Photo’s are here or you can just click on the photograph above.
The good, the bad and the ugly of “the rest” of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Tulum, Kohunlich, Bacalar and Cozumel (amongst other destinations in Quintana Roo) already under our belts – I was aiming for somewhere slightly more cultural for Christmas 2018. Somewhere more akin to the Spanish Colonial cities of San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato in the Central Highlands of Mexico – both of which have previously received the highest seals of Gardner approval 😉
So… with hindsight… why I booked a 3 day sojourn to Isla Mujeres a few miles from Cancun remains a mystery even to me! The image I had conjured of strolling for miles along immaculate white sands and floating effortlessly in tranquil, teal waters ( à la Tulum Beach in November 2017) came crashing down as the Ultramar ferry cruised in to dock, 15 minutes after leaving Puerto Juarez, Cancun. The wind was howling, my hair was blowing horizontal, the sea was churning to a foam and – on the beach – the sand was whipping up around our ears.
The promise of a reasonably luxurious stay at the Privilege Aluxes on Playa Norte was also dashed shortly after check-in with one overwhelmingly heady whiff of drains mixed with neat bleach in our room. That night, I slept with a towel over my head trying not to breathe in any of the noxious fumes and promptly checked out the following morning with a demand to be moved to a room less hazardous to our longevity 😉
With 2 full days at our disposal on the island we rented a golf cart for the princely sum of $50 for 24 hours and headed to the most southerly point of the island. Punta Sur – is lauded for its clifftop views, sculpture garden and “Caribbean-style” village. The walk around the headland was beautiful, the waves were crashing, the view was lovely and the Caribbean sea was every shade of turquoise and blue imaginable. The “village”, however, is entirely missable unless you’re searching for cheap trinkets and ice-cream and the painted metal sculptures were strangely out of place.
The island can be circumnavigated in about an hour – it is only 4.5 miles long and 400 yards at its widest point. So for a trip to Punta Sur and back to the action-end of the island at Playa Norte we could easily have had the golf cart back within 2 hours and saved a small fortune. Instead, I was determined to make sure we covered every square inch and drove every single road on the island. Aside from ensuring full value for money, I was also planning on stopping for lunch in the middle of the island at Mango Cafe and partaking in one of their notable Mango Margaritas (which we washed down with a couple of exemplary vegetable quesadillas).
Despite the (still) howling gale, I also insisted that we drive out to one of the well-known restaurants in the middle of the island for dinner. When you have packed only summer dresses and shorts instead of the the skiing jacket, jeans and boots which would have made the journey in the golf cart a fraction less frigid, it was a less than comfortable start to the evening.
As we approached Fuego de Mar huddled together in the cart for warmth, it seemed extraordinarily dark inside for a restaurant which purported to be open. We could just about make out other human lifeforms sitting at a couple of tables inside – each lit by a single flickering storm candle and the flash lights of the occupants’ own cellphones as they peered through the blackness at their menus. The power was out – possibly indefinitely – but by means unknown the chef was still enthusiastically promising to feed his customers from his kitchen station – also in the pitch black. For a good hour or so before the light was miraculously restored it was really quite romantic despite the fact that it was impossible to see what you were eating. Even worse – the staff couldn’t see Geoff’s increasingly frantic hand waving to have his glass of wine replenished. Stressful alcohol-free moments for us both 😉
There are, of course, other parts of the island offering very touristy diversions which you could choose to visit by golf cart (there are no cars for rent on the island) but they weren’t really in my game plan for our second full day. I wanted to sit on the beach. There is snorkeling in Garrafón Reef Park, scuba diving at MUSA underwater museum, swimming with dolphins (which hardly sits well with our views on the exploitation of animals) and an unusual bar called Icebar claiming to be the “coolest experience in Mexico”. In one respect, I am sure it is. Apparently, inside the icy unit the temperature is a chilly -15C (5F). As official navigator I take full responsibility for strategically guiding us past the Icebar during our exhaustive tour of the island and, worse, for suggesting that we stop and take a quick look at it. It might have been fun to see inside as everything purports to be made entirely of ice – the seats, tables, glasses etc – only it was still 10.30 in the morning. If we could have just stuck our heads inside the door, we would have. However, there is a fee of US$14 per person to enter which buys you an entrance pass, a “free” cocktail, 2 shots of liquor, some buffet food and the loan of a buffalo skin blanket to avoid the rapid onset of hypothermia once you cross the chilly threshold. Thankfully, even Geoff didn’t relish the thought of being comatose on cheap shots before 11am, so we resisted its infinitely resistible temptations and headed back to Playa Norte. We were hoping for a relaxing massage at a beach cabana. In reality, we enjoyed a complimentary sandpaper body scrub courtesy of some unexpected 40mph gusts blowing drifts of sand into the massage oil 😉
