In my past travels abroad, one usual reference for me to know if I am in an actual tourist destination or near it are the hordes of Chinese tourists. This group of tourists has always been my basis to ascertain if I am on the right spot.
And once I see a bunch of Chinese tourists (usually loud and boisterous), I am somewhat glad that I am actually at the correct tourist destination and that Google Maps did not fail me.
However, in Mexico City, there seem to be a lack of Chinese tour groups. I don’t miss them but I was left wondering how come they are not around. The Chinese touring population seem to have yet discover the sites and beauty of what Mexico City has to offer.
To confirm and with hopes of bumping into this touring Chinese clusters, I set a date of going to Mercado De Artesanias La Ciudadela, a colorful 16,000 square meter market that sells traditional Mexican handicrafts and regional specialties like textiles, ceramics, silver works, embroideries, handwoven blouses, blankets, guitars, etc.
I know that Chinese loves to shop and splurge their wealth every time they go on tour out of their country. La Ciudadela would definitely be the best tourist-location to find them. But to my surprise, they however were not around. I even thought that I was not at the correct La Ciudadela that I even asked a German-sounding tourist shopper if I am indeed in the right artisanal market.
Well I guess, Chinese tours has yet to discover Mexico City which for sure they would eventually will. I instead enjoyed my shopping at La Ciudadela, took a lot of photos and got myself some colorful trinkets of memories of this wonderful Mexican adventure.
In my recent travel, I spent all my visiting days in Mexico City. I opted to stay in the city and not move out or visit other places in Mexico because I prefer to completely immerse to the city’s rich culture. This of course is beside the motive of giving myself a reason to go back to Mexico. Hahaha!
Mexico City is too vast to fully explore in two weeks and it’s seem impossible to see and experience the city in just a couple of days. And what is good about staying in Mexico City is that visitors can still see and experience the old Mexico because right at the city center exists a very cool ruins called Templo Mayor.
The incredible thing about Templo Mayor is that it is right near Zocalo, the center square of Mexico Ciity. And that the existing and present city of Mexico was actually built on top of it. Its like Templo Mayor ruins is just beneath the grounds of the present modern city.
Here’s one cool lecture and quick history lesson! When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico City, it was actually an Aztec city at that time. The Aztec people known as Mexica people had a huge beautiful city. And basically the Spaniards (though they did not destroyed it), built over and on top of this Aztec City a new and modern metropolis. So the huge Catholic cathedrals in downtown Mexico are actually built on the foundation of an ancient ruin. And this ruin is known as Templo Mayor.
Templo Mayor as I noticed is still actually being studied and dug up. It is a work in progress so as to fully understand the culture, customs, civilization and background of ancient Mexico. It is so cool to know that the existing city is actually on top of another city!
And one of the major archeological find in Templo Mayor is the Sun Stone or locally known as the Piedra Del Sol. Discovered in 1790, the Sun Stone now is housed at the National Anthropology Museum of Mexico City and is considered the most famous work of Aztec sculpture.
When I personally saw such a massive monolithic sculpture, my jaw simply dropped! I could not describe the elation when I saw the Sun Stone! I could not believe that I am actually seeing the actual figure and image of the most iconic sculpture in Mexico!
This sculpture is one of Mexico’s famous symbols. It is basically printed in almost all types of Mexican souvenir items (shirts, mugs, wall decors, keychains, etc.). I did quite a number of readings about Piedra Del Sol after I have been stunned by the massiveness and beauty of it. And I have learned that there was even a poem that was composed by a Nobel prize-winning poet because of the beauty, mystery and grandeur of such an epic piece of stone.
There are a lot of different theories that historians and archeologists have about the stone’s meaning, its use and its intention. Some think it was used as a calendar and some say it has some significance concerning ancient religion, geography, politics or even something else that hasn’t yet been thought of.
But whatever its original meaning, it is arguably now the most important Aztec sculpture that exists in the world today. As for me, I prefer not to interpret nor even think deeper. I simply prefer to be marveled by the beauty, intricacy and grandeur of such a massive piece of work.
Parang gusto ko iuwi nung nakita ko yang batong yan!
If you don’t know me yet, and though I don’t look like one, let me tell you that I absolutely love books and reading. That is why when I travel, there is always a book that I would bring along with me.
So when I heard that there is a unique mega library in Mexico City and even though it is not included in Tripadvisor’s the top 15 destinations to visit in Mexico City, I know that this would be a place that I have to check out.
