A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Floglet

Mexico City

We had a fantastic five days in Mexico staying with my friend Male. It was amazing to be reunited again after seven years (we lived and worked together during my year abroad in France) and meet her beautiful little family. We were treated to delicious home cooked food, margaritas and personal tours of the local sights…

8/3/16
After our 30 hour journey we had a little lie in and were then treated to a brunch of fresh tamales. These are delicious stuffed corn husks filled with a corn dough and other fillings, including chicken, tomatoes, chilli and cheese. Male then gave us a tour of the rest of their house, which is currently under construction, with fantastic views across the valley to Mexico City.

In the afternoon Male drove us to Tlayacapan, a village further down the valley. We walked around their beautiful old church and lots of handicraft shops including glass, clay, stone, metal and paper work.

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In the town square Male treated us to some delicious fruit sorbets including mamey, a sweet orange fruit with the look and texture of an avocado.

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On our way back to the house we stopped at the next door village which is famous for its abundance of mole shops (a traditional sauce normally served with meat made from lots of ingredients, including nuts, chocolate). We visited a handful of shops and sampled both the raw paste and powder versions and brought some home. Halfway up the hill we stopped off for an incredible fresh blue tortilla.

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For dinner we were treated to potzole cooked by Male’s mum - a delicious fresh chicken and veg broth with puffed, boiled corn. We also had tostadas - small crispy tortillas with avocado, cheese and sour cream.

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9/3/16
On the Wednesday we woke to a massive thunder storm, with thunder, lightening and hail, that lasted all night and all day. It cut the power and Naybi, Male’s daughter, was sent home from school.

We enjoyed mollentos for lunch - toasted bread with refried beans, cheese and salsa (a bit like cheese on toast!) - which was amazingly comforting with the weather.

In the afternoon we packed up the house and all drove down to Male’s parent’s house in the city when the rain finally eased off. We then hung out with the children watching YouTube cartoon videos (which were no good for practising our Spanish as they were all in English). Male made us some delicious margaritas to have with our dinner that evening.

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10/3/16
On Thursday we had a day out in Mexico City with Male and her partner Horacio.
Our first stop was the spectacular national theatre, with its domed roof and statues.Male explained that this, and many of the other buildings were actually starting to sink as the city itself was built on a lake filled in with soft materials.

We then saw some other impressive buildings, with designs influenced by different European architecture, some grand churches and a fantastic mosaic house.

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The city's main central square was gigantic and surrounded by imposing red lava bricked buildings - the national colour. We took a look around the main cathedral and also saw the remains of the native pyramid that was destroyed to build it on.

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Horacio then left us to go to work at one of the city's universities and Male took us to the royal palace to see murals by Diego Rivera, depicting Mexican history. Amazing colourful images beginning with the natives, following through to colonialism and the struggles in the 20th century.

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We headed to a traditional café for some sweet treats, including a kind of crisp bread/cracked with a spicy fruity syrup. We had a wander around the central artisan market and showed great restraint by only picking up a handful of souvenirs.

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11/3/16
After breakfast on the Friday we drove out of the city to Male’s aunt’s house, with amazing views of the volcanoes on the way. We met the extended family and dog then Male, Horacio, Anita and I left for the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

Covering a huge area we first explored the main citadel, which was still being excavated. We the walked down the 2km 'Avenue of the Dead’, exploring the amazingly well preserved temples along the way. Every 50 years or so a new pyramid would be built on top of the old one, meaning that all the decorative paintings and sculptures were amazingly well preserved, they almost didn't look real.

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Towards the end of the avenue we reached the Pyramid of the Sun, incredibly spectacular but very very steep. We managed to climb all the way to the top which was a massive achievement given how windy it was! The views from the top really were spectacular. We then headed down to admire the Pyramid of the Moon and the palace ruins.

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We went back to Male's aunt's house for a delicious family dinner including spicy rice, broccoli fritters, salsa, tortillas and pig skin (a bit of a challenge!). As well as some amazing savoury and sweet homemade tamales.

