Acapulco - Still Number One?
Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
235Trip End Ongoing
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First Time Reader? ......here is the background to this series of blogs:
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Mexico: 23 Destinations to Spend the Winter Months
No. 15 of 23 Destinations (this is not a ranking)
Acapulco - Still Number One?
"Was that not a little periscope-like device coming through the window with a little mirror attached to the end of it?"
Our arrival in Acapulco was late at night. Again we did the "usual" and had a taxi driver take us to a reasonably priced hotel. In this case it turned out to be the Hotel Enrique located near the "zocalo" in the old town.
That brought back unhappy memories of the night spent here in 2003 before changing to another hotel. I don't know why, but I actually had a look at a room to see if anything had changed. Perhaps it was the attractive price of 350 pesos per night that caused me to have a second look. After climbing three sets of stairs and going through a labyrinth of drab hallways I arrived in, well - a drab room. Nothing had changed since 2003 as the room contained only the barest of essentials of a bed, a naked light bulb and no curtains.
That was more than enough to head back to the waiting taxi to take another stab at finding a suitable hotel, "un poco mas caro". As we seemed to drive forever south along Acapulco's main seaside boulevard - the Costera - in search of a hotel, I kept thinking that this was going to be one heck of a taxi bill.
We did after all use the taxi twice before we finally got out for another try at accommodations at the Hotel Doria. The price was 500 pesos and it was late and I did not want to pay for a third taxi ride so the Hotel Doria became our hotel of choice.
To our surprise, the taxi driver charged us only 60 pesos for the first ride saying he had a soft spot for Canadians. How could he not have a soft spot for Canadians since he won the lottery, so to speak, with one particular Canadian tourist?
It seems a few years back he became the taxi driver of choice for an Italo-Canadian who was visiting Acapulco. In the process they developed a friendship that bloomed into the taxi driver being invited to visit the Italo-Canadian family in Toronto. Incredibly it stretched into an all-expenses paid 7-month visit!
That was either a very fortuitous event in the taxi driver's life or an incredible story. Either way it was good enough to prompt me to give him one heck of a tip.
By the way, during the holiday season, the price for a room at the Hotel Doria is 1,600 pesos as opposed to the 500 pesos we were paying in the week following the holidays.
Due to two unexpected events our stay at the Hotel Doria lasted only one night.
Without getting too personal, we do take showers before going to bed. That was even more of a no-brainer in Acapulco where the daytime temperatures were hovering around 30 degrees C in January. Barbara being the first to shower was slow as usual so I sauntered into the bathroom to remind her that it was getting late. It was at that moment that my eye caught some movement in the little slot of a window above the showerhead. This was a window not to the exterior but to the interior court of the six-story hotel. Was that not a little periscope-like device coming through the window with a little mirror attached to the end of it?
There are times when you see something and it takes a few hesitating moments to compute. There was something wrong with this picture. Barbara bare naked in the shower and some device with a little mirror on the end aimed at her naked body protruding through the window. But how often are you confronted with a voyeur using a periscope from a concealed position to get sexually aroused by secretly watching someone else in the nude or whatever.
When it finally clicked, I let out a loud bellow, ran to wrap a towel around me and dashed outside our door to the interior court of the hotel to see what was going on. By the time I got there I found nothing. I think I was definitely more agitated with this situation than Barbara was, partly because she did not see the "periscope" through the window.
After calming down it was my turn to take a shower. At some point I glanced up and sure enough the same periscope was peering in above my head. So now the question is "was the Peeping Tom bi-sexual or was he just hoping to get lucky with Barbara a second time?" Again I wasn't thinking clearly, instead of just reaching up and grabbing the darn thing I again let go with a loud bellow and did my wrap the towel around, etc. routine, only to find nothing. I looked down the stairwell and saw the back end of someone descending the stairs rapidly.
I strongly suspected that this might have been a hotel employee who knew exactly the best viewing opportunities to find his next victims and how to get away quickly. When I brought up the problem the next morning to the manager on duty he pleaded ignorance of any similar incident in his hotel.
