My night at Xoximilco

Xochimilco (with a ‘ch’) is one of the main tourist attractions in Mexico city and thanks to it’s grand display of Mexican culture and tradition has been declared a Cultural Heritage for Humanity by the UNESCO.

Xochimilco © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

Xochimilco © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

I have traveled to Mexico city various times during the 9 years I have been here in Mexico however I have never had the chance to visit Xochimilco, so when I first heard that Xoximilco would be opened by the company that owns Xcaret and Xel-Ha,  I just knew that I had to go and last week I was lucky enough to get invited! Best of all I was able to go surrounded by a ton of my friends and colleagues which just added to the whole experience!

The gates open a full hour before the ‘trajineras’ set sail which gives you plenty of time to get registered and pose  for some awesome photos. They also have an area when you can try fresh fruit waters, or something stronger if you would like, as well as try the traditional Mexican snack of Esquites, which are small cups of cooked corn grains topped with salt, chile and mayonnaise!

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After you’re all registered and are assigned your boat you are sent off to cover yourself from head to toe in bug repellent! Take my word on this one, you will not want to miss any areas! In the bathroom areas they have huge pots of repellent, which is a pretty nice touch as you don’t have to worry about remembering to bring your own! I’m normally one of those lucky people that doesn’t tend to get bitten but even with the repellent I finished the night with quite a few bites around my ankles!

As the sun set it was time for one last group photo before we boarded the trajinera and set sail into the canals of Xoximilco!

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When the sun goes down is when the fun really begins, from the moment you step onto the trajinera you are transported to a different world of Mexican culture and tradition. As we were a large group we had a private trajinera just for us which just added to the whole experience. The guides and oarsman are over-the-top and make sure everyone gets involved in the fun whether it is demonstrating how to perform a tradition Mexican ‘grito’ or explaining how certain Mexican traditions came to be. My personal favourite was the story of the rabbit on the moon.

Snacks and drinks are already set up on board the trajinera for you however take my recommendation and don’t over do it on the snacks as there really is a never ending supply of Mexican dishes served to you throughout the evening! The ‘kitchen boats’ as I started to call them, are set up in strategic points throughout the canal and each trajinera is expertly moored beside them in order to transport the plates from one boat to another. As a vegetarian I have to say that the Vegetarian options were phenomenal, I had the chance to try banana ‘meatballs’, Mushroom tamales, grilled asaparagus among others. It was absolutely delicious!

Between courses you are also treated to live performances from groups and artists playing music originating from the various states of Mexico. My favourite always has been, and probably always will be, the Mariachis!

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As the tour is at night one of the nicest aspects is the fact that they have professional photographers strategically placed throughout the route taking photos in prime locations which of course came out way better than any photos I could have possibly taken with my camera or iphone! Plus it’s always nice to be able to get group photos where everyone is in the photo and you don’t have the dilemma of having to look for someone to take the pic! At the end of the evening you are given the opportunity to view all the photos that were taken and rather than having to choose your favourites and purchase them individually, you are able to buy a USB which contains all of the photos taken! An awesome feature as you have the digital copies of the photos and can print them as many times as you please or upload them to Facebook and make all your friends jealous!

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The tour itself lasted little over 3 hours but felt a lot longer as it is non stop entertainment and fun! I truly had a blast and I definitely plan on going again when my family are in town!

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Ni Modo

So I’m gonna start off apologizing for the HUGE gap in between posts.. it’s been a hectic few weeks. So many highs and lows, up and coming changes, life has literally been turned upside down but if there is one phrase that I’ve learnt here in Mexico that pretty sums life up at the moment it’s ‘Ni Modo’. I don’t think there is an actual translation for Ni Modo in English but it pretty much means: Shit happens, there’s not much you can do about it, so just move on!

So, moving on.. tomorrow I’ll be going on a new tour here in the Riviera Maya. Its called Xenotes and looks like it’s gonna be an absolute blast.

The Xenotes Tour includes a visit to four cenotes (sinkholes) where you will enjoy activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, rappelling, zip lines, inner tubes and swimming, with a period of relaxation to enjoy a Glam Picnic, a true moment of adventure in contact with nature.

The website for Xenotes promises me a day full of fun and nature combined so make sure you check back and see if they did live up to everything they promised! I’m pretty sure it will!

I also found out today that the annual Playa Del Carmen fair or feria as it is known here is in town. It’s gonna be here for at least a week so that will definitely involve a few visits! For those of you that have read my previous posts, you will know me now that I do love a Feria. It’s a great place to really get to know the real Mexico!

