Just like many Instagram users, you've certainly noticed that the city of Tulum, Mexico, is a prime vacation destination. Its turquoise water, exotic nature, stress-free life, bike rides, restaurants and delectable dishes, smoothies and fresh juices, bohemian-style shops and so on. It is a less touristic and less known city than Playa del Carmen and Cancun. We all want to be a little bit ‘’underground’’, which is why this sun destination is growing in popularity and you are looking forward to visit this city.
Cenote in Tulum. Photo by @ourkindlife.
Just like me, during your research you hear the call of Tulum. Like bloggers, you want to make a selfie while driving your rented bike from your AirBnB to the beach and stop by to drink a green juice! So, you plan everything in advance to avoid stress. Only, once there, you realize that many things have not been mentioned through the videos and articles consulted ...
So here's my '' Top 4 things you don’t hear about Tulum '' that will help you be prepared.
4. Speed bump …
Speed bump sign in Mexico
To make your life easier, you rent a car from the airport. Excellent idea! If you never drove in Mexico, pay attention to the signs, especially if your flight lands in the evening and it’s dark ... it was my case! Imagine, you drive a few miles above the speed limit and suddenly you’re propelled and floating in the air as in the finale of the film ‘’Thelma and Louise’’! For a split second, you look at your co-pilot in the eyes, you feel the fear… You take your hands, close your eyes and tell yourself it's the end! A second later, the tires of the car touch the ground and you notice the bad suspension. You realize that was not an old Mexican woman, but a speed bump and the road between Cancun and Tulum is covered of it. Be careful!
Final scene from the movie '' Thelma and Louise ''
3. No Inglés!
Before leaving, you learned some Spanish such as ''Gracias'' and ''Buenos dias''. The basics! Even if you will not stay in an artificial paradise such as a "resort", you think that you can easily exchange in English. During your trip, you absolutely want to see the Seventh Wonder of The World, Chichen Itza. To get there, you take some isolated roads.
Mayan pyramid on Chichen Itza site. Photo by Rudy Bois.
On your way, you stop at a completely deserted gas station to fill the fuel tank. What, you like adventures and danger! The gas station attendant, a charming old Mexican man, welcomes you and says proudly ''Buenos dias''! After 3 days in immersion, you feel that your Spanish is excellent, so you ask him to refuel. After only 10 seconds, he stops his service and claims his due. The tank is obviously not full and clearly your Spanish was not good at all! You ask him again to refuel and he does. Once completed, you give him the amount indicated on the pump and a tip, after all, you’re a nice tourist.
However, he continues to speak to you in Spanish, you do not understand a damn. You ask if he speaks English, he answers "No Inglés!". His actions suggest that he wants more money. You start to doubt the old man honesty, that he wants to rip you off. He continues his monologue, you do not know what to do… You think about taking the wheel and driving away! At this moment, your co-pilot opens the door and takes out his weapon, his iPhone with the Google Translation application. It translates that the man claims the amount of the first fill, which was not indicated on the pump. With embarrassment, you give the amount to the man and another tip while you’re excusing yourself constantly '' Perdoname, perdoname, perdoname! ''.
The lesson of this story: if you go out of the big cities and touristic places, expect to only speak in Spanish and if you are not able, Google Translation can be your best friend!
Workers pick up Sargassum algae in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Photo by archives Agence France-Presse.
After crossing a restaurant to access Tulum beach, it's almost the only way to get there, you notice brown-green mounds that separate the water and the fine sand. You approach and see that it is algae. At the same time, restaurants and hotels workers are busy removing them with forks and wheelbarrows. A colossal job! Some, luckier, use mechanical shovels. Others, more "astute", cover them with sand. This small obstacle does not stop you from submerging yourself in the Caribbean Sea and enjoying the water!
Sargassum seaweed on a beach in Mexico
Later, you read about the subject and discover that it was seaweed Sargassum. This aquatic plant affects the beaches of the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, the Est Indies and the southeastern coast of Mexico according to the winds and tides! A real plague right now. Before leaving, read about these algae because there are some precautions to take.
Restaurant ''Habitats Tulum'', on the beach of Tulum
All along the road that runs along the beach, on one side you see the beautiful bohemian-inspired shops, restaurants and cafes that offer drinks that, only by watching it, transmit you vitamin C! I'm convinced!
However, right across the street, in front of these dream businesses, there are makeshift shelters where people live. Old tents serve as sleeping rooms, tarpaulins make it possible to create a roof or a wall and are covered with palm leaves, it is more exotic, huge water tanks collect rainwater for consumption and so on… Suddenly, you feel uncomfortable with this strong social gap between the two sides of the street. Wondering how locals perceive you? What to do to help them? Despite your small annual income, you feel that you are monetarily rich compared to these people and you do not like that feeling.
Boutique on Tulum beach
This feeling is also felt when you are downtown in Tulum. As soon as you leave the main street, the inhabitants live in similar conditions. Some are luckier than others and have three walls and a roof. It is very difficult to ignore these living conditions. You do not understand how bloggers were able to pass this under silence. Of course, it would makes their life less heavenly ... You will need a few days to adapt ...
House near downtown Tulum. It’s well built compared to many others. Photo by Rudy Bois.
Collage by Michael Dube
Despite all this ...
You will live a unique and memorable experience, I'm convinced. Tulum is a lively and rewarding city. Its fauna and flora fascinate and inspire. The inhabitants, lemurs, ants, cenotes (you have to visit the Gran Cenote, it’s a real heaven), palm trees, flowers and Mayan ruins make us live experiences that touch us in the depths of our being. This is why, during his trip to Tulum, Rudy Bois felt the need to create his series of drawings "Tulum". Forms, colors and living things inspired him. Travel opens the mind and makes the soul grow. The unexpected creates funny and memorable situations.
Detail of a temple of the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Notice the red handprints. Photo by Michael Dubé.
Drawing made by Rudy Bois during his trip to Tulum. Available here.
Fauna and flora on the site of the Mayan ruins in Tulum. Photo by Michael Dubé.
Post available in French here.