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12/03/16
On Saturday we had a lovely day out at Xochimilco, kind of like a Mexican Cambridge, with punting on the river. We brought a picnic, hired a boat and an oarsman and sailed around the canals. It was a proper fiesta atmosphere with lots of party boats and mariachi bands. Lunch included cactus and tortillas with cheese.

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In the afternoon we drove to Coyancan - a cosmopolitan part of the city with a grand square and lots of bars with people enjoying their Saturday evening. There was an impressive church and convent, where a wedding was taking place and after a short walk around we indulged in some amazing ice cream.

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On the way back we stopped by Horacio’s sister's house for drinks and then headed home for quesadillas and margaritas.

13/3/16
Male spoilt us with yummy freshly made guacamole for our last breakfast. We then said our goodbyes and drove to the airport.

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We had a momentary panic when we arrived and our flight wasn't on the screen but apparently that's quite normal, so we checked in as expected. We boarded our flight to Guatemala City around 1pm and had incredible views of the snow capped volcanoes and Mexico City as we took off.

Posted by Floglet 18:31 Comments (0)

Chiang Mai and Krabi

24/2/16
After finally arriving in Chiang Mai, a little later than planned, we hopped into one of Chiang Mai’s red fire truck style taxis to our hostel. We had some typical Thai dishes for dinner - mine arrived in a pineapple! And then crashed out in our family room.

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25/2/16
Our first stop on Thursday was breakfast at Angel’s Secrets cafe, where we enjoyed some amazing oatmeal and pancakes, setting us up for the day. We then spent the morning exploring some of the city’s many temples, including Wat Chedi Luang which had an unusual old brick stupa.

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After a refreshing mango shake stop we visited a few more shops and temples, including one of the city’s largest - Wat Phra Singh - which had some very realistic monk statues.

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After a fair bit of walking we decided to indulge ourselves and headed to a spa for some treatments, where all the female staff were ex-offenders who have been retrained to provide them with a route back into employment. I opted for a post-trekking treatment (despite the lack of trekking done) which included a foot massage, a Thai back massage and a manicure. Everyone else enjoyed coconut scrubs and massages.

Feeling suitably relaxed we then walked to Talat Pratu food market for our dinner. We all had really good, and amazing value, stir fries and some mango sticky rice for dessert (which started an addiction!). We then headed around to the souvenir night market for some evening shopping.

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26/2/16
For Friday morning we’d booked an excursion to the handicraft village - the setting wasn't quite as idyllic as the name might suggest as it was more a collection of out of town workshops with shops attached. We had a lovely driver though and started off with a visit to the silk warehouse. We saw live silkworms (and were a bit worried no one was keeping an eye on the ones making a bid for escape), weaving, spinning and the thinning and dying processes.

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We then visited a silver shop and a jade and jewellery shop with more demonstrations, followed by a lacquer workshop and a cotton shop where we saw women weaving - one doing a plain stretch of fabric which would grow 4-5m a day and another, much more detailed pattern, which would only grow 4-5 inches a day.

On the way to our final stop our driver took us to a lovely old temple, with beautiful designs and a friendly old monk who gave us each a Buddha image to carry with us and keep us safe. We then went to the papermaking outlet where they produced fans and parasols.

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Afterwards we headed back to Chiang Mai for lunch and then went on to explore Chinatown and its markets.

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Our evening was spent on an amazing cooking course where we cooked the night away. We tried our hand at spring rolls, papaya salad, pumpkin soup, a curry paste and the curry itself (I went for Massaman), Akha soup, Akha salad and Akha dipping sauce (Akha is a tribe from Northern Thailand, where our teacher was from), a soup (I went for Tom Yum with prawns), a stir fry and mango sticky rice! We learnt lots about seasoning and what to add to draw out the flavours and once we’d finished off (most) of what we had made we were given a brilliant recipe book, spice mix and paste to take home.

