A Travellerspoint blog

Yes, we were kidnapped on the way to the Dentist in Mexico

George Reporting...

sunny 80 °F

large_Merida_door_g.jpgOkay. So I know a few of you warned us of kidnappings in Mexico. And I have been pretty
cavalier about any concerns regarding that possibility. But, believe it or not, we were
victims of a kidnapping right here in Merida, Mexico!!!!

One morning, we set out from our hotel in search of a dentist office because I had lost a filing
in my tooth during our Caribbean cruise. I had been munching on a bagel in Barbados when it happened.
I suppose it's a "pirate thing" to lose teeth now and then so I thought of it as an enhancement
to the pirate-fantasy delirium I was in at the time.

Nonetheless, my wife being the good wife that she is, pressed me to somehow deal with the lost
filing. My dentist in the U.S. emailed me with simple, reassuring advice that I could find
a dentist in Mexico to take care of it. But who would that be? And what would be the cost?

As it so happens, we were on our way to the city of Merida which the Internet states is a well
known city for 'Medical Tourism'. Apparently many Americans travel there to get large dental work
done at the fraction of the cost in the States, unbeknownst to us.

Strangely enough I thought it lucky to have lost my filing and now it was just a matter of finding
a good dentist.
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In 10 minutes walking time, we arrived at a dental office just outside the main area but was
disappointed to see that it was closed. "Oh well", I thought. "Let's just walk around this
neighborhood anyway", I said to Andrea. We literally walk perhaps 20 paces, turn a corner and
past an open cafe where two women were speaking. We continued walking down the street a few steps
and I stopped to look at my map when one of the ladies pops out and asks, "Where are you from?"

To make this long story short, we learned she is a Mexican-American originally from Texas who
bought several homes in the area and now works as a property manager, sales manager, tourist guide,
Spanish teacher and potential Merida mayoral candidate. With her whirlwind like demeanor, we soon
found ourselves touring her lovely homes and taken for a ride in her car and shown parts of the city.
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When I mentioned my dental needs, she called and made an appointment for me at the "best dentist
in Merida". About an hour later, I was in the dentist chair getting a new filing which cost a
grand total of $37 dollars U.S. I paid with my credit card so I could get the frequent flyer
miles as well! Chew on that for a second! lol

Afterwards, Andrea and I walked back to her house (Maria) and planned to take her and her husband
out to lunch to thank them. Instead, she pulled a "fast one", and made us eat their delicious
lunch they had just prepared.

We talked for awhile and find that Maria has many great contacts in the city and we are grateful
that she will be helping us find a place to stay here for awhile.
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Finally, we were "let go" from our kidnapping ordeal which cost us a grand total of $37 dollars
and included free lunch.

So we want to thank those of you who told us to be mindful of the kidnappings in Mexico. We are
more mindful now and hope more kidnappings occur in the near future. :)
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Posted by woa 05:40 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

The Only Time in the World

Mayan Architecture and our new Watches

sunny 81 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

Well I did a pretty good search on the Internet and did not find references to a new theory,
about Time and the El Castillo/Kulkulkan structure, I'm about to put forth here.
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Firstly, the importance of 'keeping time' cannot be overstated when traveling. I suppose WE had
been taking it for granted because there were a few days where we had no way to regularly tell
accurate time. This was because I do not wear a watch and Andrea wore one that worked sporadically
due to a dying battery. It occurred to me, quite alarmingly, that we were not efficiently recognizing
what was the actual time. And now we were traveling in such a way that time jumps either an hour ahead
or an hour behind sometimes in the same day.

We resolved to buy new watches while in the Caribbean and found two good solar watches (duty/tax free)
in St. Thomas at an area named 'Little Switzerland'. With a name like that, how can you not find
a good watch?
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Of courses when you a buy a new watch you get a booklet with it the size of a King James' Bible.
Then you spend 30 mins figuring out how to set all its features. Also, our new watches are waterproof
so naturally we had to go swimming the Caribbean to see just how so.

We enjoyed our new solar timepieces and felt comfortable that we would not miss anything important.
However, I soon remembered why I didn't like wearing watches in the first place. They mostly
stress me out because I would constantly check the time and start to plan on 'what time' we
would be at someplace/anyplace, and if I didn't get there, based on the time I wanted to be there,
I would begin to feel a little stressed about it. Maybe there is something about 'Time' that
is deeply ingrained in me? I now recall that I had even written a blog post about the Pink
Floyd song 'Time'.

Flash forward several days to standing in front of El Castillo/Kukulkan in Chichen Itza. It's a bright,
warm comfortable afternoon and we are enjoying walking around the ruins at our leisure. There is
no place we need to be at any specific time so we could just walk and learn about the area.
Andrea decides to go look at postcards so I sit on a bench which has the quintessential view of
the famous pyramid. Mostly famous because of the snake-like shadow play that occurs every year
during the Fall and Spring Equinoxes (Youtube it). That is certainly a magical occurrence even
in this day and age so imagine the impact on the population a thousand years ago. No doubt the person, who
could say with absolute certainty, that the "snake will crawl from the sky to the ground on this
day", was perhaps the most powerful person in the Mayan world.
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There are other theories about how this huge pyramid was used but they mostly relate to signifying
when it was time to plant seeds or sow vegatables. Theories on how the pyramid is aligned
to the stars and planets seemed mostly a way for the ancients to continue to maintain power over
the people then, and for the new age ministers to do the same to us today.

