A Travellerspoint blog

Stop 22 - Mexico City

Of course in Mexico, you know the Mexicans, they eat a lot of Mexican food...

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Hola y Bienvenidos a la Cuidad de Mexico. Mi nombre es Carla y yo no entiendo Espanol....but who cares?!

After what seemed like forever on planes we have arrived in Mexico with our first stop being Mexico City. 25 million people living here makes for a very vibrant and energetic city! There is always something going on and crowds everywhere. So much history right at your fingertips.

So far I have been stuck in an elevator here more times than I have in my entire life, eaten more tacos than I probably would in an entire year and feel very unfashionable. But enough about me.

We have stayed in the Reforma neighbourhood just outside of Centro Historico. Everything is within walking distance and much to James's dismay we have been walking around almost every day.

The architecture in downtown Mexico City is absolutely stunning! Beautiful ornate churches alongside colonial buildings and then just for something different, an Aztec ruin thrown in the middle of it all. The old mixes with the new very well. Another thing to mention is the number of statues and monuments everywhere!! I can walk outside of the hotel right now and see 3 different statues and two monuments in the centre of roundabouts - I'm in the middle of the CDB!

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There are some great self guided walking tours online which take you through various spots in the city. We followed one to down town Mexico City where we visited the Zocalo, the metropolitan cathedral and the Mayor Temple (just to name a few). The cathedral is very elaborate inside and out. Lots of gold everywhere, lots of shrines, a huge organ in the centre, bell towers and high ornate ceilings. It was very beautiful to look at. They were also holding an expo on the Shroud of Turin which we took a look through. Everything was in Spanish and as "yo no entiendo espanol" had no idea what any of it meant. According to the lady at the ticket counter it was a display discussing the shroud and some of the theories proving or disproving its authenticity. I would have thought for a Catholic church they wouldn't be showing things that might prove its actually fake. This is one of the churches most prized possessions that many of their congregation flock to see because they believe it is real....hmmmm....maybe I need to learn some Spanish.

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But who needs Spanish when you have Netflix! We arrived in Mexico City and were incredibly jet lagged and suffering from Altitude. So we hunkered down in our hotel room for some sleep and to check out what awesome Netflix shows we had access to now we're in Mexico. One of them was a documentary on Monetzuma. For those of you who don't know he was the 9th Aztec emperor and was imprisoned by the Spaniard Cortez. Right in the middle of the city is Mayor Temple which was one of the main temples for the Aztecs in their capitol city of Tenochtitlan. The guy hosting the documentary spoke a lot about it and as a result we decided to search for it. This time it didn't matter that we didn't speak Spanish because doco guy had given Adam and I all the info we needed which we then passed on to James and a disinterested Lucas. Quite an impressive site sitting in the middle of multi-storey buildings. You'd walk past it if you weren't looking for it.

Next on the list was a trip in the opposite direction that went to Chupultepec park, the anthropology museum and the children's museum. The anthropology museum is fantastic! As you walk in you are greeted by this amazing sculptural fountain that is very impressive. Around the fountain are rooms that have fantastic displays about each group of people from across the region eg/ Aztecs, Toltec etc. At the end of each room you reach an outdoor area where they have set up areas to show you what their buildings and / or artwork looked like. All round a very interesting experience.

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The children's museum was an unexpected surprise. Initially heading in we thought it looked a bit shit and questioned why we had paid so much to get in. Three and a half hours later we left but could have stayed for another hour or so. This place is incredibly interactive and its more like a scienceworks or questacon than a museum. We made rockets that then got shot up into the air using an air compressor. We made catapults out of pegs and dowel and then got to test them. There was sooooo much stuff going on it was just brilliant. We also had a planetarium show and a movie at IMAX included in the ticket. No entiendo espanol?? No problemo! Just watch the movies and don't listen - they're still very entertaining without sound.

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If you don't want to follow a tour you can just make your own way around as we did on Saturday and found the art market which is right by a park where everyone had gathered for dancing. I don't think it was a special event; I think they just gather there every weekend for some fun times. There are also people teaching dancing - we didn't join in but it looked like a lot of fun.