So all in all it’s gonna be a busy week, time to get back in to the Blog!

And just as an afternote (not that it is by any means a less significant occasion) today is my Dad’s Birthday! So, Happy Birthday Daddy! Love you x

My Daddy & Me

Travesía Sagrada Maya

Photo courtesy of Del Sol Photography

The ‘Travesia Sagrada Maya’ translates into English as Sacred Mayan Journey and it is an INCREDIBLE event that takes place every year here in the Riviera Maya.

The Sacred Mayan Journey is a ritual in which the Maya braved the ocean on their canoes and crossed to Cozumel to worship the goddess Ixchel.

This year marks the 7th annual event and will involve over 300 oarsmen in 30 canoes making their way from Xel Ha Park over to Cozumel and back again, ending their journey with a festival celebrating their arrival in Xcaret park. This event raises awareness of the Mayan culture as the original culture in this area, a fact that is disappearing over time.

Every aspect of the event, from the people taking part to the oars, from the body paint to the food offered at the festival it all has a significance within the Mayan world and each belief is brought to life in present day thanks to the participation of so many local members of the community within this event. Not all participants are local, thanks to the ever growing popularity of the event there are people that travel from other states and ever other countries to take part in this wonderful experience.

If you ever have the chance to be in the Riviera Maya at the end of May, this is one experience that you cannot miss. It is truly incredible and has the power to take your breath away with the sheer dedication of the members and the symbolism portrayed.

Official page: http://en.travesiasagradamaya.com.mx/

You can’t miss checking out this page for AMAZING photos taken at last years event by Del Sol Photography:

http://delsolphotography.com/travesia-sagrada-maya/

Gran Bazar Primavera de Andale

Here in this part of Mexico there is a free local magazine called the ‘Andale’. If you are looking to buy, sell, rent etc,, then the Andale should always be your first port of call! It truly is a lifesend when you find yourself being told by your landlord that you have to move out the following day cause he made a mistake on the date of the contract (but that’s a whole other story..)!

Well every year in the middle of May, Andale organizes a huge street sale called the the Gran Bazar. It costs $200pesos to rent a space and according to the rules you are only allowed to sell second hand goods or handicrafts! Many locals look forward to the event and even though is doesnt open to the public til 8am there are normally crowds of people waiting to get the first bargains! You can find arts and crafts not sold in the regular stores as well as used books, clothing, jewelry, homemade cakes and pies and sooooo much more. They close off around 6 blocks of an entire avenue and the event runs from 8am through to 8pm! I remember visiting the bazaar during my first few years of being here in Mexico and finding some great bargains, you know what they say “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” but then again saying that I am a sucker for anything on sale!

Well this year I finaly decided that it was time to have a sort out and try and make some money while I was at it! So I convinced my partner in crime (otherwise known as my boyfriend) that it was a good idea and so we went for it… All in all it was a good day, far TOO hot and boy does it show that I spent 12 hours in the sun, I am now a rather fetching shade of fuscia but I sold most of what I took with me and made a little bit of extra cash which always comes in handy! I now feel rather obliged to replace all the shoes I sold, it’s only fair right?

While I was busy debuting my entrepreneurial spirit, my boyfriend was off doing what he does best, taking photos and I fully credit him for all the great images below:

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At the beginning of the day before the crowds descended

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Next year I am definitely clearing my closet before hand! Clothes were definitely the best seller of the day!

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Cute little hand made phone pouches

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Let the buying and selling begin!

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The Mexican equivalent of a slush puppy! Always popular on a hot day!

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No street event would be complete without a snack from a bike!

My hand made magnets!

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Let the party begin….

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Yours truly in full selling mode!

After 12 hours of sun with easily a humidity factor of 100% I was well and truly glad to pack up and go home but all in all it’s an amazing street fair, and something Playa should do a bit more frequently than once a year! Although if I have to be honest I think it is safe to say I am definitely happier doing the buying rather than the selling!

 

 

X is for Xel Ha

Xel-Ha, one of the amazing attractions in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Mexico, a natural aquarium park considered the largest aquarium in the world, the perfect place to perform activities in Riviera Maya. If you love nature, there is no better place than Xel-Ha to practice snorkeling and water activities

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Xel Ha Park

Xel Ha has got to be one of my favourite places to go when I have time off. It is a natural park that is based around a huge lagoon and an awesome place if you like water activities such as snorkeling. They have an amazing lazy river that you can snorkel through or if you’re lazy like me, they have inflatable donuts that you can use to just float down the river.

image courtesy of TripAdvisor

Inner tubes in the Lazy River

There are tons of cool fish and sealife to see and it is all completely natural. None of the fish in the park are in captivity, they are there because they want to be. Xel Has is commonly known as the world’s largest natural aquarium.

