San Cristóbal de las Casas
San Cristóbal is easily one of the most beautiful towns in Mexico. With colonial architecture dating back 400 years, gorgeous mountains all around, and every daytime facility and nighttime party hangout you could ask for, it's easy to see why everyone told me that I must visit this place. It's also the coldest place I've visited in Mexico, due to its altitude of over 2000 metres above sea level.
Typical San Cristóbal street.
I spent two nights here in San Cristóbal, and I found it to be a great place to take it easy and to fix up various odds and ends for a while. There isn't that much to do in town during the day — which is why numerous tours are available to take you to nearby sights and sounds — but the town itself is so quaint, that it warrants at least a few hours spent wandering around, getting a feel for the place.
What can I say, the guy's a true blue Aussie champion. This is what being an Australian and going to Mexico is all about. Check out the video.
This afternoon at Posada Mexico Hostel in San Cristóbal, we were a crew of six yobboes from around the world, united together to lay waste to the cultural soul of this town. We were: myself; Sean and Lachlan, two more Aussie boys, from Melbourne; two heavy-drinking Scottish girls, whose names I can't remember (hey, I was drinking heavily as well!); and a hippie girl from Baltimore, USA, who had a massive tattoo on her back. Together we sat on the grass, ate BBQ chicken, drank beer and tequila, and wore colourful Mexican wrestling masks. Good times.
I only had it so I could say: "I went to Mexico, and I ate a falafel". There, see, I said it :P. But actually, the falafel in the small, Israeli-run shop in downtown San Cristóbal was one of the best meals I've had in a while, and it was possibly the best falafel I've had in my whole life. Fresh pita pockets, hommus mixed with oil and whole chick peas, coleslaw salad on the side, and sauces of salsa verde and salsa rojo. Mmm... ¡sabbaba, amigo!
My first experience of mailing stuff home from overseas wasn't as difficult as I was dreading; but then again, it also wasn't without its hurdles. There was no way I was going to cart around all the shmontses and shmutters that I bought this morning, so I quickly made my way to the San Cristóbal oficina de correos (i.e. "post office"), and arranged for it all to be sent Down Under.
San Cristóbal is one of the cheaper places to stay in Mexico, and I was long overdue for some shmontse and shmutter shopping in a Mexican market. So this morning, I headed on down to one of the city's bigger mercados, and found some nice stuff for my sisters back home. I got a pair of dolls; a pair of wooden flutes; a small herd of stuffed animals; and two beautiful little Mayan blouses. Cute stuff, don't you think?
This is a great bar in the centre of San Cristóbal, with a talented live band, with the 2-for-1 cocktails that seem to be so common around here, and with energetic dancing as the night wears on. A british girl named Billy, who I bumped into this afternoon — I met her about 2 weeks ago in Valladolid — recommended it to me, so I brought my Aussie mate Sean (from Posada Mexico Hostel) along and checked it out. This is the place to go at night in San Cristóbal.
This afternoon I finally did something that I've been meaning to do ever since I got to Mexico: I hired a bicycle, and went and explored the town on it. For just 25 pesos an hour, it's the best and most fun way to see San Cristóbal.
San Cristóbal is also perfectly suited for cycling, as:
- It's big but not huge.
- It has flat as well as fairly hilly bits.
- It has varying grades of road so you don't get bored (sealed, cobblestone, and unsealed).
- It has a nice variety of scenery (mountains, "colonial bits", slum bits, church bits).
The original attraction of San Cristóbal was that it was a cozy, quiet mountain town, with plenty of locals and not too many tourists. Unfortunately, this image has drawn a plethora of tourists to San Cristóbal, and it's ultimately been the town's undoing. There are Internet cafés, tour agencies, hotels, and herbal medicine stores on every street corner. And every second person you walk past in the street is a fellow gringo. Not quite the simple, spartan, unsophisticated place I was expecting.
I bought myself a long-distance phone card, called Marca Ya, when I was in Veracruz. Ever since, the damn thing has given me nothing but problems. First, it refused to work at all. Then, when it did work, it seemed to charge more per minute than it was meant to. And now, it's expired itself about 2 months before it was meant to. I am officially a dissatisfied customer. If you get to Mexico, stay away from Marca Ya phone cards: they suck.
San Cristóbal has an enormous selection of Internet cafés, none of which are rubbish, and none of which charge more than 8 pesos / hr. But there's one that stands out way above the rest. Over 40 brand-new PCs. Very high speed Internet. Everything working perfectly. And all for just 5 pesos / hr! The cheapest and the best Internet in Mexico.