Our final day was already ear-marked as a beach day so we were up bright and early to lay claim to a 4-poster cabana bed on the sand. We nested down for the day surrounded by sun-screen, iPads, a plethora of beverages and a box of English Christmas mince pies which had made the long international journey from southern England to Florida and from Florida to Mexico. The sheer curtains of the cabana billowed in the breeze allowing glimpses of white sand and teal waters. All might have been well had the day boats from Cancun not started arriving on the pier next to the hotel beach at 10am disgorging already sloshed, cackling, rowdy and very sunburned tourists who set up camp only feet away from our lofty perch. To cap it all, a very odd couple turned up mid-morning toting a plastic bag straining under the weight of heavy beer cans. They plonked themselves down on the sand just outside the hotel-owned beach line. They were of indeterminate age – one was a Mexican and his companion was a very frayed looking gringo of unknown origin who appeared not to have seen running water or soap in a good month or so. They sat down, spread out their collection of beer cans in a circle around them and turned up their CD player to full volume. Such was the booming cacophony that the sand was bouncing off the beach from the reverberations of the nightclub music blasting forth.
Rather than engage with them ourselves to ask them to turn it down a few decibels, we made our displeasure known to the hotel staff, gesticulated wildly towards the boombox and requested the assistance of the beach security staff who tried in vain to a) move them further down the beach and/or b) encourage them to reduce the deafening output. As the empty beer cans piled up around them and the sand still vibrated, the Mexican very slowly keeled forward in a drunken stupor until his head collapsed between his knees. For one dreadful moment I thought he was going to vomit there and then on the sand. An irate European wandered over from his hotel sunbed to join the security guards’ ongoing but ineffective efforts to remove them as we bravely looked on behind twitching cabana curtains to see how it all might play out.
The European was very large and very unhappy. The Mexican was comparatively very small and was so inebriated that he could no longer sit up let alone win a reasoned argument with a much larger stone-cold sober vacationer. Sensibly, he staggered away with his boombox leaving the circle of empty beer cans behind him. The gringo obviously also thought better of hanging around to face the music (so to speak 😉 ) and shuffled off to cause chaos elsewhere. Peace and tranquility returned to the beach 🙂
In the final analysis, Isla Mujeres is not for us. There were some good restaurants (Muelle 7 – where we sat with our toes in the sand over dinner; Fuego de Mar (excellent – with or without lighting), and Olivia with its beautiful courtyard garden and fabulous mediterranean food. But, with the best will in the world, a hotel where the guests were loudly necking shots all day in the swim-up bar was not quite our scene and the famed Playa Norte beach was ropey, to say the least. It was disappointingly short and could be walked from one end to to the other in a matter of only a few minutes. Festooned with seaweed and giant, disintegrating nylon sacks of sand (presumably brought in to repair beach erosion), it didn’t exactly scream idyllic.
So, if you’re thinking about visiting the Mayan Riviera – just go to Sanara boutique hotel on Tulum Beach instead! 🙂
A 15 minute ferry ride and we were back on the mainland at Puerto Juarez ferry terminal where a cab driver tried to quadruple the price of the return drive to Cancun airport where we were to collect our rental car. Note to selves for the future – don’t bother spending 30 minutes negotiating with and ranting at a dishonest cab driver in a foreign language when you can walk 20 paces outside of the ferry terminal schlepping your luggage with you onto the main street and pick up a cab there for the normal rate…
And so, finally, off into the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula and away from the beach resorts of Cancun and Quintana Roo – destination Merida – where we would spend Christmas.
