Oaxaca (WaHaKa) City is our most favourite place in Mexico, and up there with one of our most favourite places we’ve visited so far. It truly is beautiful with lots of colonial buildings in the middle of the city, and the stunning 16th century church Santo Domingo. But it’s the vibrancy of the constant celebrations and people who make this place so wonderful.
We decided that we wanted to learn some Spanish since we’d be spending a lot of time in Central and South America from now on. It’s good to be able to get by with some basics in the countries you visit rather than having to rely on people speaking English. Which you can’t really do here as so many people don’t speak English. Except all Europeans we met, they put English people to shame, they usually can speak 3 or more languages.
We found a lovely spanish school, Amigos Del Sol and signed up for 4 weeks of lessons. Emma had some previous knowledge but I had no spanish skills. The school was great, our teacher Esteban was brilliant and ended up being just us three for the whole four weeks. Esteban regularly had his Lucha Libre mask since he was also a secret part-time wrestler. We had the bonus of having cute dogs on site and one that was so tiny called Chapulina (Grasshopper) she liked to jump all the time. Grasshoppers are also a local delicacy here. Walking in town you would just see huge sacks of Chapulines for sale, cooked and covered in spices. Safe to say we were not bothered in trying these.
Rogelio the owner is probably the nicest soul you could ever meet. So lovely and passionate about teaching and we came away feeling like family. Emma decided to collapse midway through our lesson and then faint a further 5 times before we got her home. Rogelio and Esteban could not be more helpful and offered anything we needed which was super sweet. It seemed everyone we spoke to in our time in Oaxaca got sick at some point, either dodgy water or from bites.
The main reason we wanted to come to Oaxaca was for Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This is a time families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration. It was honestly one of the most wonderful experiences we have had and truly is such a lovely celebration for the dead. I wish we celebrated death the way they do here and certainly will try to more. Live brass bands, bright colours, happiness and remembering the precious times had with people.
The streets get filled with Marigold flowers, in arches, displays and on wires along the street. These are meant to represent the fragility of life. It is believed that the spirits of the departed loved ones come to visit during the celebration and Marigolds are used to help guide the spirits with their vibrant color. You would also see altars, called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using calaveras, aztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. These were everywhere and in all shapes and sizes.
We met a wonderful woman called Becky from the spanish school, who was having lessons too. We ended up hanging out lots and visiting all the different celebrations. Then we went and got our faces painted and met some air stewards from America. We had a lovely night with them having a mixture of mezcals and tequilla. They had just flown in for the celebrations and it seemed a lot of people did that. It’s a wonderful time to be around Oaxaca.
Since we lived in the same place for 4 weeks it was the perfect restbite from constantly moving around and we started to feel part of the community. Our airbnb host would pop in for chats and we bought different foods from our neighbours. Oaxaca doesn’t just come alive when it’s Dia de los Muertos. There is always something going on. Loads of live music, party’s, weddings. It has a wonderful feel about it and lots of coffee bars.
Within Oaxaca Provence there is a large coast line, so we took the long bus down to the seaside. Emma’s travel sickness was not keen on this as the mountain road is just constantly winding for 10 hours. We ended up in Puerto Escondido. There are a few other beaches around but we really liked it there. Perfect little spot at the less popular end, with sunbed service and tasty food, Could not ask for more.
We stayed in a hostel there, which we hadn’t done in a while and remembered why we had not missed them. Someone came back at 3am trying not to pay for a taxi so the taxi man was going to beat him up. Then at 5am someone decided to come back and play their bongos and talk about the meaning of life… This is not a reflection on all hostal times we have had, we’ve had some awesome ones. But the likelihood that stuff like that is going to happen is higher when you stay at a hostal. It’s like being at uni sometimes but people finding themselves in a more profound way. On the way back to the airport we stayed a few more nights in Oaxaca city. We did some more siteseeing with Becky just before she left for home. There is so much to see in the surrounding towns and endless markets and delicious food.
Our flight headed towards Cancun so we could visit Playa Carmen and Tulum. These are the more touristy spots of Mexico, Cancun and Carmen more than Tulum. Toursity is generally usually a good thing, but here it just meant endless harrasment and tatt. Tatt is all the stuff you don’t want to buy but will be offered a hundred different versions of it. Sold on any platform they can sell it on. Tatt on a matt, tatt on their head, hands, cars, wheel barrows and sacks. We get it, people need to make money and we are beyond used to this sort of action. But here it was just on another level and relentless offering of drugs. If you come to these areas, you need to be staying in your resorts and doing tours as compared to other areas I would say the main towns are a bit rough and not nice even compared to other places in Mexico. There are definitely nicer places just further down the coast, but we were short on time so had restricted ourselves to these areas.
We enjoyed Tulum more, but our most favourite part was our private cinema date night. It’s called Zine and part of a beautiful complex which is still being finished. You get your own private room, comfy chairs, air con and you pre-order a meal to be delivered halfway through the film along with snacks. We chose Coco since we’d never seen it before and had just enjoyed all of the celebrations it portrays in the movie.
Surprisingly the beaches around these areas suffer terribly from lots of seaweed. Plus some areas smell really bad, a mixture of sulphur and sewage. People are constantly trying to rake up the seaweed as it’s so awkward to swim around it. Overall if you want a nice beach holiday and some nice site seeing, maybe look else where first.
From Cancun we headed to Guadalajara, we wanted to see a good variety of places and this was meant to be a diverse city. This has so many great places to visit, parks, museums, and art galleries. Oh and more delicious food! Mexico is definitely the tastiest country we have been too. So much good food! We tried to squeeze in as much as possible. We were headed back to our flat when we saw a crowd start to gather by the road. We stood for a while and the crowed got bigger and bigger. As it got completely dark, we could see a lot of lights in the distance and what appeared to be a parade. Then we saw it, the most famous truck in the world. The Coca Cola truck! Santa and the holidays were coming, slightly early but they were on their way!
It’s a big University city, so lots of nice places to go and a younger feel at certain areas. On Sunday like in lots of city’s in Mexico they shut one of the main roads down which goes through the whole city so it’s strictly for cyclists and pedestrians. This is to encourage families to come out and cycle and see their city. We only had a few nights here but made the most of it. Would love to come back.
From here it was two flights to get to Canada. I was challenged at the airport to a dance off and then enjoyed the beautiful lights of our night flight.