Saturday, February 8, 2014

One month in Mexico

Hey guys,

Wow, I am having so much difficulty keeping up with the blog, it's just crazy! I know you will all hate me when I say: "I don't have time", but it's actually really true. We are constantly moving from one place to another, and we are filling our days with lots of activities. But now I sat down and I will tell you our story of our one month in Mexico :-). 

We took our flight from Miami to Mexico City the 18th of December, ready to start a new adventure! Back to "speaking" Spanish - it was so much easier in Miami! 
Mexico City has a bad reputation, and it is known to be unsafe, so when we landed we decided to take a taxi to our hostel in the historical center. We arrived when it was already dark, but the city was lit up with Christmas decorations everywhere! A lot of people were around, the streets were filled with thousands of people, probably due to the Christmas period and the festivities in the capital city. I think I have never seen so many people in my life all together. It also gave us a safe feeling, so our first impression was not bad at all. 
The next day, we were ready to go out and explore the city. The weather was really nice, it was sunny and 22 degrees - to think it was winter in Mexico, unbelievable! We decided to go to the museum of anthropology. In Mexico, you had a lot of different cultures throughout precolonial history; not only Maya, but also Toltec, Aztec, Teotihuacan, etc. The museum explained the whole evolution of Mexican culture, and contained a large amount of relics. The museum was very modern and well maintained, and you had explanations in English as well. After 4 hours, we still didn't finish the whole museum. The area around the museum is also nice, with a big park across it, and the coolest starbucks I have ever seen in my life (with a palm tree integrated in the shop ;-)). 
The next day, we went to Coyoacan, a smaller colonial style suburb within Mexico City. This area is so beautiful! We had a delicious lunch outside in the sun, and walked around in the town. There were colorful houses everywhere, all the building are painted green, red, yellow,... It makes everything so much more fun and relaxing! In the center, we also visited the Plaza della Constitucion and the cathedral. Beautiful!
The next day we went to Teotihuacan, a site 40 minutes from Mexico City. Here you can find two pyramids built by the Teotihuacan culture: the temple of the sun and the temple of the moon. We met a really nice guy on the bus, Kris, from Monterrey, traveling around in his home country (the proof that Mexico is really big!). We decided to visit the temples together and had a super nice day. We climbed both temples, which was pretty tough :D, and om top of the temple of the sun Claudio participated in a ritual with a group of people. The sun is supposed to give you energy when you are on top of the temple. Probably I am too cynical and I don't really believe in rituals, so I didn't participate. But it was fun to see Claudio in action hihi.

Mexico City

Claudio performing the ritual on the temple of the sun

The next day, it was already time to leave. We had such a good time, and realized that Mexico City is really beautiful! We regretted not being able to spend more time there. We never felt unsafe in the city. There were like 10.000 cops or something, it was crazy. On every corner of the street you had at least 3 cops, sometimes even 30. There were even trucks full of cops, waiting to charge. It was probably due to the high amount of people in the city at that time. Many Mexicans were visiting the city for Xmas, and I think I never saw so many people in one place... The last night, we were out in the center and we wanted to go to the main shopping street, but there were so many people that you could not even enter the street!! But to come back to my previous argument, Mexico City is safe in our opinion. It is also really modern, and is organised well, and the city has a lot to offer. You just need to know where to go. We were lucky to have insider tips from Claudio's friend Diana, who is from Mexico City. So if you are reading this: thanks :-).
So on Sunday, we left for Oaxaca. I had asked the guys from the hostel if we needed to book the bus in advance. No need for that, there are buses every 30 minutes. So we arrived at the bus station at 10.30h, and the first available bus was at 14.30h! Damn!! It was the last Sunday before Xmas, we should have probably known better...  After lots of waiting at the bus station and a 7 hours bus trip, we arrived safely in Oaxaca. The next day, we went out exploring the city. Oaxaca is a small town, but it has many beautiful buildings and churches. All the buildings are also really colorful. There is a nice, friendly atmosphere there which we really enjoyed. We also celebrated X-mas eve there! Our first actual Christmas together... Normally, the 24th, Claudio is in Italy with his family and I celebrate it with my family in Belgium. So now, after 7 years, finally a Christmas together :-). We went to - surprise, surprise - an Italian restaurant!! We had pasta, salad, fish,... so goooood. The guys who owned the place were Italians from Genova who had moved to Mexico. They made us feel at home, and it was a really nice night! Off course we missed our families  though. It didn't really feel like Christmas without them. The warm weather didn't help either, cause you feel like it's summer. On Christmas day itself, we went to the movies to relax and ate a HUGE quantity of nachos topped with cheese and jalapenos, and popcorn. I must say, we have had better Christmas dinners :D:D.
While we were in Oaxaca, we also took a day trip to Monte Alban to visit the ruins there. Our guide for that day was an old guy who was babbling about the stars and where he was from, and stories from his past... Claudio even though he was drunk! So after 1 hour we decided to go away from the group and explore the ruins ourselves. In the end we had a lot of fun exploring everything on our own, and we loved Mont Alban - definitely worth going there!


Merry Xmas!!