En route we took a detour to Izamal, one hour east of Merida. Izamal is one of Mexico’s designated “pueblos magicos “. Uniquely, every building in the historical district is painted egg-yolk yellow with white trim. Almost certainly the brightest, sunniest town we have ever visited. There are cobbled streets, a typically chaotic marketplace, horses and buggies, Mayan pyramids a stone’s throw from the town centre and the pièce de résistance is an impressive Franciscan convent – the Convento de San Antonio de Padua completed in 1561. Before the Spaniards arrived there was a Mayan pyramid on the site of the convent. It was destroyed in battle but the Spaniards (presumably not wanting to waste the back-breaking intensive labors of the Mayan stonemasons before them) re-purposed the stones in the construction of their convent on site.
It was very hot, we were wilting and temperatures inland were soaring to the low 90’s F.
Time to head to Merida and to our trendy and luxuriously air-conditioned house – a refurbished casita mere steps from Merida’s most beautiful plaza – Parque Santa Lucia. Comfortable though the casita was (with its own shady courtyard – strung across with a hammock – and a dunking pool with water so cold that even I would have needed a wetsuit to have ventured into it) it appeared that the Mexican drain traumas of Isla Mujeres had followed us 200 miles inland. Over the course of the next 6 days we became intimately acquainted with the owner’s go-to plumber and his 75 foot toilet snake trailing through our bedroom and en-suite bathroom 😉
Drains are, undoubtedly, an issue in Mexico – particularly in old, historic cities but that rather took the biscuit. In addition, something I hadn’t really absorbed in our earlier explorations of the Yucatan Peninsula is that even Yucatecans don’t drink the tap water or, in fact, use it for anything other than flushing the loo. Every single drop of useable water for drinking, cooking or washing vegetables – for tourists and residents alike – comes into the region on the back of a truck. This is very inconvenient. For those of us lucky enough not to give such things a second thought in daily life – this rather put a lid on us ever moving to the Mayan Riviera!
Merida is not our favorite Spanish colonial city. Aside from the stifling heat – upwards of 90F and oppressively humid pretty much year round – it lacked a lot of the pristine, colonial charm we have found in other cities. There are some great cafes, restaurants and coffee shops (Apoala, Oliva Enoteca, Pita, Latte Quattro Sette, Bengaala Kaffeehaus) and some not so great ones (La Recova, Pinuela and the renowned French bakery Escargot which, despite reviews to the contrary, sells very possibly the worst croissants in the world) and in a moment of weakness we sampled some interesting flavors of ice-cream at Pola Gelato.
The Plaza Grande in the Centro is the hub of city life. The pink Palacio Municipal faces the park and there was a live dance performance there the night we arrived with women in traditional huipil dresses. The evenings are lively in the parks with music, market stalls and food vendors famous for a traditional dessert called Marquesitas Yucatecas. In a moment of madness I wondered if we should try one of these cigar-shaped cheese-filled sweet wafer desserts but I immediately thought better of it once I saw the array of packaged ingredients which went into their production 😉
In an effort to escape the commercial horrors of Christmas in Florida, we prefer the low-key celebrations of Latin America. Merida’s concession to Christmas appeared to be, on first (and last) pass, a shoe shine in a Santa hat working in the park and a very unusual nativity scene… 3 wise men… a horse… a camel… and an elephant… ?!? Barely a bauble or plastic Christmas tree in sight anywhere in the city outside of the nativity scene. Perfect!
The charm of Merida lies in wandering its neighborhoods. We were steps from beautiful Santa Lucia Parque from where we could stagger home in 90 seconds from Cafe Bar 500 Noches which served the best lemon margaritas in the city. All of the best restaurants are either in, around or walkable from Santa Lucia. Across the city, there are market stalls and nightly performances of music or dancing in any one of the numerous parks and plazas including Santa Ana and Santiago. Paseo de Montejo, lined with banks, mansions and museums is undoubtedly Latin America’s answer to Paris’ Champs-Élysées and is worth a morning stroll to admire the architecture from the Monumento (near Parque Santa Ana) to Monumento a la Patria, before the heat of the day kicks in. We just weren’t as charmed with the city as we had been with either Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende.
No matter! A short 20 minute drive north of the city centre are the Mayan ruins at Dzibilchaltun. It is a small site at the northern extremity of the Mayan cultural region and it was occupied for upwards of 3000 years before the arrival of the Spanish. Famous for its Temple of the Seven Dolls, much remains to be excavated there. It is barely on the tourist radar so we were pretty much alone clambering over the structures. Inside the complex is Xlakah cenote which we swam in before it started to fill up with locals bringing their kids to play in the shallows by mid-morning. Clear, azure waters with a backdrop of a crumbling, ancient ruin. The pond was filled with flowering white waterlilies and tiny fish nibbled at our toes. What the 8 year old “little me” wouldn’t have given to frolic alone in a flower-filled pond. It was uniquely spectacular in its own diminutive and understated way.
