A Travellerspoint blog

Murals, Mayans and Mariachi in Mexico City

Plus some Aztecs, and plenty of tacos

overcast 21 °C
View The Mexicube on samoline's travel map.

Sam

¡Hola amigos! We've had two days in La Ciudad de México now, and while it's extremely busy and noisy, the pros outweigh the cons. The museums are world-class, the people welcoming, the architecture impressive, and the street food amazeballs.

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Caroline with a tlacoyo, a crunchy corn tortilla served with beans, onion, cactus leaf, coriander and cheese

Off five hours of sleep and incredibly jet-lagged, we took it a bit slowly yesterday. We took the dizzying glass lift to the lookout on top of the Monumento de la Revolucion, a grand dome dedicated to the heroes of the Mexican Revolution.

There are millions of cars on the traffic-clogged roads, and the city is surrounded by mountains; together, these mean that smog hangs over the city constantly, and we couldn't see all that much.

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So we went back to street level and took the metro over to the Chapultepec Park and the National Museum of Anthropology. It's a brilliant museum, tracing the history of Mexican people from ancient times through to the modern era, and then explaining the customs and practices of modern indigenous groups. There are lots of artefacts and some seriously impressive large-scale statues and models.

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Matilda's spirit god, the Aztec god of corn (not really)

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A model Mayan temple

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In the Chapultepec Park

Catching the metro back across town during peak hour was an experience, making Melbourne's peak hour trains look positively empty. It was more exciting too - not often in Melbourne are there people selling donuts, ice creams or phone chargers between platforms, or elderly couples dancing in the middle of the station.

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We had dinner at a tiny taco place, with options like 'hearty' and 'solid' - we didn't really know what we were eating but it was freaking delicious, and at around a dollar per taco, pretty cheap. And then we decided we hadn't quite eaten enough, so we stopped at another taqueria on the way home for more.

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Taco fiends milling around

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Today we started at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the beautiful Art Deco fine art 'palace'. The building is beautiful, and the murals were the highlight inside. Diego Rivera (ex-husband of Frida Kahlo) had the best one:

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A section of Man at the Crossroads by Diego Rivera. This was originally painted at the Rockefeller Center in New York, but it was destroyed a year later due to its anti-capitalist sentiment (you can see Trotsky here, and there are calls for 'all workers to unite' as well). Rivera recreated it here

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Palacio de Bellas Artes

We saw a protest outside, apparently against the Governor of Veracruz (a Mexican state), who is allegedly a bit dodgy in terms of corruption and human rights. Allegedly. Anyway, their brazen tactics got them extra publicity, on this blog at least.

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Dodging and weaving through the bustling streets, we eventually made it to the centre of the historical city. The Catedral Metropolitana, which took 240 years to build, was pretty grand. Not sure I would have spent 240 years building it, but happy to piggyback off others.

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Post-lunch siesta at the roadworks

The Palacio Nacional, which houses the presidential office and some other government departments, was also worth the visit. More Diego Rivera murals lined the walls of a grand courtyard, and told the story of Mexico's history.

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On the ceiling of the old Mexican parliament. (Illuminati confirmed)

The Templo Mayor was our last major stop. It was an Aztec temple for centuries, and was considered the centre of the universe. But then the Spanish came, knocked it all down, built churches on top of it - recycling the bricks - and effectively buried the site.

It wasn't excavated until 1978, when electricity workers happened across an eight-metre stone disc, portraying an Aztec goddess being decapitated. They're still finding new artefacts, and have done a pretty good job of displaying what the temple would have looked like when the Spanish arrived.

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The Templo Mayor with the Catedral Metropolitana in the background

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As the evening passed, we went to a square full of mariachi bands, popped in to the grand old post office, and had a delicious dinner inside a fancy restaurant (final bill under AU$30). It's not a great city for vegetarians, though, let alone vegans. Sorry Mat.

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Having fun with a fountain at a park

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Mariachi musicians

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The Palacio Postal

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The fine arts palace at night

Posted by samoline 17:35 Archived in Mexico Comments (4)

And we're off

Again


View The Mexicube on samoline's travel map.

