from the hibiscus juice to the rice milk! 
A full belly later, we hopped back on the bus and made our way to the Coba Ruins. The Coba Ruins is an ancient Mayan city with the largest pyramid on the Yucatan Pennisula. This large pyramid is called Nohoch Mul Pyramid. It may not appear overly tall in pictures, but due to very steep, distant steps and no railing or safety line, the climb up seems never ending! To make your way to the pyramid from the parking area is roughly an hour walk. Due to limited time we opted for a bicycle taxi, which is basically a bicycle with a bench type seat attached to the front for passengers. 
Photo from
On top of the Nohuch Mul Pyra
The Nohoch Mul Pyramid is definitely the "must see" of the Coba Ruins. However, there are many other interesting temples, pyramids and artifacts to be seen. There is even an ancient ball field where Mayan children would play! 
After a long day full of excitement and adventure, it was time to head back to the resort... and book a second excursion!
Excursion #2:
This excursion brought us back out to the Mayan Jungle but in a different location. We took a bus down a very bumpy dirt road that really didn't seem like it was meant to be driven on! Once we arrived at our stop we all hopped on our own ATV and began our ride through the jungle... and what a ride it was!
I absolutely love 4-wheeling, jet skiing, 8-wheelers and all of those fun, fast rides... but nothing I had done before was like this jungle ride! The paths were extremely rough - bumpy, potholes, hills, what seemed like 90 degree drops, huge tree roots to jump over, etc. We rode through the jungle for what seemed like hours and finally arrived at the famous cenotes (some of the biggest in the country). Because it was dry season the cave system only had a minimal amount of water (about waist deep at it's deepest part). Apparently during wet season the whole cave system can fill up in a matter of minutes! 
These cenotes are unreal! They are full of intricate pathways and tunnel systems where one can easily become lost. Some of Mexico's largest stalactites and stalagmites are also found in these very cenotes. After a tour through some of the cave's paths and a relaxing swim in the cave's water it was time to hop back on the ATVs and head back to the camp. 
Excursion #3:
The final excursion on this trip was far less adventurous than the other two, but no less fun! This was a day trip to Playa Del Carmen which is a small city located south of Cancun. While this is definitely a tourist haven, it does offer some authentic Mexican style shopping, restaurants and nightlife. The main street runs parallel to the beach which makes for beautiful scenery while walking along visiting the shops and bars. You do not need to walk far to hear a mariachi band playing music or someone trying to sell you a shot of tequila. This is definitely a party area! However, this was just a day trip for me, so it was more about the shopping and exploring!
The Valentin Imperial Maya is an excellent choice if you're looking for any type of sun holiday! The resorts offers relaxation, luxury, clean white beaches, and a daily/nightly itinerary of activities for its guests, while outside of the resort gates is a whole land of adventure and fun to be had!
The Valentin Imperial Maya is also different from other resorts as you have the option to eat at a different a La Carte restaurant nightly (whereas the average resort puts a limit of three nights). There is much to choose from restaurant wise. There are two typical buffet style restaurants that you can eat at for each meal as well as several snack bars. If you decided to go for a fancier a La Carte meal you have the choice of seven restaurants which include: Italian, French, Japanese, Thai/Indonesian, Mexican, American Steakhouse, and Seafood. The resort also puts on an outdoor Mexican Fiesta one evening a week for a fun meal with lots of great entertainment. 
Aside from all of the delicious options for restaurants the resort also has all inclusive 24 hour room service... which means if you're dreaming of chocolate cake and champagne at 3am - they will make it happen!!!

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my next blog on what living in the Caribbean is really like. :)

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