Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 1 - Venice Beach (LA, California) and Mexico City (Mexico)

A day before departure, I realized that I had to apply the US visa even though I was just transiting in Los Angeles for a few hours. Delta Airline did not allowed me to do a web check-in as I did not have a US visa record in their system. I was in a panic, and thought of the possible delay and alternative flight on a later date etc... 

Fortunately, my Singapore passport is really useful (ie. Singaporean can travel to 167 countries w/o visa or getting visa on arrival). I applied for US visa online and got it instantly! Well, I am grateful to be a Singaporean (it is not so easy for many Asian countries). 

I have transited in many countries, and my first time applying Visa for a transit. USA is really paranoid about homeland security. 


Flying from Singapore to Mexico City is the longest flight I ever taken- around 28 hours. (ie. Singapore to Tokyo to Los Angeles to Mexico City.) My Previous record was flying from Singapore to Doha to Sao Paulo - 26 hours.

First leg - Singapore to Tokyo 

I flew on Northwest and United Airline many years ago, and I did not have a good impression of American carriers. And well, my expectation of Delta airline was quite low too (I booked it as it was the cheapest). Surprisingly, Delta airline exceeded my expectation - Seat space wasn't too bad, good selection of in-flight entertainment, touch-screen, service was better than expected. 

Short transit in Narita Airport (Tokyo, Japan). The food was good even in the food court (so good that I had the same food on the way back) and service was great too. Quite a stark contrast to the food and service provided in Delta Airline.

Second leg - Tokyo to Los Angeles (California, USA) 

Forrest Gump

Watching my favorite movie of all time, and I have lost count of how many times I have watched it. It has been close to 10 years since I last set foot on US soil. It reminded of the best year of my life - where I spent time working in Silicon Valley, studying in Stanford University, understanding this concept of Human Birth Rights in Lincoln Memorial Museum in Washington DC, counting down at Time Square New York, participating in anti-Iraq war protest in San Diego etc...  Admittedly, there was a strong urge to re-locate to America.

To my pleasant surprise, the transit in Los Angeles Airport was not the usual airport transit. I had to go through the US custom, collect my baggage and re-check-in my baggage for my next flight. In another words, I could get out of the airport and explore Los Angeles for a few hours.

I was exhilarated! I was expecting to be stuck in the airport. My travel-mate and I decided to take a cab to explore Venice Beach. Some things don't change, like the cab fare in USA is still very expensive (paid US$40 for a short ride). 

Really happy to see the street of California. =)

Venice Beach

The last time I visited Venice beach (ie. 10 years ago), we were driving along Santa Monica Boulevard, and coincidentally, the radio was playing Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna do is have some fun". And my friends and I were singing to this particular lyrics

"All I wanna do is have some fun
Until the sun comes up
Over Santa Monica Boulevard "

During that trip, to save money, we slept in car instead of motel. This is the extent we would save money as a student! Not much money, but Life was more fun and exciting!!


Lotsa actions and activities in Venice Beach.

Van Gogh inspired street grafitti.

A day ago I was having lunch in the concrete jungle of Singapore CBD, and stressed about work.
The next day, I was having lunch in Venice beach with the view of Pacific Ocean, in a relaxing mood.
What a contrast! How fortunate I am!

Venice Beach - one of my favourite beaches.

Bye California. 
I will be back again! 

Last leg - Los Angeles (California, USA) to Mexico City (Mexico)

Hola Mexico City!

Wiki: "Mexico City is the federal district , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the union.[11] It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole. Mexico City is the country's largest city as well as its most important political, cultural, educational and financial center.

As an "alpha" global city[12] Mexico City is one of the most important financial centers in North America.[13] It is located in the Valley of Mexico (Valle de México), a large valley in the high plateaus at the center of Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 metres (7,350 ft).

According to the most recent definition agreed upon by the federal and state governments, the Greater Mexico City population is 21.2 million people,[8] making it the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere, the third largest agglomeration, and the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world."

A huge city in a mountain valley!!

Technically, this is my second time visiting my Mexico (as I have done a day trip to Tijuana bordering San Diego). My first impression of Mexico was kinda within expectation as I have visited other Latin American cities before.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 2 - Mexico City & Teotihuacan (Mexico)

Morning Street View of Mexico City

Metro Station (Quite a complicated network)

This gentlemen came to our bus (to Teotihuacan) and started singing for 20 mins. 
Even though I don't understand Spanish, I could sense his ambition and dream. 

