This is going to be a long post! I had been counting down the trip to Mexico for Jess & John’s wedding at The Grand Bahia Principe Tulum since last summer! I was delighted when they asked me to photograph their destination wedding in Tulum, Mexico. I had never been to the Caribbean side of Mexico before and traveling to new places is one of my favourite things to do! I don’t often write too many personal blog posts (although I know I should). I thought it might be kind of cool for everyone to read about our week in Tulum and see some behind the scenes photos from the wedding week. Most of these photos on this post are from our iphones. Nothing fancy. While I love photography, sometimes it’s more important to focus on “being in the moment” rather than lugging my gear around and taking the perfect photo.
The plane landed after dark at the Cancun Airport on May 3rd. Our flight had been delayed 2 hours so arrived later than we originally expected. We went through customs, collected our bags and went outside in search of our shuttle bus to the hotel. The moment we stepped outside I was hit with that long lost familiar feeling of hot tropical air. It had been a few years since I’d felt that feeling. I knew it would probably still be nearly 30 degrees and humid so I happily changed into a sundress prior to stepping outside. Upon exiting the airport there were beer carts next to our shuttle bus. $12 USD for 2 Dos Equis Cervesas. Hugely overpriced for Mexico but well worth having a cold road beer for the drive down south. The drive from the Cancun Airport to Tulum is just over 100 km… Takes roughly 1 hour +20 min (depending on who’s driving and how fast they are going…). Once we arrived at the hotel we went in search of food. Luckily there was a 24 snack bar open near the beach at our resort. Chicken tacos it was. Then sleep.
The first few days were spent relaxing at the resort. I definitely felt like we were enjoying a piece of heaven. We ate lots of delicious food. There is so much food at this resort! Even if you are picky there’s something for everyone. We really enjoyed walking around the resort, and of course lounged by the ocean & pools. We were surprised at how big the resort was. It was almost like a mini town. Prior to arriving we thought Grand Bahia Principe Tulum, Grand Bahia Principe Akumal, and Grand Bahia Principe Coba were all separate resorts. They aren’t really. They are all joined and basically just used as different check in points/lobbies. Matt and I walked between all of the resorts a few times. It does take some time to do that though. Luckily they have these mini shuttles (long golf cart looking thingies) that shuttle between all of the lobbies. Many of the drivers will also drop you off wherever you need to stop. When you book at one of the resorts you have access to all of the facilities at the other resorts which is kind of cool (buffets, a la carte restaurants, discos, pools, etc…). There are lots of activities here. You could keep yourself busy all day long or choose to relax. This is a resort for people of all ages. We were very impressed by the staff. There are a lot of employees here and they work extremely hard to please the guests. Whatever you need someone is usually on standby to serve you. It was a little disheartening to learn that the average worker here works for minimum wage. We were told that it’s slightly above $5 USD… A DAY. That’s a reality check for most of us. Tipping is technically included in your stay, but it would honestly be rude and unfair to not tip while you are here. These people work hard and deserve compensation. I believe there are just over 100 villas (each villa looks like a mini apartment and may have approx 18 units). The resort was completely full during our stay. I did the math and if each one had 2 guests staying in it there would be over 3600 guests at the resort. Many people travelled here with their families etc so it’s possible that there were even more people here. I really enjoyed this resort and my time here. I know my same experience was not shared by everyone travelling with the wedding group. However, I can only speak for myself. I think there is a lot of worry when people travel about getting sick. The best piece of advice I can give you is to wash your hands right before you eat or don’t use your hands (think about how many people touch those tongs/serving spoons at the buffet lol).
Jess & John’s Wedding- Two of the nicest people out there and a dream wedding destination-what more could I ask for?! I felt so lucky to be able to see these two each day leading up to their wedding. In most cases I don’t get to see bride & grooms that often before their wedding. Having the ability to chat about details and wedding plans leading up to the wedding was awesome. One afternoon before the wedding I even had a chance to sit it the ocean with a drink and chat to Jess and her sisters. This never happens back home. (Future brides- If you want to meet me at the beach in Vancouver for a drink I will happily oblige). Jess & John invited me along to meet with their wedding planner in person. It was really great hearing the plans in person. I wish every wedding could be like this one. The backdrop is so dreamy. I need to shoot more of these types of weddings. My husband Matt helped me out the entire day. This was Matt’s first full wedding with me. I will be forever grateful for him brining me water and carrying my bags. The heat was intense and I couldn’t really carry my own bag because I had a massive sunburn on my shoulders. I usually like to think of myself as the sunscreen queen. I’ve come to terms with the fact that SPF 30 just doesn’t cut it for me outside of Canada ;). Below is photo of their awesome group of family & friends that flew down for the wedding. It was a real treat getting to meet everyone! To see preview photos from their wedding visit this blog post: http://www.kim-james.com/2014/05/16/jessica-johns-wedding-at-grand-bahia-principe-tulum-mexico/
A special thanks to Matt for snapping this photo of me with the whole bridal party below
Adventuring outside of the resort… I would consider myself a curious person and while I loved being at the resort I definitely wanted to explore the surrounding area. I didn’t really know much about Tulum. The city (more like one way street town) was located approx 30 minutes south of our resort. There weren’t really any excursions going there, but I still wanted to check it out. Our travel rep said if you are adventuous you can take a collectivo (Mexican bus/van that holds 12+people and stops along the side of the road every once in awhile. It only costs $3 USD so I thought why not? The price is right. Matt thought the whole idea was a bit sketchy, but he decided to go along with it. A few quick notes about the collectivo I discovered after taking it: There are no seat belts… and they drive really really fast. I don’t know if many tourists use this option… We made it to Tulum and got off the bus. To my surprise it was not at all what I was expecting. I thought with so many tourist resorts it must be a cute little tourist town. I was wrong. It was nothing like the sparkling surroundings of Cabo San Lucas nor did it have many of the amenities of the nearby cities (Playa Del Carmen or Cancun). Hmmmm. I think we spent about 10 minutes there and then took the next collectivo out of there.
