Category Archives: Travel

Drinking in CDMX

At the Babilon Club

To wrap up the trip to Mexico City, no topic would be more appropriate than drinking. I drank every day during the eight-day stay. Each day was different. How cultivated was that! Let’s go through it.

Day 0

I arrived at the hotel late in the night. There was no restaurant, only a fridge with basic food and beverage. I took a couple of Modelo Especial and paid for them at the reception. I came down for more later.  That was enough to wind the night down.

Modelo Especial in the hotel room
Day 1

The first full day of the city exploration involved a lot of walking. I had a break with margaritas in Roma

Margarita at noox Versalles 94

There weren’t many choices at lucha libre. I had Tecate to drink with the show. However, they stopped selling just when the final match started, which was fair enough. Arena México was already rowdy by then.

Tecate at Arena México

After the show, despite a low lit street, I decided to walk to the hotel and stopped by at a convenience store for some Bohemia to drink in the room.

Day 2

The day tour to Teotihuacán was tiring. My original plan, an underground music concert, wasn’t convincing. (The tour guide didn’t know anything about the venue and it would be too soon to go offbeat then.) 

So, after freshening up, I headed to Zona Rosa. I pick a bar that wasn’t too much for the night and got some long island ice teas to start with. The music caught my ears. It was the first time I heard contemporary Spanish pop-rock (not sure they were all Mexican), which I’d never heard in Mexican bars in DC. Listening by the sounds of some tracks, I guessed they could date back to the ’90s. There were a lot more to learn.

Then I switched to Indio beer and moved to another bar, the Babilon Club. I got to try chamoy (not a fan of having a sticky and sour thing on the tip of a beer glass though.) Later on, I joined locals on the next table. They were a Mexican gay guy and an American girl, who identified herself as a Mexican. Finally, there was someone I could talk to in length in English. The night went berserk. I went along with them around the area. We almost ended up at her place but decided to call it the night and parted. 

Day 3

Those first few days in the city were already intense. I needed to take it easy on the following day. In the evening, however, I was being brave and got myself to a real local diner in the neighbourhood. The moment I entered the shop, other customers turned and looked at me. But once I sat down on a table, they went back to their drinking. 

It didn’t freak me out. It even reminded me of the typical diners in Thailand, with a different language. Spanish was a great barrier for me. But I managed to order something.  The plan for the evening was just dinner and moderate beer. But they only have 1.2 litres of Victoria beer. That became an unexpected bloat.

Day 4 

It was a big day at Iztapalapa and I needed a beer after an exhausting photo shoot. There was no alcohol sold at the event. I commuted back to the hotel to settle. I got to another local bar, which wasn’t too far from the one I went to on the previous evening. But it was for a very different customer group. They got a range of beers that I could try. Then I started to order some tequila along with beer. The combination got me hooked that I’d pay the price later. Ultimately, I was just grateful they still open on Good Friday.

Around 11 pm, they closed the front door but I could still sit there for 45 minutes. On the way to the hotel, I stopped by a convenience store for more beers. But they didn’t sell them. That was probably a good thing.

Day 5

With a hangover, it was another easy day for me, visiting museums and stuff. Then I revisited Zona Rosa in the evening. I got to another gay bar in the area and back to the Babilon club. The staff recognised me and he seemed to be glad to see me again. I noticed that Indio beer had different label designs. Again, I was having beers and tequila. Then I hopped in and out some dance clubs but didn’t feel like staying there any longer.

Day 6 

Of course, I got a hangover but the second last day was flexible. I took advantage of the empty city on Easter Sunday to photograph the city’s streets. Then I got a chance to have a good session on Mexican independent beers. Finally!

I still wanted to check out the underground music scene as intended on the first few days. So I took a train to a music event. I didn’t know any of the line-ups but it didn’t matter. The music was pretty cool. The audiences were engaged. To get myself immersed in the scene wasn’t easy even though those youngsters were nice and harmless. I had a good time nonetheless. Checked!

I went back to Zona Rosa. It took 10 minutes on foot anyway.  But the Babilon Club was closed. So I ended up at a dance club for a couple of drinks. Enough!

Day 7

The last drink destination was another craft beer venue. I ordered beers on the board and sat down to write a travel journal. While I was jotting down my experience so far, the group of people on the next table greeted. They asked where I was from. I replied I was from DC but not an American (I didn’t even expect them to know where Thailand was.) But once they found out I was originally from Bangkok, their eyes simultaneously wide opened with cheer. Apparently, they all used to live in Bangkok, became friends there, and got together again in Mexico City for a wedding. What a co-incidence!

