In this journal
A skull shaped pastry
A decorative fighter jet
Cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world
The Return of Mexico City
I waved goodbye to Christine as we landed in Mexico City. She would transfer back home to Canada, while I wanted to stay a bit longer. I spent some time walking around the city, trying to recollect my thoughts after witnessing the most remote island in the world. This was actually my 4th time in Mexico City in 2017, so if you are here to check out what this metropolis has on offer, please refer to my WeekendInCiudadMexico 2017 journal or the previous part of Nicaragua.
ahhh, Zócalo, we meet again
It was the second half of October, and celebration preparations for Dia de Los Muertos were in the heat. Everywhere on the streets, one could see beautiful decorations being put on place, and shops pulled out all kinds of skeleton toys out of nowhere, while putting them on the front line, even in front of tortillas.
a skeleton pastry!
I really like the vibe of Mexico City. It is large, chaotic, unruly, yet at the same time, it is free and easy-going. I also love the fact that it is really, really cheap to live around there. After shelling out 30 dollars for a plate of vegetables with rice on Easter Island, I was ready to eat like a horse (or eat a horse, I do not care anymore) in Mexico City.
a meal with drinks for 2 dollars? sign me the fuck up
I also tried organizing my stuffs. After 2 months through Kazakhstan in a sandstorm, sea spray from Chile, alpine dust in Ecuador, and volcanic ash of Nicaragua, my clothes were definitely worse for wear. I had to sort through the ones that had been destroyed by hours of sitting in a plane, and properly clean the ones that were still salvageable. It was not easy to be a world traveler, as you can see, eating tacos every day and complaining online were very tiring parts of the job.
taco, my only friend who will never betray me, or leave me
Finally, I got ready to leave and packed my remaining things. I said goodbye to the local taco stand owner who I had befriended, and took a metro to the airport. It is rather hard to describe what the metro was like in Mexico City during rush hour. If you think being crammed into a sardine can is the epitome of stuffing, then try and put that can of sardine under a hydrolic press, that would be how rush hour in Mexico City was like. I felt I was 10% flatter by the time I squeezed out of the train.
Mexico City Airport Terminal 2
I flew to Tijuana Airport with AeroMexico, and it was almost 4 hours. Sometimes we just forget how big other countries are. A new border facility called CBX was in place in Tijuana airport, and it allowed travellers to check-in for flights out of Tijuana airport from the USA side, and then proceed to cross the border. Inversely, anyone who landed at the airport can go through the border and be picked up on the other side. This all benefits from the very fact that Tijuana airport is literally right next to the border, probably sharing the same fence!
Each passage costs 16 dollars, and is only available for passengers of the airport. The process was mostly hassle free, since I did not have to deal with the headache named TSA. I successfully walked across the border within half an hour of landing, now that was impressive!
the physical dividing line
After being picked up by my dear friend Alan, who I met during WeekendInTokyo 2016, I could not wait to walk along the promenade by the harbor. It had been too long since I last enjoyed the beautiful southern California sunshine, and it felt great to be back.
San Diego downtown
We walked through the city, basking underneath the ever-so-lovely Californian sun, and wanted to do something that had been on my mind ever since I left Los Angeles upon college graduation: all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. Yes, we have very low standards; and yes, we do not care if we gain weight.
time to begin my 10-hour feast
What else could we do? We were just two sad ugly Asian dudes who had nothing else to show for, so why not drench of sorrow with alcohol and fat?
Maritime Museum of San Diego
After sending me back to my hostel, Alan waved me goodbye. It is nice that I got the chance to catch up with him while on a trip around the world, otherwise we might not see each other for years!
La Jolla shores
For the next day, I got to know the Korean girl Agersch, who was on a business trip in LA and decided to pop down south for some fun. Why not join her group of fellow backpackers for the day then? There were Yaël and Séverine from Switzerland. Finally, there was Jacqi (what a strange name!) who was studying English in Los Angeles, and decided to come down for a weekend. With this group of fellow travelers in tow, I marched for La Jolla. This famous cove was more than just a beautiful beach, it was also a protected area for seals and sea fowls alike.
a cave underneath!?
