The relief of tripping off the plane after an 11 hour flight is always the best way to start a trip. Mexico is exciting and new and golden, part jungle, part colonial cities, alive with culture and Spanish speaking locals.
In Playa del Carmen, a particularly prosperous area in Mexico, impressively designed houses boasting significant wealth line the beach. However, this rich area of five star hotels and expensive holiday homes neighbours poorer parts of Mexico, barely more than shanty towns. While in Mexico, tempting as it is to lounge on the perfect beaches twenty-four seven, it's advisable to get out and do things when you're 3000 miles from home. Bus transport across Mexico is a great way to visit sites such as the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, a collection of ancient temples. These temples are well over a thousand years old. Said to be the mythical capital of the Maya civilisation, and quite a savage one at that: the Mayans were particularly inclined to regularly hack people's heads off as a tribute to the Gods, as the hundreds of skulls carved onto the walls of their ruined stone walls representing sacrificed humans remind tourists.
The underground pool of Cenote in the Yacutan region is stunning. Accessed only by descending virtually vertical steps to reach the clear and clean water, that you wouldnt dare to tinge with suncream. Above, sunlight streams into the cave, and long entrails of vines hang down to touch the water. Under the idyllic surface, large black fish swim around the hundreds of skeletons found at the very bottom, dumped there supposedly by the ever hospitable Mayans, who had been up to their old tricks again with the human sacrifices.
There are many common misconceptions about Mexico, mostly misinformed ideas from old cartoons about tequila-swilling men in sombreros and ponchos that went about shouting 'Ariba Ariba!' at the top of their voices. These false stereotypes will be discounted, on the realisation that tourists are the most likely tequila tipplers and sombrero sporters. The locals are incredibly polite, even if they do hound you down the street with offers of silver, souvenir tequila and cheap sombreros to take home. Walking down 5th Avenue is a startling experience; men wander past playing the guitar to no one but themselves, and eccentric characters may be seen holding a lion cub for people to be photographed with.
What does Cancun have that Birmingham doesn't? Glorious picture perfect beaches are pretty thin on the ground in Birmingham, and Mexico in midwinter is hotter than any freak hot spell we have here in high summer. There aren't many Mayan temples along Broad Street either, last time I checked. Mexico's answer to Gatecrasher is the incredible Coco Bongo, three stories high, where acrobats spin from the ceiling on ropes of silk and dancers, actors and Elvis impersonators writhe across the stage. This Central American country has something for everyone: pristine beaches, impeccable hotels, fantastic food and a thriving city life to explore. With the UK blanketed under snow, I'm counting down the days until I'm back.
Written by Hannah Detheridge