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'Mysterious Cities of Gold'?
By Mikey
Saturday, 17th April 2004 23:32

The chances are that I'll repeat some of the things that have already been mentioned in Claire's updates but maybe with a slightly different perspective. Also to come are details of the bus ride. I should also apologise for taking so long to write all of this. I had a couple of website bugs to fix.

So you'll know by now that we started off in Mexico City just over a week ago. I'd seen quite a few portrayals of Mexico and its people in films and on television but the reality was a little different. A lot of people use washed out colours and filters when filming in Mexico. Seen through the naked eye you appreciate that colour is a big part of Mexico. As tired as we were, our first taxi ride was a barrage of colour. It was also a little frightening, but once you get used to the usual Mexican driving style you can't help but admire the simplicity of the idea behind it. At first, the traffic seems chaotic, but it flows really well. The Mexicans aren't as 'nannied' as we are (by that I mean that they have more responsibility for their driving and are not burdened by millions of signs). By and large they are aware of everything going on around them. (I haven't seen any evidence of an accident since we've been here - I can't say the same for spending a week in England.) Of course there are exceptions to everything but I'll go into the bus ride later.

Ok, enough dawdling. I liked Mexico City a lot. We stayed in a hostel just next to the Plaza de la Republica in the historical district of the city. The Hostel (Moneda) was clean and the people there were friendly. Nearby there were hundreds upon hundreds of street vendors selling all manner of clothing, food and other odd stuff. They were there from day break to very late at night. Later on, drum players and groups of dancers would come out. The place was alive morning, noon and night.

Our first taste of ancient Mexican culture came with a long walk to the Museum of Anthropology. This gave us valuable background information about Mexico before the Spanish arrived which came in useful on our subsequent visits to historical sights. One humourous (to us anyway) piece of text in the Museum related to Pulque (a drink made from a cactus that tastes like a cross between white wine and cider). It said that only one drink of Pulque was taken in anyone day to prevent the drinker from becoming under the influence of Four Hundred Rabbits (slightly inebriated to you and me). This kept us amused all of the way home. Speaking of which, something odd that you can see walking through Mexico City (and possibly to some extent in the rest of Mexico too) is the grouping of shops. We frequently found identical shop types grouped together. For example, there was the street of shoe shops (one chain seemed to have five shoe shops within spitting distance of each other) and the street of alloy wheels and car upgrades. Yes, Mexico does have boy racers too!

Whilst in Mexico City, we visited the ruined city of Teotihucan (and got to try Pulque on the way) to climb the Pyramids of the Moon and Sun. I have no idea how they compare to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt but they were impressive none the less. Our journey that day also took in the Basilica in Mexico City. It was on this site that Juan Diego was visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her image appeared on Juan's cape and it is hung there now.

Initially we wanted to goto Acapulco and then on to Oaxaca but the buses were not in our favour so we ended up spending another half a day in Mexico City after coming back from Acapulco. We finally got to see the Mexican flag being lowered in the Plaza and we had fun on the Metro. Mexico Citys' metro system is very much like the London Underground except that more of it is above ground than under I suspect. On our journey to and from the bus station (some 12 stops or so) we were treated to different street sellers between each stop. Whilst none of them topped the guy with the rat puppet singing to the song 'Tequila' in London last year, they were all interesting in different ways. Some sold copies (possibly dodgy) of Scooby-Doo 2 and Lion King 3 DVDs, some sold music, some sold chewing gum, some sold nutty biscuits and one small boy sang to everyone whilst going up and down the carriage putting small heart shaped stickers on everyone. Then he came back and took the stickers again. Weird.

I felt pretty safe in Mexico City. Whilst we stood out as tourists and everyone was keen for us to use their taxi or buy something from their stall or shop, we never really felt threatened at all. That's good. Actually, the only time we were a little concerned was when we decided to walk some of the way to the bus station and it became too quiet on the streets we were walking. But the concern was more for not knowing exactly where we were than anything. When we asked for directions, it turned out we were two minutes away from the metro anyway.

So, that's Mexico City. I liked it and I would go back sometime. There are some pictures of the flag lowering, Teotihucan and the hostel on our Mexico Pictures Page. I haven't included them here because the chances are that you've seen them already.

Tune in soon for Acapulco...

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