Friday, March 23, 2018

Templo Mayor — Mexico City

Tenochtitlan in 1519
Tenochtitlan was the Capital City of the Aztec-Mexica culture from 1325 to 1521 CE. The main temple of the Mexica was called Hueyi Teocalli in the Nahuatl language. It was dedicated to two gods, Huizilopochtli, the god of war and Tlaloc, the god of rain. Each god had a shrine at the top of the pyramid with separate staircases. Construction of the first temple was begun sometime after 1325 CE and it was rebuilt six more times.   

Templo Mayor Model Showing the 7 rebuilt Temples
When the Spanish arrived they called the Hueyi Teocalli the  El Templo Mayor, the Main Temple and it was destroyed in 1521 to make way for a Plaza in the Spanish era town. Today, the archaeological site of the Templo Mayor lies just northeast of the Zocalo in modern Mexico City.

Original Stairs and Painted Chac Mood and Pillars

Tzompantli - Skull Rack
After the destruction of Tenochtitlan, the Templo Mayor, like most of the city was demolished and covered by the new Spanish colonial city. The temples exact location was largely forgotten but scholars roughly knew where to look for it. In 1933 they found part of a stair and a beam and by 1948 serpent heads and offerings. 
Clay Mexica Eagle Warrior

To excavate this area 13 buildings had to be demolished.  Excavation began and more than 7000 objects were found. 

These objects are now housed in the fantastic Templo Mayor Museum. This museum is the result of all the work done beginning in the 1980s to rescue, preserve and research the Templo Mayor site, the Sacred Precinct and all objects associated with it. 

The Templo Mayor Museum is a fantastic 6 story building filled ancient  finds that are made available to the public. We spent hours there. It is a wonderful museum!

Tlaloc Pot
Among many beautiful objects found at the Templo Mayor site was the Tlaloc-Pot modeled with a high relief Figurehead of Tlaloc's face, the god of rain. The Mexica formed his face by intertwining two serpents at the nose and joining their heads face to face at the mouth. 
This Tlaloc was found in an offering at the Templo Mayor and the offering also contained mother-of-pearl shells and green stone beads, symbols of water. 
The pot dates from 1440-1469 CE.

Eagle Cuauhxicalli
This sculpture is of a golden eagle with a circular cavity on the top which was a container for offerings on the cuauhxicalli (Eagle Vessel). It was found in 1985 at the Casa del Marques, a pre-hispanic structure bordering the Temple Mayor.  

The ruins of The Templo Mayor and the related Museum are fascinating places to visit.

Highly, Highly recommended!

If you would like to check out more of the blog . . .  Click here

Restaurant Pujol — Polanco

Pujol Bar Area
The whole experience was fantastic at Pujol after a long day of exploring Teotihuacan. It was pretty exciting to be going to one of the best restaurants in the world after seeing an ancient city.

Street Snacks
Octopus with Habanero Ink, Ayocote
In fact, Pujol was named as the best restaurant in Mexico by the Wall Street Journal and range 17th in the world by Restaurant Magazine. The chef is Enrique Olvera who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and oversees the onboard business class menu on Aeromexico airline. Chef Olvera also has a menu of special dishes and paired wines at the Amex Centurion Club at Benito Juarez International airport. 

We had a delightful meal, the restaurant was fun with a nice bar area that is beautifully decorated inside. Upon arrival they showed us to a superb table and our female server put us at ease and was attentive throughout dinner. We found the food to be sensational — from the Street Snacks, sweet corn with fire ant mayo — all the way to the simple seeming perfection 1517 day Mole Madre. 

Sea Bass with Cacahuatzintle Juice
1517 Day Mole Madre
Every dish was delicious and we found that the more adventurous and unusual the choice, the more we were rewarded.

Roasted Pineapple, Molasses, Cilantro
Avocado, Coconut, Lime, Macadamia 
Pujol is easy to find at 133 Tennyson in the charming Polanco Neighborhood. The service was excellent and our waiter spoke impeccable English.We had a perfect bottle of wine from Guadalupe Valley in Baja California. The tasting menu was full of delightful surprises and we will return there the next time we're in Mexico City. 

