I decided today to spend a bit of time with some audiobooks on YouTube. It’s easy to find so many wonderful books. Short stories, Sherlock Holmes novels, ghost stories. So many great times to just listen to some quality narrators of some classic stories. As an example. Today I queued up The Time Machine by HG Wells. Read by a wonderful story teller the book has always hinted at deeper and darker meanings for our race on time. This traveler finds worlds so worth visiting but captured in words.
These stories are all free and the story tellers often do this for the love of the word.
So I sat marveling at the wonderful way words move us. From a machine taking a man to worlds to Arthur Conan Doyle telling us about the wonder of Holmes.
All of these excursions are free for the searching on YouTube. I sometimes spend hours listening to them. Finding common ground with a Dickens story told fresh.
Today the storms sped up. The rain fell. Lightning and thunder sounded across the city I was safe. Perhaps walking some dark alley with Holmes and Watson on the trail of a mystery.
It seems like life on Sundays in Merida slows way down. I woke up and always open the backdoor to hear the birds singing and usually there are a few. Today I think they took a break too. Many places close on both Sundays and Mondays so on Sundays I head to Starbucks for the usual stuff. I enjoy going there and then walking back a different way to just see parts of Merida. I can always find stuff to take photos of. My kind of stuff.
Today though I will add to the mix and walk on to a bigger mall and visit a shoe store there my buddy Silena told me about. I am hoping they will have shoes I can use for every day walking that are much like my beloved Merrell Moab shoes. I’d like to get some new shoes today and if they turn out to be good, a second pair before I leave. It is harder to find things in Cambodia so I end up ordering and having them delivered from my mail service using DHL. I figure I spend twice what the shoes are worth in shipping and customs combined. I’ve tried shoes in Cambodia and they don’t work for my feet.
Two years ago it seems I was in Hanoi wandering around. Yeah. Taking photos. I think Hanoi just posed for me all the time. I found this building which I loved to see from different views. It used to be a coffee shop.
Thanks google photos for bringing it back. I use SmugMug now for image backups but I like some of google photos and how it lets me see different views and archives.
In other news
It is rather fun to look at the days left here. It is now 43 days. My last month or so is spent doing what I always do. Wandering around, finding places to eat, and seeing more streets in all the beautiful neighborhoods in Merida. I will probably go down to the central district a few times before I go. I feel like I want to walk the Colon Street district again and look at the beautiful buildings there or wander to other places. I really love this city for just being a tourist and finding the scenes to take away.
Its easy to just go spend a day downtown, wander the beautiful colonial streets, find some food and beer, and then walk home.
But it is today in the news dammit. Today with my coffee cooling off as I write this post. Today with a few things I want to do and nothing I have to do.
I have this website I bookmarked that lets me see the day count between two dates. I’ve been kinda watching it tick down here in Merida realizing now I’ve reached 45. I’ll be publishing my part 2 of Mexico wandering after August 17th so I can include a last thing I am doing then. The last part is about some places I managed to reach. I won’t do a spoiler but I have to say that the place that stuck with me is Bacalar from a tour I did but we did more than that. I’ve posted more than my share of lagoon pictures here and on Mastodon. There were these wonderful and completely different archeological sites as well.
The really cool thing about these sites is the access. We basically had no other tourists or visitors on either site. I’ll remember visiting the sites and will also be visiting Angkor Wat again in Siem Reap when I get there in October.
At the opposite end of the country and the view had to be La Paz when I went there for some days. La Paz is a wonderful mix of beach city but so different from Puerto Vallarta. Wonderful stretches of Malecon with small restaurants and the cold, cold Dos Equis beer places I always found.
But then also were the historic and central district areas. I spent a day wandering the downtown and there is a lot to love about the narrow streets, wonderful parks and historic sites.
I guess one other thing is if you like food. I had some of the best breakfasts ever in La Paz. I just searched on google maps and found all these places. I only had three days so I was somewhat limited but if you ever get there you must try any of the breakfast places. Chilaquiles forever!
