Whoa, Mexico

A budget adventure in and around Mexico City and on to San Luis Potosi.

Whoa, Mexico

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

Highlights of Mexico were the stereotypical trip to Frida Kahlo's Blue House in Mexico City and the floating gardens of Xochimilco. Further north to SLP it was the breathtaking landscape and the psychedelic sculptures of Edward Jame's Las Pozas, coupled with the warm, quiet welcome from the indigenous folks there, that left the biggest impression on me.${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} Within Mexico City the metro is cheap, efficient and easy to use (color coded if you do not speak Spanish). Despite hearing otherwise, it was no problem to take a backpack on the Metro, although I would not recommend it during rush hour. Trans-country trips are best on the executive class of buses- it's only a few bucks extra and the buses are clean with reclining seats.

Hostel Moneda

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

Located on a side street just around the corner from the Zocalo – the main square in Mexico City, Hostal Moneda is your basic bustling urban hostel. It was a bit dirty on the outside but clean on the inside. The top floor has an open air, rooftop bar where dinner is also served. If you stand on tiptoes, you can catch a cool view of the sun setting behind the historic buildings in the Zocalo.

It was about $13 per night which included a buffet breakfast and dinner. The dinner especially included some strange, multinational combinations of food – like spaghetti with tortillas and hard boiled eggs, but if you’re on a budget as I was it fills you up. The bar is a fun place to hang out in at night, especially because there isn’t much nightlife in the area save the once- swanky and historic La Opera Bar on the other side of the square. As a young woman traveling alone I didn’t really feel safe venturing out into Mexico City after dark, so it was nice to have an option.

The hostel offers reasonably priced tours depending on the day of the week – Anthropology museum, Frida Kahlo house, pyramids, and my personal favorite, a trip to the Mexican wrestling match. Going to the Anthropology museum with the tour group familiarized me with using the metro system which is much easier and safer than most guide books make it out to be.

Some other travelers said Hostel Moneda was a lot nicer than the Hostel Cathedral which is located a few blocks away. My only complaint was that the whole building interior is made of cement and it has a courtyard that runs through every floor. Basically every sound echoes and is amplified so it was fairly noisy day and night. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone past the young, adventurous age for this reason. Overall it was a great, economical home base from which to explore Mexico City – they also have a locked storage area to keep your backpack which is a great idea if you take a quick day trip for a day or two away from the city.

The hostel's website is: www.hostalmoneda.com.mx

Hostal Moneda
Moneda No. 8 Colonia Centro
Mexico City, Mexico, 06020
+52 (55) 5522-5803

Restaurante Vegetariano Yug

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

This was the best meal I had while in Mexico City, although the competition wasn’t stiff as I was mostly eating the buffet at my hostel. I sought it out because it is vegetarian, and the neighborhood of the Zona Rosa is a neat area to walk around, although it starts to deteriorate as you get closer to the restaurant.

It is moderately priced (US $5-15) with sandwiches, Mexican specialties (some made with soy meat), salads and juices. They have the best fruit cocktail! I had three puffy little empanadas – one filled with mushroom, one with savory soy meat, and the last with flor de calabaza (zucchini blossom). The squash blossom one was so good, I can still taste it as I am writing this almost a year later! This is definitely a place to visit if you want to seek out a vegetarian restaurant, plus it has bulletin boards filled with alternative type stuff (yoga classes, etc) that would be great if you were staying for an extended period of time and trying to find some like-minded people.

I spent summer 2005 in Mexico. It was my first visit there, although I have been back several times since then. I spent two months doing a sustainable development project northeast of Mexico city in San Luis Potosi.
Restaurante Vegetariano Yug
Varsovia 3
Mexico City, Mexico

El Vegetariano

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

This decent vegetarian restaurant has a few tables inside, and a handful outside. As far as I know, it is the only vegetarian restaurant near the Zocalo. I ate lunch outside on the nice, quiet street. I didn’t get bothered by any hagglers even though I was a woman eating alone…mostly just businessmen walking by.

The menu included juices, salads, breakfast, egg dishes, and dessert. I had an emparedado de aguacate (avocado sandwich with tomato, lettuce, and onion). It came with french fries and was 37 pesos (~$3.70). The bread, as it tends to be in Mexico, was tasteless and dry. For dessert, it was coconut ice recommended by the waiter.
Overall, the lunch portions were smallish and the food was above average. If you can go to just one vegetarian restaurant in Mexico City, make it Restaurant Yug, which is awesome! But if you’re in the neighborhood and want some basic vegetarian fare, hit up El Vegetariano.

Filomeno Mata 13
Mexico City, Mexico
+52 (55) 10-0113

National Museum of Anthropology

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

Any guidebook will tell you that the Anthropology Museum is huge, and it’s true. I spent more than half a day there, and felt like I still haven’t "done" it. The museum is interesting and so extensive that it’s almost hard to take.
I went with a group from the Hostal Moneda - there were a lot of independent travelers. Everyone was really friendly and I met a couple of people on our little "field trip." The hostel provided a guide who accompanied us on the trip and spoke English (as most of the signs in the museum are in Spanish only).