Avid followers of this blog (and there are countless numbers of you) may recall that our last trip ended not too long ago. Indeed, it was barely ten months.

And yet here we are again, off on what will hopefully be another great adventure. Life's tough.

Well, the 35-hour trip from Ivanhoe to Mexico City was gruelling, at least. There was a nervous moment at Melbourne Airport, and an eighty-minute wait on the tarmac at Mexico City for no apparent reason. But at least we made it safely. Thanks to Linda and Dad for their contributions :)

As a reward, here are some low-res images:

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The Houston skyline

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Arriving La Ciudad de Mexico

And we documented our suffering across the five airports as well:

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Melbourne

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Auckland

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Houston

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Cancun

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Mexico City

Posted by samoline 07:32 Archived in Mexico Comments (4)

Some stats

199 days (157 for Caroline)

71 beds (57 for Caroline), including three overnight buses

14 international flights (10 for Caroline)

15 countries (10 for Caroline)

Used 12 currencies

More than 6000 photos since Thailand; more than 4500 since Los Angeles

Set foot on every continent except for Antarctica, and got nearly as close as it is possible to go in Ushuaia

95 blog entries. Thanks for sticking with us! As a reward, here are five of the photos, with the mascots for courteous behaviour on Singapore's MRT. Introducing...

Bags Down Benny!
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Give Way Glenda!
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Move In Martin!
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Stand Up Stacey!
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And our personal favourite, Hush Hush Hannah!
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(Those are all real names by the way.)

Thanks everyone, you've been a great audience. Signing off from Singapore,
Caroline and Sam

Posted by samoline 06:56 Comments (5)

Back to the future

Short stay in super Singapore signifies Samoline's sojourn set to stop summarily

semi-overcast 32 °C
View Samoline 2015 on samoline's travel map.

Sam

It was a 40-hour door-to-door journey from São Paulo to Singapore, with stopovers in Addis Ababa and Bangkok. We were slightly brain dead and quite delirious by the time we got to Singers, but the trip went as well as could be expected.

We had two days, and made the most of them despite the jet lag. On day one, we went for a walk around Little India, taking in the sights and the smells, and getting a curry and naan from a stall in the Tekka Centre (pretty much the reason we came here).

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Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India

Then we caught the MRT (an amazing system to be sure, but São Paulo's metro is almost as good) to the Singapore City Gallery. This is a brilliant museum - would have beaten any in South America - about Singapore's urban planning. With such a small country and relatively large population, it takes a mammoth effort to find the resources the city needs. It's 11 times smaller than Melbourne's metropolitan area, but has a million more people.

They recycle drinking water from sewage and stormwater, recycle 57% of rubbish, and have brilliant public transport so that they can reduce the need for roads and parking spaces, which would otherwise take up vital land. It might have been mostly propaganda, but I was still very impressed.

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They also had detailed scale models of the city, which are updated regularly by a dedicated team

Then we had a little tour around Chinatown, starting with a second lunch at a hawker's food market, with Hainanese chicken rice and dumplings.

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This guy was far more interested in photographing his food than he was in eating it - this session went on for five minutes

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The Buddha tooth relic temple

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Shops at Pagoda Street

Back to the apartment for a bit of a rest, then out again in the evening to meet Caroline's former colleague and co-bridesmaid Christl. She very kindly bought us a delicious dinner looking out over the river, and then took us on a walking tour, ending back at home.

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Singapore downtown

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Today was a day of gardens. First, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, including the delightful National Orchid Garden. Well, I'm not really a huge fan of orchids, but this was not a bad garden nonetheless.

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Virgin rainforest (apparently) in the Botanic Gardens

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I show my appreciation for the 'William Catherine' orchard, named after the royal couple

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Over to Arab Street next - home of the Muslim community, who seem to be mostly from India, Malaysia and India, and are therefore not Arabs. But it's a cool spot, with lots of shops selling hijabs and others selling hipster-approved coffee.