The highlight of the Merida region, however, was scampering over the absolutely fabulous Mayan ruins at Uxmal. The day trip to Uxmal took slightly longer than it should have done. Theoretically only an hour and 10 minutes away, I had chivvied us out of bed well before daybreak so that we could be standing at the entrance gate at 8am and get a head start before the crowds arrived. However, I hadn’t taken into account that we had a faulty petrol gauge on the rental car which read “full” one minute and “empty” 10 miles later. So we back-tracked on a half hour not-very-scenic detour to a town of unknown name (but crucially containing both a gas station and even more crucially an ATM – as the gas station hadn’t quite joined the rest of the 21st century in accepting credit cards as a valid mode of payment for its goods and services).
Finally, we were back on track, albeit very late, driving through the Santa Elena valley shrouded in fog and cloud so thick that it could only be matched by my dark mood. Mumblings from the navigator about heading back to Merida and trying again another day were ignored by the driver and miraculously as we pulled into the parking lot (now starting to fill up with cars) the fog lifted and the sun started to break through the clouds. As we emerged from the entrance gate into the complex we were just in time to see the highlight of Uxmal – The Pyramid of the Magician – bathed in warm morning light. Breathtakingly perfect and dauntingly huge, it reaches 115 feet in height, it has a 60 degree incline and is elliptical in shape. Thank goodness it was forbidden to climb the 90 steep steps as I had vertigo just looking up at it from ground level 😉 The Pyramid of the Magician is built upon 5 underlying temples and, according to legend, was built overnight by a magical dwarf named Itzamna by way of a challenge thereby winning the city and taking the seat of power from the King.
Uxmal was one of the largest cities in the Ruta Puuc area and was home to some 20,000 Mayans at the height of its power in 600-900AD. The Puuc architecture is distinct from other Mayan architecture in that the corners of the buildings are rounded, plain in design at the lower sections but highly ornate at the top sections with latticework and sculptures. We marveled at amazing sculptures of Chaak masks with their long curved noses, 2-headed jaguars, turtles and feathered serpents. There is no natural water source in Uxmal (as there is no on-site cenote – unlike other Mayan cities) so the inhabitants worshipped Chaak, the God of Rain. We climbed over the Nunnery Quadrangle, the House of the Turtles, The Palace of the Governor, the Great Pyramid and the Temple of the Doves in almost total solitude.
Obviously, we couldn’t explore hot and sweaty ruins for a morning without also cooling off in another Indiana Jones-type dip in a vine-draped cenote. Conveniently, the cenotes of X-Batun and Dzonbacal are directly on the route back to Merida at the small village of San Antonio Mulix… that is… directly via a meandering dusty track through a couple of equally dusty hamlets to an incongruously large palapa in the centre of yet another dusty hamlet. The said palapa is strung with dozens of life-jackets and a few ancient bikes to rent. A villager is on hand to sell you a well-worn plastic entrance pass which you hand in to another villager a few yards further on (who then runs back uphill to the palapa to return the plastic passes to the first villager). You continue on an even dustier dirt track into the scrub and the boonies for another couple of miles until you reach a dead-end. There is a sign pointing left and right and just as you reach it, you can make out the excited screams of small children and loud families and you realize you really should have come much earlier in the day 😉 Mexicans like to party… no matter the location nor the time of day. The sign indicated Dzonbacal cenote to the left and X-Batun cenote to the right.
