January 28th, 2010
|Alf-Laila Wa-Laila--A Thousand and One Nights Hotel|
After the bus ride from the airport, I checked in in the elegant lobby and surrendered my suitcase to a bellboy in a beige tunic. The hotel's English name is "1,001 Nights," and it's modeled after the great palace of Bagdad--except this version is of pastel stucco. Another bellboy then escorted me to my room. On the way, we passed one the hotel courtyards with a small dessert garden in the middle, a patch of rocks and and cacti complete with two live tortoises--who were most definitely fucking in plain view under the Egyptian sun. The bellboy turned to me and shrugged. "Wenn Schildkröte Liebe machen will, macht Schildkröte Liebe,"--"When turtle wants to make love, turtle makes love," he said with a smile.
As if that were an omen for my trip, I got hit on for the first time here just a few seconds after emerging from my hotel room. Standing in the hall on the polished mosaic floor, I immediately caught an employee's eye: "First day here? You are very beautiful!" I couldn't help smirking, amazed that it took so little time. "Oh no, no, no, not that already," I told him playfully, "Just tell me how to get to the beach."
And there, another revelation: So, it's true. Of all the world's styles of tourism--the Japanese herds of immaculately dressed retirees, oohing and ahhing and clicking away in khaki-colored sunhats, the sunburnt Americans traipsing around the Yucatan in miniskirts and cutoff shorts, dashing young backpackers armed with charm and nonchalance--nothing quite prepared me for the true European "fly-and-flop" vacation, this bizarrely multi-yet-very-mono-cultural experience of middle-class dowdiness polished with an exquisite 3rd-world veneer. As I try to place this special brand of unattractiveness, it dawns on me: in America, these people don't go abroad. But if they did, would they also have blaring techno music playing at the poolside all day?