Our first bus ride in Mexico was in a fancy ADO bus, which runs throughout the country. The stations and the buses are way better than New York’s Port Authority terminal, although that’s barely any standard. We got dropped off at a busy highway junction and walked to Hostal Don Nino, which looked like It was converted from a hotel.
The park right outside had a graduation party going on with teenagers dancing to the blaring music.
We walked to the main zocalo / square (every town in Latin America has a zocalo) and saw a teenage band playing followed by a dancing act in cultural clothes on a small stage.
The city had a very small town but cultural feel. We were already liking it more than Mexico City! There was a huge colonial influence here with nice colorful houses, beautiful & grand churches and some streets paved with green volcanic rock.
The standing Mexico City taco stalls were replaced here by sit-in stalls serving chocolate con leche (chocolate milk) with bread as appetizers. We had the yummiest one ever, by recommendation, at Mayordorma!
The local pizza-like dish was tlayudas which could not be made vegetarian so we went for enchiladas and chille relleno with some amazing mole sauce.
Surprisingly we had not come across or forced to eat as much rice and beans as we were anticipating, being vegetarians. People were always accommodating and whipped up some local veggie dish even and mostly at food stands.
The Oaxaca region produces chocolate, coffee and mezcal (tequila is a type of mezcal) with a good splash of culture and arts. There were lots of galleries, coffee shops and somehow Italian cafes serving pizzas. We were happy to have good coffee readily available and cheap! They also love bread (Pan in spanish) here, which is sold in abundance in Pandenerias and even Pan stalls through most of Latin America. Sweet baked roadside goodies like empanaditas (like coconut and pineapple canolis) make for a great snack and dessert!
We treated ourselves to all of the above and a fine Michelada (the best thus far) accompanied by an even finer first Mezcal ever (for me, not Ollie).
We must have picked a graduation weekend as we saw a ton of pharmacists celebrating graduating, strangely, outside a church and posing with proud families adorning their finest cultural clothes.
We were entertained by a wedding procession on the road with a live band and bigger than life size dancing dolls and I even found a life size guy for myself!
There were weddings and masses going in churches around the whole town which was also buzzing with the upcoming election fever. Although it did mean a dry weekend. We heard that people in the north of Mexico actually went across to USA to enjoy the Champions League finals which we watched over some non alcoholic bottles of coke.
The market by the mountain foothills sold everything under the sun from local produce to under garments to various types of chillies and chicken.
We went to Mount Alban to get our first taste of the Mayan ruins which were beautiful and not crowded at all. It was great to see locals with us at the tour, which had been a theme so far. The mountain was buzzing literally with birds and insects that you usually hear at night. The tour guide was quite boring and he switched from Spanish to English so seamlessly that it made it difficult to catch it at times. Nonetheless, this was a very impressive site, and gave is a great introduction to our Mayan trail over the coming few weeks
The stops at the unfinished and never to be finished Basilica of Cuilapan, a local artisanal wood carving and black mud pottery Dona Rosa workshop were quite impressive.
We spent the sunny and hot afternoon wandering the abandoned monastery and learning its history.
We had lunch with an older Aussie couple hearing their inspiring travel stories even at this age, but sad to learn that they were robbed of their day packs along with their passports at the Mexico City bus station. To be honest we have met a few people during our travels who have been mugged and robbed but they all took in its stride and were not bitter or scarred. We have been lucky so far..touchwood!
Another city down and further south we were going. This time would be our first overnight bus, with the destination being San Cristóbal de las Casas.