Mexico. A wild and dangerous land for some. For me, a place of a thousand colors, pure character, tradition and culture, incredibly great food and magical nature.
Řekneme si kdy a kam cestovat. Co všechno v Mexiku uvidíme, kde se ubytovat a kde se pořádně najíst, vykoupat a neztratit se. Nebudou chybět užitečné odkazy a mapa, tak abyste si nemuseli dělat dlouhý research sami. Udělal jsem to za vás.
I was in Mexico a few years ago. I told myself that I never want to look there again. But the great food and unique culture brought us back.
Those were the main reasons why not. After a while, however, I changed my tastes a bit, so we went there again together with Natalia and two other friends. Beyond the sprawling Mexico City, mysterious Palenque, sunny Cancun and culture to Oaxaca.
We bought interesting tickets from the Student Agency, where the train ticket is also part of the ticket. So we flew from Prague to Brussels by plane, from Brussels to Amsterdam by train and from Amsterdam to Mexico City again by plane. We are still quite young and poor, so we need to save them where possible. The journey there was more or less trouble-free. Maybe a long 13-hour flight for some, but with a charged Macbook and a few movies, you can manage everything.
The first moment of excitement is replaced by an almost two-hour wait in the immigration line. Mexicans just don't care how fast they work. But it can only get better from now on. We found a super cheap hostel in the city center, which is actually about a hundred meters from the main square. Of course we had to get robbed in a taxi, but it was already evening and everyone was pretty tired, so I'm going. Just for orientation, for 4 people the airport - hotel costs about 20 CZK by subway, about 150 CZK by Uber and a little over 300 CZK by taxi.
After a tiring first day, we start fresh the next morning with a trip around the center. Such unmissable monuments cannot be completely missed. Along the way, we constitutionally look for a SIM card store, we burn ourselves a few times by buying something that costs 50 pesos, but it doesn't work. It wasn't until I left that I remembered that the best thing to do is to buy a SIM card directly at the airport, which isn't completely obvious in Mexico City. You have to go approximately to the center of the airport and on the first floor above ground is what your heart desires. It will probably work out better for you and you will have a better signal than us.
The first day was marked by Mexican culture and local food.
On the second day, we head to the famous Teotihuacan pyramids. You leave there from the Autobuses del Norte bus station, and if I'm not mistaken, the trip there and back costs 50 pesos per person. Very important information and the reason why you will see too many Mexican citizens in the following shots is that Mexicans have free entry to monuments on Sundays. So if you want to avoid endless queues, go any other time.
An area of food, drink and endless agave fields. We need to rent a car before we get here. Basically, I rent a car from well-known rental companies. Like Hertz or Avis. But this time we wanted something bigger and both were sold out. So I had to reach for the National and it wasn't such a bad experience. The car cost us about 1150 USD for 14 days. And if I remember correctly, they didn't even deduct any excess from me. We just finished the poor Subaru. Well, nothing can be done, we are going to the land of cacti.
The drive from Mexico City to Oaxaca takes about 6 hours and they only wanted to stop us once along the way and flip the car onto its roof. But a misunderstanding is to blame. To all the teachers protesting for better money, I apologize for taking them as aggressors. You are not supposed to have machetes in your hands and scarves over your faces. It is necessary to add the tax for the use of their highways to travel in Mexico, which is not the smallest. Each such trip between big cities will cost you about 400 pesos.
On our first day in Oaxaca, we used a guide like last time and went on a full day trip to the three most interesting places in the vicinity. Hierve de Aqua, natural lakes in the mountains. A weaving workshop where they make their own dyes and a Mezcal distillery. All the fun will cost about $30 per person, but it's totally worth it. Buy it, otherwise you probably won't have much else to do there other than gorging yourself on huge amounts of quality food at the local street food joints.
The next day we took a cooking class at Casa de Los Sabores. It was great to see how to deal with the locals, how to buy food at markets and what is behind their so specific taste. In total, we prepared 3 or 4 meals of different courses, and the most bizarre thing was when the cook first burned the tortillas on coals and then threw them into a plastic mixer while they were burning. That's where the Mexican flavor is hiding!
Mexico is famous for its corn dishes and tequila. A very typical alcohol in Mexico and especially Oaxaca is the drink Mezcal. Very similar to tequila, with the difference that even before the distillation process, the agave is stewed in the ground under clay.
The main raw material is agave of various species. It grows for decades in fields or freely in nature. For the production of tequila or mezcal, the part that is in the ground or slightly above the surface is used. In short, the one that looks like a pineapple. Farmers use long poles to pry it up and load it onto a cart. They chop the agave in the distillery. They then dig a large hole in which they make a fire. Pieces of agave are thrown into the hole, covered with agave leaves and covered with dirt. There, the agave stews for some time. Once this process is complete, the piñas, as the pieces of the agave "pineapple" are called, are crushed by a large millstone pulled by a horse. The evaporated liquid is then poured into vats where it ferments and the distillation process follows.
We've found that the tastiest Mezcal is usually the cheapest, so don't be fooled.
