Visiting the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico

When planning a short visit to Mexico City, I naturally turned first to see what Viator had on offer.  I knew I’d want to get out of the city at least once, when I realized there were ancient pyramids nearby at Teotihuacan, I decided to check them out.  I chose the Early Morning tour as that sounded like a good way to beat the heat and the crowds.

The day before the tour, I received an email from Amigo Tours, the local tour operator, letting me know that my pickup time would be at 5:50 the following morning.  Keeping my travel tradition of waking up way earlier on vacation than I ever do in my real life.

The tour bus arrived before dawn, and I was the first one to be picked up.  I snoozed on the bus while we picked up the other 20 or so tourists all over Mexico City and then headed out of town towards Teotihuacan.  We stopped for gas and snacks about halfway there, and I took the chance to snap a photo of the local area.

9/13Bus ride to Teotihuacan

When you arrive at Teotihuacan, there is a small plaza area with shops and restrooms.  The shops were all closed this early, and our bus met us at the other end of the pyramids, so the shoppers in our group were disappointed we didn’t come back this way.  (As if there is a shortage of souvenir shops in the touristy areas!) I had to laugh as one girl in our group was dripping in Mexican clothing and turquoise and silver jewelry; she made a great decoy for the rest of us as all the peddlers aggressively followed her around.

9/13 Teotihuacan

We quickly made our way to the first temple area, where our guide explained the history of the area, as well as how the pyramids were built in layers and how those layers were exposed upon excavation.  Teotihuacan was once the largest pre-Colombian city, with a population estimated at 125,000.

9/13 Teotihuacan

9/13 Teotihuacan

Next, we approached the largest pyramid, Pyramid of the Sun, and had plenty of time to climb to the top, catch our breath and enjoy the views.  As you can imagine, the top of this pyramid afforded excellent views in all directions, including towards the Pyramid of the Moon, which was our next and last stop here.

9/13 TeotihuacanMoon and Sun pyramids

9/13 Teotihuacan

9/13 Teotihuacan

While we had strolled the main plaza, our van drove to meet us at the other end, and we headed off to a nearby restaurant and store.  Before we sat down for lunch, we had some demos on how the plants of the area are used, sampled some tequila and pulque, the sweet fermented juice that becomes tequila.

9/13 Teotihuacan - Agave demo

Lunch had a menu option, and a buffet option, with performers to entertain us, and of course, another gift shop on site. I had to partake in the cheesy tourist photo op.  At least they don’t try to sell you a photo!

9/13 Teotihuacan

With full bellies, we all slept most of the way back to Mexico City, where we arrived just in time for rush hour.  The younger folks jumped out of the van to continue their adventurous day rather than sitting in traffic, but I waited it out and got dropped off at The Red Tree House, where I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with my new pal.

Red Tree House B&B - Condesa

For the price of this tour, less than $40, I thought it was a really good value.  We had a fantastic guide, who was very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English, and we missed the most crowded part of the day – always a bonus in my book!

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Teotihuacan Pyramids

For the rest of my Mexico City photos, click here!

 

Four Days in Mexico City

Mexico City was named the New York Times #1 travel destination in 2016.  So, why did everyone give me the side eye when I said I was going alone?  Actually, most people assumed I was going to Cancun and wanted to talk about the beaches.  Between drug wars, cartels and partying spring breakers, I feel like Mexico gets a bad rap in the U.S.  Of course, in the world of travel blogging, there is nothing unusual about spending a weekend in Mexico City, so that’s exactly what I did!  Thanks to a Hopper alert, I got a flight on American for $300!  (I had been watching and the usual rate is closer to $600)

9/10 - oddly enough, my hotel (The Hyatt Regency) is in this picture - just off the wing, on the edge of the park.  Of course, I didn't know that at the time!

Right off the bat, I’m going to admit to some real rookie moves I made on this trip.  First, I forgot to tell my bank I was leaving the country.  So, I arrived with no pesos, to a declined ATM transaction.  And of course, unlike my Asia trip, with months of prep, I’d neglected to memorize or record PIN #’s to my credit cards as backup!  A quick phone call to Chase sorted this all out, but I was sweating for a bit!  (Now, looking at my hotel bill, that call did cost me $11) Second, I did not travel with any snacks!  So I arrived starving, with no money.  Thank goodness I was able to charge some snacks at 7-11 while I sorted everything out!

