Instead of a short trip to Toronto for a spring break/visa run, there was a little voice inside me calling for an adventure in Mexico City. That voice enticed, ‘it’d be your first time in Latin America. Getting some culture shocks would do you some good.’ The first day in the city did just that.
I arrived at the hotel very late at night and got to explore the area in the morning, looking for breakfast. The street ambience reminded me a lot of Bangkok. That must be comfortable chaos for me. On the way back to the hotel, I got to a Metro station to see if I could get a Metro card—public transport cards have become souvenirs from cities I’ve been to. But there wasn’t any a ticket vending machine and they didn’t sell a card a ticket booth. I left the station and made another stop at a pharmacy to get sunscreen.
I had no concrete idea where I wanted to go first. There was a list but it wasn’t assigned to any specific day. So, I spent a chunk of time in the morning, planing the first couple of days. A day tour to Teotihuacan was booked for the next day. And I left the evening flexible for a Lucha Libre show but didn’t book a ticket online.
Ironically, the first thing I decided to do was to get a Thai massage in the historic centre area. It was a walking distance from the hotel. That walk allowed me to see more of the streets and how astonishing building facades were.
The massage place was tricky to find, locating in an apartment building. A security guard told me it was on the second floor. I took a lift up there but couldn’t see any sign. So, I climbed to the top floor. A lady living there directed me back to the second floor and turn left hallway. All of that was in Spanish and hand language. I realised language would be a hurdle more than I thought.
The place didn’t look any different from a typical Thai massage venture. Except, all the staff was Mexican. Before the session, I spotted the owner and greeted her in Thai.
Of course, I would not expect the massage to be the same as the original Thai massage. To some extent, the Mexican masseur got me relaxed. Besides, I needed that after months without it in Washington DC.
But above all, it was the curiosity about this place that I drove me here. Luckily, after the session, I got a chance to have a little chat with the owner. It was astounding how she built this up. She had lived in Mexico City for over a decade and had been running this business for eight years.
Next on my list was a haircut. I took a Metro to Roma Nte to get to the barber. Again, there was no Metro card sold at the station either. I got a single ticket. It cost MX$5.00 for a trip, flat, no matter where the destination was. The ride was a few stations away and considered as my test run for the city’s public transportation. Later on, I gave up on trying to purchase a pre-paid card and just bought a single ticket each ride.
I read some reviews about this barber speaking English. Fortunately, a British who was with a client asked if I spoke any Spanish. And I confidently replied no. So, he helped me communicate with the barber, a young Mexican woman. He actually picked my Australian accent (I guess it’s still there) and we had a yarn across stools. She did a good job on my hair and he kept checking on me.
After that, to kill sometime before the night’s show, I strolled this hip neighbourhood and took a rest with some margaritas at a bar. Apparently, it was also a record store and a microcinema. I didn’t get much of the details but was told there’d be an event in the evening. But I had to move on to Lucha Libre.
I got to the final destination of the day, Arena México. There was a long line without a clear sign. I assumed that was it and just cued up with others. There was an American couple behind me who, like me, had no clue what was going on. Then it started to get frenzy. Apparently, the line was for picking up online tickets. Another box office opened up for purchasing tickets. I made myself there. I handed my credit card and the guy gave me two tickets. I told him I wanted only one. Clearly, it was lost in translation and he wasn’t happy. A lady next to me kindly translated for me. I just needed to sign the unused ticket and he refunded that with cash. Fair enough.
After a bag search (big cameras weren’t allowed), I entered the arena and completely missed an usher. Then I learned later how it worked with ushers. They lined up behind the checkpoint. When you showed your ticket to the first of the line, he’d led you to your seat. You’d give him some tips and he’d hand you a program. It was too late for me to get a program then.
Nonetheless, I found myself in a second-row seat. What a good spot! How it went would be the next post.
The first day was overwhelming already. Spanish was a real challenge for me, obviously, but I got by and thought it. And there was a lot of help along the way. But that said something about the people and the city.