Thursday, July 28, 2011

Belize 2 - 10 July 2011

Arriving back to Cancun at midnight due to our 11 hours flight delayed, we bid our final farewell after spending almost a month together. Elena has to go back to France to start her summer work. She has been a great travel buddy. It’s a pity great time always has to end somewhere.

I checked in to the same hostel in Cancun for a night before leaving to Playa Del Carmen. Fernando hosted me again, this time for 3 nights as I have to get my power adaptor fixed. I was happy to see him again as he is a really nice guy to chat with and spend time with. Weather wasn’t fantastic, cloudy and windy everyday so I decided not to dive Cozumel. L
I left on Thursday to Chetumal, the border city of Mexico with Belize. Here I couchsurf with Jad and Guy. They are both from Lebanon. I stayed in their big house with their great hospitality. This will be my last stop in Mexico. From here I took a boat to Caye Caulker, an island off Belize.

Caye Caulker is a famous island for diving and snorkeling. I was looking forward for some good diving here since I missed Cozumel. The famous Blue Hole! The Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 kilometres from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, over 300 metres across and 124 metres deep. Blue holes formed during past ice ages, when sea level is 100–120 metres lower than at present. At those times, these formations were subjected to the same erosion from rain and chemical weathering common in all limestone-rich terrains; this ended once they were submerged at the end of the ice age.

I checked in to Bella’s hostel on this small island. US$7.5 per night and this was the cheapest in town. I have a bed on the ground floor sharing the same space with the owner. The backyard is a mangrove area and mosquitoes farm so is not really suitable to swim. It was raining a lot when I was there so the mosquitoes were having a fiesta. Worst time to go out in dawn and dust. Millions of mosquitoes will eat you alive. It was impossible to stay here without a mosquito repellent. The hostel was comfortable but not fantastic. The first 2 night at the hostel was a nightmare as there was a group of party animals upstairs which blasted loud music till early morning.

Belize is known to be an expensive country to travel in Central America. It is damn true! 2 dives with equipments at the nearby Hol Chan marine park cost US$100 and 1 dive in Blue Hole plus 2 dives around Half Moon island cost US$125. I got a 10% off as a DM J. As I was desperate to go diving, I paid for it! I did 2 dives in HoL Chan marine park, a 30mins boat ride away from the DC. It has beautiful reef and gradual slope down to the outer reef. I was excited to be diving in the water again after 8 months. I had my new camera and I was under weight for the first dive and that kept me occupied. J Filling up my BCD with rocks didn’t really help. :-p There were lots of groupers and sweet lips. 2 eagle rays swim side by side with me on the second dives. I think this was my first time getting so close to an eagle ray.

Back in the hostel, I met a group of guys, Dimitri from Canada, James from England, Andrew from Ireland and Nimrod from Israel. Dimitri wanted to dive the Blue Hole too, so we buddy up. It was nice to have a buddy who is into diving too. We dove the Blue Hole! We were at 43m and we felt the NARC! The huge stalactites hanging off the cave seems much bigger J I took a few shots and slowly did my ascent. Oh ya the DC here took OPEN WATER students to this side too with 6 dives in their belt!! I am glad to buddy up with a more experience diver. J Thank you Dimi!! The next 2 dives at Half Moon Island reef were awesome, beautiful soft coral reef and lots of fishes. If not for the cloudy weather, this place will look remarkable.

Oh right we arrived during the lobster season! I had lobster for 2 nights, it cost around US$20 for a huge lobster plus 2 side dishes and a dessert. I left after 5 days, moving on to San Ignacio, border town of Belize and Guatemala.

San Ignacio is 2.5 hours by bus from Belize City, a small town with the biggest weekend market in Belize. This town is famous for its adventure ATM tour. What is ATM I will explain later. So I took a local bus from Belize City but instead of getting off at San Ignacio, I overshot the town. There was a big group tourist on the bus which I understood they were going to San Ignacio but they end up going straight to their hostel 10km off the town. I got off the bus together with them to check out the hostel, it was nice with huts setup in the jungle but they were fully booked by this group. I have no choice to head back to San Ignacio. I hoop into a taxi back to town. I finally found a nice hostel to checked in, Tropicool Hotel US$15 a night for a private room. Just 20 mins after I checked in, a fire broke out next door. It was burning down a wooden shop house. The fire engine came in minutes to start putting down the fire. I repacked all my stuff again to standby in case the fire spread over but lucky it was put down by the firemen and neighbors after an hour. No one was hurt in the fire, the 4 kids who was in the house run out after their TV exploded.

