Monday, May 27, 2013

Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Back in November, Manny won round trip tickets at my company's non-profit event. The round trip tickets included anywhere in the U.S., Mexico, or Caribbean. Our first choice was Hawaii but in the fine print found out that it's anywhere in the U.S. except Hawaii. Bummer. So we looked into Mexico and the Caribbean. Mexico had many all-inclusive resorts, meaning your food and alcohol comes with the hotel price. Not bad! We decided on Cancún, Quintana Roo Mexico. As close as I live to Mexico, I had never been there! Not to mention I have a few items on my 101 in 1001 list that included Mexico. We spent 5 days and 4 nights there and it barely felt like enough. We were told that once you go to Cancun, you will always be back. That was a wise person, we are already thinking about the next time to go back!

Cancún is very commercialized and Americanized. As the taxi took us down the Cancún strip, it felt like deja vu. Cancún is the love-child of Miami and Vegas. It has the big hotels, restaurants, and sin-city feel of Vegas coupled with the party on the beach, Latin vibe of Miami. The big restaurants were familar American names such as Ruth's Chris, Outback Steakhouse, Bubba Gump, and Magaritaville. There was, instead, a lack of authentic Mexican food. We had to search in between these American powerhouses to find authentic Mexican gems.

Although our hotel was all-inclusive, the food was mediocre and by the 3rd "free" or as Manny likes to say "pre-paid" we were craving something satisfying. We harked on an adventure to find authentic Mexican food. Come to find, a lot of authentic food in Cancún was actually seafood. Bleh. I'm not a fan of animals under the sea. We were recommended this place called "Tacún" by some of the locals.

Chips y Salsa and condiments came on a quaint platter complete with red salsa, green salsa, habanero salsa, onions, and limes. Refried beans came immediately as well. We ordered the breaded shrimp plate that came with stir-fried veggies (the only veggies we really had on the trip), dirty rice, and a sour cream baked potato. I couldn't decided between Al Pastor tacos or a cochinita torta so I got both. We finished off the meal with a chocolate covered coffee ice cream.

At Tacún, I got to cross "have a magarita in Mexico" off my list. Unfortunately, Manny told me that Margaritas are Americanized and not Mexican. #heartbreak. My parents have this saying in Chinese that translates to "trick american/white people". Things like PF Chang's would fall into that category. However, in regards to Margaritas, Americans tricked me. So that's how it feels. 

The next gem we found was a small hole-in-the-wall across the street from Coco Bongo called Las Quekas. They had all but 3 small tables to sit and completely open space. They made the tortillas from scratch. Your quesadilla is made-to-order and cooked right in front of you. We got 2 quesadillas and 1 coke for a whopping 42 Pesos ($3.41 USD). Our cheapest meal yet!! Now Manny is obsessed with the idea of opening one in Houston.

3 options of transportation in Cancún: (1) Rent a car, (2) Taxi, (3) Take the bus. Clearly in price order. We were too balla on a budget to rent a car so our real options were Taxi or taking the bus. Taxi comes at a premium so we opted for the bus system which comes quite frequently. The bus fare ranged from 6 pesos ($.49USD) to 8.5 pesos ($.69USD) a person. The buses weren't very consistent, some were smelly, some were cleaner, some had AC and some didn't. You never knew what you were gonna get. All you knew was to hold on for dear god once you got on because they start driving immediately after collecting your fare.


We booked our all-inclusive hotel stay at Temptations Resort and Spa on Based off reviews, the hotel is very "sin-city" and considered a party hotel. After reading reviews, the hotel lived up to the expectations. There's non-stop partying from pool to lounge to their night club "nice shoes" all day and night long. The hotel had different themes for each night such as Lingerie night, all white, etc. Unfortunately, we weren't admitted into the club without proper "lingerie" attire so we had to skip out. We thought that we partied hard but these people really partied. We expected younger people but the average age seem to be 50 when we went. We were the youngest and most conservative couple there.

