17 Hours in Cancún (and Riding the ADO Platino Luxury Bus)

My sitters showed up around 1PM yesterday afternoon. We smoothed out a few details and then I got on a city bus to go to the Fiesta Americana shopping plaza by the Hyatt Hotel to take the bus to Cancún. First, though, I made a stop at a conveniently located (as in they’re at the same stop as the Hyatt) Mail Boxes Etc. to see if they could help me with a prepaid envelope for the consular agency to return my passport in.

DHL had wanted to charge me $600 and put a deadline on when the envelope could be used so I hoped MBE, which deals with many courier companies, could offer me an alternative. The suggested Fedex for just under $200, with the caveat that the passport had to be delivered to their office. I was fine with that even though I don’t trust FedEx.

A stop at Oxxo for snacks and then I was at the bus station well ahead of when I needed to be there (about 1:45 when we were leaving at 2:15). I read a newspaper until boarding time, when we were given a sack lunch with a sandwich, beverage (soft drink or water), dried fruit, and earphones. I had an electronic ticket and they scanned its QR code on my phone.

This is my first tip for riding with ADO — buy your ticket(s) in advance if you can. My advance ticket was just under $400 and my return ticket, bought this morning, was $300 more — almost double! The luxury service is Platino, look for this logo:

The Platino service’s benefits are many — tons of leg rooms in almost recliner-type seats; a row of single seats; snacks (I didn’t get a sandwich today, but they did have a breakfast bar), an entertainment system, separate men and women’s loos, a very smooth and quiet ride, special lounges in some bus stations, blankets, WiFi (I found it slow but at least it’s available)… Totally worth splurging on for a five-hour trip! My only complain, and this is my second tip, is that it was freezing. I’m going to pack socks and a full-size blanket next time!

We got into Cancún on time at 7PM, where my host was waiting to pick me up! I rented a room with private bathroom in a house, bit like a hostel or B&B setup, using my Booking.com perks. Only $450 for the night and very convenient to the bus station, but she preferred to drive me and the orientate me from the house. I settled in and then went out for dinner.

I had my heart set on “Indian” cuisine since we don’t have that in Mérida and there was an Indian restaurant only 500m from the house! It’s Patravali. The smell walking into the restaurant was incredible — all the right spices! The service was stellar right off the bat and they were happy to treat me like a local and communicate in Spanish, confirming that I’d rented in the right neighbourhood to experience the “real” Cancún.

Since they offer free water and I did not have to buy a beverage, I went all out and started with an appetiser of three vegetable samosas:

Which I enjoyed with their different sauces:

Dinner was butter chicken with plain naan and they included some perfectly cooked jasmine rice at no extra cost.

Frankly, this curry meal was at least as good as and probably better than the one I had in London two years ago. There wasn’t a false note. My extra special dinner definitely lessened the sting of having to make the trip (and perhaps gives me an incentive to return…). Dinner was $245 before the tip, so reasonable!

I walked around a bit after. The neighbourhood was quiet and kids were playing in the streets, always a good sign. Hard to believe how many drug war/cartel murders there are daily in Cancún these days. The last average was something like three, but I’m sure that’s gone up since there were four “executions” last night alone… A city of dualities!

By the time I got back to my accommodation, I was so tired that even taking a shower seemed like too much work. And I was missing Bonita a lot more than I expected — it actually made me very sad not to get my evening cuddles.

I finally made it into a hot shower (something I haven’t had, by choice, in months), then went to bed and passed out until about 6AM! It really helped that the room had no window, so it was super dark and quiet even if the bed was a bit hard for my tastes.

This morning, I wanted to be at the Consulate right at nine. So I left around 8AM and went back to the bus station to take a city bus into the hotel zone (Gringoland, as I like to call it). The cost is only $24 round trip, versus likely hundreds by cab, and staying downtown means cheaper accommodation and not being in tourist-land, hence why I didn’t stay near the consulate. I  had thought to stop for coffee first but am glad I didn’t make any detours as traffic was super heavy and the going was slow.

The bus stops either about 400M before or after the consulate — I suggest getting off at the La Isla mall since it’s announced.

