Messing around in Mexico City

Trip Start Sep 02, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Well on leaving Guatemala I was concerned about the border crossing after hearing that this particular crossing point (La Mesilla) was bandit country. Wasted effort on my part as it was probably my most enjoyable border crossing ever.

I did get conned on exchanging money on the Guatemalan side to Pesos - cést la vie. However, the Mexican border staff were really nice and not dodgy at all, taking great interest in my passport and all the places I had been on my travels. They even after searching my rucksack took out my random items of rubbish and put it in a bin for me. Now that is what I call service, in fact all the way to Mexico City everyone was as nice as pie.

Mexico City is much further from Guatemala than I thought and it took 27 hours by bus to get to there from the time I left my hotel in Guatemala to flopping in my hotel in Mexico City. So I was extremely glad that Mexico City turned out to be such a nice city with a really good transport system.

It has 32 million inhabitants, making it the largest city on this fine planet of ours. Though I never really felt like it was that manic. Definitely nothing compared to Hong Kong that is for sure. I suspect that is probably because it is so spread out and a lot of the inhabitants are poor people who have moved from the countryside and probably rarely, if ever, venture into the centre of the city.

Personally I stayed in the city centre and it is clean, well organised and, as I mentioned, the Metro transport system is superb and seems perfectly safe. Though at rush hour it is mental with far too many people trying to cram into the carriages with their assortments of luggage and good to sell.

Lamentably, I did not get to spend that much time in Mexico (only 3 days) as I had originally planned to go there solely to save money on my flight to my next destination - Lima in Peru. However, I did get enough of a taster to ensure I will be returning to this fine country.

Most of my time was spent museum hopping. First I went to the Diego Rivera museum.

Neither him or his, equally famous, wife (Frida Kahlo) are a work of art themselves however they were undeniably superb artists and Diego produced some amazing (albeit bizarre) murals.

Secondly and best of all was the Anthropology museum set in the vast Chapultepec Park, which houses lots of other museums but I only had time to see one. So I plumped for the Anthropology museum and I was not disappointed.

The building itself is impressive but the exhibitions of the various ancient civilisations in the region were even better and educational to boot.

I learned a lot - for example did you know that the ´Aztecs´ changed their name to became ´Mexicans´? Also that Mexico City was built on the site where (in line with a vision) the Aztecs found an eagle eating a snake on a cactus? The image of which appears on the Mexican flag to this day.

Mexico overall I give you 2 big thumbs up and don´t fret my burrito making friend you haven´t seen the last of me.

My other memories of Mexico were:

(1) Some police wear comedy sombreros.

(2) Latin spirit is alive and well in Mexico City. There were lots of couples wandering around the parks and they were either in loving embraces or in the middle of attempting to kill each other. Never a dull moment in their relationships.

(3) Initially on the Metro I thought they piped in music to entertain the passengers. How thoughtful.

However, I soon found out that in most carriages there would be someone with a rucksack with a large speaker in the back blaring out the music they were pedaling. Could you imagine the same on Chicago´s Red Line with all the gangsta rap pumping out at 100 decibels?

(4) All over Mexico City there are old VW Beetle taxis zooming around dapperly decorated in green and white. Be careful though as many of them are meant to be as much a cover for robberies as a means of transport.

(5) If you see a street vendor selling what looks like a big flat prawn cracker with onions and various other fine vegetables on it - don´t buy it. Unless of course you like eating rings of fat cunningly disguised as raw onions.

(6) They take security seriously in Mexico City - even the bag check man at the Anthropology Museum had a pistol.

(7) In the Anthropology Museum there is a large stone Jaguar statue with a cavity in its back. This is where the hearts of sacrificed foes were placed as offerings to the gods.

Aztecs (and Mayans) played a ball game where the ´prize´ for the victors was them being sacrificed to the gods. A game that I would happily instantly forfeit. Rough game as whenever an incorrect play was made...someone was sacrificed.

Human sacrifice seemed to be quite the theme with the Aztecs.

Found out that Mayans intentionally deformed their heads and teeth (bit like the British unintentionally do...).

As I said before this museum was excellent and they even went to the trouble of reflecting the route of the Mayan underworld (which is believed to be the path taken by all Mayans following their death). This they did by replicating underground the 9 levels of their underworld - some of which physically go down and some of which go up.

(8) Mexico City gets a bad rep for being a smog filled metropolis. This may be true however I did not see one sign of any smog when I was there.

(9) Visited the Garibaldi Plaza where every night lots of mariachi bands congregate to entertain locals and visitors alike. It is meant to be crazy on a Friday and Saturday night - shame I went on a Tuesday night...nevertheless I enjoyed it.

(10) My organisational skills are not as sharp as they were when I was working and disappointingly I failed to give my 2 ex-work friends - Andre and Danielle - sufficient lead time to meet up with them when I was in Mexico City. I won´t make the same mistake again.

(11) Every country I go to I have to buy a sticker to decorate my water bottle. After seeing a few taxis and buses with Speedy Gonzalez stickers I made it my mission to get one of this fine and rapid rodent.

However, after numerous shops and weird looks I did start to feel a bit awkward, not less culturally insensitive, and gave up the chase and instead took delight in all the excellent piñatas for sale everywhere.
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