Monday, January 20, 2014

Going to a Cenote in Mexico

    Cenotes are beautiful pits or sinkholes that expose groundwater. Close to the end of my trip in Mexico, I had the opportunity to visit a cenote. Coming out of Uxmal with the intention of heading back to Cancun, a tiny village lies outside of Uxmal with a small but beautiful cenote. Well out of the main road, the path to the village is not tarred and jagged, with curves and sharp bends and shrubs brushing the sides of the car, till at last we reached the cenote. Almost cavelike in appearance, the cenote was not visible until I descended down a slippery stair case into the cave below. 

As I stepped down the stairs (that's me in polka dots), I heard flies whizzing past my ear, felt the hot, humid air getting stronger and the splash of water as people jumped into the cool cenote.

Within the cave, there were virtually no instructions about diving into a cenote, just a bright yellow rope to hang onto after the dive. Same rope will provide an anchor to head out of the water. At first, several people stood around watching, but before long, there were shouts, and rush of adrenaline as people jumped into the cenote.

Soon, there were cries of encouragement for me to jump as well, but I know my limitations. I'm an ok swimmer and a terrible diver and I certainly wasn't ready to try out my poor skills just yet. Nevertheless, it was very lovely to see the cenote, a naturally occurring beauty with a history vested in Mayan culture, sacrifices and practices.

Hard to imagine that few distance from where I stood a beautiful sinkhole (cenote) was providing fun and adventure and refreshing coolness to locals and people from all over the world.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How I saved money on international travel in 2013

Simple, Airbnb!

Airbnb is a platform provided for individuals to rent unoccupied space for a short while. It's secure, safe and cheap. And for a student like me, with minimal funds to live on and even smaller funds to travel with, it's a god-send and an answer to my prayers.

My very first Airbnb in Cancun, Mexico.
I had a room and  private bathroom to myself. Roomy and sunny, the house is traditional and warm, just like its hosts. Having travelled around the world, my host were very knowledgeable and adventurous. I learned so much, not just about the vicinity I was staying in, but about Mexico and several other places around the world. They suggested a restaurant on my second day and I had amazing Mexican food there. I saw and chatted with locals in the park few blocks from the house.

Airbnb in Merida, Mexico.
Merida is old-new, modern, eclectic and charming in an appealing sorta way. And the place I stayed in reflected that quite well. Very different from my Cancun airbnb, but no less, spacious and neat. It is located just about 3 blocks from cathedrals, museums and restaurants. During the day, the bustle is subdued and quite, but at nights, the streets come alive. Street shoppers, street hawkers, street carnivals, street restaurants....the streets become an embodiment of entertainment in Merida. There was no shortage of things to do and because of the airbnb home I stayed in, I was right in the middle of it all.

Airbnb in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Let's call this airbnb home the resting point after a day of eating, dancing, swimming, clubbing and window shopping down the valley in Montego bay. I came here with my school friends and we had fun through out. Our hosts were very liberal and we had a lovely time with them every morning sipping that awesome Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee and talking. Because the house is situated on a hill, we took walks every morning, just to watch the sun rise above the city below. We walked and talked with locals each morning and by the time we were leaving, most of the locals, having recognized us by now were waving good bye.

 If I had chosen to stay in a hotel in Jamaica, not only would my pocket book suffer for it, I would miss out on this lovely view, as all the hotels were down below.

Airbnb in Kingston, Jamaica.

I didn't take good pictures of the place we stayed in Kingston, because we barely stayed in it. We were out quite honestly 70% of the time, and slept the remaining 30%. But the Kingston airbnb was the biggest one of all. Located in an almost estate-like neighborhood. 

 Aside from being so much cheaper than the typical hotel, I think Airbnb provides a culturally immersive experience for travelers. I learned so much from my hosts, and the locals. And just getting to know more about the offbeat locations is also very fulfilling.

I plan to use Airbnb more in the future.