Saturday, March 30, 2019

Isla Mujeres - paradise!

I sit on the balcony enjoying our garden courtyard, watching the little yellow bird flitting about the pool as I reflect on our recent visit to Isla Mujeres. We've been enjoying Mexican life on the Caribbean coast in Playa del Carmen for over 14 years now and finally we made the trek over to Isla Mujeres. It was one of those things where we knew we wanted to get there but there never really seemed to be the opportunity. We had heard from various friends how it is far different than Playa and how they go there yearly and prefer it by far to Playa.

So this was the year and I must say I'm in love with Isla! It reminds me of what Playa was like when we first started coming here. Isla stills maintains very much of a Mexican community feeling. There are no chain or brand name companies like the ones that have popped up over the years on 5th Avenue in Playa - you know the Starbucks, Victoria Secrets, Solaris sunglasses shops that you see every few blocks in Playa.  Isla is much more traditional still, with very Mexican tourist shops and a Mexican flavor throughout the town.

You need to go to Cancun to take a short ferry over to Isla. There are tour companies along 5th Avenue in Playa that can help you arrange that or you can investigate it a bit to see what option might work better for you - the tour company; the ADO bus; a collectivo or even a taxi. We found that for us as there were 4 of us going it worked out well just to hire a cab. The ADO from Playa to Cancun is 200 pesos each and then you have to take a collectivo or taxi over the the ferry dock. Our husbands went out and flagged down a larger taxi, like an SUV versus a regular car and talked with the driver who agreed to drive us directly to the ferry for 800 pesos - perfect. Let the adventure begin. Then for our return trip, as Playa drivers are not permitted to pick up fares in Cancun, we walked across the street from the ferry terminal to find a taxi. You should note that getting a taxi at any taxi stand will usually cost you more than if you just stand on the side of the street and flag one down. So our return trip was much the same, we found a larger taxi and he agreed to drive us home for 900 pesos. 

Isla is not a large island and it is a simple walk from the ferry area, which has a beautiful beach and plenty of accomodations near it, to the North beach area where we opted to stay. There are a wide variety of accommodations to choose from. The more luxurious hotels to the many boutique style hotels as well as boutique rooms above the businesses on the main street. Depending on the type of traveler you are there is something to suit everyone.
From our hotel it was about an 8 minute walk to the main area of the north end of Isla with all the bars, restaurants and shopping. There are plenty of golf carts or taxis that can be rented if you choose for getting around the town and to tour the island. This time we didn't do that as we were only there for 2 days and wanted to make the most of the beaches. 

As for the beaches, can you say perfect! We were once told that the Corona commercials were filmed on Isla and I can see why. Beautiful, crystal clear water and you can walk way out into the ocean before it gets deep, no sudden drop-offs and so much room to play and relax. As with all beach areas there are umbrellas and lounge chairs that can be rented for the day, with food and beverage services. It's just a matter of what part of the beach you want to call home today.

We found a small lagoon just to the right of Hotel Mia which was very calm and had a bit of a rocky section which was good for snorkeling. However you didn't really need to worry about snorkeling in search of fish as there were schools of fish, in size from a saucer to a full size dinner plate, which would cruise around the lagoon all afternoon and had no fear of people. At one point I held up a piece of seaweed to temp them to eat from my hand and they did come and nibble on it. A few times they missed their mark and nibbled on me instead of the weed - can you say ouch!

The swimming area on the beaches are sectioned off with buoys so you don't need to worry about the boats. There are lots of tour boats that come up and "park" - it's like a tailgate party as they all back in to just the other side of the buoys so their passengers can enjoy the beach and have some lunch or sometimes they just hang out in their boat enjoying the day. It was so restful to spend the day on the beach, and although the boats would be playing their music it wasn't too loud or intrusive and every one was just happy and enjoying life. The water is so calm. It was too easy to just lay back and float along watching the white puffy clouds drift by and contemplate the life of the seabirds soaring in the air so high above the ground. It was quite mesmerizing to just float there watching the birds and wondering if their lives are spent in constant search of food or are they just drifting on the currents enjoying life much as I was drifting on the water enjoying life?

