Saturday, April 4, 2009

Travel Mexico City @ 23 March 2009

A business symposium brought me to the amazing Mexico City. As usual, the flight and transit time were excruciatingly painful, about 30 hours in total one-way, but it was worthy. It was my first exploration in Central America region. It struck me that this city shared many similarities to Rio de Janeiro, which I visited not long ago. Both of the cities are huge in population (Mexico City has a population of 20 Million), presence of slum areas, Latin America and soft spoken (yup, that surprised me or perhaps Spanish are just too loud). Though I did not stay too long, I still manage to squeeze some spare time to explore some exotic attractions this city offered – The Basilica of Guadalupe, Teotihuacan Pyramids and Anthropology Museum.

The whole City is full of these trees with purple flowers. Awkwardly similar to sakura!

The city night view from my hotel room.

Majority of Mexicans are Catholic which had been incorporated with local beliefs and cultures. The interesting fact is that Mexicans still celebrate some festivals which were rather contradictory to Catholicism, such as Festival of Dead which glorifies the return of dead souls. Lady Guadalupe is the most worshipable saint throughout Mexico. She has an equivalent status to virgin Mary but her skin colour is black. According to the local history, Lady Guadalupe showed her miracle image to the priests in a poncho, a type of Mexican costume. The original copy was exhibited in Basilica of Guadalupe. According to the tour guide, many parts of Mexico City are currently suffering sinking problem, Basilica of Guadalupe is one of the examples. Tracing back to the geological history, Mexico City was built in the midst of five lakes. To prevent the further sinking, many buildings have been undergone the structural strengthening.

The Basilica of Guadalupe, which suffers from sinking problem.


The miraculous puncho shown by Lady Guadalupe.

Mexico is popular with its exotic civilizations, such as Aztec, Maya, Teotihuacan etc. This was indeed the first time I had the chance to study these civilizations. They were indeed equally stunning, striking and different from Egyptian civilization that we are all accustomed to. They built step pyramids which were solely deployed for ritual scarification. Their pyramids were normally solidified whereas Egyptian pyramids were purposely compartmentalized to store mummies and artifacts. One similarity was that the priests sat at highest hierarchy in the social status after the God or King. Teotihuacan was a blood-thirsty nation whereby they believed God could only be appeased by blood offering. Therefore, people would poke (finger, arm, penis!) or even sacrifice themselves to squeeze the blood out of their body for God. Teotihuacan was a parallel civilization with Maya, interesting enough, both of the civilizations disrupted in the same period. The most probable cause might be the lack of water and food resources. The alien theory was considered as the lamest and most ridiculous one, from the despicable tone of our tour guide.

Teotihuacan Pyramids which glorified human sacrifies. Citizen were sacred if their blood was sacrified to God. The above is Pyramid of Sun.

Before visiting Teotihuacan Pyramids, our tour guide brought us to a Mexican Indian corporation shop. My first thought was that it must be an usual trick of our cheeky tour guide. I had to apologize for that thought as the corporation was really genuinely local and his explanation of tequila and artisans definitely deserved my purchase. This region was famous for obsidian, quartz, jade and other mineral rocks. Obsidians rock is extremely rigid, a black solid which glows with various stunning colours (gold, silver, rainbowish etc.) under the sunlight. In the ancient time, Teotihuacan conquered the trade of obsidians in the adjacent area as it could be used to produce decorations as well as weapons. Besides, we were shown how to produce a local drink known as Pucke, a similar drink to tequila. Jokingly, Pucke is also known as Mexican viagra. It was milky and has a strong fermented smell. I still preferred my tequila with limau and salt.

Tequila, a blasting drink with the twist of lime of salt. Pucke, a milky white fermented drink which was known as local viagra. Tried both myself, tequila beat the hell out of pucke.

Obsidian rock with glowing gold colour under sunrays.

Colourful costumes of Mexican culture.

Teotihuacan (as exotic as it sounds) pyramids – The Pyramid of Sun and Moon, was known as “The City of God” by translation. Apparently, it was the place where men could turn to God. The base area was same as the Giza Pyramid in Egypt but the height was only half of that. It was windy with scorching sun but I enjoyed the scenic view very much. The steps were numerous but having experience of climbing the unimaginable Angkor Wat, this was just ABC. Vertigo was always my phobia but strangely enough, I have no problem with deep diving which involves great height underwater.

Pyramid of Moon in Teotihuacan.

I spent 3 good hours in Anthropology Museum, having my foot sore so much but worthy. It was the finest museum of its kind in the world. I was awed with the varieties, quantities and qualities of the exhibitions. Extremely impressive, it gave you the best perception of Central America history. The only drawback was that the descriptions were mostly in Spanish. Chronologically, the style and nature of the exhibitions altered but equally awesome. On the second floor, the Mexican costumes were well presented, such a colourful race! Outside the museum, I witnessed a very typical and interesting ritual, whereby four local Indians hung their foot upside down and spinning from top to down, stun show! See the picture and look at the height! It supposed to spin 52 repetitions to represent one year cycle and to cast away misfortune, accompanying with indigenous music and chanting.

Mexican locals who performed stunning ritual shows.

In conclusion, Mexico city surprised me. I did not expect too much prior to the trip but its rich culture and uniqueness caught me off guard. I wish I had more time to seek for more surprises.

Some of the amazing collections from world-class Anthropology Museum.