The food has been amazing with so many food trucks parked down the street next to our hotel. We have been eating the most amazing tacos that cost 20 Pesos for 5....that's AU$1.40....ridiculous!!
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Today is our last day in Mexico city and we headed to the Teotihuacán complex. It was about an hours drive out of the city and we arrived shortly after it opened at 8am. Our first destination was the pyramid of the sun as we wanted to climb it well before the crowds arrived. This pyramid is the 3rd largest in the world after the great pyramid of Giza and the great pyramid at Cholula. It stands 75m high which is just over half the height of the great pyramid of Giza. If any of you have ever chatted with me about Egypt you would have heard me say that if I went I think I'd be disappointed with the size of the pyramids. Everyone raves about how big they are and I feel as though I'd get there and go "meh, they're not that big...." as per my visit to the big pineapple and our swim with the whale sharks. However, I have to take back my words. After seeing todays pyramid and imagining how big the pyramid in Giza would be, I'd say they would be pretty big and it is possible I wouldn't be disappointed. But I digress....

We climbed the pyramid and after catching our breath took in the wonderful view. Also climbing the pyramid was a local dog who was completely showing off and had run up and down twice by the time I made it to the top. After making our way down we then headed to the smaller pyramid of the moon. We were not allowed to climb all the way to the top on this one but we were still granted an amazing view from level we were allowed to reach. The final pyramid in the complex is the temple of the feathered serpent. You're not allowed to climb this one at all but it does have a fancy, impressive façade.

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Unfortunately my surface has decided to have a hissy fit and is not uploading all the photos! So until I can fix the problem (Yes, I've tried turning it off and on again...) there are limited photos available for your perusal on here.

Tomorrow we head to Puebla which is a couple of hours outside of Mexico City and more of a traditional Mexican city with the cobblestone streets and lots of colour. From here we will take a day trip to Cholula so I might be taking back my words on the Giza pyramids after I see the biggest one in the world!!

Until next time xx

Posted by carlagregory 16:26 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Stop 21 - Cebu

Whale sharks, turtles and a birthday

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A warm hello to you all from the Taipei airport!

We are currently on our way to Mexico and stuck in transit...can I just say this airport is amazing!! It has everything. A gym, education centres, a library, so many shops with so much cute stuff, play stations...there could be worse places to spend the next 4 hours. Anyhoo what better place to tell you about our final stop in the Philippines - Cebu!

Our first stop in Cebu was the small seaside town of Oslob. We stopped in here so we could swim with the whale sharks. There is not much else to do in this town so its in and out within 24 hours. We caught the bus from Cebu down to Oslob and that was an experience in itself. Vendors regularly hop on and off the bus selling a variety of food - how good is that?! Mind you the trip itself wasn't that great as there doesn't appear to be set bus stops. If you want to get on you just wait on the side of the road and stick your arm out when you see the bus. All good and well except that its pitch black, the bus driver is speeding between towns and all of a sudden has to slam on the brakes.

We arrived at 9pm at night and pretty much went straight to bed as it was a 6am start for the whale sharks. Our accommodation organised a trike and guide for us for the visit. We headed down to the briefing centre to sign in, were given a few instructions, a life jacket and snorkelling gear then headed out. Now, I'm not sure how ethical the whole thing is as they're not naturally migrating whale sharks. Basically there are about 6 whale sharks that get fed daily so they hang around for the food and tourists get to swim with them. Putting our morals aside we took part in this thrilling experience.
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They are such beautiful and gentle creatures. They swim laps vacuuming up the food with their large mouths. Occasionally they will dive down and swim underneath you. You can be watching one and then all of a sudden another has come up right behind you and its a mad dash to get out of their way. They seem oblivious to the people swimming about and are focused solely on the food. As soon as our boat was out far enough we were allowed to slip into the water and there was one right there in front of us. Quite a surreal experience which all of us enjoyed thoroughly.

By 8:30am we were back at our accommodation eating breakfast and getting ready to check out. Our next stop was Moalboal - about an hour and half up the road for some R&R on the beach. Seems like all we've done lately is R&R on the beach...

Our accommodation in Moalboal was right on the beach and in prime snorkelling location. You could go out at any time and see giant turtles swimming about at the drop off or eating in the shallows. These turtles had shells that measured about a metre long. They were really beautiful to watch. Moalboal is also the location of a massive sardine run. Its quite impressive to swim through this massive school of fish that twist and turn and create beautiful shapes right in front of you.
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During our stay it was also James's 9th birthday. We headed into the town on this day and went to the mall. James got some more Cavaliers tops, Lucas got some Jordan tops and I got some Golden State tops. I'm now on the Golden State bandwagon and its a good thing too as they won their 4th game against the Spurs today and they're now in the finals. I think Cavaliers will win their next game so its going to be me vs James in the final - winner takes all!! How much can I gloat to a 9 year old when my team wins?!

