Saturday, September 17, 2016

El Paraíso.

Girl! Where have you been?

2016 has been a year of overcoming new challenges and surprisingly international travel. Recently, I returned from my very first trip to México. Cancún and Playa del Carmen were extremely beautiful, and the locals were extremely kind and polite. It was also really nice being able to converse with them in Spanish, a language that I had studied for about 5-6 years.

Each moment of my vacation was very surreal, which each view topping the last. I wanted to live there forever. 

Day 1 - Travel Day:

Having only recently travelled to Europe only once earlier this year, I only had a faint recollection of international travel procedures. This particular travel morning was extremely hectic, taking over an hour to get to the airport during L.A. rush hour. After wrestling typical traffic, we all rushed through the check-in kiosks and security line to make on time for my flight. Once on board, things finally settled down, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Once we all arrived at Cancún International Airport, I couldn't believe how far into the day we were. All I had seen all day was the awful L.A. traffic, the airport, and the back of seat 33A. With the beautiful sunshine quickly fleeting, I knew that I would have to await another day to witness the beach. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing at the hotel in Playa del Carmen and exploring the resort.

Day 2 - Cancun:

I woke up about 6am EST to try to start to get my body acclimated to the the new time zone. As soon as I went outside of my hotel room for the first time, I was quickly greeted by the humid tropical air. Luckily, this was quickly cancelled out by the cool breeze of the AC in the taxi taking us to Cancún. Once in the beachside city, I couldn't help but awe at the infinite beauty that surrounded me. It's been 10 years since I have seen anything like it. 

I easily spent an hour frolicking on the beach, walking along the seaside, and climbing on the lifeguard towers. Amidst paradise, I still couldn't believe that this was all real. I'm pretty sure I got sunburned on the bottoms of my feet for walking all over the hot sand and wooden steps.

I felt like a kid again climbing towers, collecting seashells, and running away from the tide. It's been a while since I've had this much fun on the beach, and the crowds were extremely light which was a plus. Introvert heaven.

After spending about half a day in Cancún, we all returned to Playa del Carmen for some good old swimming in the Caribbean Sea. The water was warm, the beats were pumping, and the tourists were really cool.

Post beach swim, we all grabbed dinner and then decided to call it a day. Ready for day three!

Day 3 - Chichén Itzá & Il Kil Cenote

This was probably one of the longest days on the trip. In total, I think we all spent 6 hours on the bus that day just commuting from Riviera Maya to and from Chichén Itzá. We made a side trip to the local Mayan village to meet some of the locals and the shaman. The Mayan village was filled with lots of arts and crafts as well as religious relics. I was particularly fascinated by the tunnel pictured below, which was built of rocks gathered from a cenote.

Overall, I was really looking forward this tour for a long time. I had read about it in history books, heard about it in Spanish class, and seen photos in travel brochures. For those unaware, Chichén Itzá is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World among the Great Wall of China, Petra, Christ the Redeemer, Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal. 

The tour itself was very informative, although, I wish our tour guide was more interactive. I had major FOMO (fear of missing out) when I saw some of the other tour groups partake in ice breakers and fun activities during their tour. Despite this small bit, I was still very much interested and engaged in the information delivered at the tour at hand.

After spending about an hour and a half at Chichén Itzá, our tour group was whisked away to Il Kil Cenote to do some cliff jumping and swimming. Once we arrived, about 75% of our group darted to the buffet line, while the other 25% of us headed to the cenote. 

Il Kil Cenote is 26 meters (85 feet) below ground level, and is 60 meters (200 feet) in diameter. The depth of the water itself is about 40 meters (130 feet deep).

As a newcomer to this cliff jumping business, I was pretty apprehensive. The jump was pretty high for my standard. For a while, I stood up there contemplating if I should just walk down the limestone stairs and take my place amongst the waiting crowd. After mustering up some courage, I crossed my arms across my chest and jumped. It was the most exhilarating yet terrifying thing that I've done in a while. When I resurfaced from the depths of the water, I quickly swam to the edges of the cenote to join my peers. 

Was the experience and view worth it? Absolutely. Would I jump off again...maybe come back and ask me in a few months haha. Heights are still pretty terrifying. You can check out my cliff jump here: Cenote Jump.

After a full day out in Chichén Itzá, it was finally time to say goodbye and return to Playa del Carmen.

Day 4 - Xel-Há Park

On this particular morning, I woke up and watched the sunrise for the first time. If you know me, you know that I have a thing for sunrises and sunsets. I made it out of to the deserted hotel poolside at around 7:08am to get a glimpse of nature's beauty. It was the most comforting and magical thing that I had witnessed that morning. I wanted to live in that moment of calm and solstice forever. 

I cannot express to you how excited I was to visit Xel-Há. Ever since my friend, Christina, introduced me to this place in February via pictures, I've been obsessed with this park. My dreams of zip lining, lying amongst a sea of hammocks, biking through the Yucatán, and swimming with the dolphins were about to come true. 

Lots of Iguanas ("Huh" in Mayan language) everywhere.

We arrived at Xel-Há at approximately 9am. The park was pretty empty due to off-season, which made it ideal to explore the park with little to no wait for the attractions. 

My favorite activity by far was swimming with the dolphins. I had been wanting to do this since I was 22. Being able to swim with them was a dream come true. I've always admired dolphins due to their extreme intelligence. They were so gentle and and extremely lovable creatures!

Girl time.

Kisses from the male dolphin, Coucocán.

At the end of our session, I was sad to leave. I had learned so much about these creatures and was able to interact with these marvelous mammals. It's a memory that I will never forget.

Towards the end of our visit to Xel-Há, a heavy, tropical storm moved in. Luckily, we had finished up all of the activities that we wanted to do, and headed back to our hotel.

That evening, we enjoyed our final dinner in Playa del Carmen. I was sad to leave the following day, but was extremely grateful for the opportunity to visit such an amazing country.

Day 5 - Homebound

On the final day of vacation, I decided to explore the resort one last time. I couldn't believe how quickly the week went by. Everything about the trip was so magical. It was unlike any vacation that I had ever taken before. The beauty of the county, the kindness of the locals, and the comprehensive experience of being immersed into a new culture was a delightful and eye-opening experience. 

I hope to return again one day, and do it all over again. For now, it feels good to be back home. I feel refreshed and mentally at ease. After returning to the states, I realized how important it is to withdraw from the craziness of life every once in a while. 

I hope you enjoyed following me on my journey, and taking the time to visit my blog. I wish I could share all 800+ photos with you, but alas, time doesn't stop for anyone. Thank you for stopping by, and be sure to tune in later this week for some more adventures. I promise you won't be disappointed!



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