It’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos! I didn’t know really what to expect. But when I walked in, I literally let go of a massive gasp. It was so loud, a bunch of quiet people inside the building knew that there is an elated first timer who has just entered.
This place is unlike any other places that I have been to. The architecture is incredibly unique and it is not just like any other library but unlike any other place I have ever seen! And the more entire I went, the more incredible it becomes.
After the first initial wow impression, the next thing I noticed is just the sheer scale and size of the building. The uniqueness is that you would see people around: beside you, beneath you and above you. Some of the floors are actually thick translucent glass.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos opened in 2007 and has over half a million books. It got its name after Jose Vasconcelos who is a Mexican philosopher, a former presidential candidate and was also the president of the national library of Mexico.
I noticed that the walls are transparent and that the floors seem mismatched. It also have very intricate staircases and balconies, it reminds me of the movie Inception in a scene where things were folding on to each other. I really felt like I was in a sci-fi novel. It gave me the feeling of being set in the future which not many equally awesome buildings could do.
Biblioteca Vasconcelos is called a mega library because it is actually 5 libraries merged into one. And each one library is dedicated and pay homage to Mexico’s great thinkers.
One thing that really takes center stage inside this library is the massive white whale skeleton done by an artist named Gabriel Orozco. The whale’s skeleton, fitted onto a metal armature and inscribed with granite rings and circles, hangs suspended in midair. It seem visible from almost all sections and every point within the library.
The library is so massive, there are tons of areas where people can sit and work. Entrance of course is for free and there is free wifi. And what is best is that Tripadvisor seem to have yet discover this place as one cool tourist destination.
If you are a book lover like me or an architecture fanatic or just want to see a really unique place within Mexico City, then Biblioteca Vasconcelos is definitely worth a visit.
I planned of going to Mexico City more than 6 months ago. I purchased my airfare and booked my hotels about the same time. Problems arose along the way especially regarding the online travel agent I got who cancelled and refunded my 6-month old plane ticket 10 days prior to the actual flight and have yet to inform me the reasons for such cancellation. Two days after such cancellation, I still decided to still push through with the adventure by courageously buying a Turkish Airline ticket bound for Mexico City.
Prior to me leaving for Mexico City, lots of friends and colleagues are questioning me why I chose to do a solo travel in such a dingy and dangerous place. They relayed that they have read and heard a lot about Mexico City being precarious, unsafe and pick-pocket infested. But since it is one country that welcomes me without having to apply for a tourist visa (since I am a US and Japan multiple entry visa holder), I did not listen to friends and relatives and still push through with my journey.
Now, I am here in remarkable Mexico City, spending almost two weeks already – not that I am asking – yet I have yet to feel and experience the worry and uneasiness that my friends and colleagues has informed me. I must admit that I was a bit worried at first, but all these anxiety and fear were totally erased once I walked the busy streets of the city. This was fully reinforced when I survived a train ride during a rush hour! Besides, I grew up in a similarly perilous and dodgy City of Pasay in Manila, thus, I can actually use my innate and fully developed skill in dealing with the crooks, the felonious and the delinquents.
Similar to Metro Manila, Mexico City is vast and humongous! But I personally prefer the weather of this city as compared to the Manila weather. Mexico got 4 seasons, Manila got 2. You can never let me wear a jacket outdoors in Manila, because it is either hot or very hot!
I hate to compare but the architecture in Mexico is a bit better as compared to the structures found in Manila. Metro train system in Mexico City is of course more intricate and more reliable as compared to the rundown, often-busted and politically-exploited metro train in Manila. And though Philippines and Mexico similarly experienced more than 300 years of Spanish rule, Mexico seem to have maintained its Spanish roots because they seem to possess more European looking buildings.
The similarity between Manila and Mexico City I guess would be regarding cleanliness and the people. There are lots of people everywhere and both cities needs to improve a lot concerning cleanliness! Another similarity would be the traffic. Though Mexico has intricate and more developed metro train, its traffic is as bad as that of Manila. Both cities are traffic-infested!
Mexico City love art! One noticeable person printed on their money (500 Mexican peso denomination) is an art goddess, Frida Khalo. Also, I was actually surprised to find out that this city got the most number of museums. And even on the street, people tend to express themselves through art. Humongous mural arts, lots of colorful graffiti and numerous art performances can be seen on the streets of the city. But I guess the one thing that Manila is better as compared to Mexico would be the smile. Though Mexicans tend to be more passionate and expressive – there’s lots of sensual kissing inside the train, amatory hugging on the streets and even lgbt members freely holding hands while walking – we in Manila smile more, we seem kindlier and seem gentler as compared to the fierce and audacious people of Mexico City.