My first two nights were spent in the Polanco neighborhood, and I didn’t have anything planned for the first night, other than walking around.  I felt very safe in this neighborhood, even after dark.  I compared this area to the “Gold Coast/Mag Mile” of Chicago – hotels like the Intercontinental, JW Marriott, the W and the Hyatt all lined up on the edge of Chapultepec Park.  Avenue Maseryk, a few blocks away, had luxury car dealerships, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and a bunch of other high-end retailers.

9/10 Polanco neighborhood

Sunday was my birthday, and I had booked a tour, through Viator, of the National Palace, Cathedral and Anthropology Museum.  The tour itself was great; the logistics of this particular package I had chosen, not so much.  (If you’re really interested, you can read my review here.)  We started off in the Centro Historico, visiting the National Cathedral and learning some history of Mexico City.  We learned that Mexico City was originally a large lake, and is now sinking quite a bit.  You can see that in the cathedral below, where the room at the back is leaning to the right.

9/11 National CathedralThe chapel in the back is tilted - sinking into the ground

We spent a lot of time in the National Palace, admiring the Diego Rivera murals that paint a vivid portrait of the history of Mexico.

9/11 National PalaceDiego Rivera murals

9/11 National Palace

The tour then took us to Rafael’s jewelry store, then on to the Anthropology museum, which is a must-see for any visitor to Mexico City.  The museum is divided up into several large rooms, by civilization – Maya, Aztec, Teotihuacan, etc.  With my limited Spanish, I wasn’t able to discern many of the display captions, so perhaps the audio tour would have been a good idea?!  I was really impressed with the outdoor space as well – lovely gardens with ruins scattered about (authentic or not, I don’t know!) There is also a nice cafe with indoor and outdoor seating.  I was baffled by the menu, which seemed to be all omelettes, until I later learned that lunch in Mexico is closer to 2:00, so I was mostly getting breakfast menus at 11 or 12 when I was ready for lunch!

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo Nacional de Antropología

While the tour included hotel pickup and drop-off, I opted to stay at the museum longer and walk back to my hotel since it was close by.  This gave me the chance to explore Chapultepec Park a bit.  Being a Sunday, the park was full of families and tourists enjoying the beautiful weather. (Side note: most museums are closed on Mondays so be sure to take that into account when planning your visit!)

9/11 Chapultepec Park

Tired after a long day of touring, I had my favorite birthday dinner – room service!

The next day I spent some time on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus, which was included with the Viator tour from the previous day.  This was a great way to see all the different neighborhoods of Mexico City.  Unfortunately, customer service of Turibus left a lot to be desired, so I can’t recommend them, but there are lots of other bus options for the same experience. (I received wrong information several times, and more than once had to take a cab because they didn’t keep their word on finishing a route)

I was really impressed by the architecture of the city, as well as the green space – most streets were tree-lined, and plenty of parks tucked in to the neighborhoods.  I loved the mix of modern buildings alongside historical monuments.

9/12Angel of Independence Monument

Palace of Beaux Artes

The city was also preparing for Independence Day, so many buildings had banners and flags flying the national colors.

Banco de Mexico

Monday night, I had booked a Polanco food tour, with Mexican Food Tours.  I was the only one signed up for the tour, so I spent the next few hours being herded around Polanco by my handsome guide, Luis.  The evening included seven stops, and I was ready to burst by the end of the night!  I highly recommend this tour, as it was the perfect pace and variety of flavors.  The establishments we visited ranged from upscale restaurant to divey family joints.  I’m a picky eater, and I liked everything on the tour!  Most stops had a special beverage as well, and I’m happy to say, I had ice in my drinks and never got sick! (Also, this tour was sold out for Saturday and Sunday, so be sure to book ahead!)

Polanco Food Tourhttp://www.mexicanfoodtours.comFirst Stop:  Guzina Oaxaca

Polanco Food Tourhttp://www.mexicanfoodtours.comThat's a lot of food, and I left out the mamey ice cream stop!

After the taco tour, it was an early night for me as I had a 5 a.m. wakeup call the following morning for a trip out to the Teotihuacan pyramids. Stay tuned for details on that excursion!

Trip Details:

  • Total Expenses: $1250
    • Airfare $307
    • Hotels $525
    • Tours/Tips $167
    • Food $110
    • Souvenirs/Gifts $100
    • Taxis $41

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Mexico City Pin

For all of my pictures from Mexico City, click here!