Dimitri joined me the next day from Caye Caulker. We had planned to visit the weekend market early in the morning and leave for the ATM tour at 9am the next morning. The weekend market which is the biggest in Belize was a big disappointment. There were no handicrafts or any handmade rugs. Only vegetables, food and clothing. We left for the ATM tour at 9am. ATM stands for Actun Tunichil Muknal. The name of a cave. It is the Belize most spectacular cave. The cave is a Maya archaeological site that contains skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. The most famous of the human remains is known as "The Crystal Maiden", the skeleton of a teenage girl, probably a sacrifice victim, whose bones have been completely calcified by the natural processes of the cave, giving it a sparkling, crystallized appearance. We were given a helmet with touch, those who can't swim will be given a life jacket. We started off by trekking 45 mins to the cave entrance, crossing the river three times and arrive at a big hour glass shape entrance. We have to start off by jumping into the chilling water. Yaiks! It's cold!! During the 3.5 hours climbing thru limestone rocks and bolder and swimming thru water stream, our guide explain us the Maya history and their believes. We saw 4 human skeletons, plenty of pots, rock formation that was carved by the Mayan to resemble jaguar, face of the rain god, and weapon used for sacrificing. We had a great adventure, it was worth every single penny.

Leaving Belize the next day to Flores, we stop by the Xunantunich ruin. It wasn’t spectacular as compared to those in Mexico. We took a taxi to the border, as usual at the border town, people will try to rip you off. A guy wanted to take commission from us by being helpful but we just walk across the border and walk about 50m away from the custom office to find our shuttle to Flores. To leave Belize we have to pay BZD37.50 = USD20. Belize is definitely expensive!

Mexico, Cancun – Mayan Hostel - P110 pp/pn in a 8 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, WIFI available and breakfast included
Belize, Caye Caulker – Bella Hostel – US$7.5 pp/pn in a 7 bed dormitory with shared bathroom, WIFI available
Belize, San Ignacio - Tropicool Hotel – US$15 for a private room with shared bathroom, WIFI available

Cancun to Playa Del Carmen – P45 by bus
Playa Del Carmen to Chetumal – P162 by bus
Chetumal to Caye Caulker – P515 by boat via San Pedro
Caye Caulker to Belize City – BZ20 by speedboat
Belize City to San Ignacio – BZ10 by chicken bus
San Ignacio to Border – BZ20 by taxi

2 dives at Hol Chan marine park( – US$90
3 dives at Blue Hole and Half moon island( – US$180
ATM Cave tour( – US$90
Xunantunich Ruin – US$5

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CUBA 20-26 Jun 2011

Elena and I booked ourselves a return ticket on Cubana airline from Cancun to La Havana @ US$276. At Cancun airport we were asked to pay about US$20 for airport tax and 130 pesos Cuba Visa. We finally got thru after 1 hour. As we enter the plane we noticed that it looks old, the seat can be folded forward instead. As we were about to take off, tons of smoke starts flowing out from the air con hole and water starts dripping from it. We thought it was funny and took some video of the scene. It was a short 1.5 hours flight and thank god we landed safely! We were really excited now as we were queuing for our passport stamp. I was clearly surprised when the immigration officer starts to speak to me in mandarin! He has studied in Beijing for a year and speaks fluent Chinese. Another surprise was to find out that I actually do not need to pay for visa to enter Cuba, stupid of me to pay in Cancun as I wasn’t thinking coz I did checked before I got my flight ticket that Malaysian do not need a visa for Cuba. There goes my 130pesos…L

We were welcomed by Laura at the airport, Elena’s friend. She has arranged for us a place to stay, they called it Casa Particulars, they are local that rent out their room in their house, and they have to legally register to the government to rent out their room. At their door they place a blue sticker that looks like a big alphabet I. Yellow is for rental to local Cubans only. They pay certain amount of money monthly to the government to be able to do this. This lets us experienced living with the Cuban. The room is usually air condition with attached toilet. The owner Carlo and his wife was lovely people, they have a big house. We were also 1 block away from Elena’s brother’s place. We paid 15CUC pp/pn = US$15. We plan to stay 2 nights in Havana, see Havana for a day and leave to Trinidad the following day.