If you would ask me if I will go back and revisit Mexico City. I would definitely will!
If you are a tourist in Mexico City, a visit to a museum seem inevitable. Reason behind this is because this city has the most number of museums in the world.
For an initial Mexico City museum salvo, let me then feature not just any type of a museum. Let me introduce to you the Museo Nacional de Antropologia or the National Museum of Antropology. Reason why it is so special is because it is the most visited and the biggest museum in Mexico. It’s a staggering 8 hectares all in all!
After walking through the humongous and vast entrance area of the museum, the first this that any visitor of this museum would notice would be this…
The museum since it’s so big is divided into 22 different section halls. I started with section 1 of course, the Introduction to Anthropology and planned to finish all sections in one visit. But after an hour and a half of marveling at various features (I reached half of section 4), I started to feel some sensory overload. I started to feel so overwhelmed that I can’t seem to take in so much anthropological stimulus and information anymore.
Since I have seen so much, I started to slow down. And instead of trying to see everything, I tried to just really focus on few specific things. I then decided to head straight to the section where there are most number of people. That is at the Mexica section or the hall number 6.
I was not surprised anymore that this seem to be the section where there are lots of people. It is because this is the hall that houses the most emblematic exhibit of the museum, the Piedra Del Sol or the Sun Stone. This is so special, that I think I will write separately on how I felt seeing this Aztec sculpture.
Other exhibits that caught my attention were…
I highly recommend this place to those who are interested on human societies that thrived, lived and existed in Mexico or simply being a tourist in Mexico City. The National Museum of Anthropology is located within the Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. And lucky me, it was free entrance for everyone on the day I visited! With the grandiosity of this museum, I was all but willing to pay the seventy Mexican pesos entrance fee!
Last year on my birthday, I went to the Love Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey, and surprisingly met an angel in disguise. This year on my birthday, I went to Mexico City and saw the cloak of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.
My birthday this year was really special because I got to visit the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe! The basilica that houses the very popular cloak in which the image of our Lady of Guadalupe has been miraculously been impressed and printed so as to authenticate Virgin Mary’s apparitions in the area.
My birthday this year fell on a Saturday yet there was a Holy Mass service held in the basilica when I arrived. This gave me the opportunity to hear a Mexican Holy Mass and say humongous thanks to the Lady of Guadalupe for the rare travel gift of experiencing the amazing city of Mexico.
The modern Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe is vast and massive complex. It is the most visited Marian shrine in Mexico because it houses the cloak containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is interesting to know that the new basilica was only completed in 1974. The old basilica (finished in 1709) on the other hand is just adjacent to it but is already sinking. Its floor has got some deep slope and its façade has evidently tilted. It looks like it will dangerously fall and crumble anytime.
My prayer to the Lady of Guadalupe was all about my being thankful that I got to experience Mexico. I did not asked for any miracle because my seeing and marveling over the beauty and holiness of the cloak during my birthday has been one major miracle for me already.
I have always thought that airport transits and layovers are synonymous to pain, discomfort and boredom. Sleeping on benches, agonizing people watching and killing time at a dreadful airport is no one’s ideal cup of tea. I can still recall the throbbing soreness of my skinny butt during my 10-hour transit in Qatar airport when I was on my way home from Morocco in 2009. But this preconceived idea I have with me about airport transits and layovers has been erased.
Thanks to Turkish Airline which offers free tour of their magnificent city, Istanbul! On my way to Mexico City from Manila, I have a 9-hour layover in Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. Instead of proceeding to the transfer lane after disembarking the plane and wait for my next flight, I instead proceeded to the immigration line to show my Turkish visa and have my passport stamped so as to enter Turkey.
After which, I proceeded to the Turkish Airline’s hotel desk/counter at the airport and told the staff that I would like to join the free tour of the city offered by their airline. The staff then simply asked for my boarding pass and asked me to wait for my name to be called.
I was sipping my Starbucks coffee when my name was called. And, viola! Goodbye airport and hello (again) dreamy Istanbul…
No one wants to sit in an airport for so long but almost all wants to see the world’s greatest cities and save some money while doing so. This free airline stopover tour offered by Turkish Airlines can be considered one of the best money saving idea for a travel enthusiast like me. Istanbul stopovers can now be considered a great travel trick for it can further expand a traveler’s destination.
And aside from that, I can now boast that I have been to Turkey twice! The tour was brief yet Turkish Airline is giving me reason to revisit their mesmerizing country…