Just like people, music also travels.
I bumped into this wicked interactive map on today, surprisingly made by Thompson.
With a stylish design it shows in a very simple way how music genres evolved and spread over time from Africa to the Caribbean, the US and so on and so forth.
Click on images to make them larger.
As you can see from the above screenshots it ends with an interesting proof on the massive global development of various electronic music genres of the world today. Oh, internet haven’t you just been the best that could happen to us?
Check the map out in action out here !
Meet Shira, the oldest dog alive in Mexico. She lives in La Cigana, a cute little hostel in Tulum, where she spends most of the day sleeping in funny positions. Like in San Cristobal, one of the reasons I instantly liked this hostel when I found it was due to the way the staff treat their animals.
After getting to know the dogs and people in La Cigana, I went on a mission to find a suitable accommodation on the beach for the next three days. Thing is Tulum is a small town in the middle of the jungle. Downtown Tulum is said to be cool, but beachside Tulum is said to be awesome. Staying there however is very pricy, hence I biked my way to the beach to discover it, in particular looking for the camping sites.
Twenty minutes later I was there – a “there,” meaning “by the beach” because the Tulum beach isn’t like other beaches where you have a promenade alongside the coastline where you can bike or stroll down it enjoying the beautiful sea view while feeling the sea breeze. The Tulum beach is presented by a three kilometer long road in between gorgeous and lush gardens, which all are inhabited by gated resorts and restaurants.
This means you actually don’t see the sea from the road by the beach, but have to choose a place through where you enter in order to get to the actual beach. While biking down the road I couldn’t stop thinking about how this feels for local people in the area that would like to go for a day on the beach. I mean, although the resorts and restaurants aren’t closed to public per se, they definitely give the impression of more than anything welcoming money strong people who wants to enjoy a day at “this or that specific private piece” of the beach.
Far down the road I finally found Camping Chavez, one of the places I’ve been recommended to stay at as a budget traveler. Entering from the road it looks something like this.
The atmosphere is friendly, the tents and posts about community spirit and recycling many. But it’s not that crazy cheap: Camping in a tent is rated at 90 pesos and for the less sandy alternatives you can get a simple beach hut for 400 pesos per night (which makes it a perfect option for a company of two or more).
You reach the beach by walking through the camp, and from the other side it looks like this:
For a little while I was suddenly back to Burning man, and dreamed of continuing camping in the sand surrounded by free-spirited people. Also, a delightful difference is that at Camping Chavez you get the beautiful beach and sea straight on your door way.
Yes! In the picture is Daniela, the nice girl I told about yesterday that invited me to hang out today. She brought an Australian friend that also has fallen in love with Tulum and moved here for good. Good times!
After some time on the beach the Aussie took us to one of the hot spots in Tulum, what food and live music concerns. Puro Corazon. What’s funny is that the man in my hostel already had told me about the good vibes here.
And good vibes I found. Two Happy-hour cocktails lead to four, a delicious Mexican fusion dinner during a brilliant folklore concert with three young artists, followed by a round of Mezcal at the bar together with the super chill chef, Balam.
Naturally, I completely forgot about the initial mission of finding a place on the beach: Now, writing this I’ve actually just come home from a craaaaazy night out downtown with my new Mexican friends. The main road in Tulum is full of fun places, not to mention people and good music.
Quite strategical then living near by, so I may leave this place alone for now, though it looks wicked.
Sometimes when you reach a destination I think it’s a good thing not having booked a room. Without it you find yourself much more alone and lost and quickly understand that you really have to just speak to people. Often – especially in countries like Mexico – this means you’ll quickly make new friends.
Like I did yesterday when I arrived to Tulum.
I won’t brag about being wild and crazy with no idea about the destination or at least the street I’m walking in. After the birth of the smartphone those things are sorted with a finger click as long as its battery is charged.
Still, I find it very exciting to just arrive in a place and take it from there.
After I had talked to a couple of locals and a lovely French couple on the street about what area of the main road was the best, I walked towards the side they meant was the most central. Walking down the main street I realised Tulum is a little bit like what we refer to as Syden in Norwegian. And Syden to us, predominantly means Spanish or Greek holiday destinations to where Norwegians flock each year for some beach and sun.
