Doing Good Around the World - I - from Vancouver to Patagonia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by peergum, Jul 13, 2017.

  1. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    And a special post, repeating my comment from a few days ago, this one particularly directed to family and friends (who don't read AdvRider for most, but still reposting here for the sake of double-posting...)

    Things people don’t like to talk about…
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    Donnie and Modesta – Picture by Donnie’s sister

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    Donnie – Picture by Bob L.

    So, I learned on Tuesday that an American biker and his recent Mexican wife, Donnie and Modesta, died the day before in a motorcycle crash in Honduras. I didn’t know them personally, but had recently been in touch. Donnie, 62, was a long-time and experienced biker and had crossed North America, Mexico, and Central America many times. He was currently on a round trip from Mississippi to Panama, to show Central America to his new wife. We had agreed to meet in Antigua Guatemala, on their way back, on the last day of January, but life took a different turn and the meeting eventually won’t happen. Sadly, a tractor-trailer in Honduras lost control on a hill, fell over on the road, and cut the way to Donnie and his passenger. Modesta died immediately and Donnie was brought to a hospital but didn’t make it. This is sad news for their family and everyone who knew them.

    This brought Sapna and I to reflect on that incident and we agreed upon the fact that, even though that would be a sad day for everyone and the end of our story, if something similar happened to us, we would die happy. We are currently living the dream, we love each other, we are having fun, we joke most of the time, and even more importantly, we do what we love: discovering new countries, meeting new people, making new friends with different cultures, travelling. Conditions are not always perfect, sometimes it’s too hot, sometimes it’s getting cold, sometimes we wish we hadn’t all the gear and stuff to carry around, sometimes we’re glad we can go to places where most people don’t or can’t go because they don’t have a vehicle, they don’t want to take the risk of travelling in an unsafe public bus driven by a guy with no driver license. We go where we want to go, and today it’s on a motorcycle, tomorrow it will be something else, who cares? We’re having fun and fill our eyes with amazing views, amazing cultures. We are definitely living the dream. Living OUR dream.

    We take all the care we possibly can, but nobody controls their own fate. So, if ever anything bad happened to us, we’d rather have it happen while we do the things we love, than while sitting behind a desk working 8 to 5 to pay our debts, a house, a car, trying to look the same as all the people around us. We are DIFFERENT. We are UNIQUE. And we love our difference a way that makes this trip and the next ones OUR NORMALITY.

    Moral of the story is, if anything happened to us, don’t be sad, we would definitely die happy. And, obviously, we’ll do our best to stay alive
    powderzone, PKaye, Foiler and 6 others like this.
  2. JoeBiker25

    JoeBiker25 Been here awhile

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    Well said! Travel safe and LIVE your dream!!!
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  3. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Warm, yes. Cheap? Not in that area...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  4. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    There is an argument raging on the ISM thread about paying an exit tax when leaving Mexico and entering Belize. Since you just made that crossing perhaps you can clarify
  5. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    I just did but my case is particular since I exited in the middle and came back. I think you normally don’t have to pay if you have the receipt for the FMM.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  6. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Days 159 – 167: New year, new horizons
    Our last few days in Playa del Carmen were very low-key, probably because we needed our bodies to thaw from snowshoeing up a snowy mountain. I have decided that Canadian winters are awesome as long as I have a blanket, a hot beverage, and am sitting in front of a fireplace.

    We rang in the new year with some good company, good wine, and watching fireworks from the rooftop of Jeannie’s friend, Sara’s, place. A beach visit was attempted a few days later as we still had not done so; however, the weather was less than ideal. Phil and I are not beach-crazy people, but I am quite marveled at the irony that the days were hot and humid up until when we actually made time to go to the beach. Then it was grey and chilly. All was not lost as we decided to go to Los Tabernacos, a Québécois restaurant, and ate an inhuman amount of delicious poutine.

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    Ringing in the new year!



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    Getting poutine-wasted



    On Thursday, we joined Jeannie and her supper club buddies at Comet 984, a ’50s-style vegan diner. Yes, I willingly went to a vegan restaurant. And I LIKED it. Who am I?

    Also joining us for supper club that evening were Tim and Marisa, a fun couple from Illinois who happened to be travelling on a bike in the same direction as us. Phil connected with Tim through a motorcycle travel Facebook group and arranged to meet up in a public place, just in case one of them happened to be a serial killer.