We visited just five rooms of the museum - a small portion overall. Highlights were pre-Columbian art and models of the many civilizations that preceded modern Mexico! I would recommend this museum only if you’re a big anthropology buff, or if you have a few hours to spend wandering a vast museum. If you could see just one museum in Mexico, go see Frida Kahlo!

The museum is accessible by Metro but you have to take a bus down the main avenue towards the museum. You can’t bring bags or cameras inside but they have a place to check them. Be sure to check out the Voladores of Pantitlan in the small park just across the street! It’s a native ritual involving 4 guys literally flying through the air from a big pole (with ropes around their ankles!) and is worth seeing. They’ll do it a few times a day, usually when there’s a sufficient amount of tourists ($$) standing around waiting.

National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru
Plaza Bolívar s/n, Pueblo Libre
Lima, Peru
+51 (1) 463 5070


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

When you get off the train at Xochimilco (it's the end of the line), you can just follow the hordes of people walking towards the water. No doubt you will already have several offers from different boat owners to take a trip on their brightly painted wooden vessels. It is definitely worth haggling with them a bit, I think our final offer amounted to about $5 per person for a two hour ride.

I didn't know much of what to expect on this, as reading a description beforehand didn't do it justice. Basically Xochimilco is a series of waterways and gardens on the outskirts of Mexico City. There are hundreds of boldly colored boats for hire to take you on a relaxing ride throughout. Apparently it is a popular weekend outing for the residents of the capital, although we went during the week and it was fairly deserted.

The scenery is tranquil as you float down the canals, and there are many vendor boats to offer you whatever you're craving. I was fascinated as I watched a woman floating on a canoe, making tortillas by hand and cooking them right on her boat. Another man was cooking corn on the cob on his boat. Finally, there were boatfuls of mariachis who would hang on to the side of your boat and serenade you as the two boats floated down the river together. Lots of people haggling for your dollars, too.

I highly recommend taking a trip in Xochimilco if you are in Mexico City. It is a needed respite from the hustle of the city, as well as being a uniquely cultural experience.

Avenida México Xochimilco
México, Mexico, 16500

Overview of Mexico City

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

I spent a week hanging out in and around Mexico City prior to heading off to a longer project in San Luis Potosi. I was not sure what to expect as I had heard a lot of differing opinions about the capital. In short, I found it to be busy, crowded, and smoggy, but with plenty of interesting things to offer. Like the rest of Mexico, it is full of contradictions – traditional indigenous ceremonies in front of a huge shopping mall, an incredibly efficient metro system and old fashioned market stalls.

A friend had warned me not to stay more than a few days in the capital, and a week was definitely more than adequate time to spend there. I had also heard that you can’t take backpacks on the metro – which turned out not to be true. I wouldn’t recommend it during the morning or evening rush hours, but it was no problem for me to bring it on. Actually the metro system is extremely easy to use (even if you don’t speak Spanish- it’s color coded) and it is definitely the quickest way to get around. Not to mention it only costs 20 cents for a ticket (good idea to buy several at a time as the lines at the ticket counter can get long at certain times of day).

Highlights of my stay were the Anthropology Museum, taking a river boat through the floating gardens of Xochimilco, and wandering through the neighborhoods in the outskirts of the city. If you go to Mexico City (the D.F. as Mexicans call it) make a point to stop by the vast archaeological expeditions in the Zocalo to see the thousands of years of history that is being painstakingly uncovered. I also loved visiting Frida Kahlo’s blue house, especially after watching the movie Frida. It was definitely an interesting place to visit but I’d say there is a 3 day expiration date on exploring. Finally, the city turned out to be much cooler than I expected, so bring layers.

Considering a trip to Mexico?

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by SeaTurtle on October 8, 2006

I spent summer 2005 in Mexico. It was my first visit there, although I have been back several times since then. I spent two months doing a sustainable development project northeast of Mexico city in San Luis Potosi. Beforehand, I explored Mexico City for a week.

I absolutely adore Latin America, and Mexico now has a special place in my heart. The warm and welcoming people, the scrubby corn milpas on the sides of the mountain, the steamy mild smell of tamales in a pot, the way colors seem brighter there… these are just a few of the things that make me smile and think of Mexico.

If you are going to Mexico, I recommend reading Tony Cohan’s two books about the country, "On Mexican Time" and "Mexican Days" to get yourself psyched up beforehand. I read the first one before my trip, and its sequel after returning. It is the only travel writing I have read that captures the true Mexico - the things that make it so precious and its idiosyncrasies too. All in all, Mexico is definitely a country worth visiting and falling love with!


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