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Getty on the Go - Engineer by day, full time traveler otherwise.
most-instagrammable-austin-murals-love

Austin is a very artist friendly city, and with that, we have many murals all over town. There are hundreds of murals all over Austin and they’re all worth seeing, and discovering, but here I will focus on the most instagrammable Austin murals about love. This is for couple, dog owner, or mothers! There will be something for everyone! To make it easier for you, I’ll be listing them in order from North Austin, to downtown Austin, to South Austin. Get ready to fall in love with Austin and capture your best instagram photos.

 

  1. “Love is the answer” – John Lennon. Located in north Austin in the domain, on the wall of Viva Day Spa (11601 Rock Rose, Austin, TX 78758), this mural is so romantic. I was able to capture my friends in front of it! Aren’t they just the cutest couple? Those smiles and gazes can’t be faked!

    Love is the answer austin mural north domain
    Love is the answer in the Domain.
  2. “I love you to the moon and back”. Located in north central Austin, on the outside of Jerry’s Artarama (6010 N IH 35 Austin, TX 78752). It’s a cheesy quote but a classic!

    I love you to the moon and back austin mural
    I love you to the moon and back.
  3. “He smiles, but she doesn’t see it”. Located in central Austin around University of Texas in Austin (Guadalupe St & 25th St, Austin, 78705), this mural is for all the ones in the friendzone. Snap a photo and send it to her through snap chat, hopefully she get the hint 😉

    He smiles but she doesn't see it austin mural friendzone
    He smiles but she doesn’t see it.
  4. “Love is the question Love is the Answer”. Located downtown Austin, outside of a quirky convenient store/restaurant called Nau’s Enfield Drug (1115 W Lynn St, Austin, TX 78703). When in doubt, love is always the answer, a beautiful inspiring mural!

    Love is the question love is the answer austin mural
    Love is the question love is the answer.
  5. Shy kissing couple. Located downtown Austin right inside of a public parking entrance, next to Lacquer (2nd Street District, 210 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701). It’s the perfect backdrop for a cute smoosh on your lover’s cheek! 

    Shy kissing couple austin mural asian couple
    Shy kissing couple.
  6. ‘Love will win”. Located downtown across the street from the W hotel (200 Lavaca Street, Austin, TX, 78701). Especially in today’s times, it is good to remember that love will always prevail. Bring your best friend, your sibling, or your forbidden lover and snap a photo!

    Love will win austin mural gay lgbt equal
    Love will win!
  7. “I hate you so much”. Located downtown on Rainey St inside of the Bungalow bar (92 Rainey St, Austin, TX 78701). Bring your nemesis, best friend with who you have a love/hate relationship, or your ex! However petty you’re feeling that day. 

    I hate you so much austin mural
    I hate you so much.
  8. “‘Till death do us part”. Located in East downtown Austin, outside of Green and White Grocery (1201 E 7th St, Austin, TX 78702). It’s a gorgeous backdrop for engagement photos, or wedding photos.

    'Till death do us part austin mural engagement wedding photos
    ‘Till death do us part,
  9. “Let’s band together”. Located in East Austin, on the wall of Whisler’s (

    Let's band together austin murals
    Let’s band together.
  10. “You’re my butter half. Located in East Austin (2000 E Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Austin, TX 78702). Bring your partner, best friend, sibling, or parent. It’s the cutest best instragrammable declaration of love. I was able to capture a moment for this adorable couple in front of this mural! 

    You're my better half mural austin
    Couple posing in front of “You’re my better half”.
  11. A Mother’s Love. Located in East Austin (E 12th St & Chicon St Austin, TX 78702) near a small convenient store inside of an empty parking lot. Take your baby bum, or your toddler to this mural for the cutest photo of the year! 

    A mother's love austin mural pregnancy pro life
    A mother’s love.
  12. “Puppy Love”. Located in South Downtown, on the outside walls for Mud Puppies (2015 E. Riverside Drive Austin, Texas 78741). Bring your pet, your best friend, or your favorite dog lover to this spot and thank me later! 

    Puppy Love austin mural
    Puppy Love.
  13. “I love you so much”. Located on South Congress on the wall of Jo’s Coffee (1300 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704). This mural was spray painted by the now ex’s girlfriend of the owner after they had a fight. How thoughtful is that? Snap a photo commemorating your time with your loved one in Austin like I did with that my best friend. 

    I love you so much austin mural
    Me and my best friend in front of the “I love you so much” mural.
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guide-couchsurfing-newbies

I joined couchsurfing back in 2013 and since then I’ve couchsurfed and hosted with people all over the world and still keep in touch with some of them as they have become my friends. So here is a guide to couchsurfing (CS) for newbies, things you should know before your first CS experience:

  • Complete your entire profile and get as many reviews as possible:

Completing your profile is very important because most hosts will be expecting at least that much. A good way to go about getting reviews is to look up CS events in your area. Attend those events, get to know hosts and surfers in your area and ask them to write a reference on your profile. Another great way is to host and get references from surfers!

cs couchsurfing milan italy party
My very first CS experience in Milan, Italy!
  • Request a couch early but not too early:

I find that if you ask two weeks to a month earlier is usually the best time. If you ask too early, your host might not know his/her schedule, but if you ask too late, they might already have different plans.

