One visit to Playa del Carmen’s main tourist drag, Fifth Avenue, was all it took to put us off from going back for several weeks. I’ve learned to love it since then (well, appreciate it at least) but on that first day, I had never felt more like ‘fresh meat’ in my life.
Maybe it was our pasty, jet-lagged faces. Or maybe it was our awkward, fish-out-of-water Britishness. But as soon as we hit Fifth, its brightest and best (read: annoying) hawkers made a gleeful beeline straight for us, shouting, cajoling, joking and trying to flog us everything from jewellery to taxis.
Luckily, the ‘hood we’d decided to settle in was in a far quieter area of the city – slightly to the north – which probably led us to discover the ‘secret’ side of Fifth far quicker than we would have otherwise.
If you travel north on Fifth and cross over CTM (Calle 42), a whole new world opens up. Gone are the tacky street stalls and throngs of tourists. Instead, there are homes, arty cafes, rollerbladers, dog walkers… and a whole lotta street art.
My favourite thing to do in the evening, once the sun had set and the temperature was cool enough to venture outside without keeling over, was to walk along ‘secret Fifth’ with the rest of the locals, checking out the street art and enjoying the sights and sounds of a neighbourhood just going about its business – a far cry from the neon lights and the obnoxious dumf dumf bass lines blasting out a little further down the road (yep, it’s finally happened. I’ve gone ‘full granny’. Where’s a bingo hall and a nice warm pair of slippers when you need them?).
My photos don’t really do the art justice, but here are few I picked out from along secret Fifth:
So, if you find yourself in Playa del Carmen, be sure to take a stroll north on Fifth after sunset. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I promise.
And if you can help me credit any of the artists featured here, I’d appreciate the help! Thanks!