We enjoyed a short walk along the cliffs, and saw a group of sea lions resting on the beach, enjoying the free afternoon sunshine tanning session. One of them austentaciously perched on a good spot, and did not care if it was surrounded by tourists taking pictures.
seal of approval
We decided to head to Seaside Village for lunch. Boasting a lovely view of the harbor, this group of lovely white wooden houses had some of the best food of all styles. The group felt Greek on the day, so who am I to object?
the weight gain after eating this is the real Greek tragedy
After the lovely meal by the ocean, we headed north along the shores. However, the girls wanted to spend some time browsing the various trinkets and souvenirs the shops had on offer, and I quickly became the bag carrier. Thankfully, the village had a nice vibe going on, and felt much more pleasant than those traumatic hours my mom dragged me along the dreaded walkways of bankrupt malls.
Eventually, Agersch, Jacqi & Co. had to retreat back to Los Angeles, as another round of study and work was about to begin. I, being jobless for so long, had no idea it was Sunday night already. After waving them goodbye, I settled in for the night, and cooked myself a nice meatball rice noodle soup. I met a “surgeon police” named Vincent, and he told me his stories busting inefficient and deadly surgeons who accidentally killed patients, which were scary, and even more exhilarating. Vincent is basically the FBI of bad doctors! He also claimed he was one of the most hated persons amongst operating surgeons.
San Diego old town
I woke up for a visit to the San Diego Old Town, and Vincent offered me a ride. Being dropped off at the boundary, I quickly found myself in the old cemetery, El Campo Santo, where some of the first residents, and criminals, from over 200 years ago were laid to rest.
El Campo Santo cemetery
Eventually I entered the old town proper, which had been designated as a state heritage site. I loved the old buildings and retro-music played everywhere, and not to my surprise given the close distance from here to Mexico, Dia de los Muertos celebration was also in the heat here.
Dia de Los Muertos~!
oh I want this band for my funeral
Most of the old houses had special purposes back in the days, such as the old jail, bank, sheriff’s office, or the only shop in town. Now, a lot of them had been converted into museums or educational sites.
Old Town San Diego
For example, the old Colorado House has been turned into Wells Fargo Museum. Wells Fargo was one of the first banks to start operations on the west coast. It used specialized carriages that was ordered from Europe to transport important goods, such as gold or safety deposit boxes. It has a cart driver and also a gunner with a shotgun in hand, in case any bandit wanted to try his luck.
Wells Fargo Museum
For the afternoon, I finally got the chance to visit the landmark USS Midway aircraft carrier. After Alan took my parents to see it while I was busy sorting out my graduation issues early in the year, my mother had been bragging about her special experience there ever since.
on the top deck
This ain’t your ordinary boat. USS Midway is the only aircraft carrier to ever serve the entire duration of Cold War. Yes, she was there when it all began in 1945, and she saw the end of Soviet Union of 1991. It was also a part of many important battles and humanitarian missions throughout the world, from a supporting ship responsible for massive evacuations during the Vietnam War, to a battle-ready responder during the gulf conflicts. She has seen it all, done it all, like a well-aged traveler.
previously: A-4 Skyhawk, now: cafe decoration
I used all my afternoon wandering about the ship with the free audio guide, and found out that it was not just a museum, but also a place for people interested in history and warfare to gather. Lots of enthusiasts studied carefully for the immaculately preserved engine parts, while former navies who served on board passionately detailed the procedure for a take-off.
TBM Avenger in the hanger
The spot where the museum is now located is not a coincidence either. It
was also the old base of the Navy TOPGUN jet-fighter school, yes, the one
with the movie.
On the top deck, over two dozens of planes were on display, from the reconnonsaince plane E-2 Hawkeye, which is the largest plane that could take off from the deck, to the fastest fighter of its time, F-18 Hornet. It was an impressive sight to behold, as planes of all types and eras were on exhibition, on the largest navy museum in the world. Too bad I am not an enthusiast, otherwise I might just freak out from the sheer excitement.
GO! GO! GO!
Finally, I did a free tour of the bridge, where the commanding center, the air traffic control, as well as the captain’s quarter were located. A senior navy who served on this carrier led our tour, and he was as hilarious as he was informative. I hit my head on the beams a few times just because his stories about the air traffic control were too intriguing.
the navigator, shortened to: Gator!
