Friday, October 29, 2010

Jieun, got serenaded and sick in colonial Mexico

Night and day shot of the Guanajuato from our camp site

can you spot me, we are serenading the ladies

the main theater in town showcasing the top acts of the Cervantino festival

Guanajuato an San Miguel de Allende are 2 of Mexico Colonial gems and prominent in the Independence movement 200 years ago. Both the cities have there own charm but Guanajuato is our pick. We got there on the last week of the International Cervantino festival (art, music and dance shows) which is probably why the city seem cleaner than most of the other cities we visited in Mexico. Streets were narrow and all cobble stone not the best for walking. Mexicans call it the romantic city and we can see why. We joined popular weekly event called the Callejoneada were the local university students sing, entertain and serenaded all the ladies while walking through the streets of Guanajuato. But most interesting to us was young people wanted to take pictures with us, at first I thought it was a scam pick pocket us but later Jieun, said she read that teens here like taking pictures with foreigners.

look Ji's making friends already

Diego Rivera childhood home into a museum

Jieun seem to know this spanish character Don Quiote

Second day in Guanajuato Ji, started complaining of soar throat and by the time we reached San Miguel she really sick. Coughing, headache and couldn't sleep. We decided to just stay in a hotel. We found a doctor near the hotel and I wish we had our camera to show you this guys office. The pharmacy next door had to unlock the door and called the doctor we walked through a narrow hallway into this tinny room with white walls and a desk that had typewriter on it. He spoke some english which was nice, he ask the problem and did his checks, temperature, blood pressure, listen to Ji's breathing and told us "its a common cold from the season change not the N1H1" Jieun felt alot better after hearing that. After the doctor started typing a prescription on that old typewriter and asked us to follow him to his pharmacy next door he had a list of 3 different meds to take so we bought it all cost of $300 pesos for meds and $200 for his service. works out to about 40 bucks.

We didn't get to see much of San Miguel, but what we did see was a town that is overrun with Americans and all the cafe and restaurants showed in the prices. Next we will drive into the Capital to visit Jieuns friend.

San Miguel de Allende centre piece church not much more to show you because Ji's wasn't feeling up for site seeing

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Congratulations guys!

congratulations to Robert and Judy on the newest member of the Chu's. Baby girl Rayne, we can't wait to see you love Ant and Uncle.

Experiencing the young and lively Guadalajara, tequila testing in Tequila!

viva Mexico colors of the flag at night

town centre church

Italicone of the many fountains in the city of Guadalajara

Align Center
Ji, enjoying Mango Margarita while female mariachis sing

Mexico's father of independence Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla

We managed to find a budget hotel with parking for 160 pesos a night. Location was very good 2 blocks from all the action but the hotel clientele was kind of shady. Hotel Hamilton on Madero near Ocampo if anyone is interested.

Now to the good stuff, the down town area if full of young fashionable people, all strolling and relaxing around the cities colonial architecture alone the water fountains, around government buildings, museums and the cobble stone streets.

Tequila is a tinny town 50 km outside of Guadalajara, we took a coach bus to the town and while on the bus we met a local from the town and walked us to the doors of Jose Cuervo distillery. We entered and join a tour in progress that cost160 per person and included a tequila testing at the end. Mexico has the exclusive use of the name Tequila and only agave fruit growin in the area of Tequila can be labeled tequila. Finally after seeing how they make tequila and a brief history we got to taste 3 types white, gold, and special aged tequila. First 2 were too harsh the aged one was smooth aged 1 to 3 years.

agave fruit cut by hand and ready for distilling

Second day we took a transit bus to Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara that specialize in hand made home furnishings and decor. Again we had help from a local but she was Philippine and she found a local that was heading in the same direction and we followed him. His name was Felix, a kind man that owned a restaurant in Tlaquepaque and invited us for a Tequila at his place but we couldn’t make it, sorry Felix we really wanted to come.

