The Five Star Vagabond

Super travel tips, all road tested by David Herd. I'm an Australian guy who moved to Thailand in 2011 & still travel the world as often as possible.

Mexico city is not very pretty

May 1, 2014 by David Herd

Mexico city is not very pretty, danger & crime is everywhere. However there were so many things I didn’t know about this fascinating city till I met Malvina. She had studied history at university and explained so much about Mexico’s rich heritage. I am going to use a lot of information from Wikipedia in this post along with a couple of nice stories from my friend Malvina.

I don’t wish to offend people in Mexico when I refer to the crime & danger, my friend Malvina was held up & robbed 5 times in the previous 2 years. At ATMs & in her car while stopped at traffic lights, I rest my case.

Please forgive the poor quality of my photos, it was 1999 and my first digital camera left a lot to be desired.

My friend Malvina

Mexico City

We met online and became good friends when I called into Mexico City on my way to Rio Di Janeiro. Malvina was born in Lebanon and moved to Mexico with her family. A few years later she moved to Paris and we caught up with each other once again.

Pyramid of the Sun

  Mexico pyramids I had absolutely no idea there were huge pyramids on the outskirts of Mexico City.   Teotihuacan also written Teotihuac√°n, was a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city located in the Basin of Mexico, 30 miles (48 km) northeast of modern-day Mexico City, which is today known as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramids, Teotihuacan is also anthropologically significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds, the Avenue of the Dead, and the small portion of its vibrant murals that have been exceptionally well-preserved. Additionally, Teotihuacan exported a so-called “Thin Orange” pottery style and fine obsidian tools that garnered high prestige and widespread utilization throughout Mesoamerica.   The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC, with major monuments continuously under construction until about AD 250. The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, but its major monuments were sacked and systematically burned around 550 AD. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population of 125,000 or more, making it at minimum the sixth largest city in the world during its epoch.Platform along The Avenue of the Dead. Mexico City Scholars had thought that invaders attacked the city in the 7th or 8th century, sacking and burning it. More recent evidence, however, seems to indicate that the burning was limited to the structures and dwellings associated primarily with the ruling class. Some think this suggests that the burning was from an internal uprising. They say the invasion theory is flawed because early archaeological work on the city was focused exclusively on the palaces and temples, places used by the upper classes. Because all of these sites showed burning, archaeologists concluded that the whole city was burned. Instead, it is now known that the destruction was cantered on major civic structures along the Avenue of the Dead. Some statues seem to have been destroyed in a methodical way, with their fragments dispersed.   Evidence for population decline beginning around the 6th century lends some support to the internal unrest hypothesis. The decline of Teotihuacan has been correlated to lengthy droughts related to the climate changes of 535-536 AD. This theory of ecological decline is supported by archaeological remains that show a rise in the percentage of juvenile skeletons with evidence of malnutrition during the 6th century. This finding does not conflict with either of the above theories, since both increased warfare and internal unrest can also be effects of a general period of drought and famine.   Other nearby centers such as Cholula, Xochicalco, and Cacaxtla competed to fill the power void left by Teotihuacan’s decline. They may have aligned themselves against Teotihuacan to reduce its influence and power. The art and architecture at these sites emulates Teotihuacan forms, but also demonstrates an eclectic mix of motifs and iconography from other parts of Mesoamerica, particularly the Maya region.  

Taxi to the Pyramids

Mexico City In 1999 all the taxis were VW Beetles with the front passenger seat removed. They were of course manufactured in Mexico and in 1999 you could purchase one for about $5000.

VW taxis were everywhere.

Taxis Mexico City

Sadly now in 2015 the VW taxis have ceased to exist, here is the reason why.

Downtown Mexico city is not very pretty
Mexico City

A very crowded buy city.

The Palace that looks like a prison

Mexico City According to my friend Malvina the plans for this Palace were sent by ship from Spain and somehow got mixed up with Plans for a prison in Colombia. Consequently Mexico got a Palace that looks like a prison & Colombia got a prison that looks like a palace. I have no idea whether or not this is true, but it is a nice story. ūüôā

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

 photo Mexico City cathedral.jpg  The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven is the largest cathedral in the Americas, and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Mexico City  The Palacio de Bellas Artes is the most important cultural center in Mexico City as well as the rest of the country of Mexico. It is located on the west side of the historic center of Mexico City next to the Alameda Central park.

Street dancing in Mexico City

Mexico City dancing The city is sinking  

This was street level, road has sunk.