On the main street of Tulum – like on the main streets in Syden – you find shops, bars, restaurants, more shops and more bars as far as the eye can see. Though I must say that here many of the places look a lot more stylish than what I’d expect from a main street in Syden. In Tulum plenty of bars and shops already got my attention due to the mix of gorgeous textile products from the most popular Mexican regions like Chiapas and Oaxaca.
As I’ve just spend a week in Chiapas many of the products aren’t that new to me, besides they are pricier here than in for example San Cristobal. However a couple of new products stand out in Tulum though and that’s the coconut lamps. And the hammocks.
While I had my bit of hammocking in Bacalar the last 24 hours, I certainly can’t wait to drink and eat from the many coconuts around. But last night my priority was first to find some green food before sorting out my accommodation situation.
After walking down the main road I picked a tempting Mexican place because I find them to normally be quite good at offering green varieties although they might not have specific veggie plates for you. To my positive surprise the Tripadvisor reviews of the place were very good and so I sat down with a girl at my age that had a table to herself on the sidewalk.
We started chatting and one hour later we had each others’ numbers and an arranged meeting on the beach the following day. My new friend’s name is Daniela, she is originally Mexican, utterly beautiful and smiles a lot and I liked her style at once. She just moved to Tulum from Los Angeles were she has lived almost her whole life and recently married an American. Most of her family lives in DF, and now due to some residency issues in the US she had taken the tough decision to come here to work while her husband is “back home” in LA while they get some permits sorted. She spoke about him with such a beautiful tone that almost I fell in love with him too.
Que bonito el amor..
After dinner I decided to go for the nearest hostel to the restaurant and ended up in a vibrant little street that cuts of the main road called Calle Centauro Sur that holds lots of cool bars and restaurants and a chill local/international vibe. My hostel is called La Cigana and I first paid for only one night as I planned to go and find a place by the beach later, but today when back after biking around I decided today to likely stay here the week. They have bikes to rent and a really nice and chilled staff that helps you out with anything.
Ah, and the below bar chairs are another thing typical for Tulum as far as I’ve understood.
Hammock bar chairs. Amen.
Honestly I can’t remember what I actually imagined about this place before coming here.
I was excited about it yes, as everybody I know that’s been to Mexico told me San Cristobal de las Casas is a must-see. Together with the smaller village San Juan Chamulas, it’s supposed to be one of the Chipas region’s hippie-like and colourful mountainy villages, I was told.
Well. CHECK CHECK CHECK!
Besides, Oventic – where the Zapatistas live in their own demanded autonomy – is a neighbouring village, reachable for specially interested. I’ve indeed been especially interested in the Zapatistas since I first learned about the movement in University. (I´m very into social movements, but that´s another story).
Before arriving to San Cristobal de las Casas, I hadn’t worried about accommodation as Id seen online that the place was full of decent hostels. After three hours of traveling on roads of various standards, away from the weird little place Bacalar, the bus left me and my metall-seat-tired-bum at the station downtown. As I started walking with my overweight backpack towards the center I was quickly moved by the look of the place.
Welcoming me were old, narrow streets full of small cement houses painted in all kinds of bright colors and busy working women on every corner dressed traditionally with cotton blouses tucked inside wide woolen skirts. Already on the first block I walked down I’d seen a blue house with yellow door frames, two neon orange houses with turqoise window sills, a pink house with grass green borders and numerous worn out balconies with ceramic flowerpots and painted chickens on them.
From the look of the people in the streets I felt much closer to the pre-colonial history of this country than in Mexico DF.
A closeness that comes with a price I’d say, because the streets are full of seemingly deprived indigenous people (including kids) working as street vendors. Everywhere I’ve gone till now, most indigenous people (out of whom only the women are dressed traditionally as mentioned above) seem to be selling textile, sculptures, fruits and cigarettes, or polishing shoes. Fortunately Ive spotted some shops and cafes managed by indigenous people as well.