So far it had been quite an interesting evening and once we managed to settle down and try and get some sleep we became aware of another peculiar characteristic of the interior court of the hotel. At the bottom of the court was a large swimming pool and it seemed to be full of screaming kids. Again there was something wrong with this picture. It was after midnight and here were these roving groups of kids dive bombing into the pool and just plain screaming and shouting, carrying on and just plain having fun.
OK it was after midnight and it would soon be quiet, right? Well, no --- I think it was after 02:00 by the time things quieted down. The question we kept asking ourselves is where were the parents of these children? Either they went out on the town or they were oblivious to the disturbance created by their children. Obviously there was no parental supervision and the kids were left to raise hell on their own. Almost as surprising was that the hotel personnel took no steps to put an end to this noise that reverberated throughout the interior court of the hotel. It also illustrates that the other guests at the hotel did not complain about the noise. Since we are not the complaining type, we did not complain either.
In Mexico, kids often seem to have the run of the roost so to speak. It reminded me of my early visits to France (1980's) and how surprised I was at the behaviour of children in restaurants. It was not uncommon to see parents dining and to so see their children running about the restaurant to the discomfort of other diners. The concept of keeping your kids seated at the dining room table during a meal seemed not to exist. Certainly all this could be brushed off as "cultural differences" and so they are, significant enough to have an impact on the visitor.
Getting back to Mexico, before you buy or rent or even select a hotel room, be aware of the number of children in the surroundings. You may want to change your plans accordingly.
I had to think of the large pool in the middle of the beautiful condo project that we visited in San Miguel de Allende. We liked a condo that had a view to the pool. I could only imagine the noise that would be generated by kids going wild in the pool. Having said that, I would hope that the by-laws of the condo would normally prohibit noise or the use of a pool after a certain time.
Of all the resort towns/cities in Mexico, perhaps none is more famous than Acapulco. It was the original Mexican resort that was always mentioned in the same breath with that now dated phrase of "jet set destination".
The original jet set destination was the French Riviera or Cote D'Azur as the French call it. The hottest spot was St. Tropez where Brigitte Bardot made the bikini famous and turned the young men of my generation "on". The largest city on the Cote D'Azur is Nice, a city I know well since I spent a summer there in 1983 taking French Language courses at the university. Since then I have not missed an opportunity to revisit whenever the opportunity presented itself. Nice is a beautiful city that lies between a bay of the Mediterranean Sea to the south and high mountains to the north. A stunning feature is the Promenade des Anglais that the Mexicans would call a "malešon". It makes for a great several kilometers-long stroll as the wide walkway is lined with palm trees and the vistas are of the beach on one side and the predominantly white hotels, stores and restaurants of the city on the other. Just a few blocks back is a spectacular pedestrian mall considered one of the best in Europe.
Each visit I have made to Acapulco over the years has elicited memories of Nice and that Mediterranean feel. Here are some of the reasons: its stunning location on Acapulco Bay, its wide golden sand beaches, the hot weather, the omnipresent palm trees, the appealing architecture of the hotels lining the bay, the malešon which for the most part turns into a sidewalk, its "centro historico", its chic shopping, its big city feel, its lively collection of night clubs and restaurants and the high mountains surrounding the city.
So visually, Acapulco is appealing and exciting to the senses by day and by night. For a big Mexican city it is surprisingly clean and pleasant. That is not unusual since it is a city that lives and dies by tourism and perhaps right now it is dying a little bit as tourism is down by about one third according to most taxi drivers to whom I posed this question.
If there is one complaint I have with Acapulco is that it is indeed - a big city. We love walking but to walk the main parts of this city, for example from the "centro historico" along the Costera to where most of the hotels are on the south part of the bay could be about an hour's walk. That was a little long even for us and we ended up taking the inexpensive local buses that run frequently along the Costera. The heat was also a deciding factor in our choosing to use the buses.
One of the first things we did the next day was look for a new hotel. After visiting several, we settled on the ACA Hotel that appeared clean with an appealing price of 350 pesos. There are no stories about the ACA Hotel, which is good news. It served our purposes well with no Peeping Toms and no screaming children.
