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Mexico report
Old 02-13-2007, 04:53 PM   #1
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Mexico report

Just got back from an extended stay in Mexico on the Carribean side (Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres). We've gone to Mexico many times over the past years, have not been to the Carribean for quite a while though. Mostly we go to the Pacific Coast because when we go we are looking for sun and warm weather and the Carribean isn't quite as warm and it does rain more than the Pacific Coast of Mexico. I speak Spanish, not fluently like a native as it is a leaned language, but well enough so that I can and do engage in conversation, listen to the T.V., read the papers, etc.
The good: Well, the weather, even though it did rain some, was a delight. Warm, mostly sunny, with a tropical breeze that cleared up cracked skin (if you live up north you'll know what I mean) in a couple of days. Food was good as were the water sports, especially diving off the reefs at Cozumel where the reefs are at about 80 feet and you dive a wall that goes waaay down, just drifting along the current. Very interesting even though hurricane Wilma did do some damage to the reefs.
To my way of thinking, it is safe in Mexico. We had no problems at all although we are not late night people and certain don't do anything illegal (i.e. drugs). We had read about some problems but walked in non tourist areas without any fear and without any problems.

The not so good: The area we were in was crowded. Its been a good 20 years since we were at Cozumel and remember its cental city, San Miguel, as a small town. Well, 4-6 cruise ships come in (thankfully they leave each night) and its very crowded in town during the day. We snorkeled and dived during the day and avoided the crowds, but you could still feel that it was crowded. The result is that its very Americanized. I love America and vacation here often, but I also think that Mexico has a friendliness and a sense of community that is hard to find as a visitor in the States, and it was equally hard to find in the Mexican Carribean. Some people there were pushy, to the extent of asking for tips (only happened once, but this was the only time it has ever happened to me in Mexico), overcharging on bills (read your bills carefully) and generally not being as nice as I expect in Mexico. This was maybe 5-10% of the people I came in contact with, but still way too many.

I asked a few Mexican Nationals, after we had been together a while and I got to know they, what was going on and they explained that this area had been built up for tourists and so was much more a tourist area than a Mexican area.

Final Thoughts: We will still go to Mexico frequently. If we want just a few days in the sun, we may think about the Mexican Carribean, but if we are going for any extended period, we'll be back at Mazatlan or PV or somewhere else on the Pacific Coast.

Tio z
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-13-2007, 05:04 PM   #2
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Re: Mexico report

I was in Cozumel also last week on one of those cruse ships that you refer to.

I had heard about the coral reefs and therefore arranged to do some snorkling. Hurricane Wilma must have done quite a number as the snorkling was OK but not as spectacular as I had expected. I saw what the hurricane did to that giant concrete pier so I am sure that the coral reefs as well as the whole island were devistated.

I agree that the town is way way too commercial. That's true in many resort areas. They find a nice spot and ruin it with over development and tourism.

Overall Cozumel was somewhat of a disappointment, but the weather was great. If you want a sleepy little fishing village with some native charm and maybe some diving/snorkling then Cozumel is not it. Some of our other cruise ship stops were much more enjoyable.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-13-2007, 05:19 PM   #3
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Re: Mexico report

We were in Loreto last May. The town it is definitely a sleepy Mexican fishing village.
The people were wonderful. Stayed at the Coco Cabanas and enjoyed the visit very much.

It seemed like every third American we met came from the northwest. All in all a very low-key vacation.

We did not go to Loreto Bay, although their marketing was what caused us to look at the area.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-14-2007, 05:17 PM   #4
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Re: Mexico report

We spend 2 months in PV every winter (Jan-Feb). It is authentic Mexican but the infux of gringo residents and tourists has introduced fine dining choices and galleries and jazz. Prices are comparable to home for 5 star dining/hotels. We rent a penthouse from other Americans.

Weather is balmy. Water is typical Pacific like up north. Have been to Cancun twice and the Caribbean many times. We liked St Martin and St Lucia. But we are west-coasters.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-14-2007, 05:23 PM   #5
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Re: Mexico report

And to think that PV once was a small and charming seaside community until Richard Burton and Elizibeth Tailor filmed "The Night of the Iguana" there.

Once that happened, it was just a matter of time until we have what we have now.