I got into the consular office about 9:05 and there was no one ahead of me. The lady was super helpful, very kind, and based on what she told me, I have zero doubts now that the fragile photo page is a known defect that Passport Canada is exploiting to rake in extra money. Thankfully, I did not have to pay the extra $45 fee for the passport being damaged for reasons I’m not sure of but which were confirmed with a call to Gatineau. She also said that my birth certificate isn’t going anywhere — she simply scans all the documents and then “Ottawa” (actually Gatineau) DHLs her the new passport. She pops it in an envelope with anything else I need returned and it all comes straight back to me. So that helps ease my mind quite a bit.

She is also going to include with my application my letter pleading to have the old passport returned. She says she has no idea how that will go, but there are three scenarios: 1) She tells them she saw the passport, is sure it was accidentally damaged and there was no crime committed, and they tell her to go ahead and send it back to me with a cancelled stamp; 2) They have her return it to them for examination and then they return it to me; 3) Or the most likely scenario that my request is denied. We shall see.

To my surprise, she called my references later in the day! I don’t think my passport references have ever been called!

While I’m incredibly angry at Passport Canada, that is completely separate from how I feel about the wonderful lady at the consulate who is only doing satan’s Passport Canada’s bidding. So if you need consular help in Mérida, don’t hesitate to contact the office in Cancún!

When I came out, there was a message from my host saying she was sad to not have seen me this morning. Did I have time to come back to the house and have coffee? It was 9:45 and I wanted to take the 11:45 bus home, so I scrapped my plans to go check out Mercado 23, the central market. I bussed back to the main bus station and, en route, I bought my ticket using the ADO mobile app and my debit card, snagging the last single seat, which was right ahead of the men’s loo (which was absolutely not a problem). From the bus station, I walked the couple of blocks to the house. By the way, it’s Ah-Day-Oh (letters pronounced individually), not “Ah-doe” (as in the French equivalent of the word “teen”), something I learned when the driver called out the stop!

Coffee was waiting for me, and was made NOB style in a coffee maker and strong, no weak instant coffee! So that was a nice surprise. My host also insisted I leave with a historical novel her dad wrote about the clash of the Maya and the Spaniards on the Yucatán Peninsula! I started it on the bus and it is riveting and exactly at my reading level. My host then drove me back to the bus station at 11:30! Wow, talk about great service! I’m definitely staying with her again!

What kind of an impression did Cancún make? The little of it that I saw was clean and tidy, there were tons of international chain restaurants, the buses were much nicer than the ones in Mérida (but driven just as insanely), and the tourist zone was nothing to write home about (unless you’re the kind of tourist that likes that sort of thing). I have a feeling Cancún is a place I’d go back to again for business reasons — maybe to do shopping you can’t do in Mérida — but it’s not a place that seemed to have much quality touristy stuff to do besides the beach. I didn’t feel feel compelled to stay on a bit and take the 2:15 bus instead.

I enjoyed the “first class lounge” at the bus station (tip: don’t use the pay bathroom since the ADO Platino lounge has a free one!), read the paper, and then boarded. The return trip felt much faster, but we got in later than promised, and into a brewing storm. I still took 10 minutes after getting off to put in a to-go order at Chili’s since I didn’t have any food worth mentioning at home that was ready to go and had only snacked all day. A bus heading to my part of town pulled up just as I came out of the restaurant — good timing!

My sitters had headed out in the early afternoon so there was only Bonita to greet me when I came in, literally racing the rain by mere seconds! She didn’t hear me at the gate and I had to call out to her twice before she heard me and came running! I got a happy dance and kisses. Frankly, I don’t think she missed me, and that’s the best review I can give my sitters!

The last couple of days have felt positively surreal. Now that this huge question mark in my budget is over with and I only have one more big planned expense in August (property taxes in SK!), I can focus on the purchases I’ve been neglecting — muffler and AC repair of my truck, a new computer chair, a bed, saving for a new computer… All things that weren’t urgent but would be nice to settle up. It was in Sarajevo in October of 2016 that I had to completely revamp my budget and start tightening up to ensure that there would be enough money to get me to this point — comfortably settled in Mexico for the long haul. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of present moments to keep money for future moments since that time. I think it’s been worth it, but after this deadline kept being pushed back after one contingency after another, I’m beyond ready to go back to living in the present.