Chany's Trip to Mexico 2017

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Mexico Trip - Purpose
It may seem obvious, but one should have a "purpose" to a trip. There were several purposes for this trip:
  • Escape to a warm climate
  • See archeological sites
  • Sample Mexican cuisine
  • Learn about Mexico
  • Relax
This will be a 24 day trip. As I'm travelling solo, I'll primarily be staying in hostels and using public transportation such as buses and colectivos, and using bicycles where I can.





Mexico Map - Cities Visited

This map shows the cities in Mexico that I visited:
  • Mexico City: 2017 Nov 20 - Nov 25 (5 days)
  • Oaxaca: 2017 Nov 25 - Nov 29 (4 days)
  • Villahermosa: 2017 Nov 30 - Dec 3 (3 days)
  • Merida: 2017 Dec 3 - Dec 6 (3.5 days)
  • Valladolid: 2017 Dec 6 - Dec 9 (3.5 days)
  • Tulum: 2017 Dec 9 - Dec 11 (2.5 days)
  • Cancun: 2017 Dec 11 - Dec 13 (2.5 days)



Mexico City (CDMX)

The Plaza de Santo Domingo, named after the church, is located at the intersection of Belizario Dominguez and República de Brasil, Mexico City. This has, in the past, been a gathering place for document forgers.
A traffic jam in Mexico City. Unfortunately, this is normal; I found that taking the Metro (subway) was the most reliable way, from a scheduling perspective, to get around CDMX.
There is interesting architecture in CDMX. Here is El Palacio de Hierro, a high end department store.
Another interesting looking building in CDMX is the Museo Soumaya, a private museum designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero and built in 2011. It has over 66,000 works from 30 centuries of art.
The Aztec Dancers of Mexico City were dancing to the beat of the drum at the Zocalo of CDMX. The dance has survived attempts by the Christian Church of the past to eliminate it.
I visited the Palacio de Bellas Artes, home to the Fine Arts in CDMX. What caught my eyes were the murals painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Pictured here is the mural "Dictadura" (Dictatorship), one of a series of murals under the "Carnaval de la vida mexicana" (Carnival of Mexican Life) collection.
The first ruins I visited on this trip is Templo Mayor, located in the center of Mexico City. The Templo Mayor was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan.
Located 40 km northeast of CDMX is the Teotihuacán Archaeological Site. Pictured is the Pyramid of the Sun, a 65 meter high pyramid completed in the second century AD. It was worth walking the 248 steps to the top, with great views to be had.
Also at the Teotihuacán Archaeological Site is the 43 meter high Pyramid of the Moon. Here it is shown at the end of Calz de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead), the main ancient roadway that connects the various structures at Teotihuacán.
The centerpiece of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is the Sun Stone. Originally thought to be a calendar for the Aztecs, it is believed to be solar disk, which for the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures represented rulership. It had a commanding feel to it as it hung in an atrium in the museum.
While riding the bus, I noticed what appeared to be a volcano erupting. Apparently it was the volcano Popocatepetl, located 80 km southeast of Mexico City, which has been erupting regularly.



Oaxaca

In the background beyond the Oaxaca sign is the Templo de Santo Domingo. The church and monastery were founded by the Dominican Order. A fine example of baroque architecture, contruction began in 1575 and continued over a period of 200 years.
Located next to the Zocalo in Oaxaca, the Catedral de Nuestra Señora De La Asunción is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Antequera, Oaxaca. Its construction began in 1535 and it was consecrated in 1733. Oaxaca is the capital of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
The Zocalo in Oaxaca is a public space where people meet. There are restaurants surrounding the Zocalo and street vendors plying food and trinkets. Pictured here are people dancing; on this trip, there always seems to be music playing somewhere and people looking for a reason to dance.
The markets in Oaxaca were vibrant and colourful, and basically all your household needs can found at the mercado. This is the Mercado Benito Juárez, a large market located in the middle of town.
I noticed these Piñatas being sold in the market. Many Piñatas take the form of well known cartoon characters. For Christmas, the colourful star or ball with points piñatas were very popular and used as decorations.
I visited the Monte Albán Archaeological Site, located 9 km west of Oaxaca. Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. Shown is a view of the Gran Plaza from the North Platform.
At Monte Albán, there are still many structures that have not yet been excavated and/or restored. Here is an example of an unexcavated pyramid on the South Platform.
View of the west side of the Gran Plaza at Monte Albán site from the South Platform. The Edificio de los Danzantes (Dancers) is in the middle of the picture; this building contained many bas-reliefs on large stone slabs of nude male figures in limp or distorted poses, implying they are dead.
I visited the Mitla Archaeological Site, located 44 km east of Oaxaca. Mitla is the second most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, and the most important of the Zapotec culture.
A characteristic of Mitla is the intricate patterned and precise stonework in the structures. Thousands of cut, polished stones are fitted together without mortar. The stones are held in place by the weight of the stones that surround them. This, in a sense, allows the structure to be "earthquake resistant".
Pictured is Hierve el Agua, a natural rock formation that resembles a waterfall. The site is located approximately 70 km east of Oaxaca. Due to local conflicts with the government, the locals applied "tolls" to the mountain roads that lead to the site.