Another blast from the past that visualizes on every corner are the functioning Volkswagen Beetles. They are everywhere, exist in all colors and seem rather popular. I mean, they even serve for driving classes:
I asked a man in my hostel what’s up with all the Beetles.
Oh, el bocho, he said, referring to a beetle in Spanish. It used to be a very popular car when it first came to Mexico. Since then we’ve produced our own Volkswagen cars, therefore we have so many. I think the last bocho was made only ten years ago.
Now that I think of it, one could assume it’s due to the fact that I LOVE old beetles that I love it here already, and for sure it definitely has something to say with my instant good feel in this town. It took me a day to start dreaming of living here for a period with an old beetle to take me around, with a small flat in a pink-painted house whose balcony is perfect for my morning coffee hour and where I can create art in the evenings.
One day maybe. Why not?
Regarding my hostel, El hostal de Paco, it’s perfect. I found it as a result of many coincidences, which of course adds up to my awe for everything here. As it’s located quite far away from the other hostels I had spotted on booking.com I realised upon arrival that my backpack was too heavy for me to get there walking. So I started walking towards a sign saying “we got rooms” on a random street, when a taxi driver stopped next to me and the driver asked if he could help me. After I had mentioned the name and address of El hostal de Paco, he confirmed it was in close distance to the town center and I jumped in.
When driving down the two main streets however, I understood the hostel was further out of the center than a couple of the others Id found, and got a little annoyed with myself never having booked a place before my arrival. Still, I decided to trust the driver and also knew that whatever is called town of San Cristobal de las Casas, is within small distances.
Words can´t explain how happy I am today that I didn´t go for that tiny gut feeling in that taxi! The welcome committee in the El hostal de Paco was beyond imagination and made me realise in a second that I’d chosen the right hostel. I think I have to write a story one day about all the personalities I´ve met here, but for now these features are worth mentioning:
- The owner (Paco) is the perfect chill host with a big C and H. He´s as weird, funny and occasionally annoying as can get , but since I tend to like odd personalities, I think I almost love him. His way of yelling WELCOME HOME! YOU ARE ANDREA RIGHT? WE´VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU!, actually made me feel a bit awkward in the moment I entered the building with my huge backpack on (and admittedly a bit annoyed after the long journey), but after finding my place here Ive realised that that one glimpse of a feeling like WHO THE HECK IS THIS MAN AND WHAT KIND OF A PLACE IS THIS? WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME? only were products of my own realisation of Gosh-Jeanett-you´re-outside-of-your-comfortzone-now-travelingsolo-on-top-of-everything-feeling-a-bit-insecure-about-it-all kinda thing. I even forgot about my potential allergies to the two adopted (former stray) dogs living in the hostel who jumped at me when I arrived, and decided to trust Paco who assured me that they never enter any of the guest rooms. Honestly though, seeing how he treats the dogs was another reason I was convinced this hostel is the best in town! I´ve made it clear right? I feel at home here.
- I’ve been placed (for my self) in an authentic old fashioned 7 people’s dormitory that must be over three meters tall, with the walls painted in sky blue.
- A German retired man with a US citizenship has lived here for 2 years (!) and the first thing he did when I came was to show me his German museum: his room covered with miniature castles and train stations from Germany made out of paper or plastic. Yes, he is another oddy that´s for sure, but I also already love him! The story about his life and reasons to be here is to be continued, but to give you a picture I’ll share this picture I took of him this morning while I had my breakfast in the kitchen. He always starts his day like this:
He sits there, in the middle of the hostel´s patio, which he calls his office, for an hour or so with a book, coffee and beer.
- Then there’s a young, beautiful Australian couple – that’s been traveling in Mexico and Guatemala for a year – renting a room for two months. Due to having adopted a dog (that they had seen in a small cage in a pet shop and felt sorry for) on the way, they’ve now planned to work in Canada for 6 months over winter season in order to save up enough money to get the dog with them overseas back to Australia.
- More stuff worth mentioning about the owner Paco then; he´s extremely friendly with regards to longstay guests and seems much more into having longtime guest as opposed to random tourists just coming for a day or two. It´s as if he´s creating his own little community here where everyone is invited to come and live. Hah! He´s also constantly making jokes about the German man, and never answers seriously to any question about himself or the dogs, which can be a little pain in the ass attitude at times, but as for advice for where to eat and travel and what to visit however, he is the King.