    Tim and Marisa turned out to be wonderful people and have become good friends of ours so you should memorize their names and go check out their blog, Notier’s Frontiers, because you’ll be seeing them on our blog from time to time. Also, did I mention they’re fun?

    The four of us had dinner at our apartment on our last night in Playa and planned to cross the border to Belize in two days together.

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    Front-camera selfie… enough said
  7. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    "... arranged to meet up in a public place, just in case one of them happened to be a serial killer."

    I'm glad I did not have a mouth full of coffee when I read that. Thanks for the morning laugh Sapna.
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  8. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Yeah, she has that effect quite often ;)
  9. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Day 168: Playa del Carmen to Chetumal and the ruins at Chacchoben
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    On Sunday morning, Tim and Marisa met us at our apartment, packed and ready to hit the road. After we loaded our bike, the four of us said good-bye to Playa del Carmen and headed towards the Belizean border. The plan was to visit the Mayan ruins at Chacchoben on our way, stop in Chetumal for the night, and then cross the border into Belize on Monday morning.

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    Roadside break on the way to Chetumal



    We realize that we have visited quite a few ruin sites already and run the risk of becoming desensitized to these magnificent structures and the history that goes along with it; however, Chacchoben was a particularly special one for us. For all the Gummies out there, the cover of PeerGum’s album MMXII (2012) features the main temple pyramid at Chacchoben so we knew we had to see it before leaving Mexico. Also, for those who are unaware, PeerGum happens to be our favorite biker and the musician behind our YouTube videos

    The ruins are around a 2.5-hour ride from Playa del Carmen and located close to a village from which it derives its name. The Mayan settlement at the site is estimated to date back to around 200 BC and the structures are said to date from 700 AD. The ruins were discovered and reported to the Mexican government in 1972 by American archaeologist, Dr. Peter Harrison. He stumbled upon this discovery while flying a helicopter over Mexico and he noticed numerous hills in flat lands. These hills turned out to have temples beneath them that were covered naturally over the span of 2,000 years.

    The entry fee to visit the Chacchoben ruins was 60 MXN (~4 CAD) per person and it turned out to be an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. The ruins are in surprisingly good shape in comparison to the prior ones we have visited. This is highly likely due to the fact that it doesn’t see the heavy visitor traffic that the other more popular sites see. It has also only been open to the public since 2002.

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    We continued along our way to Chetumal after visiting the ruins and arrived at our destination while it was still light outside. After showers and much-needed siestas, the four of us went to get some dinner at a local restaurant where Tim surprised me with a little chocolate cake as it was my birthday the following day (though it was already the 8th in Fiji where I was born). Anyone who knows me knows my love for all things chocolate rivals that of an Oompa Loompa’s so I was in heaven. Thank you, Tim!

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    Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate drizzle, and whipped cream… all for me

    ---
    Note:
    I'll add our current position at the time of the posts on AdvRider in the future, so that other bikers get the opportunity to meet us.
    We're currently in Antigua Guatemala, until the 19th of February.
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  10. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Days 169 & 170: Chetumal to Belize City
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    On the morning of Monday, January 8, we woke up earlier than we would have liked, thanks to the blaring trumpets that seemed to be right outside our window. We later found out that the noise was thanks to the local police celebrating their ability to make noise at an ungodly hour without consequences because nobody wants to end up in a Mexican prison for throwing stink bombs at police officers. They could have been celebrating something else, but that’s my conclusion.

    After breakfast, the four of us headed towards the Belizean border. The whole procedure took longer than we would have liked, but for pretty mundane reasons such as the bike’s VIN being hidden. Everything went well and we were into the next country (and an English-speaking one at that) on our itinerary before we knew it.

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    Belize border crossing



    We had inhumanly-large portions of food for lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Corozal and then temporarily parted ways from Tim and Marisa near Orange Walk. We headed towards Belize City, relying on a paper map to guide us because TomTom did not include Belize on our GPS device, and arrived at our hotel without any problems. We stayed at Easy Inn for two nights at 134 BZD (~82 CAD) a night. Quite a high price for what we got, but we discovered during our time in the country that Belize was more expensive than we expected. Prices were on par with what we typically pay in Canada.

