21 Days in Mexico- Days 9-13 (Chiapas)

Day 9- Thursday, January 1, 2015: New Year’s Day. Distrito Federal (Mexico City)  ->San Cristobal, Chiapas

For some odd reason people (including those on the web) are not particularly clear how to get to the Benito Juarez Airport from within DF. Some websites mentioned it but in the end we didn’t receive accurate information. Sylvia was kind enough to drop us off at the Nativitas metro stop and we ended up taking three different trains to get to the Terminal Aerea metro stop, which was the actual airport. I believe we could’ve cut this down to two trains had we not thought that the airport was at the Pantitlan stop, which it is not.

We flew a budget airline called Volaris and if you’ve ever flown a budget airline you know they can get fairly janky. We got there and had to go to one place to print out our itinerary, then to another line that damned near didn’t move. As we waited we gazed at screens that had confusing signs about what could and couldn’t be brought aboard. Was luggage included in what we paid for? It was still unclear, even though it stated it was on the web version of our itinerary. We weren’t provided with a gate number and when they did and we got to the proper waiting area they switched the gate on us twice. Oh Volaris. Your cute purple and green  color-coordination doesn’t mask your jankiness.

Workers appear to be having some anger about fraud and their pensions by the looks of these signs of protest at the security gate.

Volaris’ safety video was of nothing but children, which I thought was cute (save for the fact that they didn't manage to put in a single Afro child in a commercial designed for Latin America) but my co-passenger had me cracking up questioning whether Volaris was “a serious airline” based upon the presentation. 

Good thing the flight was short because free beverages were not an option and The Kid was not paying $5 for a can of ginger ale. I asked the dude in the window seat to shoot these beauties. 

The flight to Tuxtla Gutiérrez (the capital of the state of Chiapas) was fine but as we waited to leave the plane here goes this older woman behind me with her damn hands in my hair. Grrrrrr. And she’s just touching and patting it like I’m an animal at the zoo. When will people stop thinking that shit is okay??

We planned to take the bus from Tuxtla Gutiérrez to San Cristobal but the buses came every two hours and the one scheduled within the next 30 minutes was already full. But we came together with some other stranded folks headed to San Cristobal and all decided to take cabs colectivo-style. The bus was only going to cost around $42 pesos ($3) but the taxi cost $700 pesos (around $50), which we divided between four people (and the driver tried to say the 4th person was extra after we paid at the airport but no one was hearing that foolishness). We took a cab with a guy from Mexico and a Spanish girl, Ethel from Madrid, who did translation work. And guess what she translated very recently? An autobiography of Assata Shakur! That felt like a good sign of things to come. :-)

We got to San Cristobal and was immediately struck by how many tourists were everywhere. We were again not quite sure of our Couchsurfing plans. We were supposed to stay with a young woman who seemed uncertain about whether she could host us early on and when we arrived she wasn’t returning our messages. We needed some internet to check out other options. We went to this bar/restaurant called La Victoria Resto & Bar. What a damn mistake. The music was so loud we couldn’t even think. My mediocre spaghetti came and after 30+ minutes of waiting Salma’s molletes just never did. Boo them so hard. We eventually got in touch with the girl and headed up the hill to her house, passing a little place called Casa de Carmelita’s on the way.  I checked in Carmelita’s while Salma went to find the exact location. We got to her place and there were dogs, a dude with a juggling pin and an offer to stay on a mat in one of the rooms, but no bed. Ummm. We went back to Carmelita’s on Calle Dr. Navarro.

She’s this little woman of about 60+ years who offered us the triple room for $400 pesos and said that we could change to a smaller one the next day for $350 but when Carmelita’s daughter asked her how much she offered us the room the daughter was peeved, saying it was too low for high season (which goes until around Jan. 5/6). We went upstairs so Señora Carmelita could show us the room and she whispered, “Don’t you worry. She forgets she’s the daughter and I’m the owner.” We love Carmelita. This place was heaven sent for us. 

Nothing extravagant, but it was clean, spacious and full of light. After all the bobbing in weaving from house to house we deserved to feel like we were truly on vacation. 

Casa de Carmelita
Calle Dr. Navarro No. 15. 
Barrio del Cerrillo, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas 
(01 967) 678-9975 
(01 967) 678-2237 
(044) 967 138-0986

Once we settled in we went to a Lebanese restaurant called Arez located on Real de Guadalupe for some really good and fresh falafel for $40 pesos ($2.85). With a place to stay and food in our bellies we were able to notice something very crucial about San Cristobal. It is full of fine ass travelers! Well hellooooo, Chiapas!