X-Batun is reputedly more spectacular so we turned right – theoretically it fits the visual image of a beautiful cenote – giant strangler roots, waterlilies and other exotic flora. In reality, it was a large bowl of chilled people soup in a slightly churned-up pond. After a few obligatory photos we got straight back into the car and took the left spur to Dzonbacal which was spectacular and slightly less crowded. We parked up, descended a rickety wooden staircase and found ourselves swimming in a large, dark cave with stalactites all around us instead of flailing humans splashing about in fluorescent orange life-jackets 🙂
Last stop in our 3-part vacation – Valladolid – another “pueblo magico”. Our favorite destination of the vacation. The streets are well-preserved and clean, many of the buildings are restored and colorfully painted. The most beautiful historic street is Calzada de los Frailes (Calle 41) dotted with boutiques and cafes, hotels and bars. It extends from the centre of the city down to Sisal Park and to the former convent of San Bernardino de Siena. Every night at 9pm the walls of San Bernardino come alive with a dramatic and highly colorful, historical, pictorial rendition of mayhem, destruction, Spanish colonization, re-building and unification. It is a very large-scale narrated video and light show with impressive special effects rolling across the walls of the convent. I was suitably awestruck (along with the rest of the entirely Mexican audience) even though I didn’t understand a word of the narration. Geoff sloped off to a nearby bar. Thankfully, he was gone long enough that I could also sit through the second 15 minute performance (by that stage, entirely alone in the dark park) for the English language rendition… so ultimately I wasn’t entirely in the dark 😉
The Mercardo Municipal on Calles 37 and 32 is typically lively… aside from the meat section which is the usual ghastly graveyard of mutilated carcasses, decapitated heads and gelatinous eyeballs. We lingered longer with the fruit, veg and flowers…
There are parks dotted around the city. Candelaria Park, overlooked by a beautiful red church, is frequented by local families and elderly gentlemen dosing in the sun on park benches. I wandered off to take photos leaving Geoff on a park bench and returned to find him 15 minutes later totally engrossed in chatting to an elderly man. They appeared to be getting on like a house on fire although neither of them had the faintest clue what the other was talking about 😉
The centre of the city is dominated by the Catedral de San Gervasio opposite the Plaza Principal (Zocalo) also known as Francisco Canton Rosado Parque. In the centre of the park is a fountain surrounded by the cleanest, whitest wrought iron benches I have ever seen in Latin America – all part of a recent refurbishment of the plaza. At night there are artisans stalls and food vendors and it is all positively delightful and lively – rather too lively by the time we were ready to retire for the night.
In our quest to find the perfect retirement destination in Latin America, we tend to forget that Mexican cities are far from tranquil at night.
There is, of course, the ever-present background “white noise” of stray dogs barking into the wee hours but we had an extra special treat during our 3 nights in Valladolid. Even with earplugs firmly jammed into our ears and pillows over our heads, we were still kept up all night by the throbbing of nightclub music from a local bar reverberating through the walls of the hotel and shaking the dust out of the rafters until 4am.
Just to add to the discomfort of our already frayed auditory nerves, we were also in town for the last night of Fiesta Guadalupe. At first I thought it was just the start of the Third World War – but no – it was far more terrifying. Every police vehicle in the city was driving slowly through the streets in a long cavalcade of vehicles – cars – trucks – lorries – motorcycles – literally anything on wheels. The police sirens were deafening, drivers were leaning on their horns, there were blue flashing lights, gun shots and fireworks launched randomly from the back of police trucks across the busy streets.
If we want to survive long and fit and all in one piece into retirement, I think we’ll be better off in the more peaceful coastal resorts of Baja 🙂
Valladolid also has some really good restaurants and cafes – La Casa Natural; Yerbabuena del Sisal (where dinner can be perfectly timed to end at 8.59pm so that you can saunter across the road into Sisal Parque and watch the walls of San Bernardino burst into life at 9pm, as above); El Jardin de los Frailes with its pretty garden on Calzada de los Frailes; the best coffee of the vacation was in Soletana Cafe Santuario also on Calzada de los Frailes; and the best ice-cream in Mexico is in Wabi – conveniently mere steps away from our abode and the Plaza Principal.
Just outside Valladolid city there are 2 cenotes. One which you should definitely go to (San Lorenzo Oxman) and the other which you definitely shouldn’t (Suytun). Funnily enough, we very nearly didn’t go to the one you definitely should go to even though it was highlighted in my scheduled “to do” list. I fully admit to dropping the ball when it came to preparatory research on Suytun (for which I paid dearly in credibility). But in my defence, I was wooed by a stunning Instagram photograph I had seen online.
So, heading due east, we went miles out of our way from the city centre to visit Suytun cenote because of a single entirely misleading photo. We should have turned around as soon as we arrived in the car park. It was jammed with enormous coaches belching pollutants into the atmosphere and dozens of people were milling aimlessly by the entrance gate wearing the identifying tags of coach tour visitors. We joined the herd and trotted through the main entrance like lambs to the slaughter. We paid our highly inflated entrance fees and were funneled through a second entrance gate where staff were stopping guests in order to take group photographs as if they were on a cruise in the Caribbean. A few more paces along the path and another member of staff dressed up to represent some kind of winged creature leapt out at us from behind a bush asking if we wanted a photo with him.
