The title of this blog sounds like something from Burning Man, when in fact, it’s about another “sleepy little Mexican town” turned into a rockin’ tourist enclave. Wow! How the Playa has changed!
Playa del Carmen’s only claim to fame used to be the ferry that connects Cozumel to the mainland. Now, it has become a vacation destination in of its own. And at the heart and center of that destination is a full blown circus, complete with costumed Mayan warriors, aerial acts, jugglers and junk food.
While there is certainly a lot of “entertainment value” to today’s Playa del Carmen, it’s not for me. I am grateful to be here in transit only, not having paid hundreds of dollars for a beachside vacation to “get away from it all.” Too congested, too commercial, too gentrified with Starbucks, Haagen Daas, and McDonalds…though I do confess to being a hypocrite where McDonalds is concerned. After two months of tacos, beans and rice, I succumb to the “Walk of Shame” to eat a Big Mac. It’s the closest thing to “a little taste of home,” and my go-to comfort food after long periods on foreign soil.
But with “progress,” also comes greater access, which is why I am here…to leave. It’s never been easier to get in and out of the area, as ADO bus lines now has a terminal located right on Fifth Avenue, the “main drag,” only a couple of blocks from the ferry terminal. For ten bucks, this comfortable air-conditioned bus goes straight to the Cancun airport.
Playa del Carmen is my last stop in this giant fish-hook shaped journey from border to Mexican border. My route has taken me on eight scenic bus rides and two ferries (four if you count Caye Caulker) through mountains and villages, along lakes and rivers, into the jungle and archeological sites. Only one bus ride remains, an early morning departure to from Playa del Carmen direct to Terminal 2 at Cancun Airport where I will board my American Airlines $192 flight to Quito, Ecuador. It feels a bit surreal to arrive at the Cancun airport from Texas without having gotten on a plane.
Next up….What goes up 30,000 feet, but only comes down 20,700 feet, as I visit the highest capital city in the world.