I had the best time in Mexico over Christmas break. It’s funny because at the time, most of the time, I felt like it was just another trip. Now that I am back to my regular life, I’ve often found myself reminiscing about my trip and realizing more and more how absolutely fantastic it was and how lucky and blessed I am that I got to do and see all these amazing things and experience so much vivid living!
I visited two parts of Mexico that couldn’t be more different from each other. One was Mexico City, the capital of the country, tons of people, fast paced, older style architecture, solo trip, lots of museums and history, hostel living, loud, high elevation, constant traffic jams, wild temperature swings requiring more than a fleece in the morning and a tank top by high noon, not a lot of foreigners compared to Mexicans, lots of indigenous people, crowded streets, lower cost of living/budget travel … I could go on and on.
And then you have Playa Del Carmen and surrounding areas, tourist capital, tourist trap (yes, I said what I said. lol), beach life, a hotel room, travel buddy, more foreigners than Mexicans, warm tropical weather, lots of bathing suit clad people, non-solo travel, high cost of living, more relaxed pace, island hopping, boat trips, visiting one of the 7 new wonders of the world, water sports, and so on. It was like I visited 2 different countries or had 2 holidays for the price of one!
I had never been to either of these places before. I had been to Cozumel once (which I visited again on this trip while in Playa Del Carmen) on a cruise stop in 2012 but I didn’t remember much of it. I had been to other parts of Mexico like San Luis Potosi, Aguas Calientes, and Monterrey, but Mexico City was the place to be, I’d heard. It was the capital of the country after all, and every Mexican I’d talked to highly recommended a visit. Hence, it earned a spot on my travel bucketlist.
I had barely landed in Mexico City airport when I started to lose money; every budget traveler’s nightmare. First, I changed my money at a very horrible exchange rate. All my money, not just some of it. Rookie mistake. Actually, for more on this, check out my instagram page and watch my IGTV video (available only on the app I think) to see how to avoid losing money when you change it. Next, I somehow managed to request an Uber XL instead of just a regular Uber. So you can imagine how much more this cost me. Nevertheless, I was determined to have a great first day so I tried to put it all behind me and focus on all the fun I would be having the next few days.
My hostel was located right in the city center or zocalo. While this was good because I was right in the middle of a lot of action, it was also constantly loud which posed problems when it was time to sleep. There were people in the street talking, people playing musical instruments, music from DJs at nearby clubs, cars honking, garbage trucks getting the trash, etc. The zocalo was always busy with people selling things, people walking around, street artists dancing and performing, people getting their souls cleansed (yeah, it was quite interesting to watch), people going in and out of mass, people going in and out of the subway, marches and protests, you name it.
In Mexico City, I was able to explore several areas like the zocalo and the nearby museums, experience the metro at rush hour and past midnight, Coyoacan where Frida Kahlo lived- including her house which is now a museum, the pyramids at Teotihuacan and climbed the pyramid of the sun and pyramid of the moon, Chapultepec park (which is in a different area of Mexico City and much more modern and upscale and larger than Central Park, I might add), the arena where wrestling takes place and even watched a match (they call it Lucha Libre and it is definitely a different kind of wrestling- rather “interesting”), salsa classes, drinking new things like mezcal (stronger than tequila apparently), horchata (rice water), and jugo de jamaica, eating adventurous things like cow tongue tacos and watching someone eat cow eye tacos. It was always something wild and surprising everyday!
I met a lot of cool people at the hostel. The first night, I met a girl from Australia who was also traveling solo at the time. She was really friendly and had quite a similar vibe to me so I hung out with her the most. Then I met some crazy people (the good kind of crazy, the solo traveling, live your best life, young and free, yolo kind of crazy). Lucy from Australia as well, who had been living in Denmark but was currently traveling through Mexico and South America for a few months. She was the female life of the party.
Then John (or was it Jake?), again from Australia- there were a lot of Australians. Noelle from Switzerland, who I don’t think could have been more than 19. She said she was just done with high school and taking a gap year before starting university. She had spent a semester (or year?) schooling in Michigan as an exchange student so we bonded over that. One time when we were talking she suddenly stopped me and asked with a confused look on her face “so how old are you?”. I said 29 and her eyes became as big as saucers! I’d never felt so old. LOL. But it was all good.
There was Joel from Switzerland as well, he was also just traveling through the country with no real plans but to just wake up each day and find something fun to do. He was the male life of the party. Joel was very intent on remembering my name. Every time he saw me he made sure to say my name and find a way to incorporate it into most sentences. It was hilarious, especially because he wasn’t saying it quite well but he was so proud of himself! At a point he called me Amarula, Amaboola, … At least he made an effort.
So the cow tongue story … My first night there, I went with them to grab dinner and we ended up in this hole in the wall restaurant (most of the restaurants in the area were hole in the wall) and that was where I had the cow tongue taco. People thought I was being brave but what they didn’t know was that I had eaten cow tongue before. I played along. However, when my food arrived, it was literally a tongue! It has barely even been cut up (the one I’d had previously was diced and just looked like some type of meat) so there was no ambiguity- it was definitely a tongue!
After I started eating it, I guess they decided it was time to up the ante and dared another of the guys to get the cow eyes taco because we fully expected to see eyeballs staring back at us on the plate. That was rather anticlimactic because the eyeballs (if they were even eyeballs) were mashed and weren’t even white- they were red so it just looked like regular beef. He still ate the eye taco but I didn’t have the heart to finish my cow tongue tacos! LOL.
In Playa Del Carmen, the highlights of the trip were island/beach hopping- from Playa Del Carmen to Cancun, from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, then to another private part of Isla Mujeres on a party boat. There was snorkeling at some point and I really really wanted to do it as I’d never done it before, but I got scared as the ocean was really choppy. Thankfully I still got to snorkel a few days later, and for free! The other highlight was visiting Chichen Itza– one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Even though we never located our tour guide, it was still fun. And then best of all, I swam in a cenote (with a life jacket on) and it was heavenly! I highly recommend it.
All in all, it was a great 10 days in Mexico and I am happy I decided to go there for the Christmas holidays as those memories will last for a lifetime and if not, I have these blog posts to remind me as well as my pictures (that will soon be) on the cloud :).
Stay tuned for my next blog post that will be a day by day itinerary of what I did each of those 10 days as it could help you plan your own holiday. Or better still, contact me to help you customize your very own trip!