There are 3 pools: the "sexy pool", sport pool (complete with pool volleyball) and the "calm" pool. All areas conveniently had bars close by. So choose your vice. The sexy pool had a DJ and consisted of entertainment by the temptations party crew. The sexy pool closed at 9PM and the party moved over to the Paty'O lounge that lasted until 6AM in the morning when the pools open up again. There wasn't a lack of things to do! In addition  the resort was right off the beach so you could hang out by the beach as well.

Temptation had 5 places to dine. The food was mediocre at best and by the 3rd day I had indigestion after every meal. The only great thing was the service is impeccable. The staff is attentive and quick.
El Embarcadero - Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner buffet
Margarita's Food & Grill - Lunch/Dinner restaurant
Bella Vista - Seafood buffet
Village Wok - Chinese (Reservation required)
ll Piacere - Italian (Reservation required)

The highlight of the trip for me were the excursions. We signed up for 2: Jungla Maya at Riviera Maya and Dolphin Discovery in Isla Mujeras.

Jungla Maya with Altournative
This tour was so fun and adrenaline pumping. Our tour guide, Rodrigo, was very knowledgeable  entertaining, and made us feel safe the whole time. This is not for the faint of heart!

The tour started off with a Maya ritual inside a cave. It was a unique moment to hear the native Mayan language and experience something mystic. Then we headed off for our adventure.

Rappelled 40ft down, and swam in Yaxmuul, a natural underground pond of pristine water and beautiful rock formations

Snorkel surrounded by awesome rock formations and millenary stalactites and stalagmites in the crystal clear waters.

Cross-country the jungle aboard the original Mercedes Benz Unimogs, the major 4x4 vehicle in the world.

3 zip-line Canopy circuit throughout the lush forest, the last one is water landing.

Me ziplining into the water

The tour ended with a lunch buffet of home-made Mayan cuisine. I loved that Altournative employs the help of the native people. The Mayans took the videos, pictures, cooked the food, and sold the disc to us. Altournative provides them equipment such as cameras, photoshop, and computers. This allows them to build a skill, participate in the tour, and make money for themselves instead of just begging for money. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of providing the equipment for the mayans instead of just tacking on cameras to helmets or equipments.

Dolphin Discovery

We took a ferry ride to Isla Mujeras which was abouta $6 fee. When we got to the port, the dolphins excitedly swam up to greet the guests.

Everything is really confusing at first. We had no idea where to go or what to do. People seemed to be in uncoordinated scramble. We were told our "swim adventure" would be at 1:30 (we got there at 12) so we headed for the buffet. The package comes with a free lunch buffet of hamburgers, french fries, tacos, hot dogs, etc. There's also 2 pools, a bar, hammocks, and beach chairs to keep you occupied.

I was pretty nervous about meeting the dolphins and had mix feelings about it. On one hand, the animal activist in me, wants these dolphins to flourish in the wild but the other side was excited about the once in a life time experience to interact with these mystical creatures. You can't help but fall in love with their playful demeanour and smile.

We got the swim adventure package and got a nice 45 minutes with the dolphins. The first 4 activities were on the platform so that helped eased us in.

The next 3 activities we had to swim out to the sea and the dolphins would come push us back to the platform via boogie board the first time and on their fins the second time.

It was such a blast!

We didn't get to experience much night life around Cancún. We stayed at the Paty'o Lounge at the hotel (I mean, free drinks!). We did check out the infamous Coco Bongo as recommended by many of our friends. The cost of entry was $75 USD a person. It includes the show and open bar. It's like Vegas show meets night club. They had various impersonations (Madonna, Beyonce, Michael Jackson) , Broadway renditions (Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Moulin Rouge) , and acrobatic performances. In between the shows were hip hop music. Lots of production was involved. Confetti, streamers, and balloons came frequently timed with the music. It was definitely a unique experience!

Michael Jackson Impersonation at Coco Bongo
View all pictures below.

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