Posts Tagged With: Mexico City

Day 188: Mexico City – Mexico – Dec 22nd

Saving the best for last, our last day in Mexico City will be heading out into the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan. Once again, the convenience of the public transport system is very impressive, as all we had to do was hop off at the metro station named “L’Autobuse Norte”, or literally, North Bus Stop. There, just follow the big signs for the bus company that’d take you there. Simple, efficient, awesome! The cool part about this is that taking buses in Mexico is extremely great!!! The buses are clean, the roads are nice and the seats are soo comfy!! None of that gross throwing up and smoking without opening the window nonsense.

At first we were afraid we wouldn’t know where to get off, but once we got there you won’t be able to miss it….The pyramids are SO massive in scale, you can see it from afar.

History Lesson: Teotihuacan is the centre of people that settled in the area between 100BC – 600AD. The whole complex consists of a road named Avenue of the Dead (cool huh?), which almost points perfectly to the North/South poles. The avenue leads north to a massive plaza and the Moon Pyramid which is where the locals gather. Further south, there is a larger Sun Pyramid where priests and royalty reside to perform worships and sacrifices. When other groups of people arrived into the area a couple hundred years later, a lot of their worship and architecture was borrowed from this site.

Like any ruins of great civilizations of old, it is hard to describe the whole complex. In sheer size, it is tremendous as the Sun Pyramid is third largest pyramid in the world. In terms of design, the whole place is rock solid even after so many years, and aesthetically it radiates a sense of mystery like nothing we’ve seen. Just sitting atop the pyramids, looking down the Avenue of the Dead, you can’t help but imagine all the history that this place holds.

And walking down the Avenue to the southern most part, is another large square with a third, pyramid which housed the government of the era, and the large open space was also used as a market for trade. As this was the capital of a vast empire, it needed to sustain trade with other groups of people and this is where they would meet. Walking back towards the north, one can see the Moon Pyramid squarely in your sights the whole time. That walk, was definitely an intimidating one.

Heading back to town, we wanted to visit one last museum before we left Mexico City (there are SO many museums here), but unfortunately it closes at 5:30pm and we were a bit too late. The plaza outside the museum was lively, and families and friends were gathering around as it seems like everyone is beginning their Christmas celebrations!! We grabbed dinner at a local restaurant close to the museum, ordering random things on the menu which were all quite good! Mexican food is really delicious, we just need to figure out what we’re ordering =)

At night, the festivities have begun at the central market square! The Christmas lights were up, and a temporary skating rink was put up to the joys of local kids wanting to skate (there was a line-up to get in!). A set of bleachers were put up for some show that was going on with people doing trick jumps in their snowmobiles! So cool!!! Despite no snow, the holiday spirit is definitely in the air!!

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Day 187: Mexico City – Mexico – Dec 21st

Fortunately, the end of the world as predicted by the Mayans did not come. Actually, in the streets of Mexico City there is absolutely NO sign of anyone in any way concerned with this date in time.

We spent the morning taking a trip out into the suburbs of the city and into the small area of Coyoacan which is a artsy, peaceful area and the home of Mexico’s most famous artists, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The problem though is how to get there, as the subway exits aren’t particularly close and we don’t have a map or a data plan! Somehow, something awesome happened to our iPhone and with one of our travel apps, we can actually use the GPS and get a map of the area! SWEET! Technology for the win.

The neighbourhood has this upscale residence feel to it, and we passed by several coffee shops with the intoxicating aromas of fresh coffee and baked goods. We were tempted by these cafes, but we did our research and we were going to grab lunch at the Coyoacan market! Somewhat like St Lawrence market of Toronto, it had these fresh food stalls selling all kinds of meats and fish, and we dined at a restaurant with chairs and tables lined out onto the streets. When given the menu, no matter how simple, we always have the hardest time trying to figure out what is what!!! Thankfully, sitting next to us the banker-looking guy with his hot girlfriend must have heard or felt our confusion and offered a few suggestions…in English! He definitely knew what he was saying, as the food was soooo good and fresh!

Next was the Frida Kahlo’s Museum, which was literally her home for most of her life. For those of you who aren’t into art, Frida is one of Mexico’s most popular female artist, who just happened to married one of the most famous modern artist of Mexico, Diego Rivera. Without going into history and what not, she paints surrealistic paintings and mostly famous because somehow, all her paintings have her own face on it with her trademark uni-brow. I was never a big fan, but after a bit more understanding of her life, I can understand things a bit more. The house was massive, and the whole thing was painted in an azure blue, which was pretty nice to look at. The humanized depiction of her surroundings and wide variety of collections which included a Mont Blanc designed pen dedicated to her, and her classic Mexican artisanal kitchen pots was also interesting. The most interesting though, was her wardrobe of classical Mexican clothing which she turned into her own ‘style’.

Leaving the museum we were on our way to UNAM, University National Autonomous Mexico, whose campus has been dedicated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one massive thing, and unfortunately because it’s holiday season here the campus is closed, and so is the public transport system that takes you into the university. At the bus stop, a nice lady lead us to a bus and told us to get off in 5minutes, but I misheard her saying 15minutes instead. So we went for a joyride to a Wal Mart….. and ended up further from where we wanted to go than before!!!! The GPS saved us once again.

