Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo

We got back almost a week ago now, but it's been an eventful few days. I was all proud of myself for not getting sick in Mexico, and then precisely 24 hours after landing, I came down with a horrible stomachache that practically paralyzed me for a day.

Things that I noticed:
- In Mexico, kids do real jobs. We rode on these water taxis between Ixtapa Island, Playa Madera, and Playa Las Gatas, and our drivers were usually teenagers. One boy couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 years old.
- There aren't very many American tourists in the Ixtapa/Zihua area, but there are a lot of Mexican tourists. However, I was surprised by the number of people who spoke at least some English, and the staff at our hotel (Las Brisas Ixtapa) in particular spoke excellent English.
- There is a very large difference between sitting in the sun and sitting in the shade. The first full day, we spent a lot of time lounging on the beach under a palapa, and we felt great. The next day, we took a side trip to Petatlan, and we could barely walk three blocks in the sun without stopping for a drink.

Things that happened:
- We went snorkelling and had an accident with a coral reef that involved lots of scrapes, several bruises, and an incident with a sea urchin. Lesson: Don't chase the fish blindly.
- We didn't drink the water, but even so, something in the food in Mexico does not agree with American-bred (or even Asia-bred) stomachs. Either that, or we got sunstroke from our day in Petatlan. Two people threw up, and two other people were mildly sick.
- I got sick of chips and salsa. Never thought that would happen.

Things that I enjoyed:
- We had our first night's dinner on the Playa La Ropa, at a restaurant called La Perla. The food was good, the beach was beautiful, and I discovered a new drink: limonada, or limeade with club soda.
- Part of Zihua does look like the fishing village that I imagined (the other part is a bit more like rural Taiwan than I would have liked). The good part is fairly picturesque, with lots of fishing boats, a market of fishermen selling their day's catch, and many small seafood restaurants by the pier.
- Ixtapa is not as touristy as I had thought it would be. In fact, it's still fairly small by resort standards, and the downtown area is nice to walk around.
- As is our habit, we went to a local supermarket on the first day to stock up on water and snack/breakfast-type foods. The store we went to turned out to be a huge Walmart-like place called Comercial Mexicana which sold everything from clothes to tires to food to beach towels and toiletries. We had a great time people-watching, marveling at the cheap and delicious fruit, eating soft-serve, and buying fresh churros for 10 pesos a bag.
- It was nice having a private beach for our hotel (accessible only by boat for others). Although it wasn't large, there were only a few other guests there, and there were lots of chairs, umbrellas, and towel service. Although it was a bit rough the day we went down there, we made sand castles and had fun wave chasing anyway.
- I had quite a good experience at our hotel. As I mentioned before, the staff spoke excellent English, and they provided great service as well. The front desk actually called a neighboring hotel and had a pair of tweezers sent over, after we requested one. The restaurants were good, and not expensive by American standards (although they were pricey by Mexican standards), and the beach and pool area were both well maintained. The rooms themselves were interesting; not luxurious in the normal way, but creatively decorated with a local flavor, and each with a private balcony and hammock overlooking the water.
- Before and after the coral reef episode, we had a great time snorkelling; there were tons of fish, and the ocean wasn't too crowded. At Ixtapa Island especially, the water was super salty, so it was practically effortless to float.

Overall, it was a good trip, although perhaps a bit more exciting than ideally. It was fun to experience Mexican culture, eat authentic food, and hang out at the beach every other day.

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