Havana is the capital city of Cuba, a city with its unique colonial buildings, building that looks like they just went thru WW2, 1950s car, Fidel Castro face all over, Cuban music, Mojito, Cigar and Rum. Nowhere else in this world can brought one back in time like how Havana did. I think one just needs to put on black and white sunglasses and you are back to the 50s. :-)

The next day we ventured to the Central Havana after sorting out our bus ticket to Trinidad and I got into some money problem. Ya! Disaster! I can't withdraw money from my Citibank card. I was told I can withdraw the money with my passport at the bank counter. So we plan to do that first thing in Trinidad. So we took a local bus called “Guagua” to the central. We walked from the Capitol building thru old Havana to Ave Del Puerto then strolling thru all the old streets, it was really beautiful, the feeling of out of the real world. People here are overly friendly, from the unstoppable whistling and "hola" by the Cubans (young to old) while we walk on the street, taxi driver stopping us at every corner, stare from everyone on the street. Cuban who chats with us and offer us a "free" walk, asking if we want to buy a cigar, asking where we are from, they only managed to guess I am from China, Korea and Japan :-) it was a really interesting day.

There is so much stuff that shocks me as I learn from the Cuban how their life is rule by the dictator. Everything is controlled here, from what they can do to what they can buy, they have “limited” freedom I would say. They still use the booklet to get their monthly supply, anything extra they will need to pay for it... sometime in peso sometime is CUC. Oh ya there are 2 currencies here, the local peso and the convertable peso (CUC) foreigner usually transact in CUC. 1 US$ = 1 CUC, 1 CUC = 20 pesos. Sometimes we can eat for as cheap as 0.25 CUC at local stall, but mostly at the touristic place we need to pay around 5CUC for a meal.

We arrived around 2pm at Trinidad, our host pick us up at the bus station. We explored the beautiful streets, not to mention the hassle I had to go thru getting some money, I was not able to withdraw money from my CITIBANK card as it is an American bank. I have to sell my Travelers Cheque at the bank to get some money and borrowed some money from Elena :-( Well luckily we managed to find some local stalls that sell food at the local pesos, a breakfast of bun with fried egg and a coffee cost CUC25cent.
Trinidad is declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 with it's colorful old colonial houses lies on a slope of a hill. Pebble stone road pave between the colonial houses. I wasn't expecting it to be so pretty. Walking on the stone pave road gives a kind of foot massage to the feet but at the end of the day, it's awful. :-( There are more than 400 Casa particulares here to choose from. We settled with a casa recommended by the lady at the ticket counter at La Havana bus station. It has a nice room on the roof top with TV, Refrigerator, attached bathroom and roof top balcony @ 10CUC pp/pn. The owner Rionaldo and his wife were nice. They offered us a nice dinner at 5CUC served at the roof top. They also rented us a bicycle for the 2nd day at 2CUC each.

At night we went to the famous Casa de la musical for some salsa music, it was good, there were live band and performance, we finally get to dance some salsa with some Cubans. Some of them are really good dancer, especially the older man. :-) We were told later that it is illegal for the young Cuban to dance with the tourist, if they are caught they will be jailed for a day and 30pesso to be released. This rule applies only at the Casa de la musica area. We are not sure why at other area of the town it is not a problem. It doesn't make any sense for me. The 2 cuban guys who dance with us stuck to us all night long like glue, after the first dance they wanted to have a relationship. Oh gosh! And they decided to skip their work the next day to join us to the beach. Lots of them do this to get away from their country.

On the 2nd day, we rented a bicycle and cycled to the beach, we stop at La Boca beach for a swim and the 2 Cubans spent the whole day with us. We finished the day at the deserted Playa Ancon 12km away. We had the entire beach for just the 2 of us. Oh the 2 Cubans dare not follow us to Ancon because there is the illegal area for locals. :-)

At night, there was a pre-festival of Trinidad. We met up with the 2 Cubans again and they were worried about the police checking them at the Casa de la musical, they suggested we go to the festival where it is not a problem. The pre-festival is not really great, not the kind of music I was expecting.