In all we only spent 4 days in Guadalajara and to do it justice you would need at lease a week to see it all. Next we will travel to the colonial towns responsible for the independence movement of Mexico, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

3 days on the beach in Mazatlan, and making friends

Jieun, took this picture on our last day Old Mazatlan

Old Mazatlan and in the background high rise of the new Mazatlan

Mazatlan, a city of new and old. The new part is full of high rise condos and apartments while the old is packed with charm from the old town church and market area to the Machado Square where people come to sit, talk, dine and enjoy nightly entertainment from live music to street performers.

these street performers where full of energy

Our first night we arrived late afternoon found a place and strolled around. It was getting dark and we saw a well dressed crowed forming in front of a museum and decided to check it out. While looking around like lost tourist an middle age couple told us to “have a drink and enter it is free.” William and his wife Ellsha, were their names and they spoke a little english. They told us it was an introduction of a music CD celebrating 100 years of the revolution and 200 years of independence. The whole presentation was in spanish but we enjoyed mingaling with the locals and the free drinks of course. Afterwards the couple showed us around the old central town and told us about Mazatlan and Mexico we had a great first night and felt very safe with them.

enjoying fish tacos and soup in the Machado Square

Next morning we got on the bikes and rode up the coast we didn’t get as far as we wanted because of the heat and stopped for some fresh mango slices from a guy on the boardwalk he sprinkled it with salt, chili pepper and lime juice, interesting to say least but we enjoyed it. We headed back to hotel and tried to contact Bill and Carol a Canadian couple from BC, that we meet in San Carlos on there way home to Mazatlan. I asked the hotel reception to dialed the number. No answer, I asked her to try the cell number and she told me cell numbers don’t seem to work from their phone ok! so I asked to dial the home number one more time, again no answer. I thought were going to leave Mazatlan without contacting them, but as I was walking to the store for a beer I saw Bill and Carol in front of our hotel having a drink in one of the restaurants. They told us to join them for a drink and we talked about our travels. It seems we have a little in common with Bill and Carol they have traveled south east asian and road trip around Mexico. After talking to them and sharing stories we feel better about our own trip in Mexico.

As for the Hotel we stayed at seem to be under renovation and in needed it, the hotel was old and outdated. Bath towels had holes in them, bed sheets discolored, some of the power outlets didn’t work and the elevator never lined up to the floor, oh did I mention no hot water at all. Location wise you can’t beat it on the beach and 4 blocks from the town square. We told the Mexican couple we meet first day where we were staying and they told us our the hotel had history and when I mention the Belmar Hotel to Bill and Carol they too said the place had history all we could see it was pre historic. I guess its one of the oldest hotels in Mazatlan and the annual festival in February takes place in front of its doors steps. While we got the historic hotel for 300 pesos a night with secure parking the normal rate is 450 but we talked them down plus it was low season.

the historical Belmar Hotel

We are heading for Guadalajara the second largest city in Mexico, Keep you posted.

Welcome to Mexico! 2 police stops, 1 military check point and a cute colonial town

view of El Fuerte from above

the city hall of the town

town church

Leaving San Carlos for El Fuerte, things were looking good repaired the sienna door and had an amazing seafood lunch the day before. We started out at 8am for the 5 hour drive to El Fuerte, just in a hour into the drive a line started to form on the hwy, Yes it was the our first police road stop he spoke fast saying something foreigners can’t drive on the road to that effect and pointed to our car permit we played dumb and spoke Korean to each other. He started to speak english again we played dumb finally asked us were we go, we got out the map and pointed on the map and he passed us on, lucky.

We were starting to feel even better after that encounter 30 minutes later another stop. We tried it again pretending not to speak english nor spanish, this cop ask for our passports walked around and made a phone call. 20 minutes passed and another police car pulls up, I starting to think he going to really shake us down for money. I started to speak broken english asking him “we trouble we problem” he said no but i heard the other police that arrived later say in spanish yeah your in trouble. They asked for all our papers seems my passport didn’t have Mexican visa in it and when we found it all was alright. They told us to keep them together and off we went 30 minute delay. I not entirely sure if that was the reason because he didn’t ask for the visa only asking for our papers, we dodged another one.