To be honest, there was a melancholy vibe on the last day. Yes, it was a classic feeling of saying goodbye to a new love interest that you started to get accustomed to and wanted to find out more about it.

No discrimination signage in the toilet at the Babilon Club

There were some uniquenesses in the drinking culture such as chamoy and salt & lime with beer. Craft beer movement was exciting. Drink prices were affordable. And, most of all, the hospitality was just wonderful. I’d say it was quite a ride, drinking in CDMX.

Other Contexts of Passion Play

Surrounded by street vendors

There were so much more than just Passion Play performance in Iztapalapa. They could not run such the extravaganza without supports from other teams. To name the least, there were police, Red Cross, volunteers, etc. Their contributions multiplied my fascination for the event.

Before getting there, I was told to be cautious in the crowd. But nothing really happened to me. Until I decided to take a shortcut across the town and got lost in a local neighbourhood without any sight of other visitors or a police line up. (That was when you relied on Google Map too much.) The looks of the residents weren’t so welcoming. Then I realised it was a dead end. I turned back, scooted out, and found my way back in the crowd.

That was a just small alarm compared to what happened next in my head. I was lost again. But this time was inside the route barricades, where the performances flowed along. Obviously, I wasn’t authorised. 

I had gatecrashed a parade once in Sydney Chinese New Year event, stayed in the barrier for a while and got some good shots. Until a staff had caught me and politely escorted me out. But this one could have been a very different story for many reasons.

My legs were heavy, my bladder was full, my skin was toasted, and most of all, my stress went up to the clear blue sky. I needed a break but had to keep moving on, taking photos (it was an exceptional photo opp after all), and hoping no one noticed that I wasn’t supposed to be in there. Until there was an exit.

What kept me going in there was the experience in photographing big events like Sydney Mardi Gras. And I acted professionally. Actually, I missed the thrill and the excitement since I hadn’t done anything like that for a decade. It could have been less stressful if I got prepared for it. 

It took around eight hours in the borough when I decided to stop taking photos. By that time, my energy was drained out by the heat, the crowd, and especially, the adrenaline in my brain. Being a solo traveller and not speaking Spanish didn’t help. However, in the end, it was such an experience that I hadn’t had for a long time.

Passion Play in Iztapalapa

It was Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebration in Mexico. I was aware of it but didn’t realise how significant it was until got my feet there. Since it was at the right time, I had to be in the right place. That was Iztapalapa to see the largest and the most elaborate Passion Play in Mexico. I had no idea what to expect and it turned to be my most intense photography shoot in recent years.

Crucifixion of Jesus
Crucifixion of Jesus in Iztapalapa

With a little time for background research and not many online resources in English, I took a plunge and caught the Metro to the borough in the morning of Good Friday. The day was the peak of the reenactment for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Although my knowledge of Catholicism was very limited, the vibe made me immersed in it. It was apparent how much dedication put into their faith. My eyes were even wet at some point. It was the first time I experienced Christianity like this.

The performance spread along the designated route around the borough. It was hard to keep track of what was going on. The best approach for me was just to go along with the flow. It caused some anxiety during the photo shoot. I might talk about it later.

But the event wasn’t just about the performance. I also enjoyed seeing its ecosystem–how others related to it. That will be in the next post.

A Day Trip to Teotihuacán Pyramids

Getting down from Pyramid of the Sun
Getting down from Pyramid of the Sun

After the overwhelming first day in Mexico City, I took a trip out of town to Teotihuacán with a group tour on the following day. It was a quick introduction to an ancient Mesoamerican civilisation. Even though the UNESCO World Heritage Site was the highlight of the tour, the program included other interesting places. That actually gave me a good grasp of the city.

Before an-hour drive Teotihuacán, the tour took us to Square of the Three Cultures. There, I learned how multilayer the city was: pre-Columbus, the Spanish Colonial and modern Mexico.

At the site, I decided to climb up on both Pyramids. The first one, the Pyramid of the Moon, was not too bad–not too high or too crowded. Unfortunate, there was a long queue at the Pyramid of the Sun from the base to the top. And it did not so fast. It took more patience than strength to get up to the peak by waiting in the line under shadeless sunlight. But it was worth it.

I was drained from the heat after the two Pyramids. They took us for lunch before getting back to the city for the final spot of the day tour, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That was an excellent way to wrap up the day that we could see some significant architectures from both colonial and modern phases of the city.

It was another exhausting day with loads of informations to process. But by the end of it, I got much more understanding of Mexico City.