Monks and Mayans Meet at Hacienda Tres Rios

Wednesday was the first day of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter at Hacienda Tres Rios, a luxury eco resort located in the Riviera Maya. The goal of this event is to showcase the unique ceremonies of local Mayan communities and Tibetan monks, oftentimes combining the two. The fusion of the Mayan and Tibetan cultures was truly astounding; even though they’re set on opposite sides of the world, the two groups demonstrated some striking similarities!

Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery checked in to the resort on Tuesday wearing brightly-colored robes, and the following day began to share their traditions with guests and visitors at Hacienda Tres Rios along with local Mayan performers wearing colorful Yucatecan garb.

Opening Ceremony

In the morning, we made our way out to the beautiful, untouched beach at Hacienda Tres Rios, where a tent had been set up as a stage for the Mayan dancers and Tibetan monks. The ceremony began with opening words from the event’s organizers from Richard Gere Productions, Producciones Arte Maya and Hacienda Tres Rios.

The arrival of the Tibetan monks was a sight to see as they rowed onto the beach and were greeted by the Mayan community with drums and the blowing of conch shells.

As the Tibetan monks lined up under the tent, I was blown away by the combination of the bright monks robes, the white Mayan clothing with vividly colored details, and the mostly-white, flowy outfits of the audience. Beautiful!

We all looked on as the monks began to chant a deep, slow song, which was followed by the Mayan community presenting them with local gifts. Afterwards, Mayan performers with incense and colorful outfits began to dance for the monks and the audience on the sand, hailing the four cardinal points in a fascinating show.

The Sand Mandala

After the opening ceremony, we were led to the resort’s immense lobby to witness the opening of the monks’ sand mandala, a beautiful and elaborate piece of art that the monks will continue to work on until the end of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter on Sunday.

The sand mandala ceremony began with several minutes of chanting by the Tibetan monks. They took out didgeridoo instruments (long horns) along with some colorful trumpets and drums. The entire lobby began to vibrate and I thought, “Wow! Those didgeridoos are powerful!” until I realized that it was the monks deep, gutteral chanting that was making the room shake. Incredible! Whenever the monks began to play their other instruments, I noticed it sounded similar to mariachi music, but played with different notes and combinations.

To create the sand mandala, the monks first measured and traced out chalk lines on the center table using string and rulers. They had a separate table filled with brightly colored sand, and they tapped on detailed straw-like instruments to filter the sand into its exact spot on the mandala.

Guests at the resort will be able to view the mandala-making process throughout the rest of the week. The unveiling will be on Sunday September 16, at which time the mandala will also be destroyed. The monks explained to the audience that the mandala is destroyed to represent how fleeting and temporary our life on this earth is. A stunning work of art with a profound message.

The Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter runs until this Sunday at the All Inclusive Hacienda Tres Rios resort. If you’re vacationing in the area this weekend, I recommend you spend a day at the resort to experience the ceremonies, rituals and conferences that will be going on throughout the day.

Girls’ Weekend at Now Sapphire Resort

The food, the drinks and the gossip were flowing freely this weekend!

My Brazilian amiga Nadia suggested we do a girls’ weekend at an All Inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya. Saturday afternoon, we drove down toward Puerto Morelos to the beautiful Now Sapphire resort. I actually used to intern at this hotel in the reception area 3 years ago, back when it belonged to another resort chain. (Yes, I interned at many, many resorts during my university days.) Visually, it has always been my favorite resort in the area, with an immense pool and wood walkways winding through soothing ponds. All this is combined with breezy palapa roofs and a combination of Mexican and Asian-inspired style. Gorgeous.

After a quick check-in, we were taken to our room via golf cart. The resort is divided into small, 3-story villas named after Mayan ruins. Our building was set right by the beach, with a jungle view room set on the 2nd floor. I was very impressed with the guestrooms! Each has a small sitting area and a large balcony, not to mention a great bathroom.

Nadia and I spent our evening bouncing from one restaurant to another, taking full advantage of the resort’s All Inclusive plan. We sampled sushi, caipirinhas, martinis, baba ganoush, spinach ravioli and I can’t even remember what else!

The Mediterranean restaurant

The oceanfront restaurant, my fave!

Memories Lobby Bar, with tons of dancing and socializing after dinner

Nadia admiring the bathroom artwork

We turned in at midnight and woke up early the next morning with the breakfast we had pre-ordered the night before. After a quick workout, we put on our swimsuits and headed out to do some damage at the breakfast buffet.

Nadia then went to check out the spa specials while I decided to hang out at the pool. There were no loungers available (experienced resort-goers will be familiar with the infamous Towel Game), but I saw a beautiful bali bed right next to the pool with nobody on it. “This is too good to be true,” I thought to myself. So I waited a few minutes, and nobody showed up. I slowly and cautiously arranged my things on the bali bed, looking around in case anyone came up to tell me it wasn’t allowed. Thrilled with my success, I made myself comfortable and snapped a few photos.

Living the life

After the most glamorous 15 minutes of my life, a young uniformed gentleman approached me with a clipboard.

“Excuse me, miss. What is your room number?”

“307.”

(long pause while he flips through a few pages)

“Is your last name Palmer?”

“No…” (Stay cool, Laura, stay cool!)

“I’m sorry, miss, but these bali beds are reserved for our Preferred Club guests. There’s actually quite a long waiting list to use them.”

“Well I’ve already made myself comfortable! You should really put up a sign or something,” I exclaimed in righteous indignation as I got my things together.