It was interesting for me to make the comparison between Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres and Holbox, which we had visited a couple years ago. The Playa of today is not the Playa we had fallen in love with as modernization and diversification has changed the "flavor" of Playa. Holbox I have chosen to think of as the most laid back of the three areas - there are no cars allowed - only golf carts. The roads are all dirt and I affectionately think to it as a hippie dippie town with lots of character and bright Caribbean colors to all the buildings. The beaches there are also incredible and much like Ilsa's. Isla Mujeres I would say is a happy in between of the modernization of Playa and the total laid back atmosphere of Holbox. If you want something quieter but not totally laid back, check out Isla. I'm sure you will love it as I do!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Travelling safely

As you know we travel a lot. Probably more than most people. We love the adventure of new experiences; new places; new people. It's funny how often we get asked, especially when we are heading to Mexico, if it's safe. Well nowadays I think your safety is mostly dependent on you and where you put yourself, regardless of what part of the world you are in. Granted if you are travelling to a war torn country or a country where there is more crime it is probably less safe than your own backyard. But still, do you want to live your life thinking that you shouldn't go out and experience it because maybe something will happen?? It's a matter of being diligent, using caution and common sense.

Sorry, I digressed a little from what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about safety - in it's various forms. Not only is it a matter of being in the right place at the right time versus the wrong place at the wrong time. But also your food consumption and water intake are to be consciously taken into account when travelling into countries where the types of food and its preparation are different from what you are used to. Also the water quality will be different. 

Today I wanted to speak with you about the water issues as your proper water intake is a fundamental necessity to enjoying a fun adventure. Should you not be consuming enough water or a poor quality of water this can make you lethargic or even ill in some cases. So how do you ensure that you are consuming safe, clean water? Bottled water is one way but again how do you really know where that water is coming from? I don't mean to put a negative spin on everything but you need to be realistic - look at all the studies that have been done recently on the quality of bottled water being sold as clean and safe. If you are not aware of what's going on let me share a couple links with you.

Now I don't want you to think this is just being put out to you to scare you and make you buy the bottle I'm about to speak with you about. That's not why I'm writing today. I am writing to simply give you awareness of what's being marketed and what you can do to improve the quality of the water you are consuming.

I want to introduce you to the Puritii Water Filtration bottle - you may not have heard of it and that is because it is available through direct sales which means it is not advertised on TV, radio or elsewhere. It is advertised through word of mouth. I really want every one of you to take a minute to visit this website and read up on this filtration system then decide for yourself if this is of value to you and your health. Not only is it good for your health but it's good for your wallet. This filter cleans approximately 450 litres of water before you need to replace it. That's over $650 you would be spending on bottled water (based on an average of $1.50 per litre bottle). As well you would be saving the environment as you would not be adding 450 plastic bottles to our landfill or worse, the oceans.

I have personal experience with this bottle as I use it all the time. When we are in Mexico I fill my bottle directly from the faucet in my condo and I have absolutely no ill effects from drinking the tap water in Mexico. Even when we travel throughout Canada and the US I always use this bottle because water that may be fine, according to the locals who are used to that type of water, may not be good for you as your body isn't used to it. We even noticed how much chlorine smell was in the water in nearby towns to our home. We couldn't drink it, it smelled and tasted like a swimming pool - that's just scary and this was being served at a restaurant.  I use this bottle even when I am at home drinking the water from my faucet and when going out to dinner. When the waitress asks if we would like water I ask her to please just fill my bottle for me.

It's your health and well being at stake; you need to be aware of what is being offered to you as "safe" water and do your research - again I don't mean to be a Negative Nellie but I want everyone to be aware and make the best choices for your well being.

Enjoy the world, travel safely, use common sense, if you think it doesn't feel right, follow those instincts. If you're not used to a varied diet try to stick with things your body is used to and slowly introduce the local food to your system. Drink plenty of water, hydration is a basic fundamental to good health. Go forth and enjoy, I wish you happy, safe journeys.