Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in Full Color
By Ben Bartee - September 12, 2023

Originally published via Dave’s Travel Corner:

Having spent time in other Mexican locales like Oaxaca and Merida, Puerto Vallarta seems very much not Mexican in the traditional sense of the word.

It’s basically a sprawling series of condos, hotels, and shopping malls on the beach – with a healthy smattering of pharmacies selling illicit concoctions banned for over-the-counter sales in most of the world in between — much in the same way that Phuket has become in Thailand.

Here’s what I saw in Puerto Vallarta.

While the vast majority of the city has a brand-new feel, this one ancient-looking cathedral in the middle of the downtown area is the notable exception to the rule.

I lost count of how many aforementioned pharmacies we passed with advertisements on the sidewalk announcing prescription-free sales of Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, HGH, testosterone, codeine, tramadol, and almost every other fun controlled substance (in the US) you can think of.

Temptation, thy name is Farmacia de Puerto Vallarta.

Local news reports indicate that the cartel runs most if not all of these retail outlets selling pharmaceutical speed and heroin, the products of which may or may not actually contain the listed ingredients.

The ostensible reason for my wife and I traveling to Puerto Vallarta was to babysit these two sweetie pies, whose retired gringo parents headed back to LA for six weeks to do gringo things and needed someone to feed their animals.

The former here, a Presa Canario breed, is a 150-pound baby beast who doesn’t know his own heft, who interrupts everything you are doing all the time by placing his enormous body in the most inconvenient locations possible, and who passes time in the backyard by catching and torturing iguanas.

I watched him audibly crush the bones in one’s skull. Lamentably, I have no video to share from that incident.

As far as food goes, Ascencio Tacos can’t be beaten in my estimation. It’s run by a charismatic, eccentric Argentinian guy named Diego who is what I would call a legitimate culinary artist, crafting tacos with pork ribs, various seafoods,  and incredible sauces he apparently makes himself.

The décor is also fascinating. Diego has awesome skulls hanging from the ceiling, which reminded me very much of the Misfits ballad, “Skulls.”

I usually wouldn’t include images of strip club facades in a travel article, to the extent that’s what this is, but I’m willing to make an exception for the brilliantly named “Boobies and Booties Galore.”

For the strip club connoisseurs out there, Boobies & Booties Galore might be your Eden while in Puerto Vallarta. As you can see, the business has a convenient on-site ATM.

The ultra-tourist epicenter in the heart of the city, which ripples out into the newer surrounding areas, is a gay hotspot full of bars for same-sex-attracted individuals of the male persuasion. I didn’t spend much time there because I’m heterosexually married and because I hate tourists of all sorts, regardless of their sexuality. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant there once and a guy winked at me from a bar.

Anyway, here’s what all the tourists really come for (aside from script-free drugs and gay sex): the fucking beach.

Plus PV’s got a pretty cool marina.

Unlike Oaxaca and other locales in Mexico, street art in Puerto Vallarta was minimal. But, here and there, w found some cool murals around the city.

Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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