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27/2/16
After our busy evening the night before, we treated ourselves to a leisurely brunch at the Chiang Mai Breakfast World in a German-style beer garden.

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After we’d filled up we caught a taxi up to Wat Phra Doi Suthep - the most famous temple in the city. We knew it was on a hill but it was much much higher up than we thought, which made for a bit of a queasy taxi ride as we were all sat sideways and the driver was driving like he had somewhere else to be.

The site itself is home to a beautiful golden stupa with a temple surrounding it. Due to its height you also get amazing views over to Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside.

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We had a very quick descent and turnaround once we were back in the town to head off to the airport and catch our flight to Krabi (via Bangkok).

28/2/16
For our first day in Krabi we caught a long tail boat to Railay, a beautiful resort further down the peninsula. Once we arrived we headed to the west beach, which had beautiful limestone cliffs and clear blue water. We spent the day relaxing and swimming and enjoyed pizza and fruit shakes for lunch.

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On way back to the boat we took a different route through the shops and were lucky to see a group of monkeys, some with their tiny babies. We walked along the east side to take in the beautiful views then boarded our boat back. It was a much choppier ride than on the way over and we ended up looking like we’d just stepped out of the shower.

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We headed to the night market for dinner, enjoying more stirfries and a dessert of steamed coconut milk cakes and mango sticky rice (of course!).

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29/2/16
On our second day we headed to Noparathara beach, which was super beautiful and quiet. We had some amazing fruit platters for breakfast and were going to attempt to wade across to an island nearby but realised (after watching others attempt it) the water got a lot deeper than we originally thought!

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We had a huge and delicious lunch at one of the beach-side restaurants, including giant coconuts, spring rolls, shrimp cakes, battered fish and chicken. I think we surprised the owner when we managed to finish it all.

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In the afternoon we ventured into the sea for a swim, but after a long wade out we gave up as the water was still only up to our waists. We came back in and then watched a very beautiful sun set.

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We rode in a slightly precarious ‘sidecar’ tuk tuk back to Krabi and headed to a different night market for dinner with some great live music to accompany us while we ate.

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1/3/16
For our final full day in Krabi we headed over to Ao Nang, the slightly busier resort. We had a delicious big breakfast and then caught a long tail boat over to Koh Poda, a beautiful small island nearby.

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We found a quiet spot to enjoy the sunshine and swim. After a very relaxed afternoon we packed up just before the tide reached and headed back to Ao Nang, where we grabbed a bit more beach time before the sun went down.

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We stayed in Ao Nang for dinner and satisfied our craving for pizza, Thai style (one had bolognese and another spicy basil with chicken).

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2/3/16
On the last morning we wandered into Krabi Town for breakfast at a cafe whose owners cooked food inspired by their international guests, including some good homemade bread. We then left for the airport to catch our flight back to Bangkok.

Posted by Floglet 18:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Vientiane - the quiet capital

15/2/16
After another long bus ride we arrived in Vientiane - we couldn't get over how quiet and laid back it was for a capital city, but very fitting for Laos. After recharging a bit in our hotel (a cosy room as I’d accidentally booked us in as single occupancy!) we headed out for dinner. We had some delicious Laos specialities, but may have possibly over-ordered on rice...
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16/2/16
After breakfast we grabbed a tuk tuk and headed up the hill to Pha That Luang - the iconic Laos monument. It is a giant stupa covered in gold leaf, containing fragment of Buddha’s collarbone, brought over from India. Pretty spectacular to look at. There are some impressive temples surrounding it, as well as their cultural hall. We took some time to explore them and stumbled across a photoshoot (we never did work out if they were a couple or models). We then became the subject of a photo ourselves when a Chinese man asked us to pose with his daughter - we assumed westerners were a bit of a rarity for him.
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We then headed down the hill to check out Patuxai - the Laos victory monument (aka their Arc de Triomphe). It seemed to have a bit of a reputation for being ugly, but we didn't think it looked too bad. The ceiling especially was very pretty. It had gained the nickname of ‘the concrete runway’ as it was built by Laos using money that was given by the US which was intended for a new airport, so a slightly less practical alternative!
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We kept it local for our lunch stop and opted for the cafe next to our hotel, in fairness it had been going a long time and had a very good reputation. Their specialty was Pho, in a ‘do it yourself’ kind of way.
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Wanting to expand our Laos history knowledge we headed to their National Museum in the afternoon where we were educated on their ancient history, tribal history and colonial history and the secret war (which ran alongside the Vietnam war). It was informative, if a little one sided, and we definitely could have had a job there improving their English translations.