10 minutes later I noticed another stop OMG! here we go again but it was just a military check routine and very efficient asked where we where going check our van and off again. Finally we arrived in El Furete and started to look for our hotel. We must have ask 4 people and go 4 different directions and still no luck. We decided to park and walk around looking for it finally a girl that we asked before while driving notice use and walked us to the hotel it was only a block away.

We spent 2 nights at 250 pesos/night in the Hotel Guerrero a small inn that's located in the middle of the town, 10 minute walk to everything you would want to see in El Furete. We strolled around the streets felt safe and found stuff cheap than San Carlos. Our first night we ate at local street taco vender only 9 pesos per taco tasted great he had 3 each $54 pesos in total less than $5 bucks usd. When next door to buy a couple beers $10 pesos each and that was dinner.

best tacos in town

Last day we spent exploring more of the town, went to the town church, the centre square, museum where everything was in spanish and washrooms that had no water after finishing the day in the market. Next is Mazatlan.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hit and run in Mexico by an American

Adios San Carlos

Relaxing after fixing the sienna

Jieun, on the same beach they shot Zorro

Playa Algodones, off the beach resorts

the damage of will post repair pictures later... Thanks Charles Nichols of AZ.

So we got up early headed to San Carlos a very small beach town near Guaymas on the north west coast. We found a place to stay first, had lunch and headed to the beach, parked more than 10 feet away from the nearest car went to walk on the beach no more than 10 minutes, came back to the van saw a note on the windshield, I looked around at the other cars on the lot and saw nothing and thought another parking ticket? NO a letter saying. “I hit your door, Charles Nichols 520 743-3663. Ok now what? we headed back to our camp site to call Charles, It was a US number in Arizona with no answer so I tried a few times and still nothing. thanks alot Charles!

After thinking about it I attempted to fix it myself. If I got it repaired we would have to stay 2 more days in Mexican time = 1 week. at who knows how may pesos. We didn’t have the time nor the money so I removed the panel and got some tools from Jake, an american kid living in the RV park with his Grandparents. With alot hammering and some prying I got most of it out, Ji touch up the cracks with nail polish and I got some bond cement and filled in the gap at handle where it meets the body. Took about 3 hours now water won’t leak in and now looks like a real Mexico Carro.

Will post some before and after pictures, and you guys say advisors never get dirty.
Next stop will be El Fuerte a northern colonial town in the Sinaloa

Crossed the Mexican boarder no worst for wear: Lukeville, USA to Sonoyta, Mexcio

the hostel but we camped out in the parking lot behind, cheaper

this our first night in Mexico at Senor W

office to pay for Car permit and tourist cards besides is the immigration office

quite boarder we are the only ones crossing into Mexico

After 5 days of lounging at club intrawest, it was time to head for the boarder. After much debit we decided to cross at Sonoyta. Its a very small town, the boarder only opens from 6am to 12am. so the day before we camped at the near by town of Ajo about an hour from the boarder. Shadow Ridge RV park the owner also owned the Shell gas station in front so he got us twice but a very friendly guy.

We tried to go to bed early but the excitement of a new country got the best of us and we tossed and turned all night long and 5:30 am the alarm went off, we took a shower and packed up and departed at 6:30. Arrived at the boarder at 7:30 we were the only ones crossing into Mexico but I did noticed a group of young kids entering the states getting searched. The immigration office at the boarder opens at 8 am. So we didn’t want to wait around the border and drove about 27km south east to the next check point that had immigration and vehicle licensing. First walked into the immigration office and there was one guy behind a desk he spoke some english which help alot. Soon after a pleasant mother and son entered the office from Nevada and spending 2 weeks in Mexico, they help translate for us when the immigration officer had trouble explaining. After the paper work, we had to walk next door to pay $262 pesos each ($22usd) while paying we had the clerk start the paper work for the car permit because it was the same office where you pay for the visa. She than told us to return back to the immigration office to stamp our passports and visa only than could we complete our car permit so back to the pay office $450 pesos ($35usd) for the car permit. We got the maximum 180 days for our car and our visas.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ate and picked up supplies in LA's K-town

the parade on Olympic Blvd.