UNAM campus is split into two, with a large conservation area in between, and for some reason the conservation area is closed to visitors so we were lost, and nobody spoke any English nor did they understand our simple Spanish. Luckily, we bumped this guy walking his dog who lead the way for us. With broken English, he tried to strike up a conversation. He studied political science, and asked if I like to play football. The conversation was going like any other, until he came out of the blue with a, “Do you like wheat?”. I was a bit confused, and he tried again, “Do you like mawiwana?”, and I got his point pretty quickly… ha ha ha, it got a bit strange after but he was very nice and helped us get to where we needed. What an awesome guy!

At the UNAM campus, it was quiet but the museums were still open. The university has a modern art museum housed within a very well designed building, but we just didn’t have the time to visit. The rest of the campus was just like any other campus, with the exception of big wide open spaces, and massive murals painted on several central buildings. The university was established back in the 1500s but all the buildings reminded us of our own alma mater that was mainly built in the middle of the 1900s.

And to cap off the evening of the end of the world, we celebrated with Korean food!

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Day 186: Mexico City – Mexico – Dec 20th

Not feeling like tacos for breakfast this morning, we walked to the supermarket that was located across the Vips we dined at the first day in Mexico. This supermarket was MASSIVE, but it was awesome because it’s got everything I needed. The prices for everything seems to be about 30%-40% cheaper than back home. And when we finished at the cashier ready to pickup our bags from the bag lady, we got this extended stare from her, which was a bit strange but it wasn’t until later that I realized….you need to tip the bag lady!!

First stop was the city centre once again and into what is called Temple Mayor, which roughly translates to “The Greatest Temple”, and not the Mayor’s Temple. Mexico City was previously a great city of its own, called Tenochitlan, but the city was demolished and the massive Cathedral was said to have been built over it. They lied, and the excavations can show that the remains of a once magnificent Aztec pyramid once stood here, about 200m away from the massive Cathedral. It was pretty cool to get to know the history of this city, and the museum that goes along was beautifully designed and curated.

You really get a sense that, everything done in Mexico City was planned very well, from the metro station walkways to the gardens scattered around the city, and even the interior design of the museums, it really gives a sense of purpose to everything they do.

Next, we visited the Modern Art Museum and it’s sibling the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art, with the latter being named in honour of Ruffino Tamayo, a Mexican artist who did well for himself and donated this building to the public. Both buildings are designed very well, but the Modern Art Museum had the bigger names, particularly several of Frida Kahlo’s most identifiable pieces. The best part about the Tamayo Museum was definitely the open space the actual building sits upon, as it’s comfy and quiet, with the sleek lines of the museum sprouting out quietly amongst the trees. It has a pretty awesome gift shop, too.

We finished up our museum tour and headed over to the tourist district of Zona Rosa. With lively streets and lots of bars trying to out-price each other (we saw a place selling 2L of beer for 200pesos, or about $16). The strangest part though, was the lines were the longest at Chili’s. Yes, the American chain restaurant. SO STRANGE. There are also Starbucks on every corner and every American fast food chain you could imagine. The best part though, was that we found some Korean restaurants, and that’s where we feasted for the evening. Delicious!

After dinner, we were too full and ended up taking an hour stroll around town. Contrary to our original naïve impressions, the downtown areas of Mexico City feel extremely safe, very modern and delightfully artistic. And the best part was, contrary to anything anyone ever says, the public parks at night are BRIGHTLY illuminated with colourful fountains everywhere. Here in the parks, families take their evening stroll and lovers publicly express their love. Compared to all the cities we’ve been so far, it feels like Mexico City is the liveliest and happiest city…. What an interesting place!

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Day 185: Mexico City – Mexico – Dec 19th

We got off to a late start as we knew we were in for a long day. We only had one place to visit today, but we’ve been forewarned that this is going to be a long day. Our destination was the Museum of Anthropology, and we spent a good 7hrs there but barely finished touring the whole complex!!!

To get off to a good start, we had the breakfast of Mexican champions: Tacos!! There are food stalls everywhere, but these taco stands stand out for the massive line that forms around it while the rest of the stalls watch idly. Tacos were 5P each, and our breakfast of four tacos costed us about $1.75CAD. Put on some awesome chili sauce, and it’s hard to beat in terms of deliciousness and value!

The museum was in an area including a massive “auditorium”, a zoo and several other public spaces. We are once again marveling at the city planning that’s been done here, along with the interesting row of sculptures lining the middle of the row, flanked by brilliantly red flowers. Lining the fence guarding the parks were massive billboards celebrating the success of the city’s bicycle program? The last place we saw something of this calibre was in Vienna. Just some really, really, really good urban design and planning!