All the warning signs were now clearly available to us that this wouldn’t end well… Geoff was impolitely expressing his discontent at my chosen destination but I told him to persevere – that the cenote was utterly unique and would be absolutely spectacular.
How wrong can one be! We were forced into damp life jackets and followed the herd down steep steps into the chilly bowels of the earth. As the gigantic cave opened up before us we were greeted by piped music and a depressingly touristy Disneyesque “Mayan experience” with a couple of staff dressed in full-feathered Mayan regalia prancing about on a concrete platform in the centre of the cave. They were surrounded by dozens of noisy people in bright orange lifejackets bobbing about in a dark, murky, freezing cold and hugely unappealing pond. The special feature of this cenote is the tiny circular hole in the top of the cave through which streams a dramatic beam of light down onto the “stage”. It is possible that without the glowing jackets and the embarrassing performance for the tourists that this might once have been a truly special place. It certainly isn’t now. It has been thoroughly destroyed by Instagram followers and a plethora of tour companies.
Five minutes later we were back in the car and headed due west of Valladolid to the cenote which had always been on my list – San Lorenzo Oxman. In reality, it is only 10 minutes from the centre of town. Via Suytun, we had obviously taken a convoluted route. After an hour on the road and a couple of GPS-guided wrong turns (one taking us directly to an enormous fly-blown tip with vultures circling overhead – just to complete the picture) we pulled up outside of the restored red-painted Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman.
We paid a very reasonable entrance fee for the cenote and breathed a sigh of relief as we peered down into its depths from ground level. We navigated the steps downwards. It was absolutely beautiful… a circular, translucent, ultramarine and teal pool filled with catfish, dripping in stalactites, and strangler fig roots dangling from ground level (now way above us) down through the entire height of the cave. We shared it with barely 4 other people. I am far too old and stately to swing through the undergrowth on a rope swing like Tarzan but Geoff has no shame 😉 It was fabulously gorgeous and sublimely peaceful.
It would have been the perfect end to our trip… only in reality the vacation didn’t end quite as expected.
I’ll keep it short(ish!). We were heading to the PeMex gas station closest to Cancun airport. I handed my credit card over to pay for the gas and the attendant turned away to pick up the credit card machine. When he returned to the driver’s window he said my card had been declined. So he ran it again upon my instruction – still declined. We were baffled, distracted and slightly irritated – we thought the card company had forgotten to check their records that we were traveling abroad again and had put a hold on the account. It wouldn’t have been the first time. He handed it back – I stuffed it into my purse – and dug out our back-up card which ran through immediately. We were still analyzing why the first card might have been declined as we drove away. Absentmindedly, I took it back out of my purse and saw that it wasn’t mine at all – the same brand of card but definitely not my name. Geoff is inherently less suspicious than I am, so he decided that there must have been a simple mix up in a restaurant whenever we had last used the card. When we got to the airport lounge, he checked the transactions online and there had been no unusual activity so he wasn’t worried. I wasn’t convinced… I was still wracking my brains but, for the life of me, I couldn’t even remember using that credit card on vacation.
And then the mental haze cleared and I knew for certain that the attendant had swapped the card in a highly audacious sleight of hand at the gas pump. We were sitting on the runway in the plane waiting to take off just as I was explaining my new theory to Geoff and simultaneously he started to receive a barrage of texted fraud alerts from our card company. There was a sudden flurry of activity at various electronics stores across Cancun. So, with less than 2 minutes before we were due to be airborne, Geoff called the company and cancelled the card.
The thieving gas pump attendant and his network of cronies didn’t get away with a single successful purchase but the audacity of the whole transaction was impressively astounding: pocket the tourist’s credit card and swap it for an old previously cancelled but identical one – pretend the tourist’s card has been declined – hand the imposter card back and hope that the harried, hapless tourist doesn’t notice it’s not her card – pass the nice, shiny, newly stolen card on to a gang member waiting in the wings and sit tight for a couple of hours until the tourist is 30,000 feet in the air – and then go shopping!
Brilliant in its simplicity.
Viva Mexico!! We still love you 😉