Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Explorations of the Big City


Tuesday evening, I had stewed about how to handle the public transportation in and to the city of México. When the owner of the campground we were staying at finally showed up, she gave me lots of information and I thought I had it figured out. However, as I was verifying the process later on the internet, I realized I knew now how to get around the city, but I was confused on how we were to get to the city. So, I went back to the helpful owner of Teotihuacán Trailer Park and asked her how to get to the city. She clarified the matter for me.

Wednesday morning, we put my understanding to the test. We walked towards the intersection of 25 Regimiento and Vicente Guerrero, where there was a bus station. We bought tickets to go to Deportivo 18 de Marzo station for 30 pesos ($2.35) each. They had provided us four slips of paper, though. I was super confused by this—did it mean that there were two buses that we needed to take, or was one a receipt? Talking to a helpful gentleman there, he explained that brown copy that said “PASAJERO” was the receipt, while the green copy that said “OPERADOR” was the ticket (note: this was really hard to read under the stamp they put on each slip). This bus company was serious. When we entered the bus, many people were frisked to be certain no one was carrying weapons. Then we drove towards the city. They let off a group of people at a random stop on the highway, and then our was the first stop in town. We only knew for certain by asking others were preparing to get off if this was the station, as they didn’t announce the stops or have any signs.

We started following everyone to the next location, which I assumed would be another major bus stop, but turns out everyone was going to the subway. Tuesday I had been given a little paper showing routes for the Metro/Metrobús system. From the conversation I had had with the campground owner, I thought this was for the buses, so I thought we weren’t supposed to go that way. Finding the bus route was a bit harder. I finally asked a set of police officers walking in the area and they pointed us to the intersection where we could find a bus going in the direction we wanted. The fee for the bus was 5 pesos ($0.40) each; we had been expecting 3 pesos ($0.23), but figured it wasn’t that big of deal. As the bus went on, I tried to keep track of stops based upon the map I had been given. Boy was that a learning experience. I got off at what I thought was the appropriate stop, but as I waited for the buses going north and south, I was beginning to think we were in the wrong area. I figured I could be one stop off, so we opted to walk one more city block down. It as at that point that I realized (one of) the issue. The bus had been stopping more frequently than the stops on the map, which looked to correspond to major cross streets. As such, we still had a long way to go westward, so we decided to hop on another bus.


Metro MapThis is the map we were were working off, with the circled stations our destinations. (Click on it for an enlarged view.)

This time, with the assistance of some passengers, we made it to the bus station we had been trying to reach in order to make way south to the Museum of Anthropology. The people on the bus, guided us along. I was super confused as I thought we should have just caught the bus south, for which I had seen signs right after we had alighted. Instead, they took us all around the station to the “Metro” area. We bought tickets, which were the 3 pesos each. Then we descended into the subway system. Turns out the map I had been given was for the subway, not the buses, and we were supposed to be on the subway at Deportivo 18 de Marzo. This was much faster and easier to handle, especially as each stop had names. We quickly made it to our stop at Auditorio to make it to the National Museum of Anthropology.

Once up on the surface again, we made our way to the museum. While not even a block away, it felt like we were walking forever past the museum and its grounds. It is one large place. While wandering the museum, I decided I don’t greatly appreciate artifact museums (artwork is a different story). I much prefer seeing the artifact in its context instead of isolated with a small description. I mean, the museum was impressive, but I just prefer things in their original locations. Plus, I felt like it was organized very haphazardly, making it difficult to proceed through the rooms without backtracking or getting out of chronological or topical order. Definitely one of those places where it would be nicer to visit only selection at a time when logical, such as when studying that group, or after visiting the respective ruins.


After only one major room, I was already so hungry I couldn’t stand it and I had forgotten to pack snacks. We decided to check out the restaurant there, but it turns out they only serve breakfast until 1pm, and we couldn’t eat any of the breakfast items. We found out so long as you have your ticket, you can leave and re-enter the museum, so we decided to try the vendors out front. They didn’t have anything really appetizing, so I settled for some dried plantains and Jonathan for a Coke. While wandering about, a group of students studying English approached us and asked for interview for their class. Been there, done that, so I agreed. After we had answered their questions, I asked if there was any food here they recommended. They didn’t suggest anything either—you know it is bad when the locals won’t even eat it. After something to tide us over a little longer, we went back into the museum.