  • Read your host’s profile and write personalized requests:

This is for your safety and to ensure that you and your host will get along. I’ve had people send me request that were copied and pasted, and I know that because they also forgot to change the name to mine. You are asking a stranger to stay in their home, take 5 minutes and read their profiles, and only requests a couch if you think you’ll be able to get along, have some cultural exchange, learn something from each other, etc…

 

best friend cs couchsurfing hang out miami beach
Me and my best friend, hanging out with our CS host in Miami beach!
  • Safety:

This is everyone’s biggest concern with couchsurfing, so let’s tackle it. Here are things to look for on a potential host profile: 

  1. Check their references and if they are verified members: Read in between the lines, some people will leave “neutral” reviews instead of negative ones. Also, prioritize profiles that have been verified by CS. Personally, I’m not a verified member so I don’t practice what I preach on this one.
  2. Understand the cultural context: Make sure that you understand the cultural expectations in countries you’re going to. And also understand the socio-economic context of your destinations. There was a couchsurfing incident in Nepal where the host murdered his surfer for the money she had taken out of the ATM. What seemed like little money to her, was unfortunately enough for the Nepalese man to kill her.
  3. Talk with your host: Find out your sleeping arrangements (This should be on their profile but confirm anyways). Ask them about their expectations for the trip to make sure you’re both on the same page. Creeps are everywhere and couchsurfing is not an exception. There are people that use it to hook up so just make sure it’s not the case with your host. Also, communicating via the site is always a good idea as it leaves a trail of your plans if anything was to happen.   
  4. Request families or women: When traveling with a friend, I usually do not mind sending requests to men but usually when traveling alone, I try to focus my request towards women or families. Couchsurfing explicitly recommends this as well for solo female traveler!
  5. Stalk your host on social media: If at all possible, find their facebook page, instagram account, tumblr, pinterest, linkedIn, etc… The more you know the better.

    cs couchsurfing fun dancing fun host surfers
    My first CS experience was also one of my best ones! We had a lot of fun dancing!
  • Have a backup plan:

Look up potential hostels and hotels in the area for a place to stay in case something was to happen and you felt uncomfortable with the CS host or they might cancel last minute. Things happen and your host might have a family or work emergency, make sure you know a couple of places around town you could stay in! 

CS host hang out texas austin
Hanging out with a CS host in Austin, TX. She couldn’t host us but she was able to hang out!
  • Show appreciation through gifts or acts of kindness:

Couchsurfing is absolutely free but everyone loves to feel appreciated. There are numbers of way to do this but I have three go to things I try to do/give to my host. So I usually either cook dinner to share a meal with my host, write a thank you note, or give them a small gift. I bought a couple of keychains when I was home in Kinshasa and keep them handy. It’s a small gift but it’s meaningful as it is from my country. If your host is a “super host” meaning he/she hosts as many people as he/she can, buying them toilet paper might also be much appreciated as well.

cs host surfer couchsurfing dinner austin texas
A CS host turned friend! I stayed with him in Austin and he stayed with me in Chicago! This was a farewell before he returned to France!
  • Leave it as you found it or better:

Make sure that you leave everything the way you found it or cleaner. If you’re sleeping on a bed, make the bed before leaving, if you cook, wash your dishes, if you spill something, clean it up, etc.. Also only take with you what you brought and leave nothing behind, including your toiletries. 

cs couchsurfing hang out miami beach girls
Hanging out with fellow CS I had just met a couple of hours earlier in Miami Beach!
  • Couchsurf for the right reasons:

As cheesy as it sounds, most hosts would like a cultural exchange, a friendship, story telling, etc… If you’re solely looking for free accommodation, couchsurfing might not be for you. Check out hostels because they’re fairly cheap and might be a better fit for you. Plan to make time to hang out with your host and get to know them. If they’re too busy, ask for recommendations on places to see in the city, you’ll never be disappointed getting recommendations from a local.

underwater maui hawaii couchsurfing host
Underwater selfie with one of my favorite hosts, in Maui, Hawaii! Truly priceless moments!
  • Couchsurfing is about a lot more:

Couchsurfing is about a lot more than finding a place to stay, it’s a community of travelers. Even in cities where I don’t surf, I use it to meet up with people and attend local events. I remember in Miami I spent 4th of July with a dozen of CS travelers on the beach by just posting  about it on the discussion group for Miami Beach! It was a lot of fun and many of us remained friends!

cs couchsurfing miami beach event fourth of july
Fourth of July celebration in Miami Beach with CS members!
  • Have fun!

I’ve met some of the most incredible people in the world through couchsurfing. I’ve gotten to see off the path waterfalls in Hawaii, giraffes from a bridge in downtown Amsterdam, and gone to incredible parties and events in Milan! CS can be such a great tool so use it and have fun with it!

cs couchsurfing milan italy event
I went to a CS event downtown Milan, Italy! Everyone even made an effort to speak English so I could understand them!

 

Have you ever couchsurfed or thought about it? Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section!

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things-to-do-new-orleans-mardi-gras

Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday, is a carnival full of life and color celebrated in Southern Louisiana. It begins on or after the Catholic’s feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and ends on Ash Wednesday right before the Lenten Season. Originally meant to be as a last day of celebration, eating fatty food and lots of meat, before fasting during Lent! In modern day, Mardi Gras in Louisiana has little to do with the Lenten season, and more to do with drinking, and just partying in general. 

1. Visit the World War II Museum

I know what you’re thinking, I came to New Orleans to drink and partayyy why should I go to a museum? Don’t worry, I’ll let you know where to drink in a second. As I like to say, mix your alcohol with some knowledge, culture and history. It’s a museum that focuses on the United States’s contribution to their allies during World War II. It’s a somber place but definitely a great place to learn some history and the architecture is very cool! Get your ticket here

World War Two Museum in New Orleans ii
World War Two Museum in New Orleans!
World War Two Museum in New Orleans ii
World War Two Museum in New Orleans

2. Walk around The Garden District

This neighborhood is home to so many gorgeous villas. The Robinson House (1415 N Third St) is one of the most impressive ones with over 10,000 sq ft! It is currently on the market, for 8 millions dollars, in case you’re looking for a vacation home! I would also recommend walking down Magazine street, it’s full of boutiques, hand made jewelry stores, restaurants, and very cool coffee shops.

 

The Robinson Mansion in the Garden District New Orleans Louisiana
The Robinson Mansion in the Garden District, New Orleans, LA
A house decorate with the Mardi Gras colors in the Garden District at night.
A house decorate with the Mardi Gras colors in the Garden District at night.