- Last interesting guy around is a Mexican in his late 20s who came for a month to escape some love issues back home. He works on his computer and seems to be going through an interesting phase of life. I already consider him a good friend after having spent several days with him in the village, out on bars, chatting, drinking tequila, laughing and sharing life stories. There you have it: I already have a new person in my life I consider a good friend, only because of this weird little gem of a hostel (and random pick of it).
Today this new friend and I went to the neighbouring Zapatista village together. We´ve talked about sharing an interest in visiting since I came, and finally found a good day to go.
I honestly got some mixed feelings about the whole trip and need to reflect over it, but overall it was super interesting (for us at least…). When I get my head more around it Ill try to write a piece about it.
All in all: VIVA San Cristobal de las Casas!
Now I’m off for some delicious tacos in town. Adios!
Yesterday I told about one of my first encounters with Mexico, – the Mezcal, and that was pretty twisted. Something even more twisted however, happened before that encounter, already on the way from the airport to the two friends that house me in Mexico DF.
Picture a humid, dark night. There are no stars on the sky, it is slightly foggy and there is no fresh breeze in the wind what so ever.
Picture a blond, 1,83 meter tall girl arrive, hungry and tired after a long journey and with a way too heavy backpack on her shoulders. She has no phone that works, but an address of a friend of a friend living in the city. She takes the strict message of the friend of a friend to order an authorized taxi seriously, pays for it and realises she really needs to pee. But the taxi personnel is already calling for her and before she knows it has thrown her bag in the trunk of a white, old car that looks just like any other white, old car.
She gets in to the taxi and off they go into the dark night.
That was how I arrived yesterday.
Shortly after I find myself in the taxi of a young man, that at first glimpse didn’t seem as friendly as I imagined Mexicans would be at all. I try to initiate a conversation with stupid comments about the weather, the hectic traffic and that I’m stunned over being in a city this size. The driver answers in an extremely little interested tone and I start wondering why the hell I didn’t pee on my way out of the airplane instead.
After three minutes the taxi driver that has seen me concentrating on my phone, asks if I’m watching a GPS.
Yes, I say.. Im trying to loc… “In case Ill kidnap you?” he interrupts me and giggles.
Our eyes meet in the mirror.
“Uhm, well yeah”.. I say with a false ironic tone.
Thoughts run trough my head, my need to pee becomes stronger, and calmly I try to finish my initial phrase: “I’m just trying to locate myself in this massive city”…
He laughs out loud, looks at me in the mirror and asks where I’m from. We chit chat a little about his take on Europe (expensive, safe and far away) and soon we’ve become a bit closer.
Fifteen minutes later (me all the time secretly keeping an eye on that GPS) he is answering to all kinds of questions I’ve asked him. He tells me things like where to go for a dance in my neighbourhood, what areas not to visit never ever in the city, how I had to be very careful in general being a woman on my own and more interestingly inside info about how the authorized taxi system works. He tells me that drivers get as little as 12% of the fixed prices set up by the company and that using their own cars!
We agree it isn’t a very good deal at all, and I suggest that maybe other taxi drivers hold the same opinion and that they could go together and demand a salary raise (I know, a very Jeanett-save-the-world-move of me).. He tells me he thinks it would be impossible and admits fearing to loose his job. “After all to be a taxi driver is a quite popular position, and unemployment is high here” he says, and continues: “But luckily, working with tourists brings extra tip money”.
I tell him I agree with that, while at the same time realising I hadn’t withdrew any national money yet. The ride was paid for with credit card at the airport and as it already was midnight and we were approaching my destination, the last thing I wanted right now was to find an ATM…
So I apologize to the driver for my inability to tip him today and smiles to him through the mirror. He replies with a slight exhalation, gives me a smile that looks much more like a grin and says: “I’ll have to kidnap you then,” before stepping on the gas pedal so we accelerate rapidly down the street.