  Mexico City   Another story fro Malvina explains why the city was built on a swamp. Apparently the priests in Spain sent their people to Mexico with specific instructions to build the city in the exact spot when they see an eagle in a tree holding a snake in its beak. After many months of searching they finally saw the eagle in a tree on an island surrounded by water and they followed the strict instructions even though there was not much land for a city.   Over the following years as the city grew they simply filled in the lake which is why the current city in slowly sinking.   Mexico City was built originally (ca. 1325) on an island in the middle of a lake, and eventually became the capital of the powerful Aztec Empire.   The provision of potable water is a problem that has plagued the city for centuries. Deforestation in the 19th century depleted the springs that had supplied the city with fresh water via aqueducts (some dating from precolonial times). The first fresh water well was built in the city center in 1857. By 1900 there were hundreds of wells sucking water from the underground aquifer. As more and more water was sucked up through the wells, the city began to sink. Some parts have dropped more than seven meters (23 ft) since 1891. Parts of the city center sank more than a meter between 1948 and 1951, and another meter by 1960. The city sank two meters below what remained of Lake Texcoco, posing a serious risk of flooding during the rainy season. In response, engineers sank wells into Lake Texcoco, sucked water from the aquifer, and the lake level dropped below the height of the city center. Rates of subsidence are very uneven. In places the weight of large buildings has caused them to sink into the dried out mud. The city‚Äôs magnificent Opera House (Palacio de Bellas Artes,) sank so far that its original ground floor is now a subterranean basement. To slow down the rate of sinking in the city center, in 1950 new wells were drilled south of the city reducing central city sinking to its current rate of about 10 cm (4 in) a year. Of course, areas in the south started sinking more rapidly. Elsewhere, buildings (including the Cathedral) have tilted and underground sewers and water pipes have cracked and broken. Furthermore, drains in the city center sank below the large drainage canals and pumps had to be added to lift storm water and sewage up to the drainage canals. These ground movements pose major challenges for the construction and maintenance of the city‚Äôs extensive metro network.


Mariachi band  Mariachi is a form of folk music from Mexico. Mariachi began as a regional folk style called ‚ÄúSon Jaliscience‚ÄĚ in the center west of Mexico originally played only with string instruments and musicians dressed in the white pants and shirts of peasant farmers. From the 19th to 20th century, migrations from rural areas into cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, along with the Mexican government’s cultural promotion gradually re-labeled it as Son style, with its alternative name of ‚Äúmariachi‚ÄĚ becoming used for the ‚Äúurban‚ÄĚ form. Modifications of the music include influences from other music such as polkas and waltzes, the addition of trumpets and the use of charro outfits by mariachi musicians. The musical style began to take on national prominence in the first half of the 20th century, with its promotion at presidential inaugurations and on the radio in the 1920’s.

Farewell from Mexico City

Mexico City Thanks for visiting my Mexico City photo blog. 

Use THIS LINK for a great discount on hotel rooms in Mexico City.

That’s all folks

David Herd Thailand  

                   Here are some more posts to check out


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Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico

September 30, 2013 by David Herd

A bucket of Corona

Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico

Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico, it was April 2001 when I travelled there on the way to Cuba. Consequently the photo quality is not up to standard given the fact digital cameras were reasonably new. Cancun reminded me a little of Vegas by the sea with all the fabulous upmarket hotels stretching along the narrow peninsular.

Many luxury hotels in Cancun.

Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico

The choice of luxury hotels is endless, they overlook the Caribbean which has the most beautiful colored water that I have ever seen anywhere in the world.

Please click on Google + to help my ranking.

Perfect combination.

David Herd Cancun

A perfect combination, two lovely Japanese girls and a cold Corona.

The beautiful Caribbean at Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico

Cancun Caribbean peninsular

The water is such a beautiful colour.

El Castillo at Chichen Itza.

El Castillo Chichen Itza

I gathered all my courage and made the climb, although when I got to the top I looked down & thought “what an idiot I am to climb this”. I must admit the view was breathtaking, I came down sideways looking at the steps not the ground, and found out later about 15 people a year fall to their death.

Dominating the North Platform of Chichen Itza is the¬†Temple of¬†Kukulkan¬†(a Maya¬†feathered serpent deity¬†similar to the Aztec¬†Quetzalcoatl), usually referred to as¬†El Castillo¬†(“the castle”).¬†This¬†step pyramid¬†stands about 30 metres (98¬†ft) high and consists of a series of nine square terraces, each approximately 2.57 metres (8.4¬†ft) high, with a 6-metre (20¬†ft) high temple upon the summit.¬†The sides of the pyramid are approximately 55.3 metres (181¬†ft) at the base and rise at an angle of 53¬į, although that varies slightly for each side.¬†The four faces of the pyramid have protruding stairways that rise at an angle of 45¬į.¬†The¬†talud¬†walls of each terrace slant at an angle of between 72¬į and 74¬į.¬†At the base of the balustrades of the northeastern staircase are carved heads of a serpent.