Day 10- Friday, January 2, 2015: Day 2 in Chiapas

Casa de Carmelita’s was sweet because it's situated in the center of San Cristobal, so we could easily walk pretty much everywhere we wanted to go in the area. And what was even sweeter was that there was a drop-off laundry place right around the corner for $30 pesos/kilo (Finding a lavanderia is key if you wanna pack reasonably). We then headed to a popular and cool spot called Tierra Adentro

Critical things to understand about the state of Chiapas is that it's home to Mexico's largest Indigenous population, primarily comprised of various Mayan groups, and is the heart of the Zapatistas movement. So throughout San Cristobal there is graffiti and stores which support the movement and sell products produced by the Zapatistas.Tierra Adentro is one such business. Here's a good link for various Chiapas/Zapatista Resources to understand the struggle for indigenous rights there. 

We spent the day walking around the center of San Cristobal.


And at night we went to a spot that was highly recommended by folks there and on the web, Revolucion. We finally got to drink some of our new favorite beer, Bohemia, and listen a mix of types of live music, including Mexican cumbia, which was refreshing.


Day 11- Saturday, January 3, 2015: Day 3 in Chiapas

We’d read a guide book that said that going to Chamula was this life-altering experience and so off we went. We met up with a friend of Salma’s from Italy, Sabrina, whom we had randomly run into at Tierra Adentro the day before and to ok a collectivo bus for $15 pesos for about 20 minutes to Chamula. We headed for San Juan de Chamula where we met Sabrina’s friends who had ridden into the town on some apparently very old horses.

  San Juan de Chamula Church

San Juan de Chamula Church

  San Juan de Chamula Church

San Juan de Chamula Church

We were told we were strictly prohibited from taking photos inside and if we were caught we were told they would make us immediately erase the photos. It was a place of worship unlike any I’d ever seen before. It was visibly syncretic, combing Catholic and Tzotzil Maya traditions. It smelled of the Evergreen needles that covered the floor. There were no pews and the walls were lined with cases holding religious figures like Jesus and various saints. Women and children lighting candles dominated the floor in rows. There were candles evvverywhere. There were men standing up as they chanted. Tourists passed by creating this somewhat odd blend of worshippers and watchers. After we’d walked through we were standing around and the women were showing one another photos and a man came over and told them to reveal the cameras contents. After he saw there were none of the church he told me I also had to put my notebook away. We left there and walked on a street with a lot of vendors. We’d been surprised in DF, Puebla and Teopotzlan at how easy vendors were with us, no harassment, super nice. In Chiapas it was different. Chiapas is the economically poorest state in Mexico and it’s possible that this is a reason that people go harder when trying to convince you to buy things. We were often approached by Indigenous children, sometimes as small as three years old, selling trinkets, gum, etc. It is not for the faint of heart.

We took the colectivo back and all went a restaurant which would become our favorite in San Cristobal, Cocoliche. Their motto is something about how they have a little bit of food from every town and country and this concept worked really well because we could keep returning and feel like we were having another culinary experience. The women from Italy suggested I order arranchera beef ($120 pesos), which is supposed to be specific to Mexico and really good. And oh it was.


I went to a cool little coffee shop, Frontera’s, by Carmelita’s to write for a bit. Salma met me and we started to look up bus tickets, again with Ado (who clearly has the bus industry on lock), from San Cristobal, Chiapas to Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. The Italian women were taking the night bus that night and said tickets sold very quickly. We were planning on leaving the following day but the transpo gods had a different idea. The internet was showing that all flights for the following day between the two cities were sold out. Blargh. We went to the ticket office in a coffee shop on Real de Guadalupe and was told the same thing. Clearly we were going to be spending an extra day in Chiapas. But since we hadn’t planned on traveling via the evening we were really only losing a night in Oaxaca. And San Cristobal was living up to the hype. We had a tasty variety of cuisine at reasonable prices. We were a fan of Casa de Carmelita and walking everywhere as opposed to having to taking public transpo or taxis. And again, there was eye candy all over the place, even though many of the hot boys appeared booed up (#ChiapasIsForLovers). We were finding good spots to listen to live music. So we didn’t trip and just bought our tickets for the following day, leaving out at 8pm and arriving in Oaxaca around 7am. We still had to figure out our Oaxaca and Guadalajara Couchsurfing plans. We potentially had a guy who agreed to host us in Oaxaca but he seemed to be flaking on us. We sent him messages to confirm and sought out potential folks for Guadalajara. We avoided dudes who looked like they thought Couchsurfing was OkCupid, folks who didn’t have a private room, and chose ones that seemed to potentially be located in the center of town.


