My night at Xoximilco

Xochimilco (with a ‘ch’) is one of the main tourist attractions in Mexico city and thanks to it’s grand display of Mexican culture and tradition has been declared a Cultural Heritage for Humanity by the UNESCO.

Xochimilco © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

Xochimilco © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

I have traveled to Mexico city various times during the 9 years I have been here in Mexico however I have never had the chance to visit Xochimilco, so when I first heard that Xoximilco would be opened by the company that owns Xcaret and Xel-Ha,  I just knew that I had to go and last week I was lucky enough to get invited! Best of all I was able to go surrounded by a ton of my friends and colleagues which just added to the whole experience!

The gates open a full hour before the ‘trajineras’ set sail which gives you plenty of time to get registered and pose  for some awesome photos. They also have an area when you can try fresh fruit waters, or something stronger if you would like, as well as try the traditional Mexican snack of Esquites, which are small cups of cooked corn grains topped with salt, chile and mayonnaise!

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After you’re all registered and are assigned your boat you are sent off to cover yourself from head to toe in bug repellent! Take my word on this one, you will not want to miss any areas! In the bathroom areas they have huge pots of repellent, which is a pretty nice touch as you don’t have to worry about remembering to bring your own! I’m normally one of those lucky people that doesn’t tend to get bitten but even with the repellent I finished the night with quite a few bites around my ankles!

As the sun set it was time for one last group photo before we boarded the trajinera and set sail into the canals of Xoximilco!

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When the sun goes down is when the fun really begins, from the moment you step onto the trajinera you are transported to a different world of Mexican culture and tradition. As we were a large group we had a private trajinera just for us which just added to the whole experience. The guides and oarsman are over-the-top and make sure everyone gets involved in the fun whether it is demonstrating how to perform a tradition Mexican ‘grito’ or explaining how certain Mexican traditions came to be. My personal favourite was the story of the rabbit on the moon.

Snacks and drinks are already set up on board the trajinera for you however take my recommendation and don’t over do it on the snacks as there really is a never ending supply of Mexican dishes served to you throughout the evening! The ‘kitchen boats’ as I started to call them, are set up in strategic points throughout the canal and each trajinera is expertly moored beside them in order to transport the plates from one boat to another. As a vegetarian I have to say that the Vegetarian options were phenomenal, I had the chance to try banana ‘meatballs’, Mushroom tamales, grilled asaparagus among others. It was absolutely delicious!

Between courses you are also treated to live performances from groups and artists playing music originating from the various states of Mexico. My favourite always has been, and probably always will be, the Mariachis!

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As the tour is at night one of the nicest aspects is the fact that they have professional photographers strategically placed throughout the route taking photos in prime locations which of course came out way better than any photos I could have possibly taken with my camera or iphone! Plus it’s always nice to be able to get group photos where everyone is in the photo and you don’t have the dilemma of having to look for someone to take the pic! At the end of the evening you are given the opportunity to view all the photos that were taken and rather than having to choose your favourites and purchase them individually, you are able to buy a USB which contains all of the photos taken! An awesome feature as you have the digital copies of the photos and can print them as many times as you please or upload them to Facebook and make all your friends jealous!

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The tour itself lasted little over 3 hours but felt a lot longer as it is non stop entertainment and fun! I truly had a blast and I definitely plan on going again when my family are in town!

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X is for Xel Ha

Xel-Ha, one of the amazing attractions in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Mexico, a natural aquarium park considered the largest aquarium in the world, the perfect place to perform activities in Riviera Maya. If you love nature, there is no better place than Xel-Ha to practice snorkeling and water activities

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Xel Ha Park

Xel Ha has got to be one of my favourite places to go when I have time off. It is a natural park that is based around a huge lagoon and an awesome place if you like water activities such as snorkeling. They have an amazing lazy river that you can snorkel through or if you’re lazy like me, they have inflatable donuts that you can use to just float down the river.

image courtesy of TripAdvisor

Inner tubes in the Lazy River

There are tons of cool fish and sealife to see and it is all completely natural. None of the fish in the park are in captivity, they are there because they want to be. Xel Has is commonly known as the world’s largest natural aquarium.

Enjoying a day off at Xel Ha

Xel Ha

Once you pay your entrance to the park it is all inclusive and another HUGE bonus of this park is the food they have available throughout the day. I think I can safely say that I would go just for the food.

Xel Ha are very big on the environment and biodegradable sunblock is a must when you are visiting the park. Keep in mind that biodegradable sunblock can be thicker than regular sunblock so don’t over do it with the cream!!

Biodegradable Sunblock

Another unique activity that Xel Ha park offers is the Dolphin Sea Trek. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and if you are a non-diver like myself it is the closest you will get to feeling like a dive master.

My Sea Trek Experience at Xel Ha

Hugging a Dolphin

If you’re visiting this area, a visit to Xel Ha is a must do!

