The Surprises of Oaxaca

The humble but my happy spot – Hotel Nacional

I took a luxurious bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca last week for $35 and fell asleep for at least four hours of the six-hour ride. As some of you will recall, last year I took two Greyhound Bus rides in the US and these buses are hands down FAR SUPERIOR to those experiences. Greyhound was cramped, smelly and didn’t have good bathrooms, if you even had a bathroom. These “autobuses” have seats that lay back a good 12 inches and loads of legroom. I highly recommended the ADO bus company.

My writing space at Hotel Nacional

Today is my sixth day in Oaxaca and I really got lucky with my hotel. It’s around $20 a night after taxes; a private room with great Wifi, Cable TV (English-speaking channels, too) and a private bath. Perhaps the best thing about the Hotel Nacional is that is located directly across the street from the Mercado 20 de Noviembre and half a block from the Mercado Benito Juarez.

Mercado 20 de Noviembre

Mercado 20 de Noviembre is fabulous place to get “fast food”, meaning that you don’t have to wait long for anything you order. There is an amazing array of choices in this food court that spans most of a city block, with shops all around it’s edges. It’s very, very clean and inviting, with long counters for each restaurant and wonderful smells. Even as a vegan, I have managed to find a few favorites here. I absolutely love the huge fresh cups of hot chocolate (your choice if it’s made with milk or water) and sweet roll you can get for $1 any time of the day, but it’s a breakfast choice here.

No handles on these hot chocolate cups – you pick up and sip like from a miso bowl.

Mercado Benito Juarez is a huge market similar to that I visited in Chiang Mai, except for cleaner, and I find I love to stroll through it. There are surprises around every corner, like two days ago, when I discover the meat market with the offerings of tripe and whole chicken (looking just like those plastic joke toys) with their naked legs sticking stiffly up or out. Some of the leather work here is enough to tempt me, except that I really don’t need anything. However, I’ll probably breakdown and buy some earrings, my souvenir of choice.

One of the quirky little stalls at Mercado Benito Juarez

I did take a stroll over to the Zocalo (city plaza) and, after the fabulous ones in Mexico City, Granada and Antigua, found myself a bit disappointed. It wasn’t horrible or anything, just “meh.” Here the grandstand had a big graffiti scar scribbled across it. In fact, on the bus ride into Oaxaca, I saw so much graffiti for several miles, that I found myself feeling anxious. I’m fairly fearless, but graffiti (non-artistic) always puts the hairs up on the back of my neck.

The zocalo’s church.


So, I found myself surprised by the graffiti, the blandness of the zocalo and the wonderful chance of landing in just the right hotel. The people of Oaxaca are engaging and mostly willing to put up with a clueless gringa – which has been another unexpected blessing.

The grasshopper challenge!

Also, I guess I should mention that I astonished myself with a desire to cross “eating a bug” off my bucket list while here. Dried grasshoppers (chapulines) are sold in big baskets here, but I bought the smallest batch I could find for $.50 and ate one with lime on it. Tasted like a nut. Scratch on off the list!

One of the many balloon vendors at the Zocalo

I have much more to see of this town, and plan on an excursion to the big cathedral and a couple of museums tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

A basket stall outside the Mercado Benito Juarez

Author: Kathy Lynn Hall

I've embarked on the lifestyle of vagabond as a solitary woman and I'm excited about sharing my experiences with you.

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