3. Scroll through Saint Charles

Saint Charles Avenue is one of the most popular street on New Orleans, and I can definitely see why. It’s full of gorgeous architecture, reminiscent of the 19th century. It stretches from uptown to downtown passing through the Garden district. And for $1.25 per ride or $3 per day, you can ride the famous streetcar on Saint Charles!

Mardi Gras Parade 2017 New Orleans
Mardi Gras Parade 2017 on Saint Charles, New Orleans!
Mardi Gras Parade 2017 New Orleans
Mardi Gras Parade 2017, New Orleans!

4. Explore The French Quarter

If you heard anything about New Orleans, you’ve heard of the French Quarter, also known as, Vieux Carre. It is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and full of beautiful homes. And around Mardi Gras, many of these homes are decorates for the festivities. Lalaurie Mansion, featured in American Horror Story Season 3, can be found here as well (1140 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116). Here I also found the absolute best Oysters I’ve ever had. ACME Oyster House is one of the few places that live up to the hype. Everyone told me to go there, so I thought it wouldn’t be so good, and I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. Order the chargrilled Oysters, they aren’t slimy at all, fully cooked, and will bring you joy and happiness. 10/10 would recommend every time.

lalaurie mansion american horror story season 3 torture ghost tour
Lalaurie Mansion in the French Quarter, New Orleans. 
acme oyster house new orleans
Life changing Oysters

 

5. Check out Jackson Square

Jackson Square is a historical site because in 1803, Louisiana was made US territory by purchasing the Land from France. It’s a beautiful park located in the French quarter near the Mississippi River but my favorite part was the street performers. Right in front of the park, street artist will perform one at a time, although unrelated performances. My favorite performance was from Marcus, an amazing acrobat from Seattle, and just really a funny guy. As odd as it may sound, I’d recommend spending a bit of time around here with some cash of course to tip your favorite performers. Support individual, self driven entrepreneurs with great talents!

acrobat new orleans street artist nola
He called this part of the show “La showing off”.
acrobat new orleans nola
He defied gravity the entire performance! 

6. Take photos on Royal Street

Royal Street is one of the most well known street in the French Quarter full of art galleries, antique shops, beautiful homes, and fancy hotels. Walking down this street I stopped over 10 times just to snap a photo.

Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans, LA

7. Shop at the French Market

The French Market was one of my favorite finds in the French Quarter. It is a great place to shop for souvenirs, clothes and FOOD! I had a Muffulettas sandwich, and although the name sounds funny, it was so good! And then I also had a praline beignet and it was completely out of this world. Make sure to find the stand with the PRALINE beignets and thank me later. And for souvenirs, I found a stand (A124), a woman that is so very talented paints using oyster shells as canvas, and nail polish only. She was also so warm to talk to and not pushy with her sells whatsoever. Even if you’re just going to admire the art, you’ll enjoy it. She’s there on Saturdays only!

The Muffulettas Sandwich, French Market New Orleans
The Muffulettas Sandwich, French Market, New Orleans.
praline beignets French Market, New Orleans
Praline Beignets, French Market, New Orleans
Alligator heads souvenirs, French Market New Orleans
Alligator heads souvenirs, French Market, New Orleans.
Unique art on Oysters shells, French Market, New Orleans
Unique art on Oysters shells, French Market, New Orleans

8. Pray at the Saint Louis Cathedral

Saint Louis Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the United States, also located in the French Quarter. It is quite a beauty inside and out. It is an architectural beauty, and I know this might be the 100th time I’m saying this, but truly it is. It’s so very simple, but yet gorgeous. I went inside for a short meditation and was able to appreciate this place more.

Saint Louis Cathedral, the oldest one in the USA
Saint Louis Cathedral, the oldest one in the USA!
Saint Louis Cathedral, the oldest one in the USA inside
Inside Saint Louis Cathedral, the oldest one in the USA!

9. Drink on Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street is arguably the most popular street in New Orleans. If you want to be drunk, be surrounded by drunk people, and see madness and mayhem, this street is for you. It is legal to drink on the street in New Orleans but do NOT have glass bottles because you will get a $50 fine! Personally, bourbon street was a bit much for me, I felt like the only remotely sober person around and did not enjoy the madness. I’m glad I walked through it to see what all the hype is about, but I couldn’t get myself to enter any of the bars or clubs.

A fellow solo female traveler from Brazil, posing on Bourbon Street
A fellow solo female traveler from Brazil, posing on Bourbon Street!

10. Party on Frenchmen Street

If you love live music, jazz, a good time, or all three, you’ll love Frenchmen Street! In my opinion, it’s 100 times better than Bourbon Street and unarguably cleaner. It is located in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, right next to the French Quarter. You must pay to enter most bars but it’s well worth it because these musicians are extremely talented. Also, unlike bourbon street, people aren’t overly drunk, and it’s a spot where locals hang out! You can find specific event here.

Street Art on FrenchMen Street New orleans LA
Street Art on Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, LA!
Beads Beads Beads everywhere, Frenshmen Street, New Orleans.

11. Watch the Parades

You absolutely can not go to Mardi Gras and not attend a parade. And for your convenience, there are parade all day nearly every day  starting the first Friday of January until Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday). So if you want to sleep in, go ahead, but you must go check out one of the many parades later. The parade schedules for 2017 can be found here. I loved watching different floats pass by and playing a one way game of catch for beads! Bring some snacks, drinks, and enjoy!

parade new orleans saint charles
I enjoyed the parades thoroughly!
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Tacos have never let me down and that was certainly the case in Mexico City. As a self proclaimed taco aficionada, connoisseur and expert, when in Mexico City, I took it upon myself to eat as many tacos as my body would allow. I made this sacrifice for everyone that will come after me. As a result, I was able to find the best street taco in Mexico City. I avoided the touristy restaurants and I have no regrets. I may have gained 5Kg (11lbs), but I did it for the people.

suadero street taco corona taqueria mexico city
Suadero taco with a Corona!