So now we end our time in S.E. Asia. It's been a blast! We've had some truly amazing experiences and have some wonderful memories of our time here. As I mentioned earlier we are now off to Mexico and we start making our way through central and south America. Cant wait!!

Until next time...

Posted by carlagregory 21:26 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Stop 20 - Coron

*cough, cough* I think I've got the black lung, Pop

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Our next stop in the Philippines is the small seaside town of Coron. I spent the majority of our time in Coron sick with a cold so my perspective on the place is probably not the same as someone who was well. Sorry in advance if this blog is a bit negative but that was my mood at the time.

From El Nido there is a boat that runs daily to Coron. It is a fast boat but the downside is a 6am departure time. Early mornings are not my thing at the best of times and this morning was particularly bad. Our transport didn't arrive, we arrived late to the boat and the guy in line in front of us took the worst seat configuration of the seats left available and left us sitting apart. We did ask him if he would reconsider because we have children etc etc but nope he wanted to be a dick. Then we get on the boat and people are sitting in our seats - they had been double booked. Absolute debacle!!

Again there is not much to do around Coron town and the beach is mostly mangroves or a port so you cannot swim there. There are about 4 streets in the town that are lined with stores, pharmacies and restaurants. The food options here are not great. One thing I struggle with in the Philippines is the food choices. It is all sweet, deep fried and covered in mayonnaise. Want a sandwich? Its on sweet bread with sweet cheese and dripping in sweet mayonnaise. Want some chicken? Its deep fried and served with mayonnaise. Want a coffee? Its served with 20 sugars and sweet milk. I only ate vegetables once the whole time we were in Coron because they weren't included in any meals and had to be ordered as a side dish (if they were available at all). I don't have the greatest of diets normally but even this much frying and sweetness left me craving vegetables.

The highlights of Coron are definitely the tours. Again, they thought hard about the tour names and went with letters. They are a little bit more creative than El Nido because they also have the ultimate tour which I think is just everything combined.

I actually don't remember which tours we did...I'm thinking it was possibly A and C again...either way our first tour took us out snorkelling over a shipwreck (not that impressive) and a coral garden. We visited a beautiful beach where we had lunch and then to a couple of lakes in the area. It was good fun but very crowded at the locations and I felt like I was dying by the end of it.
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Our second tour was, I think, a lot more fun. It could have been because I was feeling better and it could also be because there was only one other group with us on the boat and they were lovely and quiet. During the tour we went to a couple of ship wrecks (soooo much better than the first one) and another coral garden.
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Other than the two tours we didn't do much. I spent a lot of time on the bed, Adam spent time researching the next part of our trip and the boys spent a lot of time in the pool or hanging out in the room. Things we could have done while we were there include walking up the hill to the cross and the Coron sign, going to the hot springs, taking a trip to the African safari park or day trips out to islands. I feel like our time was a bit wasted here because I was sick and didn't want to do anything but that is life and a good chance for all of us to rest.

This brings us up to date with the blog - hooray!! We're currently in Cebu and will be here for another 4 days then we board the plane and head to Mexico. Not so excited by the thought of a long plane ride but super excited for Mexico. I will update you all on Cebu next week.

Posted by carlagregory 21:19 Comments (0)

Stop 19 - El Nido, Palawan

I'm in heaven!

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From Vietnam we head over the ocean to the Philippines. I love love love the Philippines and one of my most memorable trips overseas was there. This time, our first destination was Palawan and more specifically El Nido. Adam and I have wanted to get here for a while now and I'm so glad we did. The place is absolutely stunning and definitely lives up to all the hype around it.

We arrive at Puerto Princesa tired and grumpy after travelling all night from HCMC. We then have to take a 5 hour bus trip to get to El Nido. Annoyingly we have to wait for the bus to fill up before we can leave so our 5 hour trip ended up being more like 7.

Our accommodation was on Corong Corong beach which was about a 5 minute trike ride from El Nido town proper. As all the boat tours depart from El Nido beach its not the nicest place to stay if you want to use the beach. A lot of reports also say how dirty and polluted the beach is however I didn't see any evidence of this.