In the evening we went to a bar with amazing views across the river to Thailand. We also enjoyed browsing their night market and watching the sunset, with the crazy exercise class that was going on in the background.
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17/2/16
As our hostel didn’t provide breakfast we were able to sample what the city had to offer, which on Wednesday included some amazing egg white and oat toast with jam (something we might have to recreate when we’re home).
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After breakfast we headed off to Cope - a centre which supports and raises awareness of amputees, who may have lost limbs from unexploded ordinance or illness. They manufacture prosthetic limbs and have trained up a whole team of medics and therapists who do incredible work all across Laos.
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They had an amazing free exhibition, with some heartbreaking stories of loss, but also some uplifting stories too. We were so shocked to learn how devastatingly the country was bombed during the secret war, more than 270 million bombs were dropped with 80 million remaining unexploded after the war. More than 50,000 people have been killed or injured by these devices, 20,000 of those occurred after the war had ended and 40% of those were children. Cope have also invested in education programmes to educate the country on the dangers of these unexploded bombs and have set up support centres across the country for those who previously previously had no access to medical help
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In the afternoon we visited Wat Sisaket which is the oldest surviving temple in the city and was commissioned by Vientiane’s last king. It held a pretty big Buddha collection and some more impressive stupas (and we made friends with a couple of cats).
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18/2/16
Thursday brought another great breakfast discovery - the House of Fruit Shakes. Despite its name we didn't actually have shakes there, but instead opted for their amazing fruit platter with eggs and bread thrown in. All for only £2!
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We then caught the bus to the Buddha Park - which was exactly how it sounds, a park full of Buddha statues. We had fun taking in all the different designs and there was a great view across the river to Thailand. I even climbed up the precarious pumpkin structure, where health and safety rules didn't factor.
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After that we caught a bus part way back to city and visited the Lao Disabled Women's Development Centre. An amazing charity that offers courses to disabled women (and now men), teaching them a skill that they can then use to make money and support themselves. While we were there we went on a tour and saw classes of sewing, newspaper paper art, weaving by hand and clay stoves construction. The centre also has on site accommodation for its students. Since 2002 they helped over 400 women which is incredible given their size.
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In the afternoon we headed to another temple and then back to our favourite spot on the river to watch the sun set (again) next to the exercise class.
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We had an amazing dinner with some Laos appetisers and a tamarind marinated fish.
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19/2/16
On Friday morning we visited another temple (there are a fair few in Vientiane!) which was beautifully decorated, although we’re not sure why, and then indulged in a bit of pampering with a pedicure.
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The afternoon was spent window shopping and visiting another temple. Then for our dinner, as is now the tradition for our last night in a country, we went for pizza.
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20/2/16
The next day we had an early 4am start to catch our flight to Thailand. We realised we might have been a little over-cautious when we saw the reaction of our sleepy looking hotel receptionist who was surprised we were only going to Bangkok. Our suspicions were confirmed when we got to the airport (only 10 mins down the road) and we were two of only a handful of passengers. Our early start did mean that we got to see the monks going to give almes (finally!) on the journey.
After waiting in a mosquito-packed departure lounge for a little while we finally boarded our flight to Bangkok just after 7am.
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Posted by Floglet 19:54 Comments (0)

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