Two trips outside the city that were must sees: the canals of Xochimilco and the ancient ruins of Teotihuacán.
Xochimilco: about 25 kilometers south of the city center used to be a lake in ancient times. The residents of this area continued to build up islands to cultivate crops until the lake became a series of canals. They now ply these canals with a “Venice” type party boat atmosphere – but first you get to wander through a deliriously long, graphic and winding market as you make your way through hawkers who try to get Gringos to go on a 45 minute boat ride for $20. We found the “lanchas collectivos”, paid our $1 and off we went up the canals.
It turned out to be one big floating party, where many Mexicans rent these boats, load up on beer and food and have a great day on the water… even get married. No worries if you didn’t bring anything, vendors would pull up and sell you food (they cooked it right on their little boats), drinks, or even a nice “shrubbery” (insert Monty Python reference here). One weird thing was a section of old dolls hanging in trees – a little girl had drowned and in an effort to appease her spirit, a local (now deceased) fished the dolls out(or pieces thereof) to placate her spirit. The gallery pictures(link at end) and video(9 Meg WMV File) say it all…
We cruised up to one end, had a bit of lunch at a canal side restaurant and made our way back. One note for anyone traveling to Mexico, a quesadilla flores, has cactus “flower” in it…bitter and… well… bleh….
The next trip is a must see if you are in Mexico City, Teotihuacán. It is an ancient city, which was its own civilization (like the Mayans) around the birth of Christ and lasted until about 750 AD. At its height the city supported 85,000 residents. The funny thing was we booked a tour for about $50 and as we waited for the bus to leave, we found out that they were cancelling it because there were not enough people. We decided to just take the city bus up there to the site and ended up saving $40.
The place was enormous, includes the sun pyramid (third largest in the world) and you couldn’t help but wonder “Where did everyone go?” and “Why didn’t they take these hawkers with them?” We are now convinced that there are 3 things that will survive a holocaust: Cher, cockroaches and hawkers. Other than having to say “No, gracias” every 10 yards to bow and arrow, obsidian and jewelry sellers, it was quite an impressive sight. We’ll let the gallery pictures and video (6.6 Meg WMV File) speak for themselves.
For more neat pictures of these places, see the Mexico City II gallery.
Next stop Morelia, the capital of Michoacán.