Upon finishing my visit to USS Midway, I slowly made my way back to my hostel. These three days in San Diego was definitely fun, yet I still felt like I could have stayed a bit longer, as there were still so many places around the city that I still had not visited yet. However, I am more than certain this would not be the last time, so why worry?
oh hello sunshine!
For the final night, I got to chat with Vincent, as well as a German girl who was on her way to Peru, Lina. We had a long conversation for the night, and eventually settled in as the sea-breeze started bringing in chilly fresh air after midnight.
flying out of San Diego
Next morning, I wrote a note to bid Lina farewell, while Vincent took up upon himself to drive me again. Thank you Vincent, my San Diego Uber driver! 😛 After a short hop to San Francisco, I jumped onto the long flight towards Hong Kong, where I would rest for a night.
The immigration was painless, and I took the rapid bus towards downtown, where I holed up in a hostel after such a long flight. I always loved Hong Kong and its strange situation: a blend of cultures, and a modern metropolis stuck in the past. Old shops harmoniously co-exist with ultra-high tech highrises, what a cacophonous melange!
For breakfast, I ventured downstairs from the hostel and had a typical Southern Chinese breakfast. It was just some curry fish ball, soy milk and fried vermicelli. I do not know why, but I always believed my breakfast should be warm and savory, as opposed to cold and sweet, such as cereal.
Hong Kong breakfast time!
Of course, if I am in Hong Kong, there is not a chance in the world to miss dim sum! I made quite a few friends in the hostel, and decided to take them with me to meet my local Hong Kong contact, Agnes. Agnes and I were both table tennis players in university, so I was very glad that we could arrange a meeting on the other side of the Pacific.
nom nom nom
We decided on Tim Ho Wen, the cheapest restaurant to ever receive a Michelin star, located in Kowloon. The entire group just rushed straight in, while I and Agnes had some time to catch up. Food quality was doubtlessly top notch, while the price was still the friendly street food level. God I love Hong Kong!
After lunch, I bid everyone farewell, and took a bus back to the airport. It was just a brief stop in Hong Kong, but it still ignited my inner-desire to live there. When I was younger, my family would always go back and forth between China and Taiwan. Due to the political tension, we always had to transit in Hong Kong, so technically I have visited the city almost 50 times.
on the way to the airport
I took my liberty to visit the Wing lounge again, probably one of my favorite lounges in the world, and as done in my Qatari Hop, I took a shower in the private cabana before heading towards the restaurant to chow down on some gourmet dishes.
kiwi juice, mango juice, and soy sauce braised halibut
Finally, I boarded my Cathay Dragon flight towards Hangzhou, and continued to the high-speed railway station for a quick hop to Shanghai. This marked the end of my trip around the world in 2017. 50 days ago, I left from Pudong airport for Dalian, and now, I was on a train back to Shanghai, but slightly older, a bit wiser, somewhat thinner, and definitely a lot tanner.
departing Hong Kong airport
It was like a dream, and it was over before I could figure out why it happened. From Kazakhstan’s intriguing architecture, to a tea with Sophie on my Parisian home balcony; from the Madrid cathedral to the Quito cathedral; from the Quilotoa Volcanic crater lake to the active volcano in Nicaragua; from Easter Island’s moai sunrise to the sunshine shores of San Diego, all these places seemed like a blink of an eye. And now, it was all over. Those new friends I made were as if made a long, long time ago. Just like some of the best movies that linger in your mind days after you have watched it, this journey left too much in my head. For the next few weeks in Shanghai, I could barely function, as if I was still in the middle of this journey, looking forward to the next destination. However, it was over: the trip around the world, counter-clockwise.
Thank you for this journey together, and I hope you have experienced as much love and excitement as I did during these magical days on the road. I also would like to thank all those who I have met and loved, for you gave me meaning in this universe of meaninglessness. However, life itself is a journey towards the destination called future, and feel free to check out my next trip: C.A.T.17/18, or any other journal on the blog. Lao Tzu once said: 千里之行，始于足下。(a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.) And please join me, in my next first step towards this beautiful world.