    After unloading the bike, getting showered, and relaxing a bit, we went out for an early dinner at Riverside Tavern to celebrate 34 years of the world being a little more sarcastic. The receptionist at our hotel told us not to stay out in Belize City after 9:00 PM and to stay away from the South side so, after a delicious dinner, we were back at our hotel before 8:30 PM. We did not feel like we were in any imminent danger at any point; however, the city felt very sketchy after dark and was not a place where we wanted to be outside for longer than necessary.

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    Cajun salmon and baked potato



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    Curried shrimp



    The following day, we decided to explore the center of Belize City. It is the biggest city of Belize and used to be the capital until 1970 when the government was moved to Belmopan due to Belize City’s susceptibility to natural disasters. The city is in a surprising state of disrepair and had us speculating where all the money paid for the high price tags were going.

    Finding a decent place to have a quick lunch was more challenging than we expected as take-out windows seem to be more popular than restaurants. We did manage to find a nice cafe called Spoonaz that had a deck in the back where we enjoyed some paninis and fruit juice. After lunch, we rode around the city for a little while and returned to our hotel by mid-afternoon, underwhelmed.

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    Belize City



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    City street



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    Spoonaz cafe patio



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    Spoonaz cafe deck



    Shortly after we got back to our hotel, the power went out in the area. We were quite limited in how much we could do without any electricity or Internet so, after unwinding a bit, we went to have an early dinner at the same restaurant as the previous evening. When we got back, the power and Internet were back in business.

    We were sitting on the bed, working away on our laptops, when Phil felt a little tremor. I dismissed it as I was scratching my foot at that moment and figured the movement was that, but it happened again and this time, we both felt it. Soon after, we heard sirens that sounded more like something out of Silent Hill than anything we hear on a regular day. Phil went to the reception to check with the staff on what that siren meant. No one seemed to have a clue on what it meant and what we were supposed to do.

    It was when we checked the news online that we discovered that a 7.6 magnitude earthquake had struck the Caribbean and there was a tsunami advisory for Belize City. Our room was on the ground floor so, we quickly packed our things and were ready to head away from the coast when we came across the owner of the hotel. He was kind enough to let us move our things to the second-floor landing and secure the bike on the terrace of the hotel. We were grateful that we didn’t have to ride because the traffic was bad and there were distressed people coming to the hotel for the night because their homes were closer to the coast.

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    Our worldly belongings on the second floor



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    The bike secured on the terrace



    The advisory was lifted at 10:52 PM so, after moving everything back to where they needed to be and taking much-needed showers, we fell asleep in no time. At least I got a work-out
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  11. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Days 171 & 172: Belize City to San Ignacio and Xunantunich
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    We bid farewell to Belize City on Wednesday and rode towards San Ignacio, a town close to the border of Guatemala. The ride itself was just under two hours, but we stopped for lunch in the capital and had a delicious seafood pizza. We didn’t ride around Belmopan to see what the city looks like overall; however, the parts we did see looked so much better and more cared for than Belize City.

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    Seafood pizza in Belmopan



    We arrived at our hotel in San Ignacio in the afternoon. We stayed at the River Park Inn for two nights at 92.25 BZD (~56.55 CAD) as we had plans to visit the Xunantunich ruins with Tim and Marisa on the following day and then cross the border into Guatemala on Friday with the Notier’s Frontiers team.

    After unwinding a bit, we met up with Tim and Marisa in the early evening. We walked around the city center of San Ignacio and stopped for dinner at an Indian restaurant. San Ignacio is not an exceptionally beautiful town; however, it is lively and has the Caribbean charm that we were hoping Belize City would have had. It also seems to be a very tourist-friendly city, most likely due to its proximity to the Guatemalan border.

    Phil’s daughter, Marine, had spent some time in San Ignacio a few years ago and she suggested that we go to the Old House Hostel where there was a little bar with live music. Friday night was blues night so that’s where we went. Unfortunately, the music was to start at 11:00 PM and, as nice as it seemed, San Ignacio was still an unknown city to us so we didn’t wait around that late. We did enjoy some drinks and conversation, and our resident musician had a solo jam session on the piano.

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    San Ignacio



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    Old House Hostel



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    Solo jam session



    On Thursday morning, we met Tim and Marisa at their hostel and the four of us got some breakfast at a diner before heading out towards the ruins at Xunantunich together. We had to cross a river on a rickety old raft that was clearly sturdier than it looked since it easily held a few cars. The crossing was quick and we were on our way before we knew it. The river crossing was surprisingly free and the entry to the ruins was a very reasonable 10 BZD (~6.15 CAD).