Getting back to the count of days, 45 seems like so little yet each day is rich beyond words for me even if like today I am lazy and just look at the photos and conspire on the words to tell you before my part 2. I’m pretty excited to leave to be honest. Mexico has been mighty good but it was always meant as a year endeavor after leaving Vietnam last year. Then I had no real idea what I would do but I kinda built it all in a airbnb room in Daly City, California in 2021. Get the covid vaccines, buy the USA RailPass and leave on the California Zephyr going east from Emeryville to Chicago. Then come on back. I had hoped to see some friends from the IBM days but due to covid and her husband being immunocompromised I could not make it. Instead I rode Amtrak back to Los Angeles and then caught the original flight to Mexico.
That was then. Now it is almost a year later. Mexico has been mighty good to me. I had some moments where I looked around and thought,
this is it for me
This happened in Bacalar mostly. There is something magical besides the town there. There is the peace and tranquility of the lagoon, the wonderful people there, and just the feeling of slowing even more. But, I think, out there always was going back to Asia and I had missed the chance because of visa law changes in March this year. That meant I came back for 174 days just to Merida. I had to leave Mexico after 180 days because of how the FMM tourist visas work but I simply love the no BS of being able to just come here and live for six months at a time.
From 174 to 45. What a count of days spent in a beautiful and unique city and some wonderful little trips taken. A friend in Vietnam asked if I would come back to Mexico but the answer is no. Once I go in September I go. I have this dream in 2023 of reaching the pyramids in Giza, seeing Istanbul, visiting a friend in Dubai I used to work with in India. Dreams folks. Stuff I still have as the 45th day left ticks on by.
What a wonderful set these days have been. Hasta Luego everyone! Have a wonderful day.
Every few days I walk over to the Fiesta Plaza mall in the mornings. Coffee and a torta at the mall are cheap and good and I like the folks at the coffee shop a lot. They know my order now so tell me what I will have when I show up. Makes it easy to just go.
The other things at the mall is seating. There is a lot of distance between people at tables and no one rushes someone to finish. I can sit at the food court, read some kindle, watch some people. Mostly it seems things are slow. Perhaps it is all of Mexico. There is just no hurry to things. If you come with notions of speedy service, you may be dismayed or impatient. It’s not a negative on anyone. Customers or staff. It is just things go slower. You can feel the pulse change almost every day here. There is the relaxed “buen dia” and smiles and they often wait or ask how I am or wait for me to ask. So life is slower.
I’ve remarked a few times how this seemed so present at Bacalar. It felt there like life and the rush and haste combined with impatience all sat down. Instead the lagoon swirled its colors. Laughs at the pool. Someone mentioning,
oh. Si. Manana.
Yeah. There is that force to life. I mean how can anyone speed up seeing this.
It was like for three days life and things said to take a break. I think most of our lives we are slaves to clocks and todo apps and reminders. So I asked years ago,
what if none were there? What if I could just go?
And I did. What did I learn? Life is more than plans and deliverables and reasons. A lot more than responsibilities and goals and timelines. When you strip these away you find that those cherished commodities of time and space don’t mean a thing. Instead they also leave. You are left with what?
Why life itself. The being. The doing. Not the having. We slow down. I stopped. No todo items. No must do things. No goals. No responsibilities.
Then I can say manana back. And it makes it all seem so good. Years ago I stopped. Figure 20 some years religiously doing those things as a program manager and then stopping. It was like life rebooted and welcomed me back.
Now to my torta and coffee. What time is it? I don’t know.
In my airbnb room, there is a back door that leads to a patio. Not quite a veranda or terrace but a private place I can sit with a table and chairs. The airbnb host lives right next door to me so I see her often. Her mom and I have done coffee a few times which has been fun. She’s my age so going out with her is nice and we talk a lot in both Spanish and English. My Spanish is better listening than speaking and her English is the same perhaps. Luckily for communication we have her grandson who speaks perfect English and will translate with little or no asking.