So the day after Xmas we left for Puerto Escondido. People at the hostel advised us to take the shorter trip with the van instead of taking the normal buses - which takes more than 11 hours. The van trip was supposed to be around 6 hours. We decided to leave at 7.00h so we could enjoy our day and maybe already go to the beach. The van arrived and it was pretty small: three seat in the front, then 5 rows of two seats left and a single seat on the right. The van was completely full. But our driver kept on picking up people from street... People were standing in the middle of the seats, completely packed. There was just NO room! The van fitted 18 people, but at one point, there were 25 people in the van!! I was already regretting not taking the normal bus... In the end, it took us 8,5 hours to get there. But hey, we are in Mexico - take it easy :-).
Luckily, we were rewarded with a warm welcome from our surf school, whom was also renting us an apartment. The apartment was really nice, with a kitchen outside and an area to relax. On top of that, it was really cheap, so it was perfect. It was also so warm... 30 degrees, no clouds... amazing. We stayed an entire week in Puerto, and we had so much fun. We went to the beach, in Zicatela, to have our surf classes - we had 5 classes in total - but also so lay in the sun, swam in the beautiful Pacific ocean, ate delicious lunches on the beach and enjoyed the sunsets. It was so nice to have a relaxing week like that after the intensive traveling we had been doing. The surfing itself went pretty well. We managed to catch some waves, which is the best feeling ever. But I wouldn't say we are pro's ;-). 
\One day we also went out with a boat early in the morning to spot animals! We set our alarm at 6 AM, went to the beach to leave at 7AM, waited for a Mexican family who was half an hour late :D, and then we finally left. We were actually lucky that we were late because the first thing we saw was whales!! We saw four whales in total. It was so beautiful, it really took my breath away (literally), and I had tears in my eyes. Maybe I am just sensitive, but it was really so amazing to see... After this, we also spotted tons of dolphins, and a huge turtle. To think that this 3 hour boat trip cost us EUR 15 each is unbelievable. Mexico rules!
We also celebrated NY eve on the beach, with an Australian couple we met. We were literally sitting in a bar ON the beach, under a huge palm tree drinking margarita's... Can it be more stereotypical :D?

Chilling in Zicatela

sunset @ Puerto Escondido

Shortly after NY's we left for Palenque to visit the ruins there. If I think about it now, they were probably the best ruins we have seen in Mexico. You are basically in the middle of the jungle, and inside of this tropical forest you have tons of ruins. Palenque is also really big, and you can easily spend a whole day in there. We actually went two days in a row because we liked it so much. The second day we also just went into the jungle on our own and we spotted some monkey - that was pretty cool. The proof that good things don't always have to cost money. 


We only stayed for two nights in Palenque, and we decided to book a little studio in Cancun with Airbnb and do excursions from there. We wanted to go to Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Chitchen Itza, and Cozumel. So we took a 13 hour bus from Palenque to Cancun. Let me tell you: this bus was DISGUSTING. The toilet was completely blocked and filled with s**t and urine, and the whole bus smelled. Try breathing in that bus for 13 hours. Luckily I fell asleep. Claudio told me that in the middle of the night, cops entered the bus and checked everybody's backpack for drugs. He was obviously terrified because we left the backpack on top of our seats, so maybe somebody could have slipped something into it.... But we were OK. I never noticed anything. I was in a coma, sleeping and drooling with my eyemask on and earplugs in ;-). 
Anywaaaay, sorry for all the bus stories but they are always so crazy! In the end you always get through it, so you continue to take buses. But then you regret it again when you're on them :-).
We arrived in Cancun and the weather was just horrible. Rain, rain, and more rain. For four days!! All the places we wanted to visit - Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla del Sol and Tulum - were all on the beach and had the same weather conditions. Damn! Normally it is the NOT rainy season in January, but the locals told us that this has been a terrible year for Cancun, with lots of rain. On top of that, the studio we were staying in was rather dirty - spider webs everywhere and dirty floors. I asked the lady a mob and cleaned the floor myself. This sucked... We went to the movies, went out for dinner, and to the mall. We also went to Chichen Itza for one day. To be honest, it was not worth it. We had to rent a car, which cost EUR 40. Then to use the highway, it was EUR 20!! To enter Chichen Itza it was again EUR 15 each... Other ruins we visited were 2 or 3 euro so it was really overpriced. On top of that, Chichen Itza is not even comparable to any of the other places we have seen. It is also small and you cannot climb the temple or enter the ruins properly. What a rip off... Until now, our week in Cancun was not turning out that great. 
But than, miraculously, the sun started shining again!  Let's head to the beach!! We visited the beaches in Cancun, and it was well worth the wait... white Caribbean sand and crystal clear water.. What more do you want? 
We also took the opportunity to go to Isla Mujeres, which is an island east of Cancun. We took the ferry and spent the day there. In the afternoon, we also took an excursion and went our snorkeling. A boat took us to some reefs and we saw so many fish! It was a really nice experience, and again, not expensive at all. For these things, Mexico definitely rules. We saw the sunset on the beach, and relaxed in a hammock (hangmat) for an hour - one of my favorite moments of the trip. We were so relaxed, laying on the beach, on a beautiful island, just loving each other's company. Wow,... life can be good...

Chichen Itza
Snorkeling @ Isla Mujeres

Chilling in the hammock

And that was the end of our month in Mexico. The 14th of January we left for Hawaii. But that will be for next time - I will do my best to do it ASAP!! :-)

Marj & Cla

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