My 2017 Best Nine Instagram Posts

I began last year with Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the US Virgin Islands at the top of my travel wish list, but for various reasons ranging from passport delays to hurricane devastation, I didn’t get to visit ANY of those places. Despite the setbacks, I’ll borrow a phrase from The Travelocity Gnome and say I’m grateful I still managed to ‘wander wisely’.

In 2017, I visited three new countries (Mexico, Belgium and Greece), one new city (Montreal), and made new discoveries in old favorites (The Dominican Republic, and my homeland of Jamaica). Not too shabby considering these destinations weren’t on my initial radar, eh? According to the popular  #2017BestNine site, these were my nine most liked IG snaps.

9. Kingston, Jamaica 

8. Jamaica…again!

7. La Romana Province, The Dominican Republic (DR)

Salty air, sun-kissed hair Ah…the endless summer Take me there. 🌴

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6. Montreal, Canada

Au revoir, Montreal. You were dreamy!

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5. The DR..take two!

Leisurely beach walks can be so cathartic and magical! Thanks to the app #Plotagraph and tips from ace travel blogger Alyssa Ramos (@mylifesatravelmovie), I learned to animate photos y'all! Do you see the clouds and water moving? Oh yeah, I'm so excited about that. Alyssa and Gloria Atanmo (@glographics) just wrapped up their first Blogger Bootcamp in Bali and the group's IG stories and posts gave me all kinds of feels. If you're not following either of these ladies yet, you should be.  I've been a fan of their content since 2016. (See link in my bio to a post that included them on a list of inspirational IG feeds.) ________ PSA to Droid loyalists like me: A mobile version of Plotagraph isn't available for Android, but I worked with the app on my PC and figured out how to use it with the help of another online tutorial.  Check it out!

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4. Sanibel, Florida

3. A Providenciales, Turks and Caicos throwback.

 2. Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

1. Irish Town, .Jamaica

Cloud 9 kinda tings.🇯🇲

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I’m totally stoked that Jamaica made three out of the nine images in this compilation, because as Tinga Stewart so famously said, “when yuh check it out lawd, no weh no betta dan yaad, oh no.”

What would YOU (my blog readers) like to see, or see more of, in 2018?

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#2017BestNine

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Three impressive ruins close to Playa del Carmen

Are you planning a trip to Mexico anytime soon? Well, if you’re headed in the direction of the popular Riviera Maya strip and are planning to stay somewhere between the Yucatan Peninsula and the coastal town of Playa Del Carmen, there are three ruins you absolutely must see. Grab a pen and note pad to write these names down right now. They are: Coba, Tulum and Chichén Itzá.

COBA

Of the three ruins mentioned, Coba dates back the furthest in history and is estimated to have been built and first inhabited between 50 BC and 100 AD. Although much of it still isn’t excavated, its intricate system of ceremonial roads and multiple pyramids (including the tallest in the Yucatan – Ixmoja – at 138 feet), is an impressive archeological find nonetheless. Coba Ruins_Mexico

Tips: This site doesn’t attract as many visitors as Chichen Itza or Tulum, so you can  still climb some of the structures which gives you a totally unique experience. [I ran out of time and didn’t get the money shot on top of Ixmoja.] Coba is home to more than 6500 structures, so schedule at least 2.5 hours to explore the grounds by foot. If you are traveling with seniors or someone who can’t walk for long distances, you can rent a bicycle for him/her, or pay for a Mayan Taxi (a bike with three wheels and a seat up front) for an hour-long tour. That makes it easy!

TULUM

Tulum, largely believed to be the best preserved coastal Mayan site in Central America, is where the locals and the Spanish conquerors first met. (We won’t talk about how that encounter ended). This enclave served as an integral trading port for the Mayans, and it sits atop a spectacular cliff that overlooks a dramatic beachscape. Tulum ruins, Mexico

Swimming or getting your feet wet in the warm, turquoise water is a must! You can’t miss the focal point – the pyramid El Castillo – that juts out majestically against the blue skyline. Before you leave, look out for the Temple of Frescoes which was used as an observatory for the sun. View from the cliff at Tulum

Tip: Pack a swimsuit and a change of clothing so you can take a dip in the warm Caribbean water lapping against the shoreline below the ruins.

