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Mexico

Map



Introduction

I began to think about a trip to Mexico in 2005. I read some books, book-guides and several Internet pages. Luckily I managed to organize four people to go for a trip. As usual the flight was very expensive. We wanted to buy the ticket as cheap as possible. We waited for very last minute offer and bought return ticket at Air France Airlines office. It was not cheap but we could not find better price. Later we found out that it was possible. Some people bought cheap return ticket - 500 USD from London to Cancun. They bought it at Internet page: http://www.travelrepublic.co.uk/
The flights and transfers took us about 20 hours. We arrived to Mexico City at 21.30 and took a taxi to our hostel. We asked the taxi driver 'how much time does it take to get to the hostel?' He looked at us very strangely and said 'where are you hurry?' We say nothing but we felt that we are on holidays in Mexico.

Mexico City, Guadalupe, Teotihuacan

We found accommodation in Moneda hostel next to Zocalo. We paid 14 USD for a bed with breakfast and supper. Next day we went to The National Museum of Anthropology. Probably this is the best museum in Mexico. There are many exhibitions in the museum. The exhibitions showed different cultures and periods of Mexican history. Everything was very interesting.
In the evening we visited cathedral at Zocalo. The church was built in XVI century. There are one main altar and several small altars in the church. The small altars are decorated with ribbons. The Mexicans writes their requests to the God on the ribbons. We found following request: 'God make Mr. Xxx keep my secret himself' on one of the ribbon.
We bought an excursion to Guadalupe and Teotihuacan in the hostel. The excursion took all day. In the morning we went to Guadalupe. There is holy image of the Lady of Guadalupe - Patroness of the Americas in a Basilica. Please visit http://www.sancta.org/to get know the history of Apparitions to Juan Diego and information about the Lady of Guadalupe. According to Mexican religion custom every state of Mexico should organize pilgrimage to Guadalupe once a year. The same day thousands of Mexicans from Puebla state came to pray to the Lady of Guadalupe. They prayed, took part in church services, danced and singed to worship the Virgin Mary. Many pilgrims were dressed in traditional clothes.
There was a statue of John Paul II next to Basilica. Mexicans loved, admired and respected the Pope from Poland. They knew nothing about Poland with exception of John Paul II.
In the afternoon we visited Teotihuacan. Pre-Columbian religion center was built from II century BC till II century AD. The center looked very impressive but most of it was reconstructed in XX century. The reconstructed part of the buildings could be distinguished easily. Small stones were added to a mortar.
Pyramid of the Sun and Moon were the most famous buildings in Teotihuacan. We climbed to the top of the buildings and delighted with a beautiful view.
We went to National Palace to see Diego Rivera’s murals in the evening. The murals were impressive and helped to understand Mexican history.

Oaxaca, Monte Alban, Santa Cruz Huatulco

We went to Oaxaca from Mexico City by coach. The trip took couple of hours. We could not find cheap accommodation in the city. In the end we paid 350 pesos for a double room with bathroom.
There is beautiful Dominican church in Oaxaca. The church is decorated with frescos and family tree of the founder of the Dominican Convent. One part of the city was called Chocolate district. There were many chocolate manufactures and shops. First time of my life I saw the chocolate production process from cacao seeds. The origin of chocolate name came from Aztec language: czoko-latl and means chocolate drink. Chocolate drinks are very popular in Mexico. Mexicans drink it with milk or water.
There is a small town El Tula at the suburbs of Oaxaca. The town is famous of 2000 years old tree. The Cypress is huge and circumference of its trunk is the biggest in both Americas.
Next day we went for a trip to Monte Alban (bus ticket 38 pesos and entrance fee: 45 pesos). The ancient capitol of Zapotecs was built on the hill. It was founded approximately 500 years BC and flourished until 750 AD. 25000 Zapotecs lived there in splendor times. The ruins are situated on very big area. The archeologists explored only part of the buildings. Unluckily we could not see any graves and the museum. They were closed during our visit. Generally I can recommend the Monte Alban. It is worth to visit.
It was time for relax. We spent at Pacific coast two days. The Santa Cruz Huatulco was small and very nice resort. The accommodation was not expensive 250 pesos /double room. Beach and warm Pacific water was for free. We found nice bay to take sunbath and swim in the Pacific.