Next stop the Tulum Ruins which was less than a 10 minute drive away. We arrived at the ruins and discovered we were in for a long walk. I read somewhere that round trip walking it’s 4km. Not sure if that’s accurate but it sure seemed like it. When you get off the bus you have to walk down a long road to get to the ticket place. We were meeting Jen a fellow photographer from Nanaimo and headed for the beach next to the ruins. From there you need to walk down another long road. In the sweltering heat it’s quite the distance. Once you reach the beach it’s totally worth it. Turquoise waters and white powdery sand. Not to mention a view of the watch tower on top of the cliff. We had some cold drinks at a little beach side pub (thanks Jen!). After that Jen & I started photographing each other while my husband lounged by the beach! I am so happy to have made a new photography friend. Jen is such a lovely person and I hope to meet up with her again one day. How gorgeous is she!? and that beautiful flowing dress! Stay tuned next week for the preview of those photos on the blog
We spent our last full day on an excursion with Mayan Treasures Tour company. In the morning we headed to the Coba ruins. This is a huge archeological site. We had time to visit a few important parts. With that said it would have taken days to explore the whole place. We were lucky enough to have a Mayan guide (Juan). He was excellent. His family was originally from Coba and he told us that he played with his siblings on the steps of the Ixmoja Pyramid as a kid. Matt climbed to the top and I watched in the shade. We had already walked so far in the hot sun and I wasn’t feeling up to it. As part of our tour we had a lunch with traditionally cooked mayan chicken (coated with spices, wrapped in banana leafs and cooked in the ground). There were also some other yummy things such as rice, pasta, veggies, guacamole, salsa and a few special hot sauces. After lunch we headed to a private Mayan Cenote (underground cave swimming hole). It was not open to the public which was nice. Only available through this tour company and all payments received go to that mayan village. It was really cool! The walk down the steps were a little scary. Once down there it was fine. The water was “cold” as far as mayan standards go, but it was incredibly refreshing, crystal clear and exactly what I needed after being out in the hot sun at Coba. Our last leg of the tour was to a Mayan Village. It was incredibly humbling to see how the Mayan people live. We visited 2 families and their homes. Each home consisted of a 1 room open air hut. Cement floor, thatched roof and hammocks to sleep in. I think both of the families we visited had about 10 people in their homes. I’m really not sure how they all manage to fit in there and sleep comfortably. We were told that girls are often married between the ages of 14-19 (to a boy who is the same age or 1-2 years older). We were told that in their culture if a women is not married by the age of 20 her life will almost be over (yikes. not sure what that means). In many families here it is common to have 9-10 children. They hope to have as much help in the corn fields as they can. They had some handmade goods for sale at their homes. We bought a couple things. We were told they use the money for milk & school supplies. I wish I would have known- I would have brought more cash along and perhaps some school supplies. I also noticed the children didn’t have any shoes. While on this trip I was reminded to focus on “what I have” rather than “what I don’t have”. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have, the things going wrong in our life, our failures etc. That’s just the opposite of what we should be doing. We are all leading very blessed lives and have a lot to be thankful for. With that said these families seemed very happy. They were growing a few fresh plants & herbs. They had lime trees, papaya & banana trees in their yard. They had a bunch of really cool animals roaming around. Dogs, Toucans, Squirrels, a Coati (long nosed racoon type creature) and even a little monkey. The monkey was probably my favourite. He was a real character and posed for a few photos from a distance. At the second home we visited the Mom of the family, Maria made handmade tortillas over the fire in her hut. Our guide said she was making an offering to our group to try them. It definitely felt wrong accepting food in this situation. They were proud to share their homemade specialty and you know what it tasted great (I don’t think it really gets more authentic than that).
On our departure day Matt slept in. I’m more of the morning person in this relationship and I wanted to make the most of our last few hours. I decided to go have breakfast by myself. I sat quietly in the dining room eating. I was definitely going to miss the endless amounts of yummy food and me not having to cook any of it. I was going to miss the beach walks and the picturesque scenery. I could feel the warm ocean breeze as I reflected about the trip. As I looked around I noticed a mimosa bar. I had walked by it everyday and not noticed what it was. Darn! For future travellers- it’s located just past the main entrance of the main Tulum Buffet walkway to your right along the wall. It’s hard to believe this wonderful trip came and went so quickly. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Mexican Adventure! I probably could have written several more pages about our trip. I know I’m leaving out some stuff. If you have any questions about this resort, the wedding, the area or the excursion please feel free to leave a comment.
I will leave you with a few photos from The Tulum Ruins Beach. Jen was so sweet to grab a couple snaps of us before we left. Matt had been swimming right before we took these. So happy to have them. These were the only photos we had taken of us on the trip besides our best attempts taking photos of ourselves. Thanks Jen! You can check out Jen’s website here: http://www.jennifer-jayde.com