Anyway, as I sat and stared I began to see the pyramid more as an ancient timepiece. There are
exactly the same # of steps on it as there are days in a year. There are platforms that can
group those days into blocks we call 'months'. And there are stone pieces that jut out of the
staircases that remind me of a sundial. When Andrea returned, I hypothesized that perhaps
the pyramid worked as a daily timepiece too. I could imagine that the Mayan priest/timekeeper
would step out of the top of the pyramid and then gently place a large jade/silver or other
reflective object upon the step marking the correct day of the season. The Sun would rise, striking
the object and people from a far distance could then see which step the light came from and know the
exact date. Walk closer to the pyramid and you could then tell, by the shadow created by the stone
protrustion beside the step, roughly what time of the day it was. Hence, you had exact date
and time at your disposal 1400 years ago.

Ancient people depended on time for reasons not to different from today. And if you really
wanted to know what time it was 1400 years ago in the Yucatan, you just had to come to
Chichen Itza. Perhaps having 'the only time in the world' was what eventually led to its decline?

Hypothesizing is a kick, isn't it? lol
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Posted by woa 05:32 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Quote

Merida_entry_gate.jpg

"If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love,
you have to find the courage to live it."
~John Irving

Posted by woa 14:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Ik Kil Cenote

by Andrea

sunny 83 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

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We are having a great stay here in Chichen Itza. Today was spent at the Ik Kil Cenote. I had never heard of a 'cenote' until we arrived in Chichen Itza and George said we would visit this Blue Sacred Cenote, which happens to be across the street from our hotel.

This morning we entered the sacred pool which is surrounded by limestone and plants on the walls. We were the first visitors in the pool and had it all to ourselves for a little while! In the water it was quiet, and felt kind of sacred.
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Eventually more people started arriving. Many of them were holding cell phones, cameras, video recorders, and those 'selife poles' with their cameras attached. I wondered, are we (meaning a ll of us) trying to have experiences, or just capture them to share online?

Of course we took lots of pictures too. Of course, the tours have limited time to spend and people want to capture their memories, while having fun. On one hand, it's good people are getting out and doing active things while supporting tourism . On the other hand, there is a lack of etiquette when someone stops right in front of you (blocking your view) to take their selfies.
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I tried to embrace my time in the water by noticing how silky, pure, and refreshing it felt as I was enveloped in it made a stronger tactile impression. By looking up to the Mayan sky and feeling the 'rain' where water falls from rock crevices above. By seeing all the small black catfish that swim in this water as well. And no scent of chlorine whatsoever. Obviously using more of our senses enhance the experience. This, by far, was the best, most amazing water I have ever swam in (second best is the warm, turquoise Caribbean Sea).

Even though people who are constantly glued to their devices, snapping photos of everything, annoy me, I think the answer is both - being present while having the experience, and capturing it in photos to share...as long as you are not spending the whole time looking at the experience through your device, and seeing where you are with our own eyes. For example, 13 years ago in Paris I remember vividly, viewing the Mona Lisa at the Lourve where tourists were crowded around the painting holding up cameras, snapping away. Maybe society has become too instant-everything, to take the necessary time to view art and nature in a slower, meaningful, way. You decide.
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Posted by woa 03:09 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

BAD TEACH(er)

George "The Scourge of Barbados" Reporting...

82 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

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I was fortunate enough to have a few interesting thoughts while swimming in an inviting, blue
pool beneath Blackbeard's Castle on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. Some of these
thoughts were conjured up thanks to a few magic elixirs of 'Blackbeard's (a rum drink) mixed with
warm blue sky and topped off with bright, spring-like flowers surrounding the pool.
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One interesting thing, I learned, was that fearsome Blackbeard the Pirate (real name Edward Teach)
used to place two, long entwined cannon fuses made of hemp underneath his big hat. The 6' 4"
pirate would then light them before going into battle, creating a swirling vortex of smoke about
his face that would both scare the beejeezus out of his enemies while, maybe, inducing a unique
state-of-mind for Blackbeard. Let me be clear, Blackbeard was a terrible, awful person who
killed many innocent people and had 16 wives, which he killed after every honeymoon.
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But his whole 'smoking head for battle' showed a high level of creativity in my opinion. Blackbeard
understood well how evocative and unique presentation methods enhanced his performance. You might
even compare him to Lady Gaga or Madonna or any dance performer her used smoke and mirrors to
dazzle the audience. It was not too surprising to learn that his real last name was 'Teach', and
that he originally came from England. In those days, one's last name was very closely related
to the family occupations such as 'Blacksmith' or 'Gardener'. I don't think there is evidence
out there that proves Blackbeard came from a family of teachers but it wouldn't surprise me a bit.
Some of the brightest and most creative minds I know of happen to be teachers. And if they ever
went 'bad', I would hate to think what damage they would do to the world. In fact, you might consider the main
character in the TV series 'Breaking Bad' as a modern day Blackbeard, an example of another teacher going "bad".

