Saturday, May 21, 2016

[TEOTIHUACAN] Choose Your Own Pyramid

I’m not really sure if I should declare the pyramids of Teotihuacán as Mexico’s biggest tourist draw. I mean, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but so are Chichen Itza and a few dozens more scattered all over the country. Mexico City itself already has three, so why bother sitting on a bus for an hour just to see some Mesoamerican pyramids, right? Like, doh. And we haven’t even mentioned beaches and the likes of Cancún yet. Well, tourists come in hordes to scale those pyramids. Enough said. The rest is up to you.

Contrary to popular belief, the general discourse in Mesoamerican studies is that the Aztecs DID NOT build the pyramids of Teotihuacán. Whoever did is still the focus of a controversial debate, but historians agree that the Aztecs came way later. If you review your history books, the Aztec empire reached its full glory in the 1400’s. The Pyramid of the Sun was completed in 100 AD. So, yeah, that’s quite a stretch. But then again, these Mesoamerican civilizations are one and the same to most people anyway so whatevs.

The most common way of getting to the pyramids is via bus from Autobuses Norte, a huge bus station in the northern area of DF, thus, the name. It took me an hour via metro to get there because I live in Coyoacán, which is way down south. Add another hour of bus travel and I got a total of two hours. If you are just on a holiday in Mexico City and your accommodation is located somewhere close to the Zócalo, then it will take you less time to get there. If you drive, renting a car is also a convenient option.

A daytrip will not cost you an arm and a leg. I spent around MXN 200 (~PHP 550) from Mexico City, and almost a third of that was lunch money. Entry to the museum is already included in the MXN 65 (~PHP 180) admission fee. All in all, I spent three hours walking to and from, climbing up and down, and sunbathing on those pyramids. Add another hour or two if you include the museum and you might as well be spending the entire day here. You might want to ditch your afternoon plans.

The town itself deserves to be included as part of the itinerary. They have a big church as well as colonial looking buildings worth a selfie or two. You might also want to stop by for lunch if you could no longer bear another hour of hunger going back to the capital. As for me, I badly needed a shower and my legs were already threatening to kill me, so we immediately hopped on a bus and just had late lunch back at Autobuses Norte. That’s what happens when you go on a daytrip without eating or drinking anything.

But of course, the main attraction are the pyramids, of which there are plenty but only three seem to stand out: Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl’s Temple appears to be the smallest one, but also the most unique thanks to its intricate serpent heads made of stone. I didn’t get to see it because I immediately headed west, which is what most tourists do because they only ever want to climb the two biggest ones.

“Se prohibe entrar” means “Fuck off” in Spanish. Yes, genius, that means you aren’t allowed to enter. The meaning is a bit close to that of “Entero Somewhere Elso”. Now that you’re in Mexico, you better learn some basic colloquial expressions such as: “Era un buen día hasta que te ví” which is a longer but more colloquial way of saying “Buenos días”. You should also memorize “Chinga tu madre” for “Thank you” and “Vete a la chingada” instead of “Adiós” or “Hasta luego” for “Goodbye”.

There were around 12 smaller pyramids surrounding the plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon. The good news is that many tourists snub those smaller pyramids in favor of the biggest one. That means you can have a pyramid all to yourself, with only the occasional camwhore coming up for a minute or two for a quick selfie. The views are obviously better from the top of the biggest one, but having a pyramid of your own is way more fun! Climb the bigger ones later when the crowd has died down.

The hike to the top of the two biggest pyramids is challenging because it is a steep climb, not because it’s high. I suppose the Big Buddha in Ngong Ping would require more steps than either of these two. Exercise caution going up and down, not just because of the steep incline, but also because the sides of those pyramids are adorned with sharp uneven rocks that could crack your skull open even before you hit the ground, if you decide to commit suicide by jumping off it, that is.

You cannot climb all the way to the top of the Pyramid of the Moon, but you can do so on the Pyramid of the Sun. Each one offers a good panoramic view of the other. The peak of the Pyramid of the Sun is full of tourists most of the time. If you are expecting an altar with human sacrifice, you will be gravely disappointed. It’s a tourist attraction after all, so deal with it. But that feeling of literally being high is something that will stay with you for an hour or so. Make the most out of it.

[TEOTIHUACAN] Choose Your Own Pyramid

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