Mexico City, Teotihuacan, Acapulco, Taxco

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Saturday, June 17, 2006

Our next destination, Mexico City, is one of the world's largest metropolitan areas, with a whopping 22 million inhabitants, making it second only to Tokyo.

In some ways, a city of such size, couldn't have been built in a worse location. It's on a major earthquake fault line, and stuck in a valley, 2,240 metres above sea level. This exacerbates it's pollution problem and also means that all the water for it's huge population, needs to be pumped up from lower altitudes, and at a huge cost.

It's a city notorious for shanty towns, street kids, traffic congestion, pollution and crime. Well, at least that's what we'd been led to believe. Much of this is true to varying degrees, but it appears that the city is trying to tackle at least some of these issues. The congestion and pollution problems have been reduced as the city now has an extensive, modern and cheap(10 pence for a ride), metro system, and also bans certain cars from the city centre, one day a week, depending on the last digit on the number plate. Crime is still an issue, but we've never seen a city with so many police officers. There is literally a group of police officers on the corner of every street in the historic centre.

When we ventured out, to walk around the tourist sights, we took the extra precaution of putting a padlock on the zip of our day sack, but the huge police presence made the area feel fairly safe. We visited the impressive Zocalo, which must be one of the world's largest public squares, and which has a huge Mexican flag flying in the centre. Patricia took out her camera to take a photo of Marc standing in the square. In a split second, a guy, dressed like a yob, with tattoos down each side of his face, moved very close to her and started watching her every move. This doesn't look good, Marc thought, that was until we saw him grab his radio and overheard his conversation. He was an undercover cop who actually moved near Patricia, to make sure that nobody would try and grab her camera whilst she was taking a photo.

Just off the Zocalo, we visited a typical Mexican Cantina. Cantinas, are Mexican pubs, and certainly seem to be male dominated, with all the locals occupying the prime spots, along the bar. Around the Zocalo are huge, lively markets, selling everything imaginable, and the streets are full of what we would say, are Mexico city's defining symbol, the Green Volkswagen Beetle Taxis.

After the Zocalo, we visit the Voladores (flyers). These are a group of men in traditional dress, who climb up an extremely high pole, tie a rope around their ankles, then jump off, "flying" gracefully around and around as the ropes unwind, until they reach the ground. God that must make them dizzy!

The next day, we take a metro ride, to the south of Mexico city, and to an area called Xochimilco, a world heritage site, famous for it's canals and colouful boats. On the ride there, and back, every single metro car had somebody walking through and trying to sell something. Quite often it was a young guy, with a huge stereo system, belting out tracks of the pirate CDs he is selling. This really is the ultimate market on the move!

We've managed to time our visit to Mexico City, so that we're here on a Saturday. We head to an area called Condensa, the city's most popular nightlife district and which is overflowing with bars, restaurants and discos. In Mexico, they have a slang word for young posh spoilt rich girls, "Fresas" or strawberries in English. It's obvious that the city's "Fresas" hang out here. The Fresas also seem to be overwhelmingly of pure European (mainly Spanish) origin, in contrast to Mexico's mainly mestizo population. A night out here could just as easily be a night out in Spain, with similar bars, music and people, though one thing is definitely different, and that's the time which people go out, a much more humane 10pm - 3am than, the midnight until 6am which is normal back in the Motherland.

On the way back from the nightlife district, we can choose between walking back and risk getting mugged on the street, or catching a taxi and risk getting mugged in the taxi. Mexico City's taxis have a notorious reputation for robberies against tourists at night. To reduce our risk, we don't tell the driver we're going to a hotel, and instead give him an private address a few doors away. Patty, being the native Spanish speaker, did all the talking and Marc kept quiet. It seemed to do the trick, as not only did we get back safely, we also paid the same price that locals pay.

Just over an hour outside of Mexico city, are arguably the most important pre-Hispanic ruins in the Americas, Teotihuacan. Their fame coming from the masterful urban layout, the monumental architecture and the strong religious and political influence that the place held over other cities.
The ruins are dominated by two pyramids, named the sun and the moon pyramids. We climbed the sun one, for great views over Teotihuacan.

From Mexico city, we dropped some 2,200 metres, to the resort town of Acapulco. Traveling from the cool highlands, down to the hot and humid coast, in an air conditioned coach, meant that we didn't realise how drastic the climate change had been until we stepped down from the bus in Acapulco. It's a bit like going on holiday by aeroplane to somewhere much hotter, and experiencing that rush of heat which hits your body the second you step out of the plane, except this time there was no need to fly to get that effect.

I remember seeing Acapulco in the film Buster, where Phil Collins played one of the great train robbers who fled here. Mr Collins wrote the song, "Going loco down in Acapulco, the magic down there is so strong". That might have been true in the 60s, when Buster came here, but it's a resort which is certainly showing it's age. The place is also spoilt by a major road which traverses the resort area and which is extremely dangerous to cross. Still, the resort's location, around a huge crescent bay is nice.

From hot and humid Acapulco, back up to the cool highlands, and to the tiny colonial town of Taxco.

Taxco, with it's narrow cobbled streets, colonial buildings and white houses with red tile roofs would be great town, if it were not for the cars. Most of the streets are so narrow that there's not enough room for a car and a pedestrian to fit at the same time. So walking around here is not a relaxing experience, rather, you have to be alert all time, that is except, when Mexico are playing a match in the World Cup, when all the streets are deserted. Guess when we did most of our sightseeing?
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