Chiapas

Two days passed very quickly and we went to San Cristobal de las Casas by bus. It was very long trip (11 hours) for 300 pesos. W found cheap accommodation in a hostel for 45 pesos/person. San Cristobal de las Casas is nice and peaceful Mexican city. It was a great pleasure to walk around the city.
Next day we bought a trip to San Juan Chamula (120 pesos). The village was famous of Indian religious ceremonies. English-speaking guide told us a lot of details about Indian, their life and religion. We began the trip at a cemetery. The cemetery was full of colorful crosses. Children were buried in the graves with white crosses, middle-age people with blue crosses and old people with black crosses. The cemetery was situated on the hill. It was good view at the village from the hill. San Juan Chamula looked like typical Mexican small town. Every Sunday there was a huge market on the main square of the city. Indians came to the village to pray in the church and buy/sell products from surrounding villages. They were dressed very colorful and drank a lot of coca-cola.
During the excursion there were some restrictions. Pictures could only be taken from specific places. The rules had to be obeyed because Indian bodyguards with long white batons supervise the tourists. We visited a small museum in the village. Then we went to a church.
Outside it looked like ordinary church. When I went inside I was shocked. The floor was covered with dry grass. There were many candles on the floor. Statues of Saints stood next to the walls. Small mirrors were fixed to the statues. The mirrors helped Indians in their prayers to the Saints. There was a statue of Saint John Baptist, the patron of San Juan Chamula, on the main alert. I didn’t see any tabernacle or even The Cross in the church.
There is no priest in the church. Only Indians take care of the church. Catholic priest comes to baptize children and this is the end of priest influence in Indian religion. There is no masses or church services in the church. The Indians pray directly to the God and the Saints in Tzotzil language.
Witch doctors cure local Indians in the church, too. Sick person, his/her family and witch doctor come to the church. The witchdoctor takes sick person pulse and this is the first diagnosis. Then he takes chicken, eggs etc. and tries to find spiritual causes of the illness. Indians believe that every illness of the body comes from the illness of the soul. When the witch diagnoses the illness, he starts to cure ill man. First the witch puts and lights several colorful candles on the floor in the church and whispers spells and prayers. It helps to cure the soul. The witch cures the body with herbs. When the sick person recovers, he and his family come to church. They thank to God and Saints for recovery. Most Indians go to witch man. If he fails they will go to the hospital in San Cristobal but it is usually to late for recovery.
Indian believes that burp make evil go out of the soul. Sparkling drinks make burp easier and coca-cola is very popular in Indian society.
Next day we went to Canyon del Sumidero by motorboat (160 pesos). The cliffs are 1000 meters high. Canyon del Sumidero is very special for Indian from historical point of view. Indian soldiers preferred to commit suicide than surrendered to Spain soldiers in XVI century. They jumped from the cliffs to the rivers. Besides the canyon is the symbol of the Chiapas State.

Palenque, Aqua Azul


Palenque is a ruin city of ancient Mayan civilization (entrance fee: 55 pesos). We hired a guide to show us the ruins (250 pesos). He guided us round the most interesting buildings.
We saw not only well-preserved and reconstructed pyramids but also ruins covered by plants. The archaeological site is about 15 sq. km. The archaeologists have explored a part of it. A lot of work is to do. I liked the most the Pyramid of the sun and the Temple of the Inscriptions.
In Palenque village we were accommodated in very nice hotel for 350 pesos/room for 4 people.
Next day we went for a very nice trip to Aqua Azul (125 pesos). There were beautiful very big waterfall and a lot of small water cascades. We swam in the river and took sunbath. It was very nice day.