 

So without further ado, the best street taco in Mexico is called Taqueria Arandas. The tacos are made fresh in front of your eyes. You can order to go or sit down and enjoy. There is a second floor so even if it looks packed, you might be able to find a spot to sit upstairs, ask one of the servers! This spot was full of locals so I knew walking in it was bound to be good, and I was not disappointed. I ate five tacos, not because I was that hungry, but because they were that good! And get this, one taco costs 10 Mxn ($0.50) which to be fair is a bit expensive compared to other street tacos around but as they say, you get what you pay for. Quality onions, cilantro, tortilla, and meat was on the menu. I don’t need to recommend a specific taco to you because they were all amazing. But being the beef lover that I have to say that the carne asada (grilled beef) taco with cheese was my favorite!

 

carne asada street taco taqueria mexico city
Carne asada with cheese!
street taco taqueria el pastor mexico city arandas
Bae making taco el pastor!

This restaurant doesn’t have a website, a facebook page, or any online presence as far as I can tell so here is the address: Av. 5 de Mayo 43, Centro Histórico, Centro, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico. It’s open 24/7 because tacos are great at any time of the day!

street taco taqueria arandas menu mexico city
List of tacos they offer for just 10 Mxn ($0.50)
taqueria arandas door view taqueria mexico city
Google street view of Taco heaven aka Taqueria Arandas

Any day is a good day to eat a taco especially when in Mexico City so go out there and have the best taco of your life! 

 

Comment below with your favorite taco spot!

 

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8-fun-things-around-cancun

I spent my 7th and 8th day in Mexico exploring fun things to do around Cancun before actually getting to Cancun. Flights to Cancun can be incredibly cheap from the United States and it’s a great way to enjoy a relaxing vacation on the beach without breaking the wallet. It’s an area that is a little more costly than other cities in Mexico, but still quite affordable. So if you find yourself in Cancun, and would like to do something a little bit different, here is a list of 8 fun things I would recommend:

 

1. Mercado 28 (or Market 28)

It’s an open air market located downtown Mexico. From the hotel zone, you can easily reach it by cab or bus, I found the information on TripAdvisor to be very helpful and comprehensive. Mercado 28 is a great place for handcrafted souvenirs, clothes, jewelries, and also restaurants for some delicious local dishes. Make sure to bring cash! You should exchange your money before hand either at your hotel, a bank, or an exchange office for a better rate. Also be ready to haggle over prices and bring home gorgeous souvenirs.

mercado 28 market 28 cancun mexico souvenirs
Souvenirs in Mercado 28!
Downtown Mexico City

2. Isla Mujeres (Island of Women)

As the name might suggest, it is indeed a beautiful Island. It’s full of colorful houses, friendly locals, and the caribbean sea. If you would like to spend all day hanging on beautiful beach swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, etc… Isla Mujeres will offer you just that and more. You can reach this island with a 15 minutes boat ride from Cancun or 40 minutes if you take the slower ferry, and it only costs about 80 Mxn ($4) to get there. Also, you can easily rent a golf cart and roam around the small town. It’s a must stop destination when in Cancun.

Photo by isla-mujeres.net
Photo by Anna (Instagram: anna.everywhere)

3. Playa Delfines (Dolphin beach)

This beach is located on the south east side of the Hotel zone. It’s easily reached by bus, taxi or uber from anywhere in Cancun. This beach is also known as El Mirador (The Lookout) because of its gorgeous views. What’s even more exceptional about this beach is that there are no hotels nor restaurants so you really get a relaxed atmosphere. There is free parking and you can rent chairs and umbrellas as well. It’s also home to the famous “CANCUN” sign for a memorable instagram photo! However, the waves are very strong so if you decided to swim, you should be very cautious and tell your mom you love her! 😀

Feeling happy at Playa Delfines!
cancun sign playa delfines
Cancun sign at Playa Delfines

 

4. Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza meaning “at the mouth of the well of the Itza people” is a Mayan ruin in the Yucatan Peninsula, about 3 hours away from Cancun. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, one of the most visited archaeological site in Mexico and also one of the seven wonders of the World! Chichen Itza can be reached by car, or public transportation so there is no need to take a tour. There are very detailed information on how to get to Chichen Itza on their official website. It’s a majestic site and a great way to learn more about the Mayan people. If you’d like to check out more Mayan ruins closer to cancun check out this post, I found it very helpful and informative.

Chichen Itza’s famous pyramid. Photo taken by Anny (Instagram: anna.everywhere)
Anna posing in front of the pyramid (Instagram: anna.everywhere)

 

5. Playa Akumal (Turtles Beach)

Akumal meaning “Land of Turtles” in the Mayan language, is a town about an hour south of Cancun. And there you will find a beach with crystal clear water, and sea turtles! And, wait for it, the access is completely free! It is free to swim with sea turtles, so do not book any tour nor pay an entrance free, it’s a scam! The cheapest way to get there is to take a collectivo from Cancun to Playa del Carmen and another one from Playa del Carmen to Tulum and ask the driver to drop you off at Playa Akumal. Collectivos are white vans that serve as public transportation for locals and adventurous tourists, here are more info on how collectivos operate. It costs about 30-40 Mxn ($1.5-$2) per ride so this will be the cheapest way to get around. The collectivo station in Cancun is right across from ADO bus station. You can also take an ADO bus, taxi, or uber. I rented my snorkeling gear and a life jacket from my hostel because it’s the cheapest option, but you can also buy them at walmart in Cancun or rent them at the beach. You must have a life jacket to be allowed to swim far enough to see the sea turtles so keep that in mind because the life guards roam the waters and ask you to turn around if you are without a life jacket. I went there in the early afternoons and I got to swim alone with the turtles and that was amazing!

Photo by Anna (Instagram: anna.everywhere)
Enjoying the sunset on Playa Akumal after swimming with turtles!

6. Cenote Dos Ojos

Dos Ojos meaning “Two eyes” in Spanish because it’s composed of two cenotes that merge into one huge underwater cave. It is the deepest water cave in the world and one of the 10 largest! It is a great destination for snorkelers and divers, the perfect setting to experience fresh under water caves. The entrance is only 200 Mxn ($10) if you can rent snorkeling gear for 100 Mxn ($5). This spot can also be reached by taking a collectivo! For a complete list of all cenotes in Mexico, check out this organization.