Ganda Excursion on St. Thomas Island, Caribbean $200
You probably already know that cruises offer various excursions costing anywhere from $50-$100 or
more. The cost mostly covers transportation, tour guides and perhaps snorkeling rentals and other
one-time uses.

At our first island in St. Thomas, we bypassed the first series of excursions and created our
own for a cost of about $200.
This is what you get:
1. 1.5 mile walking tour from the boat to Charlotte Amalie city where you can window shop
at stores you won't buy anything. Stop about midway on the beautiful pathway and access free
wi-fi for up to 2 hours. Wifi on the ship is prohibitively expensive so now is a great time
to check that email and such.
2. Stroll through the center of Amalie and marvel at the beautiful old Victorian era homes
mixed with a centuries old fort and various more affordable shops where you can buy a pair of
men's shorts and a women's bikini set for about $60.
3. Stroll on through 'Little Switzerland' which is just like 'Little Chinatown' or 'Little
Mexico' exccept, you know, it's Swiss. Spend time (pun intended) looking for the ideal
travel watch because, you know, you need one and we didn't have one if you can believe that.
Find two solar-powered, water-proof Casio watches for a duty-free, tax-free grand total of $101.
4. Continue a hiking tour to the famous '99 Steps' up to Blackbeard's Castle. Cost: Free
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5. Enter the grounds of Blackbeard's Castle and take the short, very interesting tour of his
castle/tour made out of brick and sugar-mortar. Yes, that's right. You can make mortar out of
sand, water and sugar. Cost: $20 for two.
6. Included in the tour is an opportunity to swim in the beautiful pool beneath the Castle/Tower
for as long as you like. Now aren't you glad you bought that swimming wear in town?
7. Purchase two glasses of the fearsome rum drink called 'Blackbeard's Revenge' and alternate
sips and pool dives. Cost of all drinks $16
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8. Tour also includes entrance to two Victorian homes that are beautifully furnished and
reminded us terribly of our past home in Oakland. The main house on this tour is the ideal
floor plan Andrea said. And the balcony view of the entire port area was a knockout.
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9. After finishing your walking tour, which includes gardens, pirate statuary, some history and
even a waterfall made entirely of amber, continue back down the 99 Steps to the heart of town.
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10. Stop here and purchase two bottles of wine and a bottle of spiced Bacardi rum for a grand total
of $30. Oh, and pick up a $10 pair of sunglasses for your sunglasses-losing prone wife.
11. Take the 30 minute hike back to your ship and arrive about an hour before it sails off.
Total excursion time: 5 hours approx. Total Excursion Cost: $237
Sounds expensive except you get to keep the bathing suits, and bottles of wine and rum and sunglasses
to use on your continuing voyage! Sign up on the Lido Deck Now! Just ask for Ganda. :)

The value of cruising
So initially this Caribbean cruise was a spontaneous gift for my wife. I felt like we needed
a little break from carrying around our big backpacks from town to town and a little vacation
from our traveling if you can swallow that.

It had been about 7 years since the last time we cruised and I don't recall having the best
time then. Cruising seemed to limiting to our anxious minds and bodies then, however, it
now seemed like an ideal time to relax a bit from our hectic travel schedule. But I've learned that
there is quite a lot of value to cruising much like the post I did about the value of
living hotel to hotel.

The entire 7-day cruise for two cost approx. $800 not including airfare. That's just a little
bit over $100 per day that covers the cabin suite, all meals, all non-alcoholic drinks, on board
entertainment, all-you-can-eat ice cream, daily maid service (very important), gym, use of board
games, access to books and literally transport to a different island nearly everyday. There is
quite a bit of "savings" in there from the usual way we travel and food is accessible 24 hours
a day. The meals alone are a pretty good value. There is the usual Lido deck food court food,
which isn't bad, and you can make healthy or unhealthy choices. However, if you choose to use
the dining room, you get treated to excellent, restaurant quality meals which includes dessert
and in most cases, a bottle of wine. Tips are not required. We figured that the nice brunch
we had this morning which included bagel and locks, steak and eggs, various pastries and unlimited
coffee probably would have cost a minimum of $40 (not including tip) anywhere else. Brunch like
that every day of the cruise comes out to over 1/4 of the cost of the entire cruise. Lunch and
Dinner are equally luxurious and over great value.

Carnival will hit you with an $84 per person gratuity fee to cover all room service for the week which seem high but they clean TWICE
a day and put up with various slobs no doubt. But if you get lucky at the roulette table, like I did, then it's covered!

Mostly, if you can figure out a fairly inexpensive way to get to a cruise port, you should give the Caribbean a try. The pirate
history here is pretty cool and I'm always on the hunt for buried treasure. If you have
a secret map, please email me at your earliest convenience and I'll split the booty with you...
maybe. ahahahahahhah
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Aaargh me mateys!

-G

Posted by woa 03:38 Archived in Barbados Comments (0)

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