San Cristobal de las Casas. First impressions? Wonderful, beautiful—a nice change of pace from Yucatan. At 7000 feet above sea level the temperatures are much cooler than in Merida at 30 feet above sea level. It is very comfortable during the day at 65F to 70F. It cools even further at night. We are experiencing some pretty heavy rainfall in the late afternoons and early evening, but even that is really nice.
This mountain city of 189,000 people reminds me of what you might see in the Andes, perhaps in Peru or Bolivia. People, especially the women, tend to dress in traditional clothing—colorful, and unique to specific regions within Chiapas. The streets are narrow, full of color and packed with street vendors selling every kind of food stuff imaginable. The word ‘Quaint’ readily comes to mind when strolling the streets of this small city.
Our lodging couldn’t be more PERFECT. We are staying in a small, 4-room hostel called Hostel Dakota. The Dakota is owned and operated by a delightful couple: Arturo (who speaks very good English) and Erika (who by her own admission speaks ‘not so much’). Joel and I each have our own private room and share a bath. Each room has a double bed, a large flat-screen TV and plenty of blankets (for those cooler nights I spoke of). There is FREE WiFi, FREE use of an in-house computer, a kitchen, a living room and a FREE breakfast (with coffee) every morning—courtesy of Erika (This morning it was pancakes with butter, syrup and/or marmalade and coffee). For all of this we pay: $80 MXN ($6.00 USD pp per night). We also have agua caliente (hot water) not always available in Mexico. The Dakota is a short walk from Centro Historico, and located in a cute hillside neighborhood. San Cristobal is a little like a mini-San Francisco—a lot of hills.
Like many (if not most) houses in Mexico the front facade is very plain and nondescript (extremely modest by USA standards). But once you open the front door of a Mexican casa the magic begins. Norte Americano’s are flashy on the outside, but Mexican culture dictates a more modest exterior with a beautiful interior. I much prefer the Mexican approach. You would never guess from the outside appearance of No. 2 what awaits you inside—I will try to get some interior shots for you later. It ain’t grand, but it’s simple and spotlessly clean.
We took the day off yesterday to recuperate our energies—between the long six-hour mountain bus ride, the Zapatistas and the elevation we were pooped. So this morning, after our pancake breakfast, we walked into town for some additional coffee. Chiapas is world renown for its ‘World Class’ coffee—the only coffee I’ve had that’s better is from Vietnam. And it’s very inexpensive here in San Cristobal at $12 MXN (or $16 MXN for Cafe con Leche). A good cup of coffee in Merida will cost you $25 to $30 MXN. Our friend Bob in Merida said we had to visit Yik Cafe for our coffee, and introduce ourselves to his friend Roy who hangs out there EVERY morning (like what Joel and I do at Cafe la Boheme in Merida). How will we recognize Roy? He looks like Santa Claus and will have a million kids around him—sure enough, at about 10:30 a.m., an older gent with about a bazillion kids in tow showed up. But we also saw his doppleganger down the street—so I’ve provided photos of each so you can decide who the real Roy is.
We spent the rest of the morning visiting El Mercado Grande (the large market) in the center of town, and wandered the many narrow streets scoping out shops, restaurants and bars (should we want a drink or two later on). Thankfully we have three weeks to see everything so we won’t be rushed. There are lots of museums, churches and shops to visit, and we want to venture out into some of the surrounding villages. I also want to buy a piece of quality amber (with a mosquito or insect encased in it from millions of years ago) to wear with my jade Buddha from Myanmar (Burma). This part of Mexico is famous for its amber jewelry (and once I get my ear pierced I will have even more jewelry options). Finally, we also found a laundry (actually a Chinese laundry—no fooling) that will clean our clothes (same day) for only $10 MXN per kilo (that’s about 70-cents in U.S. money).
I’ve included a few more photos from this morning’s wanderings for your visual enjoyment. For you photographer’s out there (especially my friend Judy P. who recently purchased this same camera) I shot all of these images with my little Canon PowerShot G15. This is one AMAZING little camera, and because the new G16 is now out the price has been reduced to about $449 USD. I’m not shilling for Canon, but if you need a quality (small) camera this is one to consider. Many pro’s use this little guy as their backup shooter like I do. I’ve got a couple of posts in this blog relative to my decision to buy this little gem (just filter for Canon G15). Enjoy the photos mi amigos. Buenas tardes.