MEXICO

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There is something about the Spanish culture that I absolutely adored when I was in Europe. A combination of the weather, the language, the food, people and music; a sense of happiness encompassed me in Spain, and I was hoping for the same in Mexico. I hadn’t been to Mexico since a childhood visit to Tijuana, so I was definitely excited to explore the unknown. I had been learning Spanish for the few months leading up to this trip, and I was enthused by the prospect of practicing these skills. It was also a cheap, chilled way to end my trip; a cheeky stop through the Riviera Maya, who wouldn’t say no to a swim in the Caribbean?!

Here’s where I visited: (click on each title to read more)

 

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10 useful tips to know before you travel to Mexico:

  1. The water is mostly undrinkable. Ask at your accommodation though, because sometimes they will have a filter.
  2. US dollars are a second unofficial currency. Most places will accept US dollars or pesos, and frequently both prices will be advertised. It pays to always carry some cash, as most places won’t accept cards.
  3. Mexico’s own aperitif – corn chips with various sauces. Whenever you go out for a meal, complimentary chips are brought out to start you off; I had to develop some serious self-control, and quickly – otherwise I never actually wanted to eat my dinner.
  4. Haggling is a thing. In department stores, grocery stores, pharmacies and the like, prices will be as advertised. However, if it is a flea-market type shop, then feel free to negotiate towards what you believe is a fair price.
  5. Getting around – welcome to the collectivo. Looks like a shuttle, effectively a group taxi; you wave them down and should pay about 25 pesos regardless of where you are going. We got ripped off a few times, but didn’t waste our time arguing over a few dollars.
  6. Obviously the places I visited were more touristy than a lot of other places in Mexico, but I was astonished at how well everyone spoke English and how willing everyone is to help.
  7. Mexican toilets and loo paper don’t mix well. Don’t risk it, save yourself a potentially awkward situation and when instructed, just put your loo paper in the rubbish bin provided.
  8. Being young, female and blonde meant I attracted a lot of unwanted attention. I soon learnt that the Mexicans thrive off banter, and if you are willing to move past their nonsensical chat, they are indeed great sources of local information, and unlike other countries, are absolutely stoked to have you practice your amateur Spanish-speaking skills on them.
  9. Mexico’s version of the Seven Eleven, OXXO stores are virtually everywhere, and sell virtually everything.
  10. Museums are often closed on Mondays, so check that first.

 

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  • Everything incorporates tortillas one way or another. Whether it be fresh in a taco, toasted in a tostada, or grilled into a quesadilla, I suddenly found myself eating them on a regular basis.
  • Margarita. Tequila + triple sec + lime juice, served on the rocks. Nowadays, they are served in many different ways – flavoured, iced and all very delicious.
  • Paloma. Tequila mixed with sparkling lemon, what Mexican’s tend to think of when they picture drinks involving tequila.
  • Horchata. A traditional drink made with rice, almonds, cinnamon and sugar. To me it tasted like a chilled chai latte.
  • Tropical fruit. Usually in abundance in any tropical country, we saw mango, banana, coconut, pineapple, papaya… convenient, delicious, healthy snacks!
  • Tacos al pastor. One of the most famous dishes, ‘al pastor’ translates to ‘in the style of the shepherd’. To serve, think strips of meat are sliced off a spit, placed on a tortilla and topped with onion, coriander and fresh pineapple. My mouth is watering at the memory.
  • IMG_4522Tostadas. Simple yet delicious, basically they are baked/fried tortillas, served either plain or topped with cheese, meet, beans and anything else that tickles your fancy. Kind of like a pizza base, it is a great way to utilise slightly stale tortillas!
  • Chicharron. Unlike in New Zealand, where you only see pork crackling if someone successfully makes it when they cook a roast, you can find bags of crackling here, in amongst where you buy the potato chips. It is frequently found as a topping on salads, tacos, and of course, tostadas.
  • Enchiladas. An ancient dish evolved from when the Mayans used to wrap corn tortillas around small fish. Nowadays are enchiladas are filled with anything from meat to seafood, beans and vegetables, layered with cheese and chilli and baked until cooked through.
  • Quasedillas. Pronounced ‘kasss – aaaa- deeee- yaaah’.
  • Guacamole. Something I cannot get enough of, especially when tacos are in abundance. Combine avocado, onion, tomato, lemon juice, chilli, garlic and if you are feeling adventurous, a dash of tequila and devour with tortilla chips – one of my favourite foods in the world.
  • Frijoles. Translates to beans, I saw how popular these are with the Mexican people when I lived with Hector. They are usually cooked with water and onion very slowly, until they are soft. Sometimes they are mashed and recooked (ie. Re-fried beans).
  • Empanada. South America’s answer to the meat pie, it is a meat filled pastry.