“The sign is right here on the post, miss.”

“Oh. Ummm… sorry then. Thanks.”

Fabulousness transformed into humilliation within 30 seconds. Could only happen to me.

Feeling unimportant and defeated at the prospect of finding a chair, I made my way to the beach and settled in under a palapa while I waited for Nadia.

That's better.

We ordered some bottled waters from the beach waiter, spent an hour or so talking about life, took some pictures and watched the boats go by. Now this is a vacation!

Nadia suggested we try our luck back at the pool. There were still no loungers available, as expected, but we set our stuff  by the pool’s jet tub and hopped right in. I loved the pool. Lots of activities were going on by the swim-up bar, but the pool was big enough that it was easy to find quiet areas for relaxation. Submerged loungers, one of my favorite things, were also in abundance.

We had programmed a late check-out for 1:30, so we eventually headed back to the room, packed up and changed into some dry clothes. Check-out was quick and easy, and we made our way to the Bluewater Grill for some more All Inclusive action in the form of ceviches and burgers.

The Now Sapphire was a great experience. I dare to say it was even better than most All Inclusives! Here’s why:

  • No bracelets
  • No waiting in line to make dinner reservations every morning (first come, first served)
  • 24-hour room service included
  • No worrying about towel cards… just walk up, get your beach towel, then bring it back when you’re done. Easy.

Gringation’s Tips:

  • Bring bugspray! Mosquitos weren’t a problem during daylight hours, but let’s just say that we weren’t the only ones feasting during our outdoor dinner at the beachfront grill.
  • Upgrade to the Preferred Club. Preferred guests have a private lounge, a beautiful separate pool, access to spa facilities and reservations for the poolside bali beds. (I only spent 15 minutes on the bali bed, but it was amazing!) This is one instance where I’d say the extra amenities are worth the higher pricetag.
  • Sit at the teppanyaki tables at Lemongrass restaurant. What a show!
  • Get to the pool early if you want to grab a lounger. Just don’t leave your stuff there for 4 hours without using it. Be cool, people. (Waking up at 5 am, putting your flip flops on a lounger, then going back to sleep until noon is not acceptable resort behavior.)

 

Barcelo Maya Resort: The Pool

Today I’ve got more photos of the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe resort in the Riviera Maya, where we went for my cousin’s wedding.

Not much to say here, just daydreaming about one of the biggest pools I’ve ever seen. 🙂

Where would you most like to be today?

If you haven’t seen the resort’s beach pictures yet, click here. You’ll be glad you did!

Barcelo Maya Resort: The Beach

I have a confession to make… Playa Norte (North Beach) on Isla Mujeres is no longer my favorite beach.

The beach I went to last Wednesday “blew it out of the water” (pun intended).

When we went to the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe resort for my cousin’s wedding (more on that later), I wasn’t expecting to find such an incredible beach. So, so many palm trees. Pool-like water. No seaweed. Breathtaking.

Even though there were so many of us in the water, several schools of large silver fish had no qualms about swimming around us, between my knees, and along my feet. I was actually screaming, smiling and jumping up and down out of sheer joy. Why can’t every day be like this?

Somebody please slap me if I ever decide to move away from the Caribbean.

What’s your favorite beach in the world?

The Fairmont Mayakoba Resort Goes Green

Set in the Riviera Maya just north of Playa del Carmen, the beautiful Fairmont Mayakoba forms part of the Mayakoba Resort, which just won the prestigious Ulysses Award from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, one of the world’s top recognitions for ecotourism development.

The Fairmont Mayakoba’s green iniciatives are seemingly endless, focusing not only on preserving their natural environment, but going several steps further to actually help it grow and form new, biodiverse ecosystems.

The winding canals found throughout the resort were formed utilizing the underground rivers and cenotes already existing on the property, creating several miles of soft current where guests can enjoy boat tours in lanchas to see the local birds, fish and ecosystems. By forming these canals, the resort has managed to maintain much of the pre-existing wildlife while also providing a beautiful home for hundreds of new species.

The Fairmont Mayakoba’s Green Partnership Program incorporates sustainable ecotravel concepts into all areas of the hotel:

  • Eco-Meet program, minimizing the ecological footprint for groups and conventions
  • Nature tours and adventure tourism at the nearby Sian Ka’anBiosphere Reserve
  • Greening Our Greens program for wildlife conservation on El Cameleon Golf Course
  • Green Cuisine, using fair-trade, sustainable, local and organic food products whenever possible (specializing in local Mayan communities and on-site gardens)
  • Alliance with the Climate Savers Program from World Wildlife Fund to cut down on CO2 emissions
  • Energy and Water Conservation projects in staff areas, public areas and guestrooms
  • Flora and Fauna Conservation with plant relocation, a turtle aquarium, and more
  • Waste Management projects with recycling, biodegradable products and composting of organic materials

Rose Spoonbill (apologies for the blurriness, he was too quick to catch on camera!)

In addition to their green iniciatives, the Fairmont Mayakoba also works closely with the community, aligning themselves with local universities, Mayan communities and programs for children.

This year, the resort is working hand-in-hand with the U’yo’olche non-profit organization with Pack For A Purpose. During the month of December, guests at the resort can participate in this iniciative by packing toys and gifts for Three Kings Day, a Latin American children’s holiday celebrated on January 6th. Gifts will be given out to local Mayan communities so children can wake up on January 6th to much-loved presents. For more information on how you can help, follow through here:

Pack For A Purpose

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.