What I learned at Tulum was that only 40 or 50 families lived inside the compound, which is about three times the size of what shows here. There was a wall, and the rest of the population lived outside it, all the workers who tended to the folks inside as well as to themselves, that is. One theory for the collapse of the temple/calendar/religious civilization is that the workers simply stopped working. Think where all the modern resorts would be if that happened now!
There was a stone structure here designed to pick up the sound of the wind and broadcast it inland, a sort of advanced hurricane warning system. And there was a ‘lighthouse’ that could be aligned with a cut in the reef. Honey was an important trading commodity, and there’s even a stelae with a bee on it, which might have looked better stuccoed and colored, as all of these buildings were at one point. Nice spot.
Playa del Carmen might be the fastest growing city in Mexico, Armando told us. It’s where the passenger ferry to Cozumel departs, and it’s got the most Norteamericano looking highway we’ve seen – car dealers with flags, drive-through fast foods – sprawl, but small-scale. On the way there we passed 4 cement plants in 20 miles. But on a little detour through the part currently being ‘developed’ the jungle was being cleared by machete and curbs for the roads dug by hand.
Tourism is the main reason for this town too. The main pedestrian shopping street has a sophistication that, say, Ocean City, lacks, but it’s still only a block from a beach full of sun-bakers being served drinks by boys in long pants and sleeves. And I liked how the people from the dive shops would walk the half block down to the beach and stride on out into the water.
There were several interesting-looking hotels back through gardens and alleys, and a complex of about 50 hotels at the other end of the street. There must be nightlife here! But I don’t know how I’ll ever get to be anything but a morning person.