The museum itself was once again impressive in architecture, and well thought out in organizing the ginormous amounts of history this region had to offer. It was cool to learn about all the differences and the emergence of the different cultures that existed during the pre-Hispanic era, which was the era before the Spaniards came and did their magic onto the whole continent. Except for a 45min lunch break at the museum cafe, which by the way, was pretty good for a museum cafe. Learning about the Teotihuacans, the Aztecs, Mayans and the North/Western peoples, it was interesting and impressive. Without going into details, we’ll let you enjoy the pictures instead. Continue reading

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Day 184: Mexico City – First Impressions – Dec 18th

Our hotel owner is a nice man with some decent English, so it was extremely useful to get some basic information and a map of the city. We were somewhat unsure about the safety of the area as the previous evening we arrived in the dark, and the place looked pretty ghetto… Rest assured, we were told that this is not a bad part of the town, and just keep the usual standard tourist precautions and we should be fine.

Being extremely hungry, the owner told us to head to the local “Bips”, where they had an English menu. The first thing that comes to mind is that could only mean that their food is probably not that authentic, but should work well for us. Walking outside, the area looks rather peaceful with a Metro station and a supermarket within 50m. “Bips” was pretty close too, and we were welcomed into the restaurant with some soothing Christmas caroles!

The place is actually spelled “Vips”, but it seems like the two syllables are pronounced similarly (made a quick note to ourselves). We asked for an English menu, but had to make good use of our Spanish as the servers did not seem to understand. The food was pretty darn good, and it felt like a Mexican upscale Denny’s. The craziest part was the service, they were working at blazing speeds unseen since we have left Hong Kong.

Hopping onto the Metro, we headed up to the historic centre. Walking out of the Zocalo subway, we were greeted with the spectacular cathedral, which is aptly named, “The Cathedral”, as this is the biggest cathedral in all of the Americas. Flanking the cathedral to the east is the National Palace, while the two buildings overlook the massive Plaza de la Constitución, which is supposedly the third largest square in the world after Red and Tiananmen.

We were drawn towards the Cathedral right away, and went inside to the massive atrium with towering sculptures. It may also be that for the past couple of months, all we saw were Buddhist or Hindu temples, so it was nice to get a change of scenery. It also helps that the building itself is beautifully sculpted, and the spaces outside makes it even more impressive.

Taking a stroll down the historical centre, we were also amazed at the number of McDonalds and Starbucks they’ve managed to build in a 1km radius. Walking for about 20mins we arrived upon what would be Mexico City’s own “Museum Mile”. The National Art Musuem is one of the main attractions, and it was relatively empty as we spent well over 2hrs wandering the art gallery which had a broad collection of Mexican artists, particularly Diego Rivera. The curator also seems to enjoy juxtaposing religious art with modern art elements. The museum building itself was really impressive, too!

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the historical centre, and particularly along the main road, La Reforma. It seems like this was the ‘downtown’ area of the city, as the sides of the road were lined with offices and upscale hotels. Walking along, we were getting rather hungry and headed to the loudest place with the most people along the road.

Walking through the doors of the Cantina, we could barely hear ourselves think as the band was loud, and the guests were even louder! The whole place was filled with suits, quite possibly on some sort of Christmas holiday part as it was barely past 5pm when we sat down inside. We asked the server for a menu, and both the server and the menu was in Spanish. The menu was small and contained only 8 lines of Spanish, before the server crossed out about 4 more items off the list leaving us with very little choices. Literally, we pointed what the table next to us was having and ordered the same along with two “cervecas”. The food arrived quickly, and the two slabs of meat with the spicy green sauce was quite tasty, and washing it down with a beer made for a good time! The whole place continued to party as the office workers were downing shots left right and centre! When the bill came, we were sort of weirded out as they only charged us for the two beers! The ONLY logical explanation for this was that we stumbled upon a company-sponsored Christmas party, and somehow the servers thought we were part of whatever company it was. Ha ha, we quickly walked out of the cantina and back into the streets.

Next, we walked towards this large square with a building resembling the L’Arc de Triomphe, but with a cool all-glass elevator in the centre. Around the square, kids were playing in the water fountain, bikers were riding around, couples were making out, and we even saw a group of dancers, performing interpretive dance to Metallica’s One…. This place is freaking amazing.

To avoid any unwanted mishaps, and the fact that we were pretty tired from walking all day, we called it a day by 8pm, hopping onto the vast reaches of the Metro back to our hotel. It’s only been one day, but we’re really liking Mexico City already!!

Notes:

  • This city is lively and extremely interesting. Architecture spans from the modern to very cool colonial styles, while public art displays can be found everywhere. Walking along the main city road, La Reforma, the benches were all designed differently!!!!
  • People on the street seem genuinely happy with big smiles everywhere, and they were very polite if you approached them for anything.
  • Public display of affection seems very common, as there are couples young and old, hugging and kissing everywhere you look.
  • People must think we’re locals, as everyone talks to us in Spanish!
  • Nobody seems to treat us like tourists, and even at the small street vendors buying water, you know that they aren’t trying to figure out in their head how much to rip you off…. unlike the vendors in Nepal who seem to over-inflate everything everywhere. Possibly due to the much worst economic conditions back in Nepal, but we were never treated that way anywhere else no matter how bad the economy was…

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