Better find a different spot if you want to hang at the "real" Mexico.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-15-2007, 01:05 PM   #6
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Re: Mexico report

How did you like Isla Mujeres? I've heard that it is not as touristy and is still friendly.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-15-2007, 04:44 PM   #7
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Re: Mexico report

Oldbabe
We did like Isla Mujers. It was touristy to the extent that it seems the majority of the town is set up for tourists, but not so much with the big neon sign type bar, chain restaurant, etc. More so with small restaurants and small bars set up for vacationers. They were good, clean, not expensive by State side standards.
North side has nice beaches and out of town, on the west side, nice beach clubs, but have to take a cab to get to. Did like the people, they were friendly. Still, was far more Americanized than the places we normally go on the Pacific Coast.
I would go back for a week, to get some sun. But for a longer period, woudn't as other places are more attractive for longer stays.
Tio z
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-15-2007, 07:03 PM   #8
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Re: Mexico report

tio z,

Would you tell us about your experience in Mazatlan?
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-15-2007, 08:43 PM   #9
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Re: Mexico report

we did either playa del carmen or riviera maya (can't recall which it was) a few years back. mostly i remember the poverty. there is a thin strip of wealth fringing the coast. then a few square blocks of middle class with some commerce in quaint buildings along sidewalks & paved streets. and then miles upon what seemed like endless miles or dusty roads, roaming dogs and poverty. i spent a lot of time biking the dirt roads, leaving my family to enjoy the safe and asthetically pleasing coastal areas.

i could not speak the language at all but i tried nonetheless to understand the sights and sounds around me. as i took pictures of some of the makeshift housing, the homeowners smiled proudly at me, not the pride of vanity, but the pride of housing themselves with a roof over their heads even if it was made of tin and fronds. the smiles told me how happy they were that some gringo would take interest enough to snap a picture of their home. either that or they just though i was plum loco.

besides the poverty, or maybe reflective in that poverty, what i kept noticing were remnants of regime change. rusted steel reinforcing rebars sticking out from the first or second stories of what apparently was meant to be two or three storied buildings before the money ran dry. sidewalks started but quickly stopped. a traffic circle built to display the statue of some past governmental benefactor but either the structure or the road never completed. the infrastructure as incomplete as, i suspect, so many unfulfilled promises. it left me with no wonder as to why so many leave mexico to try to find a better life here.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-15-2007, 09:04 PM   #10
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Re: Mexico report

Quote:
Originally Posted by lazygood4nothinbum
we did either playa del carmen or riviera maya (can't recall which it was) a few years back. mostly i remember the poverty. there is a thin strip of wealth fringing the coast. then a few square blocks of middle class with some commerce in quaint buildings along sidewalks & paved streets. and then miles upon what seemed like endless miles or dusty roads, roaming dogs and poverty. i spent a lot of time biking the dirt roads, leaving my family to enjoy the safe and asthetically pleasing coastal areas.
Lazy: You're very talented in the writing dept.

I could imagine being there with your descriptions.

Thanks
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-16-2007, 11:06 AM   #11
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Re: Mexico report

Quote:
Originally Posted by lazygood4nothinbum
... rusted steel reinforcing rebars sticking out from the first or second stories of what apparently was meant to be two or three storied buildings before the money ran dry. ...
IMHO Good observation - wrong conclusions.
Houses are built as fast as you can afford it (Keep in mind that mortgages are relatively recent thing there).
You plan for it to have more stories (either to rent or for the expanding family).
So most likely the money did not run dry - it just have not showed up yet to afford 2nd or 3rd floor. It's not uncommon for your kids to be finally able to afford the next floor - so you'd better plan with enough rebar if you have more kids

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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-16-2007, 11:26 AM   #12
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Re: Mexico report

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_The_Gypsy
tio z,

Would you tell us about your experience in Mazatlan?
Ed
Its been quite some time since I've been there, at least 8 years. I do remember great beaches, which seemed to go on forever and a city, a Mexican city, pretty big. But its been a long time. Anyone else have something more up to date?
Tio z
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-16-2007, 11:56 AM   #13
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Re: Mexico report

Nice Harbour. Reasonable priced housing. No mountains. Weather a little cooler than further south PV where we are. But PV much pricier.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-16-2007, 12:01 PM   #14
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Re: Mexico report

I thought the beaches on the Caribbean side were superior - really liked Playa Del Carmen's beach - but I prefer the towns/cities on the Pacific side - like Puerto. Next time I am going to try something new - either stay at an eco resort near Tulum or go the far south on the Caribbean side - near Belize - where is hasn't quite been built up yet. BTW, if you all haven't visited Tulum and had a chance to see the view from the top of the hill/ruins, you are missing out. Incredible view of the Caribbean blue waters, a vacant beach below and it becomes quite obvious why they chose to build there.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-16-2007, 12:54 PM   #15
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Re: Mexico report

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor
IMHO Good observation - wrong conclusions.
Houses are built as fast as you can afford it (Keep in mind that mortgages are relatively recent thing there).
You plan for it to have more stories (either to rent or for the expanding family).
So most likely the money did not run dry - it just have not showed up yet to afford 2nd or 3rd floor. It's not uncommon for your kids to be finally able to afford the next floor - so you'd better plan with enough rebar if you have more kids
Yep - I was going to make the same comment. I think the typical do-it-yourself mexican home is modular in nature - an ever-evolving structure that is designed to grow in the future. Leaving exposed rebar on the top of the structure is common - it allows for easy addition of the next story and it is very strong structurally since the rebar carries the loads from the new addition.

