Playa, this is your last chance

Oh, Playa del Carmen. My first “bad” stop on my trip. Why am I returning to you? The optimist in me hopes desperately you redeem yourself. Playa doesn’t feel so awful this time, but I am more struck by how utterly expensive everything is. You want *how much* for a taco? Oi. The people here are still not my people–American or South American families, retirees, or partiers on holiday. Why are backpackers so hard to find in this town? Are they just wearing a different uniform?
In the back of the collectivo en route to Playa. Come on, Playa, show me what you got!

There was fun to be had though. I actually did some of the classic Playa things! One night we went out to the main late night scene at 12th Ave and 1st St. The clubs were pumping, aggressive recruiters passed out free drink tickets and wristbands to everyone, and men in polos and women in skintight leopard spandex drinking tequila out of litro cups. Each song reminded me on someplace else, another time, another memory. Still not my crowd.

We spent a day at the beach chillaxing. I found a copy of Kitchen Confidential, which threw me back to first reading it in Southeast Asia, so all my classics reading went out the window in favor of Anthony Bourdain being a smart ass. The water is so beautifully blue, sand so smooth and white, and ocean so warm it’s possible to forgive all the Jersey Shore-lookalike travelers all around.

A typical tienda shelf.
Enjoying the beach.
Shallots, the secret is shallots.

Another day we visited nearby Akumal to swim with the sea turtles, just a short collectivo ride south. It was insanely resorty there; charging $15 for a snorkel set?! And you are required to wear a goofy lifevest? Madness. I have seen enough turtles on this trip thankyouverymuch. We spent the money on tacos, beer, and ice cream instead.

Akamal!
It’s hard to be upset around water this blue.
Excellent fish and shrimp tacos for lunch at Lucy’s. Half off for happy hour too!

But more often than not we stayed in, cooking something fabulous, and watching stand-up comedians online. Although our hostel had a very low-key social scene, the facilities were great, especially the kitchen. We took advantage and bought a whole mess of fresh groceries–including spinach, which is quite elusive in Latin America–and returned to cooking. I hadn’t cooked in earnest since Utila, unless fruit and rum liquados count. In Playa we cooked virtually every meal, and it was goooood:

Rich making his magic.

Ready to do this.
Eggs florentine with hollandaise. Yeah, because we’re the awesome kind of backpackers.
Peanut butter banana pancakes and fruit and spicy steak and vegetable curry. YUM.

Spending so much time and energy in the kitchen with Richard actually made me very happy, even though much of Playa still wasn’t for me. But off to the next beach, Isla Mujeres, in search of a chiller vibe, more likeminded travelers, and whale sharks!

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