San Joaquín, Querétaro, México

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San Joaquín is quite high up in the mountains in the Sierra Gorda region. Rather cold and it was extremely foggy.

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One attraction in the city was the cave down here. There’s a bus outside of their tourist office (opposite to the Flecha Azul and Coordinado buses) that offered a $80 tour to all the places here for around 4 hours (11-something to 3-something). The $30 entrance fee to this wasn’t included.

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The rocks were beautiful, even though I had already seen something similar in Vietnam and China. It’s a one-way narrow path and stairs with a Spanish-speaking guide, who presumably was just talking about what the formations looked like. At one point, s/he (couldn’t figure this out) mentioned His Excellency President Donald J. Trump.

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Water still was dropping everywhere, and thus there’s some plants there. 

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There didn’t seem to be taxis in the town, so the tour bus seemed to be the only option.

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To get to San Joaquín, the easiest way to is take a $97 bus from the capital of Querétaro, a bit more than 3 hours from the town. The bus goes every hour from 6.15am till 6.20pm, either with Primera Plus (Coordinado) or Flecha Azul. Going back, the last bus with Flecha Azul was at 4pm. Not sure about Coordinado.

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The bus also went on the hills surrounding the town, so we could look at the view.

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The driver even took us to a winery to get to its balcony for a breathtaking view of the mountains.

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The wine was uber fine too. I bought an artisanal apple wine which was only $90 per 500ml bottle. I totally didn’t expect that, but I tried a bit and I actually liked it, which was unusual for anything that’s not champaign. Very fruity.

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We also went to the campsite, where the town’s logo was located.

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Lots of tents here. 

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Though the main attraction was of course the archaeological site Ranas, named after the frogs found around the region.

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It’s the closest of the two sites (don’t know how one could get to the other one without a car), and it’s not very big in size.

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There were only two main areas, but one of them actually went up quite far. Didn’t realize that at first.

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Sort of in the middle of that area taking a photo of both the pyramids up the hills and the ones down there.

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It’s quite well maintained although the ball courts were mostly destroyed.

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The universe really wanted me to get to the town. I had planned the trip there, but I couldn’t find any buses from the Mexico north station to San Joaquín, so I went to Tequis instead. I got there only at like 1pm and was told I’d have to change two buses, so I went to Bernal instead. At one point, I considered staying in Tequis for 2 nights to go on the tours, then planned to do that in Bernal when I realized it’s full everywhere. Then, Bernal was full as well so I was thinking of going home. Afraid that I might not be able to get back to Tequis in time for the last bus, I chose to go to the capital instead (it’s only an hour), and luckily I found a room in the Ibis hotel near the bus station, so I stayed there and got to San Joaquín the next day. I actually saw plenty of tour offerings to San Joaquín ($1400) but I couldn’t manage to join any of them, which in the end was for the better. I spent the same amount of time and did the exact same things, but I spent only around $300-400 including everything, as opposed to $1400.

Peña de Bernal, Querétaro, México

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Bernal is one of other Querétaro’s magical town with a nice colonial town.

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It’s very small, but the historic centre was very nice and lively.

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The main attraction of course is the monolith, which the government claims to be the world’s third largest. I guess it’s bigger as there’s the base as well.

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It was quite nice. I had to change two buses from Tequis to get there though, and there was no more rooms when I got there.

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Tequisquiapan, Querétaro, México

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The monument of the geographical centre of Mexico. 

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A random cemetery.

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Tequisquiapan is a magical town in the state of Querétaro (where Emperor Maximilian died), it’s also known as a wine capital.

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At one point, Tequis was thought to be the geographical centre of Mexico, although the real centre is actually somewhere in the desert of Zacatecas. The monument remains, with the thing hanging in the centre pointing at the town.

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The town itself was quite nice too, and very easy to navigate. A lot of day tours to the Sierra Gorda region as well as a hot air balloon ride and wine tours.

Washington DC, USA

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Washington DC, the capital of the free world, is my No 1 city in the United States.

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The Library of Congress, the library with the largest collection in the world.

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The Department of State, where Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton Esq, former Secretary of State, former Senator, former First Lady stationed.

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The White House, at the time occupied by Nobel laureate His Excellency President Barack Obama Esq, former lecturer, former senator.

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The Capitol building under construction.

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The very first plane, in what was claimed to be the most visited museum in the world.

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Memorial of His Excellency President Abraham Lincoln Esq, the emancipator. 

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Another museum along “the mall” – the District of Columbia is quite renowned for its museums.

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The reason why I was fond of DC was because of its Romanesque buildings. Apparently, anyone can arrange a visit to the White House, but I didn’t know that. 

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The Washington monument.

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Do not use FlightNetwork.com

On my way back to Mexico, my flight between La Paz and Lima was delayed so much that I would definitely miss the flight to Mexico.

FlightNetwork.com has a “self-transfer guarantee” and “24-hour support” to deal with these situations.

Nevertheless, they don’t actually work those hours!

The “live chat” is unavailable, the email says it’d take 5-7 business days to respond, and the phone numbers? Well, the international US number didn’t have anyone picking up the phone, and the Canadian number was a machine that didn’t offer one the option to talk to anyone or report the delay. I even tried their Facebook messenger and as it turned out, they wouldn’t even start working until 11am!

Journey to Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

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Palenque was a major, major city-state in the Mayan Empire. It’s a day trip from San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

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Even though it’s not as photogenic as other sites, its shear size and amazing structures made it one of my favourite historical sites of all-time, and undoubtedly the best Mayan site. And this is after I’ve visited many other ones in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

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The main square – the most iconic section.

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It was the only Mayan site I wished I had more time in. The day trip included several waterfalls and it’s quite far to begin with and it closed from like 4pm.

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It was my first Maya site – very hot.

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The waterfalls were cool, but after seeing so many in Australia and China, I wasn’t too happy about all that time spent there instead of in Palenque.

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Some people swam in safer areas, and there was even a small museum.

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A Note on Currency Exchange

If you’re in Country A, trying to change currency from Country B to a currency from Country C, you will usually be advised against doing it as you’d be suffering from two bad rates rate than just one at the airport.

Nevertheless, from my experience, I’d urge that you consider doing it anyway unless you are absolutely sure that you can do the exchange elsewhere.

When I was in Germany, I was trying to change my Jordanian diners to Mexican pesos. The shop would take it, but insisted that it’d be much better for me to do it in Mexico. The result? The cherry exchange shops didn t even know what “Jordan” was – all this diners turned rubbish.

Earlier in Chile, they asked me not to change my Argentine pesos to Bolivianos there. As it turned out, the exchange shop at the airport flat out refused to buy Argentine pesos, people in La Paz either wouldn’t buy it, or wouldn’t take it because they weren’t in perfect condition. More low-quality scrap paper for me.

Guanajuato, Mexico

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Guanajuato is the capital of the state of the same name, and a major tourist attraction for the country.

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The bus terminal wasn’t in the city, as the city was accessible only through tunnels like this one.

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Not built on a flat plain, there were numerous alleys and lots of artwork around.

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Another main draw was its mummy museum. Pictured above was the world’s smallest mummy. All natural.

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Whilst it was a colonial mining town, the buildings were one of a kind, at least for Mexico, but possibly for the entire world.

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Tourists were everywhere, and the city was busy deep into the night.

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The university was absolutely beautiful.