Saturday, August 29, 2009


What better way to end a great summer than with some fun in the sun in Mexico? I was worried that it would rain constantly in Cancun ( showed 'isolated thunder storms' everyday during my trip), but thankfully, it barely rained. Travelling at the start of the low season did allow me to stay in a very nice hotel, Cancun Caribe Park Royal Grand, for a fraction of the normal cost. I paid $67 per night and got upgraded to a suite that overlooked the ocean. All guests at the hotel also got a 15% discount on all food and drinks at the hotel. But because it was low season, the resort was fairly empty.

All of this didn't matter because the Caribbean water is warm and pristine and I got my money's worth just from that. During my first five days, while I was waiting for Neil and his family to arrive, I took and passed a rescue diver class. More on that in separate blog. I also did two dives in a Cenotes or cavern. This was the most amazing diving experience I have ever had. The cool, fresh water is refreshing and requires divers to carry only half the weight they carry in the salt-water ocean. You can see stalactites and stalagmites, but even more impressive is the interplay of light and shadows as sunlight refracts in the water. At times it can be a little nerve-racking as there is no direct route to the surface. Apparently, Mexico and Florida are the best places for cavern diving.

After Neil and his family arrived, I hung up my mask and fins for some conventional Cancun tourism. We took part in an excruciating timeshare presentation at the neighboring Grand Caribe hotel which lasted over 2 hours. We were hard-sold by 7 sales reps. This was the first time I had ever taken part in a time-share presentation, and according to my friends who had been through several more, it was especially tough. In the end, we got $25 off per person for a Chichen Itza tour and my friends got free transportation to the airport. Neil and I went club hoping at the Corona Bar, Senor Frogs, and The City. While the first two were lame, The City was rocking. Corona Bar and Senor Frogs were populated by tourists, and this was why it was so lame. These are not the places locals go on Saturday nights. They go to The City, and that's why this place was so happening.

We did see Chichen Itza though I would have enjoyed it more had it not been so hot (try 95+). Unfortunately, the site is not impressive except for the main Mayan ruin. There is no comparison to Machu Picchu in Peru, which is located in a far more picturesque place high in the Andes mountains.

All in all, Cancun was a fantastic 1 week getaway at a reasonable price. I wish I had gone when I was a college student on spring break all those years ago, but better late than never!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Family Festivities

I made a brief trip home in August to celebrate some very important events in my family: my sister's engagement and my dad's 60th birthday. It was non-stop excitement for these 5 days as a good portion of my extended family - maybe 50 people or so - flew in to the Bay Area to celebrate. Suffice it to say that both of these events were highly anticipated by our family and boy was it a relief to see them go off so well.

I think the highlight of the weekend was how our back yard performed as a venue for both parties. I've never seen it look so spectacular. The second highlight was that we had a bartender. The only thing that could make the backyard better is a sound system, which we're working on. The weather was very pleasant - not hot at all - and a welcome change from the hot, humid, and rainy Philadelphia weather that I have been experiencing all summer. Thank god for my AC.

With these events behind us, the next time my family will gather will be November 7 for my sister's wedding.

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