As people begin to prematurely celebrate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, many flock to Tulum for debauchery reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties.
The Roaring Twenties ! Gatsby! Sandals ! We hear these nostalgic terms a lot these days as people anticipate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic paving the way for a bacchanal that rivals our century-old ancestors. People are going to party, travel, eat, shop and party a lot more. However, the pandemic is not over. In fact, it’s raging like wildfire, crippling countries around the world as the mask and vaccination debates burn fiercely right next to it.
There are many parallels between the 2020s and the 1920s. The 1920s began after World War I and the end of the 1918 pandemic, which infected an estimated 500 million people, killing 50 million worldwide and 675,000 in the United States. Kicking off the 2020s with the end of the 20-year U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and a pandemic that has infected 194 million people and killed over four million (probably a lot more) with more than 600,000 deaths in the United States. Seems familiar?
For some reason, I decided it was a good time to travel to Tulum in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. If you’re like me, you religiously follow charts and graphs of cities, states, counties, and countries to see where COVID is peaking and where it’s low. My trip to Mexico fell just at the start of a peak, but that wasn’t going to stop a plane filled with 20-plus-year-olds who wanted to burst into their own take on the roaring twenties with little to no consequence.
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I spent 72 hours in Tulum and saw a lot of things: some good, some bad, some weird and some worrying. About two hours south of Cancun, Tulum is a small, ancient, pre-Columbian Mayan walled city that is (or was) a hotbed of spiritualism, mysticism, steeped in culture and laden with cenotes, Mayan ruins and a to-die-for. . for the culinary scene.
But Tulum is dichotomous. For every healer promising salvation, bars play “oontz oontz” music late into the night. While the beaches are beautiful, they are full of dead and decaying algae that piles up five feet high and employs locals with Sisyphus’s job to clean them up. Next to a fine-dining restaurant offering crudo and lobster tostadas, you can refuel a 5-foot-long one at Subway.
A long road runs through Tulum which is half paved and half pockmarked. Everywhere you look, shops sell scantily clad, influencer-favored clothing that is rooted by drugstores that peel pain relievers, HGH, and boner pills, which are next to pop-up antigen testing sites promising 24 hour COVID results.
Where am I?
The hotel I stayed at epitomized the polarizing nature of Tulum. Casa Malca looks like what would happen if a 16 year old goth art student made a lot of money. It’s weird and it’s exceptional. Rumored to be built in a mansion once owned by drug lord Pablo Escobar, the hotel is a feast for the eyes with stunning artwork mixed with 30-foot palm trees and an endless white sand beach.
Everywhere you look, you’re surrounded by epic sculptures and original paintings by artists like Keith Haring, Yue Minjun, KAWS, Mark Ryden, and more. On the beach, a headless Chairman Mao faces the face of a mesmerizing 3-meter-tall bronze woman, mesmerized by the morning sun of artist Ravinder Reddy.
The priceless collection is a breeding ground for influencer culture, where strappy goddesses and hairless, six-headed duck-headed gods for the camera and strut the beach for that perfect ‘thirst trap’ shot. The duality continues with a jaw-dropping techno pool, a zen underground cave that people think is an Escobar hideaway (it wasn’t), and oceanfront rooms with jaw-dropping views.
Casa Malca mixes sex, death, and culture while being family friendly (I would use the shrug emoji here if my editor allows). Outstanding restaurants are aptly named Ambrosia (Elixir of the Gods), Filosofia / Philosophy (Love of Knowledge) and Head of a Mad Man. Ambrosia is an Asian fusion star with A-5 Wagyu and freshly caught toro, while Head of a Mad Man is a beachside barbecue with some of the best octopus tacos in town. The property describes its philosophy as unique, romantic and sarcastic – it follows.
The real highlight of the stay was the Calma Spa, where they offer a signature four-hand massage that makes you forget about the pandemic, even while the three of you put on the masks for the 80-minute exercise. It’s worthy of madness in every way. Stay here – if for nothing else – sensory overload.
Tulum, meanwhile, is tailor-made for the cultivation of influence. It’s an entire city that’s camera-ready, with towering, awe-inspiring, often priceless works of art and picture-perfect natural frames where tasteless, instant stunners can draw more followers while still failing. learning nothing about artists, history and heritage.
