Mayan Adventure – Day 4

Having had such a nice start yesterday I headed back to the Wellness Centre for a massage.  At the suggestion of the concierge I signed up for a Mayan abdominal massage.  When in Rome, right?

The massage started innocuously enough with a gentle lubricated body rub.  The tiny masseuse commanded me to breathe and I was gently dozing when the abdominal portion of the hour began.  I rolled over, the therapist dug in and it HURT like the devil.  I do quite a bit of ab work in my various classes by my poor muscle wall was no match for the pneumatic probing of the Mayan Marquesa de Sade.  The pain shot through my kidneys and to the base of my spine.  I envisioned a childhood of clandestinely acquired gummi bears being manipulated to a decades late race for freedom.  There was a brief respite when the therapist left the room, leaving me panting on the table with a cloth over my eyes.  She returned some minutes later carrying what sounded unnervingly like a bucket of ice.  Seconds later she laid a shockingly cold towel over my midsection.  I whimpered and eventually slithered back to my room, reluctantly admitting to a slight sense of euphoria and a suspicion there might be visible bruising in the next day or so.

The scene of the crime:

Massage room

Eventually I rallied my senses and decided to get on with my day.  Having mastered the drive to Playa del Carmen (in the rain, no less) I decided to head back and survey the town for myself.  The last time I had been in this area was about five years ago for a four day sortie to Xcaret which is a resort built around a water park just as few kilometres down the road.  At the time if I recall I was in the middle of a rather epic sulk so I had no desire to mingle.  I also had no car and the very visible presence of a Sam’s Club cemented my decision to stay away.  Now I had a rental car and no real agenda (and the sulk lifted) so I decided to do some exploring.  I started off by visiting Akumal which is the most proximate town to where I was staying.  There is an excellent reef just off the shore and I wanted to sign up for a dive.  The playa is well equipped for such things and I wandered over to the Akumal dive shop to secure a space.  It was right on the beach and there were dozens of people swimming and snorkelling and enjoying the day.  Akumal is a small town so it was not overly crowded.  The playa side houses most of the tourist shops and restaurants.

GateBeach 2 Beach 3 Beach 1 Akumal water

The pueblo side is really for the locals.  There was this resident waiting for the soccer match to start in an otherwise abandoned field.

Soccer Fan

There was a little church with a particularly unfortunate Jesus who had also lost his arm in the melee (someone had daubed the stump with red paint to make it look intentional), a tiny store that sold everything (fruit in the front and a butcher in the back) and also what appeared to be the world’s most frightening circus.ChurchArmless JesusSeller of all thingsScary Circus

Akumal is very laid back and charming,  Even the police seem content and dare I say jaunty?

Cop on an ATV
I stopped at he Turtle Bay Cafe & Bakery, a charming brightly painted place housed in a series of palapas tucked off the main drag and a short jog from the beach to eat.  It was curiously presided over by a large breasted orangutan sculpture that I do not know the story behind, nor did I seek it.

Turtle Bay cafe1Turtle Bay cafe 2Orang

I selected one of their specialties – fresh grilled fish tacos with poblano sauce and sliced avocado and as they are a bakery I felt compelled to order another specialty,  flan caramel.

Fish Tacos    Caramel Flan

The flan was silky and sweet and I wondered if, after my Mayan abdominal assault, I was commiting an act of gastronomic Russian roulette.

Sated and slightly afraid I rolled back to the rental car and pressed on to Playa del Carmen.  PdC started out as a sleepy fishing village where one caught the ferry to Cozumel Island but has grown to a city of about 150,000 with a flourishing tourist trade.


Most of it is centred around the pedestrian boulevard of fifth avenue known colloquially as “Quinta”.  Here you can find small artisan stalls nestled next to Louis Vuitton, Sunglasses Hut and American Eagle Outfitters.


There are dozens of restaurants and it seemed like every second building was a boutique hotel.  I think if you had reasonable Spanish , some spare time and an intrepid soul you could find a great place to stay for not very much money.

Hotel 1 Hotel 2

One of the main reasons I had for coming to Playa del Carmen was to treat myself to a fish pedicure.  My friend David was here a few months back on his honeymoon and he recommended it highly.  It is a very strange experience.  Small fish called Garra Rufa which are native to Turkey swim around in a tank about the size of your average desk top aquarium and when you immerse your feet they nibble (or suck) off all your nasty dead skin cells.  It is enormously ticklish at first but you quickly get used to it and afterwards your skin is remarkably soft.  The poor buggers couldn’t do much for my heel callouses but neither can a chisel so with only 15 minutes they did their fishy best.

Fishe pedicure 1 Fish pedicure 2

With a spring in my step I headed off to another recommended establishment for dinner called Yaxche on the Quinta strip.  This place specializes in a modern take on tradition Mayan cuisine.  I had the Xaman Ha, a fish fillet stuffed with vegetables, wrapped in holly leaf covered in a white wine sauce and served with a pungent mushroom side and local vegetables.  The taste was subtle and the shredded vegetable stuffing loaned it an oddly asian feel.

Yaxche bread & butter Yaxche yellow dinner

I was sitting under a yellow light which is causing the decidedly jaundiced tone to these pictures.  Do not be off put.

The previous day I had discovered the delights of Maya sipping chocolate. I picked one up for the long journey home, saddled up the white chariot and headed back home.  Another eventful, blissful day done.

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