November 20 2006

It's a brave concept for a hotel: modeling the entire aesthetic on the industrial oil rigs of 1950's Mexico. Especially for one that's "moored" at the hedonistic Caribbean adventure playground that is Playa Del Carmen. But Hotel Basico  - the chic offering from boutique hoteliers Grupo Habita pulls it off with unapologetic conviction.

The gist is as follow.  The building, perched on Playa del Carmen's exclusive Fifth Avenue shopping and restaurant strip, references Mexico's rustic petroleum industry, with the rooms looking out onto a central mess hall-like restaurant area (note: best fish tacos in the 'hood). Above is a rooftop cocktail bar that features luxurious cabanas made from the back of old trucks with inbuilt mattresses and white-as-white cushions, two concrete petroleum tanks that serve as swimming pools (note: from the pool you can sip old-school margaritas and look down on the crowds below and out to the Caribbean, one block away). Breezy house music and handsome hotel staff waft throughout the building all day. Effortlessly surreal.

Now, I personally go by the theory that if you're going to work with a gimmick, be sure to go the full distance. Basico's architect, Hectar Galvan, seemingly agreed with the sentiment when he put this project together.

In the rooms, no detail is left un-themed. Exposed pipes with fire hydrant-style taps run along the walls. An industrial-strength bath and the king-sized, multi-purpose bed (perched on an elevated palate) sit in the middle of the room. Everything is exposed and raw; the toilet is the only thing in the room concealed. There are rubber curtains on the floor-to-ceiling window and pulley chain detailing throughout. The signage around the hotel references the typography of Mexican taxis from the 1950s. Superbly construction-worker chic!

The effect is softened, however, with what one of the managers referred to as "nana touches". Continuing with the retro feel, mosaic planter pots are smattered throughout and the recycled floor tiles are straight from "a Mexican grandmother's patio". Or so said the manager. The freight lift that takes you from the open-air reception to the rooms and restaurant above is decorated with succulents in red pots.

Some adventures in life are about the journey. And some holidays are about a wild hotel room experience. A sojourn at Basico taps into this ideal. This isn't the romantic experience for honeymooners wanting to hide in their own Caribbean cocoon. No, it's all about the exhibitionist couple who get into the flirtatiousness of the concept, who want to be part of the party that goes on up at the rooftop bar every night until 1am. And who are open to "having lots of sex", as suggested in the hotel introductory manual that's chained to the bed. It doesn't have to be alone.

PS. Be sure to borrow the hotel snorkeling gear and visit the surrounding cenotes (underwater caverns teaming with colorful fish).

PPS. While in Mexico check out the other offerings in the Grupo Habita chain: Deseo in Playa Del Carmen and Condesa in Mexico City.. by Sarah Wilson


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