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The Sultan Mosque

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In Haji Lane

The new and absurdly futuristic Gardens by the Bay was next. The 'Supertree Grove' was brilliant but a bit hard to describe, so hopefully a photo does the trick:

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Big lattice structures with vertical garden beds planted all the way up

For a few dollars, you can take a lift up to a walkway through the 'trees', with a great view of the two giant air-conditioned domes.

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The two giant air-conditioned domes were our next destination, as it happens. The Flower Dome is a huge spaces with 'Mediterranean-climate' gardens, from Australia, South Africa, South America, California, and of course, the Mediterranean.

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If that wasn't impressive enough, the Cloud Forest certainly was. You enter to see a huge waterfall, and then you can take a lift up to the top of the waterfall and walk down, seeing cool-climate plants all the way down. There's a message running through that we need to protect these environments from the dangers of urbanisation, deforestation, and climate change. (There seems to be a little hypocrisy in a tourist attraction operating gigantic air-conditioned domes preaching about the need to save energy, but there you go.)

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The Supertree Grove from a lake in the Gardens

The striking Marina Bay Sands hotel has a viewing platform with a brilliant view of the city, and we finished our Singapore adventure there.

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The hotel

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Well, not quite finished: we went back to Little India for our last dinner. Back to Melbourne in two hours!

Posted by samoline 06:16 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

The Best of South America

Another edition of our infamous awards ceremonies

It’s that time again, folks. South America’s night of nights. Where attractions become legends, and cities go into history. That’s right: it’s the America Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence (South America edition). *rapturous applause*

Who or what will Bruce McAvaney go gaga over this time, to the point that it’s a bit creepy and you think he should back off? What C-grade musician will plug their latest album with a sub-standard performance in the middle of the evening? How many ridiculous pauses will the corrupt AFL CEO make, when you know perfectly well who’s going to get the three votes? Oh wait, that’s the Brownlow. Carry on.

As usual, any complaints should be put in writing and addressed to your nearest recycling bin. (But really, discussion is encouraged – please agree with or dispute our judgements in the comments below.)

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Best town
Presented by Sam

Honourable mention: Colonia del Sacramento (Uruguay)

3rd place: Ushuaia (Argentina)

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2nd place: Puerto Ayora (Galapagos Islands, Ecuador)

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And the award for the best town goes to... Ouro Preto (Brazil)
Really tough category. All four towns mentioned above would be worthy of first place, but Ouro Preto just takes out the title for its curving cobblestone streets and charming crumbling churches.

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Best city
Presented by Caroline

Honourable mention: São Paulo

3rd place: Montevideo

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2nd place: Buenos Aires

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And the award for the best city goes to... Rio de Janeiro
Rio was laidback but somehow buzzing with energy at the same time. It has incredible beaches, mountains, museums and food – a clear winner.

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Best museum or art gallery
Presented by Sam

Honourable mentions: Regional Welsh Historical Museum (Gaiman, Argentina), Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf (Rio de Janeiro)

3rd place: Museo Andes 1972 (Montevideo)

2nd place: National History Museum (Rio de Janeiro)

And the award for the best museum or art gallery goes to... Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires)
We had three separate categories of awards for museums and art galleries in the USA edition. In South America, the standard was a fair bit lower. But the National Museum of Fine Art in Argentina was free, had great South American and European art, and was well presented. Certainly worth a visit.

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Best view
Presented by Caroline

Honourable mention: Glacier Martial (Ushuaia, Argentina)

3rd place: Colca Canyon (Peru)

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2nd place: Sugarloaf mountain (Rio de Janeiro)

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And the award for the best view goes to... Huayna Picchu (Peru)
This continent is full of great views, but the iconic Macchu Picchu from the mountain above it takes the cake.

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Best walk
Presented by Sam

Honourable mention: Colca Canyon (Peru)

3rd place: Iguazu Falls walkways (Puerto Iguazu, Argentina)

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2nd place: Laguna Torre (El Chalten, Argentina)

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And the award for the best walk goes to... Tierra del Fuego (Ushuaia, Argentina)
Argentina takes out the trifecta here, with three spectacular walks from south to north. Tierra del Fuego National Park looked like something out of a dream.