Photo by cenotesmexico.org
Photo by cenotesmexico.org

7. Tulum Ruins and beach

Tulum is a resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, two hours from Cancun. It has a gorgeous white sand beach with ruins on the beach. It is a better resort town than Cancun and exactly what dreams are made out of. It’s a lot less crowded, a bit cheaper, and a lot better than anything Cancun could offer. The views are unbeatable, and it retains its authentic Mexican vibe! If you’re debating between staying in Cancun or Tulum, debate no more, Cancun it is. Thank me later!

Tulum Ruins. Photo by tulumruins.net
The perfect white sand beach. Photo by tulum.com

8. Laguna de siete colors (Lake of the seven colors) in Bacalar

This is my personal favorite! It’s 3 hours from Cancun and totally worth it. I’ve see blue waters all over the world, but never have I seen this many different shades of blue in one lake! It was unlike anything I’ve never seen and I was absolutely in love! The water is the perfect temperature to jump in and swim as well! Do yourself a favor, and go see this with your own eyes!

Anna swinging in paradise. (Instagram: anna.everywhere)
laguna de siete colores lake of seven colors bacalar mexico
Paradise 🙂

 

 

 

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how-overcome-bad-travel-day

For the most part, I’m a happy person even in the morning before  coffee. But like everyone else, I have bad days including while traveling. On my fifth day in Mexico, I had to overcome a bad travel day. Although I loved Mexico, I absolutely did, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable from stares and comments such as “Como me gusta el chocolate” (translates to “How I love chocolate”), “Take me back to Jamaica”, or worst “Get out of Mexico *insert curse words*”. Yes, someone actually said that to me! Thankfully I wasn’t alone for that last one, I was walking with another traveler. I don’t usually mind taking photos with strangers or telling them where I’m from when asked, that just happens especially if you don’t look like everyone else. Although in Mexico there are afro-latinos, they are a very small minority, in certain parts of Mexico, including touristic areas, being black is out of the ordinary. Having travelled to a lot of countries with a very low amount of melanin in the population, I’m used to stares, I don’t even notice. What I strongly dislike is negative interactions, usually coming from men, demanding my attention. As a result, on the fifth day, I really had had enough, and then to top it off, I went on the worst tour ever, so yeah, I wasn’t very happy!

I booked a tour that would take me from San Cristobal de las Casas, to Agua Azul, Misol Ha, and the Palenque ruins for 500 Mxn ($25). Not a bad deal considering it’s a 15 hours tour. Fortunately for me, after arriving in Palenque, I did not return to San Cristobal de las Casas which would have taken 5 hours, instead I caught a bus towards Cancun. When booking I asked what time I should be ready to leave and I was told 5am to 5:20am since they must pick up others on their way. But my bus driver showed up at 4:45am, and was very agitated with the fact that I wasn’t already all packed so I decided to deescalate the situation and just put all my belongings in plastic bags, and into the mini-bus to properly pack later. And then I entered the bus from hell (slight exaggeration).

Road to Agua Azul
Road to Agua Azul

It was 5AM! 5AM! I’m sitting in front because I’m the last one picked up and as soon as we start driving, the driver hits up the lady in the back and they start talking super loudly. I think the driver wanted to make sure she could hear him in the back, trust me, all of Mexico could hear him. Did I mention it was 5 in the morning? This was the start of a very long day that I also could’t possibly get myself out of. Fortunately or unfortunately I understand Spanish so I could listen in when the driver would give informations about the tour, but I wish I didn’t understand a thing as it would have been easier to tune them out. The driver/tour guide didn’t speak English which was fine, but unfortunately he would never address me for information either, including crucial one such as, what time we need to be back on the bus for the next destination. He was also rude whenever he did address me and made me feel very uncomfortable. There were 4 people with me on the tour on a family trip and they never said a word to me for 10 whole hours. It was as if, they paid for a tour, and I just happen to be catching a ride along.

But even with all that negativity, nothing could have ruined the beauty that is Chiapas. And that’s exactly how I overcome a bad day while traveling, I focus on my new surroundings. Agua Azul was beautiful and can make me smile on any given day. There were too many natural pools to count, it was incredible. If you’re planning on swimming, I’d recommend walking up the stairs and going to at least swim spot #4, because it won’t be overly crowded. It only takes 15 minutes hiking to get to there and it’s worth it!

Agua azul chiapas mexico
Agua Azul, Chiapas, Mexico
agua azul chiapas mexico
Agua Azul, Chiapas, Mexico
Natural pools in Agua Azul, Chiapas, Mexico

Misol Ha was a lot smaller than Agua Azul, but majestic in its own way. It’s also a great mid-way point for lunch since they have a restaurant. I ordered cat fish with a side of fries for $160 Mxn ($8). Tourist prices but the food is really good!

Misol ha waterfall chiapas mexico
Misol Ha waterfalls, Chiapas Mexico
Misol ha waterfall chiapas mexico
Misol Ha waterfalls, Chiapas, Mexico
catfish lunch misol ha chiapas mexico
Delicious catfish lunch

And the Palenque ruins were unlike anything I had ever seen before. These Mayan ruins were first occupied in 100BC, and flourished from about 600 to about 700 AD when it declined after the death of its ruler K’inich Kan Bahlam II. It is in an area of Mexico that receives plenty of rain and was soon completely absorbed into the jungle of cedar, mahogany, and sapodilla trees so much so that the Spaniards never found it. The ruins first started to be discovered in the 18th century and by 2005, 2.5 Kilometers squared (1 sq mi) was discovered, leaving what’s estimated to be 90% of the area undiscovered, with thousands of structures still covered by jungle. At the entrance, many tour guides will solicit their services to you, say no to all. I heard 4 people getting a tour in Spanish for 400 Mxn ($20) but one tour guide wanted no less than 500 Mxn ($25) per person for a tour in English. Needless to say, I wondered on my own and ended up meeting some incredible people also backpacking with whom I had dinner with that same night. On my way out, I talked to a couple from Lithuania because they had taken the “official” tour which is even more expensive than taking one with the random tour guides. The Lithuanian guy on the tour just so happens to be an archeologist and told me that most of what was told to them were myths mixed with reality and also not given with an accurate timeline, something to keep in mind if opting for a tour.

palace palenque chiapas mexico
The palace in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico
temple of the inscriptions palenque chiapas mexico
Temple of the inscriptions, Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico
palenque chiapas mexico
The view from the top of one of the temples.