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Lets get tropical: Koh Samui

An early start saw these three eager travellers hit the road. Me, my friend Cam and my cousin Summer left Wellington at some ungodly hour, flying via Sydney and Bangkok and landed in Koh Samui, Thailand later that night. It was a relatively uneventful trip, aside from the fact that Cam had all of his toiletries and alcohol confiscated for being over 100mL, and Summer spontaneously, and repetitively, keeping on throwing up during what could only be described as a smooth, inoffensive flight. Of all of us, she was definitely the most relieved to finally arrive.

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A taxi (clothed as a civilian car) from the Koh Samui airport (essentially a runway next to some upper-class bungalows on the beach front) transported us to Buddha Lounge Samui, where we were to spend the next few nights. The rooms were approximately $20 per night, which we would soon learn to consider expensive. Given that it was the week preceding New Years’ Eve, it had been impossible to find anything much cheaper. The hostel was highly adequate; lovely owners, spacious rooms, free (although minimalist) breakfast, however it was quite far away from the towns of Chaweng and Lamai. We learnt quickly that Asian toilets are different to our Western ones (ie. lacking ANY force) – when, to our absolute horror, we literally flooded the entire hostel due to some flushing difficulties.

Along with the highlight of having resident puppies, the hostel hired out scooters – which is how we chose to explore the island. Summer usually rode on the back of my scooter, and we only suffered one (mildly serious) crash. That is excluding the time Summer attempted to drive, where she would have hit a police car if his reaction time not been truly exceptional.

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Located nearby to our hostel was the Big Buddha port, temple and village. Temples always meant we had to cover up (here you could borrow shawls and kimonos) and take our shoes off, both of which we endured great reluctance in such heat.  A slightly further ride away were the beach-side towns of Chaweng and Lamai. We witnessed a monkey show (where 100฿ bought two of us the show and a photo with a monkey on our shoulder – Cam tactically steered clear of the photo shoot as he lacked the rabies vaccination) and continued on our way to a local waterfall whereby we were successfully conned into a 700฿ elephant ride just as the skies opened. We are talking torrential rain, something we would see a lot more of whilst on the islands. Later we caught a ride on the back of a ute to the “International Bar” in Chaweng where we watched the football and played our first game of pool (of which there would be many). Cam gave into temptation and had a photo with a monkey, before we came home to find Emma had arrived.

Our first designated beach day saw the loss of Summer and Cam. Miscommunication meant only Emma and I arrived at the beach where we waited for a few hours before concluding that they were going to be a no-show. Again the skies opened, so we indulged in a massage, a pashmina purchase and the spiciest (and grossest) Pad Thai I had ever eaten in my life before reuniting with the others back at the hostel. Dinner saw us discover our new local “Rob’s Bar” which we would eat at many more times before the trip was over.

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The next day the three of us explored the Fishermen’s Village which, with its narrow pedestrian streets, reminded me a lot of Temple Bar in Dublin. We reattempted the group beach trip, this time with success, as I indulged in dragonfruit (overrated) and Summer experienced her first Asian massage. We then headed to Ark Bar (in Chaweng) for lunch, before discovering an interesting area of bars with highly erotic (and hilarious) names. Examples include, Sexy Bar, Spicy Bar and 69 Bar – oh so original! Cocktail buckets were on the cards that night, as we met up with some of Cam’s friends for a drink and dance (correction, Summer and I were the only ones dancing at Green Mango!).

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