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Best wildlife
Presented by Caroline

3rd place: Llamas and alpacas in Peru

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2nd place: Ballestas Islands (Paracas, Peru)

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And the award for the best wildlife goes to... the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
The Galapagos is to wildlife what Walter Lindrum was to cue sports. Swimming with sea lions with a particular highlight.

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City with the best public transport
Presented by Sam

3rd place: Rio de Janeiro

2nd place: Buenos Aires

And the award for the city with the best public transport goes to... São Paulo
São Paulo is a very efficient city for its size. Its 1333 bus lines (not a typo, there really are more than a thousand bus lines) and brilliant metro system cover the whole metropolis thoroughly. Trains leave every few minutes, and buses are always around.

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Best church
Presented by Caroline

Honourable mention: Catedral Metropolitana (Rio de Janeiro)

3rd place: La Compañía de Jesús (Quito)

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2nd place: Santuário Dom Bosco (Brasilia)

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And the award for the best church goes to... Catedral Metropolitana (Brasilia)
On a continent full of beautiful old churches, the two we enjoyed most were designed in the 20th Century by an atheist (famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemayer). Unlike any church we’ve ever been to, this cathedral is light, airy and stunning inside and out.

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Best non-church building
Presented by Sam

Honourable mentions: Teatro Solis (Montevideo), Municipal Theatre (Rio de Janeiro), Congress (Buenos Aires)

3rd place: Pinacoteca (São Paulo)

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2nd place: Congress (Brasilia)

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And the award for the best building that’s not a church goes to... Itamaraty Palace (Brasilia)
Brasilia continues its domination in the architecture stakes thanks again to the genius of Oscar Niemayer. The foreign ministry palace was the best of the lot, with beautiful open spaces inside and a pleasing exterior.

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Best natural feature
Presented by Caroline

Honourable mention: Sugarloaf (Rio de Janeiro)

3rd place: Colca Canyon (Peru)

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2nd place: Iguaçu Falls (Argentina and Brazil)

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And the award for the best natural feature goes to... the Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina)
Strong competition here, but the glacier wins out - it entertained us for six hours, and we'd never seen anything like it.

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Best food
Presented by Sam

Honourable mention: Afternoon tea (Gaiman)

3rd place: Chivito (Montevideo)

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2nd place: Ceviche (Peru)

And the award for the best food goes to... Portuguese tarts (Brazil)
Portuguese tarts have a special place in my heart, and stomach, so this isn't really fair. (For scientific purposes, the best were at Casa Mathilde in São Paulo.)

But I want to make special mention of the ceviche, which is raw fish cured in lime juice. Amazing. Well, it is in Peru - in Ecuador, they cook the fish first for some reason, which ruins the flavour.

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Best beach
Presented by Caroline

3rd place: Las Tortugas (Galapagos)

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2nd place: Ipanema (Rio de Janeiro)

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And the award for the best beach goes to... Lopes Mendes (Ilha Grande, Brazil)
Lopes Mendes was clearly the best beach on an island of great beaches. Sam was just disappointed that nobody was utilising the perfect beach cricket conditions.

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Best ruins
Presented by Sam

3rd place: Ollantaytambo (Peru)

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2nd place: Saqsaywaman (Peru)

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And the award for the best ruins goes to... Macchu Picchu (Peru)
Macchu Picchu is an obvious winner here, in a category where Peru excels. Saqsaywaman is actually pretty close, though, I think - not as impressive in photos, but really great to just wander around.

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Best national park
Presented by Caroline

Honourable mention: Los Glaciares (Argentina)

3rd place: Torres del Paine (Chile)

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2nd place: Tierra del Fuego (Argentina)

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And the award for the best national park goes to... Galapagos (Ecuador)
Anywhere with its own passport stamp and so many animals is going to be hard to beat.

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Thanks for reading to the end (or just looking at the photos, or even just skipping to the end). We promise there's not much more blogging to come!

Posted by samoline 23:45 Comments (4)

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