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MEXICO-OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

A trip to Merida and Oaxaca

sunny -27 °C

Amita and I have traveled all over the world but one country we really wanted to visit was Mexico mainly because of its history, amazing geological features, and rich cultural heritage. It is recorded in history that many regions of the United States were part of the Mexican Empire, but that is ancient history and let us move to the modern age. Incidentally, Mexico is one of the world’s favorite tourist destinations. The most famous being, Mexico City, Cancun Beach, among others.
We live in the Philippines, in Manila, a crowded city, and you may know that the Philippines has some of the world’s loveliest beaches. Thus, we wanted to explore the attractions off the beaten track. Season wise February/March was a good time to visit Mexico and Amita started her research well in time. Her research is very detailed and in contact with whoever can help her with better. Her research includes checking all details, hotels, rooms, surroundings, and let me tell you, we always get one of the best deals, rooms, and locations. She finally zeroed in on Oaxaca and Merida because of their history, culture, and sightseeing options.
We traveled from Manila to Los Angeles by the 5-star All Nippon Airways with a short two-hour layover at Narita. The lounge at Narita Airport is fabulous with all kinds of food, Japanese snacks, soft drinks, juices, tea, coffee, and alcohol. There is a sushi counter where you need to stand in line to get your sushi. Japanese are really innovative and that shows the way the beer dispenser is designed. Once you put your glass on the stand and select your brand of beer, the container holding your glass will tilt and then the beer trickles down slowly. As the glass gets filled, the container gradually straightens up so that you get a glass of beer with just the right amount of froth. Cool.
The flight from Narita to Los Angeles was not bad, about 10 hours. The Japanese food in the plane was interesting with 12-14 different items of varying colors, all in small quantities but good. Once we reached Los Angeles International Airport, after a long walk to the Immigration Area, we had to stand in line for about two hours. A bit tiring but that is life. We stayed one night in the Embassy Suites by Hilton, quite near the airport as our next flight was at 10.30 am the next day to Merida with a two-hour layover at Houston. At the Houston airport, Amita’s niece, Ujjaini Grigg (Munni), and her husband, Murray, came over, and we spent some time over coffee and tea.IMG_20200820_190522.jpg IMG_20200820_190605.jpgAmita and Munni must have met after more than 40 years.

We promised to meet again during our return journey, when Munni’s mom, who is Amita’s cousin, will also meet us at the airport. After a pleasant hour, we continued to Merida, in the Yucatan Peninsula, by American Airlines reaching about 8.00 pm.09D574B1DC58C140569BBB0433282EFA.jpg

A taxi brought us to our hotel, Casa del Balam, an old-style hacienda, on Calle 60, very near to the City Center, called the Centro. Merida, the capital city of Yucatan Province was founded in 1542, was built on the top of the Mayan City of T’Ho. The layout of the city is grid-based with odd-numbered streets running east/west and even-numbered running north/south. The streets are called Calle, for example, Calle 61. 09A01AF6BFB1E2D5467D3A90E02C2CE1.jpg

An interesting feature in Merida is the street crossing markings. At these corners, one building will have a terra cotta tile on which an image is painted or embedded. Each of these tiles, about 264 were in existence. I have seen many, such as a dog, a lady, various birds, a scorpion, and so on. It is believed that each of them has some significance or story. These were probably installed to help illiterate people to identify their location.IMG_20200823_104011.jpg
Source: maryloudriedger2.worldpress.com
Merida is a warm place especially when we were visiting, but considering the so many nice features, such as excellent food, colonial buildings, wonderfully friendly and proud people, and lively/festive mood of the city, I think we had made a good decision of visiting Merida. Just walking around the lively street with interesting shops, colonial buildings, colorful showrooms, the busy restaurants, musical concerts at the park, finely dressed people dancing in front of the church, the military/police band can keep you entertained throughout the day.
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A tour of the city is a must as you see many parks, historic buildings, and modern ones.
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We had a Mexican breakfast of Tamale and Huevos Rancheros in a restaurant near our hotel. The security guard of our hotel kindly walked us to the restaurant. Fantastic food and excellent service. We always check out the local specialties and delicacies, of course, all after Amita’s research.
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The Yucatan province has many historical and archaeological sites such as the Mayan temples and cenotes. Many of these are within short distances from Merida. We went on a day trip to see the Mayan temples and cenotes. The most famous and well-restored is the Uxmal which was the capital of a Maya state. Some reports indicate that Uxmal was founded in around 500 AD by Hun Uitzil Chac Tutul Xiu. Some of the wonderful structures there are, the Governor’s Palace, Throne of the Jaguar, Nunnery Quadrangle, and Pyramid of the Magician, among others. It was wonderful to stroll around the structures and appreciate the ingenuity of the Mayans.
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This is a truly wonderful place to visit and learn about ancient Mexican history.

