PB Travels… Merida 

Ok Mexico. It is official. Te amo, Mexico. I love you and I am in love with you. Mucho. The people, the food, the ruins, the landscape – everything. I feel so at home here, it reminds me so much of where I grew up – and the last 2 days have been nothing short of magical. 2 amazing ruins, another cenote and a beach out of your (well, my) dreams – I loved every second of it.

Where am I staying? 

Hotel Reforma, in the centre of the old town. Beautiful entrance, stunning communal areas, and the room was lovely too.  Big double beds, high high ceilings – simply decorated, beautifully done.  Nice location, it was close to the cathedral, main square and Paseo Montejo, the Champs Elysee of Merida (or so I thought).

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = low. The room was clean, the bathroom a bit tired.
  • Bed = 7/10. Decent enough bed, low marks for the fact that you can hear everything – not from other rooms but from reception and the communal spaces – where people were chatting until wee hours of the morning.
  • Shower= 5/10, did the job but stank of moth balls. HATE that smell. Eugh

What did I eat?

We decided to leave PDC early to get to the ruins at Chichen Itza at a decent time, so we stopped for breakfast at a local service stop.

Basic, rustic and clean – but nothing for me to eat on the menu. There were lots of meaty and eggy options. However I always know I that I will find one thing on the menu – so I went for platanos Fritos and pan toastada. And then I remembered my jar of peanut butter that I had in my bag. Breakfast sorted.

To drink? Nescafé – lol. I want a decent cup of coffee! That gave me all the energy for Chichen Itza.  By the time we got to Merida it was 3pm, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. We only had a few hours to explore the town (we had a whole day of activities tomorrow).

I stumbled across Pola – an ice cream shop with dairy free sorbets!! Whoop! I went for chocolate sorbet (dark, luscious, lush), and avocado sorbet (creamy, avocado-y, a bit too sweet), perfect power boost to keep me going until dinner. Please go here – amazing!!

We met at La Chaya Maya for dinner, a place serving proper Yucatan food.

Chaya if you remember is Mayan spinach – loved it in every form I’ve had it. I decided to try a Chaya margarita – what a wonderful drink! Spinach-y in a very good way, perfectly balanced, not too strong and thankfully not too sweet.

For mains I went for tortillas topped with veggies, more chaya, pickled onions and this stunning powder made from pumpkin seeds. I don’t know the local name, but this stuff is like food crack. SO BLOOMING TASTY – Earthy, warming, depth of flavour, checked all the boxes.

It might not look like much, but it was amazing amazing amazing. So tasty, soft, crunchy, oozing with so much flavour.  Everyone’s meals were good, we were all ooh-ing and aah-ing over them. Go here if you are in Merida. Please.  Next day was an early start, we got to Ek Balam – the ruins of the day – so early that no food vendors or local restaurants were open.  So what did we do? Our guide found a hotel and we had breakfast there. Frijoles, tortillas and juicy ripe tomatoes for me.

Perfectly flavoured, beans not too mushy and those tomatoes were stunning. Lunch was on our way to the pink beach. We stopped at a restaurant on the Rio Lagartos – this was like a beach hut, or rather, river hut. This meal was GOOD, the views amazing.

The scenery, surroundings, weather – I think they all add to a meal experience, and I loved it even more for all those reasons.

Rice, frijoles – pulverised, like a soup – with a good chilli kick, salad and guacamole (I should clarify that the empty plate of guacamole in the background was a shared plate – not just mine! Haha).

I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat after this meal. We got to Merida at 10pm after our epic day, exhausted, super content and in no mood to eat. So no dinner.  Forgot to mention another super snack I had. It was so hot after the cenote, we had fresh coconut water (ONLY 25 pesos each). I usually ask for it to be cut open so I can eat the ‘carne’ – as it is. But no. It was cut open, doused in chili pepper and lemon. You can only imagine my reaction. Superdelicioustastystunning. Amazing.

What did I do?

First set of ruins – Chichen Itza. So two things about this place. I saw pictures of it when I was 9 years old, and that kicked off my fascination with all things to do with the Maya. Secondly, and sadly, I was told it is so touristy that the experience of the ruins is lost. Well. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the latter, I went there with no expectations – and boy oh boy. I was blown away.

I just love the close relationship that was created between nature, scientifical calculation and practicality, never forgetting the whole time who is the head honcho – nature.

We had a super cool guide – William. He should have actually been a philosopher, he was so brilliant in his explanations and stories, I could have listened to him talk for hours. He was full of fascinating facts!