    Xunantunich used to serve as the Mayan civic ceremonial center. The name in Mayan means “Sculpture of Lady” and is a modern name as the ancient one is unknown. The “Stone Woman” refers to the ghost of a woman that several people have claimed to see at the site since 1892. She is said to be dressed in white and have glowing red eyes. She is said to appear in front of El Castillo, ascend the stairs, and then disappear into a stone wall. In case anyone is wondering, she didn’t come out to greet us.

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    Ready to cross the river



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    Xunantunich



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    El Castillo



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    Hiding in the jungle



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    I like big pyramids and I cannot lie



    After visiting the ruins, we had some lunch at a nearby restaurant and then went to the Tropical Wings butterfly farm at Trek Stop that was recommended to us. The entry fee was 10 BZD (~6.15 CAD). While not very costly, there was disappointingly little variety in the species of butterflies they had. We were hoping to see some blue morpho butterflies since they are supposed to be native to the region, but no such luck.

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    The Band



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    Red postman butterflies



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    Tiger mimic butterfly



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    Owl butterfly



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    Malachite butterfly



    After the butterfly farm, we went our separate ways for the rest of the evening. To Guatemala in the morning
  12. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Guides Page Announcement
    We have added a Guides section to our blog where we share some handy travel information (based on our experience and Internet research) for each of the countries we have visited.

    While these guides are specifically targeted at overland travellers, we included information that should be useful to anyone interested in travelling to the listed countries.

    Currently, the Mexico Travel Guide is live.

    Happy travelling!
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  13. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    Hola!
    Maybe clarify the visa thing. You need a tourist card also called a tourist visa free for 7 days, about $30 USD for 180 days. The vehicle permit time will be coterminous with the tourist visa.
    Thx
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  14. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the heads up, Tom, and yes, Sapna missed the FMM fee in the main section (yet mentioned it in the enter/exit process), which was MX$500 per person when we entered first (and MX$532 that we had to repay when exiting after we left the country by plane and came back 7 days later...). She's going to update the page.
  15. JoeBiker25

    JoeBiker25 Been here awhile

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    Excellent as usual. Have fun and be safe. Belated Birthday Wishes for Sapna. Janam Din Mubarak!
    Have to remember "34 years of the world being a little more sarcastic" Well Done!
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  16. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    Sure, blame Sapna :lol3
  17. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    :cob :dirtdog:turkish:imaposer
  18. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Forwarded to her :) Thanks!
  19. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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    Our Top 10 Cities in Mexico

    So, you have been following our adventure and really want to visit Mexico, but you are overwhelmed with how much there is to see and don’t know where to go?

    Fear not, dear readers, for we have compiled a list of our top 10 favourite cities in Mexico and why we love them. Bear in mind that no matter where in this magnificent country you go, you are sure to find friendly locals, delicious food, and stunning landscapes. Our list focuses on other aspects that make each of these cities stand out.



    1. Mexico City
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    If there is one city that is a must-visit in Mexico, it has to be the majestic capital. Mexico City is the largest and most populous city of Mexico, spanning an area close to 1,500 km2 and with a population of over 21 million. Yes, this city is BIG and there is a lot to see and do. Mexico City is diverse, lively, modern, and has incredible history and culture. There are plenty of museums for the history buff, numerous malls and markets for the shopaholic, a plethora of eateries for the foodie, and even neighbourhoods for different personalities. Looking for something fancy? Head to Condesa. Want to hang out with the hipsters? Roma Norte is where you need to be. Feeling artsy? Look no further than Coyoacán. No matter what you are in the mood for, Mexico City will never leave you feeling bored or disappointed.



    2. Guanajuato City
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    With its cobblestone streets and colourful buildings, it is easy to see why Guanajuato is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in Mexico. It is a hilly city with a network of underground tunnels where most of the traffic is directed, leaving the surface with many pedestrian streets for those who enjoy exploring on foot. Guanajuato is not a very big city, but it still has numerous little plazas, churches, and colonial buildings so filling up your time here is not a difficult task to accomplish. Also, did I mention all the colours? You will feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when you visit Guanajuato.



