I’m 28, male, and with a desire to travel, see, touch and smell as many things as possible. Hence, I arrived in Mexico 2 months ago, and although I was meant to just be passing visit, traveling as I was down south to Guatemala and beyond, I’ve stayed a lot longer. Mostly because the country turned out to be pretty damn beautiful, and the people, although occasionally baffled by your pigeon Spanish, are warm and welcoming. Even the small gnomish women in the local café who find my ordering vegetarian food innately hilarious, every time.
I’ve only very travelled to a couple of other countries before, on School trips and things, so I’m no intrepid Ranulph Fiennes-like character, getting third degree frost bite on my legs and just jogging it off. But of the small and in-numerous countries on this planet that I have visited of which there are about 7, Mexico comfortably tops the list.
Cancun is where the party is at, Chiapas is beautiful, Merida’s a mixture of both. There are 6000 natural underwater caves, or Cenotes if you feeling like challenging yourself, which are some of the true wonders of Yucatan. The Mayan archaeological ruins are also fantastic and extremely well preserved, and although the larger ones such as Chichen-itza and Uxmal are overrun with tourists and the hustle and bustle of salesmen selling tortuga statues and Mayan calendars, some of the less well known such as Dzibil Cheltun and Palenque are quieter but just as beautiful.
Merida is a great place to explore from, if you’re looking for a base. It has the trappings of home, clubs, bars, nice restaurants, or cheaper haunts where the locals eat if you feel like mixing it (and you probably should). For 135 pesos per night you can share a sleepy dorm room in a former art gallery just for the hell of it, and eat a 25 pesos lunch at a local café which consists of the special meal of the day (usually chicken stew) with rice, frijoles, potato, carrots, onions and tortillas). It beats paying 250 pesos for lunch in a restaurant catering to ‘gringos’!
Nearby I’d also recommend mixing it in local bars such as La Negrita and Pompidou. In La Negrita, you find a great mix of travelers and locals with whom you can spend your time salsa dancing into the early hours; I can’t salsa but it’s fun to drunkenly learn with strangers, and don’t worry, they play other more musical variety on certain nights, including after midnight. Or, if it takes your fancy, you can go to the Roomba Café and learn the beautifully melancholic yet simple dance, the Bachata, with a perfectly mysterious and unapologetically alluring Señorita.
Sunday’s are relaxing in Merida, with certain streets closed closed off to cars and buses, allowing cyclists and pedestrians free reign over the idyllic streets where you will find suddenly appeared carts a plenty with traders selling nopales, sopes, and fajitas, and much more. You can explore the farmers market, visit the pop up food stalls near the main square, or he ones selling baked treats on Paseo de Montejo, all within view of the traditional Mayan dancing in the main square and the ceremonial flag lowering ceremony in the main square, performed to the sound of trumpets.
All in all I can’t recommend Mexico enough. You’ll come here and want to stay, just as I have, or until your money runs out, just as mine has. Don’t worry though, if you’re thrifty Mexico can be very cheap. Have fun, eat, drink and party with the locals, stay in a good, safe, clean (and preferably cool) hostel, such as Art Apart, take a donkey ride to the Cenotes and have the fish nibble all that irresistible dead skin off your feet, visit the time capsule ruins, and immerse yourself in the majesty of Mexico!