I must say my first memory of Mexico is the same as my first memory of Hainan, the huge hit of warmth, sun, and blue sky you get to experience emerging from the airport, WOW! In fact even while driving across to Merida the country side reminded me quite a bit of Hainan. The brush, the trees, people walking and riding bikes, tons of motorcycles in the towns, children wondering up onto the highway (must be VERY careful driving), and cars zooming around like a video game!
Actually, upon landing in Cancun you could see in certain areas, and very near the airport, huge fairly large controlled brush fires. These fires also ran along the highway 180 which takes you across the peninsula into Yucatan.
Thank goodness I changed the car rental two day before we left to a car with air conditioning, and not just because of the heat, but because driving through all that smoke even for a short period of time, would have been incredibly worse... At some points you could even see the flames right at the road side.
The intention was to take the old highway and not the toll road in order to see some of the small towns on the way, but not everything goes to plan..... We did stop in Valladoid, which I would love to go back to and really get to see the more of the town, and should be on your Mexico destination plans.
From the area that I saw in Valladoid's impression on me is that of an old colonial city that I could best describe as quaint, very modest and traditional with narrow and zig-zaggy streets (be ware of the direction! Lots of one-ways!) littered with simple houses, some brightly colored, with vines and flowers having spent their years climbing up the walls. On the corners the local small market, everyone once in-a while one with a video game peaking out of its corner. Driving through its streets you realize it's the type of place whose images and sounds linger in your mind, a type of place that if you are sure you can find a little out of the corner that you can call all your own to shelter you from the hustle and noise of everyday life. And yes, this is the impression you get without even exploring the entire town...
Dinner was at Tropical Maya, chicken fajitas were the choice, and we were given fresh baked tortilla chips and homemade picante as a starter (which was hotter than hell! Holy cow!). The food was FANTASTIC and the place really set the pace for what would be encountered restaurant and food wise, very good, authentic, and lots of openings to the beautiful outside world! No disappointment at all!
Parking lot was a bit small, but for the Atos it was a perfect fit