Posts Tagged With: adventure

Why Mexico Rocks!

 

We all know that Mexico doesn’t exactly have the best P.R. reputation at the present. Homicides, kidnappings, drug cartels, etc. And then, of course, we have the situation with Trump. It seems like Mexico is the last place anyone wants to visit. Over the Christmas holidays, I traveled through this amazing country, and I’m here to share with you why Mexico rocks and why you should consider a trip there.
Most of my countrymen – and other foreign nationals – prefer to stay at resorts on the coast, such as the Mayan Riviera, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. Prior to my trip, I had only gone to Tijuana on a day trip from San Diego. I didn’t have the best impression from, and many Mexicans that I had met over the years told me Tijuana is not exactly authentic Mexico. So over two weeks, I traveled through southern Mexico, starting in Mexico City and finishing in Playa del Carmen. I hit hotspots such as Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Campeche. It was fantastic! Even Mexico City etched a special place in my travel memories! I also felt as if I had experienced things that resort-goers rarely experience. Furthermore, I didn’t feel unsafe during my entire trip.

So, what makes Mexico so special?

1. A foodie’s paradise – tacos, tlayudas, mole, enchiladas, the freshest peppers and spices, the list goes on! Note: Mexican food here is not like those typical Tex-Mex restaurants; it’s a whole new ball game, and the food is much spicier. Still, you will not be disappointed with Mexican gastronomy. And if you are looking to up your cooking skills, this is the place to learn. When I was in Oaxaca, I came across a renowned chef, named Gerardo, and his cooking school La Cocina Oaxqueña. Not only did I learn some new skills, Gerardo was an amazing teacher and hospitable. He first takes you to a local market to buy the ingredients, and then brings you to his house to do all the cooking. Totally worth a day out of your time in Oaxaca!

20200101_144624

Typical tlayuda.

2. Civilizations past – you know them! The Aztecs, Olmecs, Mayans, etc. A visit to Mexico is a chance to step back and time and trace these Pre-Hispanic civilizations. When you’re in Mexico City, you will be in the old Tenochtitlan. This was what Mexico City was called prior to the Spaniards’ arrival. It was also the center of the Aztec Empire! It’s mind-blowing to know that you are in the land of some of the most interesting ancient civilizations!

3. Natural wonders – this is a piggyback to point number two. Chichen Itzá, Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, Palenque, etc. Some of these are considered to be the great wonders of the world. Another natural wonder is a cenote. Cenotes, which are scattered in the Yucatan Peninsula, are natural sinkholes in caves. They offer a natural dip in an underground lagoon, where the visitor is soon congregated by minnows and other small fish. I visited one near Merida, and it was definitely a trip highlight!

20200106_113515

Cenote

4. It won’t break your bank – Mexico is cheap compared to other places out there. You can easily have a plateful of tacos and a beer in a taqueria for six U.S. dollars. And Mexico is a great place to practice your bargaining skills when you visit the local markets. They are also optimal for authentic souvenirs. In short, a trip to Mexico will definitely be easy on your wallet!

5. Friendly locals – despite what you may have heard, Mexicans are really friendly, and they really want tourists to visit their country. They are fully aware of the negative narrative going around. I struck up interesting conversations with a few locals (it helped that I’m fluent in Spanish), and I found them to be helpful.

A few helpful tips to Mexican travel:
1. Brush up on your Spanish – this will make your trip more enjoyable, and it is a must if you visit Mexico City, or CDMX as it is colloquially referred to.
2. Include Mexico City – it’s not as bad as P.R. makes it look out to be. With great restaurants, and a chance to discover Aztec history, this city should not be excluded. It was my favorite place, and IMHO, no visit to the country would be complete without CDMX.

20191228_093102

Mexico City

3. Download Uber – taxi drivers have a negative reputation in CDMX, and Uber is a safer, more reliable way of getting around this colossal city. I used it to get to the city from the airport. Just know some basic Spanish, as most Uber drivers don’t speak English.
4. Invest in a money pouch/belt – do not carry your wallet in your back pocket for obvious reasons. It’s better to have your money and passport inconspicuously stored.
5. Buy a SIM card – don’t expect reliable WIFI here. A SIM card means you will always have reliable WIFI. They are inexpensive and the data included will last you your entire trip (just don’t stream videos).
6. Travel in an organized tour – not comfortable traveling alone? No problem. I advocate investing in an organized tour, such as G Adventures. This way, you will be traveling in numbers with someone who knows the country inside and out.

So, I hope you are now more convinced about Mexico. If you’re still not, that’s okay too. Happy traveling!

Categories: My Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Farewell Ottawa!