Checking in at home, there are rumors of US hospitals bracing for assaults from Delta patients. The news hits that COVID is explodes in Mexico, but the party here won’t end and no one seems to notice or care. Only local workers are masked.
At night, Tulum comes alive, pulsating with energy. Fairy lights and jazzy tunes invite decked travelers to restaurants named Karma and Taboo and Tantra. Sex is everywhere (see: Cialis for sale). The single road is congested with cars in both directions. I witness a scantily clad 19-year-old eating it on her scooter as dogs fight over scraps amid world-class restaurants spraying citronella oil to ward off mosquitoes. The waiters, hostesses and bussers are masked and invisible to the treasures of tourists who flock to the downtown scene.
You can feel the nighttime energy of Tulum through the revelers who have been locked in their homes for over a year and are there to let it all out. Drinking, drugs, smoking, sex. Everything is here. Sweaty, beautiful, young (but also family-friendly!) And voracious describes the bacchanalia of Tulum as the sun sets and heat blankets the street, cut off from the refreshing sea winds.
As the pre-drinks set in, Tulum is focusing on the food. You cannot come to Tulum without experiencing the culinary scene, and without a doubt, the restaurant where to dine is Arca. The restaurant is run by Chef Jose Luis Hinostroza, an American-Mexican chef who has subtly worked in the best restaurants in the world, including Alinea in Chicago, De Kromme Watergang in the Netherlands, El Cellar de Can Roca in Spain and Noma in Copenhagen. . His Tulum masterpiece features ingenious creations with all local ingredients. There’s the sourdough made from a pulque-fed starter, grilled octopus in a recado negro terrine, gravity-defying soft-shell crab tacos, sea bass belly ceviche and roasted bone marrow. that perfect crackling bread. The food stuns, amazes and challenges your taste buds. It was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life – and I have had a lot of great meals.
I do mezcal shots with the chef, with the bartenders, the waitress and the busser. With a throbbing head and a full stomach, I return to the museum-hotel-lair of iniquity and witness a million stars on the soundtrack of the crashing waves. This is the first time that things have even seemed to be normal in the past 18 months; However, deep inside I can’t help but think, “I hope I don’t get COVID. “
Because I’m not just in Tulum for Tik-Tok content, I take a two hour drive to experience one of the true wonders of the world. Chichén Itzá is a Mayan temple complex with tall pyramids and structures that rival ancient Egyptian sites. The story here is awe-inspiring, shocking, and matches Tulum’s duplicity. The complex is full of contradictions. There is a stadium here where priests and the Mayan elite would despise sports teams vying for supremacy; where the winning team was sacrificed to the gods.
There is a temple dedicated to a rain god where human sacrifice was the only form of appeasement. Between ancient ruins, stunning architecture, and lush, manicured lawns are tchotchke stalls selling $ 7 magnets and fakes of the Mayan calendar. My Mayan guide explains to me that nothing changes. The rich exploited the poor during the heyday of Mayan culture, and they continue to do so today. I think about that feeling the whole way back to the hotel. It is shocking and inevitable.
Do you know how the Mayan civilization collapsed? It was a combination of foreign invasions, collapsed trade routes, epidemic disease and drought. Does this sound familiar to you as we face a pandemic and catastrophic climate change at the same time as the disparity between the haves and have-nots grows exponentially day by day?
Tulum is a metaphor for today’s world; this is perhaps the saddest metaphor of all. Wealthy, unmasked tourists indulging in the great pleasures of life while masked, low-paid workers attend to their every need. All around them is a swirling pandemic, a threatening climate and an evident caste system. But it is also a metaphor for the Mayan civilization. An elite class convinced their subjects that human sacrifices would appease the gods and bring rain and prosperity for all, but only the poor were sacrificed while their rich rulers continued the scam.
My Mayan guide was right. Nothing actually changes. Rich tourists are exploiters. The inhabitants can only survive thanks to their largesse. If it doesn’t rain, the poor will suffer, and if a pandemic strikes, wealthy travelers don’t have to wear masks.