March 11, 2020
After another delicious free breakfast at the hotel we planned on going to the Zocalo, the center of Mexico City. I had initially wanted to try to take public buses but couldn’t figure out the bus routes so we just took a 57 peso Uber. Frankly when the Uber only costs less than US$3 it isn’t worth taking a lot of time trying to figure out how to take the bus. I think the bus rides cost 11 pesos per person so it would have been 33 pesos for three of us so taking the bus would have saved us all of one dollar.
The Zocalo is the center of Mexico City and that is where all the important buildings are. We got off at the Plaza de Constitution a large public square which is bordered by the National Palace on one side (the Mexican equivalent to the White House, the Metropolitan Cathedral on another (the main Cathedral in Mexico City) and other major government buildings such as the Mexican Supreme Court on the other sides.
The square was filled with tents, many of them belonging to various vendors selling souvenirs, food and drinks. There were also a number of camping tents occupied by some sort of protesters. We were not sure exactly what they were protesting but there were large signs and plenty of people just hanging around. Although there was one army truck with a few soldiers that looked like they were doing repairs on the big flagpole in the middle of the square there was not a strong police presence and everything was peaceful.
We did not go into the National Palace which, while very large, was a mostly dirt brown color and just didn’t seem that fancy. Instead, we went into the Metropolitan Cathedral. It was a very nice Cathedral with high vaulted ceilings, shiny marble floors and gold altars. Generally though we are not terribly interested in churches and Cathedrals because generally they all look kinda similar.
Next we went to the Templo Major which was just around the corner from the Cathedral. This was much more interesting as it is the ruins of the heart of the Aztec Empire, the main Aztec Temple and pyramid. Only the ruins and foundations remain as the Spanish Conquistadors tore most of it down and used the stone to construct other buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Modern Mexico City stands upon the capital of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan. The Spanish had so effectively destroyed the Aztec Capital City that the location of the of the Temple Mayor was forgotten until the beginning of the 20th century. The colonial buildings on top of the temple were removed and foundations of the temple have now been uncovered and turned into a museum. It was very interesting learning about the Aztecs and their temple including the fact that the Aztecs enlarged their temple seven times by the simple expedient of building a new temple around the old temple like a shell. One of the best things about the temple and museum was that there were many signs and descriptions in English as well as Spanish.
After exploring the Temple Mayor we walked to what we expected to be one of the highlights of our visit to Mexico City, Chinatown! When we got there we found a single street, two blocks long decorated with Chinese lanterns and umbrellas hanging from strings over the street. One of the blocks had Chinese restaurants and stores selling Chinese souvenirs. The one thing Chinatown did not have were any Chinese. We were literally the only Asians there, all the stores and restaurants were staffed by Mexicans.
It was a very weird feeling with us being Chinese the minority in Chinatown. It almost felt like we were in some Twilight Zone episode in an alternate universe where there were things looked Chinese but there were no Chinese. I think this must be how Americans going to Disneyland China feel when they go to Main Street USA and it is filled with just Chinese. Regardless of the weirdness we were determined to get dinner in Chinatown.
We found a restaurant with a second floor seats overlooking the street and proceeded get dinner. The food itself was… almost as good as Panda Express but the table overlooking the street and the hanging lanterns and umbrellas was quite lovely. After dinner we walked a few blocks away where we found a small Chinese grocery store were we proceeded to go a little crazy and spend over $100 in various Chinese food. From there we took and Uber back to the hotel to go to sleep.