12/20/2012 01:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Waiting for the End of the World on the Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen, Mexico -- Here on the Riviera Maya, on the Eve of Destruction, ominous signs of the end of the world are everywhere.

Yes, it seems that in this tourist mecca of surf and sand, the Mayan prophesies of the End of Days are being heeded. You have to look a little bit, but once you begin to focus, the signs are all around you.

First off, the Cancun airport was jammed with many hundreds of people two days before the end of the Mayan calendar. And they were standing in zig-zagging lines that seemed kind of like an ancient Mayan maze. Almost like zombies, they moved through the roped tunnels, dragging or pushing baggage that was far too much for just a week in paradise. Perhaps they carried all their worldly belongings with them, in case they might need something in the afterlife.

Then, masses of cars clogged the highway out of Cancun, undoubtedly heading to the surrounding ancient Mayan sites to be close to those spiritual centers when it was all over.

At our hotel, the Royal Playa del Carmen, things really got creepy. The bed in our suite was adorned with towels shaped like swans in the form of a heart and dotted with rose petals. They must want to make sure that my husband and I have a particularly romantic evening if, after all, it's going to be one of our last nights on earth.


And the restaurants were out of straws. Why order new supplies this close to the end? At lunchtime, there were alcoholic drinks of every type in front of just about every soul at the hotel. Frozen Margaritas, beer and wine, enough to numb the senses and mask the fear. A group of young women with barely any clothes on lounged near the ocean, that powerful life force. Virgin sacrifices to the gods in hopes of sparing mankind?

Some folks soared like birds against the puffy white clouds and brilliant blue sky, riding beneath red and blue balloons attached to boats on the water. Not much time left for that bucket list.

And everywhere, people showed off markings on their skin. The young and beautiful, but also the not so young and not so beautiful, displayed symbols and letters etched onto their bodies. Are these messages to the gods marking these people for salvation?

Our driver that took us from the airport to the hotel said there wasn't much concern about the end of the world coming in just a few days for locals. "We're preparing for Christmas. That's the big thing. But who knows?"