Highly recommended!

If you would like to check out more of the blog . . .  Click here


Temple of the Moon
Got up early at the St Regis for our trip to Teotihuacan. Our driver/guide Carlos was down at the front door and ready to head to the ruins. Off we went… 

Pre-excavated Mound
The City of Teotihuacan (the place where the gods were born) is situated around 50 km north-east of Mexico City. Built between 100 — 650 CE, it is well known for the huge size of its monuments — particularly, the vast pyramids of the Sun and Moon along with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. All the buildings in this huge city were laid out using geometric and symbolic  meanings. 

Avian Effigy Vessel 
Teotihuacan is one of the earliest and most powerful cultural centers in all of Mesoamerica.The ancient City extended its trade, culture and artistic influence throughout the area and beyond.

At the peak of its development Teotihuacan stretched out over 13 square miles. The ceremonial center that we see today only represents 10% of the total surface of the city. Excavations have revealed palaces and residential housing that have murals, frescos and objects.

Feathered Serpent and Flowering Trees Mural

The Teotihuacano culture is quite mysterious, no one knows who they were or even what they called themselves. Although it is a subject of debate, the mysterious culture was able to dominate Mesoamerica for five hundred years. 

Mosaic Figure

Teotihuacan seems to have been the center of a powerful empire. Its influence is well documented and its presence can be seen at numerous sites in Vera Cruz and the Maya region. The later Mexica-Aztecs saw these imposing ruins and claimed a common ancestry with the long gone Teotihuacanos adopting aspects of their culture. 

Mural Fragment of Bird with Shield and Spear
A visit to Teotihuacan is compulsory if a trip to Mexico is planned and you want to see one of the worlds most important and dramatic ancient cities and a visit to see this archaeological site will prove to be a fascinating and worthwhile experience. 

Highly recommended!

If you would like to check out more of the blog . . .  Click here

Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Museum of Anthropology

Entrance Courtyard to National Museum of Anthropology
The great thing about the St Regis is its location near Chapultepec Park and walking distance to the National Museum of Anthropology. It took us about a half an hour but we got to the Museum before the crowds.

The Museum of Anthropology is the main museum of Mexico. It is the largest and most visited museum in Mexico. It contains significant archaeological artifacts from ancient Mexico's heritage.

The Museums collection includes the Stone of the Sun, very ancient stone Olmec heads from Tabasco and Vera Cruz.

On exhibit is Coatlicue, the Goddess of Life and Death. She was the patron of childbirth and also was the mother of Huitzilopochtli, Mexica god of war. The statue was found in the main plaza (Zocalo) of Mexico City in August 1790. The Sun Stone was also found later in the same year, 1790.

The Sun Stone
Another Fantastic exhibit is the statue of Xochipilli. It was found at the base of the volcano Popocatepital in the 1800's. It is the figure of Xochipilli, Mexica (Aztec) god of art, games and dance. It appears to show him in an ecstatic, drug induced state. Hallucinogenic plants are carved all over the statue.

Olmeca - Xicalanca Cacaxtla Bird Man Fresco
Teotihuacan Wall Detail

The National Museum of Anthropology is a fascinating place to visit.

Highly recommended!

If you would like to check out more of the blog . . .  Click here

St Regis Mexico City

We arrived at the St Regis Mexico City a little over an hour after we landed at MEX Airport. Luckily the traffic wasn't too bad as it was a little bit past rush hour.

Luxury Suite 819 
The SR perfect service began the moment we stepped onto the property and it really is second to none. We were escorted to the front desk on the 3rd floor for check-in and were happily surprised with an upgrade to a Luxury Suite. It had a wonderful urban view of the Paseo de La Reforma and Diana Cazadora below.

Among the many features of the room, was the tv that rose from a cabinet so the view wasn't blocked by it. Steam shower too!