Enjoying a day off at Xel Ha

Xel Ha

Once you pay your entrance to the park it is all inclusive and another HUGE bonus of this park is the food they have available throughout the day. I think I can safely say that I would go just for the food.

Xel Ha are very big on the environment and biodegradable sunblock is a must when you are visiting the park. Keep in mind that biodegradable sunblock can be thicker than regular sunblock so don’t over do it with the cream!!

Biodegradable Sunblock

Another unique activity that Xel Ha park offers is the Dolphin Sea Trek. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and if you are a non-diver like myself it is the closest you will get to feeling like a dive master.

My Sea Trek Experience at Xel Ha

Hugging a Dolphin

If you’re visiting this area, a visit to Xel Ha is a must do!

The incredible views at Xel Ha

The lagoon at Xel Ha

W is for Working Visa

Being a foreigner here in Mexico, in order to work you have to get a working Visa; also known as an FM2 or FM3. When I first arrived it was actually extremely easy for me to get my FM3 as the company that I started working for had a lawyer with immigration connections and it only took a few days for me to get all the papers in order. Unfortunately it is not that easy anymore. Due to recent immigrations laws, people wishing to stay and work in Mexico now need to apply for their working visa before they even arrive in the country. They are also now requesting, although it is not yet an official requirement, that people speak at least basic level spanish before entering the country to work. It is worth mentioning that you are able to enter Mexico on a tourist visa and stay for up to 6 months however you are not allowed to work during this time.

Image courtesy of Mexonline.com

Tourist Visa form

Unlike most other countries where, once you have the visa you are able to work anywhere you wish, here in Mexico the working visa is job specific so it makes it extremely complicated if you start working in a place or a position that you are not happy with as it can take up to 3 months to change the details on the visa itself and the law states that you are not allowed to work during this process. This can either mean that the company hiring you is not willing to wait 3 months for their new employee or simply you do not have enough money to survive the 3 months without any form of income.

I have actually been very lucky during my time here and all of the jobs I have had have been brilliant and I’ve loved them, I’ve only ever changed jobs due to a better offer coming along rather than for my own personal preference. When applying for a job here in Mexico it is worth asking if the company has an immigration lawyer and if the company itself will be willing to cover your immigrations costs as it can work out to be rather expensive. The visa is only valid for 1 year, so you are required to renew it every year.

Image courtesy of Visasmex.com

Example of an FM3 working visa

Image courtesy of Visasmex.com

Example of an FM2 working visa

The FM3 visa is the initial working visa here in Mexico and after an established period of time (usually 5 years) you are able to change your imigration status and apply for an FM2 which is essentially the same however it restricts the amount of time you are able to leave the country at any given moment but it does provide you with additional benefits such as being able to apply for credit. The process used to be Fm3, Fm2 and then Mexican nationality however they have no introduced an additional stage which is permanent resident, this is the stage that I am at now. Being a British citizen I am able to have dual nationality so my ultimate aim is to adquire Mexican nationality as well as my own however there are many countries that don’t allow dual citizenship and therefore it will be up to the individual if they are willing to give up their own nationality in order to take Mexican nationality or if they will just keep their original passport and remain in Mexico on a visa basis.

The immigration laws are always being changed and updated so it is advisable to continuously check with the local immigration office or if you have an immigration lawyer they should advise you of any giving changes. The information above is applicable for the immigration offices here in Playa Del Carmen and Cancun however immigration offices in other parts of the country may have their own set of rules and requirements.

V is for Vacation

va·ca·tion –

noun
1. a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest,
recreation, or travel;recess or holiday
One of the most common questions I receive from people that are here in Mexico on vacation is Where do I go on vacation? Living in a vacation paradise I understand their point as they travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to where I live in order to pass their vacations.
Whenever I get a decent amount of vacation time off from work, and when I say decent I mean at least a few weeks, the only place that I ever go is home. Home being London, England.
It’s kind of ironic that I live by the beach in a tropical caribbean country and choose to spend my only vacations in a cold country BUT that is home to me and it’s is actually a nice break from the heat. It also means I get the time to see my family and friends, who I miss so much all the time when I am here. I love being at home when I am there but it still makes me realize that I made the right decision in coming to live in Mexico.