Archive for January, 2009

Los Cabos Musings

January 31, 2009

I have wanted to visit Mexico ever since moving to California in 1996. Why, you may ask. Over the last dozen or so years, on more than one occasion, I have been mistaken for being a Mexican. This has piqued my curiosity to see for myself what the country was like, what the people were like, and settle the mystery once and for all. Maybe there was some deep genetic connection between Indians and Mexicans.

In this part of the world, depending on where you are, one needs to keep in mind that the word ‘Indian’ is over-loaded. It is not just the Native Americans who are called Indians. I have been called an ‘East Indian’ in Puerto Rico to distinguish me from the people of Indian origin who live in theย  West Indies. So, there is more to being called an Indian than meets the eye. My interaction with the ‘Indian’ shopkeeper in Puerto Rico, and subsequent conversation about being ‘East indian’, has a lot of fascinating historical context. That will have to be the subject of a different post. This is about Mexico..

Mexico is a fascinating, rich culture and we decided that with a three year old, we would first experience the new Mexico, namely the vacation resorts. We knew that Keshav loved the beach and we could spend a lot of time on the beach keeping him entertained, and more importantly tire him out. The visits to the Aztec ruins will have to wait for a subsequent visit. We picked Los Cabos as a destination, booked air tickets, and a resort and off we went. The flight into Los Cabos was through LA and was uneventful. We thought we would get a cab to the resort and be done with it. This is where we could not have been more wrong.

Los Cabos, it seems, has an over-abundance of vacation resorts that want to aggressively push fractional ownership to anyone, even if they are not interested. As we gathered our luggage, finished customs and immigration and came out to the main lobby of the airport, there were many polite people talking in English who were offering to help people with transportation, i.e., cabs, rental cars, etc. Now, I had not made up my mind whether I wanted a cab or a rental car. Plus, I did not suspect that folks helping with transportation would be pushing vacation resorts. I thought they would push their transportation service. One of the polite gentlemen with a name tag on, approached me, and took me to his station and before I knew it started convincing me that a rental car was better, and that he would give me a free rental car if I were to agree to visit some random resort with my family. Of course, he made it sound like his family would starve if I did not visit the resort. He also made it sound as though my family would have the time of our lives on this visit. Now, I do not know why, I decided to go with the rental car at that point in time. I had not yet read Dan Ariely’s ‘Predicably Irrational’ย  ( to know that I was irrational like everyone else and when something was offered as ‘free’, I had the propensity to take that offer without completely evaluating the potential downside.

Anyway, the guy took me to a car rental across the street from the airport, ‘negotiated’ a two-hundred dollar discount for the car rental, and told me to meet him the next morning on the highway outside the Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar resort where we were staying for the next four days. He also told me to not tell anyone in the resort that I had spoken to him. I thought this was an odd request. I could see the strategy of trying to make this ‘personal’, and trying to create the feeling that I ‘owed’ him something for the ‘discount’. Little did he know that I was truly undecided, and that his strategy was unlikely to work. In my mind, I was prepared to pay about 200 dollars for a car rental for five days because that is how much the car would have cost me anyways. In my mind, the justification was that instead of paying about $150 for cab both ways for the three of us, I am now paying $200 for the freedom of moving around wherever I pleased when in Cabo.

The drive to the resort form the airport was quite good. Cabo San Lucas is at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, and the airport is in a town about 30 km north in a town called San Jose Del Cabo. The drive from San Jose to Cabo is dotted with vacation resorts of all sorts along the way. The peninsula itself is essentially a desert, but it looks beautiful from the air and on the ground because of the contrast with the blue ocean. Our resort was about 2/3 of the way to Cabo San Lucas from San Jose Del Cabo. We made it to the resort, parked the car and checked in. While we were checking in, the reservation lady asked us whether anyone had approached us about visiting vacation resorts, and I told her about the transportation agent. On hearing about that she immediately told me that I could get a discount at the resort for whatever amount the other guy had given me, i.e., $200 in my case if we looked around this resort instead. I was stunned. The timeshare business was everywhere here.

Anyway, we then settled in and decided to have a late lunch at the italian restaurant at the resort. Later in the evening, we drove down to Cabo. Getting the right kind of food was a challenge We wanted to see the marina, and this was to be the place we would come more often the next few days were in Cabo.

The Marina in Cabo was definitely a very interesting place, with hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes. Cabo, it seems, was a pirate base from which pirates attacked Spanish ships carrying gold and produce between the Americas and Spain. In some ways, Cabo still has some of that ‘anything-goes’ feel to it even now, although the marina is definitely ‘gentrified’ with malls, restaurants, bars, antique shops and street vendors hawking wares. Deep-sea fishing is a big deal here, and there are many boats and yachts that can take you out into the sea for fishing Marlins. There were some very impressive yachts, some even had helicopters on them and resembled yachts used by rich villians in James Bond movies.

The street vendors looked like native folks who were selling artifacts made from things like coconut shells, etc. The pricing strategy though was quite interesting. They first told us that the price was, say 10 pesos, only later to say that it was 10 dollars. It was about 10 pesos to the dollar. I guess, the mexicans in Mexico were quick to see through my ‘fake mexican-ness’. The lack of ability to speak in Spanish probably gave us away. ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the featured items in the marina was a pirate cruise where the tourists are taken in a ship that looks like an old pirate ship. I was skeptical at first, but the experience definitely surpassed all my expectations, the open bar probably did the trick. Keshav had a blast in the pirate cruise as well. We were lucky that the sea was quiet that afternoon. We had not spent as much time on the beach as planned because it was too dangerous to go for the first three days we were there.

We flew back via Dallas, and Keshav created quite a racket on the ride back, especially the leg from Dallas. It did not help that one of my friends was traveling on the same flight, one row behind us, and Keshav and his daughter hit it off. He calmed down a little bit when one of the fellow passengers told him to behave. It was a trip that was to teach us to prepare to travel with Keshav, and we have hopefully learnt our lesson. ๐Ÿ™‚