Oaxaca, Mexico's food kingdom. We actually only had really great food there and in Mexico City. Toward the east it gets worse rather quickly. I'm not saying you can't go wrong in Cancun, but you have to look harder. In general, in Mexico you will come across a lot of corn and various processed meats. The most typical food is probably tacos. A palm-sized corn pancake, usually as soft as a pancake, filled with various ingredients. It can be finely chopped pork, then it's an "al pastor" variant, then "barbacoa", which is for beef. "Chorizo" or Mexican sausage or "carnitas", pork bones. You will certainly come across prawns, entrails, tongues and vegetarian versions as well. Usually, one serving of tacos is served with three patties, and in addition to the meat, a handful of cilantro and onions are usually served. If you don't like cilantro, you'll starve. But no, you can definitely leave out the cilantro in broken Spanish, but try to walk to it, the world is a much better place. Get ready for tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And on the road again, this time to the east coast. I've been to Mexico and Puerto Escondido before, but the drive there is so crazy and long and time is short that you need to continue towards the Atlantic. A very thick warning here. The journey from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido takes about 10 hours. Not 6 and a half as Google Maps will tell you. They don't take into account the speed you travel, elevation and switchbacks. But you will get back the sight of surfers and the comfort of very poor middle America. In other words - if you are not a surfer, skip Puerto Escondido. But back to our journey.Somehow I had missed the other day that the journey from Oaxaca to Palenque would be so difficult. The first 5 hours or so of the ride are on switchbacks, up and down, and a constant roulette of whether or not we will break the bike in a half-meter pit.
In the end, everything turned out well and after about 10 hours we are in Palenque. Mayan ruins in the middle of nowhere. Well, that's not quite true. There is a town where we stayed in the evening. And how we miss Oaxaca. After a good meal and drink, the ground collapsed. The smell and taste of Mezcal is gone.
Palenque is probably the most visually adventurous and beautiful "Zona archeologica" in Mexico. It's definitely worth it. We still had the nearby waterfalls planned, but when we calculated that it was an hour there and an hour back on our way, we drove on.
Another 8 or so hours in the car. Ugh, but anything is possible and so we end up on the commercial coast and are we actually still in Mexico or is it Miami? From the moment we drove through Tulum, the American...that is, Mexican resorts and amusement parks lined up on our right. But I take it in perspective and we know that we just want to relax by the sea and we only remember the culture in photos. Don't be tempted by the photos of your accommodation, always look for a bit of business there. We chose a mid-range accommodation in downtown Playa del Carmen that was described as a large apartment with a private pool. We did end up in a large apartment in a building where there were about 20 more of the same type and a swimming pool for everyone miraculously located on the roof of the first floor. I was a little disappointed, but one is never satisfied with the temperature of the water in the pool, especially at a time when people on the other end have nothing to eat and the forests are burning... ugh, the end of the depression. We spend the evening in an Arab-Mexican bistro for fairly good tacos, but non-alcoholic because we are in an Arab bistro after all.
The next morning I'm just lounging on the beach, probably with the entire population of Mexico and America, I don't really enjoy it, but someone will appreciate the tan.
I didn't even take out my camera in Playa del Carmen, because there was nothing to take pictures of, so I immediately moved us to Tulum, which we visited the very next day. This other Mayan fortress is like the only one on the coast, but since we are essentially in America, we are on a train with a large number of tourists. We wanted to get to the beach that is there, but I'm getting late. Tulum is such a must, but for next time we'd rather spend more time in the local caves - Cenote Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote. That's fun!
We conclude our stay on the eastern coast in the pearl of the consumer lifestyle, in the Zona Hoteliera in Cancun. Sea of clear color, waves of sexy dimensions and an infinity pool at the hotel. This is exactly what we need to recharge our batteries for the next few tiring days on the road. On the last day, we still make a trip to the island of Isla Mujerez. When buying tickets, typan offers us a golf cart at a relatively favorable price. I don't remember how much, but take it! It's fun and everyone rides golf carts there. The only problem the whole island has is that it is filled with amusement parks and resorts, so you should probably go straight to the northwestern tip, where the most beautiful beach in Mexico is. Even if it takes an hour to go around the whole island, and besides the cliffs, you will also see the other side of consumer paradises, but you will see that for yourself.
The boat to Isla Mujerez leaves from different places, we chose Puerto Juarez.
Before we go on a two-day trip back to Mexico City, we have one big stop waiting for us, in Mérida, Yucatan. The last time I was here it was 42 degrees outside in the shade and I couldn't get far without a bottle of water in my hand. This time it wasn't so bad.
But before we finish in this uninteresting city, we will visit probably the most iconic building in Mexico. You can find the Chichen Itza pyramid on all postcards and all lists of sights to see. The place itself is packed with tourists again, including us, thanks to its location. But apart from a few other buildings in the vicinity, it is not that interesting. Maybe it's because we've seen a lot of those pyramids along the way.
Very often you will encounter brutally high temperatures at Chichen Itza. And one place nearby can help you significantly. Literally around the corner is probably the most impressive cave in Mexico. The magical place of Ik Kil. A deep flooded cave, it won't leave you cold. Only physically, but you need that after the sweltering heat.
We only slept in Mérida and the very next day we set off on the two-day painful journey home. That is, to Mexico City, from where our plane flew back to the old continent. I believe there are a lot of things to see on the way back, but we needed to get to Mexico City and Europe quickly. We were supposed to stay on Airbnb in the capital of Mexico, but somehow it didn't work out, so we had to find accommodation elsewhere. Ideally near the airport, for one night, cheap. This assignment always sounds very bad, especially in Mexico. In the end, we booked such a very noisy room 1 plus solitude, where there was not even a window. For that, a miniature television with Spanish fairy tales.
That's where our Western Hemisphere story ends. What makes Mexico different and why go back there? Culture. Be it beautiful people, great food or customs and local hospitality. Is it as dangerous there as they say? It always depends on how respectfully and respectfully you treat the local people. I believe that danger can be found everywhere. We were looking for peace and quiet and we found it.
Once a month you will explore original stories, look behind the scenes and probably learn something new.
© 2023 Marek Dvorak / Photography