Next morning we pack and leave to Varadero. Varadero is well-known for its beautiful beach. It was damn true! The long stretch of white beach and turquoise water makes a perfect postcard photo. Our Casa particular is 100m away from the beach, we soak in this huge swimming pool and get more tan! Prices here are more expensive from Trinidad. We have not much money left for Cuba, lucky we found a local bread shop that sells reasonable price for pizza and pasta. We only spent 1 night here, took the next day bus back to La Havana.
Laura’s has invited us to hang out with her and her brother. Daniel cook us delicious dinner, the 2 of them are really hospitable. We can’t thank them enough. On the last night in La Havana, we just went walking in Old Havana and sit by the Malecon and enjpy some nice rum.
Since we didn't book for any Casa Particula in Havana, we crash at Daniel house illegally. The next morning, we took the antique taxi to the airport, cost us only 1 CUC per person. Our flight which was scheduled to leave at 12:55 pm got delayed to 11:30 pm at night. :-( Luckily the airline put us all in a hotel with a room to rest a buffet lunch and dinner. :-) That ends our trip to Cuba.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chichen Itza-Tulum-Playa Del Carmen-Cancun, Mexico 12 – 20 Jun 2011

We took a 9:15am bus to Chichen Itza and booked an ongoing bus from Chichen Itza to Tulum at 4:30pm. We arrived at Chichen Itza around 11am, stored our bags in the luggage area and off we go exploring the place. The entrance fee is 161pesos, same price as Uxmal as there were Archeological fees.

We were prepared for a place full of tourist and vendor selling souvenirs. We were not surprise!
El Castillo
Chichen Itza means “at the mouth of the well of Itza" Chichen Itza's El Castillo was named one of the world new 7 wonders apart from* The Great Wall, China
* Petra, Jordan
* Christ Redeemer, Brazil
* Machu Picchu, Peru
* The Roman Collesseum, Italy
* The Taj Mahal, India

We entered to see the massive El Castillo (the castle) dominating the center of Chichen. It is a step pyramid that has a ground plan of square terraces with stairways up each of the four sides to the temple on top. We are not allowed to climb up to see what’s up there. When we were standing right below the stairways and make some noise like clapping, the echo of noise reflects back to us from the top of the pyramid. :-) Weird!
Observation tower
We spent the next 4 hours visiting every single stone building around and did some shopping as well. :-) This place is well worth the visit as the large area covers lots of different type of buildings plus english explanations.

On the bus to Tulum, we slept thru. Arriving in Tulum town at 7:30pm, don’t feel like heading to the beach, we just check into a hostel in town, grab some food and went to bed early.
Robin arrives from Palenque in the morning to join us to Tulum beach, all 4 of us found a cabana by the beach for 450pesos per night. We were happy to finally be at the beach after few weeks of city, ruins and jungle. We drop our bags, got change and head straight to the beach. Wow! It is a paradise! White sandy beach with turquoise sea and coconut trees. We chill here for 3 days refusing to move to anywhere else. Every day we sat by the beach bar, have a beer or cocktail, suntan, soak in the water, beach volleyball and snooze. This is the best time I had so far. I remember this moment strongly.

On the 3rd day, we all have to leave reluctantly as we have to meet people in Playa Del Carmen. 45mins up north is this touristic beach town of Playa. Robin borrowed a car from his friend, we decided to go snorkeling at the nearest cenotes. It was a good choice, we swam in the fresh water caves, crystal clear water and chilling temperature. It was refreshing! That night we spilt as we all had our host house to go to. We met up the next day again at Playa Del Carmen and chill at the beach. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurant to go around, and a lot of American tourist here. We miss Tulum!

At night at Playa is also a place to party, we can easily find a bar with ladies night and have free drink all night long. Over the past few weeks travelling, I have really hit my quota of liquor. There was not a day that I didn’t have a cocktail or beer. :-)

I was hosted by Fernando for 2 nights at Playa, he is a really nice guy. He helps me a arrange diving at the Cenotes dos Ojos, 2 dives at USD80, including pick up and lunch. Cenote Dos Ojos means 2 eyes, this place was discovered in 1980 when a helicopter checking for fire in the area found 2 holes on the ground which looks like 2 eyes. It was my first fresh water dive and first cavern dive, I love the infinite visibility. J It was really an awesome experience to swim into these big caverns with the eerie sensation. Beautiful formation decorated with stalactic and stalacmic.

