Mexico, A Beautiful Country, A Dangerous Destination??
Mexico has the reputation of being "dangerous" and a country that many people had told me to not go due to my safety. Mexico ranked poorly in the Reputation Institute's in 2013 with the score of 47 out of 100, and had barely any improvements in 2016-2017. Mexico's reputation ranked poorly due to the country battling a bloody war with the drug cartels that resulted thousands of people dead/missing, and the a number of alarming reports in Mexico about violence and murders. With this said, and my awareness of the situation, many wondered why I still wanted to explore and learn more of Mexico than visiting the usual tourist spots like Cancun, Cozumel, Cabo, etc. I didn't want to make any judgements without experiencing it myself. I wanted to see more, more of their culture and what the country can offer. (Photo taken by Marc. A)
Planning The Trip
My best friend from middle school was born and raised in Mexico. She has always shown her love and passion about her birthplace. I have always been intrigued by the country due to the fun and exciting stories she had told me in the past. While others are busy warning me the risk of visiting Mexico, she was more delighted and excited to show me more of the positive side and the many reason on what to love about Mexico. After many years of talking about it, we finally decided to go this summer along with our friend Marc. Fly to Mexico City, then take the road from there.
Accommodation & Safety
Our first stop was in Mexico, City. We were picked up by Estefania's cousin, Alex, who was super kind enough to take us around Mexico and who pretty much became our tour guide the whole time. Safety was not an issue surrounding myself with someone I know and the locals who knows their way around. Lets be real here, going to a country you are unfamiliar with is always a risk. There is a crime anywhere in the world and all I can suggest is for you to stay alert. Common sense is the key when traveling. Don't do something you're not suppose to be doing, and don't go anywhere you're not suppose to go. Trust your instincts.
We stayed in Hostal Boutique Tamayo (Casa Tamayo). A hostel that is owned by Estefania's family in Coyoacan. It was a clean and comfortable hostel that is great if you are looking for something affordable to stay in Mexico, City. The people that works at the hostel are very helpful and friendly. It was my first time staying in a hostel and I am so glad my experience was wonderful. Thanks to their warm-welcoming!
Even though we didn't get to their place until almost midnight, her whole family stayed up and waited for us. They prepared us some delicious dinner and a welcoming tequila shot that is right in the middle of our plate. Way to welcome their guests! salud! ;)
Exploring A Few Areas of Mexico On The Road
DAY ONE What is the better way to start your day? Eating a traditional Mexican breakfast in the local market before we head on for a road trip! Don't they look pretty excited??
1. Teotihuacan Pyramids
We began our road trip and made our first stop to see the Pyramids. Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub-valley of the Valley of Mexico. The mysterious pyramids were built around 100 BC as the centerpiece of an enormous ancient city. The Aztecs called the ancient architectural marvel the Birthplace of the Gods. Alex sister, Gala, also came along for the fun!
(Photos from Teotihuacan taken by Marc A.)
Due to not being aware of the altitude, I seriously thought I needed to work on my incline workouts more because I was running out of breath, which is very unusual for me. It was later on when I found out we were almost as high as being in Aspen, Colorado...
After visiting the Teotihuacan, we ended the day in the city of Pachuca. Pachuca is a city in central Mexico. It was formally known as Pachuca de Soto, the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Hidalgo. The Monumental Clock is a neoclassical tower in the main square, Plaza Independencia.
Arriving in Pachuca, there were a few places we wanted to see. We were so grateful for a great weather while visiting Mexico. The whole time we were there, it was mostly sunshine with 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. Exploring around the city took us about the whole day.
3. Huasca De Ocampo (Primas Basalticos & Real del Monte)
Located less than an hour from Pachuca, we drove to see the Prismas Basalticos, or Basaltic Prisms of Santa María Regla. The Basaltic Prisms of Santa María Regla are tall columns of basalt rock that line a ravine through which water runs from the San Antonio Dam.
We also visited the cute little local town to walk around and to grab something to eat before we head to Real Del Monte.
(Photo of me taken by: Marc C.)
In the afternoon, we headed to Real Del Monte. I was so glad I brought my jacket because it was pretty chilly up there! It felt like winter. They did say it snows during the winter up in the mountains. Real Del Monte had so many cute little boutiques, a lot of local eateries, free museums and colorful colonial buildings that were quite charming. We tried visiting the famous cemetery where a known "clown" was buried, but it was closed when we made it up to the hill.
4. Grutas de Tolantongo
Tolantongo is a box canyon and resort located 1.5 hours northeast of Pachuca and three to four hours northeast of Mexico City. The views were spectacular and mountains were gorgeous during our drive up.
Grutas de Tolantongo offers hot springs and beautiful waterfalls. We visited the two main grotto and the larger grotto has a cave, which temperature rises noticeably and it is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Visiting here, I immediately felt like a tourist. We were probably the only asian in the area including Marc. It's pretty obvious that the place is mostly popular for the locals and not many tourist go here. There were also a ton of people so we had to walk further to avoid the crowd.
(Photos below taken by Marc A)
At the end of the day, we headed back to Mexico City, which took us about 4 hours. It was a very long and tiring day indeed.
5. Mexico City
On our last full day, we decided to head back to explore Mexico City. Mexico City is the densely populated, high-altitude capital of Mexico. It is known for its Templo mayor, The Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico and the Palacio Nacional. All of these are situated around the Plaza e la Constitucion, the massive main square also known as the Zocalo. They offer upscale shops, renowned museums and gourmet restaurants cater to modern life. Here, we also saw one of the most beautiful post office I've ever seen!
We also met up with a few found friends who later on joined us for dinner!
After a whole day of exploring the city, Estefania's family made a reservation to have dinner at a local Mexican restaurant called La Coyoacana, to celebrate our last night. They wanted us to try their native drink called "mezcal". I was not quite sure exactly what mezcal was but I sure found out at the end of the night. (hah!)
There is more of Mexico than beautiful beaches, caves, ruins and more. During my trip, not even once I felt like my life was in danger. I felt safe. What I appreciated were the people. Their respectful gestures of saying "yes ma'am, no ma'am, thank you and please every time I speak to them, truly caught my attention. I also noticed that many people were always happy. Family bond is undeniably very important, which something I found pretty amazing. They are not afraid to show their affection and their love for one another. Their culture is very rich and lively. Hosting parties at their homes plays largely and making visitors feel comfortable is a large part of their values and customs of the country. Their love for music is one of a kind and they sure know how to have fun!
Is it safe to travel to Mexico?
While it is true that there are risk when you travel away from home, you also run the risk of being hit by a car when you walk out of your front door. It is obviously safe to travel to most parts of Mexico if you exercise common sense. Most crime happens to unsuspecting travelers. Educate yourself and learn about your destination. There were a few times that I was told to dress a certain way while visiting an unfamiliar area which I had no problem with. Following some tips to prevent any unwanted incidents is very important. Pretty much, be smart about your choices and be more open minded. Mexico is a beautiful country. Not only it's affordable, but there are many great cities to explore and a ton of things to do. Traveling to Mexico is just like traveling to other countries.
"Don't let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen."
My trip wouldn't turn out great if it wasn't for the hospitality of Estefania's family. I am very happy and honored that I met a few kind souls throughout this trip. Definitely, a trip to remember. Thank you <3