An interesting thing about the high tech elevator system was that as you pressed the floor you were going to, the keypad directed you to your own personal elevator that took you to your own floor with no stops along the way. Pretty fantastic.

Diana the Huntress on Paseo de La Reforma
Our Suite included a breakfast which was Ala Carte or from a delicious buffet in the Diana
Restaurant on the 3rd floor. Just before the entrance to the Restaurante Diana was the fantastic King Cole Bar.

King Cole bar
Every St Regis has a King Cole Bar, but  that doesn't mean the drinks are uniform or predictable. Each is elegant, but each also develops its own drinks. Each also has its own signature Bloody Mary based on local culture and ingredients. The spacious bar has a lounge-like feel with comfortable sofas and chairs. There's also a fantastic terrace and view. We also saw 2 talented Latin Jazz groups while we were there.
Latin Jazz with Unique Rhythm Player and Singer
Fantastic Latin Jazz Orchestra

St Regis CDMX is among if not the best hotel we've ever stayed at. 

Highly recommended!

If you would like to check out more of the blog . . .  Click here

Aeromexico to Mexico City — CDMX

We had a great flight from San Francisco to Mexico City on our way to Yucatan to see the Maya ruins and stay at a wonderful old mansion in Merida plus two old haciendas.

Seats 3A and B
Our flight to CDMX on Aeromexico was very nice both ways. We traveled in Clase Premier in a new Boeing 737 800 which had nice leather seats and Virgin America style lighting. The flight was only 41/2 hours to MEX and was very comfortable with nice hot food and excellent Mexican Wines from the Guadalupe Valley in Baja. 

We took off at 13:35 right on time and arrived at MEX at 19:55 and our ride was waiting for us with a sign. We left the airport for our journey to The St Regis CDMX.

The Crowd at Customs
We did have to get through customs before we could drive through the city to get to the St Regis. Customs was packed. It seemed that quite a few big international planes arrived at around the same time we did. It looked bad but it wasn't too brutal and it took us about a half an hour to pick up our bags and meet our driver. Next stop is St Regis Mexico City. 

Interesting point to note, Mexico City used to be known by the letters DF (Distrito Federal) but now it's known as CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) which stands for the restructuring of the City Government.

It was great to get to CDMX on Aeromexico. 

Highly recommended!

If you would like to check out more of the blog . . .  Click here

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bayon Temple Complex, Siem Reap Cambodia

Bayon Temple
We made sure that we walked over to the Bayon Temple from Angkor Thom. The Bayon's most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and smiling stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak that some think are the King Jayvaraman VII (or J VII) and others think are Buddha.

Gallery Bas Relief
Gallery Bas Relief
The Bayon was the last state temple to be built at It was the centerpiece of J VII’s massive program of public works and monumental construction. The wall of the outer gallery features a series of bas reliefs depicting historical events and scenes from Khmer life.

Terrace of the Elephants
Elephant Stairs
After the Bayon we walked over to the Terrace of the Elephants. It served as a viewing platform for royal parties that looked across a large open area to see events which are unknown to historians and archaeologists.The terraces probably served as an observation point from which the king and his retinue could observe military reviews, dances, and various ceremonies in the large open area.

Terrace of the Leper King
Lions on the Terrace of the Leper King
Nearby is the the Terrace of the Leper King which is a decorative stone platform that also overlooks the same open space. The terrace features beautiful apsaras, Devatas and serpents and Lions carved into it. The central figure of the sculpture is probably a Khmer ruler who died of leprosy, either Yasovarman I or Jayavarman VII. No one knows.

Prasat Suor Prat Towers
Other interesting ruins in the area are the Prasat Suor Prat towers across the open field from the terraces of the Elephants and the Leper King. No one knows what the Towers were used for either. Some scientist think it might have been built for entertainment purposes relating to the possible use of the Terraces and the open field. There is some historical writings that said the towers were used as a place to hold the litigants before their trial but no one really knows. There are eleven towers.

The Terraces and towers are very impressive sights and they are easy to walk to from Angkor Thom. These ruins are definitely a worthwhile place to visit and experience.