The scenery around El Nido is very similar to Ha Long bay - beautiful limestone islands popping up out of the blue water.
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So what do you do when staying there other than sit on a beach? Go on a tour! There are 4 tours you can take whilst staying in El Nido - Tours A, B, C and D. Nice and easy to remember. We decided to book private tours instead of joining a group tour. It cost just a little bit more than going on a group tour and it meant we had the boat to ourselves. Tour A and C are the most popular and the only two that we did. We were going to do a third but the weather was not so great on the day we wanted to go.

Tour A is visiting Lagoons and Beaches whilst Tour C is visiting Hidden Beaches & Shrines. We chose these two not because they are the most popular and we're FOMO's (only Lucas is....) but because it has the most snorkelling! This is some of the clearest waters I have seen with an abundance of marine life and beautiful coloured corals. Just amazing!! We saw so many clown fish it wasn't funny. You had to watch where you stood in the shallows because they would just be there. We also swam with schools of squid. Unfortunately I wasn't able to catch one for dinner - shame too as it looked sooooo tasty!
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Another good thing about having a private tour is you get to eat all the food. The lunch was cooked on a little bbq on the back of the boat (usually fish, chicken, squid etc) and it was enough to food to feed an army! It tasted ah-mazing. They also had some of the best pineapple I've ever tasted.
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James was also allowed to help on the boat by putting out and bringing in the ladder. This kid should live on a boat...he's way too into it.
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Anyway, check out the pictures and see what you think - I cant rave about this place enough!

Posted by carlagregory 05:00 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Stop 18 - Ho Chi Minh City

War, war, what is it good for?

sunny 34 °C

Hi Gang!!

We finally have some interwebs so I can update you all on our final destination in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City!!

Its been a week or so since we left HCMC so I just asked Adam to remind me what we did. His summary was "banh mi and sweat. And not in that order". My god the place is incredibly hot!! Some might say the heat was oppressive. If you've been following our blog you might remember a few posts ago that we met a lovely couple from Geelong whilst watching the footy in Hanoi. They said to us "When you go to HCMC make sure you stay somewhere with a pool". Great tip! We did have a pool...however it was the size of a bath and always had at least 15 other people in it which was not so fun.

So much to see and do in this city but again there are 20 million bikes everywhere. One difference I did notice here was the amount of green spaces. Large parks and tree lined streets which we haven't seen much of elsewhere so it made for a refreshing change.

Our first activity was independence palace....on reunification day! That was a fluke! Maybe not the best day to go on as it was packed with people. Great place to visit, nice building and grounds but we couldn't see much of anything with the 1 million other people there. So leaving there we headed to the war remnants museum. Lots of information about what happened in the war, incredibly graphic images and a few weapons on display. James and Lucas didn't last long there and sat in the hallway while Adam and I looked around. Its incredibly hard to look at and take in but well worth a visit if you're in the area.

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Continuing with the war theme we went on a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. Located an hour and a half outside of HCMC the tunnels are a huge underground network where the Viet Cong lived and fought during the war and gives an insight into how they struggled in their fight against the Americans. The guide walks you through pointing out things like where tunnel entry points are hidden, where air vents have been dug, where the Americans dropped a bomb etc. You also get shown the booby traps invented by the guerrillas intended to harm the enemy, not kill. Now, I'm no doctor but I'm pretty sure a bamboo spear through your head will kill you.

If you're brave enough, i.e. don't suffer from claustrophobia, you can take a walk through a small portion of the tunnels. Lucas and Adam went through and said it was very tight. they supposedly went 80 metres....looked more like 8. They've had to make the entry a bit wider for us western folk otherwise we would never be able to get in. Also available is the option of firing an AK-47 for a small price. I wanted to but instead took James for ice-cream while Adam went and shot one.

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Other sights we visited around the city:

  • Siagon Central Post Office - A beautiful old building still in use.
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral and Basilica of Siagon.
  • Ben Thanh Market - loads of shopping!
  • Ho Chi Minh Square

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And now its time for us to leave Vietnam. Our 30 day visa is up...if China had their way we would have been staying another 30 days but that's another story for another time...

Thank you Vietnam - you are a gorgeous country that I cant wait to visit again x

Posted by carlagregory 22:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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