That night I took an 11 hours bus ride to Playa del Carmen. Unfortunately starting at about 8am there were protests blocking the street which took 11 hours to clear. This started to look like it was also going to be another bad day,  but fortunately we were stuck in Bacalar, arguably the best place to get stuck in while in Mexico. I got to see La Laguna de los siete colores which roughly translates to The Lagoon of Seven Colors. The pictures don’t do it justice because this place was unbelievable. Yet another must see in Mexico!

seven colors lagoon bacalar
Lagoon de siete colores, Bacalar, Mexico
sunset lagoon de siete colores bacalar mexico
Sunset at the Lagoon de siete colores, Bacalar, Mexico

You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you react. Let me know in the comment section how you overcome your bad days!

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There are a thousand reasons to visit Mexico such as: its richness in indigenous culture, architectural ruins, tequila and mescal, natural wonders, delicious food, beaches, people, etc… But I’d like to make the argument that January is indeed the best month to visit Mexico. For one, the dry season is from November to May, and the coolest months (temperature wise) are generally December, January and February.

On my fourth day in Mexico, I headed to Tuxtla Gutiérrez the capital of Chiapas, to visit a friend, Andrea. I doubt I would have made it a point to visit this region of Mexico if it wasn’t for my friend living there, but I honestly am so glad I did. I arrived very early after a 9 hours bus ride, and thankfully my friend had made a reservation for me at Sleep Inn, a hotel in the same mall as the ADO bus station. This was so ideal because at 5am, the last thing I wanted to do is get hassled by taxi drivers on prices. For around 550 Mxn ($27), I had a private room with two queen sized bed, breakfast, and a pretty good view of the sunrise.  

The sunrise from my hotel room in Tuxtla Gutiérrez

At around 10am, I met up with Andrea. I first met her when studying abroad in Madrid, she was my roommate! She always said that I was welcomed to visit her in Chiapas anytime so I took her at her word. I was truly spoiled by her that I very much considered, skipping the rest of my trip and staying longer. We had a lot of street foods and drinks including gorditas and micheladas, and spent the whole day mostly walking around Chiapas de Corzos, a city 15 minutes from Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Me and Andrea on the streets of Chiapas de Corzo

 

Posing in front of Plaza Ángel Albino Corzo in Chiapas de Corzo

 

Taking my first sips of the Michelada!

 

Drinking pozol inside of a jicara!

 

Giant street style brochette. 40 Mxn ($2) well spent!

Another reason why you should visit Mexico in January is to go to the Fiesta Grande de Enero (The great January Feast) in Chiapas de Corzos. It happens from January 4th to 23rd and has been named by UNESCO as an item of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, and often described as the best festival in southeastern Mexico! It’s a very vibrant and colorful festival that including men, women, and children of all ages. Colorful costumed dancers called parachicos, usually men, take to the streets during the festival. And the women wear gorgeous handmade dresses decorated with flowers that they match with their hair pins and gorgeous colorful make up! As they all march and dance on the streets, volunteering restaurants provide food and beverages to keep them going. Being able to witness it was one of my favorite moments in Mexico. Make sure that if you do attend, go on one of the three most important days of the festival, the religious feast days: The Black Christ of Esquipulas on January 8th, San Antonio Abad on January 17th, and San Sabastian on January 20th. I was there for the feast day of San Antonio Abad which is why I was able to witness the parachicos dancing like there was no tomorrow.

Posing with some gorgeous ladies and their handmade dresses!

 

High fiving the parachicos as they dance down the streets!

 

A sea of hundreds of parachicos marching down the streets.

 

Me inside of a parachico’s outfit!

After an incredible day, I had to say goodbye to Andrea and head to San Cristobal de las casas. Unfortunately due to protests, it took nearly 3 hours instead of 1 hour to arrive from Chiapas de Corzos. But I was still able to walk around and witness why San Cristobal de las casas is such a popular destination amongst many! It’s a beautiful town that sits in a small valley surrounded by hills and pine forests. My favorite part was the big open air market with so many souvenirs and present to bring back to my family! The prices were also the cheapest you will find anywhere in Mexico for souvenirs. I was able to purchase bags, jewelries, and ponchos for 100 Mxn ($5) or less whereas in Mexico city, for the exact same thing, I would have paid 160 Mxn ($8) or more. It’s a small difference, but when you’re traveling on a budget, all the pesos count.

Parachico’s mask decoration on a house in Chiapas de Corzo!

 

My hotel’s restaurant in San Cristobal de las casas

Now, my final arguments to why Mexico is best in January: it is unlikely to rain in Mexico which is really ideal if you’re considering hiking, checking out waterfalls, or simply resting on the beach, but also, it’s one of the cooler months so that you’re not overly hot. I think the warmest city I was in, was Chiapas de Corzos with highs of 29 C (84 F) that day. I’m not sure I would have been as kin to walk around all day long if I came later in the year as temperatures would have been significantly higher. But the best reason to go to Mexico in January is simply because of the affordable flights. Right after the holidays, is always a great time to travel. Coming from the United States especially, one can easily find tickets anywhere from $190 – $300 round trip to Mexico during that time. From Austin to Mexico city, I paid $220, and it could have been a bit less if I had chosen to do a layover in Houston.  