Highly recommended!

If you’d like to check out more pages of the blog . . . Click here

Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Face at Angkor Thom 
On our final day in Cambodia we still had our Temple Passes that were good so we decided to get a Tuk-Tuk and visit Angkor Thom and the Bayon. We have been there a few times but seeing King J VII’s City with the faces on the Bayon again was exciting and wonderful.

Angkor Thom 
Angkor Thom (Khmer: Great City) was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century CE by King Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181-1219, also known as J VII). Its in an area in which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by J VII and later kings. At the center of the city is his State Temple, the Bayon with other major sites clustered to the North.

The City was built in a nearly perfect square, surrounded by four walls and a 100m-wide moat (now dry), said to have contained ferocious crocodiles. A gate opens exactly in the middle of each wall and a bridge extends over the moat to the area outside the royal Angkor Thom. The original royal palace at Angkor Thom was probably built of wood and no longer stands.

South Gate Angkor Thom 
The South gate is the best restored and most popular, but is also the most busy since it leads directly to Angkor Wat. The East and West gates, found at the end of trails, are more peaceful. Since it seems more undiscovered, the East gate was used in the movie Tomb Raider.

Angkor Thom and the Bayon are very impressive temples and they are pretty easy to go to by Tuk-Tuk. These ruins are definitely a wonderful place to visit and experience.

Highly recommended!

If you’d like to check out more pages of the blog . . . Click here

Angkor Wat Cambodia

Angkor Wat From Helicopter
While we were in Siem Reap we visited Angkor Wat. We try to do it every time we’re in Cambodia and there’s always something new to explore. Angkor draws millions of visitors from around the world.

Sandstone Causeway Promenade
Angkor Wat (Khmer for Temple City) is the most famous and largest temple complex in Cambodia. It’s actually the largest religious monument in the world. The site measures 402 acres. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple for god Vishnu by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 1100s CE, gradually becoming a Buddhist temple near the end of the 12th century CE.

Causeway Ends
The temple was the capital of the Khmer Empire, King’s State Temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shiva tradition of earlier kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu.As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious center since its foundation. The temple was at the peak of the high classical style of Khmer building. It is an important symbol of Cambodia, shown on its national flag and its money too. Angkor Wat is Cambodia's prime attraction and place a huge interest for visitors.

Climbing to the Top of the Tower

Line for Tower Climb
Angkor Wat is unusual among the Angkorian temples in that although it was somewhat neglected after the 16th century CE it was never completely abandoned, its preservation being due in part to the fact that its moat also provided some protection from encroachment by the jungle and Khmer Buddhists have respected and used the temple continuously. Today there are living shrines that monks are still using today scattered around the complex.

Entrance to Gallery
Corbeled Arch

Angkor Wat required considerable restoration in the 20th century, mainly the removal of accumulated earth and vegetation. Work was interrupted by the civil war and Khmer Rouge control of the country during the 1970s and 80s, but relatively little damage was done during this period.

Monk Reading on an Ancient Porch
Early Stupa
Integrated with the architecture of the these buildings, and one of the causes for its fame, is Angkor Wat's extensive decoration, which importantly takes the form of bas relief friezes. The inner walls of the outer gallery bear a series of large-scale scenes mainly depicting episodes from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They have been called “the greatest known linear arrangement of stone carving” by experts. One of the friezes shows the Battle of Kurukshetra and portrays the mutual annihilation of the Kaurava and Pandora families with some original color Remaining. These incredible friezes that were carved in the 1100’s CE and they are still in very good condition.

Battle of Kurukshetra Bas Relief
Close-up Bas Relief Showing Original Color
Angkor Wat, in its beauty and state of preservation, is unrivaled and is considered one of wonders of the world. This temple is an absolute must for any traveler to Siem Reap. It will blow your mind! We love it. These temples truly are amazing. It has some of greatest and most interesting architecture we’ve ever seen.

Highly recommended!

If you’d like to check out more pages of the blog . . . Click here