3 Days in Siem Reap, Cambodia

I had always heard great things about Cambodia (and Cambodians), so I made sure to include 3 days in Siem Reap on my SouthEast Asia Itinerary. In hindsight, 3 days was much too short and despite the heat, Siem Reap is the one place I would like to return to for a deeper exploration.

I contemplated taking the bus from Bangkok, but ultimately, wisely, settled on a flight, which was under 1 hour and less than $100 on AirAsia. Even the airport felt exotic, with a distinct Polynesian feel. Cambodia was the only country which required a visa on this trip, but even that process was relatively quick – thankfully, I’d done my research and had extra passport photos on hand (and cash!)

Siem Reap

Upon arrival, I went straight to the transport desk and booked a $7 car to my hotel. Shortly after, I was checked into what may be my favorite hotel of all time! I absolutely loved Le Meridien Angkor! I arrived well before check-in, and while I waited for my room, was given a cold towel and mango juice. (Cold towels were a hit everywhere I went in Asia…so refreshing!)

Siem Reap

Siem Reap Street Food Tour

I had a bit of time to relax before I was scheduled for a food tour that I’d booked through Viator. For $47, I joined the Siem Reap Street Food Evening Tour. Various moto-taxis collected 5 of us from our hotels to meet our guide, Kim, at a local street market. Rather than warming us up to “weird” food, we started off right at the bug table, which included crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, beetles, worms, and frogs. One brave soul (the only man in our group) tried everything while us girls were a bit more squeamish. I did try the frog and snail, as those didn’t seem too exotic. (I’ll also note the cockroach involved a peeling of the shell, which pretty much made me throw up in my mouth)

Siem Reap

We then moved on to more palatable tables, such as fruit and sweets. I was excited to try jackfruit and durian, as well as other exotic items like rambutan. All of the fruit was good, although the texture of durian takes some getting used to. (Jackfruit is becoming a popular meat substitute in the States and I recently sampled it at the taco bar of Whole Foods!)

Siem Reap

After a bit of browsing and snacking, we headed to one of the grills, where Kim loaded up plates and we sat down for a picnic. Here we tried a little bit of everything, including quail, duck, more frog (this time stuffed with sausage.)

Siem Reap

Sweets are always my favorite, especially when they are coconut and rice-based…yum!

Siem Reap

After all of this eating, we jumped back in the taxis for a sit-down meal at a local restaurant. I was already stuffed at this point (not much appetite when it’s 100-plus degrees) but it was fun to try Amok, which is the local Cambodian coconut soup, served in a coconut shell.

At the conclusion of the tour, everyone headed over to Pub street, but this old lady had a 4am wake-up call for the next day’s Sunrise tour of Angkor, which you can read about here.

After the bike tour, I essentially had one day left in Siem Reap before flying to Phuket.  I didn’t have anything planned, but I woke up early (after pretty much going to bed at 3pm the day before!) and caught a ride into town to wander around and do some shopping. Until now, I was still traveling out of a small carry-on and hadn’t done much shopping, so this was my chance to buy any souvenirs as I knew I wouldn’t be going into town in Phuket.  As I strolled around, I was lured into a $4 foot massage while I sipped a fresh coconut shake.  As I relaxed into the chair, the masseuse’s sister excitedly talked me into a manicure as well.  They were both so sweet and filled me in on the “neighborhood gossip” before her husband drove me back to the hotel in his tuk tuk.

Siem Reap

As it began to heat up, it was time to head back to the hotel pool for the day. I also indulged in a facial at the spa, given that my skin was quite unhappy in this climate, but otherwise spent the day in the shade of a pool umbrella.

Le Meridien Angkor

In the evening, although room service was tempting me, I decided to head to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club for cocktails and dinner.

Siem Reap

The next morning, it was time to re-pack and head to the airport, for my final vacation leg in Phuket.

I loved everything about my 3 days in Siem Reap….except the weather! I really don’t do well in high humidity, so I spent a lot more down-time at the pool than I would have liked (even if it was a gorgeous pool!) The people I met were all incredible – despite a dark history as recently as the 80’s, they just seemed like wonderful people.  I would love to go back for another visit, and spend more time exploring.

For all of my Cambodia pictures, click here!

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3 Days in Siem Reap

This post is part of The Weekly Postcard over at Two Traveling Texans. Click the photo below to check out other great posts this week!

 

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