The next day, we sign up for a snorkeling trip with whale sharks! It cost us USD115 each, it was not my first time to see a whale shark but definitely my first time to see over 30 whale sharks swimming around! J The weather was not good, rain and cloudy and sea was choppy. Most of them had sea sick on the boat. We get to snorkel with the whale sharks with the guide, they are very strict with no touching the whale shark, I was glad. J Only 2 to 3 person is allowed in the water at any one time with the guide, they ensure we do not swim in the way of the whale shark. But sometime when the whale shark chooses to swim in our way, we can’t escape. J I had a great time swimming with these gentle giant.

Well well, it was time to said farewell to Robin and Juan, they both have to go home. I was glad to have met them and had a great time together. Elena and I will be leaving to Cuba from Cancun on the 20 June 2011 for a week. We met again in Cancun on the 19, it was a rainy day, we decided to watch The Hungover 2, it was hilarious and I get to watch it without any censored. :-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Palenque and Merida, Mexico 7 - 12 Jun 2011

Palenque 7-9 Jun 2011
It was a long bus ride from San Cristobal de las Casas to Palenque. Elena and me  weslept half the way, we arrived Palenque around 2pm. We met Juan from Argentina when we got off the bus. He doesn't speak English :-( he is also going to El Panchan. So we took a quick lunch and catch a collectivo to El Panchan. Collectivo is mini van just like a bus that picks up and drop off passenger on the road towards a fix destination. We found a room for 3 at 50pesos per night/person at Jungle Palace. It is a hidden paradise. I love this place, it is in the jungle just off the main road 2km from the Palenque ruins. We are surrounded by trees, birds, monkeys, lizards, ants and mosquitoes. I was lucky to catch a glimpse of a Toucan on the tree.

We head to Palenque Ruins the next day. Palenque ruins is scattered in the dense jungle, entering thru the jungle entrance and a huge pyramid emerge from the surrounding trees. The area of the ruins has been restored and maintained, we were able to climb up to some of the structure. The best view is from Templo de la cruz where we oversee the El Palacio and the endless jungle. We met Remie from France while we were having a rest in the ruins.  He then joined us and show us the way to the nearby Waterfall. It was a great idea in this hot weather. We spent the rest of the day soaking in the pool of the waterfall. J

We planned to visit Misol Ha and Agua Azul waterfall the next day. In the morning we met Robin from Holland, he decided to join us as well. So the 5 of us took off to town to sign up a package. Remie decided to take the local bus on his own as he wants to save money. Misol Ha is a small waterfall with a cave under the fall. We had 1 hour swim there. Agua Azul is really incredible. There are layer of falls one after another, pool of clear water as we walk up the fall. We play we soak we chill for 3 hours here. It was a wonderful day.

We bid farewell to Robin and Remie. Juan, Elena and me took an overnight bus to Merida. We have a quick change at the bus station and get ready our cold wear for the overnight bus.

Merida 9-12 Jun 2011

A tough night on the bus, none of us have a good sleep. We arrived at Merida at 6am, feeling exhausted. We found a hostel just next to the Zocalo, it was 130pesos per night/person. We took it anyway. The hostel is in the old colonial building with high ceiling and big windows, we stayed because they prepared great breakfast. J Elena and I decided not to couchsurf since Juan is not a couchsurfer and we love his company too. After breakfast we had a stroll around the city, check out a museum, had some food and some shopping. We all needed a nap that afternoon. J

At night after dinner, we head out to look for a party place, we walk and walk for about 5km and we finally hear some salsa music from across the street. There were some old couples dancing salsa,L since we had no other choice we decided to have a drink there. The night turns up to be good with a great performance from the band.

Next day we took a bus to Uxmal ruins just for a day trip, Uxmal is 1.5 hours from Merida by bus. It was another hot day.  The huge Magician Pyramid is unusual among Maya structures in as it is oval or elliptical in shape, instead of the more common rectilinear plan. Uxmal was in better condition than many other Maya sites thanks to being unusually well built.

We finished by noon unfortunately we found out that we have to wait for the 3pm bus. So we decide to hitch hike. After several failed attempt we finally got a truck. The truck driver and his assistance were really nice and friendly. They were transporting pig’s food to Merida. They drop us near to Merida to catch a bus to town. It was my first hitch hiking, I wouldn’t try it alone. J

This night we decided to cook in the hostel, we bought some rice, veg and beer. I cook the rice and Juan fried them with tomato and pepperoni. The owner of the hostel was offering us food as well. Really nice people. Not a bad idea after all.