We then visited a couple of cenotes. A cenote is a natural pit or sinkhole resulting from the collapse bedrock that exposes the groundwater underneath. Cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya sacrificial offerings (Source-Wikipedia). There are about 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula of many sizes and different accessibility from the surface. The cenote water is generally clear as it is mostly rainwater. However, the water in cenotes near the sea coast is salty.

The first cenote we visited was Xbatun. It was not crowded. The water was cool and clear. The cenote is not very large but beautiful. You need to walk down some steps to reach the edge of the pond. Snorkeling masks and life jackets are available.IMG20190219124324.jpgIMG20190219123905.jpgIMG20190219124527.jpgIMG20190219122635.jpg

Many of the cenotes attract cavern and cave divers who swim underwater from cenote to cenote, of course with an expert diver as a guide.

Not very far away is the Cenote Dzonbakal. It is managed by a rural community. This is another beautiful cenote open to the sky. Wooden steps have been installed to go down to the edge of the water. IMG20190219130318.jpg
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On the way back we stopped at Hacienda San Pedro Ochil (place of the fox in Maya) for lunch. The website of Yucatantoday provides an interesting insight into this restored hacienda. It was originally built among the pre-Hispanic settlements and finally in the 19th century, the present structure evolved.
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Source: Cristiano S. foursquare.com

The main house is a restaurant where we had great Mexican food, Cochinita Pibil, which is slow-cooked pork wrapped in banana leaves. The hacienda has its own cenote and amphitheater, a museum. You can also see the henequen plants, the drying racks, machinery, chimney and chapel, trolleys, and rails.
The hacienda is also a wedding destination. 10FE8F25FD75DAA6C73BB9E6A0638C7E.jpg

On our way back, we passed a quaint little town in which there was a market with a fruit seller playing wonderful music with his guitar.4890EAEDFF820D00F50BDF97BB7801FD.jpg488E9C25A54B4F13D864ECB3CFCDEF38.jpg

On 21 February 2019, we traveled from Merida to Oaxaca by Interjet Airlines. There was a stopover in Mexico. As usual, Amita researched and selected Hotel Siglio XVII on Calle Porfiro Diaz, no doubt, one of the best hotels to stay in Oaxaca. It is a fully restored 17th Casona (meaning large house). It was probably a nunnery. There are two square patios after the entrance lobby. Both patios are surrounded by verandahs and rooms. The first patio includes the kitchen, open dining area, offices, and an art gallery. It has a sliding roof in case needed. The second patio is a beautiful garden with a wishing well, surrounded by verandahs and rooms. The roof has a garden, a lap pool, a bar, and a gym. 44E074D3D1389C94B3FE9E8DCEFF362F.jpg44DDDE51A2F9EC4C14559D530DAEE03C.jpg

The breakfast has a lot of variety and good. The staff is extremely pleasant. The hotel is well maintained, neat, and clean, ably managed by its Manager, Adriana.IMG20190225171200.jpg

