Friday, December 30, 2011

Laguna Bacalar – the lagoon of 7 colors – and Mexico roundup

After cooling down in the mountain air – and spending a fun-filled Chrismas eve – I hopped on a long-haul, direct, hour overnight back to the steaming hot Caribbean coast. I had a hard time to decide where to go next… I knew I was going to Belize for New Year so decided to skip trying get through Guatemala (and Tikal) in only a couple days and took the more chilled out route to the Mexican coast. Closest place to Belize – or the nicest one close to Belize – was Laguna Bacalar. So first a 13 hour bus to Chetumal! Nice scenery greeted us when leaving San Cristobal:

The 13h ride was lovely though, slept almost all of it on the deluxe bus that happened to be mostly empty. Well I did wake up at 3am for a hand luggage check in the middle of nowhere by a camouflage wearing officer (a completely non-eventful thing). The bus arrived 5.30am to Chetumal where I jumped on a local bus to Bacalar.

Bacalar is a sleepy village next to a beautiful lagoon. There’s basically nothing to see there - except for the lagoon. A couple restaurants and grocery stores but that’s all. A very helpful tourist info though, they had lost of brochures, maps, info and even gave me a photo-dvd of the area. And this was a tiny village... The tourism industry in Finland might have a couple things to learn from this!

Should I jump in the water? It's 5cm deep so probably not!

So I enjoyed the sun at the lagoon (with a whole bunch of Mexican holiday-makers), swam in the clear water, took a boat ride around the lagoon and walked to a nearby (4km away from the village) cenote. It was a relaxing two days. I think even one day would have been enough :D I was ready to head to Belize!

On the third morning I left to Chetumal (the most boring and the first confusing city in Mexico), the capital of Quitana Roo region. And the port to Belize – you can cross the border by land and sea. I took the 2 hour water taxi straight to the Cayes (islands). Adios México!!

Although I didn't feel sad about leaving Mexico, I'd say it was one of the nicest places I've visited (and that's a lot coming from me!!)! And so I was stamped out in the small booth in the small pier in Chetumal. Didn't even have to pay the departure tax that some people had to.. Mexican standard bureaucracy!? :D

To sum up my first three weeks on the road - my favourite things about Mexico (the Yucatan peninsula and Chiapas):
  • Beauty everywhere: the towns, the landscapes, the people, the food, the nature... colors, I love colors!
  • Cheap. Cheap. Cheap. So cheap.
  • Great food everywhere, especially all the local stuff. Panuchos! Tortas! Salsa verde! Jamaica! Yummmm :)
  • So much to see – beaches, historical sites , jungle, mountains – and so easy to travel: you can’t miss all the travel agencies in every corner and it’s even super easy to DIY-travel with the cheap first class or the dirt-cheap second class busses or colectivos (shared taxi vans).
  • Lovely, friendly, smiling people – both locals and other travelers.
  • Great music (blaring) at every shop and restaurant, reggaeton, bachata, salsa where ever you turn... and even some dancing!
  • Sun: maybe it rained once the whole time (and I missed it, was indoors).
  • Everything works. Hostels are cheap and perfectly fine, buses run on time, the cities are easy to navigate, everybody's helpful. There’s wifi almost everywhere :D

What I could nag about if Mexico hadn’t been so great:
  • No water pressure. I mean like Finnish water pressure. 
  • It’s so damn hot sometimes, couldn’t do any sports (not that I got very lazy) :D 
  • Poverty, little kids begging and selling stuff as soon as they can walk (though not as pushy as in Asia). And lots of tourists on the beaches (but you can mostly avoid them if you really want to).
Ok so no surprises here, couldn’t think of any really intelligent negative things about Mexico – I loved Mexico! Only wish I would have had more time there. But I know I can always return there later even if this trip continues in another direction :)

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