I mention all this because I think we rush through things way too often. Getting here, going there. Wanting this or that. It is all a push and shove to find or lose or track. Instead of just sitting with the back door open we want to “be there”. We need the latest or greatest. I mentioned yesterday my take on things. I feel it is similar with our wholesale rush to find or lose or go. I always had to laugh at the so-called travel and lifestyle bloggers with their affiliated links and social commentary but when it came down to actually writing about their places, it was lists of tours to do or how long to see a place. I was at one point a party to this on twitter and we had this so-called community of travel bloggers and photographers. It was an interesting time then and many bloggers found the hashtag and began to publish their world journeys. Still though with the same thing. It was like,
I went here and did that on this tour and I got my passport stamped and I visited 90 countries and 4 continents. Ain’t I something?
So what happens with this? Well to me, there is no back door that is open. These people rush the same way to other countries for cool tours and weekends in Taipei. I spent a month in Taipei when I went. Why? Because I felt the city deserved someone to slow down and find a pace of things. Like, you know. Looking out a back door at a gradually changing scene. I met these two Australian tourists once in a noodle place in Hanoi set on seeing all Hanoi in three days. They asked me then,
what can we see in three days so we have seen all of Hanoi?
I had no idea what to tell them since I spent months in Hanoi wandering. The seminal question was for all this was whether I had seen it all. There is no all. And I did not do Taipei or Hanoi justice. There is that other block with beautiful old buildings or that coffee shop or small side street. It may hold something or not. I will never know. But neither will all those travel bloggers who rush to find and then lose. Where is their back door I have wondered.
I kinda woke up to this question this morning because all my vagabond writing is about longer stays. About finding some soul and resonance and feeling to those small places. Meeting the people in that neighborhood like here in Merida now. Finding the tailors in the shop each morning busy but never enough to miss waving and telling me good morning. Or the lady selling Banh Mi in Hanoi for breakfast that would talk to me through google translate to ask how I was, if I was happy, was Hanoi okay to me.
So what do all those other people do with no back doors? I know. They book tours or take weekends in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. And they see it all. I feel for them because the other thing missing are the people. The people make up all those places. Wonderful, funny, strange, sad. Somehow with the door closed, all that is missed. That lady selling flowers along the street in Hanoi with motorbikes rushing by but still some business. I stopped to find this because it seemed this view we rush through to miss.
Open the back door. Stay awhile.
You will become enriched beyond measure but most of all the sun does shine in the morning through the door here in Merida and the cool breeze works its way through. I took six months in Merida this time and my time is drawing to a close. Did I find? No. Never. I did slow down. I opened the door.
My year in Mexico went from September 2021 and I’ll be done in September 2022 when I leave for a brief visit to the United States and then leave for Southeast Asia.
This story is divided into two parts. The first part is about two completely different destinations. The second is wandering around Mexico a bit. I split them up because I wanted to but it also seemed like a logical thing when writing this.
I think the journey started leaving Vietnam in 2021. I saw this new path slowly open for some Amtrak train travels from California to Chicago with stops along the way and then back to Los Angeles. I got the USA RailPass and just went. It was mighty good to just go but the end was always coming when I would go to Mexico in September 2021. I figured there were things I wanted that Mexico could easily provide me. They were:
easy to live day by day with friendly people, good food, fun
cheaper than the US
So here’s how it went.
First was Puerto Vallarta
I stayed in Puerto Vallarta (PV) for three months in 2021. It was my first destination in Mexico. Initially I had booked the airbnb for 2 months but my host gladly accepted an extension for a month.
Food, Fun, Beer
Puerto Vallarta is a fun city to go play in. There is a beautiful Malecon and so many wonderful restaurants away from the over-priced and hyped places along the beachwalk. I did eat a few times along the Malecon and found a bar I enjoyed. The location of my Airbnb meant I got good walks in every day since it was out of the tourist or expat zone. I found really nice local places to eat, buy fresh fruit, and stop for a cold beverage. Down the street about a mile or likely less were more places.