Oaxaca is the capital city of Oaxaca State. The Spanish arrived here is 1521 and set about building a Spanish city. In 1872, the name of the city was changed to Oaxaca de Juarez, in honor of its most famous, Benito Juarez who served as the president of the country from 1852 to 1878. The city is the primary attraction for tourists, especially the cultural and historic buildings and monuments. Further, the lovely fun-loving people add to the charm and fun. There are many churches, monasteries, and parks, the most notable is the Almedade Leon Plaza and the Santo Domingo de Guzma Church. 485D48A0D87D683F3860F262965B4A87.jpg
A lot of cultural activities are held all through the year, especially around the Church and the zukalo (park) which can be considered the center of gravity of the city. You can hear the music by the symphonic orchestra,IMG20190224122933.jpg
and watch people having fun, A80AF2EAA5342C23306C1C5420D74AEA.jpg watch people dancing to its music, A995DB48E86A26FB480F60147F6D75C4.png
see funny dance shows, Screenshot..18-49-18-45.png,
admire the stuff being sold by colorful peddlers, IMG20190225181110.jpgIMG20190225175527.jpg
and also a fiesta.A7095C76D97204D725CED00A8FFC9600.jpgA708C6A4B72813E45ED5731F273C4FAB.jpgA7080B8100D01644E623F819ECE382F4.jpgABD42310A4E18FCA141D90F4C834EF8D.jpg
You can also visit the nearby markets like the Benito Juarez market and mescal shops. Mescal is sold in the streets as well. Other things on sale are jewelry, toys, food, and other household day-to-day needs.
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Oaxaca and the nearby more ancient Monte Alban were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

We celebrated Amita’s birthday on 22 February in Oaxaca. ABFF2516BBF629496ED8CA721D71B003.jpg
About 70 kilometers from Oaxaca, there is a very interesting site called Hierve el Egua, meaning “the water boils”. The site consists of two waterfall-like rock formations called cascadas petrificadas or petrified waterfalls. These have been formed by water that comes to the surface through cracks and fissures on the mountainside. The water is saturated with calcium carbonate and when it flows slowly down the rock face stalactites are formed. Then there is the cascade chica, also known as the amphitheater.

There is a natural platform about sixty meters wide and contains four springs. The water from these springs collects in small pools and two artificial pools. The color of the water is turquoise due to the presence of minerals. D7E79079922C10DED4811E5246163348.jpgD7EAFBADDDA9EFE663EC03D0F4684014.jpg

This is a wonderful place for a day trip, swimming
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and photoshoots.D7F1A7BE9E45F4AACBFDB3B670688996.jpg

About 9 kilometers from Oaxaca is the ancient archaeological site of Monte Alban on a low mountain range from where you can see the city of Oaxaca.D96B8C080A68AB0F33747F0FA53903C2.jpg
It is believed that the city was formed in 500 BC. At the entrance, there is a lobby and a museum. This site was actually a complete city with a population of more than 5000 people. D991D9FCDC0BDCD0FF9A804903B1F751.jpgD995AB76B57C39AF231ECF6D620E2193.jpgD9998F23ABC20BA9035D5DE4F561A1D6.jpgD985E65CC57DA547435A1FFAB441DCD0.jpgD96D4D80DAB963B60E1343C458E741EF.jpgD962FD74C56388B83591074BAB2C8A67.jpg

The center of Monte Alban is the main plaza surrounded by many buildings located around it along with many carved stone monuments.
A favorite site for tourists, therefore an early morning visit is recommended. You can hire a local taxi and keep it waiting for a couple of hours. D9709317FC030F0864D3C2ED5B920A0D.jpg

We had one final shopping to do which was a zapotec rug. We drove to a village named Teotitlan de Valle, which is a weaver’s village to buy one.
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Well, it was time for us to leave this wonderful land and friendly after two weeks of exploration and fun. We flew from Oaxaca to Houston where we had a four transit time and as planned we met with Amita’s cousin, Mayadi, Ujjaini, and Murray.
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After this wonderful holiday, we returned to manila via Los Angeles where we stayed for a few days.
WONDER WHERE WILL BE GO NEXT?

Posted by ajaysg 01:12 Archived in Mexico

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