Mesoamerican cultures periodically superimposed larger structures over older ones, and El Castillo is one such example.  In the mid-1930s, the Mexican government sponsored an excavation of El Castillo. After several false starts, they discovered a staircase under the north side of the pyramid. By digging from the top, they found another temple buried below the current one. Inside the temple chamber was a Chac Mool statue and a throne in the shape of Jaguar, painted red and with spots made of inlaid jade.  The Mexican government excavated a tunnel from the base of the north staircase, up the earlier pyramid’s stairway to the hidden temple, and opened it to tourists. In 2006, INAH closed the throne room to the public.

On the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, in the late afternoon, the northwest corner of the pyramid casts a series of triangular shadows against the western balustrade on the north side that evokes the appearance of a serpent wriggling down the staircase, which some scholars have suggested is a representation of the feathered-serpent god Kukulkan. (From Wikipedia)

In 2007, Chichen Itza’s El Castillo was named one of the¬†New Seven Wonders of the World¬†after a worldwide vote. Despite the fact that the vote was sponsored by a commercial enterprise, and that its methodology was criticized, the vote was embraced by government and tourism officials in Mexico who project that as a result of the publicity the number of tourists expected to visit Chichen will double by 2012.

From the top of El Castillo you look down at Templo de los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors)

Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico

The Temple of the Warriors complex consists of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns depicting warriors. This complex is analogous to Temple B at the Toltec capital of Tula, and indicates some form of cultural contact between the two regions. The one at Chichen Itza, however, was constructed on a larger scale. At the top of the stairway on the pyramid’s summit (and leading towards the entrance of the pyramid’s temple) is a Chac Mool. This temple encases or entombs a former structure called The Temple of the Chac Mool. The archeological expedition and restoration of this building was done by the Carnegie Institute of Washington from 1925 to 1928. A key member of this restoration was Earl H. Morris who published the work from this expedition in two volumes entitled Temple of the Warriors. (From Wikipedia)

“La Iglesia” in the Las Monjas complex.

Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico.

Las Monjas is one of the more notable structures at Chichen Itza. It is a complex of Terminal Classic buildings constructed in the Puuc architectural style. The Spanish named this complex Las Monjas (“The Nuns” or “The Nunnery”) but it was actually a governmental palace.

“La Iglesia”

Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico

This¬†is a small temple (known as the La Iglesia, “The Church”) decorated with elaborate masks.
The Las Monjas group is distinguished by its concentration of hieroglyphic texts dating to the Late to Terminal Classic. These texts frequently mention a ruler by the name of Kakupakal. (From Wikipedia)
“El Caracol” observatory temple.

Cancun Chichen Itza Mexico

El Caracol (“The Snail”) is located to the north of Las Monjas. It is a round building on a large square platform. It gets its name from the stone spiral staircase inside. The structure, with its unusual placement on the platform and its round shape (the others are rectangular, in keeping with Maya practice), is theorized to have been a proto-observatory with doors and windows aligned to astronomical events, specifically around the path of Venus as it traverses the heavens.

Akab Dzib is located to the east of the Caracol. The name means, in Yucatec Mayan, “Dark Writing”; “dark” in the sense of “mysterious”. An earlier name of the building, according to a translation of glyphs in the Casa Colorada, is Wa(k)wak Puh Ak Na, “the flat house with the excessive number of chambers,‚ÄĚ and it was the home of the administrator of ¬†Chich√©n Itz√°,¬† kokom Yahawal Cho’ K‚Äôak‚Äô. INAH completed a restoration of the building in 2007. It is relatively short, only 6 metres (20 ft) high, and is 50 metres (160 ft) in length and 15 metres (49 ft) wide. The long, western-facing fa√ßade has seven doorways. The eastern fa√ßade has only four doorways, broken by a large staircase that leads to the roof. This apparently was the front of the structure, and looks out over what is today a steep, but dry, cenote.

The southern end of the building has one entrance. The door opens into a small chamber and on the opposite wall is another doorway, above which on the lintel are intricately carved glyphs‚ÄĒthe ‚Äúmysterious‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúobscure‚ÄĚ writing that gives the building its name today. Under the lintel in the door jamb is another carved panel of a seated figure surrounded by more glyphs. Inside one of the chambers, near the ceiling, is a painted hand print.¬†(From Wikipedia)

I look back on Cancun & Chichen Itza Mexico and realize how surprised I was with these two places. I had very low expectations yet I was thrilled with what I saw.

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                                        Great hotel room rates anywhere in the world if you book
                                                through these links below.  Book now & pay later. ?
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That’s all folks

Beckington Trowbridge

  Book through AGODA for great hotel deals in Cancun. If Cancun is not for you then try Miami.

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