Korean Town mall best food court food I have ever had

LA huge Korean community

Made our way to Los Angeles, on Hwy 1 its a coastal road of up steep cliff side hills and curves just like the sports car commercials but instead we are driving a 1999 Sienna. Driving that road was fun at first but after a few hours started getting a headache plus the fog off the Pacific was think couldn't see ocean was kinda of a bummer.

When we got to LA, in the afternoon Ji had already knew where to eat in Korean town it was a food court of a Korean Mall. Food at this mall was really good and alot better than some of the restaurants in Toronto's, Yonge and Finch area. After lunch we did some exploring around K-town and noticed a local garage and reminded me the sienna needed an oil change it cost $25 and the owner told us about a Korean festival that was going on that day. We took the old guys advice and check it out. Jieun was like a little kid in a candy store she had to see and try everything. We spent the entire day see all the display booths and watching the live entertainment that had some famous Korean artists and a talent competition.

LA's Korean town is huge. Jieun, said she felt like she was in Korea. Its like they took 6 square blocks from South Korea and dropped it right in LA's downtown. We left LA late and head to Palm Desert to spend 5 nights at the Intrawest resort to plan for Mexico and my personal favorite resting.

our terrace with fire place and out door shower thats relaxing

the view from our private terrace mountains, golf course and hot tub lunge

We love San Francisco! except for parking and 2 tickets in 3 nights

postcard from San Francisco come and join us!

old street cars

bright colors of San Francisco neighborhoods

welcome to San Francisco Chinatown

When we arrived we instantly fell in love with San Francisco. It that feeling you get when you visit a friend in a interesting neighborhood that you can see yourself living in, thats how San Francisco felt to us. We got there late afternoon and lucky we got parking right in front of the hotel or so we thought. After checking-in we took a shower and set our for to San Francisco’s Chinatown. We took transit because we didn’t want to give up our parking spot and plus the transit system was cheap and very convenient. As soon as we step into the transit system its apparent how large the chinese community is here they have chinese announcements over the speaker system. Entering Chinatown you are instantly taken to Hong Kong or a southern china city. After about 3 hours of taking pictures and window shopping we found a restaurant at first we thought it was cheap but ended up spending $38.00 kind of got rip off they said all prices needed to add an extra $1 for dinner price.

Next day we rode our bikes around the city that has plenty of bike lanes but some of the streets are pretty steep. We rode for about 6 hours taking in the beauty of the city Golden State Park was a calming place in the middle of the busy city. later we arrived at ocean beach what a site the breeze was cold and smell of the ocean air was clean. Finally we got to marina and Fisherman’s Wharf. We went to pier 33 to buy some Alcatraz tickets they were sold out for the day so we purchased for the next day at a cost $26.00 each. Its pretty expensive for only a 15 min boat ride to the old prison while on the rock, we did a headset tour that was included in the price. A lot of neat stories about prison that is now run by National Park services.

Alcatraz "the rock" locals call it was the most secure prison of its time now a Nation Park

docking at the Rock port lines of people waiting to go to prison

Final day we had to drive over the Golden Gate bridge and what a day to do it. The fog that day
was something out of a movie. We park the sienna and rode our bikes on the bridge what an experience the fog was so think that day we couldn’t see the water from the bridge and the sound of the fog horn vibrated the bridge.

look at that fog, the temp on the bridge had to 15 c. lower than on the land

riding over the bridge was really fun experience

San Francisco is such an attractive city with all its culture, entertainment and interesting people but we left with a soured feeling. The 2 tickets we got on the same place for 2 different reasons was crazy plus the last night we spent over an hour looking for a parking spot finally finding one 4 blocks away from our hotel. Saying good bye to San Francisco is hard but its time to travel south to Los Angeles.

all aboard! we had to try the old cable cars $5 one way trip its seems more for tourist now