So yeah, the food. I love food and finding a place like Meno’s Place with their waffle iron waiting to serve up some goodness always got me.
I think a major part of the enjoyment for me was the going and finding walks every day. Then time would go by and soon we reached a rather interesting day. Part of the whole fun thing was spending All Soul’s Day in PV last year. I had a great time seeing the parade, face painting, food and just the wonderful decorations on display throughout the city.
Finally the going each day
I always take lots of photographs on the iPhone 12 Pro when I stay somewhere. PV was no different. Finally on the 10th of December I left the beach for the city. I picked some place completely different for the city. I will remember forever the most beautiful sunsets, friendly people, and just the ease of the day to day going.
I arrived in Merida December 2021 from Puerto Vallarta. At that time of the year, Merida has a gentle winter climate with hardly any rain. Evenings cool off so the time for wandering is good. I loved wandering my neighborhoods on foot, taking photos and just seeing how people lived in Merida. So here is some Merida for you.
I stayed in Merida twice but the people were the same. First time, I lived for 3 months and then I came back for 6 months.
Walking a street, people would walk by at all times saying hello or good morning or evening and enquiring how I was. I was greeted on just about every walk by old and young people. Old people would gently wave and smile and the young would practice English or smile openly as we walked by each other.
All the places I ended up going were either on foot or in a Uber and I never felt threatened or insulted or belittled. Instead the experience with the people in Merida was the most wonderful and authentic I remember since living in Asia.
I think it is a mark that I felt at home and I felt safe. The Merida Police Officers were friendly and would wave and tell me hello or help me cross the street. The safety quotient in Merida is the highest I have felt anywhere. My friend Jason and I would walk day and night and we felt perfectly safe having our smart phones out and using them while walking. Saigon could learn a thing from Merida in this regard.
So the people made all the other things so they come first. The friendly and wonderful people I met on streets, in parks, in Museums. If you are going to come to Mexico perhaps it is for beaches or resorts but the city of Merida can offer all those things plus beautiful and kind people. At my every day coffee and breakfast spots I would find friendly people, wonderful food, and always helping even with my strangled Spanish. I think it leads to this very next thing especially here is the Neighborhood. I think that this was a big thing but it is made of people.
Of course with the people, came the food. Merida never disappoints with the food. Food and people. Wonderful varieties that combine the people like Tony’s Tacos just down the street from me. I would visit Tony’s once a week or so for their wonderful Pastor tacos and soon enough Rosy got to learn my order and Tony would do his wonderful job preparing the food.
Places always are either found heading toward or away from something for me. In six months, I found walking in Merida to be so many different experiences just finding wonderful neighborhoods, the Centro area with history and colonialism or just the wonderful restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops that give Merida this daily feeling of vibrance and uniqueness. Beautiful old homes and shopping malls. Donut shops and taco places. Small shops and markets on street corners where drinks and food can be found. The street food close by where they make wonderful Tortas each day besides maybe Sundays.
When I went downtown, it was more finding the beautiful side streets with narrow sidewalks and wondrous colors. I also loved the colonial atmosphere of the places downtown but there were also malls and wonderful upscale and local restaurants. It all seemed to fit on those blocks of places.
Most of all I found Merida to be another city to enjoy the act of walking and not finding specific things. Left and right turns with no goals or markers for the places. Just to go.
In my neighborhoods I went for walks to just feel the sidewalk and the warm air generate the feeling of being in a place where life seems both energetic and calm. Where the places all yield to other places. Where finally, I can find the things.
Things seemed to be so much grander and beautiful and more local and small. Imagine the beautiful symmetry of both tied to a gentle movement of life. Where the people and places conspire to make the things. Moving in my last months gave me the view of a city of things. Park benches and historic buildings. Neighborhoods where waves were exchanged as I went and “Buenas Tardes” was wished so often. Coffee sitting outside and reading on the Kindle. Watching the mighty confluence of people, places, and things. Finding that all of this soon gently fades. But before it does, there is a united view of it all to spend a few words on.