A little disturbed, sudden pictures from the movie Taxi driver came to my mind so I yelled: Dios Mio, que loco eres!! pretending not to sound too worried after all. Shortly after he slows down the car, giggles a little and says: We are here, honey. We are here.
As Ive never been to this place, I look out the windows onto the dark street thinking to myself what the F. was the door number again, is it really true that we are here? but before I know it he has already opened my door. I recognize the street name on the lighting GPS on my phone’s screen and decide to trust him. He puts my backpack at the front door and tells me this is a good neighbourhood, and that he hopes I will enjoy Mexico city.
I intent to pretend like nothing of the craziness Id just lived through had happened and walk over to the doorbell to find the right number to call, not sure whether to expect a knife in my back or a warm hug from the driver. My friend’s friend answer and tells me she’s coming down, and so I turn over and take the driver’s hand, saying: Im sure I will enjoy it here, muchas gracias.
I don’t know if it’s a personal record, but the truth is I’ve been in Mexico for two days and already gone drunk to bed twice. One thing is to blame for that: The Mezcal.
And I speak about good Mezcals. The ones that trustworthy Mexicans recommend are equally good to drink as Tequilas. The first encounter I had with Mezcal while in the country it’s from – Mexico – happened the night I arrived to Mexico DF.
A Norwegian friend of mine put me in contact with a Mexican girl she knows that offered me to stay in her flat for some days. Fortunate as I am with my friends, the welcome committee this Mexican girl put together couldn’t be better for a slightly nervous and emotional (after saying goodbye to everybody in Canada) girl starting the third big solo travel of her life.
Maria and her boyfriend were up waiting for me with big smiles on their faces at 1130pm when I arrived with a taxi from the airport. So was their tiny cat Fer, that welcomed me by running wildly from one living room corner to another, stopping only to look at me from behind the sofa. Considering I’m probably the biggest woman he has ever seen, I don’t blame her.
Maria showed me what was going to be “my room for as long as I needed” where I left my things before the couple insisted we had a beer and a Mezcal. We sat down in the brown sofa next to the wall covered with a full book shelf. I spotted mostly academic content in genres like politics, history, anthropology and human rights.
Part from books, shelfs in the living room was decorated with all kinds of ancient Maya sculptures and some old records. Maria’s boyfriend surprised me with a serious interest in Mezcal and showed me his selection. As if wine tasting, we smelled the different types while he taught me their attributes. Then Maria came back with a plate of chopped apples and three types of chilli powder to eat in between the sipping.
“Remember to only sip the Mezcal. What you guys do in Europe with the Tequila shots is something you’ve invented. … And it’s dangerous!” they told me.
I agreed to that and confirmed I also had some drunken-on-tequila-stories in the bag. I don’t know why foreigners started shotting Tequila or Mezcal, but it may have to do with the taste of the bad variants we use. Because quite frankly, a good Tequila or Mezcal doesn’t give you the chills every time you take a small sip.Besides the fruit-on-the-side trick is very smart. Mexicans are of world class with regard to mixing sweet and spicy, bitter and hot.
“Let’s have a beer and a mezcal” led to at least the triple meanwhile we spent two hours of intense chatting about their study times in the UK (from where the girl knows my friend), kidnapping in Mexico, Human Right issues, Indigenous people, the purpose of my journey, advices for the city and had plenty of quesadillas.
We went to bed and I remember they said that the best about it is apparently that a good one doesn’t give you a hungover…
Now two days later, I can confirm this is a fact that is 50% true.
Because although it’s true I woke up fresh as a cucumber yesterday (and bragged about it all day, which probably resulted in chugging it again on my second night), I woke up looking like this today:
At first it took me a while to memorize were I got that necklace…
Then I remembered it all! An elder gentleman (supposedly a bank director) gave it to me during a karaoke session we both ended up in yesterday night. Randomly I bumped into him, his colleague and another lady that were out for some after office drinks.
I was on my way to a Couchsurfer meeting in a bar when I passed by them and for no specific reason – other than enjoying random encounters – I accepted their loud offer to have a drink with them.
As all things in life: One thing led to the other, and here I’m sitting slightly fringed out with a cup of coffee, yet very happy to be two interesting Mezcal experiences richer.
