Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Some things to keep in mind while in Rocky Point

So this trip to Mexico was kind of like a reconnaissance mission. A few days into foreign territory to get an idea of what our week-long vacation over christmas will be like.


As such I was more interested in figuring out which direction the beach was than taking pictures (I will post the limited pictures I did take shortly). Which taco stands to go to, and where to get a decent cup of coffee (hopefully with internet access).


So here are some things that I learned during our brief stay south of the border:

- Tacos are a staple food. Everywhere you go has them, and some places sell only tacos. I ate more tacos than any human as a right to. And not one of them was bad. Pork, fish, shrimp, beef, chicken. All are tasty down south. Flour tortillas generally appeal more to the american palette, but the corn are mighty fine, especially when cheese is involved.


Every restaurant brings a condiment tray out for your meal. This generally includes pico de gallo, salsa, cabbage, limes, and guacamole. Some places will include grilled onions or jalepenos, pickled carrots, or a spicy and chunky salsa.


Guacamole is wholly different down there. Almost all the places we went to it comes out as a smooth green goo. It tastes like they ran avocado and water through a blender. Not my cup of tea, but my friend Chris is in love with it.


- Even though most of the population speak a small amount of english, it is generally not enough to convey what you really want. Those two years of high-school spanish really came in handy while we were there.

Important spanish words and phrases:

- Hola: hello. If said with a genuine smile this is the single most powerful word you will use.

- Agua: water. DON'T DRINK THE WATER! Always get bottled. Restaurants generally assume you want bottled.

- Carne: beef

- Pollo: chicken

- Pastor: pork (Catalyst has corrected me. Pastor can be multiple types of meat, with the general theme of coming off of a vertical spit, shepard-style. All the pastor that I tried happened to be pork, but that might not always be the case.)

- Pescado: fish

- Camerones: shrimp

- Buenos dias: good day. Can be used as a greeting or a farewell.

- Bano (pronounced banyo): bathroom.

- Playa: beach

- Cuanto?: how much?

- Gracias: thank you. When all else fails, just say thank you. Because seriously; who doesn't like getting thanked, even if they didn't do anything?


- Driving in mexico. Wow. Take everything you learned in driving school and throw it out the window. Road signs and traffic control devices seem to be more recommendation than requirement. You have to have your mind constantly on your surroundings as people run stop signs and lights without thinking twice. They drive on the wrong side of the road to get around people.


At night, don't assume that people will have headlights or tail lights, because a good number of them won't.


Speed limits mean nothing. It can say 30km/hr (about 20mph), but people will be doing sixty or seventy miles per hour if the road is in good shape. Prepare to be passed on all sides.


- Solicitation. Don't go to the beach if you don't want to get hassled to buy something. Vendors walk down the beach selling everything from sunglasses and necklaces to turtle sculptures and pots. Probably about one every 5-10 minutes was normal for the beaches we went to.


Also don't go downtown if you don't want to hear the sales pitches. That guy waving you into the 'free parking' area expects a few bucks for his trouble.


- Money. You have Pesos and you have Dollars. Both are accepted almost everywhere in Rocky Point. BUT, some places only give back pesos for change. Thankfully the math is pretty straight forward - 1 dollar = 10 pesos (technically 10.2 right now, but unless you are at a fancy grocery store or something, they all round to 10). So if that bottle of booze seems a little over priced ($200), knock off a zero and that is probably the price in dollars.


Most food stands will have their prices in dollars, since they are catering to the tourists, but grocery stores and markets are generally in pesos.


If you don't mind cooking, the produce is unbelievably cheap in the grocery stores. I got two avocados, three tomatoes, a bunch of mexican onions, a plantain, three peaches and some butter for like six bucks!


- Other than all that just enjoy the sun and the generally friendly people. But try not to work too hard.


Catalyst said...

As someone who lived deep in Mexico for nearly five years, that was a very right-on and informative post, Tombo. Only one small quibble: pastor doesn't mean beef. It actually means shepherd. So tacos al pastor are tacos prepared as shepherds would prepare them . . most likely with a piece of pork or beef or lamb on a vertical spit with small pieces sliced off for the tacos.

TomboCheck said...

Catalyst - A typo on my part. I meant to put pork for pastor, as that is what the vendor told me I would get if I ordered pastor.

It was coming off a vertical spit though (which I am totally in love with), so there was most assuredly some mis-communication.

Thanks for the enlightenment. :)

melissa said...

Great post Tom. I need to keep some of this in mind in May when I go down there to be maid of honor in my best friend's wedding.

And 6 BUCKS?? I am bringing some grocery bags...

TomboCheck said...

Melissa - I'm not sure what you will find, but all the private residences that we ended up going through had electric stoves and ranges, so keep that in mind when planning your meals.

Personally I despise cooking on electric, but I'm guessing propane and natural gas infrastructures are not very prevalent down there.

Of course, all of the little food shacks have their own setups, many cooking over wood or coals which is refreshing for us gringos. :)

melissa said...

Oh no heheh, I meant I am bringing some extra bags and space to drive stuff back with me. ;) My drive is short after all. Like yours. Did you bring anything back?

Actually, we will be staying in a suite with a kitchen. I just don't know how much time or energy I will have to cook.

TomboCheck said...

Melissa - OOoooo, that would probably be no bueno for you. One of the few things that customs is strict on is taking produce across the border. You can get away with a few bottles of booze, maybe a cuban cigar or two, and if you are a real smooth talker some fireworks. But you don't want them to see fruits and veggies in your car.

Not sure why, but that is what I have heard.

Chickenbells said...

Isn't it fun to get way out of your comfort zone and into someone else's? I love that about traveling to a different country...the experiences are just priceless!! And so is the food...usually...

TomboCheck said...

Sadira - It would be pretty hard to get me out of my comfort zone. It's a biggin. :)

But it sure is nice to get away from the everyday. And yeah.... the food. The food is always good, even when it's not all that good.