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Getting Closer to Belize in Chetumal, Mexico

  • We are 16 kilometres from the frontiera with Belize. Sixteen pequeños kilometros, but we decided to stay in Chetumal for the night—no point in rushing to Belize City and arriving after dark. In 2001, that’s what we had done and it hadn’t been a very smart move.

    This morning, at 10 a.m., we showed up at the bus terminal in Tulum, hoping to catch the 10:20 a.m. to Chetumal. Unfortunately, that bus was full and we had to wait for the half-empty 12:15. The ride was smooth if loud thanks to the movies dubbed in Spanish that played for the entire trip, and we arrived on time (!) and got to Chetumal at 4 p.m.

    We found the hotel we stayed in in 2003 (another missed bus connection): Hotel Ucum. Come, go ahead, joke and laugh—I did. Dirty French mind. The hotel is nothing luxurious: a $20 room with a private bathroom. But after Tulum, it feels like we are back to civilization. I mean, there is a mirror in the bathroom! Warm water!

    We walked the long main street in Chetumal looking for food. Since we are now out of the traditional tourist path, there weren’t many options. In fact, there only seemed to be two kinds of stores: zapaterias (shoe stores) and clothes. Chetumal’s gotta be the shoe capital of Mexico!

    A few cultural observations:

    • I feel like a giant. Mexicans, Mayans especially, are fairly short by North American standards and at 5’7 (1.70 metres) I’m a head or two taller than most people, men included.
    • When you see a lot of policia, should you be worried? It’s the chicken and egg question. Is the police there because the place is unsafe or is the place safe because the police are there? For instance, in Tulum, federal and municipal police drove around town constantly, hands on their machine guns. For some reason, it didn’t make me feel particularly safe.
    • I always find it funny to see “winter coats” on display in stores. I mean, yes, technically it is winter. But thick jackets seem like a bit too much when it’s 20°C outside! That said, I learned to wear jeans and a sweater on the bus, it gets chilly with the air con.
    • Mexicans seem obsessed with cleaning products. In supermarkets, two to three aisles are dedicated to every kind of cleaning product you can imagine.


Chetumal Bus Station
Hotel Ucum
By The Water
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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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