DEC 12, 2015 – Greyhound took me from San Antonio to the border city of Laredo, and from there straight to Monterrey, for a total of $13. It turns out even Mexican buses aren’t usually that cheap. The border crossing went without problems, except I received a tourist card that I apparently need to pay for, and can’t figure out how. I ended up spending five nights in Monterrey, four at the Yeccan hostel – which I recommend – and one with a CouchSurfer whom I met in the city. I was lucky enough to see a religious celebration relating around Immaculate Conception, where groups of people in costumes would dance and march into the church, and people lit thousands of candles outside. With Tian from Texas, I went hiking in the Chipinque area and we climbed Copete del Aguila (2200m) – which cost us a lot of money in the end since it required a permit we didn’t have. But the nighttime views of the city were great enough to be worth it. At the CouchSurfing party the last evening, I learned what a piñata is – with your eyes covered, you hit a papier-mâche object, taking turns until it bursts and sweets fall out. Apparently some piñatas depict public figures such as the Mexican president, or Donald Trump, who is very unpopular with Mexicans for obvious reasons.
First impressions of Mexico in general: Cheap and tasty street food, colorful houses, and very friendly and outgoing people. Many things remind me of Bulgaria, e.g. the bus transit system between cities, the abundance of little stores and market stalls, the relative poverty of rural areas, and the low prices for services compared to goods. But a lot is different, too – espresso is much harder to find and more expensive (but usually very good), the quality of new buildings is better, there seems to be much more public investment into roads, buildings and other infrastructure (Bulgaria has almost none if you don’t count EU projects), more traffic, much more police, and higher retirement pensions. So far, I really like the country.