Simple reinforced concrete frames (like large cage almost) were the typical type of structure (versus the standard stick built 2x4 wood frames in the US). A single course of non-load bearing bricks was the typical walling material. Definitely reflects the practicality of financing home construction. Lack of financing leads to building these houses one room at a time, perhaps a room every few months as the money comes in from the owner's salary.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-16-2007, 06:31 PM   #16
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Re: Mexico report

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor
IMHO Good observation - wrong conclusions.
nice try, but i could not have come to the wrong conclusion even if my facts were wrong as i was only waxing poetic, the artistic license issued not to document history verbatim but to paint an inpressionist's picture of how mexico's abundance of poverty stayed in my mind over these years.

i've seen a lot of poverty & poor people in my life; the ol'man made sure of that. when you are boating in the islands, you can not help but to notice that you are dining al fresco from the grille on the flybridge while natives are cleaning fish they just caught in front of their houses and cooking on little bon fires. still, those poor people had riches of food, of amazing weather, of gorgeous surroundings. in many ways, they were rich. not so of what i saw in the yukatan peninsula where people were so poor that all they were rich in was dust.

if you guys think that being so poor includes planning your construction for future generations, you have not a clue as to the poverty in this world. you really might consider getting out of your cabana chairs every so often if just to stretch your imaginations.

but now you've made me go and dig up some pictures to see if my memory is all that faulty and if my painting was so far off center. you're so right: i was wrong. it wasn't palm fronds at all; it was tin & torn tarps. somebody slap my typing fingers.

here is one of the streets with some of the rebar sticking out on either side. you will see that the rebar is not ready for extended family but rather on some sort of commercially zoned buildings. (commercially zoned, on that street, now that's funny.)

[img width=750 height=495]http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r156/lazygood4nothinbum/mexican-street.jpg[/img]

and here's one of the hovels built out of (into?) one of the incompleted commercial structures. even though when they smiled, they hardly even had teeth, likely they did have their architect draw up schematics for future construction for their family needs. note the rebar awaiting freshly poured concrete as the newly dirtying diapered family member arrives.

[img width=495 height=750]http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r156/lazygood4nothinbum/mexican-house.jpg[/img]

edit: that is not the picture of building future dreams; it is a picture of broken promises past.

"attitudes are more important than facts."~~saying
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-16-2007, 07:09 PM   #17
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Re: Mexico report

I just came back from 2 1/2 weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a change from my usual Mexico or Costa Rica vacation spots. The experience was totally different though, more like Europe than the rest of Latin America although the prices are great!

But it is just so far to get to--it was almost exactly 24 hours from the time we left our BA apartment to getting back home in Vancouver.

So next time I'll probably stay closer to home and head back to Puerto Vallarta. For all it's problems, it's still a beautiful place and so easy to get to. And I'm still working on improving my map and destination guide of the area at www.PuertoVallartaSatellite.com.

For any local expats down there now, please feel free to help improve the map by adding your points to it or by suggesting items for the news page.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-17-2007, 01:36 PM   #18
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Re: Mexico report

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What did you like about Argentina. I've heard a number of good things about it. They say that Buenos Aires is South America's version of Paris, France. Probably an overstatement.
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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-17-2007, 03:48 PM   #19
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Re: Mexico report

It is so true, though, that Argentina is so far from those of us in the Western United States/Canada. To put this in perspective, I live in the Silicon Valley area of California, and Seoul, South Korea, all the way across the Pacific, is almost 1000 miles closer than Buenos Aires, Argentina (and flying to the Pacific Rim has many more convenient flights, too).

Rio, Santiago, and Buenos Aires are all far, far, far.

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Re: Mexico report
Old 02-17-2007, 05:10 PM   #20
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Re: Mexico report

Quote:
Originally Posted by wildcat
BTW, if you all haven't visited Tulum and had a chance to see the view from the top of the hill/ruins, you are missing out. Incredible view of the Caribbean blue waters, a vacant beach below and it becomes quite obvious why they chose to build there.
One of those sights I will never forget: standing on the bluff you describe, and looking down at a school of about eight Manta Rays cruising by in the shallow water below. I recall thinking that the ancient Mayans might very well have witnessed the same scene.
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