He really doesn't have the talent. It is a harsh reality, I don't think he will be a great singer. Harsh reality, but that's life. I felt sad for him. At the same time, he was really trying hard, so we gave tips for the effort. 

That's life. You might not have the talent to be the best, but with effort and hard work, you won't be starved to death.


Wiki: "Teotihuacan /tˌtwəˈkɑːn/,[1] also written Teotihuacán (Spanish About this sound teotiwa'kan (help·info)), was a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city located in the Valley of Mexico, 30 miles (48 km) northeast of modern-day Mexico City, which is today known as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramids, Teotihuacan is also anthropologically significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds, the Avenue of the Dead, and the small portion of its vibrant muralsthat have been exceptionally well-preserved. Additionally, Teotihuacan exported a so-called "Thin Orange" pottery style and fine obsidian tools that garnered high prestige and widespread utilization throughout Mesoamerica.[2]

The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC, with major monuments continuously under construction until about AD 250.[3] The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, but its major monuments were sacked and systematically burned around 550 AD. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more,[3][4] making it at minimum the sixth largest city in the world during its epoch.[5] Teotihuacan began as a new religious center in the Mexican Highland around the first century AD. This city came to be the largest and most populated center in the New World. Teotihuacan was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population.[3] The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano.
Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of a state empire, its influence throughoutMesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence can be seen at numerous sites inVeracruz and the Maya region. The Aztecs may have been influenced by this city. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is also a subject of debate. Possible candidates are the NahuaOtomi or Totonac ethnic groups. Scholars have also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multiethnic state.
 The site covers a total surface area of 83 square kilometres (32 sq mi) and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico."

Lotsa local tourists

One of the pyramids

One of the pyramids

Pyramid of the Sun at the far end.

Pyramid of the Moon (left) and Pyramid of the Sun (right)

Pyramid of the Sun - 3rd largest pyramid in the world.

Wiki: "The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. Found along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, and in the shadow of the massive mountain Cerro Gordo, the pyramid is part of a large complex in the heart of the city.
The name Pyramid of the Sun comes from the Aztecs, who visited the city of Teotihuacan centuries after it was abandoned; the name given to the pyramid by the Teotihuacanos is unknown. It was constructed in two phases. The first construction stage, around 100 A.D., brought the pyramid to nearly the size it is today. The second round of construction resulted in its completed size of 738 feet (224.942 meters) across and 246 feet (75 meters) high, making it the third largest pyramid in the world,[1] but being much shorter than the Great Pyramid of Giza (146 metres). "

Pyramid of the Sun

Some people believe that this is a very spiritual place.
Well, at least I tried to meditate for 10secs. 
It is just too hot and too noisy to be spiritual

View of Pyramid of the Moon

Avenue of the Dead

Panorama View

Along Avenue of the Dead leading to Pyramid of the moon

Wiki: "The Pyramid of the Moon is the second largest pyramid in TeotihuacanMexico after the Pyramid of the Sun. It is located in the western part of Teotihuacan and mimics the contours of the mountain Cerro Gordo, just north of the site. Some have called it Tenan, which in Nahuatl, means "mother or protective stone." The Pyramid of the Moon covers a structure older than the Pyramid of the Sun which existed prior to 200 AD.

The Pyramid's construction between 200 and 450 AD completed the bilateral symmetry of the temple complex. A slope in front of the staircase gives access to the Avenue of the Dead, a platform atop the pyramid was used to conduct ceremonies in honor of the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, the goddess of water, fertility, the earth, and even creation itself. This platform and the sculpture found at the pyramid's bottom are thus dedicated to The Great Goddess.

Opposite the Great Goddess's altar is the Plaza of the Moon. The Plaza contains a central altar and an original construction with internal divisions, consisting of four rectangular and diagonal bodies that formed what is known as the "Teotihuacan Cross." 

Newly restored pillar

Interesting Creature and Art. 
Aztec history is quite rich.

View from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon

Chilling out

Beautiful Complex.

Can't help but to feel grateful that I could travel across half the globe to see this.

Lotsa people are selling things in the train. 
There is a flat fee of around S$0.50 (US$0.40) for the train ride. 

