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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Rain, Rain and more Rain.. Welcome to (a very wet) Paradise!

Everyone assumes that living in the Caribbean means sunshine 365 years a year! I have to admit that the weather did have something to do with me moving to Mexico however little did I know that the rain can be just as strong as the sun and this week was a classic example of such.

It started raning on Saturday and continued all the way through to Wednesday, and when I say rain I don’t mean regular rain; I mean full blow tropical thunderstorm. It was our official welcoming into the Cancun rainy season. I like to think of it as preparation for Hurricane Season! According to regional news reports, we received 35% of our yearly rainfall in just a few days.

comopezJust a portion of the main Cancun-Playa Del Carmen that I had the great pleasure of driving through various times during the storm! I have a whole new respect for my truck who managed to survive the beating I gave it this week! The sign above says “Como Pez En El Agua” translates as “Like A Fish In Water” . Completely unintentional however entirely fabulous promotion for the water park XelHa. And below one of the main streets in Playa Del Carmen right in the middle of the storm..

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Everyone laughed when I bought these boots…… Guess who’s laughing now! hehehe I got to go play in the rain and still keep my feet dry!

My Sexy Union Jack Wellies!!

Unfortunately one of the downfalls (no pun intended) of getting so much rain in such a short period of time is that the streets and drainage systems are not able to cope leading to severe flooding in the entire state. On the plus side, it did only last a few days and the sun is shining again now so i’m heading off to the Beach.. Have a great sunday everyone!

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

B is for Beach

Day two and the letter B.. living in this caribbean paradise the first word that sprung to mind was Beach. The Riviera Maya coastline stretches from the north end of Cancun all the way south to Tulum. I have to admit that even though I live here I definitley don’t go to the beach as often as I should. However, everytime I do go to the beach I always think to myself  ‘I really should come more often’.

The white sand and cristaline waters of the Caribbean are what makes this part of Mexico so popular and there are tons of beaches that are ‘hidden’ away from the tourists and are no where near as populated as the beach clubs you’ll find in the centre of town. That being said the beach clubs offer a great atmosphere if you’re going to spend the day drinking and listening to dance music in the sun. They also host some of the best concerts around.

Mamitas Beach Club – Playa Del Carmen

Playa Esmeralda is also located right in the center of Playa Del Carmen however it tends to be much more popular with locals rather than with tourists due to its location. It offers none of the facilities that the beach clubs offer however it is still a great place to go and soak up some sun. Sunday is day to give it a miss though as you’ll find that 90% of the locals spend their day there and it is impossible to find a spot to lay down your towel.

Playa Esmeralda

If I had to narrow it down to my top 3 beaches in the Riviera Maya it would have to be following:

  1. XpuHa – Without a doubt one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. The white sand stretches, undisturbed, for miles and the water is the most amazing shade of blue. It is definitely one of the places that is a must do during any visit to the Riviera Maya.

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  2. Tulum – The perfect mix of culture and beauty. The mayan ruins of Tulum are situated right on the beach itself and the views are phenomenal. Just a short drive south of the ruins and you arrive to Playa Paraiso which is absolutely stunning. You can rent a cabaña right on the water front and it makes the perfect weekend getaway!

    Playa Paraiso

  3. Akumal – The advantage of Akumal is really the colour and clarity of the ocean not to mention the soft white sand. If you have the chance to visit Akumal don’t forget to take your snorkeling equipment as you will almost always find sea turtles right there on the coast and snorkeling with them really is amazing! FYI Akumal is actually the ancient mayan word for ‘Place of the Turtles’

    Akumal Bay

    So there you have it.. B is for Beach and day 2 of the blog challenge is complete.

A is for Animal Rescue

t’s April 1st and Day One of my A-Z blogging challenge. There are a million things that I could have written about my life starting with the letter A and then it dawned on me.. the one thing that matters most to me and that has affected my life here in Mexico in more ways than one, Animal Rescue.

Dogs were always my favourite animals, every birthday and christmas the first thing on my wishlist was a puppy however living in an apartment in the center of London wasn’t the ideal surrounding. Fast forward 20 years and I arrived in Mexico, living alone there was nobody to tell me that I couldn’t have as many dogs as I wanted. Just for the record, I now share my house with 7 rescued furbabies and whilst they make my life hell, I love them to bits and wouldn’t change them for the world.

The closest I’ve ever gotten to an actual ‘family’ photo

The reason I ended up with so many dogs is in part because I love them and would have more if I could but more so because they are all, with the exception of my golden lab, rescue dogs. Street dogs here in Mexico are a common site and whilst there are several refuges in this area alone they can’t cope with the amount of dogs (and cats) that are abandoned on a daily basis. One of the refuges that does an amazing job in this part of Mexico is ‘Tierra de Animales’ (Land of the Animales) They have over 200 dogs there and each and every one of them was rescued from the street. Most of them were picked up in horrific conditions due to malnutrition, abuse or disease. The team at Tierra de Animales, lead by Ricardo Pimentel, do an amazing job nursing the dogs back to health and finding them new homes either here in Mexico or even in the US and Canada. Cross border adoptions are so easy now days that personally I think every home should have their own Mexican Street Dog.

Ricardo and some of the dogs available for adoption at Tierra De Animales

One of the cases that I will never forget is Xolo, a dog that was practically dead when they rescued him. After a few months at TDA he slowly but surely started to recuperate.. He is now absolutely gorgeous and living in the US with his adopted family. He is the perfect case study to demonstrate that you never really know what a dog can become with the right care and attention.

The amazing recovery of Xolo

Tierra de Animales has only been open for 2 years and they have already rehomed hundreds of dogs that would never have had a chance in life and the most amazing part of all is that they operate purely on donations. They receive absolutely no government funding at all.

So if you’re thinking about getting a dog, why not consider a cross border adoption or even just donating to the cause.. you’ll be making 200 mexican doggies very happy! You can find out more about Tierra De Animales via their webpage:

www.tierradeanimales.org

or you can follow them on facebook and twitter:

www.facebook.com/tierradeanimales

www.twitter.com/tierradanimales

VIP all the way

I had heard about how nice the VIP cinema was in Cancun but had never really felt the need to drive all the way there when there are two perfectly good cinemas here in Playa del Carmen. I mean did it really matter that the seats were supposedly better, at the end of the day as long as you can see the screen that was really mattered!

I stand corrected. After my VIP experience, going to the cinema will never be the same again. How can I be expected to have the make a line for my ticket and then another line for my popcorn and then struggle to find decent seats in the dark.. Oh No.. it’s VIP all the way for me from now on.

There is a whole seperate ticket office for the VIP entrance with absolutely no line up of people. After buying the tickets and conveniently pre-choosing your seats, you are ushered through to the VIP waiting area/bar! Yes that is correct, a bar INSIDE the cinema.

VIP waiting area/bar

VIP waiting area/bar

Just before the film is about to start you make your way into the salon where you will find leather love seats with foot rests that pop up (think lazy boy style) along with little tables and table lamps. You’re personal waiter will then come and take your order from the menu. They offer all that a regular cinema would offer and more, alcohol, sushi etc.. And the best part is that you can order and have it delivered to your chair without ever having to move a muscle.

Comfy VIP Cinema Sofas

Comfy VIP Cinema Sofas

Waiting for the Movie to Start

Tickets

The Tickets

The VIP tickets do cost considerably more than the regular cinema tickets ($115 vs $50) but it is definately worth it. All in all it was a pretty special experience that has completely ruined all other future cinema trips.