Villahermosa

I am pictured here in Parque la Paz, Villahermosa. Villahermosa is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Tabasco.
I was staying in downtown Villahermosa. The sidewalks were crowded with vendors. Here is a hot dog vendor, selling three hot dogs for 20 pesos. It was good!
Here is a Colossal Head at the Parque-Museo La Venta, in Villahermosa. The artifacts found in this outdoor museum were recovered from the ancient Olmec settlement of La Venta, located in western Tabasco (the original site was being threatened by petroleum exploration). Made from basalt, the Colossal Heads are the centerpiece of this museum. This head is 2.4 meters tall and weighs 21,000 kg.
To visit the Palenque Archaeological Site, I made a day trip by bus to the town of Palenque, located in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Once in Palenque, I had to flag down a colectivo (public minivan bus) to get to the ruins (which are 8 km from town).
The Palenque Archaeological Site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Palenque ruins date from circa 226 BC to circa AD 799. After its decline, it was absorbed into the jungle of cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees. Pictured is the Temple of the Inscriptions. The temple superstructure houses the second longest glyphic text known from the Maya world.
Here I am with the Temple of the Cross to the right and the Temple of the Sun to the back left of the picture, at the Palenque Archaeological Site. These temples sit atop pyramids, and are located on the high ground of the site.
The Palenque Archaeological Site is located in the jungle. Here I found an iguana among the ruins. The noise of the jungle can be heard when visiting the site.



Mérida

The Plaza Grande, in Mérida, is the main square in town. Mérida is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Yucatán as well as the largest city of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida is a museum celebrating the Maya culture, with over 1100 artifacts recovered from Mayan ruins.
Kabah Ruins, Kabah Archeological Site. This is a small site that is connected to the Uxmal site by an 18 kilometres long raised pedestrian causeway. Kabah is the second largest ruin of the Puuc region after Uxmal.
Pictured is the Pyramid of the Magician, at the Uxmal Archeological Site. Legend has it that the pyramid was built overnight by the magician.
Here is a view of the Pyramid of the Magician rising above the jungle, Uxmal Archeological Site.
Here is a view of the Uxmal Ruins, as viewed from the Governer's Palace. From left to right, one can see the Ball Court, the Nunnery, and the Pyramid of the Magician.



Valladolid

Christmas is widely and enthusiastically celebrated in Mexico. In Parque La Mestiza, Valladolid, a stage is set up and Christmas songs and dance are performed
Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes the groundwater underneath. Located in the center of Valladolid is Cenote Zaci. I went for a swim in this cenote; an intereresting feature of this cenote is that there are small fish in there that will nibble on your feet. Very tickly.
Located 25 km north of Valladolid is the Ek Balam Archeological site. Ek Balam was at its height from 770 to 840 AD. The tallest structure on site is the Acropolis at 31 meters; here is a view looking down the stairs from the top of the Acropolis.
Here is a view from the top of the Acropolis of the buildings "The Oval Palace" and "The Twins", at the Ek Balam Archeological site.
Ek Balam is Mayan for "Black Jaguar"; pictured here is the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok, one of Ek’ Balam’s rulers, located in the Acropolis.
Near the Ek Balam Archeological site is cenote X’Canche; this was a great place to go for a swim after exploring Ek Balum on a hot day!
Arguably the most famous or well known of Mayan pyramids is El Castillo, at the Chichen Itza Archeological site.
Here is the Observatory at Chichen Itza. I found the Chichen Itza site to be crowded with tourists and vendors and thus a bit commercialized. We were not allowed to touch or climb anything at this site.