I guess the trick is to sell differentiated products (but some went off tangent selling culinary books)

Some are selling foods like Churros.
Life is not easy in Mexico (just like many other developing countries)

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Wiki: "The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María) is the largest cathedral in the Americas,[2] and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico.[3] It is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor on the northern side of thePlaza de la Constitución in Downtown Mexico City. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 around the original church that was constructed soon after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, eventually replacing it entirely. Spanish architect Claudio de Arciniega planned the construction, drawing inspiration from Gothiccathedrals in Spain.[4]"

Wall Mural of Diego Rivera in National Palace

Wiki: " In the stairwell is a mural depicting the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930,[1] and covers an area of 450 m2 (4800 ft2).[3] These murals were painted between 1929 and 1935, jointly titled "The Epic of the Mexican People".[1] The work is divided like a triptychwith each being somewhat autonomous. The right-hand wall contains murals depicting pre-Hispanic Mexico and centers around the life of the Aztec godQuetzalcóatl. Quetzalcóatl appears in the mural as a star, a god, and a human being. Created by serpents, he sails through space as a star that accompanies the sun at night. Quetzalcóatl then assumes a human body to teach the Aztec people as their king and patriarch. Last, when he sacrifices his blood to give life to men, he returns to the sky having completed his earthly cycle. Once he leaves the earth, Quetzalcóatl assumes the shape the morning star, called Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli. The cycle that he undergoes signifies the continuous cycle of life. Rivera's creation of a Mexican identity helps to continue the reform that began with the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Before this time, any individualism from the Indians was discouraged as well as any allusion toward Aztec origins. The mural aims to dismiss any idea of inferiority.[4]
In the middle and largest panel, the Conquest is depicted with its ugliness, such as rape and torture, as well as priests defending the rights of the indigenous people. The battle for independence occupies the uppermost part of this panel in the arch. The American and French invasions are represented below this, as well as the Reform period and the Revolution. The left-hand panel is dedicated to early and mid-20th century, criticizing the status quo and depicting a Marxist kind of utopia, featuring the persons of Plutarco Elías CallesJohn D. RockefellerHarry SinclairWilliam DurantJ.P. MorganCornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Mellon as well as Karl Marx. This part of the mural also includes Frida Kahlo, Diego's wife.[1] This mural reflects Diego's own personal views about Mexico's history and the indigenous people of the country in particular"

Beautiful Mural

Beautiful Mural

Wiki: "Diego also painted 11 panels on the middle floor, such as the "Tianguis of Tlatelolco" (tianguis means "market"), and the "Arrival of Hernán Cortés in Veracruz". These are part of a series depicting the pre-Hispanic era. Peoples such as the Tarascos ofMichoacán, the Zapotecs and Mixtecs of Oaxaca and the Huastecs of HidalgoSan Luis Potosí and Veracruz.[1] However, this series was not finished."

Spanish Oppressors

Aztec History

Interesting Civilization.

Arrival of the Spaniards 

Mexico Flag

Street of Mexico City

Street of Mexico City

Some ritual displayed on the street. Apparently, the Mexicans are quite spiritual (some would say superstitious). They do practice shamanism and Catholicism at the same time.

As they are a bit too superstitious, that lead to the downfall of the Mayan/Aztec Civilization, who thought the White Spanish invaders are "God". 

BBC: "The major civilisation in the region was that of the Aztecs, led by Montezuma II. Cortés (Spanish explorer) headed for the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, which was a three-month journey over difficult terrain. It is thought that Cortés’ arrival coincided with an Aztec prophecy about a white-skinned god arriving from the east, which would explain why Montezuma welcomed Cortés and gave him lavish gifts. However, relations quickly deteriorated and, fearing an attack, Cortés took Montezuma hostage, demanding a huge ransom from his people."

Colonial building

Street view

Torre Latinoamericana

This building is owned by the richest man in Mexico (Carlos Salim), who overtook Bill Gates and became the richest man on earth from 2010-2013.

Wiki: "The Torre Latinoamericana (English: Latin-American Tower) is an skyscraper in downtown Mexico City, Mexico. Its central location, height (183 m or 597 ft; 45 stories) and history make it one of the city's most important landmarks. It is also widely recognized internationally as an engineering and architectural landmark since it was the world's first major skyscraper successfully built on highly active seismic land. The old skyscraper resisted the 1985 Mexico City earthquake without damages"

Mexico City is really crowded.

Beautiful Sunset. 
Mexico City is situated beautifully in a valley, at 2400m elevation. 
Despite it is early summer, the weather is quite comfortable.
(Taken from Torre Latinoamericana)

Packed City


Night Scene

Still lotsa people along the main street at night.