Apr 30, 2009

Street Scenes: Panama City

Don’t go down that street. I heard this at least once a day from Panama City residents while wandering with camera in hand. This street bad, that street good they would say while pointing out an alternative route. This happened throughout the city.

The streets they warned me to stay away from were of course always the most photogenic (stay away from the light). Often one of the good Samaritans would wait and watch to make sure I changed direction. When someone old enough to be your aunt or uncle takes the time to warn you of potential danger in a city you are not familiar with, particularly if it has a bad reputation for crime, it’s probably a good idea to heed his or her advice. But I still wonder what was at the end of the street pictured above.

Apr 28, 2009

Public Buses From Around The World

Taking public transport when traveling overseas is not only an economical way to get around but a great way to people watch. Public buses in many countries are also art on wheels.

I wonder what the advertisement on the side of this bus in Beijing says.

The public buses in Guatemala are brightly painted former school buses.

So are the buses in Panama City, which have been nicknamed Red Devils.

How often do you take public buses when traveling?

Apr 24, 2009

Street Scenes: Madoff Victims Catch A Break?

This was spotted on the door of an upscale boutique in Greenwich Village.

I’m not sure how many victims caught up in the Bernard Madoff scandal, the largest Ponzi scheme to date, are in a shopping mood. But then again if you lost the shirt off your back some new threads might be in order.

Apr 21, 2009

Tequisquipan Mexico

The bougainvillea-lined cobblestone streets of Tequisquipan seem for the most part to have fallen under the radar of the foreign traveler circuit.

Narrow lanes with deep yellow and orange colonial architecture lead to its large square (plaza Miguel Hidalgo) and 19th century parish (Parroquia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion).

It’s truly a place to kick back and sit in the shade on a bench near the sombrero-ed men doing the same or consume food and drink at one of it’s small cafes surrounding the square. It was here I was introduced to Virgin Mary’s made with tequila and never once regretted it the next morning.

The perfect place for a weekend retreat Tequisquipan has pollution free skies and at one time was known for its thermal springs. There are at least half a dozen hotels with pools. It also has an artisans market and food and household markets. They are all located next to one another and are a short stroll from the main square.

Located in the state of Queretaro Tequisquipan is about a three and a half hour bus ride from Mexico City.

Apr 18, 2009

Street Scenes: Balloon Seller Mexico City

In just about every town, city or village in Mexico now matter how small there is a square, or zocalo, flanked by a church.

And in each square there is always someone selling balloons, never a humble ensemble. A few feet away a shoe shiner or two are likely at work.

Apr 14, 2009

Mexico City Going Green With Eco Pedicabs

This is what Mexico City’s version of a rickshaw looks like, updated and sleek. The modernized set of wheels is part of the city’s ambitious goal to clean up and go green. Not only is Mexico City one of the world’s largest cities it is also one of the most polluted.

These were spotted in the Historic Center.

Plans also include replacing the iconic green Volkswagen Beatle taxis with more eco-friendly vehicles by 2012.

I still think the best ride in town is the metro.

Apr 10, 2009

Religious Icons Mexico City

To reach the entrance to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City you must first pass through a market with stalls filled to the brim with religious icons of all types.

You’ll even find T-shirts with religious images.

At this time of year the market will be bustling with worshippers headed to the Basilica for Semana Santa (Holy Week).

Happy Easter, Passover and Friday to all.

Apr 6, 2009

The 860 Turns Of Mexico’s Highway 120

There are some 860 hairpin turns on Mexico’s Highway 120 which snakes through the Sierra Gorda Mountains in the Northern Central Highlands. Looking down at the valleys while the bus driver navigated 180 degree turns with skill I couldn’t help but wonder what little a guard rail would do (where there were some) to stop a mammoth bus from rolling over the side if disaster struck. The mountains reach 7,545 feet at one point. But not once did I see a wreck below although there were many road side memorials with crosses and flowers for those who perished and occasionally loved ones tending to them.

The highway also traverses through the dramatic Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, the beauty of which can distract you from the potential perils of two lane mountain roads. We encountered a diversity of vegetation ranging from dry land with large cacti to pine forests. Ranches and farms growing maze whizzed by the windows.

We did not see any other foreign tourists in all the buses we took in the region. The second class buses from Jalpan to Xilitla and eventually a nine hour bus ride from Xilitla back to Mexico City reminded me of Greyhound but with a bit more leg room and on board entertainment. The sounds from overhead television screens of Hollywood B-movies dubbed in Spanish competed with what I assume were Mexican classics played by the bus driver up front. The latter consisted mainly of men belting out ballads some of which no doubt depicted broken hearts or missing home. Little children giggled at the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie while men in sombreros sat in the front seat and chatted with the bus driver. All passengers who departed thanked the bus driver (muchos gracias) before getting off at their stop. This is the custom in Mexico.