Thursday, September 9, 2010

EFM: Exploring the Finest of Mexico

So I've fallen a little out of rhythm since the arrival of our ground/surface/sea freight which flowed into a Labor Day weekend getaway. That set me back a few days, but I'm closer to being caught up, and only a few boxes remain.

We took advantage of the long weekend to get out and see Mexico outside of Sonora for the first time. It was a reasonable price and only a two hour flight to Mexico City (or D.F.E., kind of like D.C. vs. Washington). I don't understand the airlines here, by the way. Mazatlan, which is much closer to us, costs about twice as much to fly to compared to Mexico City. Other cities in Mexico, such as Cabo San Lucas and Puerta Vallarta and Cancun, are essentially non-reachable within Mexico from Hermosillo. We save hundreds of dollars by driving to Phoenix and then flying to Mexico. The joke here is that we can't wait to leave Hermosillo so we can explore Mexico.

Anyway, Mexico City, yeah. It is like D.C. and New York City combined. According to Wikipedia, its metro population is about 21.1 million people, though the number we heard down there was more like 29 million. Depending on the number you believe, it is either the second or third most populated metro in the world. Following Wiki's numbers, D.C. and NYC metros combine for about 24.4 million people, so approximately the same as Mexico City.

But similar to New York, Mexico City is the cultural center of the country while also playing the role of D.C. by serving as the governing center and historical center. We only got to spend three days visiting, and if I don't make it back there before leaving Hermosillo, I will consider it a colossal failure on my part.

One view from the observatory.
A good place to start your first visit to Mexico City is from a top the Torre Latinoamericana. It gives you a good idea of how vast of an area Mexico City is. We were there during the rainy season, which meant it was cooler there, and of course rainy, but that cleared out the smog.

We spent the rest of the day with a scary experience on their subway system, the Metro, just like D.C. But unlike D.C., it costs only three pesos (about a quarter) to ride. As it was a Saturday, it was not crowded, relatively speaking. We still had to wait for a second train to come as the first was packed beyond capacity, and the train we did get on also was beyond full. The problem with such tight confines is that it affords men (and women, I suppose) the opportunity to grope those nearby, which a few of female companions were subjected to. We were told that during the work week, there are cars reserved on trains for women and children only to avoid such an incident. And then we went around to some markets and ate at a couple of nice restaurants for lunch and dinner. Mexico City is similar to NYC and DC combined, but not when it comes to prices. Just like in Hermosillo, dining out does not break the bank.

From the Temple of the Sun's base, but
this angle doesn't do it justice.
From the Temple of the Sun, you can see
the Temple of the Moon through the fog.
Any visitor in Mexico City has to make the journey out to Teotihaucan (teh-oh-tee-wah-KAHN). We went on a Sunday, which can be very crowded, but the rain kept many people at home. It also made the stone temples that much more treacherous to climb, and I assume it closed off the upper tiers of the Temple of the Moon. Even if it is dry, this can be a dangerous trek as the steps tend to be narrow and steep. The people who built this place must have been 20 feet tall, with tiny feet and had very strong legs because we all had wobbly leg syndrome after climbing just one temple. This was a full day event, and I imagine if it had been crowded, it could be difficult to get to see everything here in one day, especially if children are involved.

Our final day was originally going to be spent at Xochimilco (soh-chee-MEEL-coh), which is a bit like Venice in that you ride gondola-type boats down canals, but with it being rainy season and all, we thought we check out the various museums in Chapultepec Park. But alas, it was a Monday, and we arrived to find the gates locked. Quite amazing, actually, when you consider the park is kind of like the National Mall in D.C., but only ten times larger. (By the way, we had two tour books that said some of the attractions might be closed on Mondays. Neither said anything about the entire park being closed.) So our Xochimilco visit was back on, and fortunately the rain held off during our boat ride.

A few more boats joined us on the canals.
Be ready to be swarmed by vendors and performers while on your boat. We saw multiple mariachi bands on boats (and bought one song; I'm sick of mariachi already and I have about 22 months to go here) as well as craft and food vendors. And because it was not particularly crowded, we were targeted by everyone.

It was a hectic three days with a lot of walking, but it only whetted my appetite to see more of the city. Chapultepec Park itself could consume an entire week to visit. And I intend to see it all.


  1. You hit some of my favorite spots in D.F. If you like ancient Mexican civilizations at all, I would highly recommend the National Anthropological Museum, as well. I learned a lot of facinating stuff that has kept me hooked for 10+ years!

  2. We have been thinking about heading down to Mexico City. We are just hesitant because of the kids, but we will see.
    In all of my searching, I have found that flying around Mexico is not that cheap, although Volaris airlines sometimes has deals.