Next on our priority list was to find a replacement for the digital camera that I ruined in Cuyutlan due to my own negligence. For any reader who actually follows the threads in my blogs, I was able to put some photos of Zihuatanejo on the blog because Barbara had the foresight to bring along our "old" digital camera. After checking out the Wal-Mart, which was only blocks away from the ACA hotel, we bought a Canon Digital Elph, Power Shot Model SD1100 IS (8 mega pixels) from Office Depot just across the street from Wal-Mart for $268.00 Can. We found this to be a good price, certainly cheaper than in Canada.
When one buys a new camera, there is always an expectation that the photos will be of a better quality. I did not find this to be the case and I wonder if the reason is that no matter how high the pixel count of the camera, by the time the photos are compressed and posted on Travelpod, they all look about the same.
Nevertheless it was great to have a camera that reacts quickly to the press of the shutter release button allowing for photos in quick succession.
There are two more places in the Acapulco area that I would like to mention - Puerto Marquez and the so-called "Diamond Zone".
Puerto Marquez, a small village nestled on beautiful Puerto Marquez Bay, is located on the other side of the southern mountains of Acapulco. It is only a half-hour bus ride from downtown Acapulco but it is a world apart. One is more likely to find chickens and crowing roosters running around in Puerto Marquez than beautiful young chicks in bikinis. In the 1970s I spent several March Breaks at the Hotel Terrazas in the company of other high school teachers from Ottawa, Ontario - Canada's capital city. It was my first exposure to Acapulco and I just had to bring Barbara to Puerto Marquez to see the beautiful little bay on which it is located.
Also noteworthy are the Torre Blanca condominiums that are located up a steep hill from Puerto Marquez. The view from the condos is breathtakingly beautiful.
For a map of Acapulco Bay and Puerto Marquez Bay
Beyond Puerto Marquez is a strip of new hotels and condos that is known as the Diamond Zone. It is this zone that is largely responsible for Acapulco retaking its position as a leading Mexican resort town.
I would be remiss in not mentioning another little idiosyncrasy of Mexican life, at least of life in Acapulco. I don't know for sure, but I have the impression that the local buses are driver operated and owned. I base this on the countless ways in which the buses are personalized and how there is a lack of standardization from one bus to the next.
After dark, we took a bus back to Acapulco and it was a ride from hell. How else would you describe a bus that had all the lighting and the sound volume of a disco? There is no doubt that the bus driver was practicing his second vocation, bus driving, while at the same time imagining himself to be lord of his domain or disc jockey in his own private discotheque. The music was simply unbearably loud and esoteric. What to do? Complain, yeah sure - some gringo complaining about the loud music - how well would that be received? Furthermore not a single soul on the bus seemed to find this unusual or unusually unpleasant as we did. Mexico has a very high level of noise tolerance. Well, I ended up doing the only thing I could do. Reach in my pocket for pieces of a serviette and roll it into a small ball to stuff in my ears. I tried one ball, then two, then ...., it didn't seem to help much.
While in Mexico, be on the lookout not only for noisy children but also for bus drivers who have a passion for loud, loud music. Barbara has a much higher tolerance level for loud music than I do but even she found this to be off the scale, particularly considering how this occurred on a public bus! But one more time, I am still in awe of how a busload of passengers sat there like sheep and quietly endured this little piece of hell.
A taxi driver to whom we related this incident expressed another point of view. His take on the story was simple: "some of the bus drivers are high on drugs!"
For a great source of info for the extended stay in Acapulco. This time click on "Extended Vacations" link:
Acapulco has had its ups and downs but today it ranks again as one of the top resort cities in Mexico.
- it was a resort town for the rich and famous in the '50s and '60s
- it suffered a decline as a resort town due to rapid expansion of the city
- it was reborn as a popular resort in the 1980s for Mexicans
- more recently, foreign tourism has been rejuvenated with the addition of the "Diamond Zone", the new strip of luxury hotels located beyond Puerto Marquez
- Acapulco now ranks with Cancun as the most visited Mexican resort
- tourism is Mexico's third-largest source of legal foreign income, after oil and remittances (funds sent back to Mexico by Mexicans working in the U.S.A. and elsewhere)
Yikes, just in time for my blog, the Mexican drug war rears its ugly head in Acapulco when 15 gunmen traffickers and 1 soldier were killed on the weekend in a shoot out around a "safe house".
Buying Property in Mexico?
Puerto Escondido - Now Here is a Destination Worth Considering
Where I stayed