Trip to Mexico, September 2004
 
 
comments and photos by Dimos
 
 
PHOTOS
Cancun Palenque Oaxaca Mexico City
Tulum Agua Azul Monte Alban Guanajuato
Coba Misol Ha El Tule San Miguel de Allende
Chichen Itza Zapatistas Mitla
Merida San Cristobal de las Casas Teotitlan del Valle
Uxmal
 
   
  I arrived in Cancun from Havana, Cuba. From the airport you get the feeling that you are entering an extremely touristic area. As the travel guide books say, there is nothing in Cancun besides huge all-inclusive hotels. If you take the local bus that goes around the hotel area, you will get to see a few dozens of them... There are so many restaurants and bars that the people spread so thin that none of the bars is more than half-full. The locals gather at the Parque de las Paladas, a square. For Mexican atmosphere specially made for tourists, go to Pericos restaurant near to Parque de las Paladas.  
   
  From Cancun, I visited Tulum and Coba in one day. I took the first bus from Cancun at 8am, arrived in Tulum village at 10am, took a taxi to Tulum site (10min), walked the site very very quickly and got back to Tulum village by 11am so I can get the bus to Coba. While Tulum is very nice next to the sea, Coba is a bit more adventurous as you rent mountain bikes to go around the huge site inside the jungle. From Coba I took the bus back to Tulum and then to Cancun.  
   
  Next day I took the bus to Chichen Itza along with my luggage. (There is a luggage place in Chichen Itza). After I visited the site, I took the bus to Merida.  
   
  Merida. Compared to Cancun, this is a normal city. The central street closes at night and there is music and dancing. Now I felt "Mexico". From Merida, I took a special bus for a local trip to Uxmal.  
   
  From Merida I took a flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez. I took a taxi to the bus station for the busses to San Cristobal de las Casas. These are small mini-vans than depart as soon as they fill up. It takes 1 hour to San Cristobal. I did not go around Tuxtal Gutierrez as the book says that there is nothing to see.  
   
  San Cristobal de las Casas is a magical place. It can be compared with Arequipa in Peru in terms of tranquillity(but not wealth). Streets are small. Most of the people are indigenous. The average family has 7 children at least. I had never seen so many babies and so much public breast-feeding in my life. The market is amazing. There are probably a few hundred dogs around... You will also notice that EVERYBODY drinks Coca Cola (even more than British drink beer in England). According to their religion, (or superb marketing), Coca Cola makes people "burp" which makes the bad spirits exit from the body. Poor people may not have water to wash, but they will drink Coca Cola. You should take the tours to the local villages so they can explain you all these things. I took the tour offered by Alex and Raul. I was there during Mexico's Independence day and hence the pictures from the parade. Every school has a band with drums and trumpets. No other music organs...The formations and the marching of the classes could not have been more disorganized (compared to school parades in Greece). The school flags were carried by women. I was told that only in the Army and the Police men can carry the flag. In Greece, the best student of the class gets to carry the flag. In San Cristobal there is no connection between academic performance and carrying the flag. Once the parade was over, children and adults went to the zocalo, the big central square to eat ice-scream. A number of open-air restaurants were set up there but most were empty. I was told that the locals consider these restaurants dirty... The night before they had cultural dances on a stage at the Zocalo. It was raining very heavy but the dancers kept dancing all wet... There is not much night life in San Cristobal. A couple of bars collect the bohemian tourists. One can easily go to bed at 10pm and have lots of energy for the next day. There are plenty of police officers and security officers in the market and in the Zocalo. Someone told that those who can not write and read become police officers...  
   
  Looking at the teenagers in San Cristobal, I wondered how these young women felt knowing that sooner or latter (no latter than 20 ?), they will start giving birth...to no less than 7 children... Local men in my age, probably already had at least 4 children...  
   
  From San Cristobal I took a day tour to Palenque. If you want to swim, you should select the tour that makes the longest stop at Misol Ha. The bus also stops at Agua Azul but you can not swim there. On the way to Palenque, the bus goes by two villages that are controlled by the Zapatistas. There are signs telling you that you are entering an area controlled by the Zapatistas and also when you are re-entering the area controlled by the Federal Government. We were stopped at an Army checkpoint full with soldiers and police officers with weapons. Very exciting! If I had spoken decent Spanish, I would have rented a car from San Cristobal and visited the Zapatistas villages...  
   
  From San Cristobal I took the mini bus back to Tuxtla Gutierrez. and the a taxi to the airport. At the airport, I took the plane to Merida. We were 2 people on the flight...  
   
  Merida is a big city. The market by the Second Class bus station is endless. But is not as fun as the one in San Cristobal. Much less people have kept the traditional dress code here. You should not miss the chocolate shops on MINA street. On the corner of 20 de Noembre and Trujano you will find store with watched "MAKEDONIA" owned by the only Greek in South Mexico.  
   
  To get to El Tule where the huge tree is (58meter round), go to the second class bus station and take bus to El Tule. Once you see the tree, walk back on the place where the bus dropped you and wait to take the bus for Mitla. The archaeological site is about 15 walk from where the bus drops you. As you walk, you will see tons of shops selling "mescal" drink. It is a nice little village.  
   
  I strongly suggest you visit Teotitlan del Valle and buy some carpet after you shop around. Very nice handmade carpets.  
   
  Of course you will visit Monte Alban.  
   
  From Oaxaca, I took the 50% extra-space bus to Mexico City. Great trip. Great scenery.  
   
 

The only thing worth seeing in Mexico City is the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. If you are starting your trip from Mexico, this is the best place to see what are the actual local made items. Then as you travel around you can buy them (rather than buying generic souvenirs than have nothing to do with Mexico). If you are finishing your trip in Mexico, this is the best place for a review of your trip. Half a day around the Zocalo of Mexico City is enough. The market in Ciudadela is good but it does NOT have items from all over Mexico contrary to what the travel guide says. Plaza Galibaldi where the mariachi play is overrated. You are clearly a target there as only tourists go. Same thing with Xochimilco floating gardens. Mexico City is huge.

 
   
  From Mexico City I went by private car to San Miguel de Allende. As my travel guide book correctly says "any place that is not a cafe or a restaurant is operating some kind of gallery or artesania shop...some times prices are bordering on extortionate". Absolutely correct. Simply take some photos, enjoy the arts and continue to Guanajuato.  
   
  Guanajuato is very different from everything else and very complicated. All roads are underground the city. You need to find a public parking to park and then "get on the surface" to find a hotel to stay. The city is full with students and bars.  
   
 

General notes

 
 

Never buy any memorabilia from people INSIDE the archaeological sites. They are always overpriced. You will always find similar items at the official vendors outside the site at a lower price.

 
 

If I had trusted the guide book, I would have taken the First Class busses for my trips inside Mexico rather than the airplanes. Truly the busses are extremely comfortable (50% more space at least) and much cheaper than airplanes...

 
 

You are better off eating at lunch time than dinner.

 
 

Taxi drivers are ready to ask for "astronomical" prices.

 
 

As you go north, the Mexicas become taller and more American looking

 
 

By the time I made it to Mexico City, the rainy season had arrived. During the rainy season, it starts to rain around 1pm and does not stop for the rest of the day... Once it starts raining, you are essentially stuck where ever you are. The drainage system can not handle the volumes of the water and soon all the intersections are huge lakes making it impossible for someone to "walk under and umbrella".

 
  Lastly, if you like Caucasian women (or men), Southern Mexico is not the place to find a date...  
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