We headed to a highly recommended food joint, The Funky Burrito. I had a yummy fish burrito (yes, fish burrito). The owner offered us a shot of the house “Funky Burrito Mezcal” and well, that shit was disgusting but it takes a lot for Mezcal to be good. The Canadian girl who worked there offered us a taste of maracuya (passion fruit) Mezcal and that wasn’t half bad.

We headed to this spot called Dada’s for yet another shot of hardcore Mezcal and some super cool live music by this French band, Sondido, who apparently met 5 years earlier at a posada in Mexico and have been jamming there ever since. We ended up making our way into some front row seats (the place was packed) and really dug having yet another dose of some really different live music. Here are some snippets for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Day 12- Sunday, January 4, 2015: Day 4 in Chiapas

We started the day again at Tierra Adentro then went a travel agency (called something like Viajes Pedrero) on a corner in the Zocalo (main plaza) to pay for our day trip to El Cañon de Sumidero. We stopped at the tourist kiosk that was finally open in the Zocalo to ask about the English books store but they were of no use. 

Behind the Zocalo there was a long line of children with parents waiting to receive toys in a toy give-away. And as I mentioned before it's common to see small children and the elderly asking for money and attempting to sell their goods at all times of the day and night. This line was full of what appeared to be impoverished families, similar to the people that we see selling things. And for some reason there was a DJ playing techno music that was cursing up a storm in English and talking about cocaine. There was something too disheartening about the entire scene so I couldn’t stay around long.


We eventually ended up at the Mercado Santo Domingo which sits in front of the Santo Domingo Church.


That night we were back at Cocoliche and with more live music, this time with a group called Cello Duo.


Day 13- Monday, January 5, 2015: Day 5 in San Cristobal, Chiapas-> Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

We spent $300 pesos ($21) for a day tour and met the bus at the office at 9am to begin. We first went to the El Cañon de Sumidero, which many people suggested we hit up if going to Chiapas. And they were on point with their suggestion. The fee we paid covered entry and the boat ride (technically what we paid well exceeded the costs but that's obvious commission, which for the sake of ease was well worth it). We strapped on some fluorescent vests and hopped in the speed boat with our fellow tourists. It was really quite beautiful.


And ya gotta love being able to see live crocodiles hanging out minding their own business.


After Sumidero the bus went to Chiapa de Corzo. Now technically this is supposed to be a very interesting place with this unique Fiesta Grande de Enero (Great January Festival) that’s been been declared an intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO. Unfortunately the friggin' thing doesn’t start until January 8th so we spent an hour just wandering around a place with a few vendors that looked like it was on the verge of putting something on but it was sort of still sleeping. And there was nothing really to eat there. We were ready to roll after a good 5 minutes and were happy when we finally headed back to San Cristobal. 

We hung out at Tierra Adentro, picking up our last Zapatista gifts in the shop inside and then went back to Casa de Carmelita to say our final goodbyes. I don’t know why but I really felt kind of sad bidding her farewell. We were so lucky to have stumbled upon her place and I HIGHLY recommend it for anyone visiting San Cristobal. It’s cute, clean, reasonably priced, conveniently located and Carmelita is just the best (don't be fooled by this photo, she smiles a lot).


We had one last meal at Cocoliche for the road and walked down to the ADO/OCC bus station (about 15 min.) for our 8pm bus to Oaxaca City, Oaxaca. It’s weird to go to bus stations where there is basically only one company, but again ADO seems to have a monopoly on the bus biz and somehow OCC is closely associated with them, if not just another arm of the same corporation. But they try to run things like an airport which on some level I appreciate (especially after bus fiascos in Bolivia and Peru). We had to check luggage and there was a waiting area just for passengers. When we boarded we were impressed with the bus, even though it wasn’t an actual sleeper bus like I'd hoped it would be (These legs ain't bus-friendly).

Things were going smoothly at first then shit got extra real. Everyone started to fall asleep and around 1am the bus go stopped for the first time by the police. We were in the second to last row and I was sitting in the aisle. The officer passes everyone on the bus and gets to me and asks where I’m from and for my passport. Um, okay. But check how this happened TWO MORE TIMES, each time, the officers passing everyone and stopping at me to ask for my passport and then my friend’s.


The bus was pulled over an additional two times without anyone being asked. Basically if anyone got questioned it started with me. By the third time I had to wake my girl up just so she could witness the utter ridiculousness.

Then on top of that our bus driver was careening left and ride down the highway and it kept me up on and off the entire 11 hour bus ride. Between what I felt was the racial profiling by the PoPo and Señor Swerve 2015, I was not a happy viajera.