At this point in time, we were quite tired of ruins or pyramid but there is still one more that we cannot miss. That is Chichen Itza. It is located on the way to Tulum. We packed our bags again the next day and head to Chichen Itza before on the way to Tulum.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Puebla, Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico 29 May - 7 Jun 2011

Puebla 29 May - 2 Jun 2011
Puebla is a colorful city with over 2000 churches and delicious food. I spent 4 great days here with Roberto my host whom can speak Mandarin, Bahasa and several other languages. He is very well travel and he love musical instrument, history and language.

Roberto has spent his free time showing me around Cholula that is off the beaten trek. I was really grateful for the hospitality and kindness of Roberto and his family.

The 3 spectacular places here would be the Tlachihualtepetl Pyramid (The Great Pyramid of Cholula), Tonantzintla Church and the Popocatepetl volcano. My tongue gets entangle when I pronounce these names. :-)

Tlachihualtepetl Pyramid (The Great Pyramid of Cholula) is the biggest pyramid in the world. However as the Pyramid is mostly covered by grass and hill, the scale of it is hidden. The church that is currently standing on top of the pyramid was built by the spanish.
Photos download from
Tonantzintla Church is also located in Cholula, due to some reason, no photos are allowed in this church. The interior of this church is spectacular. It consist of an exuberant decoration with indigenous motifs such as angels with plumes of feathers, with garlands of flowers, attire eagle knight and indigenous features, fruit and plants . All this shows a mix of pre-Hispanic world and the Christian world. Looks really weird to me.

Popocatepetl stands at 5,426m, a live volcano which is still puffing. It has been hidden from me till finally she reviewed herself on my last night in Puebla. Popo’s snowy and glacier-clad has melted on the peak during these warm weather. The view is magnificent.

I also like the city of Puebla with its vibrant color and artisan streets. Food here is heavenly delicious, I love the huaxmole pork with bean stew and cemita bread. The Pitaya fruit is sweet and juicy, it is similar to dragon fruit but tasted much better. The authentic Mole Poblamo is chicken drumstick top with brown source, a bit too sweet and heavy for my taste.

Oaxaca 2-4 Jun 2011
Oaxaca is 4 hrs south of Puebla, the capital city of Oaxaca state. The city along with the archeological site of Monte Alban was named a World Heritage Site in 1987. There are 12 different type of indigenous people in Oaxaca, they specialist in weeding and textile. They made beautiful handmade cloth, robe, blouse, dress and matt. Really colorful,  I wish I could carry them home. L

 I only spent 2 days here but it was good enough to see the important sites. My host Pedro and Alessandra was a great couple who show me the city at night. We went to concert, performance and bar hopping.

Here I met another couchsurfer Elena from France and we travelled to Monte Alban, Tule and Hierve El Agua (Boiling water) together, she can speak Spanish fluently so is easier for me to go around with her help.
world biggest tree

At Tule, I saw the world biggest tree, I almost drop my jaw! It is more than 2000 years old, it is so large that it was originally thought to be multiple trees, but DNA tests have proven that it is only one tree.

After spending a day together, we found out that we have almost the same plan moving forward, so we decided to take the same bus to San Cristobal de las Casas and plan to travel together to Palenque.

San Cristobal De Las Casas 5-7 Jun 2011
11 hours to the east of Oaxaca, we took the overnight bus and arrived 7am in San Cristobal. Woken up by the cold weather really shock us. We both split as we each have our own CS host. My host Marco is a bicycle tour guide. I arrived on 5 Jun which happens to be Earth Day. He has organized a cycling event in town. I was given a bike to join the tour. It was a fun day, we went around the city with a police car leading the way. The chilling weather really makes the cycling enjoyable. After a tough day of cycling, we head to a “cantin” a local bar which serve beer and food. They give free food with every beer we buy. J So we ate a lot!
The next day, we went cycling to San Juan Chamula. It is situated some 10 km off San Cristóbal de las Casas at an altitude of 2,200 meters. We cycled thru hilly road going thru small villages and farms, it took us about 2 hours to arrived. At some point I can only walk and push the bike uphill, huffing and puffing away. The purpose to visit this village is to see the special church in the village. They have their own unique culture. They still speak the maya language, the woman still wear their  traditional clothing and they have a unique way of praying in the church. They sacrifice chicken in the church for healing ceremony. They also offer liquor, coke, pepsi and burn a lot of candles. They chant prayers in an archaic dialect of Tzotzil. This place is really weird to me. I was lucky Marco has given me a brief explanation before we came.