DSC05140 Replica of a headdress they made with Quetzal feathers.

This museum is huge, and by the time we had finished one side, I was ready to zoom through the rest of the exhibitions and move on. I definitely had a hard time appreciating everything there, especially as my feet started hurting more and more.

DSC05103 A whale-bone musical instrument. 

Since we were already in the city, we wanted to visit what was left of Tenochtitlán, which is basically the remnants of the Templo Mayor. Heading back to the subway station, we got the train northbound to get on the Line 2 train (the shortest route in regards to the number of trains you have to take). Our destination was Zócalo station in the very center of town. When we got off at Tacuba, we followed the signs to the other line. On the way, we discovered a Domino’s kiosk! I figured we might as well take advantage of it, since we knew we would enjoy that food, whereas picking something random on the street was a crapshoot, even if it was busy. We picked up a personal pan pizza and a water for 20 pesos ($1.60)—quite the steal!


After consuming our late lunch in the station, we began to head towards the subway again. Expecting to pay for tickets to ride this train, we were surprised to learn that we could go anywhere in the subway system on the original ticket, so long as you didn’t leave the station! We were pretty excited to learn that. On the way to our stop, the train stopped a couple of times in between stations…not sure why, maybe they just had to wait on other trains to get out of the way.

When we got off at Zócalo, we surprised by the setup around the square. They had fences set up, and there seemed to be tents in the square. I guess there was some kind of protest/strike going on. Passing on, we walked to the Templo Mayor, well at least what remained of it. There was basically just the foundations on the ground, no height to it, and they were charging 57 pesos per person to get in (same cost as the other parks). For the smile pile of rubble with lack of decorations, we just felt like it was not worth it. So, we decided to take our tired bodies back home.


By this time, we were feeling like we were pros at this public transportation network (at least I was). However, perhaps to put me in my place, it turns out I didn’t know how to get back to San Juan Teotihuacán. I had thought that we would just reverse our path and take the same bus back to the town from the Deportivo 18 de Marzo station for 30 pesos ($2.35) each. Well, turns out that that bus doesn’t stop there on the way back. After waiting for 30 minutes, someone finally told us that the bus we were looking for didn’t come this way (earlier I had asked a security guard/ticket agent there if it did, and she said yes—but I guess she was wrong). He told us we needed to go to Potrero station. So, we hopped back on the subway and got off one station farther south at Potrero. We walked around, asked directions, and finally found a bus that said Teotihuacán, but they were going to the pyramids, not the town. The people there said we needed to go the station Autobuses del Norte to get on a bus that would take us straight there. By then, I was very tired, very grumpy, very frustrated, and exactly sure what to do. Jonathan was pretty much in the same boat, so not much help. We decided to try this last destination, and then if that didn’t work, go back to first station, try to get on a bus coming into México, and ride it through its turn around and back to San Juan Teotihuacán.

We made it to Autobuses del Norte, but by this time, it was getting close to 6pm, which is when the last bus departs from the city. We were getting nervous. So, we walked up and down the very large bus station, looking for the bus company we took from San Juan Teotihuacán, which was Linea Autobuses Mexico, Flecha Azul, and represented by a blue pyramid. We couldn’t find it! Just as we were giving up and turning to walk out the door, I saw a very small blue pyramid symbol near the very end of the terminal. We finally found it! I explained where we wanted to go, and the agent hooked us up with two tickets (at 40 pesos each—I guess it was more since it was a slightly greater distance?) for the next bus that left in five minutes, and we still had to go through their security checkpoint. So, we hurried over. This time, we were both frisked, Jonathan 3 times because he set off the alarm with his belt.  Nothing like delays to make you sweat it! We did make it to the bus, but it was in the wrong line, which confused me, but we went up there anyway and apparently it confused the agent as well, but she said all was good and let us on. Relief!  To celebrate, I purchased a strawberry ice cream pop as the vendor made the rounds right before we left.

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