 

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After having a really great time in Mexico City, off to Oaxaca I went! I took a 7 hours bus ride and arrived around midnight. My hostel, Casa Angel Youth Hostel, was only 2.5 kilometers away (1.5 miles) from the ADO bus station but I decided to take a cab because it was late. The cab ride costed me 30 Mxn ($1.50), and the hostel costed 190 Mxn ($9.5) per night which is the same price I paid in Mexico City. Once I arrived and checked in, I asked the reception if they had any available tours for the next day to go see Hierve El Agua. Fortunately for me they not only did, but they also had one remaining space available! It costed 200 Mxn ($10) for a 10 hours tour all around Oaxaca, although it did not include entrance fees or lunch, it was still a great deal so I booked it.

The next day, I woke up to eat the complimentary breakfast, packed my bags, and waited in the common area for the tour bus to pick me up. That’s where I met Tina, an english girl, who was also going on the same tour as me. We both got into the packed bus where we met other solo travelers making their way through mexico and latin america. Our first stop was Santa Maria del Tule, a small town right outside of Oaxaca, which is home to the 2,000 years old, Montezuma cypress tree, the widest tree in the world. The tree can be seen from the street but in order to take a closer look, we paid 10 Mxn ($0.50) for the entrance fee. Although the tree was impressively wide, and the garden surrounding it beautiful, I’m not sure I’d make a detour for it on my next stop in Oaxaca.

widest tree in the world
Me and Tina standing in front of the widest tree in the world!

Next we headed to Teotitlan del valle, a small village inhabited by around 600 people. They are all part of the zapotec people, indigenous mesoamericans. There are various zapotec languages spoken throughout the state of Oaxaca and this particular village spoke Xaguixe. Teotitlan de Valle is well known for its textiles, especially rugs which are woven by hand operated looms. One of the local residents, and master weaver gave us a tour in both Spanish and English. He showed us how they used plants, insects, flowers, argyle, fruits, and other natural resources to create colors in various shades. It was very impressive to see how for example, lime can turn a very dark red derived from insects, to a bright purple. He also explained that all the rugs were made from local sheep’s wool, and showed us the entire process from wool to gorgeous rugs. Everyone in that village is an artisan: men, women, and children. They are also always looking for volunteer to learn the craft and help promote their art around Mexico and the world in case you’d be interested!

oaxacan artisan hand operated loom
A master piece in the making on a hand operated loom!

 

oaxaca art artisana
Finished rugs!

Afterwards we went to a Mescal factory in San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya. In case you’re like me and didn’t know what Mescal was, tequila is a type of mescal. There are many many types of mescal and they’re all made from different types of Agave plants. Our tour guide told us about the entire process from burning the agave for 5 days, to fermentation and distillation. But the best part came when we got to taste so many different kinds of mescals for free. We were given aged mescals, fresh mescals, fruit flavored mescals, and everything in between. I can’t pick a favorite because they were all so good. I would highly recommend stopping at a mescal factory when in Oaxaca. They were very generous and kept pouring shots after shots after shots. I enjoyed mescal tasting thoroughly but I must say the oranges and chili powder is what really hooked me. So you know how with tequila you use salt and limes? Well, with one of the types of mescals, you use oranges and chilli powder! It was absolutely divine and yes I didn’t purchase any mescal but I definitely bought a bag of chilli powder and an orange! It was THAT good! I highly highly recommend!

oaxaca mescal mezcal tasting drinking
A bar full of mescal!

 

oaxaca mescal mezcal tasting drinking
The so very delicious orange with chili powder!

After the mescal factory everyone was a bit more friendly, hyper, and so we went to San Pablo Villa de Mitla, and archeological site that was destroyed by the spaniards but 80% of the site is in its original form. The church here was old and beautiful and the site overlooked mountains. Definitely a gorgeous spot for photos and selfies! And if you’re superstitious, there is a tomb you can go into and sit on three times, and within a year, you’ll be married. Apparently this only works for women, sorry guys!

mitla village ruins
Posing on steps.

By now, everyone was hungry and so we headed to a buffet at a Oaxacan restaurant. There were no tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and other typical foods one may find at a Mexican restaurant here in the US. However there were: deserts, salads, sopas y cremas (soups and creams), moles Oaxaquenos (Oaxacan moles), guisados, guarniciones (Sides), antojitos, Oaxaquenos, a chef constantly grilling, beef, chicken and pork, etc… This was my best meal in Mexico and it costed 165 Mxn ($8.25) including a beer. I ate until I felt bad about myself. Oaxacans definitely know how to eat and drink!

oaxaca buffet food
Food on food, on food! Yumminess!

And then came our last stop, Hierve El Agua! Although I took a tour, I did research on how to arrive here by public transportation. It is fairly simple although it takes a couple colectivos and about an hour and half to get there. Colectivos are shared mini buses and very popular in Mexico. They are labeled “colectivos” in the front and back of them so they’re easy to spot and all seem to range from 15 Mxn – 40 Mxn ($1.50 – $2) depending on the distance. You could either walk and take a colectivo to the Estadio de baseball (The baseball stadium), there is only one in town so the driver will know what you’re talking about. And then take a colectivo to Mitla and then another one to Hierve El Agua. The entrance to Hierve El Agua is free.

Once you arrive, you will be welcomed with not one, but two natural infinity pools! You are only allowed to swim in one but it is indeed the best of both! And you will also see petrified waterfalls, one of two in the world. The other one is in Turkey! Petrified waterfalls just means that there is no actual water falling but the rock formations closely resembles a waterfall. This place is gorgeous. We only had one hour to swim and look around but it isn’t a big place so that was just enough time. They had changing rooms as well which made it easy to change into our bathing suits and enjoy the natural infinity pool.

oaxaca petrified waterfall hierve el agua
Sitting on top of petrified waterfalls!

 

oaxaca petrified waterfall hierve el agua
Petrified waterfalls.

 

oaxaca infinity pool hierve el agua
Enjoying the infinity pool in Hierve El Agua!

