After spending the early afternoon diving and snorkeling in the underworld of Dos Ojos Cenote, we arrived in Playa del Carmen right before sunset. We found a small city parking next to Parque Los Fundadores. As soon as we started walking the streets, it instantly hit us that Playa del Carmen was closer to Miami than Tulum, with tourists aplenty and big, loud American shops and fast food franchises. Playa, after all, is only an hour from Cancun, and was the next city in line to follow the Mexican government’s development plan to attract North American tourists.
We watched the painfully-fake Mayan dance celebration under the Parque Los Fundadores arch, as people took photos. For most of these tourists staying in Westernized luxury hotels, this would be their only contact with local & traditional culture throughout their trip. On one hand, I can’t blame them for just wanting to simply enjoy the beach in a town that’s basically a cheaper more laid-back version of Miami. On the other hand, I cringe at the thought that anyone would enjoy this artifice of Mayan culture. Luckily, the arch was beautiful, with stunning details:
We walked on the beach to a gigantic palapa-style sports bar, where we had unique burgers. Unique because the ingredients (onions etc.) were mixed inside the beef patty. It was delicious!
We had to check in our AirBnB, but Ramon & Jarelle wanted to walk around the tourist shops, so I drove to the apartment. There, I met our French host and engaged in a long conversation with him. His story was fascinating and right then and there, I envied him a little. In his early thirties, he had left the French military and went on a one-month holiday in Playa del Carmen, where his best friend lived. That first month, he partied non stop. Then one month turned into a few years, as he identified an opportunity to do AirBnB rentals and fell in love with a Mexican woman that he married. In only a year, he started a property management company, and rented six gorgeous apartments (one of which we were staying in). All he does all day is manage those properties, and he makes a good living off of it. He is now buying a home for his family at a beach community, with less than 5% down payment! Talk about living the life!
I grilled him with questions, hoping to benefit from his experience. I learned that corruption wasn’t really an issue, but competition was (there is A LOT of AirBnB offers in Playa del Carmen). I also learned that only a Mexican entity (individual or company) can buy property in Mexico. And that’s why in his first month, he had many local women offering a “business” marriage (win-win), without him even asking. The two solutions he recommended were to create a Mexican property management company (but not initially) or to do a Fideicomiso, whereby you pay the bank $200/year for them to buy & manage the property in your name.
Despite my fascination, I hadn’t necessarily come to Playa for real estate tips. We were only staying one night there, and what do you do in Playa? Party. The club to (supposedly) be was Coco Bongo.
If you’ve seen the movie The Mask, that’s where Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz have their whole nightclub dance routine. They have incredible live performance shows where Spiderman fly from the ceiling and Michael Jackson lookalikes moonwalk left and right.
However, when we showed up at the door, we learned it would cost over $50 to get in. No thank you. So we took photos in front of it to make it seem that we went there (lol).
We went to the club down the street, La Vaquita and stayed there for an hour. The men’s bathrooms were a choose-your-own-adventure of drug dealers, who were openly selling their wares. In the next club we tried to enter, Jarelle was refused entry for wearing a tank top. He said he’d go back to the apartment to change, but of course he never came back (Jarelle’s body is sacrosanct: if that body of his hits the comfy mattress of his bed, there’s a 99.9% chance that at that moment, the prospect of sleep will seem more appealing that walking back 20 minutes and clubbing in the party capital of Mexico). Since he’s a gymnast, my assumption is that’s how he got into bed:
Later that night, as Ramon and I were walking back to the apartment, he tried to get the attention of two boisterous black girls. It happened something like this:
One of them turned and was like all these 3 women into one:
Ramon was offended:
Luckily, the second girl intervened and denuclearized this potentially heated situation, preaching brotherly love between black people of all countries & origins. Or as she would now say, in April 2018: WAKANDA FOREVA!
Yes, that second girl, unbeknownst to us, was Lady Leshurr, a gifted UK Grime artist who hit the scene big time in 2015 with a freestyle that made 51 millions views on YouTube! Her album is expected later this summer, but she has already garnered well over 100 millions views on her freestyle videos. Of course, I only learned all this doing my research after the fact. On the spot, I thought she looked familiar and I asked her if she opened for a concert I went to in a popular but small Dublin venue (UK jazz-funk Yussef Kamaal was playing). She said yes, but then specified: she opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers (at their request) in their Dublin show, in a much bigger, 13,000 capacity arena! #Respect. That Mexican vacation was well deserved!
We parted ways, and went back to the apartment. Jarelle, in his sleepy daze took 2 minutes to open the door for us. Later that morning, we bid farewell to Ramon who left to the airport to go back to his snowy and terribly cold native Buffalo, NY. On our end, we drove back to Cancun to board a boat to our next adventure.