New Year’s in Mexico

August 6, 2011 - 4:23 pm No Comments

Eight months ago, I took a last-minute trip to Mexico with my buddy Anthony for New Year’s. We had a pretty good time down there, but it was also a good opportunity to get away from home and sort out personal issues we were both dealing with at the time. Travel therapy. I didn’t keep a formal blog, but I thought it might be fun to remember some of the highlights.

I met Anthony at the Cancún airport late at night. I was waiting for him outside, where the air was thick with humidity and tourists were hustling and bustling for taxis and vans and shuttles. We had read in our guidebooks to be careful not to get ripped off by one of these people, so we carefully explored our options. An hour and a half later, after all the other, more sensible tourists had gone to their hotels, we were part of a small group of people waiting for the last shuttle of the night to pick us up.

Anthony and I spent a couple of days exploring the beaches and sneaking through some pretty impressive all-inclusive resorts. Some of them were cool with us hanging around, but others were quite exclusive, refusing to let us walk through their property without the requisite bracelets.

Beach in Cancun

Kepler y Yuliana

Anthony on Vacation in Mexico

Sunset in Cancun

The Closing Structure

Sunset in Cancun

At night, we did our best to find intestinally friendly food that wasn’t overpriced for tourists, a delicate balancing act. Then we’d hit the clubs. There aren’t any chill sports bars or lounges or pubs, just raging dance clubs that start pounding up and down Kukulcan, the main road, as soon as the sun goes down.

Lights of Kukulkan

Carlos 'n Charlie's

Inside Sen?or Frog’s

Most of the clubs charge a cover of about $40 for an open bar. Since it’s often hard to tell if there are any people inside or if the place is a dump from the street, it was always a risky proposition. The high cover charges mean that there aren’t many locals in the clubs, just rich gringos and South Americans on vacation. Even though it wasn’t Spring Break time, there was definitely a Spring Break vibe. Lots of young, overweight girls in skimpy dresses and douchebags with pink shirts, giant sunglasses, and flip-flops.

Once they suckered you in with the cover charge, the drinks were always tiny and watered down. Bartenders would get moody if you didn’t tip them, refusing to serve you or aggressively pointing to the tip jar if you played cheap. Anthony and I worked out a system where we’d take small change in pesos (worth next to nothing) and slam it into the tip jar as we ordered our drinks so that the bartenders would know that we tipped them but couldn’t tell how much. Some of them caught on, knowing that tips consisting of only coins were worthless.

Anthony Makes Room for a Taco

Jeff, Anthony, and a Mexican

Jeff & Anthony Enjoy Pizza

Cover charges were jacked up to nearly $100 for New Year’s, so we knew that we’d have to just pick a place and hope for the best, knowing we’d be stuck there all night. After talking to a few of the guys selling entry bracelets on the street, one of them made a pretty good pitch for The City. He kept telling us that it was the best because there were three separate bars: a street-side dance bar, a giant warehouse club that could hold thousands of people, and a pool deck on the ocean, and with the bracelets, we could go to all three. He also claimed, of course, that he had better prices than anyone else on the street. We went for it.

Mexican Food #7

Pre-Party at The City

Anthony & Jeff at The City

After some tacos and some drinks at the street-side bar, we went into the warehouse. We found a good spot on a platform in the middle of the dance floor and the lights went dim. As numbers flashed on a big screen behind us, we counted down with the crowd and screamed in the New Year.

Anthony's Other Hand on New Year's Eve, The City

A few watered down drinks later, we were completely taken by surprise when the music died down and acrobats, dancers, and performers put on a show for us in the middle of the club. We would later come to find out that all of the big clubs in Cancún did something similar for New Year’s.

Acrobat at The City

Dancers at The City

The City

The City

We stumbled onto the beach to watch the first sunrise of 2011.

Jeff on New Year's Morning

New Year's Sunrise

Anthony & Jeff on New Year's Morning

One afternoon, we rented scooters to explore downtown Cancún, a short bridge crossing from the tourist zone. I loved zipping up and down the traffic-filled streets and navigating our way through unmarked downtown intersections, but Anthony was scared shitless. We visited some of the popular tourist markets and, with some effort, found the #1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, Pik Nik. Great food and a wonderfully friendly staff.