For some of you this may come as a surprise: for the past 11 months, I was living in the Canadian capital. But now in less than a week, I will be leaving her for my new life in Poland. But I guess you’re wondering what brought me here in the first place. Why didn’t I blog about my experiences here? The truth is…I just didn’t have the time.

DSCN0990

I came to Ottawa to pursue a second masters degree in Applied Linguistics. It seemed like a good idea, and that it would open more doors for me. I had a full scholarship, including a TA position.

However, this seemingly good idea turned out to be a sour one. I soon discovered that I had gotten myself into something way over my head. The workload was very demanding, where I would be holed up either at home or at the library working on research papers and endless readings. Classmates were too busy to socialize, exacerbating the situation. As a result of this time consumption, my WIP got put on hold, my posts stopped appearing, and ultimately I witnessed an attrition of followers – both on social media and my blog. My TA deal wasn’t any better. The professor I was assigned to mistreated me to the point where I had to consult my union.

I began to realize that this quest for a second masters was doomed to failure. I had been in school long enough, and needed to return to the working world. And while I was at least enjoying Ottawa, my next adventure could not include her.

Despite the hardship of my university experience, I managed enjoy all that Ottawa had to offer. It’s truly a unique experience to spend an extended stay in the capital of one’s country. In Ottawa, it’s a big city with a small town feel, where outdoor activities are plentiful all year long! As I prepare to depart my nation’s capital, I reflect on some of the highlights of my time here:

  1. Skating on the Rideau – dubbed the longest outdoor skating rink in the world. I think every visitor to Ottawa should try it. Just remember it’s not like skating on a regular rink (pretty bumpy).
    DSCN1368
  2. Attending Remembrance Day ceremony at National War Memorial – the best part is when I saw the prime minister’s wife from afar!
  3. Curling – I actually learned to curl last January, and glad I took lessons. Much harder than it seems!
  4. Bike trails – these I will miss the most! The best one is along the Rideau Canal, where you can bike downtown. I definitely recommend investing in a bike to those planning to live here for an extended period of time.

 

Many apologies for not sharing my Ottawa experiences with you. It was just burdensome to share something, which for awhile was causing great pain. However, I am definitely looking forward to Poland as I have dreamed of working abroad for many years now.

Until next time!

Categories: Life | Tags: , ,

South America Here I Come!

Machu Pichu In Peru

 

 

In just over a week, I will be heading off on a month-long trip to South America – 34 days to be exact! It seems like only yesterday when I first booked the flight back in September, and now the days are numbered until I set foot on a new continent. Rather than bombard you with countless paragraphs, I thought I would give the nitty gritty through a Q&A panel:

So where are you going exactly?

Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. I fly into Lima and fly back from Buenos Aires.

Alone or with friends?

I’ll be joining up with a small tour group in Lima where we will begin our South American odyssey.

What will be the highlights of the trip?

Visiting Machu Picchu, crossing the Salt Flats of Uyuni in Bolivia by 4×4, exploring the lake districts of Chile and Argentina, and getting lost in the metropolises of Santiago and Buenos Aires.

How will you get around?

A mix of using coach buses, trains, car rentals and internal flights.

Did you have to get any shots?

Yes, five of them. Three in one day, I might add, ouch!

What are you looking forward to the most?

Obviously Machu Picchu! But I’m really looking forwarding to seeing Chile and Argentina as well, since they are both such fascinating countries rich in history.

What will be the most challenging?

I would say when we journey through the Salt Flats, where I have been told can get really cold. We’ll also be camping there for three nights, and I’ve never camped before! That, and adjusting to the altitude when we get to Cusco; it’s 12,000 feet above sea level, which is four thousand feet higher than Machu Picchu! I’m hoping I don’t get Altitude Sickness.

What about the language barrier?

That’s the beauty part, there won’t be any! I speak almost fluent Spanish as I hold a degree in it, and I lived in Spain for over a year.

Will you get any writing done while you’re there?

Unfortunately not, unless one counts writing in a journal. I’ll be constantly on the move, and any free time will be spent relaxing, doing laundry and keeping friends and family back home posted.

What souvenirs do you hope to bring back?

Lots of photos and memories of course! I do collect fridge magnets, so I’m hoping to bring one back from each country I visit.

Why South America?

It was a toss up between this, Japan, or Australia and New Zealand. I made my choice and I stick with it! I’ve always wanted to go, and I figure it’s now or never. I wanted to visit other Spanish-speaking countries. I’m fortunate enough where I will have a month off work as it is a slow time at the school where I teach English. When will I ever have this opportunity before retirement?

 

Categories: My Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Blog at WordPress.com.