Oaxaca was my favorite state in Mexico because I was able to appreciate so much of it. I loved learning about the artisana and lives of the zapotec indigenous people, enjoyed their freshly made mescal, and amazing food, so topping it off with Hierve El Agua just made for a perfect day in the perfect place.

 

After reading this, what do you think you’ll have to go check out if in Oaxaca? Leave a comment!

And stay tuned for day 4, chiapas, one of the most famous states in Mexico!

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After not having traveled out of the country since August, I had been itching to get out and finally I did! Before my trip to Mexico I did plan a bit and even wrote down things I had to do, thankfully nothing went according to plan and it was wonderful. Teotihuacan here I come!
 
Mexico city skyline
Bird eye view of the Mexico City on my flight in.
My flight landed around 3:30pm, and after getting off the plane, I waited in line to pass through immigration. This took over an hour in part because I waited in the wrong line for 20 minutes, and also because the line was just so long!  During my flight to Mexico, two forms were given to me to fill out, and once it was my turn to go through immigration, I handed them to the officer. He handed me part of one of the forms telling me to keep it on me until I leave Mexico since I’d have to pay a fine to fly out if I lost it. I stuffed it in my purse and mumbled to myself “Challenge accepted”, got out of the airport, and took a bus and two metros to reach my hostel. This costed me 12 MXN ($0.60) instead of 200 MXN ($10) if I had taken a cab. Plus, the traffic at the time according to google maps was such that I would have only saved 5-10 minutes by car! I reached my hostel, Mexico City Hostel, checked in and slept. Later that evening one of my roommates in the hostel, Jeff, joined me for dinner at El salón Tenampa. It was recommended to me because of the live mariachi band that will come to your table and sing for you for 120 MXN ($6). We decided to enjoy the free mariachi show right in the front of the restaurant and also from the tables surrounding us in the restaurant but not paying for our own personal show. In terms of the food, it turned out to be a tourist trap because the food was just okay but very pricey in comparison to other restaurants around. In total I paid 150 MXN ($7.5) for a slice of chicken, rice, beans, plantains that I never received, and a beer. Down the street from the restaurant, because I was still a bit hungry, i bought a taco for 9 MXN ($0.50), and it tasted a lot better.
Best taco in Mexico City
Enjoying my first taco bite in Mexico.
Me and Jeff also ended up going bar hoping that night through an event I found on couchsurfing. My favorite bar that night was Mexinaco Oficial because it had three floors, the first one with rock/pop music, the second one with more mainstream bachata music with lots of people dancing, and the third one was for salsa and merengue. The bar was packed with locals, and for the most part, the servers only spoke Spanish so learn how to say “Una cerveza por favor”, meaning “One beer please”. The beers ranged from 24 MXN to 35 MXN ($1 – $1.75) depending on which one you got. Make sure to keep your first receipt at least because although you do not pay cover, you must show proof of drink purchase before exiting. This seemed to be a trend in a couple bars all around Mexico.
Best bar club in Mexico city
Enjoying a beer on a giant chair in Mexinaco Oficial Bar
The next day, we headed out to Teotihuacan, an Aztec ruin an hour from Mexico City. Most tours that visit this anthropological site, only spend 1.5 hours there, so we decided to go on our own to make sure we had enough time and weren’t rushed. I’d definitely recommend wearing very comfortable shoes, and bringing a big bottle of water. Trust me, you’ll need it! We headed to Autobuses del Norte station via a tram/electric train but this station can also be reached by metro line 5! From there we went to Puerta #8 (Gate #8) and were able to purchase round trip tickets to Teotihuacan for 100 MXN ($5). The buses run everyday starting 6am, every 20 minutes. it is best to go early because the road heading there is a one lane road and can easily get congested and you’ll also get to enjoy the pyramids before it gets too hot without a big crowd. On Sundays, it is free for all Mexican residents (not to be confused with Mexican nationals), therefore the park is especially crowded so going early is a must. We went on Sunday and although it got a bit crowded, it was never unbearable. Teotihuacan is quite a big site so there is space for everyone!
We took the bus at 8am and arrived around 9am at Puerta #1 (Gate #1) of Teotiaucan. Tickets are purchased at this gate for 70 MXN ($3.5) which included an entrance to the museum. We then walked about a mile to get to the entrance where our tickets were checked and hole punched. As you walk in, you’ll see a couple of souvenir shops, but not to worry, they are everywhere, check them out but if you don’t like the price, you can probably find cheaper later. In the information office right after leaving the souvenirs shops area, there are FREE tour guides that will show you around in groups of 10 but it’s only in Spanish. For a guided tour in English, you will receive plenty of solicitation all around 500 MXN ($25) on your way in. We went without a guide and spent about 4.5 hours going up and down different pyramids including the most famous one, Puetra del Sol, or Pyramid of the sun, in english. The hike looks intimidating but it’s not too bad. We saw many kids going up with ease. Also, the view from the top is definitely worth it. The second most famous pyramid is the Pierámide de la luna, Pyramid of the moon, in english. For the latter, the steps are a lot steeper but it’s a very short hike and offers the best view of Puerta del Sol and surrounding areas. From there we headed to the palace of Quetzalpapalotl, because there was a line to enter, we decided to only look at it from the outside and then headed out towards the museum via Puerta #3, it was surrounded by a mini market for souvenirs which seemed to be priced a little bit cheaper than the ones at Puerta #1.
 
Teotihuacan
A selfie with Jeff in front of Puerta del Sol
Teotihuacan
The view from the top of Puerta del Sol
The bus back to the city stops right in front of Puerta #3 and Puerta #2 so if you exit from either, cross the street and a bus should be coming in less than 20 minutes! No need to walk all the way back to Puerta #1! Outside of Puerta #2 there are a lot of restaurants and taco stands in case you’re hungry. Also, you can always re-enter Teotihuacan with the same ticket!
 
Feel free to ask me questions on any of this information and if it’s been helpful to you, tag me on your Instagram photos on your visit to Mexico City!
 
Also stay tuned for Day 3: Oaxaca, How to reach Hierve El Agra by public transportation, and more!
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