Tulum

Here I am in the coastal town of Tulum. It is a bicycle friendly town, and the bike is a good way to get to the Tulum ruins and see the city. My red rental bike can be seen resting on the Tulum sign.
The Tulum Archeological site is located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Here is the Temple of the Wind, with the tuquoise waters of the carribean in the background.
Remnants of foundations of houses in the Tulum Archeological site. Tulum served as a major trading post for neighboring city-states such as Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Cobá.
Located 48 km northwest of Tulum is the Cobá Archeological site. Shown here is the tallest structure on site, Pyramid Ixmoja, rising 42 meters above the jungle.
Here is the view from top of Pyramid Ixmoja at the Cobá Archeological site. I never tire of the views from the top of the various structures I've climbed on this trip. It is always a bonus when one is allowed to climb the structures.
The Ball Court, Cobá Archeological site. It is believed that in some cases, the captain of the winning team is sacrificed!
The ruins at the Cobá Archeological site are widely dispersed. Renting a bike to get around the site is a good way to get around.



Cancun

While staying in Cancun, there was a concert put on by the Quintana Roo Youth Symphony in the local park. They played classic, contemporary, pop, and Christmas music.
An interestingly decorated food cart for elotes and esquites (Mexican style corn on the cob and kernels)
After 23 days of travelling in Mexico, it was time to go to the beach! Here is Playa Caracol, a beach in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Not being a guest in the hotels here, I had to use my ninja skills to utilize the facilities provided.
For my second beach day, I visited Playa El Niño, a beach located far from the hotel beaches and primarily used by the Cancun locals.
Here is a crocodile warning on the Cancun lagoon. If you look closely, you can see the crocodile lounging on the shore!



Foods of Mexico

Enchiladas: An enchilada is a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a chili pepper sauce. Enchiladas are a standard offering found all over Mexico in restaurants and with street vendors.
Chapulines: grasshoppers that are roasted and seasoned in chili powder. I found them to be a surprisingly tasty snack item, once you get past the fact they are insects. They can be found in the markets of Oaxaca as shown in the picture, sized as small, medium, or large grasshoppers. I preferred the large grasshoppers!
Mezcal: Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from any type of agave plant native to Mexico. The word mezcal comes from Nahuatl mexcalli and ixcalli, which means "oven-cooked agave". Tequila is technically a type of Mezcal.
Taco: A taco is a traditional Mexican dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. In the picture, I had ordered tacos with pork and tripe. Tacos are a standard offering found all over Mexico in restaurants and with street vendors.
Pozole: Pozole is a hearty soup made with hominy, which is processed corn with the germ removed, and meat, traditionally pork. In my case, my pozole was ordered with pollo (chicken). It was very tasty and filling.
Quesadillas: A Quesadilla is a tortilla, which is filled with cheese and then grilled. Other items, such as a savoury mixture of spices or vegetables or meat, are often added. Quesadillas are a standard offering found all over Mexico in restaurants and with street vendors.
Mexican Pizza: a pizza with cheese, green peppers, onion, bacon bits, ham, and jalapeños.
Marquesitas: Marquesitas are a crunchy rolled crepe with a filling and shredded cheese inside. This is primarily a snack made and sold by street vendors in the Yucatan. My marquesita was made with Nutella. Mmmm!
Burrito: a Mexican dish consisting of a tortilla rolled around a filling, typically of beans or ground or shredded beef. Shown is the Burrito Gigante a Res (Giant Burrito with beef).
Elotes: Basically, it is corn on the cob sold by street vendors. The boiled corn is first covered with mayonnaise, then covered in shredded cheese, and then chili powder is liberally sprinkled on it. The mixture of sweet, salty, and spicy flavours are magical. Mmmm!



Mexico Trip - Final Thoughts

This turned out to be a very good trip. It was nice to escape the wet and cold of Vancouver, Canada (albeit for only 24 days). I've always found it fascinating to see the remnants of ancient civilizations and how they coped with life and questions about their surroundings. The food in Mexico was great, and I did not experience any gastrointestinal issues. The people I've encountered in Mexico were friendly and helpful, and generally, they are no different from you or me.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about this trip or travelling in general!


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