Holiday `98: Yuck, a Tan and a Touch of Mayan Indian Magic

By Rettie, James | The Mirror (London, England), November 21, 1998 | Go to article overview

Holiday `98: Yuck, a Tan and a Touch of Mayan Indian Magic


Rettie, James, The Mirror (London, England)


FOUR years before I was born, my father went to Mexico. At one point, as a gringo in a beach bar full of bandits, he was forced to eat 13 raw turtle eggs at gunpoint. He managed it without being sick.

So it was with apprehension and a big box of Alka Seltzer that I landed at Cancn airport on the Yucatn peninsular. Driving to the Omni Hotel, I realised I needn't have worried. The gringos have won.

The Cancn resort was built 20 years ago out of the raw jungle next to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's a monument to tourism.

Rising like luxury spaceships out of the trees, the hotels expect that you'll be paying in dollars.

Indeed, some Americans I met didn't even realise they'd crossed the border. And who can blame them when the only clue that you're not in the USA is the hotel's Mexican theme night?

But if there's one thing the Americans do superbly well, it's luxury. Cocktails at sunset in the beach Jacuzzi bar, and the only thing that's likely to get up your nose are the bubbles.

After dark, though, the hotel really hasn't a chance up against Cancn's high-pressure nightlife: more bars, clubs, nightclubs and restaurants than even the wildest can cope with.

But the best reasons for leaving your hotel are Mexican food and the Mayan ruins. As for the first, once you've tried it, no one will need to point a gun at you to make you eat mole poblano (chicken in spiced chocolate sauce).

For the more cautious there's Planet Hollywood. Perhaps because the air conditioning had been turned on to "snow" we failed to notice that, during our burgers and beer, my friend had had her purse stolen.

From then on I took to wearing a leather holster-style wallet. Worried that it made me look like I was "packing a gun" I asked a colleague, who reassured me by saying it merely looked as though I was wearing a bra.

I didn't wear it to Chichen Itz. Just 400 years ago, before the Europeans arrived and virtually wiped them out, native Maya thronged this sacred site.

Their huge temples, festooned with carved snake and jaguar heads, ran with the blood of the thousands slaughtered to please the rain god Chac and Kukulcan, the plumed serpent. I don't know how pleased the gods were with me teetering up their steeply-sided pyramids but it was certainly torture in the hammering heat. And worth every moment. …

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