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Journal - 27-Mar-2001, Tuesday, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico
(Trip: Ruta Maya, Southeast Mexico)

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First order of business is to return to the Cubana office to get buy our visas for Cuba ($15 each). This is just a formality (or, more to the point, a tax) and doesn't take long. We try to make a reservation for our first night in Cuba. They say they have to fax the hotel with the request and wait for a reply. We arrange to return in the afternoon.

We're not sure what to do with our day. Our only commitment is to have the vaccines applied at 4:30 in the afternoon. We walk the street considering the options.

Monica stops at one of the many booths selling tickets to local attractions. They offer us a 'two for one' deal on the 'Sub Sea Explorer', a submarine designed for sight seeing. To get the deal, all we have to do is give up one hour of our time to allow a hotel to try and sell us something. Apparently the hotel gives a free lunch into the bargain. I'm wary - there's no such thing as a free lunch (!) - but Monica decides to go for it.

A taxi takes us to the hotel (for free). At the hotel, various people come and take our details and verify that I have an international credit card. A women introduces herself and says she'll be showing us around.

We spend the next hour or so looking at suites in two different hotels. All very luxurious. At the end of this, the woman asks us how much we earn. This is the kind of information I don't give out to anyone but the woman seems surprised by my reticence. She deduces that I must be embarrassed by how little I earn (not the case!), and starts talking about 'accessible' options. The trouble is, we still don't have the slightest idea what it is she's selling.

We're taken to some kind of conference room with lots of small tables and chairs. A lot of people are milling around. We're seated and a new face introduces himself and starts writing numbers on a pad. The woman disappears. It's all a bit confusing but it seems that we can pay about $10,000, then enjoy the luxury suites we've seen for "only" $400 a week, for a maximum of 30 weeks over a 30 year period.

We explain that we're not the kind of tourists that go to a place and stay for weeks at a time enjoying the beach. We like to travel around, mingle with the locals, go without a fixed plan, etc. They then offer us a deal for about half the price but over a 15 year period. We decline this too.

The salesman is replaced by another. The new man hastily crosses out the last figure and says "what if I can offer you 15 vacations for only $3,000?". We're confused about how the price has been halved so suddenly and refuse to be enticed into what we're sure must be some trap. The salesman asks "if I can give you a good explanation for the price will you accept my offer?". I don't think so. He irritably mutters "then why bother explaining?" and closes the pad. He hands us a slip for our Sub Sea Explorer tour and walks off.

The woman returns to help us redeem our tour ticket and take us on our free lunch. At the travel desk, we find out that the Sub Sea Explorer doesn't leave until 15:00 and takes two hours. This clashes with our vaccine appointment. We've been bullied by salesman for almost two hours for nothing!

We go for the free lunch regardless. The woman, to my surprise, accompanies us. She is unbelievably grumpy (presumably about not making the sale) and I feel like leaving as soon as possible. I feel mentally drained from the hard sell treatment we've received.

After the lightest of lunches, we say goodbye (the woman grunts in response) and leave the hotel. Looks like we have to make our own way back to town. We take the bus.

At the Cubana travel agency we ask about the hotel for our first night. They say they haven't got a response yet and now it's too late to expect one (there's a two hour time difference between Cancun and Havana). Great. They say we can ask at the Sol & Son office at the airport tomorrow.

At the hospital we find that the vaccine has arrived but it's locked in the pharmacy. The pharmacy doesn't open till 6 pm. Okay.

We kill time and return to the hospital at six. The vaccines are applied painlessly. The same cannot be said about the bill of over $100. However, we're extremely relieved to have got the thing over with - it had been a worry for almost a week.

There's an internet cafe close to the hotel boasting a high speed network. They allow us to hook-up our laptop and we spend a couple of hours responding to mail, etc. The speed is good. Maybe we should move to Cancun.

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Cuba - Rotorua, New Zealand - Christ Church, Dublin - Monument Valley, Arizona - Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Staffa, Scotland - Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - Costa Rica - Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico - Fiesta, Mexico City - Making Lacquer, Olinalá, Mexico - Talavera Ceramics, Puebla, Mexico - Mata Ortiz Pottery, Mexico - Lebanon
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