He seems to be the guide Godfather – all other guides would don their caps, salute or bow when he walked past – we definitely struck guide gold!! Thank you Chichen Itza, I love you and I will be back.   Merida has stolen my heart. We power walked all over the town for three hours (as soon as we got there). Beautiful, colourful buildings, shops selling every piece of bling and kitsch imaginable, a market (one of the nicest I’ve been – food, clothes and anything else you want to buy) and super friendly people.


The cathedral stunning, the square beautiful, colour everywhere – loved this place. There weren’t many tourists but I felt completely safe and secure.

And, no, our day wasn’t over yet. Our guide told us that there is a community led bike ride around the streets of Merida every Wednesday – the day we were there! 9pm – 11pm, how could I say no!? (Pics to follow, they are on my other camera).    It was so much fun. There must have been around 120-150 people, and we cycled around Merida to the sounds of music, laughter and singing. It was fabulous! A really well organised ride, nothing strenuous about it though!

The next day was even better. There is a pink beach (it is an an area dense with sea salt), and we wanted to see it. But since we wanted our cake, and to eat it, we also wanted out guide to throw in some ruins.  Introducing Ek Balam, near the town of Valladolid, my most favourite ruins of the trip. I could post a hundred pictures and it still won’t do the place justice.


There was so much to see and take in, more to explore, and the energy of the place was phenomenal. I felt like I had plugged into an energy grid – and I probably had!   Once again, our guide was very interesting, honest and funny and it was fascinating to listen to the history of building all these structures.

I will say one thing – for all these ruins, don’t scrimp on the guides. Don’t think they charge too much – they don’t. If you were to walk them yourselves without knowing about the ruins, you might as well stop. The gold nuggets of information were priceless.   Ek Balam done, we hopped on bikes to cycle to our 2nd attraction – a cenote! This one thankfully not as restrictive as the first. Not knowing what to expect, I was so so happy when I saw this sight. Isn’t it just magical??

Swimming in it was even better. The water was the right temperature, the views everywhere I looked were PERFECT. I even donned my snorkel and followed a few black fishies around. However the water wasn’t that clear, other than the fish, there want much else to see. I wanted to stay in there for much longer, but there was a long drive to get to our main attraction.

So after our lovely lunch, we drove for another two hours to Las Colorades. Worth every second (and the four hour drive back). Look at this view – it was so beautiful, almost like being on another planet.

And it isn’t over yet – there are also flamingos in the area!!! Not in the same salt lake, but on the other side. Look!!!!! Obviously more than just two, will upload pics from my other camera.  I loved watching them. We stayed there to see the sunset, and yes, cheesy, cliched, it was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Starting with Ek Balam, finishing with a super sunset, it was a really really wonderful day. I STRONGLY recommend this combination of attractions – you will not be disappointed.  Merida has been the highlight of Mexico for me. It is the base for lots of ruins and cenote exploring. I am not ruined out, I am not cenote-d out, I feel I MUST return to check them out.. SOON!

PB Travels… Tulum

We woke up early to get the 6.30 am water taxi, back to Belize City where our bus was waiting to take us to Tulum – in Mexico!  The border crossing was effortless once again, we got through in 10 minutes – no queues. Once again, our guide said that was very rare. More time for us in Tulum I say! And with the weather hotting up even more, I was super happy.

Where am I staying?

El Punto is a small hotel/hostel with 9 rooms, a gourmet restaurant, a trendy bar and chill out area. It is only 1.5 years old, so it was in very good nick.

The owner’s wife did all the interior design and decor – I quite liked the minimal bare look, especially all the inspirational messages dotted around the room and hotel. My room had 2 double beds (one for me, one for my bags ;), a big enough bathroom and it was spacious.

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor = non existent. Clean, slick and lovely
  • Bed = 9/10. I slept really well – virtual no light in the room at night was a big factor. Comfy bed and hard pillows – perfect.
  • Shower = 7/10. Hot hot water, a lot of it. The only problem was, as the water came from underground, it was loaded with natural stuff which had a sulphurous pong. Whiffy, but very clean we were assured.  Still unnerving while showering!

Where did I eat? 

So before we got to the hotel we stopped at La Playita – a stunning stunning restaurant – with views of a lagoon! See for yourself!

And the food thankfully matched up to the surroundings. I had guacamole – delicioso! And a big salad with tofu! Soft, melting tofu. That accompanied by nachos (crunchy and melt in the mouth at the same time) and this killer habanero sauce was an excellent meal. So so so tasty and fresh. I also had a chaya, pineapple and lime juice. Super refreshing.  Other options – prawn tacos and a burger – which were enjoyed as much as I enjoyed my meal.

All sensationally good.  Other lunches? We were at Zamas – where we vegetated for a whole day (see further down for pics). I had veggie tacos – sheesh. Is all the food in Mexico this delicious??? Mixed veggies, frijoles, guac – absolutely delicious and flavourful. I was in food heaven.  And I had a margarita on the rocks – SO much better than the frozen ones! YUMMO! Best one so far on the trip.

