• Take me down to Mexico City where the queues are long and the tacos are pretty (awesome)

    Mexico City, known as DF to the locals, is Mexico’s sprawling mass of a city, choked with people but I actually chose a pretty good time to visit Mexico City, over the Easter Weekend when much of the city empties out as Mexicans head for the beach. Still I got a brief glimpse of its normal rush hour chaos when I arrived on the evening of the last working day before the holidays, in the midst of a tremendous thunderstorm. As I fought my way through the crowds in Mexico’s subway, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid slipping on the large amounts of standing water caused by the fact that it seems large amounts of Mexico City’s Metro isn’t particularly waterproof, I hoped that my predictions of the city being quieter the next day were accurate. Although this thought was then driven from my mind as the subway tunnel I was walking through descended into almost complete darkness in order to show off glow in the dark images of the cosmos on the ceiling…. A fine idea perhaps, but combining rush hour crowds, slippery services, and near total darkness really can’t do much for their insurance rates…

    Large square with large mexican flag

    The Centre of Mexico City

    The next day however I was greeted with no rain and significant less people. At first…

    I’d decided that as I knew very little about Mexico a good place to start would be its national museum. Only it seems one or two other people had this idea too, as approaching it I stumbled upon a queue of patiently waiting Mexicans stretching back for hundreds of metres and a “TWO HOUR!” waiting time. I was so gobsmacked by this that at first I didn’t even realise it was the queue for the museum and so just walked straight on by it, assuming erroneously that they must have all been inline waiting for something else that would justify the extreme amount of time they were willing to stand around doing nothing for. Free Mexican food served by naked supermodels perhaps…

    I am British, I am supposed to like queuing and on several occasions, particularly at a bus station in Hetain in China, have physically stood up to protect this blessed concept, but this was too much. This was the definition of “loco“. I wasn’t going to queue for two hours just for a museum, hell I don’t even think I would have queued two hours if it had been for free tits and tacos…

    Mexico City vista

    Even the view of the city from the hill people were queuing up didn’t look that great

    Luckily it seems Mexico City has the highest number of museums of any city in the world, so finding an alternative museum proved really easy and it just so happened to be a really excellent one.

    Mexico city (5) Mexico city (4)
    The National Museum of Anthropology. It is an excellent primer on all the various meso-American cultures that existed in pre-hispanic Mexico, as well as explaining how various aspects of these cultures have endured. It is genuinely a must see if you are going to spend any time exploring Mexico and want to get some context behind its mish-mash of cultures and peoples. Its only real issue is perhaps being too big and too comprehensive. It is almost impossible to see the whole museum effectively in one visit. Yet by being in only one museum instead of two it has the effect, when you are a tourist, of making you feel you have to see it in one sitting. So if you are ever in Mexico City and have the time, I would advise you deliberately set out to only see half of the museum on your first trip and then try to factor in time for another visit later.

    Carved skull

    It was great to see art and sculpture so visably different from what I had become used to in Asia

    Stone disk with carvings

    The Aztec Calender Stone

    Stone trunk

    Top marks if this makes you think of an old Lucas Arts adventure game…

    Oh dear oh dear 
    I ended up celebrating Good Friday the only way it should be. Well actually it was just about the last way I thought you could celebrate it – with Mexican Pro Wrestling. Of course the wrestling obviously had nothing to do with Easter really, it’s on all the time in Mexico, because the Mexicans love wrestling. Although with the participants wearing masks it felt like watching violent gymnastics mixed in with some S&M role play. Even putting the masks aside (and they are available everywhere to buy and a number of spectators in the arena were also sporting them) I would have to say that this was the weirdest night of wrestling I have seen. Now as I have only ever been to see wrestling once before (discounting stag party activities involving more shapely wrestlers and mud) this might not seem an impressive achievement, but given that the previous wrestling match I saw involved Barry from the Chuckle Brothers I will argue that this is still a high benchmark of weirdness and that it was only through the face masks, the fact the wrestler called Terrible’s special move was to kiss his opponents and that he had a little person helper who would sit on the heads of prone opponents and then later get beaten up when Terrible and his team lost, that it was bested.