The incredible views at Xel Ha

The lagoon at Xel Ha

S is for Sian Ka’an

Sian Ka’an is a mayan phrase which translated literally means “Where the sky is born” It is a lush tropical heaven placed right between a huge lagoon and the Caribbean Ocean and home to thousands of different species of plants and wildlife. It became a designated Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and just a year later was declared a World Heritage Site. It is by far the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean.

After reading my Q blog post, most of you will now know that I have my moments of craziness when I want to go and explore places and well, Sian Ka’an was my destination of choice one sunday morning. Well not so much Sian Ka’an but the small fishing village of Punta Allen which is located right in the centre of the biosphere itself. So early one sunday we loaded up the car, my boyfriend jumped in the driver’s seat and we were off.

From the town of Playa Del Carmen where I live, it only actually takes around an hour to get to the main archway where Sian Ka’an actually starts however you have to go much further in to that area to really discover and appreciate just how beautiful it actually is. As always, my adventures have both their positive moments and their… hmm.. lets just say.. not so positive moments. Unfortunately the entire way to Punta Allen was one those ‘not so positive’ moments however I’ll get to that in a minute.

The road from hell… (although it doesn’t look too bad here)

There is a minimal fee to get in to the biosphere of Sian Ka’an, around $3usd, and all the money goes towards to the preservation of the area itself. HUGE shame that they don’t use some of that money to pave the road that snakes through the area itself. Never have I been happier to own a 4×4, there is no way a regular car would have survived the journey. So, we paid the little man at the entrance and as I have the weakest bladder in the world (probably too much info there however it is fundamental to this story) I figured it would be a great idea to use the toilet there before we set off into the unknown BUT the toilets where out of order so that put an end to that super idea of mine.

Not quite sure why I was imitating a penguin?!?!

The path itself through Sian Ka’an is a NIGHTMARE. It is a dirt track full, and I mean full, of huge holes. Due to the bad state of the road it means you can’t drive higher than 2nd gear and never go faster than abaout 10mph at the most. After about 30minutes of driving, as predicted, I needed to use the bathroom. In all fairness the huge can of red bull that I had drunk prior to leaving probably didn’t help but hindsight is a wonderful thing. So, there we were in the middle of nowhere and obviously not a bathroom in sight however we did come across a sign that said there was a tourism center just a little further up the road which of course had to have a bathroom so that becamse our next destination. Literally 90 minutes later and we had still not arrived at the tourism center and by this time I was in desperate need of a bathroom. I don’t know who was suffering more, my bladder or my boyfriend who had to listen to my constant complaining about the lack of bathroom facilities in the middle of the jungle. Well to cut a long story short is was another 30 minutes before we finally came across the tourism center. Just to recap, it took us 2 HOURS to travel the ‘short distance’ (and that’s a direct quote from the sign itself). The tourism center was a huge 3 story building with a wooden viewing tower sticking out the top but at the moment in time my biggest concern was finding the ladies room AND wouldn’t you know it, it was locked, with a huge great padlock. Turns of the tourism center had been abandoned for months, and that there is a classic example of how my luck goes. We decided to make the most of our time there at the tourism center and explore, it was pretty cool however kinda spooky at the same time. It literally looked like the people that ran the place left in a hurry, there were still cups of coffee on the side and an open newspaper on the table and LOTS of spider’s webs everywhere. It was a bit like the haunted houses you see in horror movies. The view from the wooden tower was amazing, you could see the lagoon and the Ocean and miles upon miles of lush greenery.

The wooden viewing tower

To sum up the bathroom side of this story, lets just say, I had to man up and make my way into the jungle to do my business. Being the girly girl that I am, that didn’t go down to well with me but you know a girls gotta go what a girls gotta do.

The lagoon at Sian Ka’an

2 hours later we finally arrived at Punta Allen, by this time we had been on the road for almost 5 hours and we were absolutely dead tired. Punta Allen itself is very pretty, its a quaint little fishing town right on the beach. The kinda town where everybody knows everybody. It is so remote that they have no phones and definitely no cell phones, everyone has to make their way to the little minimart right in the centre of the town where they have a satellite phone that people can use to make and receive calls. We only actually stayed in Punta Allen about 90 minutes which was more than enough time to look around the entire town and have lunch right on the beach. The beach itself is pretty but nothing really extra ordinary, definitely not worth travelling 5 hours for. There are much nicer beaches much closer to home!

Birdlife at Punta Allen

Punta Allen

On the way back we found an abandoned dock by the lagoon side of the road and we just happened to be there as the sun was setting. It has to got to be one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. It was one of those moments that really takes your breath away and you know that no matter how many photos you take, you will never be able to capture the true beauty of what you are seeing.

Sunset in Sian Ka’an

By the time we got home it was late, we were both exhausted but the day had been worth it! There are some great excursions available in this region that take you to the biosphere and the lagoon and I think it’s safe to say that when I do decide to go back I’ll definitely be taking one of those rather than subjecting my car to that journey once again! Oh, and I’ll definitely use the bathroom before we leave!