I just got back from Chiapas. I've heard of the place for years and some of my friends insist it's their favorite place in Mexico. My mother has good memories of having her local bus being taken over by very polite Zapatista rebels. I know the indigenous culture is fascinating, the politics are hot and the textiles are glorious but my main concern was of course, the beans! And I found them.
Thanks to screw ups by Mexicana Airlines, I had a few days in Mexico City before arriving at Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state's capital. I spent the time seeing buddies and dining at the really incredible Nicos restaurant as a guest of chef Gerardo Vasquez Lugo. I'm no psychic but this is the restaurant to watch in Mexico City.
Once in Tuxtla, we drove about 40 km to the Cañón del Sumidero for a boat-ride through an incredible vista.
I'm often the first to pass on this kind of thing but this was beautiful and a real highlight of the trip.
Crocs in Chiapas! Who knew?
The local music is marimbas and everyone really loves them. There are some sad marimba players in Oaxaca and although there may also be some great ones, you get the feeling they play for tips. In Chiapas, they mean it! They really love what they're doing and there's more of a Caribbean feel to the rhythm.
We of course also went to the famous San Cristobal de las Casas. It's a beautiful town with lots of interesting things going on but it seemed at times there were more European hippies than Chiapans. Now, I think it's great that the Europeans travel to hard to reach places like Chiapas but it seems the only visit Chiapas and Oaxaca, as if the rest of Mexico were of no value. Please correct me if I'm wrong but this was my impression and there were a lot of them and most of them were playing hippie with pajamas and ratty hair.
Food is of course a priority and I had lots of good dishes. These tamales were excellent and filled with pork and olives.
This drink was one of the gruel-like messes and my Mexican friends were quick to agree. It's called Pozol and it's semi ground corn mixed with chocolate, sugar and water. The ingredients never seemed to blend and it was odd, to be kind.
We visited some local villages were the indigenous have mixed their culture with the church to a pretty wild effect. These are the people who clearly don't want their photos taken and I feel a little odd talking about them. I'm not sure how I feel.
This church was abandoned and turned into a grave site.
After site-seeing, it was time for the beach. Thanks to a new road, we were in the water within a matter of hours. We stayed at Porto Arista, with trips to nearby Boca del Cielo and Tonala.
I had wild, local shrimp at every single meal. I couldn't get enough! Mostly I had them mojo de ajo, in a garlic sauce and I'd pull off the heads, eat them whole and then peel the rest. I'd mop up any juices with soft, absorbent tortillas and then start all over again. I also had endless shrimp cocktails and every breakfast was scrambled eggs with dried shrimp. I was in heaven.
I don't have photos of Boca del Cielo but it's a very small little village and you arrive by car to a lagoon. You hire a boat to get to the Pacific Ocean side and if you are lucky, as we were, you don't see anyone anywhere except the lovely girl who is going to bring you your food to eat on the beach under a palm tree lean-to shade. The beers are cold, the sun is hot and you might just fall asleep right in the sand on the beach. If you are like me, every last bit of stress just disappears.
At night we visited Tonala for good shaved ice with tamarind syrup.
As I write this I'm sitting at my desk at the office, feeling sorry for myself because I had to come home. I have a little jet lag and a stack of phone messages and emails that you wouldn't believe. My back went out and I'm not really 100%. But I see this photo of breakfast and a waiting beach and I think it's all going to be fine after all!