Merida, Celestun

It was very hot in Merida. During a day it was hot because of sunshine. During a night it was hot because of Carnival. Merida was founded in XVI century. It is typical colonial city. There are some interesting churches, Zocalo and zoo. Carnival is a special time in Latin America. Everybody knows about Brazil Carnival. . Every city and town organize parties in Mexico, too. The rule is: the bigger city -the bigger fun. Merida is a big city, capitol of Yucatan. The greatest parties are organized at the end of Carnival.
We were there on time, last weekend of carnival. There was big parades on the city streets. The Latin music was heard everywhere in the city. Scantily dressed girls danced on trio elétrico. There were colorful and fancy dressed dancers and children danced between the adopted trucks. The Locals and tourists stood down the streets. It was great fun. At the end we went to Zocalo. There was live Latin concert. The Locals danced samba and tourist watched and learned.
Next day we visited Celestun Biosphere Reserve by motor boat. The boat ride cost 150 pesos. The Celestun is famous of birds e.g. flamingos and pelicans and mangrove forest.

We stayed In Chichen Itza only one night in a room with two nice lizards (150 pesos/ double room and 2 lizards).In the evening we took part in light and sound show – it is nothing special. Next day we visited Chichen Itza ruins (95 pesos include light and sound show). They were very well preserved and reconstructed. There were many interesting buildings and places to visit. There was the biggest Juego de Pelota (Ball Court) in Mexico. It was 90 meters long. Nobody knew the exact rules of the game. Roughly there were two teams and the players had to pass a hard rubber ball through the openings of the rings without using their hands. It was not only a game, it was a part of religious celebrations. The lost team was sacrificed to gods. Many Indians civilizations played pelota e.g. Maya, Aztec, Zapotec.
I also liked platform of skulls and Plaza of a thousand columns. In my opinion Chichen Itza, Palenque and Teotihuacan are the most interesting ruins in Mexico.
Next day we went to Tulum. We spent in bungalow three nights. First time in my life I slept in hammock. It was hard to sleep at first night, later I got used to it. We visited ancient Mayan city in Tulum. The city was surrounded by walls and situated at the seaside.
It is not far away from Tulum to Coba. Coba is Mayan ancient city located in the jungle on huge area. It is possible to rent a bicycle to visit around the ruins. I liked big pyramid. It was a beautiful view on the jungle and a lake from the top of the pyramid.

Cozumel, Isla Mujeres

The last part of holidays we spent at the Caribbean seaside. We went to Cozumel from Tulum by bus (25 pesos) and by ferry (110 pesos). The accommodation cost 220 pesos for double room in San Miguel. The city had two faces. Exclusive shops, restaurants and pubs were located next to the sea. A hundred meters inside the island the city changed into typical Mexican city. Outside the city Hurricane Wilma devastated the island. The power of the hurricane must have been very strong.
The biggest disadvantage of the island is lack of sandy beaches. But Cozumel was famous of beautiful coral reef. We bought snorkeling tour. It was another disappointment. Hurricane Wilma destroyed the reef, too. The Mexican tour operators ensured us that the reef was still beautiful deep in the sea. We only had to buy diving tour for 100 USD. We didn’t buy the tour but I did not believe that it was true. We were happy to move from Cozumel to Isla Mujeres.
The Island and small town are very nice. We spent a three days on the beautiful beach with palms tree. The water was very clear and warm. It was just like paradise.
The nightlife was organized for American tourists. There were a lot of bars and pubs with pop and country music. The prices were for Americans too. We found nice Mexican club walking around the town. There was life music. The Cuban band played great Latin music. The Locals danced salsa. They were perfect. From time to time Cuban artists organize the funny contests e.g. shaking bottoms.
Last night we spent on the beach, swimming in the warm Caribbean Sea.

Useful Information

  • Exchange rate February 2006: 1USD = 11 Pesos
  • The most expensive was the flight from Warsaw – Paris – Mexico City; Cancun – Mexico City-Paris-Warsaw. Bus tickets and guided tours was a crucial part of expenses.
  • It is possible to travel in Mexico by rented car or bus. Buses are cheaper way of traveling. There are three classes of the buses: economic, first, lux. I think the first class is the best. It is comfortable, safe and cheaper than the lux.
  • Meals. Mexican food is very good. It depends on you how spices the meal is. Breakfast or dinner sets are the most economical way of eating. This is good idea to eat with the Locals. The food is fresh and not expensive.
  • Mexican people are very nice. They often smile at you. From time to time they encourage tourist to buy something, but they are very polite. It is enough to say thank you and they go away.
  • Souvenirs prices can be negotiated up to 40 %-50%. From time to time the accommodation price can be negotiated up to 10-15%.