Anthony Makes a Friend

Mercado 28 at Night

Anthony Enjoys Pik Nik

Anthony & Jeff at Pik Nik

Anthony with the Staff of Pik Nik

Anthony was keen to do some scuba diving, so we booked a cheap package. I’m a bit freaked out by the whole scuba experience, but I sucked it up for Anthony and braved my way through pool training and two dives. I’m no expert, but I thought the two places they picked to go down to the reef kinda sucked. Not much life, just lots of dead-looking plants and coral. A bit discouraging, given the reputation this part of Mexico has for diving.

Things were made a bit more adventurous when one of the tourists we were with, the girlfriend of the guy who shot this video, passed out underwater. She spent the rest of the afternoon reclined on the boat covered with towels.

To fill our days, we took a few day trips from Cancún. Our first was to Isla Mujeres, a small, mostly unimpressive island a short ferry ride from Cancún. We sat on the beach and explored the island a bit on bikes, but it wasn’t much more than a good way to kill a day.

Blue Waters of Cancun

Welcome to Isla Mujeres

No Pase

Spiny-tailed Iguana

Iglesia de Concepcio?n Inmaculada (Church of the Immaculate Conception)

La Triguen?a

Fancy Skulls

Flying Turtle Grasshopper Dragon Thing

Chairs & Umbrella

Mexican Flag

Our next trip was to famous Chichen Itza (chee-CHEN eet-SAH). I was very excited at the photography possibilities there, especially since a stop at a cenote and a “Light and Sound Show” at the ruins were part of our package.

Do Not Trow Objects

Suytun Cenote

Suytun Cenote

Suytun Cenote

With the Suytun Cenote Kids

Catholic Shrine at Suytun Cenote

We didn’t have a whole lot of time at Chichen Itza. Just as we got to one end of the grounds, the park closed and security started ushering us out. Alas, Chichen Itza prohibited tripods, so I had to do my best bracing against railings and laying in the dirt to get my shots. A featureless sky, crappy time of day, and tripodlessness meant that my Chichen Itza pictures were mediocre.

El Castillo

El Castillo

El Castillo

El Castillo

El Castillo & Temple of the Warriors at Night

Happy & Dirty Photographer

We also visited Cobá (koh-BAH), another Mayan archaeological site. The structures there were less impressive but more expansive than at Chichen Itza, so it was mostly just walking around and listening to the guide explain how much cooler these things were 1,500 years ago. Most of the ruins are at least partially climbable, which is kind of fun. Still no tripods, still no clouds, so the pictures turned out a little boring.

K-Mart Blue Light Especial

La Iglesia

At La Iglesia

Stele 11

Las Pinturas Temple


Anthony at Nohoch Mul Pyramid

Anthony on Nohoch Mul Pyramid

From there, we went to Tulum (too-LOOM), a site with Mayan ruins on cliffs overlooking the ocean. We were lucky enough to meet up with my friend Doug and his girlfriend Elizabeth, who were in Tulum for a destination wedding for one of their friends. Walking around the ruins, we caught each other up on our respective trips. I had originally hoped that Doug would be able to join us for a larger part of our Mexican adventure, but it was not to be. He was so wrapped up with wedding commitments that we only got to spend about an hour with them.


Friends at Tulum

Casa del Halach Uinic (House of the Halach Uinic)

Templo de las Pinturas (Temple of the Frescoes)

Beach at Tulum

Doug, Anthony, and Jeff at the Tulum Market

On our last night in Cancún, we went to Coco Bongo’s, a big club we were hearing a lot of buzz about. It was the largest and most expensive club we hadn’t been to, but worth every peso. The non-stop performances by musician and movie star look-alikes were spectacular, and with great music, lighting, smoke machines, confetti, and balloons everywhere, the party atmosphere was off-the-charts. Definitely the best club in Cancún.

Jeff in Hell

Pirates of the Caribbean at Coco Bongo's

Elvis at Coco Bongo's

Jeff at Coco Bongo's

Coco Bongo's

Michael Jackson at Coco Bongo's

Coco Bongo's

Coco Bongo's

Coco Bongo's

Another fabulous New Year’s in the books. With our bodies and minds refreshed, Anthony and I returned home ready to make some important life decisions. Anthony has decided to move from the UK to Rio de Janeiro to be with the love of his life. How cool is that?

Leave a Reply