Many people had asked me which city or country is my favorite from all my travels. Until recently, I had always answered that each place has its own charm. After my three-day stop in Mexico City, however, I have quite changed my mind!
I love Mexico City. I would move there in a heartbeat. Yes, the city is massive and traffic can be pretty horrible (still nothing compared to the madness of Jakarta traffic by the way), but it offers so much more. Here is a cosmopolitan city that is Spanish speaking, is very rich in culture (affordable), and offers amazing gastronomic choices from street food to fine dining. Totally right up my alley!
I spent three (too-short) days in DF (how Mexico City is commonly referred to) and most of it in the museum and performance centers. It was a totally cultural immersion trip!
The National Museum of Anthropology
I spent a total five hours here (I was recommended to spend only two short hours initially). The last hour on the second floor to learn about the various indigenous societies under the Spanish colonization and after. And the other four hours spent on the first floor which housed the artifacts from various ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica. I learnt a lot more about the Mayans (whose ruins in Yucatan, Peten, and Copan I have visited and admired). I had introductions to lesser known groups in the Baja California, Michoacan, and other sites throughout Mexico. I had an introduction to Monte Alban in Oaxaca. I finally saw the giant heads that are typical of the Olmecs from the Gulf of Mexico. The coup d’état is of course Tenochtitlan on which the current Mexico City flourished. The Sun Disk is just incredible. This is from Aztec times.
Philharmonic Concert in El Palacio de Bellas Artes
I was on the way to have a drink at a bar overlooking the beautifully constructed art-deco Palacio de Bellas Artes (loosely translated as Palace of Fine Arts), and on a whim walked over to see if the tickets were really sold out (it was!). I knew before coming that there is a Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra concert to mark their 38th anniversary. There were people selling tickets outside, and impulsively, I decided to buy one. It was a pretty bad seat and I paid 2.5 more (still cheap about USD10). I thought it was worth paying it to see the interior of the Palace and the concert hall. I was not disappointed! The music and the hall acoustic were perfect. Gustav Holst is my new favorite composer. I am neither a musician nor a regular fan of classical music, but the arrangement by artistic director/conductor, Scott Yoo sounded more energetic and powerful and unique. The decoration of the theatre from the murals and the colored glass ceilings are very pleasing to the eyes. I totally enjoyed it!
“El Hombre de La Mancha” in El Teatro de Los Insurgentes
Inspired by the publication of “Don Quijote de La Mancha” novel by Miguel Cervantes (he is the “Shakespeare” equivalent of the Spanish language in terms of reputation and popularity), a musical called “El Hombre de La Mancha” (The Man from La Mancha) was created. The version of the play we saw was started in Mexico City in 2016. The musical is very well done. The music is great and features a lot of Spanish guitar. The actors are great as well. They all have great voice. The set is simple but very creative for the various scenes from prisons to castles to churches. I really have to thank my friend, Moni, who invited me to the play, despite having seen it the week before.
Teotihuacan Ruins with an Archeologist
I was going to hire a private guide to go to Teotihuacan Archeological Park. But I saw that Viator offers an early morning tour group with an archeologist as a guide, so I decided to sign up for that. The tour is locally run by Amigo Tours. Leonardo, our guide is good. I enjoyed chatting with him about archeology. The tour itself was not so much! We had to follow strict route from the Temple of the Feathered Serpents and end at the Pyramid of the Moon. This meant by the time we arrived at the Pyramid of the Sun, there were already tons of people.
Unfortunately, my free morning for Teotihuacan fell on a Sunday. I ticked the boxes, but I did not enjoy it. If one is really into visiting the ruins calmly, it is worth to get one’s own guide very early in the morning on a weekday! Next time I would do that. I also did not have a chance to take the hot air balloon this time (it was also a cloudy and smoggy morning). INAH should stop allowing the pyramids to be climbed or limit the number of people per day. I also do not recommend the tour highly, which ended in an artesanian shop and bad lunch. I managed to get amazing photos and I did enjoy my time on the Pyramid of the Moon. The morning was not a total write-off!
Three days are insufficient to get to know DF. I barely scratch its surface. I am heading back there again soon for a reggaeton concert (fingers crossed work does not get in the way!) and my to-see list is still at least one-week long!