Bringing it all together… Or Not
We never really get to bring it all together. Or at least I have not found that path. There is not a grand unifier to places, people and things to me. Instead all seem to be woven into memories, moments, and experiences. Merida gave me these months and now they are almost gone.
As the days now go by, I have realized I loved the gentleness and wonder of Merida. Others told me it was nothing but a big city. No my friends. You were wrong. Merida is so much more but it took me finding the people, places and things and weaving them into moments, memories, and experiences.
On 6 September my time in Mexico ends. This is only part 1 of the story and I really wanted to write on the two long stay places I picked. I also went forth and saw, played, drank beer. Part 2 has those details!
I board a Korea Air Lines flight on 10 September from San Francisco California for Phnom Penh Cambodia. I figure I am going home after a slightly long time living in Mexico interspersed with one visit to Houston, Texas which I won’t be writing about.
Finally, all of my photo albums can be found here;
So I share some photos on Mastodon often but I get done with a nice and basic dinner and I always then feel like writing some stuff on the blog. The blog basically goes to mastodon too thanks to the ActivityPub plugin. But the real thing is to do what I enjoy doing and get a lot of joy out of. The simple act of finding little things to photograph with my iPhone 12 Pro. I have always liked to find certain geometries and shapes and then try a little post processing in them. Nothing major because to my old eyes the iPhone does pretty well on its own but I do like some black and white on occasion.
For some reason it tells some other story through the wonderful and ornate bars and into a small courtyard with even more intricate shapes. These things can be found all over Merida and I also found them in Hanoi Vietnam very often. Some small scene would always get me going. I wanted to know the story but of course I could not. So I invented a story instead. But the photos tell more because everyone can invent their own story. This intrigued me to the view inside with the next set of bars in the window. The second floor on the left. The plant placed to limit a view or make the view better. Your choice. The reflections on the internal windows. Little details that make life seem so much more complex and simple at the same time.
But then, I don’t know the real story here. I only know what I saw and how happy I was to find my interpretation.
Now I leave it for you and your own view. See what you think.
Sometimes sitting over late morning coffee and breakfast I can see other places. Some time ago it was Japan. Then I visited 3 cities tied together by Shinkansen rail travel. I went to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka over a month. It seems almost surreal now to remember those days. Interspersed with photos. I had never been to Osaka or Hiroshima. The last time in Japan before 2018 was 2011. I went to Tokyo and caught the bullet train to Kyoto. Before that work took me to Tokyo many times.
Now the memory is Osaka. There was something large and in charge about that city. Impossible to see in 5 days but that’s what I had. So I went forward. Always on foot. The city seemed to spread out before me. And there were bridges. I love bridges.
But the city just stood out to me and showed it’s past and future many times. Like scenes from some time traveling photographer it brought it all together and I could only gasp.
Wandering Japan is accepting the past come colliding with the present and future and Osaka seemed on that path.
And I just felt I was a spectator on that path. Like Osaka let me see this little part of itself. I felt this wonder and mystery and figured out finally,
Osaka was forever on the move from yesterday with a stop today but reaching for tomorrow
And that was a wonder. A mystery. A time spent only sampling some delicacy of a city reinventing itself daily and letting me see it all.
Going back over coffee is fun. What is more fun is realizing it has been busy changing every single moment since then. So there is no back to go to. That’s even better for these old feet.
And of course this and that occur to me. Little thoughts that seem to propel themselves when I take a step. I have been trying to not count the days left in Mexico but it is hard when I have this website that tells me if I want. I got here in March with 174 days on this tourist card. Mexico is nice. It gives 180 days at least to me with no questions asked. There is just a simple form that they stamp when I arrived in Merida in March. The same thing happened last September on my first jaunt to Mexico. I left that time after 178 days for Houston, Texas. I probably will never, ever, ever, ever go back to Houston. I don’t recall being in such a depressing and angry city yet there is this divide with upscale dining and bars here and there. I had this little tour one night with my airbnb host. I guess she wanted to impress on me how truly wonderful Houston was to live in. Well, did not match up with what I saw over 8 days.
