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After Zihautenejo, we didn’t know if any other port could compare. Other passengers told us that if we liked Zihuatenejo , we would like PV even more. The Freestyle Daily said that Puerto Vallarta still had a “unique Old Mexico ambience.” It’s probably just me but seeing the Walmart from the ship tricks my mind into thinking that the Freestyle may be using the same copy they did in 1965, when PV fit that description better. On the other hand, the port isn’t right in the heart of Puerto Vallarta, but a few miles away, so the possibility of finding that ambience set us on our way to explore the center of Puerto Vallarta. I remember having the same feelings about Oaxaca when the first thing that I saw was a Walmart and other chain stores. I just happened to reach the recently developed outskirts of town before seeing the zocalo, which really did have a true traditional ambience. Perhaps this would be true of Puerto Vallarta.
After leaving the ship, we found many shuttles that would take us into town for $4 per person. We opted to walk to the main road and catch a Centro bus in our direction for 5 pesos per person. Be sure you have pesos to pay the fare. There are money changers on the way to the main street from the ship. We were entertained on the bus by the all too familiar walk on guitarist strumming for pesos. I guess he recouped his fare in the short set that he did before exiting and getting back on a bus going in the opposite direction.
The map from the ship wasn’t incredibly detailed, other than indicating the locations of all the recommended shopping spots. We used that as a guide, but alighted at a spot from where we could see the tower of the cathedral and the sea. We headed toward the artisan mercado near the river that splits the town in two. Surely there must be crafts from the area, but we saw Maya masks,Talavera tile and black ceramic pottery from Oaxaca. Eventually, I hit upon the oddest looking ceramic peppers I had ever seen. This particular one was green and had a face drawn on it. Debating whether it looked too creepy, I took it down from the hook and looked at the price – 24 pesos, definitely in my price range and way cheaper than the other stuff in the shop. I thought some more about the creepy factor and then decided that it wasn’t too bad at all and wanted to find another piece to match it. The shopkeeper found me the same thing in red. Perfect, I thought. I looked at the price and saw that it was 260 pesos. $260 !!!!!!!!!!!!! How could the two be so differently priced? The woman explained that the 0 was missing from the one that said 24 pesos. Oh. These were interesting, but not worth $24. I gave them back to the woman and started walking away when she asked what I would give. “100 pesos” I said knowing that I would never agree to her price. She countered with both for 250. I went up to 120 and we bantered back and forth until we agreed on 180 pesos for both. The peppers are definitely unique, unlike anything I have ever seen before in Mexico probably because they were made in China. I knew that I would never get the same price here that I would in Oaxaca, so decided to deal with it.
Public transportation in Mexico is very good and inexpensive as well. Be sure to have some pesos handy for the driver. In Puerto Vallarta, we spent a total of $2 for round transportation from the ship to downtown. That saved us $14 over the cost of the shuttles.
You get to experience life like a local – at least for the duration of the bus ride and save money so that when your haggling skills aren’t so great, you have a few extra bucks to spend.
From the mercado, we crossed the swing bridge to the small island that separates the old town from the new and headed over to the small anthropology museum. Small, but well done, it focuses on the local area and the people who settled here, groups with whom we weren’t previously familiar. We will have to read up on our coastal Mexican anthropology some day. After the museum, we crossed over another swing bridge into Old Puerto Vallarta where we had hoped to find a typical restaurant for lunch. What we found were many restaurants catering to tourists and those dollars in their wallets. We searched up and down several streets finding several reasonable seafood places, which for me aren’t usually a deal at any price because I don’t care for seafood that much. After nearly dying of starvation, we headed back over the bridge and started heading back toward the area of the recommended shops. We found a nice little family-run restaurant and ordered green enchiladas for just a few pesos. It seems that lunch for both of us came to a whopping $4. Next time we know that there are some more local restaurants just a short way down that same street. Since we cannot find decent Mexican food at home, we make a point of finding local food when in the ports.
We aren’t big shoppers, but I got caught up into the excitement of drawings and other promotions like the cheap bracelet from Diamonds International to which you add charms as you visit their stores. You pay $5 for the first charm and the rest are free. I collected my first charm and the guy tried to sell us a $40,000 watch, which is just what we needed. I could do that or put a down payment on a house or even buy a house. We tried the tequila samples and bought a bottle to take back home with us. We eventually reached another craft store, which had quite a collection of objects from throughout Mexico. The Colima dog that interested me was $1400, so I passed. The artist had done an excellent repro of these dogs that were a food source. Yum. Talk about your hot dogs.
Our time passed by too quickly and we still hadn’t found that Old Mexico ambience described in the port guide. Maybe next time as we did enjoy or brief tour of Puerto Vallarta and would definite return to explore some more. We found the bus stop to get back to the ship and waited what seemed an eternity for the proper bus. We later realized that we could have taken the WalMart bus and simply walked from there to the ship. It doesn’t appear to be too far of a walk considering it is in view of the ship. Our bus finally arrived back at the Pemex at the end of the street from the pier and we made it back to port with some time to spare.
This was the first port that that had an inspection/security station outside the ship. They grabbed our backpack and confiscated our tequila, putting it into a large bin that had enough liquor in it to supply the ship for the remainder of the cruise. We knew that they would confiscate the tequila, but just weren’t expecting it to happen even before we boarded the ship. We almost forgot to claim the tequila on the last day and had to retrieve it from reception, since we missed the official liquor pick-up time. I wonder how many other people forget that they have liquor to claim and forget about it as we did.