Some might argue that I’m not being careful enough when I bump into people like this, but trust that I definitely take my precautions. Part of my nature since I was a kid is that I keep running into random people. And I love it. In this last case I could have just left the drunken bank men after a little while in order to make it to the Couch surfing thing, but as I had no commitment there either – other than getting to know people – I somehow felt that the meeting I already had with the loud Mexicans was interesting.
It was especially nice to hear all the stories from the oldest man’s life. He had the saddest looking puppy eyes in the middle of a very wrinkly face, and told me he had survived three marriages. After two kids and ten slightly dramatic years with one lady he went through a hard separation before he fell in love again with a much younger woman. Her dream was to get kids, but apparently she wasn’t fertile so they had to go through a long process of applications and agreements for adoption. When their adopted kids were 4 and 6 the mother got cancer and died within four months, leaving my old friend a single father of two at the age of 55.
He told me that to get through it he had to take one day at the time, and that now looking back, the experience has changed his way of seeing love and life. To the better. Now, twelve years older he is the proud father of four and step-dad of two. With glittering eyes he showed me the pictures of everybody.
Then we talked for another hour before insisted on adopting me. At least being here for me no matter what. He was like: If you ever need something in Mexico, Ill help you out. After all this I see you as a daughter.
True story. Though it might have been the Mezcal that spoke of course..
Anyway, meetings like this is what makes traveling so beautiful and interesting. It forces you to trust people and listen, to see the world with other eyes.. And even more so when you travel alone. Which is what I love about it!
And I say that without recommending that people drink too much Mezcal, of course. For Christ sake, CONSUME RESPONSIBLY guys. Ill tell myself that from now on too, as ever before.
Still fascinates me though… That the below plant can create what it can in people. 😉
Venice beach and its neighborhoods are much more fun than the ones of West Hollywood (which I wrote about a few weeks ago). So, whoever advised us to rather stay in West Hollywood while here is a poop.
Truly, I didn’t get to know more than a fraction of what LA has to offer, so my opinion is probably not worthwhile to take as a travel advice…
However, it’s still my impression that the lifestyle offered in Venice is one of the best in LA. Sure, you got ubercool Silver Lake and some interesting spots further West in LA too, but I find Venice to be so much more real.
I know. It may be a touristy cliche strolling down Venice beach, gawking at the body builders at Muscle beach and getting surprised that the bay watch towers and cars look exactly like in the series.
But I loved every bit of it!
The place itself doesn’t really appeal to the eye in terms of beauty, but its chaotic charm definitely do. The density of street art, skaters, tourists, bikers, restaurants, bars, random (and highly professional) street performances, souvenir & silly-sunglasses shops is nothing but astonishing.
The main attraction in the below picture for instance, is a rather old gentleman who lives by showing people on the street that he can stand on broken glass, with the supportive help of a random person or two holding his hands. Needless to say his engaging American entertainer skills were uncomplainable.
That we understood when realised we’d spend half an hour watching him do the same thing over and over, wooing and awing.
Apparently one key thing to do in Venice is to rent a bike and go as far as we could by the shore. Everybody we know that knows LA told us to do so, and so did numerous bike-for-rent-stands.
To my surprise there were tons of places that rented out tandem bikes, and well… isn’t it just everyone’s dream to bike around on a tandem and live happily ever after?
Passing by smiling families on their day off. A waving hobo at a bench. Two joggers with each their dog in leash.
We pedaled all the way to Santa Monica which is a prettier side of the beach.
Pretty might be relative, but look at these funky houses.
Pedaling all the way is relative too, as the man in front could do that perfectly fine on his own with me on the back. Another reason to love tandem biking!
This was I could shoot pictures of interesting stuff on our way.
Like this mini amusement park – right there on the beach!
And yes! THAT color of the sky is real. It was like this every day of our visit, which obviously makes any Norwegian gal happy.
One of the things I liked the most in LA was the always bright blue sky and surprisingly fresh air – especially in Venice that is – as it reminds me of Cape Town somehow.
Also, the sand is a lot cleaner than Id assume and the water perfect for a quick dip after a long day biking.