Last lunch – a takeaway from the hotel restaurant for our activity to Coba – a veggie bagel, accompanied with potatoes, peppers and avocado. Seriously people, I can’t fault this one either. The view helped too 🙂 🙂

Breakfast was at the hotel one day – I just wanted fruit, toast and coffee, and it was as expected. Simple but yummy. Pineapple was so sweet!

Breakfast the day before (yes, I’m all over the place – go with the flow 🙂 was at Zamas – after exploring the Tulum ruins by the beach. What did I have? Avo on toast with fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes (menu default was with goats cheese), with killer salsas. I am already contemplating moving here. Mainly for the avocados. Eaten with a view of the beach and sand in my toes? BLISS. So delicious.

Dinners? First night there was at an Italian (can’t remember the name) – I had a simple veggie pasta that hit the spot.  The other girls had pizza and fish fillets – all went down really well.

Dinner on the last night in Tulum was at a popular local place. The honestly said that there wasn’t much for me, and I decided to go with their option and try the nopales – or cactus, cooked with peppers and onions, and a side of platanos fritos. Mains and dessert at the same time!  I actually liked the nopales – which basically looked like fat string beans and tasted similar. This restaurant was a hit and miss – only half of us enjoyed our meals, me being one of them.  🙂

And one of the last things I had – COCONUT MILK ICE CREAM! Helado sin leche! This adorable old man had a food caravan down from the hotel – Buena Estrella.

I chose avocado and cacao, and he literally blended fresh avocado, Mayan chocolate beans and coconut milk, stuck it on a cold plate (like they do in Asia, and three minutes later – smooth, creamy, not sweet but just sweet enough ice cream. LOVED IT!

What did I do? 

We walked town – lots and lots of shops (still haven’t bought much), but the main reasons to come to Tulum were the ruins, the beach and the sun.  So we woke up early enough and took a cab (you can cycle, but we had issues hiring bikes – our hotel didn’t have any and all the bike shops wanted to hold on to our passports – erm. I think not).  We walked around for an hour – it isn’t a big complex – sans guide.  I have decided going forward – all ruins should be done with a guide. The ruins were pretty, not not as amazing as Yaxha and Tikal for me.

I loved the view of the sea from the ruins. Usually if the weather and sea are good, tourists are allowed to swim. Today, the Danger flag and the ‘there could be jellyfish in the water that could kill you’ flag was flying. That will be the blue one then. I also loved the iguanas that were all around the ruins

Ruins for the day done? Off to the beach for a whole day of doing nothing. We ended up at Zamas – wise choice. We were literally there from about 10am – 5pm.. They even had live music later in the afternoon – excellent!

So recommend this place – lovely food, lovely staff, lovely beach – only thing to watch out are a few rocks in the sea if you plan to swim.  Next? Playa Del Carmen! But before that, a few of us decided to go to Coba for a day of ruins, zip lining and cenotes.  We had a guide to take us around – Henri, a Mexican French man. Coba is a fascinating place with amazing structures, history and stories. There was a steep pyramid to climb (go soon, as they are going to stop the public from climbing it), circular pyramids, a thatched temple on top of a pyramid that still has its red and blue decorations intact, unexcavated temples, a ball court. BRILLIANT! All of it!!


I was completely fascinated – and it wasn’t over yet!  After the ruins, we had more fun to look forward to.  Canoeing and zip lining (no pics – we were having too much fun) across Punta Laguna – a stunning body of water, where our true blue Mayan guide took over.  The zip lining was rustic and SO much fun.  Loved it. Very much.  Final activity – exploring a cenote – but before that – a quick visit to the shaman for a Mayan blessing!!

Cenote are essentially underground bodies of water formed when limestone collapses (for more info, please ask my friend Google). This was the entrance to the cenote:

Yep – to get into the cenote, you had to be willing to take the plunge, literally. One of the girls looked at the entrance and said ‘I’m out!’ So 2 of us went for it. We absailed down, and once we got past the darkness, ho ho ho. A cave, about 20 feet in diameter, with CLEAR blue water 8 metres down – I could see everything, including the skulls of people who were reportedly sacrificed here. I was completely dumbstruck. It wa like being in another world. I could see the root systems of the trees, there were bats flying around, but at the same time – so peaceful and eerie and magical. The water wasn’t the warmest, but the hardest part was pulling myself up a slippery ladder, wet and cold. But I did it.

I SO recommend Coba. I so recommend going into cenotes that are not in guide books. There were virtually no tourists at the cenote -6 in total which added to the mysticism of the place. And don’t freak out – they are SO SO worth it!