CHICHEN ITZA

Chichén Itzá, which means source of enchanted waters, is the feather in Mexico’s cap.  Listed as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, its Kukulkan Pyramid is an imposing sight to behold. I learned there were 365 steps in total around all four sides. Chichen Itza, Mexico

Due to it being one of the most photographed sites in the region, if you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn there are other imposing and historically significant structures in the sprawling complex. The differing styles of architecture cover almost a 1000 years of Mayan urban industry.  Plan to view the pyramid, the ball court, and a sacred cenote with a ghastly history of human sacrifice. Ruins at Chichen Itza

Tips: This attraction is one of the most visited sites in Mexico, so plan to arrive early (8 a.m.) to avoid the crowds.  Also, take a hat and wear comfortable walking shoes.

I hope you enjoy visiting all three sites as much as I did!

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You can read more about my Mexican adventures here.

 

Hey, I went to Mexico and I didn’t meet one “bad hombre”!

A lot has been said about Mexico and Mexicans in U.S. news lately, and very little of the rhetoric  has been positive. Unfortunately, there’s been a broad and sweeping perpetuation of negative stereotypes that paint the country and its people as a mass exporter of drug dealers, rapists, and savage murderers. Sure, every country has some rotten eggs in the bunch (mine, and this one included), but guess what? I just got back from a trip to Playa del Carmen, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t meet one “bad hombre”.

Mexican sombreros
Trying on colorful sombreros on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen

Well, to be 100% percent honest, I am deliberately not counting the crusty heeled and dusty feet guy standing outside one of the Yucatan’s most famous ruins who approached women telling them in halting English, “In America, people would call me a gigolo.” Oh, and get this, he listed the cost of his “services”  as 500 pesos a day. In my mind, I was like, dude, please. You better go wash those unpleasant looking feet! LOL. (No, I am not kidding.)

But seriously, in dire contrast to the ugly caricature being portrayed about an entire nation, I met some great people and had a fantastic time on my mini vacation.

So, what exactly did I do and see?

I shimmied my hips with friendly and gregarious men dressed in tribal costume while they chanted to a hypnotic drum beat.

I gobbled up freshly made tapas, delicious tasting tacos, and drank refreshing sangria  whenever I could.

Mayan woman making tapas in a traditional hut.

I wandered happily and aimlessly through the streets surrounding the popular Avenida Quinta (Fifth Avenue) area looking for souvenirs, admiring the facades of buildings, and observing the interactions between the locals and tourists.

Shopping in Avenida Quinta, Mexico
Browsing the stalls on the busy Avenida Quinta (5th Avenue).

I checked out the trendiest beach clubs, where sun-worshippers and beach goers have access to lively music, drinks, food, and even massages for a fee.

Trendy beach club
Zenzi Beach Club, Playa del Carmen

I had interesting conversations with hard-working people like hotel front desk agent Belén, whose name is the Spanish version of Bethlehem (the place in Judah where King David and Jesus were born). Plus, I listened keenly to our day trip driver, Sergio, as he told me about his family, and their plans for expanding his small transportation business with help from his multi-lingual daughter who is scheduled to graduate from college very soon.

Tour driver in Mexico
Meet Sergio Ramirez, proud owner of his own transfer and tour company.

I also visited underwater and above-ground swimming pools (cenotes) that were all naturally formed when limestone bedrock collapsed to expose the groundwater underneath.

Many cenotes are in underground caves, but quite a few can be accessed above ground as well.

Due to the constant exposure to the sun, the water in the open-air sink holes are believed to have blue green algae that is rich in nutrients, making it an excellent source of minerals that nourish and protect the skin.

Zacil-Ha cenote
Admiring the crystal, light blue waters of the Zacil-Ha cenote

The water in the underground caves? Nah, that’s just COLD. (Men, extra long dips have been known to result in shriveled body parts. My female counterparts, local folklore declares that we look five years younger after a swim).

Mutl-Tun-Ha cenote
Inside the Mul-Tun-Ha cenote

And.. I wandered spell-bound through the ancient ruins of Coba, Tulum and Chichén Itzá, three cities that were at the center of the Mayan empire at different times. I’ll write a more detailed post on those ruins soon (with tips included).

Cona Ruins, Mexico
One section of Coba’s impressive ruins
El Castillo at Tulum
The remains of El Castillo at Tulum
Main pyramid in the Chichen Itza complex.

What was I reminded of with this trip? Sometimes things are not what others make them seem. It’s always best to explore for yourself so that you gain experiences and form impressions of your own.

Have you been to Mexico?  If so, tell me which part, and what you thought about it.