    Mexican wrestling ring

    Lets get ready to rumble?

    The weekend of a national holiday did not seem like a good day to visit the temple ruins at Teotihuacan given how I’d just discovered how dedicated it seemed Mexican’s were to queuing and my plan had been to see them first thing on Monday instead, once everyone was back to work. However seeing things with other people is always more fun so having found several other travellers keen to visit it that day, I once again naively thought that the queues surely couldn’t be that bad….which of course they were.  Like the National Museum, and like many of Mexico City’s metro stations, the prime cause appears to be that there always seems to only ever be one ticket window from which everybody has to get their tickets.  This is particularly frustrating on the metro.  The system has a flat 5 pesos fare, it couldn’t be more suited to having a few automatic ticket machines lying around, but there are none, instead everyone queues at the one single ticket window…



    Temple of the Sun

    The Temple of the Sun – head round the back for best views with no people spoiling your shot!

    Shocked by the queues my travelling companions decided that before queuing up it would be best to locate the toilets. A passing worker helpfully pointed us in their location, although rather unhelpfully these were in fact inside the park which obviously we couldn’t get into without tickets. So I ended up offering myself up as a deposit, willing to wait outside by the ticket gates whilst my friends did what they had to do. After what seemed like some significant time had passed I started to wonder if my friends either need to get themselves an appointment with a urologist, or, having now gained entry to the park, had decided to abandon me. This didn’t seem very polite but if the boot had been on the other foot I would probably have been rather tempted myself… But after sometime one of the guys returned, a Moroccan guy called Zaid, who could speak Spanish, and after some furtive conversations with one of the ticket checkers, got me and the rest of us in, for the equivalent of only 50 cents more than the proper entry price.

    Guy doing martial arts with temple of the sun in background

    Everyone was Kung-Fu Fighting!

    Teotihuacan is an impressive site, although having since seen several Mayan ruins deep within jungle settings, it does look rather humdrum in comparison. It’s also important to remember its not an Aztec site. The Aztecs, who actually called themselves the Mexica, (hence Mexico) didn’t come along until nearly 800 years after Teotihuacan seems to have been abandoned. The Temple of the Sun is huge and offered the potential for great views so we went of to climb it, only to find it swarming with people staggering up it like asthmatic lemmings and that if we wanted to join them there was yet another queue! Again, Mexican queuing standards amazed us all, with all these people somehow willing to embrace a two-hour wait in the blazing sun with no shade, in order to climb a breath-taking number of steps up to the top, again, all without shade from the heat of the sun. We collectively baulked at the idea of joining them and instead explored the rest of the site and climbed up the Temple of the Moon, which was queue-less and although you could not actually reach the top it still offered spectacular views.

    A temple within a temple within a temple…
    To see actual Aztec ruins, you need to head to the heart of Mexico City, where, right next door to Mexico City’s giant, slowly sinking, cathedral, are the excavations of the Aztecs most important temple at the centre of their city of Tenochtitlan upon which Mexico City was built on top. Only as Tenochtitlan itself was built on artificial islands in a lake, the centre of Mexico City, and the ruins of Tenochtitlan have been subject to rather a lot of subsidence.

    Building visibly subsiding

    That sinking feeling…

    The coolest thing about the ruins of this temple is its Russian Doll like method of expansion. Everytime the Mexica empire increased its power and felt the need to expand its main religious building, it did so by simply covering the whole thing with mud and earth and then rebuilding a slightly larger version around it. The excavation makes these different layers really apparent and its truly fascinating.

    Side view showing temple shells within each other

    Thin shells’ of past temples now all thats left

    I suppose before I end this probably overly long blog post I also need to say a bit about food. In Mexico City I have eaten more tacos than I had ever previously seen in my life. The street food in Mexico is amazing, and in Mexico City it is ubiquitous, particularly outside metro stations. Annoyingly in some other cities it has proven harder to come by, so my advice is to make the most of the opportunities in DF whilst you can!

    Avocado with bite take out

    I didn’t take a photo of the many, many tacos I ate, but did of this avocado variety with edible (but not particularly tasty) skin

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