After 2 nights in San Cristobal and only 1 shower (weather and water is freezing), Elena and me we left to our next destination to Palenque.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mexico City, Mexico 23-29 May 2011

1 USD = 11 Mex Peso

After a 10 hours flight from Japan to Dallas, a 5 hours delayed at Dallas and another 2 hours flight, I finally arrived in Mexico City, the local call Mexico City as DF. My first sight of DF was on the plane, for a moment  I thought the plane is going to crash into the city. J The airport is just right in the city of Mexico. My CS host Georgina came to pick me up in the airport. Her mother and brother welcome me to their home, I was their 2nd CS and coincidently the 1st CS they had was also from Singapore. I was given a quick tour of the area, they live at the western side of DF near to Cuatro Caminos station. It’s a secured area with blocks of flats just like Singapore HDB. From here to Zocalo is 12 stops away. It cost 3 pesos for each trip to any station.

With the jetlag and long travelling day I slept till noon the next day, I started my first day in MX with a relaxing Touribus ride around the big city. It took 5 hours to go around including some stopover. I had a chance to get my direction right around the city for the next few days. While I was in the city, I noticed there were policemen stationed at every 5-10m. I felt a bit worried coz usually you dun see a single one in Singapore. Which means when you have police everywhere, it means the city has lots of crime. I was very careful with my bags.

It seems to be very common to have a few demonstrations on the street everyday here. When I was at Zocalo(the square), the sight is full of tents and people, like a Pasar Malam (Night market) Later I found out that these people were retrench from the Electical Company a year ago and now they are on strike demanding for money that they didn’t get. All these strikes has add on to the bad traffic problem which DF already bad. Due to overcrowded cars in DF, the government has to implement a system where each car has a day of not going on the road each week. And the government is also promoting bicycle in town. Ecobici has more than 1,000 bikes and 85 stations in the the city. An annual membership costs 300 pesos (about $23). The first 30 minutes of rental are free, the next 30 cost 10 pesos ($.80), and additional hours cost 35 pesos ($2.70) each. One can take and ride and park the bike at any stations in the city. Taking the Metro in MX is cheap but the train is not air condition, during this hot weather taking the Metro is like going into sonar. L And they drove the train like driving a F1 car, you really need to hold on to something before it take off.

Food in Mexico varied from the 3 main “T” Tacos, Tortilla and Tortas. J It was nice for first few days but after that I get tired of them. I was lucky so far that my host from couchsurfing was able to speak English and gave me lots of information to get around. When I have dinner with them, I will have a chance to try something else like Escamole, Cochinita pipil, Gringa, etc. The food is great!
Mescal is the famous drink of Mexico, made from Maguey-a kind of plant that looks like aloe vera. There are different type varied from the type of plant, where they were grown and how old they were harvested. It is usually drink by sipping it and then follow with some salt and lime to smoothen it. They sometime use the worms that live on the Maguey plant to make it into powder form and mix it with the salt. It tasted good!
I had my fair share of museum and churches in DF, time to get to my first pyramid. :-) Georgina’s mom was so cool, she accepted my invite to come with me to Teotihuacan, in a way she also became my tour guide for a day, I was so grateful. Andrea who spoke few words of English and me who spoke few words of Spanish head out to Teotihuacan with my little Spanish/Eng dictionary. We somehow managed to communicate and had a really great day! J Teotihuacan is approximately 40 km northeast of Mexico City. The site covers a total surface area of 83 km² and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It has 2 enormous Pyramid, The Sun and The Moon Pyramid. The Sun Pyramid is 738 feet (225 meters) across and 246 feet (75 meters) high, making it the third largest pyramid in the world being slightly smaller than Great Pyramid of Giza (230 meters), but much smaller than the Great Pyramid of Cholula (450 meters).

After spending 4 days at Georgina’s place, I had to moved on to my next host at the area of Napoles. Leo and Mag have a beautiful apartment and 2 dogs Romina and Lorita, they are friendly yet fierce. We spent the Sat together doing some rock climbing. They are very passionate about the sport. Unfortunately I have to leave to Puebla on Sunday otherwise I will enjoy another day of climbing with them.