Anyways, I came back and was so glad to get back to Merida. A place where masks and distancing and respect for others seems to go a lot farther. Truth of the matter is even now after outdoor mask requirements have been lifted, about 90% of the people wear masks outdoors. Security at malls and restaurants have been tough on letting people in without masks. I went to this Chinese buffet for dinner once and was getting seconds and forget the mask. I was asked respectfully to please put my mask on. So its a serious business even if it is not in Houston where people wander around without them in and outdoors.
So I thought of all this leaving in 50 some days. Leaving Mexico still seems an emotional thing to me after being here a year and just loving the life here. A friend in Vietnam asked what was so special here. I think it comes to:
The way of life. There is a relaxed and gregarious and social nature to life here. Things may happen today or mañana. That fits well with my evolution :-).
The food, beer, fun factor. Merida and Puerto Vallarta before it are fun places. Merida is a colonial city but at some other level with Dunkin Donuts and Chili’s restaurants next door just about to taco stands. Wonderful malls to escape into with Haagen Das ice cream and tech stores with the most wonderful AC ever.
Most of all. The people. Wonderful, friendly, authentic people especially in the Yucatan. Smiles and nods and greetings all the time. Young and old. The men in tailor shop tell me each morning good morning.
The places to go and things to see. Wonderful places to go. I’m telling you. I guess the one that has stuck with me is Bacalar and its lagoon of so many colors. It had this peaceful and tranquil feeling that just made all things slow way down. Sitting on the balcony. Watching the sunset and the lagoon turning to green and the brightest blue. A solitary boat traipsing across the scene. You know. Like this…
All the things conspire to create this texture and feeling. Like life there slows way down and lets you find a new pace to things.
So out walking and more
But then I think on going back to Asia again. It has been a year but it has felt like longer but my moments have been so graced with Mexico and its people and the places.
Soon I will publish my two part story here on Mexico. I decided to wait on the first part and make sure it reads the way I want. The second part is about the places I was fortunate to go. That one will wait even longer because I still have two places to go. One is Chichén Itzá and the other is Campeche. Both occur in the next three weeks or so.
And it has dawned on me that these days were days and my steps were so blessed. I had my Mexico folks. It blended itself, built itself, gave itself just to me. And I took it because it was offered with no strings attached.
Asia though. Asia holds me still. My Lily awaits in Can Tho Vietnam. Then I think of Vietnam again even for 30 days. That wonderful feeling of all the circuits dancing and feelings propelling themselves.
And then I know I cannot stay in Mexico. Because Asia needs me back. My steps ended. I ate some cheap dinner from WalMart. Bought some beers. I’ll sit tonight and let the steps and the dreams flash over me again.
I often come to Fiesta Plaza Mall for coffee whenever. The people are nice and tease me just a bit when I don’t have the torta and coffee.
And I can sit with the iPhone and read or write and enjoy the people watching probably as much as the others enjoy it. There are the regulars. A group of older men they wave at me and always wish me buen dia. The barista smiles and teases me today. I did not do the torta.
One of the things I really want is to write more here. To note the common and rare and find my way to them both. I would normally share on mastodon but this blog does that too. So it fulfills a desire to write once and share with no effort. Because I am lazy but my words come quick.
Truth is I enjoy this more than sharing on mastodon with the character limits. Or an app or the web interface. What I’ve tried is to limit those apps which give me notifications or page me in favor of just the creation part.
It’s come to me then that this blog and the words are slowly taking the place of a lot of text interactions on mastodon for me. I still enjoy sharing photos there and finding people with interesting, fun, provocative words or images but this seems much better to me.
The creation part really takes me to other times when I wrote on x or y platform. More about the writing and creation than the popularity and likes or boosts. More of words with my coffee. In the mall. Just a Friday morning watching. Coffee at the ready.