We slept in on our last day in Cancun. When we finally got going, we ate at the tapas restaurant across the way one last time and took the bus to Mercado 23.
While I’d normally prefer to enter neat looking local stores for souvenirs that aren’t mass produced, we were only in Cancun for six days including travel days and Mercado 23 was a nice compromise. At first, we weren’t sure there were any souvenir stalls at all — there were a lot of shops geared towards locals, including many costume shops. I’m not sure whether it was always like that or if it was because it was less than a month before Halloween, but there had to be maybe five costume places within a few blocks. We did eventually find the souvenir places, however. At the first place we tried Nataly was looking for an outfit for her nephew and I was drawn to the table of toys. One of the ladies working there was very nice and patient as she explained which toys would and wouldn’t be good for my friend’s 3 year old son. Eventually she showed me a big wooden top operated by a string that I hadn’t seen before and I knew it was perfect. I’m told he loves it! The other shopkeepers in this area were nice as well and I saw some souvenirs that I didn’t see elsewhere. I would recommend Mercado 23 if you want nice shopkeepers and a few hidden treasures.
After we were done at Mercado 23, we headed south a few blocks to Mercado 28. This was a very different experience. It was much bigger and basically all the shops were souvenir shops, although I did buy a wooden mortar and pestle, which I suppose isn’t a souvenir, and a coconut candy, which was definitely meant to be a souvenir, but which I ate immediately. Overall, the shopkeepers here were much pushier, but there were some that left us alone as well. Nataly finally found an outfit for her nephew that she was happy with at a good price here, but it took a lot of searching. I found a few more things as well. I would recommend Mercado 28 if you want a wide selection of options and don’t mind dealing with a few pushy shopkeepers. (And would definitely recommend the treats at the treat stand.)
I probably should have haggled more. I know it was an option because when I tried to walk away they would try to haggle with me. I wasn’t really feeling up to it, though, so I didn’t. Nataly did tell me something that I think is a good policy, though: when a shopkeeper is pushy she will try harder to get a good price. I’ll have to remember that when I’m in areas where all shopkeepers are pushy and it’s just a question of how much.
Since I don’t really have photos from this day, here’s a bad photo of the souvenirs that haven’t been sent out yet or that I’m keeping.
When we were done, we went to Parque de las Palapas to eat lunch and since not much was going on yet we went to get our tickets for the 4 AM airport bus in the morning and walked around a bit before going back. A couple of souvenir stands were already set up, but not much else, so we made ourselves comfortable on a bench to people watch. Before long, a group of students set up next to us to practice for a dance competition and we watched in amusement as they occasionally threw each other too far and hit the tree branches.
Gradually the other stands opened one by one, revealing games, toys, and street food. I was obsessed with trying fried plantains (the reviews I read called them bananas, but I think they were plantains) and every time a new stall was opening I would ask if that was the one selling them. Eventually I did get to try them and they were delicious. 🙂 Later on a band started up and we listened to the music for a bit before heading back to our hotel. I would definitely recommend Parque de las Palapas at night if you like a low key festivities and people watching.
On the way back to our hotel we made a quick stop at a convenience store to spend the rest of our pesos, setting aside what we would need for a taxi to the bus station in the morning plus a little extra just in case. We did end up giving the extra to our taxi driver when I was late getting ready and made him wait a few minutes.
I had decided that a bit of extra time with Nataly was more important than extra time in Cancun, so after I said goodbye to her it was my turn to wait a few hours at the airport. When it was closer to my departure time, I got ready to make my way to the other terminal, but Cancun had one wrench left to throw in my plans. The free inter-terminal bus, which Nataly had taken less than a week previously to meet me on arrival, was out of service! After the first couple of people I asked offered to take me there in a taxi, (I used all my pesos, remember. I only had a 5 peso coin and 20 dollar bills.) I managed to get somebody to tell me how to get there so I could walk there.
An hour or so later, I was on my way home. Cancun has a reputation as a party place, but I found so much more there, and I’ll always treasure those memories.