    3. Taxco
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    If life in technicolour is blinding you, the pristine white and stone architecture of Taxco might just be what you need. This picturesque city is nestled in the mountains of Sierra Madre and looks like it is straight out of a Disney movie. The faint scent of marigold flowers permeates the city center and the streets are paved with flattened cobblestones, making it easy to navigate on foot. Taxco is heavily associated with the mining and crafting of silver so you will find multiple stores selling silver of excellent quality and competitive prices at every corner. Buying silver here is a fun experience.



    4. Puebla City
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    The way I like to describe Puebla is as Guanajuato’s more laid-back younger sibling (even though it’s 17 years older) that is just as beautiful and charming in its own right. It is a tranquil city with many unique things to experience, including the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, which is a beautiful library from 1646 that houses numerous unique books and manuscripts from the 15th to the 20th centuries, and the Barrio del Artista, which is a neighbourhood that is full of local artists and art stores. The Great Pyramid of Cholula, Tlachihualtepetl, is just a short trip from the city. Puebla is also one of the few places that produces authentic talavera ceramics if you’re looking for a unique souvenir to take back home. If mole poblano is your jam (or sauce), Puebla is where it originated so don’t leave without having some.



    5. Morelia
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    Entering Morelia feels like stepping back in time to when there were more horses on the streets than cars. It is different from majority of the cities in Mexico in that it is almost medieval in appearance with its towering stone buildings and matching cobblestone streets. Despite its old-world appearance, Morelia is a vibrant and lively city that never feels boring. It has a young population thanks to the many students that live and study in the city, and it has a night life to match. Great bars and restaurants with live music on weeknights and weekly firework displays are not unusual events in Morelia.



    6. Guadalajara
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    Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city. Despite its size, it is laid-back and perfect for those who want to experience tradition and culture in a big and modern city. Guadalajara is beautiful and has no shortage of monuments, markets, restaurants, and music everywhere. The city provides an authentic experience of Mexico and the country’s culture, and is known to host major cultural events such as the International Film Festival and International Book Fair. Don’t forget to have some tequila and listen to live mariachi music when in Guadalajara as it is the city where they both originated.



    7. San Miguel de Allende
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    San Miguel de Allende is a warm-hued colonial city that houses a large number of foreigners and is said to have originally been built for relaxing. With its charming facades and tranquil ambiance, it is easy to see why so many people from more developed countries choose to retire here. The cobblestone streets in San Miguel are much more uneven than most cities and, as a result, are harder on the legs and feet so its compact size is a great benefit. The city is also a haven for artists with its numerous art institutes and galleries so you can unleash your inner Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera. Be sure to check if there are any festivals when you visit as San Miguel is known to host many.



    8. Campeche City
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    Don’t worry beach lovers, I have a beach city for you and one that is not overrun by tourists. Unlike the resort cities of Mexico, Campeche has a similar look to the rest of Mexico’s colonial cities and like the resort cities, it is clean and well-maintained. In fact, the city earned the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the state of preservation and the quality of its architecture. The old walls and fortifications that used to protect it from pirate attacks in the 17th and 18th centuries still stand. For those who prefer spending just a small fraction of time staring at the sea, Campeche has numerous stores, restaurants, and monuments and is a short trip from the Mayan ruins of Edzná.



    9. Oaxaca City
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    Oaxaca looks like a bigger, less refined, but still beautiful Campeche. The city is a popular destination for both, local and foreign tourists due to its colonial structures, mix of Zapotec and Mixtec cultures, and archaeological sites. The city center is lively and lined with sidewalk cafes; however, sitting outside one of these cafes for a nice beverage and a bite to eat is not as enjoyable an experience as it could be due to the number of aggressive panhandlers and pushy vendors that constantly interrupt. Instead, pay a visit to one of the many closed restaurants that don’t look like much on the outside but, have beautiful interiors and usually with a garden in the center. Chocolate lovers, take a stroll through Mina Street as it smells like chocolate due to the many vendors specializing in the heavenly goodness. Time to get chocolate-wasted!



    10. Durango City
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    This one will come as a shocker to many due to all the negative news coverage and no, I didn’t put it here as a joke. Durango is beautiful, vibrant, and very modern. It still has elements of the old-world charm that is found across cities in Mexico but, it is more developed and reminiscent of European cities. Durango has a gorgeous city center with many things to do and see, and a large number of restaurants. Canadians, if you miss home, head on over to Vancouver Wings and have some poutine.
  20. peergum

    peergum Been here awhile

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