Oaxaca- A Nice Place To Sit A Spell

Before I had arrived in Mexico I had never heard of Oaxaca.  As I started to plan for my next destination from Mexico City I settled on Oaxaca.  From what I read I was expecting a much slower paced city than the capital and I was not disappointed in what I experienced.  Immediately after strapping my backpack on as I left the bus station I felt a difference in the air.  As I continued walking towards the center of town I came across a park and noticed a lot more people sitting and relaxing than in the hurried streets of Mexico City. After the overwhelming capital it was quickly clear to see that Oaxaca was going to be a needed change of pace.  As I saw more and more people relaxing in the park and less traffic passing by me on the streets I could feel my breathing slow down and I began to realize how hurried I had become in my 8 days in Mexico City.

Settling into the hostel after a mile long walk I accepted my roommate’s invitation to dinner with a happy bunch from the hostel.  A night of laughter and wine amongst new acquaintances led to a late morning walk to Santo Domingo Church and across an interesting outdoor art exhibit, 2501 Immigrants.  The display contained 2501 small ceramic people standing on sides of the street in front of the famous church.  The figures represent people who had left there villages to go to the United States.  It took several years to complete the work and over 25 people from the artist’s village helped in it’s completion.

Santo Domingo Church with outdoor art exhibit

the 2501 Immigrants stand in front of Santo Domingo Church

a few of the Immigrants

It's A Man, Baby!

Walking down the street to the plaza and past the 2501 Immigrants


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Santo Domingo Church

Santo Domingo De Guzman Church

After any extensive or lengthy amount of travel it’s quite common to become somewhat jaded. As hard as it is to imagine, your attitude toward sightseeing can become somewhat lazy. In Southeast Asia, for example, you can run across plenty of backpackers who’ve “been there, done that”, and more specifically are “templed out”, or sick of seeing temples. After a while you can become spoiled with the sights on offer. I would consider myself a mild victim of this “templed out” phenomenon and therefore I wasn’t expecting much from Iglesia de Santo Domingo De Guzman in Oaxaca.

The moment I walked into the Church I was officially UN-“Templed Out.” The extravagance of the church was truly unexpected. The lavish ornamentation, artistry and craftsmanship on display was overwhelming! Yes, Grandpa and Grandma, I was excited to be at church! This excitement, coming from a child that had to be cajoled to attending mass by the accompaniment of action figures. As I write this I wish I could take a few moments to just wander around and take it all in again.

As you enter the church you’re struck by the amount of gold seen down the aisle at the front altar. Then you look up and you’re delighted by the somewhat whimsical “Tree Of Life” design on the archway above you. As you look closer you can see that the branches turn into people in a Renaissance-style psychedelic twist. Continue reading

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Mitla

Shortly after my visit to the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban I visited what was the religious center of the Zapotecs, the archaelogical site of Mitla.  While Monte Alban is placed in a dramatic setting, Mitla is comparatively understated.  It was built more for the comfort of the residents than for grandeur.  The site is on the valley floor.  It was built as a gateway between the land of the living and the land of the dead.  The Zapotec word for the site means “place of rest.”

Columns Group

What makes Mitla different from all other ruins in the area are the grecas or intricate mosaic fretworks. The grecas are made from thousands of cut and polished stones. The stones are held in place by the weight of the other stones. The precise placement of the stones result in the repeated geometric designs seen throughout the site. Continue reading

Hostel Review: Casa Angel Youth Hostel-Oaxaca, Mexico

I stayed 5 nights in the Casa Angel Youth Hostel in Oaxaca, Mexico.  The hostel was very clean and comfortable.  The staff was nice, helpful, friendly and yet incredibly low-key at the same time.  The staff spoke some english and was knowledgable about any tours offered or sights to see in the area.  I took a day tour to sights in the area and was pleased with the tour.

Breakfast was included with the room and was cooked for you every morning from 8-10a.m.  The breakfast was enjoyable if lacking in variety.  It included fried eggs or scrambled eggs with or without chopped-up hot dog, cereal, bread, bananas with coffee or tea every day, without fail and without change.

I slept in two different 3 bed dorm rooms during my stay.  The rooms were very clean and the bunk beds comfortable, but the rooms were slightly cramped if occupied by three guests.  Lockers were provided inside the rooms free of charge.  Luggage storage was also provided free of charge, which came in handy for the common late night bus departures.  The bathrooms were well kept and the showers had a good amount of water pressure and hot water.

The common area on the ground floor had a couple of comfortable couches to watch cable TV or a movie on the DVD player.  A good selection of quality films on DVD were available to select from free of charge.  The wifi was reliable and 2 computers were also provided free of charge.  The kitchen had an oven, microwave, refridgerator, cupboards, and a good amount of counter space to work with.

A nice feature of the hostel was a rooftop terrace which included a bar.  It was a good place to relax with a book, suntan, or just chat and enjoy the view.  On Sundays a good BBQ lunch/dinner was available.

The hostel was located about 10 blocks from the main plaza of the city.  A few cheap restaurants with good Mexican food were just around the corner as was a place to drop off your laundry.  A small convenience store with drinks and snacks was right aross the street. Walking to and from the main sites of the city was a pleasant stroll with plenty to see so it didn’t seem like a long haul.

Overall, I was very happy with my time at Casa Angel Youth Hostel.  The friendly, unassuming staff along with the cleanliness of the facilities and the amenities provided were a good value for the budget-concious backpacker.  My only minor complaints would be the lack of variety in the included breakfast and the slightly cramped rooms.  These minor drawbacks were substantially outweighed by all of the positive aspects of this well-run hostel.

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Hierve El Agua In Pictures

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The Biggest Tree In The World

El Arbol Del Tule is THE BIGGEST TREE IN THE WORLD!

This monstrous tree is located in Santa Maria del Tule in the Oaxaca state of Mexico.  The tree is a Montezuma Cypress.  It is about 6 miles east of the town of Mitla and is often combined with a visit to the ruins of Mitla on organized tours.  Looking at the tree it is hard to believe that it is just one tree so it is easy to understand why they ran DNA tests to confirm that it is in fact one tree.

El Arbol Del Tule is the stoutest tree in the world, “out-girthing” the Giant Sequoia with a diameter of almost 32 feet and a circumference of almost 120 feet!

The gigantic tree is believed to be about 1,400-1,600 years old! Unfortunately, the tree’s life may be coming to an end due to the growth of Oaxaca’s population and the loss of water for the tree. The tree is in decline and unless steps are taken it is probably nearing its last days.